The John Batchelor Show

Saturday 11 May 2013

Air Date: 
May 11, 2013

Photo, above:  William Tecumseh Sherman (seated, center) and staff. Standing, left to right: Oliver Otis Howard, William Babcock Hazen, Jefferson Columbus Davis, Joseph Anthony Mower; seated, left to right: John Alexander Logan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Henry Warner Slocum.  See: Hour 1, Block A: Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest--Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga by Jack Hurst


Hour One

Saturday  11 May 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest--Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga by Jack Hurst  (1 of 4)  Born to Battle examines the Civil War’s complex and decisive western theater through the exploits of its greatest figures, Ulysses S. Grant and Nathan Bedford Forrest. These two opposing giants squared off in some of the most epic campaigns of the war, starting at Shiloh and continuing through Perryville, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga—battles in which the Union would slowly but surely divide the western Confederacy, setting the stage for the final showdowns of the bloody, protracted conflict. Grant is widely regarded as the man most responsible for winning the war for the Union, Forrest as the Confederacy’s most fearsome defender in the West. Both men had risen through their respective hierarchies thanks to their cunning and military brilliance, and despite their checkered pasts. Grant and Forrest were both "lower”-born officers who struggled to overcome particular, dubious reputations (Forrest’s as a semi-literate rustic and Grant’s as a doltish drunkard). In time, however each became renowned for his intelligence, resourcefulness, and grit. Indeed, as Hurst shows, their familiarity with hardship gave both men a back-against-the-wall mindset that would ultimately determine their success—both on the battlefield, and off it.

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:  Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest--Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga by Jack Hurst  (2 of 4) . . . But as Grant pressed south and east over the course of these twenty months, routing Confederate forces at such critical strongholds as Corinth, Vicksburg ("Gibraltar of the Mississippi”), and Chattanooga, the systemic differences between the North and South began to tell. The more inclusive, meritocratic Union allowed Grant to enter into the military’s halls of decision, whereas the proudly aristocratic Confederate high command barred Forrest from contributing his input. As Hurst vividly demonstrates, that disparity affected, and possibly dictated, the war’s outcome. Thoroughly disgusted with his disdainful superiors and their failure to save his home state of Tennessee from the clutches of the Union, Forrest eventually requested a transfer to a backwater theater of the war. Grant, by contrast, won command of the entire Union army following his troops’ stunning performance at Chattanooga, and would go on to lead the North to victory over the forces of another exceptional Southern general: Robert E. Lee.  . . .

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest--Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga by Jack Hurst  (3 of 4)  Beginning with the Union victory at Tennessee’s Fort Donelson in February 1862 (when Grant handed the Union the largest force ever captured on American soil, refurbishing his reputation and earning himself the nickname "Unconditional Surrender Grant”), Hurst follows both men through the campaigns of the next twenty months, showing how this critical period—and these two unequaled leaders—would change the course of the war. Again and again, Grant’s hardscrabble tactics saved Federal forces from the disastrous decisions of his fellow commanders, who seemed unable to think outside of the West Point playbook. Just as often, Forrest’s hot temper and wily, frontier know-how would surprise his Federal adversaries and allow him to claim astonishing victories on behalf of the Confederacy

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest--Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga by Jack Hurst  (4 of 4)  . . . An utterly American tale about class, merit, and their role in one of the most formative wars in the nation’s history, Born to Battle offers an impassioned account of two visionary Civil War leaders and the clashing cultures they fought—in some cases, quite ironically—to protect. Hurst shows how Grant and Forrest brought to the battlefield the fabled virtues of the American working-class: hard work, ingenuity, and intense determination. Each man’s background contributed to his triumphs on the battlefield, but the open-mindedness of his fellow commanders proved just as important. When the North embraced Grant, it won a stalwart defender. When the South rejected Forrest, by contrast, it sealed its fate.

Hour Two

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 (Vintage Civil War Library) by William J. Cooper  (1 of 4) In this carefully researched book, William J. Cooper gives us a fresh perspective on the period between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, during which all efforts to avoid or impede secession and prevent war failed. Here is the story of the men whose decisions and actions during the crisis of the Union resulted in the outbreak of the Civil War. Sectional compromise had been critical in the history of the country, from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 through to 1860, and was a hallmark of the nation. On several volatile occasions political leaders had crafted solutions to the vexing problems dividing North and South. During the postelection crisis many Americans assumed that once again a political compromise would settle yet another dispute. Instead, in those crucial months leading up to the clash at Fort Sumter, that tradition of compromise broke down and a rapid succession of events led to the great cataclysm in American history, the Civil War.  . . .  [more]

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 (Vintage Civil War Library) by William J. Cooper (2 of 4) . . . Not all Americans viewed this crisis from the same perspective. Strutting Southern fire-eaters designed to break up the Union. Some Republicans, crowing over their electoral triumph, evinced little concern about the threatened dismemberment of the country. Still others—Northerners and Southerners, antislave and proslave alike—strove to find an equitable settlement that would maintain the Union whole. Cooper captures the sense of contingency, showing Americans in these months as not knowing where decisions would lead, how events would unfold. The people who populate these pages could not foresee what war, if it came, would mean, much less predict its outcome.  We Have the War Upon Us helps us understand what the major actors said and did: the Republican party, the Democratic party, southern secessionists, southern Unionists; why the pro-compromise forces lost; and why the American tradition of sectional compromise failed. It reveals how the major actors perceived what was happening and the reasons they gave for their actions: Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Stephen A. Douglas, William Henry Seward, John J. Crittenden, Charles Francis Adams, John Tyler, James Buchanan, and a host of others. William J. Cooper has written a full account of the North and the South, Republicans and Democrats, sectional radicals and sectional conservatives that deepens our insight into what is still one of the most controversial periods in American history.

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 (Vintage Civil War Library) by William J. Cooper  (3 of 4)

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:   We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 (Vintage Civil War Library) by William J. Cooper  (4 of 4)

Hour Three

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt  (1 of 4)  In the closing days of 1862, just three weeks before Emancipation, the administration of Abraham Lincoln commissioned a code setting forth the laws of war for U.S. armies. It announced standards of conduct in wartime–concerning torture, prisoners of war, civilians, spies, and slaves–that shaped the course of the Civil War. By the twentieth century, Lincoln’s code would be incorporated into the Geneva Conventions and form the basis of a new international law of war. In this deeply original book, John Fabian Witt tells the fascinating history of the laws of war and its eminent cast of characters–Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Lincoln– as they crafted the articles that would change the course of world history. Witt’s engrossing exploration of the dilemmas at the heart of the laws of war is a prehistory of our own era. Lincoln’s Code reveals that the heated controversies of twenty-first-century warfare have roots going back to the beginnings of American history. It is a compelling story of ideals under pressure and a landmark contribution to our understanding of the American experience.

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  . Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt  (2 of 4)  In this readable study, Yale law professor John Fabian Witt explores the history of the laws of war as they developed in the United States from the American Revolution through the early 20th century. Necessarily, the centerpiece of Witt’s book is the so-called “Lieber Code” of 1863. Following Lincoln’s promulgation of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 on the basis of “military necessity,” Prussian émigré and Columbia University professor Francis Lieber was tasked by the administration with doing something that had not been done before – codify the laws of warfare.  Witt sets the stage for Lieber’s authorship of what became General Orders No. 100 with an informative survey of relevant American history to that point. He shows that the accepted humanitarian rules, primarily regarding the treatment of prisoners, that prevailed in the 18th century were enunciated by George Washington during the war for independence. Anticipating later developments, they had both morally principled and pragmatic underpinnings. . . . [more]

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:  . Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt  (3 of 4)   . . . Issues of right and wrong in warfare continued to emerge through the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War; these issues included questions about slavery, treatment of Indians and guerillas, and privateering. The Civil War involved all of these issues and more; it provided a suitable context for an effort to address them comprehensively. As Witt explains, what Lieber produced in early 1863 was based on Lincoln’s concept of “military necessity” and sought to legitimize the achievement of war aims with limits, such as a ban on the use of torture, poisons and the violation of truces. The elusive goal was a balance between achieving victory in a “just” war and doing so by applying moral guides. A core principle adopted by Lieber was a prohibition of the use of slavery, specifying that slaves who escaped into Union lines would be free and barring the enslavement of black troops captured by Confederate armies. Regarding who could and could not be given prisoner of war status in a conflict fraught with guerilla and “irregular” violence, Lieber opted for differentiation premised on command control and organized structure rather than previously-accepted guidelines such as formal commissions and official uniforms. As Witt demonstrates, Lieber’s code was largely bereft of black-and-white rules. Witt examines this facet through several lenses. These include making civilians a legitimate target of hard-war measures as graphically illustrated by Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign and marches through Georgia and the Carolinas, the conflicting concerns raised by the exchange and treatment of prisoners, enforcement of the Union blockade and the handling of guerillas. . . .   [more]

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt  (4 of 4)   . . . Witt closes by explaining the international influence that Lieber’s formulation had in Europe at the Geneva Convention of 1864 and the Hague Convention of 1899. He also examines the difficulties of applying these rules in the United States’ Indian wars of the late 19th century and the Philippine War, during which American soldiers were court-martialed for using torture on captured guerillas. The conclusion that one reaches here is that the American effort at imposing law on warfare has been predictably messy and far from perfect but also not the wholly hypocritical exercise that some have claimed. There still is no detailed treatment of the Lieber Code’s development, although Witt provides a useful summary and discusses Henry W. Halleck’s important role in editing those parts of Lieber’s draft that addressed slavery. Judging from his endnotes, Witt appears to have used a number of primary sources. As is usual with non-military books about the Civil War, there are statements concerning military events that are somewhat misleading, if not technically inaccurate. The text is extremely readable, and Witt handles an often-esoteric topic with an entertaining style.  This is a worthwhile book for anyone seeking an informative overview of an important subject of American and Civil War history that seldom has been made accessible to most readers. It is recommended. 

Hour Four

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  . Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World by Bevin Alexander  (1 of 4) [Reviewed by Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein]   Two thousand four hundred years ago, the Chinese military sage Sun Tzu committed, to a series of wooden sticks tied together to form a scroll, enduring principles on the nature of war. This masterpiece would be entitled, The Art of War, and it is a staple of military academies, war colleges, business leaders, strategists, politicians, and even sports leaders since it became popularized in the west due to the Vietnam War. Bevin Alexander is a prolific military historian who has written 11 books on Robert E. Lee, How Great Generals Win, Inside the Nazi War Machine, and many more books that cause readers to ponder why some military leaders succeed and others fail. His latest book combines the wisdom of Sun Tzu with several decisive battles from the American Revolution’s Saratoga in 1777 to General MacArthur’s landing at Inchon in 1950. While this review will not cover all the battles, the author offers an excellent way to understand Sun Tzu’s principles in a case study method utilizing actual important battles of history. The book discusses how campaigns are carried out and if the commanders followed the universal principles of the Art of War.  . . .  [more]

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  . Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World by Bevin Alexander  (2 of 4) Sun Tzu advocates that a commander strike into vacuities, and compel the enemy to rescue objectives [he is] attacking. The Art of War also recommends taking the indirect approach and to know both your enemy and yourself before engaging in battle. In the American Revolution, the British understood themselves but not the enemy, and in 1777 General Johnny Burgoyne expected to march from Canada and link up with forces in New England led by General Clinton. What Burgoyne thought would be a stroll with 8,000 troops ended in a grueling march with 5,000 British regulars outnumbered by 20,000 Americans entrenched in Bemis Heights. It is a classic case of overconfidence, misunderstanding the enemy, the terrain and vulnerability of supply lines. The book also contains a chapter on the American Revolutionary battles at the Carolinas and Yorktown in 1781. The British wanted to defeat the Americans on land, isolated the population with heavy handed tactics against civilians, and could never see that the key was to blockade American ports using the powerful Royal Navy. The American strategy was to use the vastness of the colonies to absorb and overcome the British. Bevin Alexander comments that in a strange way British actions resembled the U.S. Army in Vietnam (1965-1972).

In his chapter on Waterloo 1815, Bevin Alexander describes Napoleon as a military genius who sees things other people do not see. For Napoleon this began as a young artillery officer, who saw the British fleet anchored in the safe harbor in Toulon as a trap if the French placed two cannons at the entrance to the harbor. This single bold action led the Royal Navy to evacuate Toulon. The keys to Napoleon’s success were mobility, concentration of forces, and surprise.  [more]

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  . Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World by Bevin Alexander  (3 of 4)

Saturday 11 May 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:  Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World by Bevin Alexander  (4 of 4) Imagine the impact on world history if Robert E. Lee had listened to General Longstreet at Gettysburg and withdrawn to higher ground instead of sending Pickett uphill against the entrenched Union line. Or if Napoléon, at Waterloo, had avoided mistakes he'd never made before. The advice that would have changed the outcome of these crucial battles is found in a book on strategy written centuries before Christ was born. Lee, Napoléon, and Adolf Hitler never read Sun Tzu's The Art of War; the book only became widely available in the West in the mid-twentieth century. But as Bevin Alexander shows, Sun Tzu's maxims often boil down to common sense, in a particularly pure and clear form. The lessons of contemporary military practice, or their own experience, might have guided these commanders to success. It is stunning to see, however, the degree to which the precepts laid down 2,400 years ago apply to warfare of the modern era

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