Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Almost a Miracle

This was a book on the American Revolutionary War. It emphasized a lot of the military aspect, not so much political or the view from the common soldier or any of that.
It was interesting to compare the generaling of this war to the other war I've read about recently, WWII. Its pretty interesting what a couple of hundred years will do for your war craft. Washington, as far as great generals of history goes, won't crack the top ten for sure. A lot of his victories were more because General Howe of the British armies was not all that great either. It seemed like our military leaders were hampered by inexperience and lack of resources while the British were impeded by the aristocratic advancement of ranks and trying to follow directions from England instead of dealing with the situation in America.
It was almost comical to read about England getting dispatches, that took two months to get there, debating policy for a month, then sending orders to the generals, which also took two months to get there. No wonder the war took eight years. Half of that was communication lag time.
I learned a lot of details I hadn't know before. Almost embarrassing ones actually. For example, I didn't know that Yorktown was in Virginia, I didn't know that a lot of battles took place in the Carolinas, that we tried to invade Canada, and we never caught Benedict Arnold. I did know the French helped us but I don't think I appreciated the degree to which they saved our bacon. And how difficult it is to have an army when you don't have any money to buy the supplies, or clothes, or pay them. There were two mutinies because of no pay, and at one point the soldiers refused to march a step further until they were paid. They had heard that Washington had received some money from the French and they wanted what was owed them.
We don't appreciate the common soldiers enough. They went through all sorts of hell to fight this war, no food, no shoes (spectators often commented on the barefoot soldiers), no respect, and at the end, no pay. I would have quit and gone home a long time before. But so many of them had a sense that what they were doing was important. They understood why they were fighting, to a degree even the officers didn't. When Washington refused to back the officers in their political games half of them quit. It's something to think of in an age when all of our fighting forces are volunteers.

Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. John Ferling. Oxford University Press. 2007

1 comment:

jendoop said...

Often when I'm grateful for forebearers I don't think of those ragged soldiers, thanks for the reminder. It will help our trip to Gettysburg mean a little more.

It applies to all of us, we only see the figureheads, in reality the little guy in the trenches makes the difference. Which is exactly where you and I are- in the trenches.