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30 January 2009

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary 60 Years & 4000 Miles: Men, Mobs, and Armies

60 Years & 4000 Miles: Men, Mobs, and Armies

The subject of this diary entry is to describe the men who made up the armies at Austerlitz and Gettysburg, and their twin heritage in both the larger societies from which they were drawn and the militaries that they entered.

The Old Order and Its Offshoots

In the European old order, society consisted of three classes: the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, and the aristocracy. This order, although intact in Austria and Russia at the time of the battle of Austerlitz, had prior to that time given rise to new social orders, one in Napoleonic France and the other in the United States. Because the old order is chronologically prior to the other two, it will be treated first and then the others will be treated as to how they differed from it.

The European aristocracy was the ruling class. Its power was based on the ownership of land. Membership was generally hereditary, with estates being passed from generation to generation. State power was also in the hands of this class, although their relationship to it had undergone an historical evolution from a decentralized feudal system, in which individual landowners to a considerable extent were the state for their own area, to a centralized nation-state ruled by a powerful monarch who ruled both on his own behalf and on behalf of the class as a whole. It was from this class that the officer corps of the armies were drawn.

The bourgeoisie was the professional and mercantile class. It was the rising class, aided by increasing worldwide trade and the industrial revolution. Some members of this class became quite wealthy, and through marriage with the aristocracy or by outright purchase of titles were able to rise into the upper class. This class historically was the least martial of the three: European armies in the old order drew their officers from the aristocracy, and their enlisted men from the peasantry, but the bourgeoisie as a class did not participate in it.

The peasantry was the agricultural work force, and constituted the overwhelming majority of the population. As a class they did not own the land they worked and it is from them that the wealth of the aristocracy was derived. This relation was originally maintained solely by force through the institution of serfdom, which had died in western Europe but was still very much alive in central and eastern Europe in general and Austria and Russia in particular. The abolition of serfdom, did not, however, necessarily mean any great improvement in the lives of this class, as it still left them in need of food to survive and having to work the land of some landowner to get it. From this class was also drawn the growing ranks of the urban poor, who increasingly found themselves as the labor force for the bourgeoisie. The common soldiers of the armies of Europe were drawn from the peasantry, whether rural or urban.

Napoleonic France was a second-generation off-shoot of the old order. It was derived from the order created by the French Revolution, which dated back to fifteen years before Austerlitz. The revolutionary process had resulted in the destruction of the old French aristocracy, whose special rights were abolished, whose land was seized and who personally were largely either killed or exiled. The political violence originally directed at the aristocracy, however, had turned into a weapon that the revolutionaries used against each other, and as a relief from the resulting war of all-against-all, a new order was accepted in which Napoleon was made emperor. In Napoleonic France a new aristocratic class was being created based on service to the state. This new class imitated the titles, offices, and methods of the old aristocracy, but its members were drawn from the lower classes and membership in it was not hereditary. (Whether it would have ossified into a hereditary class had it survived is not a question that we need be concerned with here.)

The United States also lacked an aristocracy of the old European order, not because it had been destroyed but because it had never existed. The Europeans who moved to the new world were largely drawn from the two lower classes, where their original class distinctions were lost. The American Revolution was not a social revolution in the same sense as the French Revolution, as it did not change the class relations within the society; it instead severed the relation between two geographically distinct societies that had subjugated the one to the rule of the other. The result was not strictly speaking a classless society. Even though most men may have owned the land they worked, not all did. Men without property were forced to work for others, either on farms, or for merchants, or in factories owned by the increasingly important industrial capitalist class.

While in the north American society was moving in the direction of a class divide between industrial capital and labor, the south was moving in a different direction. Large landowners in the south, unlike European aristocrats, had no peasants or serfs to work their land for them, but what they did have were African slaves. The use of slave labor enabled vast fortunes to be made and created a class that lived in a manner very similar to the old European aristocracy, a point of resemblance that was lost on neither. The planters, however, had social allies that the aristocrats did not: peasants may have been the huge majority of the population in Europe, but slaves were not present in such numbers and the majority white population of the south, who lived in almost as much fear of a slave revolt as the planters themselves, were reliable allies to keep the slaves in line.

The Will to War

In the European old order, wars were the business of the kings, who could decide to wage them at any time, for any reason. The outcome of a war could bring financial benefits to the state as lands (and the wealth they contained) changed hands, but in general the population was not expected to take any interest in the war’s ostensible causes. As the officer class of the army, the aristocracy could stand to benefit in an individual way: wars brought promotions and the opportunites for other rewards in the form of titles, land, and money. Material rewards also could go to enlisted men, which although much smaller than those available to the officer corps, were nevertheless significant in terms of giving them an easier life.

The rewards for service were a sufficient inducement for the aristocrats to voluntarily join the army. (In fact, commissions were generally purchased: the officers of an army in the old order were men who had paid to get in.) While it was much easier for those at the highest social levels to reach the highest ranks, where the opportunites for reward were greatest, men of ability but more moderate birth did have access to high rank. The Russian army was unusual in its openness to foreign-born officers, who could be found even in high commands. At Austerlitz, the commander of the commander of the second column of the Allied army, Langeron was a French general who had been dispossessed by the French Revolution, and several years after Austerlitz Clausewitz was to find a temporary home as an officer in the Russian army after the defeat of Prussia.

While the mercenary aspect of the motivations of the European aristocratic officer class are not to be underestimated as a motivation, it was also a class with its roots in the the European knighthood: to a considerable extent, war defined its identity as much as land ownership. Courage in battle was expected, and anything that hinted at cowardice was a deep social disgrace that could not be lived down, and which would affect not only the men themselves but their families as well. On the other hand, the officer who was known to be brave could expect higher social status as well as material rewards. Thus, among this class you commonly find not only courage but conspicuous courage, men going out of their way to show their willingness to risk injury and death, remaining at their post even after being wounded, and rejecting any suggestion that they seek medical help.

Enlisted men in the armies of the old order were sometimes volunteers (the life as a soldier may not have been easy, but a member of the peasantry had no choices in life that were easy), but Austria and Russian both relied on forced levies to keep their armies up to strength and both did so on a regional basis where men were assigned to units based on where they came from. Both Austria and Russia were multi-ethnic states and this system certainly simplified the problems of soldiers speaking different languages. Desertion was always a problem, and keeping men in line under fire was difficult. Although some men could be induced to be brave by the promises of promotion, distinction, and material rewards, and others because they wanted to be thought of by their peers as brave men, and the distribution of alcohol before battle helped suppress fear and promote belligerence, still threats and actual physical force were commonly used to keep men (literally) in line.

While the French Revolution at first led to a wave of volunteering by men willing to fight to save the Revolution, there were never enough of these men. France soon had to resort to a system of annual levies to fill its armies, a system that continued in Napoleonic France. Unlike Austria and Russia, this system was generally national rather than regional and regiments were numbered and not affiliated with any particular region, although some special units with regional affiliation did exist. While enlisted men in the French army did have better hopes for advancement than in the Russian and Austrian armies (the officer corps was open to them), most of the men brought into the army had no particular desire to be there or pursue a military career. Commitment to preserve the Revolution (and the Napoleonic derivative thereof) did not generally result in a personal desire to be a soldier. And so, as was the case with the armies of the old order, desertion was a chronic problem and armies could lose significant strength in situations where the men had opportunities to leave safely.

The destruction of the aristocracy in revolutionary France as a side effect destroyed the officer corps of the old army. A new officer corps had to be formed out of men from the other two classes. Some officers came from civilian backgrounds, some officers were kept on from the old army (a doubly dangerous thing for them, as they not only risked being killed in war but of being suddenly declared to be an enemy of the state by the government) and some were promoted from the enlisted ranks. The initial turbulent process of finding competent men to lead the army had long since settled itself by the time Napoleon took power, and the officers he inherited were by and large the ones he used. Advancement for French officers and men who hoped to become officers first and foremost required personal courage, with energy as probably the second most desired quality, and with intelligence a somewhat distant third. While French officers had no social background that required them to be courageous in battle, they were also generally men who in the pre-army lives had few options and for whom the army created opportunities that they could not have dreamt of prior to the Revolution. Also, with a large pool of men who might become officers, finding men with the desired qualities was a problem more than adequately solved. French officers, like those of the Allied armies, were noted for conspicuous courage. Also, like the officers of the Allied armies, it was their job to keep the men at their posts and the methods they used to do this did not differ from those used by the Allied armies in any fundamental way.

The armies of both sides in the Civil War were based on the same foundation: the pre-war United States Army. Unlike the European armies of the Napoleonic Wars, entry into the U.S. Army officer corps required no particular social standing (but which also offered no exceptional hopes for social advancement), and officers, rather than learning their jobs while doing them, received specialized educations at schools dedicated to that purpose: most prominently West Point. This reflected a general trend between the time of the Napoleonic and Civil War towards providing for specialized education for officers (West Point and the École Spéciale Militaire were both founded in 1802), although specialized schools for artillery officers had been in existence for a longer time.

While the armies at Austerlitz were all based on large standing armies that had existed for many decades (even if the French officer corps was newer and built on the job over a relatively short period), the armies at Gettysburg had both only been in existence for a short time. For officers, both armies had to depend on a small nucleus of trained soldiers from the regular army, but most of the jobs had to be filled with men with civilian backgrounds. These men had to learn their jobs without teachers while at the same time trying to teach their men theirs. When these armies first met at Bull Run, the result was an infamous debacle, and unfortunately for the American military reputation, it was a battle with a number of European officers in observance, whose scathing reports set the low tone for European estimates of American military ability for two generations.

The officer corps of the Civil War armies also lacked both the military social tradition of the old European officer corps and the spectacular rewards system of the Napoleonic French officer corps. Its inherent inducements to courage were scarcely greater than its experience. What it had going for it (at first) was an army of volunteers. Such men, while they may not have had much idea of what they were getting themselves in for, still had a commitment to the cause of the war that the enlisted men at Austerlitz lacked. Civil War armies still suffered from men disappearing without leave, but many of these ‘deserters’ were men who in their own minds were taking wholly justified leaves of absence and who would return to the ranks on their own accord. While these comings and goings would have driven a European officer mad with distraction — and American officers never learned to like them either — the armies did not require the massive policing effort that Napoleonic armies required.

While the Gettysburg armies on the whole bore a greater resemblance to the French army than the Austrian or Russian owing to their more egalitarian character, there is one respect where they more closely resembled the old order armies than the French: and that is that they were raised on a regional (in the American case, state) basis rather than a national one. Like the Austrian and Russian armies, the regiments not only drew their men from the same area, but kept these distinctions in their names and as part of their identities. In the American case, however, this had little to do with ethnic variation, and was instead due to states having the organizational machinery to quickly raise the armies while the national governments did not: the Confederate national government barely existed at all, and the Federal government in the north had little presence outside of the capital.

While it was alluded to earlier that the Civil War armies were volunteer armies, this was only completely true at the beginning of the war. The Confederacy ran low on volunteers and was forced to introduce a conscription act in the Spring of 1862. The Union, with its greater population, was able to keep the army on an all-volunteer basis longer and it was still all-volunteer as of Gettysburg. The Union army, was not, however, without problems of its own: in the two months between the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg it had been hit with a wave of enlistment expirations and as a result the Union army was substantially smaller at Gettysburg than it had been at Chancellorsville. One other area where the Union army suffered was in politically-motivated officer selections. While the Confederacy suffered from this too, the Union did so to a much greater degree: infamously so with Lincoln’s so-called political generals, one of whom — Dan Sickles — was to cause particular problems at Gettysburg.

Given the social differences among all of these armies, one of the interesting things about Austerlitz and Gettysburg is not how much of a difference in terms of the courage and skill their men showed in battle, but how little. To understand that better, the military as well as the social heritage of the men in the armies at these battles needs to be examined.

Not a Mob, but an Army

The consideration thus far has been primarily focused on the social background of the men and their relationship to the larger civilian world. But these men were no longer civilians and in fact often had many years and many experiences separating them from the civilian world. In entering an army they had entered its world and that world had become their own. Even if they expected to leave the military world and return to civilian life, they were still in the military and could not help but be changed by it. Further, the differences between the armies in the two battles were much less than the differences between the societies that produced them, a fact that becomes easier to understand by looking back at the armies’ common origin in European history.

While an aristocratic officer of old-order Europe might trace his family back to a knight of the middle ages, and his family’s place in society to that time, the army to which he belonged did not trace its heritage back to the medieval host but to the mercenary armies that began to emerge in Europe in the late middle ages and renaissance. The methods used to raise and organize these armies differed from the feudal host in that they depended not on hierarchies of social obligation, but on commercial transactions. The early organizers of these armies were called captains, and their armies companies. (That the term company has today a business meaning and a military meaning is not a coincidence.)

In the feudal host the social relationships were the military relationships, and the bonds of life outside the army were the bonds that held armies together in battle. The mercenary armies were entirely artificial creations with no organic roots in the larger society: anyone, from anywhere could find himself working for a captain who in turn might hire them out to anyone. With no social glue to hold them together, and with the pay being hardly worth getting killed for, getting these armies to fight was a non-trivial problem, and in many cases they broke and ran in a way that the witnesses to First Bull Run would have had no trouble recognizing.

The various methods that were introduced in this era, at different times and in different places, to address the problem of inducing men to fight for and with other men that they did not know, on behalf of causes about which they knew or cared little, were the direct basis of the construction of the Napoleonic and Civil War armies (and even, to a lesser degree, modern armies as well).

The first technique was the development of a hierarchical system of enforcers who would be distributed among the men. These enforcers — the functional ancestors of the non-commissioned and commissioned officers of later armies — would be selected because they were judged the most inherently reliable of the men, and that reliability was augmented by better pay and higher status. Fighting was a secondary responsibility for these men: their main responsibility was to ensure that the rest of the army fought, by example as well as through threats and intimidation. They were physically posted throughout the army, each with men whose conduct was their responsibility. In addition to provided a structured method of keeping the army from running, the hierarchy of enforcers also provided a means of tactical control: those at the top of the hierarchy could pass instructions down through it to control the army’s movements on the battlefield.

A second technique was the establishment of a unit identity and social bonds based on common service. Military service necessarily separated a soldier from his old friends and family, and being social animals, men could not help but form new friendships with the men in service with them. These natural social bonds could be reinforced by encouraging men to identify themselves with the military unit of which they were a part.

A third technique was drill. While this had a practical foundation of teaching men to use their weapons (early firearms were anything but easy to load and use), it had another function of instilling the habit of obedience to orders, discipline, and collective action. All of these ingrained habits acted as a counter to fear, and drill further gave men automatic behavior to perform that did not require thought or deliberation, thought and deliberation being not particularly valued when under fire as they could easily turn to devising a plan for self-preservation.

Although the creation of armies based on these methods as opposed to the methods of the feudal levy began in mercenary armies and were continuous with them, the feudal, mercenary, and national army periods were historically overlapping. The most successful of the early national armies was that of Spain, which had a functioning standing army (supplemented by mercenaries) from the start of the sixteenth century. Even as it borrowed from the methods of the earlier mercenary armies, so the later mercenary armies borrowed from it. Similarly, the national armies of The Netherlands and Sweden in the seventeenth century built on and advanced these organizational methods and transmitted them through the large number of mercenaries that these “national” armies employed. (The distinction we make between mercenaries and national armies was not one that the armies of the time were much concerned with — the early national armies were generally different from mercenary armies mainly in that they had direct long-term contracts with colonels to raise regiments for them rather than depending on a generalissimo to do it for them on an as-needed basis.)

We can see an example of the mercenary system in its mature form in the last army raised by Albrecht Wallenstein, perhaps the greatest of the mercenary generalissimos. In 1632, he was hired by the Holy Roman Emperor to raise an army. To do so, he hired colonels as sub-contractors to raise regiments for him. Wallenstein paid the colonels and the colonels in turn paid their men. Each colonel would have a staff of twenty or so men, organize his regiment into ten companies and hire captains to lead them, each with his own staff of ten or so men, to lead the companies. (The older practice of captains hiring their own companies had fallen from common use by this time.) The companies in turn were composed of corporalships: in an infantry regiment each company had two pike corporalships and one musket corporalship. Each corporalship in turn was composed of three rots (basically a single file when the men were in formation) under control of a rotmaster. The regiment, company, and corporalship were all administrative entities and not tactical ones. In battle, the army formed up by rot, platoon, battalion and brigade (from smallest to highest level). The army as a whole would form with the infantry units in the center and cavalry on the wings, with the center and each wing having its own commander. All of the tactical formations were ad hoc, adopted when forming the army for battle and disbanded afterwards.

The national armies that succeeded the era of the mercenary armies built on the techniques used by their mercenary predecessors, particularly in the area of extending drill to an elaborate system of military ritual and protocol, but those armies added real innovation when it came to making the invisible and mental organization of the armies visible and physical. First and most importantly, they invented uniforms, which were valuable in multiple ways. First, they aided identifying friend from foe. Second, they encouraged a sense of solidarity and identification of men with the army and with their own unit (uniforms tended to follow national patterns but also had variations that made each regiment’s uniform distinctive). Third, they made service (literally) more attractive, which was particularly important for armies that relied on volunteers to fill their ranks. Fourth, they provided a way to distinguish men of different ranks through distinctive uniform variations. Another use of physical techniques was that the large battle flags from earlier armies were fully institutionalized as regimental standards, which were the physical representation of the regiment’s honor. It was considered a great thing to take one from the enemy and deeply shameful for a unit to lose its own. Stories of men risking their lives in astonishing ways to protect their unit’s standard (or take one from the enemy) are a commonplace throughout eighteenth and nineteenth century warfare.

General Results

Strategy and tactics count for nothing in the end, if the men in an army won’t fight, and as Bull Run showed, mere general commitment to a political cause, however desirable from a recruiting standpoint, is grossly insufficient to induce men to perform well in actual combat. To achieve that, other motives and methods are needed. These methods, odd as it may seem today, where we tend to associate courage in battle with patriotism and belief in the reasons for the war, do not in fact require any interest in the nation or belief in any cause whatsoever. The institutions that constitute the army themselves provide their own motivation for its men to a remarkable degree. While we cannot fail to be impressed by the huge losses that the armies at Gettysburg endured without disintegrating — about 30% of the strength of the opposing armies — and think of it in terms of the soldier’s devotion to their cause, we should remember that purely mercenary armies with no devotion to any cause could do the same: Wallenstein’s mercenary army at Lützen took losses at almost exactly the same percentage of its strength as did the Confederates at Gettysburg, and like the Confederates did not break even if they in the end left the field. Devotion to cause had a great deal to do with explaining why the men in the armies at Gettysburg were there at all — but once there it was not devotion to a cause but the qualities of the Union and Confederate armies as armies that were mostly responsible for their ability to fight and endure.

Of course, while the system often worked and kept armies fighting even in the face of appalling losses, it could also fail. The problem was that confusion and surprise could overwhelm the ability of the organizational glue of the command hierarchy to hold units together, even when losses were not especially heavy. In the case of the linear armies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, attacks from the flanks or rear were particularly dangerous in this regard. Training, organization, and formation were all aimed at enabling units to meet threats to their front, and threats from other directions were not only difficult to respond to in a physical way, they also were evidence that things had gone badly wrong and that the situation was out of control.

At Austerlitz, the Allied left wing was caught in a triangle with a frozen lake on one side and the French army on the other two. The surprise of the French appearing in their rear caused a general breakdown in the Allied army’s structure. The senior commanders of the left wing were isolated from their superiors and left without instructions or information as to what was happening on the rest of the battlefield. (One Allied column plunged north, attempting to link up with what they thought was the location of another Allied column, when in fact that column had been defeated hours earlier and was nowhere near where they thought it was.) The confusion and uncertainty at the top progressed downwards through the organization; the hierarchy charged with enforcing orders was getting no orders to enforce and it was only this hierarchy that kept the army an army; as it disintegrated, the Allied army reverted from an army to a mob. A transformation in the other direction that had taken years to bring about was reversed in a couple of hours.

Particular Results

While we can often trace differences in outcomes to differences in conditions on the battlefield, it is also true that sometimes it isn’t what happened to armies on the battlefield, but what they brought to the battlefield made the difference. Some armies have always just seemed to fight harder than others. The problem this poses is not that there are too few possible explanations, but too many. When an army does well, everything distinctive about it can be enshrined as a positive example to others and imitated by other, less successful armies. The tendency to see superiority in every difference also afflicts those of us attempting historical analysis. I have read descriptions of the French army at Austerlitz, for example, that so extravagantly praise every single aspect of it and are so disparaging of every single aspect of the Russian and Austrian armies, that you wonder not why the French won, but why they didn’t win by a much bigger margin, and how earlier and later French armies that shared almost all of those same qualities, ever could have suffered the defeats that they often did.

Historical questions such as whether one army really was better than another, and if so in what way, are not really amenable to being settled. All you can do is offer what you think is the case, and your reasons for thinking so, and then move on, while respecting those who think differently.

In the case of Austerlitz, I would say that I think that the French army was better than the Allied army, and that in general the difference was greatest at the top — Czar Alexander had no business commanding an army — and generally diminished as you went down. Quite apart from the two commanders-in-chief, one of the striking differences in accounts of the battle is in how the armies moved.

The Allied army, for a variety of reasons, had trouble getting out of its own way when executing its initial attack. Major formations were in the wrong place, left at the wrong time, or went in the wrong direction. It wasn’t just that the Allied army had a bad plan (it did) it was that it wouldn’t have been able to execute its plan even if the French army had done everything the Allies expected it to, and the Allied army probably could not have performed any plan effectively that called on it to perform complex, large-scale maneuvers.

The French army, on the other hand, had no such problems. While the battle was not without surprises for the French, and the French did alter their plans accordingly, they were generally quite able to execute the movements that they chose to carry out. Particularly worth mentioning is the conduct of Vandamme’s division for the distance it covered during the battle, the direction changes it made, and the number of fights it was consequently able to participate in.

If we look to the causes, we can certainly see that at a tactical level the French infantry seemed more agile in the way it could quickly switch between column for movement and line for combat, but we see things of greater consequence, I think, when we look at the differences in the high-level organization. French brigades, divisions, and corps were well-led semi-permanent organizations and structured in a systematic and flexible way. The Allied army, on the other hand, organized its formations above the regiment on an ad hoc basis — the basic Allied organization for the battle was only a few days old — and lacked an equivilant to the French Division. (In the Allied army, the brigades were usually much larger than in the French army and reported directly to the Allied corps-equivalent, the column, whereas in the French army, brigades reported to divisions which reported to corps.)

With regard to Gettysburg and the Civil War, I have long wondered as to whether the Confederate armies really were superior to the Union and if so in what way. In the end, I have found it hard to resist the conclusion that they were. It is trivially easy to find cases where Confederate units at any level met and defeated equal or greater numbers of Union forces, but cases where the reverse is true, where Union forces prevailed despite inferior numbers, tend to be well-known precisely because they were so uncommon.

I am extremely doubtful that this was because of devotion to cause. After all, many of the Confederate successes occurred after they had to resort to conscription while the Union armies were still manned by volunteers. Differences in equipment almost always tended to favor the Union, and differences in organization and tactics were quite minor. Certainly some Confederate successes, such as at Chancellorsville, owed a great deal to differences in planning and temperament at the highest level — Lee and Jackson’s audacity are as remarkable in one way as Hooker’s personal collapse is in the other. Still, in particular with regard to the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia, I would defer to what seems to have been the consensus of the ordinary enlisted men in both armies that the Confederate infantrymen and cavalrymen were better than their Union counterparts at even the lowest level, a superiority that gave any Confederate unit of any size an advantage over a Union unit of equal size. (I think the situation with the western armies was more complicated, but that is a topic I do not intend to discuss in this essay, which is already longer and goes into more subjects than I had originally intended it to.)

As to why this is, I think it is in part the product of Southern culture, in which its planter class, in emulating both consciously and unconsciously the European aristocracy, had picked up one of its most militarily useful virtues: a keen sense of personal honor and attachment to personal courage as a pre-eminent virtue. (That the planter class had also acquired some of the European aristocracy’s most unattractive vices is something I think is also true, but is not to the point here.) Further, that as the social and political leadership class of the South, they served as a model and were imitated by the broader Southern population.

Compounding this cultural advantage is the legacy of caution and lack of confidence that the Army of the Potomac had acquired from McClellan, the man who created it, and then compounding it again was the tradition of victory that the Army of Northern Virginia acquired and the tradition of defeat that the Army of Potomac had acquired. These opposing traditions added to the confidence of the one and sapped the confidence of the other. While Robert E. Lee was an outstanding commander in his own right, it is striking how often he made plans whose main justification in his own mind was that his army would be able to execute them, however difficult they might appear. This is not a fault of Lee, but I think rather is a big part of the reason for his success: that not only was he confident in his army, but that he was usually right in being so.

Napoleon’s Grande Armee and Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia both rank, I think, among the great armies of history. They may both have been overcome, in part through superior strength on the part of their opponents as well as through mistakes made by their own leaders, but their professional legacy as military organizations must always remain impressive, regardless of what one thinks of the causes for which they fought.