A Book Review
I just finished reading A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman. The book ended up being far more fascinating than I anticipated. I read it, and then I immediately read it again.
Why was Foreman’s book so interesting?
- I saw that the problems that Britain encountered during the American Civil War remain relevant to America today. As a great power, Britain confronted and stumbled over the same problems this country now faces. Whenever people start fighting thousands of miles away, both the combatants and many Americans often insist that America must take sides. Yet, like us, when they tried to figure out what the fight was about, the Brits encountered real difficulties. And, just like ours, their news media was too biased to be of much help.
- I learned, perhaps even things she had not intended, more about the history of the war. Conventional wisdom says the South had the better generals. Yet I saw that when the South chose to attack the North, the South lost. Generally, Southern generals had the advantage of fighting a defensive war. In addition to the ability to being able to fight from prepared positions, the defense has more subtle advantages. Because defenders are on their home turf, they know the territory, they can gain better intelligence from the locals, and they can rouse the ferocity that comes from defending ones homeland.
- What made General Ulysses S. Grant successful? He did not attack tentatively. His predecessors had seen the huge causalities and grown fearful. Is that not what any ordinary man would do? Yet the sooner a war ends the sooner people stop dying. Therefore, even though he grew somber and sad because so many died, Abraham Lincoln had to find generals who could withstand watching thousands die frightful deaths and still order their armies to attack without relenting.
- After so many years we forget the implications of Americans fighting Americans, but Abraham Lincoln understood. His wife, Mary, had a several half-brothers who served in the Confederate Army, and these were killed in action. Another brother served the Confederacy as a surgeon, and that must have been nightmarish.
- I swiftly grew interested in the characters Foreman describes in her book. Through the lives of many people, Foreman describes the diplomacy, the South’s struggles for supplies, and the battle scenes in sufficient detail that we can begin to appreciate how even those on the other side of an ocean could be so affected by that great war.
- With an extraordinarily long (and interesting) epilogue, Foreman continues the story, describing how America and Britain finally resolved the conflicts between them stirred up by the war. In addition, she describes what each of the characters she mentions in her book did after the war.
So why did the Brits choose to stay out of the American Civil War. The British decision to stay out of the war hinged on the moral issue of slavery. Even though they desperately wanted the South’s cotton for their textile mills, the Brits condemned slavery. Therefore, because the Brits could easily have broken the North’s embargo of the South, it may not be an overstatement to say that the United States owes it present unity to William Wilberforce, the man who led the battle to end the slave trade.
So what do the word “gay” and the Rebel Flag have in common with heresy? Let’s consider one thing at a time.
That New Meaning For The Word “gay”
For the sake of propaganda, homosexual “rights” activists have succeeded in replacing the word “homosexual” with the term “gay” (See the etymology here.). Yet few seem to appreciate just how inappropriate this word swap has been. I suspect those most aware this problem have the word “Gay” as their surname (see here and here).
Think about that. How would you like to be called Gay?
The Distorted Meaning Of The Rebel Flag
When I reblogged Southern History Month 2014, I did not anticipate a positive response. In their unending effort to peddle political correctness, race baiters have transformed the once proud Confederate battle flag into a symbol of racism.
Was the Civil War ultimately about slavery? Yes. Without the issue of slavery, the United States may still have had a Civil War, but then the country would have divided along entirely different lines and for entirely different reasons.
Look at the picture above, at the beginning of this post. In the version of PowerPoint I use, Microsoft did not provide a picture of the “Rebel Flag.” However, they did provide a picture of the Stars and Bars. Look it up if you must (here), but that is a picture of what actually was the Confederate Flag. What we call the Rebel Flag is shown in the picture below.
The painting above depicts the remains of Army of Northern Virginia as it surrendered at Appomattox Court House. And yes, that picture shows what we now call the Rebel Flag. That flag was actually Army of Northern Virginia battle flag.
What the picture shows is the Union troops honoring the Confederate troops as they surrendered their arms and their battle flags. Whatever we may think of that flag now, the men who fought the Confederate soldiers respected them and their flag as one soldier honors another.
The South paid a frightful price for the Civil War. The Union troops at Appomattox Court House saw that price. They saw the thousands of hatless, shoeless, famishing Confederate soldiers before them, and they knew those Confederate soldiers had surrendered only because they had no other choice. Under the flag they carried, those Union soldiers had killed a quarter of Southern manhood, burned and pillaged the South, and left those who survived half starved. Such is war.
Because the Confederate Army had fought bravely and honorably, the Union troops answered honor with honor. That’s what that picture shows.
Just as we have twisted the meaning of the word “gay” and rendered a once proud battleflag into a symbol of racism, we have turned heresy into something almost opposite, something to be proud of.
Consider how G. K. Chesterton began his book, Heretics.
Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word “orthodox.” In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. The armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State, the reasonable processes of law—all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, “I suppose I am very heretical,” and looks round for applause. The word “heresy” not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox. (from here)
Civil War References