Saturday, March 8, 2014

Docuentary Review: Civil War (3): Ken Burns: Forever Free

This movie begins with the exploits of Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.  Jackson was able to keep three armies occupied, and kept requested reinforcements from McClellan on the peninsula.  His motto in generalship was in full display:

“Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.”

Then we have General Lee taking the initiative on the peninsula in the Seven Days Battle and pushing the federals back, and eventually forcing their withdrawal. The Confederates continued with momentum to the second battle of Bull Run or Mannasses.  Again this was a resounding defeat of the federals.   

This finally lead to the Confederate Army heading north into Maryland, and the Battle of Antietam.  There is a very good explanation of this battle.  Even though McClellan had General Lee's battle plans, he was still slow to act.  The documentary explains how there was a series of three major engagements.  First on the Confederate left, where Jackson's Corp held, just barely.  Despite the carnage Jackson said, "God has been very good to us."  Then in the center where there was a tremendous fight around the sunken road.  Initially this position was well defensed, until they were flanked.  Corpses were three deep in the road.  The Union could have followed up and split the confederate forces, but McClellan decided against this.  Lastly General George Burnside had to contend with crossing stone bridge which was defended by a much smaller group of confederates.  They finally were able to cross, but during their celebration they were counterattacked by newly arriving forces from Harper's Ferry under A.P. Hill.  Burnside requested reinforcements, but none were coming.  This battle proved to be the highest total one day loss of life during the war.  Casualties were heavier on the Union side; but Lee's losses represented a fourth of his forces. 

Abraham took the repulse of the Confederate forces as the victory he was looking for.  Only five days after the battle he issued the Emancipation Proclamation and changed the reason for the war.  The proclamation said all slaves in rebelling states were proclaimed free as of January 1st.  This lead to the organization of Black regiments.  The evening of December 31st, many emancipationist gathered
for a large party.  They heard from Frederick Douglas, and hailed Harriet Beecher Stowe.  The war was forever changed, and this moved made it so the Confederacy would not receive any aid from Europe.  What country wanted to defend slavery?  The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" had new meaning.  "As he died to made men holy, let us die to make men free."  If the North should be victorious and the country reunited, it would never be as before.

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