By Bruce Catton
A desirable examine of the 1st smooth battle and its impact on American tradition.
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Additional info for America goes to war
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. It is worth emphasizing because it proves that that far-off war was as deadly and as frightening, for the man engaged in it, as any war that was ever fought. And what makes the case even more astounding is the fact that the system of drill and discipline which took Civil War soldiers into action had nothing like the hard, impersonal tautness with which we are familiar today.
Yet if politics was what was essentially right about the Northern conduct of the war, it was also in many ways what was wrong about it. Only up to a certain point can the flexible compromises of politics be applied to the conduct of a war. Page 43 After that point, war's own grim rules apply. The Northern government went past that point and the entire country paid the price. The war became harder, longer, and more expensive than should have been the case. In two important respects the Federal government followed political considerations which ultimately hampered its efficient conduct of the war.
Most regiments, as we have already seen, were recruited locally. In the ordinary course, some citizen would be commissioned by the governor to raise a regiment.