By Bruce Catton
A desirable examine of the 1st sleek struggle and its influence on American tradition.
Read or Download America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture PDF
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Extra resources for America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture
Indirect fire was unheard of; the gunner had to see his target with his own eyes in order to fire at it, and shell fuses were so unreliable that it was often an even chance whether the shell he fired would burst over the enemy or over his own infantry. To all intents and purposes there were no rapid-fire guns. Land mines, known then as torpedoes, were used only in a very few cases and were no more than minor nuisances. The contrast between the primitive nature of the weapons and the deadly character of the fighting is striking.
Sometimes he had to learn the hard way, for he was often thrown into action almost totally untrained. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the battle of Shiloh, where two green armies ran into each other head-on and fought for two days. It is almost impossible nowadays to understand how pathetically unready for battle were most of die men who were pushed into the great fight at Shiloh. A Confederate brigadier general confessed afterward that until the moment the fight began he had never heard a gun fired, nor had he ever read a book or heard a lecture on tactics.
Throughout the war, most of the volunteers went into brand new regiments. This had almost ruinous effects. The new men, who would have learned their grim trade fast if they had been fed into veteran regiments, had to go in as unadulterated rookies, usually under green officers, and there was a long delay before the fulj value of their services was obtained. Meanwhile, the 43 America Goes to War veteran regiments grew weaker and weaker. In the story of the Civil War nothing is more pathetic than the repeated accounts of famous regiments steadily shrinking in numbers until they at last become impotent.