Music for Memorial Day

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Mark Steyn reviews the history of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and some closely related songs, among them "John Brown's Body," which apparently isn't (or wasn't) about the John Brown:

"By a strange quirk of history," wrote Irwin Silber, the great musicologist of Civil War folk songs, "'John Brown's Body' was not composed originally about the fiery Abolitionist at all. The namesake for the song, it turns out, was Sergeant John Brown, a Scotsman, a member of the Second Battalion, Boston Light Infantry Volunteer Militia." This group enlisted with the Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment and formed a glee club at Fort Warren in Boston. Brown was second tenor, and the subject of a lot of good-natured joshing, including a song about him mould'ring in his grave, which at that time had just one verse, plus chorus:

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah…

They called it "The John Brown Song". On July 18th 1861, at a regimental march past the Old State House in Boston, the boys sang the song and the crowd assumed, reasonably enough, that it was inspired by the life of John Brown the Kansas abolitionist, not John Brown the Scots tenor….Later on, various other verses were written about the famous John Brown and the original John Brown found his comrades' musical tribute to him gradually annexed by the other guy.

Silber wasn't just a "great musicologist of Civil War folk songs," by the way: As editor of Sing Out!, he was one of the leading folk music commissars of the '60s, policing the genre's boundaries with all the energy of a Stalinist ideologue. (Which makes sense—he was a Stalinist ideologue.) Bob Dylan remembers him here. Later he helped launch a Leninoid group called Line of March, remembered here. All of which is irrelevant; I'm just tickled to see him popping up in a Mark Steyn column.

More music for Memorial Day here and here.

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  1. I’ve heard this story before. I understand some officer’s wife, upon hearing “John Brown’s body lies a molderin’ in the grave.” sung, wrote the words we have today thinking Northern troops should have something less morbid to sing about.

    …which they presumably sang as they pillaged, raped and murdered their way through the Shenandoah Valley and across Georgia.

  2. “…which they presumably sang as they pillaged, raped and murdered their way through the Shenandoah Valley and across Georgia.”

    And ended human slavery in America. God bless them. Fuck you Shultz.

  3. Eat shit and die paul. The destruction Sherman and his men did in the south was of course of a military necessary but the conduct of his men was something on par of the Soviets moving through Germandy in 1945. Destruction of logistics is one thing. Rape and murder is surly another.

  4. I don’t think the men of the Second Battalion liked Mr. Brown very much.

    If you sing about somebody being dead, then follow it up with praise to God…

  5. It was not a military necessity. In fact, while Sherman was burning Georgia Hood marched north and nearly captured Nashville. Although by that point there was no chance of prolonging the war, the absence of Union garrisons in Ohio meant that Hood could have, had Nashville fell, gone straight to Lake Erie against resistance as minimal as Sherman faced in Georgia. More likely, Grant would have been denied sufficient reinforcements for the siege of Petersburg and Hood would have been stopped. Nevertheless, Sherman’s actions represent a remarkable turning away from an enemy army still in the field to terrorize civilians who had no power to stop the war.

  6. Can someone please explain to me why the people who so ferociously attack Sherman’s army’s actions are so very often the same people who vigorously defend the incineration of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

  7. And ended human slavery in America. God bless them. Fuck you Shultz.

    Never been in favor of slavery, paul. …never been in favor of pillaging, raping or murdering civilians either. I suppose it might have been different if the North had differentiated between slave owners and others, but they didn’t.

    You’re not suggesting that the murdering, raping and pillaging were all necessary to end slavery, are you? …’cause that could have some relevence today. Take Iraq, for instance–the Baathists treated Shia and the Kurds very badly. I’d hate to think we’re gonna have to murder, rape and pillage Sunnis, regardless of whether they were Baathists, until they’re all finally free. I’m not willing to support that. I don’t think the American people are willing to support it either. I know our troops aren’t willing to go along with that kinda program. …but go for it if you want, I just think you’re gonna have a hard time getting people to sign onto your…um…idea.

    P.S. To me it’ll always be “The Raping Hymn of the Republic”

  8. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.

  9. Can someone please explain to me why the people who so ferociously attack Sherman’s army’s actions are so very often the same people who vigorously defend the incineration of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    To some people, joe, the ends justify the means.

    It’s pretty clear that Japan wouldn’t have surrendered without Hiroshima and Nagasaki. …that makes it much easier to defend as a military objective. Operation Gomorrah was easier to defend that way–that’s why critics point to Dresden, which, like the civilians in the Shenandoah Valley and Georgia, is a lot harder to defend as a military target.

  10. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.

    What about civilians, General?

  11. Ken,
    So does the chorus of Dixie start “Advance the flag of Slavery. Hurrah! Hurrah!” to you? Or are Northern transgressions the only ones captured in song?

  12. It’s pretty clear that Japan wouldn’t have surrendered without Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    No it isn’t.

  13. jb,

    Do not take this as an endorsement of Lincon’s or Sherman’s, or Sherman’s soldiers actions, but Sherman’s march was necessary to subdue the Confederacy.

    Towards the end of the war, Lee was considering taking what was left of his army, heading for the hills, and fighting a guerilla war which would have lasted who knows how long. One of the reasons he didn’t was because it would leave Southern cities to burn.

    If you are going to war, you must fight to win. Which is why I am not in favor of war unless absolutely necessary. I knew there would be problems when W tried fighting a “nice” war.

  14. So does the chorus of Dixie start “Advance the flag of Slavery. Hurrah! Hurrah!” to you? Or are Northern transgressions the only ones captured in song?

    I have absolutely no affection for slavery, racists, etc. Indeed, I wonder how much Sherman’s and Sheridan’s behavior contributed to the difficulties we had in the South from 1865-1965.

    …I also have no tolerance for those who would commit atrocities, that is.

    If joe wants an interesting comparison, how ’bout modern justifications for Sheridan’s actions in the Shenandoah Valley as compared to modern opinion regarding Sheridan’s later actions in regards to Native Americans. The actions seem pretty much the same to me. …but in one case, it’s treated as an ugly but necessary means to unify the nation and end slavery–in the other, it’s just called a massacre.

    Using the military to target civilians specifically seems the very heart of wrong to me, regardless of intentions. …and when I hear the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, I think of all the evil that a nation can commit under the guise of false Christianity and flag waving. Let’s look at the words of the first verse. They sang:

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
    His truth is marching on.
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

    …and then they pillaged a farm.

    It makes me think of the justifications I heard for Abu Gharib; it makes me think of the justifications I heard from torture apologists, etc.

  15. No it isn’t.

    Surely, Japan wouldn’t have surrendered when it did without Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Surely, the causality argument from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Japan’s surrender is clearer than the causality argument between the Shenandoah Valley, Sherman in Georgia and the surrender of Robert E. Lee.

  16. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.

    I wonder, would the real General Sherman have thought 9/11 similarly justifiable?

    I’ve already said that I think targeting civilians specifically is the very heart of wrong.

  17. Can someone please explain to me why the people who so ferociously attack Sherman’s army’s actions are so very often the same people who vigorously defend the incineration of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    Joe… You are full of it as usual. The people who vigrously defend the use of the two atomic attacks on Japan were the ones slated for Operation Cornet. the invasion of the Jap mainland.

  18. Ken,
    If Sherman was in al-Queda (General al-Sherman), he’d support it.

    As to Nagasaki and Hiroshima being necessary, Ike didn’t agree.

    Eisenhower wrote in his memoir The White House Years, “In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”

    The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, after interviewing hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, reported “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

    The two quotes above are from the Atomic bombing Wikipedia article (I didn’t feel like tracking down all the original sources that I read this info from and these are sourced for me)

    The atomic bombings were payback for Pearl Harbor. Considering the fact that Japan had been trying to surrender for months (granted not unconditionally). That said, our firebombings of Tokyo killed a lot more people and was more brutal.

    Wow, this thread has gone WAAAAAAY off the original topic.

  19. Of course Joe would have opposed any US involvment in World War Two. Well.. maybe fighting against the nazis he might have not protested two much…at least after the jerries attacked the Soviet Union. Not before.
    As for the Jap invasion of China, Pearl Harbor, et al. Well, all of that was our fault anyway.

  20. “…which they presumably sang as they pillaged, raped and murdered their way through the Shenandoah Valley and across Georgia.”

    And ended human slavery in America. God bless them. Fuck you Shultz.

    So when Sherman’s men pillaged the farms of my wife’s Quaker ancestors in North Carolina (who were opposed to both slavery and secession) shortly before Joe Johnston’s surrender, that was just a case of needing to break some eggs in order to make an omelette?

    Go fuck yourself, paul. (And I mean that in the kindest possible way.)

  21. There’s no such thing as a civilian in wartime, especially not in a total war like the Civil War. War is mass slaughter and cruelty and little babies getting raped and then burned to death and such. It always has been and always will be, no matter what nice little papers like the Geneva Convention and the Treaty of Westphalia say.

    This is why people should think twice before they let some nitwit president lead us into needless wars. They’re not very nice.

  22. Can someone please explain to me why the people who so ferociously attack Sherman’s army’s actions are so very often the same people who vigorously defend the incineration of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    In my experience, those “who so ferociously attack Sherman’s army’s actions” tend rather to vigorously *condemn* “the incineration of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” (Maybe that’s what comes of hanging around people who take seriously Catholic moral teaching regarding ius in bello.)

  23. John Brown! Now I can’t get this little ditty out of my head.

    Seven locks upon gate,
    Seven gates about town
    In the town there lives a butcher and his name is Handsome John Brown
    In the town there lives a butcher and his name is Handsome John Brown
    John Brown’s boots are polished so fine
    John Brown’s spurs, they jingle and shine
    On his coat a crimson flower, in his hand a glass of red wine
    On his coat a crimson flower, in his hand a glass of red wine
    In the night the golden spurs ring
    In the dark the leather boots shine
    Don’t come tapping at my window now your heart no longer is mine
    Don’t come tapping at my window now your heart no longer is mine

  24. Eat shit and die paul. The destruction Sherman and his men did in the south was of course of a military necessary but the conduct of his men was something on par of the Soviets moving through Germandy in 1945. Destruction of logistics is one thing. Rape and murder is surly another.

    Well, to give Sherman his due, rape and murder wasn’t really a big part of his plan, which aimed more at destruction of property. Occasionally his men would let things get out of hand and would accidentally kill slaves they were torturing in an effort to get them to reveal where the white folks had hidden their valuables. And they tended not to rape white women (though they were somewhat less scrupulous when it came to slave women). But we shouldn’t judge them by the moral standards of our day. (We only do that with Southern slaveholders.)

  25. There’s no such thing as a civilian in wartime, especially not in a total war like the Civil War.

    Yassir Arafat and Osama bin Laden couldn’t have said it better.

  26. Seamus,
    Would you prefer Churchill’s version “There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage.”

  27. Eat shit and die paul. The destruction Sherman and his men did in the south was of course of a military necessary but the conduct of his men was something on par of the Soviets moving through Germandy in 1945.

    That’s an interesting choice for analogy. I can’t bring myself to feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the Germans, either.


  28. Angainor: I’m not disagreeing that there was military utility in Sherman’s march. Just that, as it left an existing enemy army free to invade the north unmolested, it was a lousy use of resources.

    I also hold that Lee’s decision to not go guerilla was based as much on his being an honorable fellow as on his fear of a repeat of Sherman’s march. And that he was smart enough to realize that the South would be burned to the ground without a preexisting demonstration.

  29. Seamus,
    Would you prefer Churchill’s version “There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage.”

    No. the other Mark stated the case for killing civilians much more pithily. Osama would find his words much more quotable than Churchill’s.

  30. Seamus writes: “(We only do that with Southern slaveholders.)”

    Yeah, what’s a few orders of magnitude matter when you’re counting victims?

  31. That’s an interesting choice for analogy. I can’t bring myself to feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the Germans, either.

    So they all deserved to be raped and killed? Even those too young ever to have voted? Even members of the SPD and KPD who had opposed the Nazis before 1933?

  32. Ken Shultz writes: “I’ve already said that I think targeting civilians specifically is the very heart of wrong.”

    I’m inclined to suspect that infantries on the march in conquered territory behaved similarly ever since the Romans.

    ie, it was not so much a matter of intentional “targeting civilians” as it was an inseparable characteristic of infantry warfare as it was practiced before the 20th century. The pillaging was often necessary to supply the troops; the owners of the property would be unlikely to give it up willingly, and some would resist, no doubt increasing the likelihood of violence against civilians. The theft supplemented their meager pay and compensated for being drafted or otherwise involuntarily pressed into service, The rape, I suppose, was an under-the-table bonus, especially if there wasn’t an adequate supply of whores following the troops.

  33. Seamus writes: “Even those too young ever to have voted? Even members of the SPD and KPD who had opposed the Nazis before 1933?”

    Well, maybe the voters should have thought of that beforehand. “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t vote for a militant nutbag like Hitler if you love your kids.”

    They might not have realized it, but they were voting to be treated like that, just like they were voting for the Jews to be treated that way.

    They asked for it.

  34. “You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta [and Georgia] can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

    “We don’t want your Negroes, or your horses, or your lands, or any thing you have, but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States. That we will have, and if it involved the destruction of your improvements, we cannot help it.”

  35. jon H:

    What a refreshingly novel moral approach! Kill children for the offense of having chosen their parents badly. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you approve the Soviets’ application of that principle to German civilians; after all, they applied it to relatives of “class enemies” back in the Motherland.

    Boy, I’m glad I can stop feeling bad about how we Virginians responded to the Great Massacre of 1622 by waging a genocidal war against the Indians. After all, they did it first!

    (Oh, and you didn’t address my question about SPD and KPD voters who were still killed and raped. They *didn’t* vote for a militant nutbag like Hitler, but they were treated the same as those who did. (I’m thinking particularly of the story Cornelius Ryan told, in The Last Battle, of a resident of Berlin who was a lifelong Communist but was repeatedly raped by Soviet soldiers.) I guess they needed to be punished for simply being of the same nationality as those who did.)

  36. Really interesting-Thanks, Jesse.

    I don’t think that there’s another blog anywhere that features editors who are in possession of as broad of a range of interesting knowledge as the H&R crew.

  37. Paul:

    And ended human slavery in America. God bless them. Fuck you Shultz.

    Paul, If you had read much of Ken Shultz’S writing, you’d know that there would have to be only a very few things that he is more vehemently opposed to than slavery.

  38. No. the other Mark stated the case for killing civilians much more pithily. Osama would find his words much more quotable than Churchill’s.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that I think killing civilians is a good thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. But it’s just what happens in war. Plenty of writers more eloquent than I have written about it.

    He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.

  39. If I were making a war, I would attack only civilians, if I could. The only reason to attack the other side’s military forces is to get past them to get at the civilians, no? (Why bother knocking out the guards if you can bypass them?) If you couldn’t attack the civilians, then one side could win simply by not having any military. You couldn’t attack them at all, and then you’d be stuck!

  40. I don’t deny that Sherman’s men committed atrocities, but the “tortuting slaves to obtain valuables” story has the ring of legend to me. Not that I don’t believe Northern soldiers were capable of torture, but “faithful” slaves mainly exist in pro-South romantic literature. A real slave, when asked, “Where’s Master’s gold?” would be only too eager to cooperate.

  41. “whereupon a number of Negro girls coming from houses supposed to have been deserted, formed a circle around the band,”

    Just wanted to inject that I found this part of the article fanciful, yet it seemed to be accepted as accurate.

  42. I’m inclined to suspect that infantries on the march in conquered territory behaved similarly ever since the Romans.

    Murder, robbery and rape have always been with us–that doesn’t make them right.

    It’s one thing if civilians are incidentally attacked in a military operation–quite another if attacking civilians is the objective of a military operation.

    Over the last few days I’ve heard a lot about Haditha; I’ve heard a number of people suggest it was worse than Abu Gharib. I don’t want to get into a pissing match over which was worse, but if Haditha was the result of soldiers ignoring official policy and Abu Gharib was the result of official policy, then I can see how some might argue that Abu Gharib was worse.

    …I can also see how Iraqi civilians might not appreciate the nuance.

    The only reason to attack the other side’s military forces is to get past them to get at the civilians, no?

    No.

  43. In the 80s, Silber wrote movie reviews for The Guardian (the US lefty zine, not the Brit newspaper). Imagine a Stalinist Michael Medved. They really should be archived somewhere.

  44. So they all deserved to be raped and killed? Even those too young ever to have voted? Even members of the SPD and KPD who had opposed the Nazis before 1933?

    No, I don’t suppose that tiny fraction of the German people deserved to suffer and die. But their fate is akin to that of, say, the innocent children killed because their school was built next to a munitions factory targeted by Allied bombs — regrettable, but by no means a reason for condemning the dropping of those bombs.

  45. It’s pretty clear that Japan wouldn’t have surrendered without Hiroshima and Nagasaki. …that makes it much easier to defend as a military objective.

    What Mo said. This is completely wrong. I’ll also add that by the end the only condition they had was the retention of their Emperor, something we allowed them anyway. If you think Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about anything other than scaring the crap out of the Russians, you’re fooling yourself.

    I have a very hard time feeling too much sympathy for Southerners who had their property destroyed. The South started the war, and even after it was finished they were still, by and large, unwilling to acknowledge their part in causing it. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for a perpetual victim.

  46. I’m not disagreeing that there was military utility in Sherman’s march. Just that, as it left an existing enemy army free to invade the north unmolested, it was a lousy use of resources.

    Seeing as George Thomas and 60,000 veterans of the Army of the Cumberland were ready and waiting for Hood and the Army of Tennessee, I’d hardly say that the attempt to recapture Tennessee was “unmolested.” Sherman had full confidence in Thomas’s ability to deal with anything Hood could throw against him, particularly in light of Hood’s proven tactical ineptitude as an army commander around Atlanta. Hood gutted his army to absolutely no purpose, while Sherman tore the heart out of the South’s capacity for continued resistance – which was the lousier use of resources?

    Sherman’s “bummers” did plenty of looting, pillaging and burning, but the lurid stories of mass rapes and murders are largely BS. I recommend Burke Davis’s Sherman’s March as a carefully researched account of the campaign. As a North Carolina native, Davis certainly has no reason to be well-disposed towards Cump Sherman or his men, but he does a solid job of dispelling some of the wilder claims concerning the March to the Sea.

  47. 60,000? Surely you jest. 40,000, with the reinforcements that came in after the siege. And they were only ready and waiting because of smart marching on Thomas’s part. Hood’s incompetence did cost him the campaign, but it was a nearer thing than you’d like to admit.

  48. Of course Joe would have opposed any US involvment in World War Two. Well.. maybe fighting against the nazis he might have not protested two much…at least after the jerries attacked the Soviet Union. Not before.
    As for the Jap invasion of China, Pearl Harbor, et al. Well, all of that was our fault anyway.

    You know, I’ve both seen and said some pretty harsh things about joe, but this is completely unwarranted, not to mention damn near incomprehensible.

  49. How did a light topic about obscure martial music that no one but Civil War nerds care about turn into a discussion on the morality of war and targeting civilians?

    Hit and Run: it’s like a kid with ADD on steroids.

  50. Ken,

    Sherman’s march was crucial to the war effort; it considerably hastened the end of the war.

    I would recommend Battle Cry of Freedom.

    As to your lurid remarks about the conduct of Union soldiers during the war, well, Mark B has dealt with those.

    Or let me put it to you this way, when you discuss the Army of Northern Virginia making its way north prior to the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, is the first thing that pops into your mind those free blacks who were seized (in Maryland or Pennsylvania respectively) by Confederate soldiers and sent “down river?” Men and women who often spent years following the Civil War looking for their scattered relatives (along with many of the freedmen). Or have you never heard of such?

    _________________________________________________

    Now, as to slaves and Sherman’s march, as was the case throughout the war, slaves flocked to his lines as he marched through Georgia and then up through South Carolina (I suspect ignorance is the reason behind the lack of complaints regarding his South Carolina campaign), continuing the slave revolt that had been underway nearly the start of the war. Indeed, it is quite ahistorical to describe the relationship between Union soldiers and slaves as one of rape and debasement; indeed, if anything it was (primarily) a relationship more a kin to a party aiding in a slave revolt – which is why so many slaves flocked to the Union lines and why so many of those slaves eventually joined the Union army.

  51. Seamus writes: “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you approve the Soviets’ application of that principle to German civilians; after all, they applied it to relatives of “class enemies” back in the Motherland.”

    It seems that the real complaint is not that German civilians were killed, but that they were killed by uppity dirty Commie Slavs.

    The Russians were late to that party, which was thrown by Germans in the first place.

  52. Coming out against atrocities–regardless of who commits them–is apparently controversial. Who knew?

    I wasn’t trying to invent any atrocities either. To whatever extent atrocities occur, be it on a battlefield in the 1860s or in Haditha in 2005, they are disgraceful. To whatever extent atrocities are the very purpose of a military operation, be it in the Shenandoah Valley in the 1860s or at the World Trade Center in 2001, they are disgraceful absolutely.

  53. Ken Shultz,

    Coming out against atrocities–regardless of who commits them–is apparently controversial.

    Where are you getting that from?

    I wasn’t trying to invent any atrocities either.

    How much of the events in question have you studied?

  54. I tend to believe that the view that Japan would have surrendered without either (a) an invasion or (b) a nuking, is pretty naive. I have very little faith in the Strategic Bombing Survey. It suffers from an institutional self-interest; to “prove” that strategic bombing alone can win a war, a theorem that has been disproved in the field since that time.

    And anyone who thinks an invasion, pushed to the point of Japanese surrender, wouldn’t have been horrific for both the Japanese and the Allies, knows very little about the Japanese.

    My only quarrel with nuking Japan is with the decision to nuke actual cities. The first bomb, at least, could have been dropped somewhere uninhabited as a demonstration.

  55. R.C. Dean,

    Why was nuking Japan any worse than firebombing Japan?

  56. In retrospect, people seem to justify targeting civilians relative to how effective the strategy is considered to have achieved some desired result. Like I said, it seems to me that Japan wouldn’t have surrendered when it did had it not been for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think a lot of people see it that way, and people tend to justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki in that light. …I have a harder time seeing that relationship between Georgia, the Shenandoah Valley and Robert E. Lee.

    …but I tend to associate the surrender of the South with Robert E. Lee–maybe I shouldn’t. Regardless, I oppose specifically targeting civilians in the here and now even if the strategy was effective way back when.

    How did a light topic about obscure martial music that no one but Civil War nerds care about turn into a discussion on the morality of war and targeting civilians?

    When I see civilians targeted as a matter of policy, there often seems to be a lot of flag waving, religious zeal, etc. about. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” seems an excellent example of that.

  57. Ken Shultz,

    I have a harder time seeing that relationship between Georgia, the Shenandoah Valley and Robert E. Lee.

    Georgia was important as a source of provisions, etc. The Shenandoah Valley was an extremely important locus of rail, road, etc. canal networks – which is why both sides in the war fought to main control of it.

    …but I tend to associate the surrender of the South with Robert E. Lee…

    Then you’ve overly romanticized Lee’s role in the war. After all, the largest force of Confederates to surrender was not Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, but Johnston’s army in North Carolina (in the Durham area). Honestly, your argument forgets the fact that war was a cross-continental campaign which depended not on simply defeating one army group, but the Confederacy as a whole.

  58. Ken Shultz,

    How much of the events in question have you studied?

  59. Georgia was important as a source of provisions, etc. The Shenandoah Valley was an extremely important locus of rail, road, etc. canal networks – which is why both sides in the war fought to main control of it.

    I’m not married to the idea that neither had anything to do with the North winning the war when it did. Still, I have an issue with people targeting civilians specifically. My observations have been about how people tend to justify such things retroactively. …and how, taking “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as an example, people at the time tend to justify targeting civilians.

    I know enough about events in the Shenandoah Valley to have a distinct bias on the matter, but that isn’t really the point I’m making.

    Can’t one argue that the North would have won the war even if it hadn’t targeted civilians? …perhaps the North just wouldn’t have won when it did. Did Union treatment of Southern civilians contribute to the difficulties of reconstruction and its aftermath? …not that any of that’s the argument I’m making.

    I argued a moral point about specifically targeting civilians, and I made some observations about religion, flag waving and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as it pertains to atrocities. I wish I was more committed to the position that Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley had nothing to do with the victory of the North, but I’m not.

  60. Ken Shultz,

    Still, I have an issue with people targeting civilians specifically.

    Why? Indeed, why assumethat all civilians are equally innocent, etc.?

    I know enough about events in the Shenandoah Valley to have a distinct bias on the matter, but that isn’t really the point I’m making.

    Capturing the Shenandoah was vital to the cause of both sides. They didn’t fight over for nothing.

    Can’t one argue that the North would have won the war even if it hadn’t targeted civilians?

    How exactly was the Union not going to target civilians? Be it in the form of the blockade, the destruction of Confederate agriculture, etc.

    Did Union treatment of Southern civilians contribute to the difficulties of reconstruction and its aftermath?

    No, basically Reconstruction was hard because the Union tried to undo the South’s entire social order.

    I argued a moral point about specifically targeting civilians…

    Again, this assumes some things about civilians that may not be true.

  61. Also keep in mind that from at least one of the traditional standpoints of just war theory (that of the scholastics) the Confederacy had no right to defend itself because it was a state based on an unjust social system.

  62. It is also interesting how people ignore context when conjecturing moral equivalency. Lemme see…….Osama and his merry band of throat-slashers are pissed off because they see the U.S. and a corrupt House of Saud conspiring to thwart the imposition of slavery by Sharia throughout the wider muslim world, which to Osama, also includes Spain and Vienna. He and his followers thus incinerate thousands of people in Manhattan.

    Harry Truman and his merry band of bombers are engaged in conflict with a expansionist, militaristic, regime which openly asserts that it has a race-based claim of leigitimacy in enslaving other populations, and has, with the overwhelming support of the population of the regime’s homeland, engaged in titanic slaughter of millions of Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, and whatever Americans it can get it’s hands on. Thus, Harry and his followers come to incinerate Hiroshima and Nagasaki, among other cities.

    Yep, the act of incinerating the civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with those in the World Trade Center, were pretty much the same, in terms of moral calculus. Really.

  63. Now, if some time-travelers had given the Cherokee auomatic weapons, tanks, attack helicopters, plenty of fuel, and necessary training, and the Cherokee had proceeded to burn Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston to the ground, slaughtered civilians, and then put Andy Jackson on trial and hanged him, THAT would have been a more apt comparison, although it would have re-written 20th century history somewhat.

  64. All I’ve gotten is a flat denial. Nobody’s given me a reason to attack military forces in cases where it’s possible to bypass them and get directly at the civilians.

    At some time, someone must’ve had the idea first to organize a military force, when nobody else had one. The only conceivable reason would have been to attack civilians, there being no other military forces in the world. So if my view doesn’t make sense, why are there military forces?

  65. I tend to believe that the view that Japan would have surrendered without either (a) an invasion or (b) a nuking, is pretty naive

    The Japanese made overtures through Russian intermediaries offering to surrender provided they were allowed to retain their Emperor in some fashion. When the US stated their unwillingness to accept anything other than an unconditional surrender, the Japanese withdrew their offer. The US could have ended the war without a nuclear attack, but it was more important to show the Communists our new toy.

  66. Yep, the act of incinerating the civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with those in the World Trade Center, were pretty much the same, in terms of moral calculus. Really.

    I didn’t see anybody make that comparison exactly. One guy shoots somebody in the course of a robbery; another guy finds his friend in bed with his wife and shoots him dead. Few would say those are one in the same thing–that doesn’t mean they aren’t both murder.

    I think I left plenty of room for nuance, but, like I said, a lot of people seem to think the difference between okay and evil is whether we did it to somebody else or somebody else did it to us. …My take’s a little more complicated than that.

  67. Nobody’s given me a reason to attack military forces in cases where it’s possible to bypass them and get directly at the civilians.

    Even when we’re at war, theoretically, in some cases, civilians don’t present much of a threat. If the purpose of our military is to defend us from foreign threats, it makes sense to engage the threat rather than the non-threat. Indeed, isn’t it possible that targeting civilians may create a foreign threat where none existed before?

    Besides, there are certain truths we hold to be self-evident–and using the military specifically to target civilians would seem to violate those truths. …Please note that “self-evident” doesn’t mean there aren’t any good utility arguments for respecting those truths–why this very site’s chock full of ’em!

  68. Ken, the more apt analogy would be the guy finds his wife in bed with a known killer of men who he has cuckolded, and then shoots the known killer. Many juries would not convict in those circumstances.

    Yes, the deliberate killing of civilians is evil. Of course, the entire enterprise of war is evil as well, and the people who wage war are inevitably influenced by what has already happened in said war. I am not a pure consequentialist, but it does provide a useful way of examining war.

    I rather doubt that Howe’s hymn had as it’s main purpose the incitement of atrocities, the frequency of which you have not established. I would rather think it more likely that Howe wrote it with the purpose of helping to establish an espirit d’ corps which would allow men, such as the First Minnesota at Gettysburg, when faced with a crucial moment of battle, to charge without hesitation against far superior numbers, no matter that it meant near-certain death.

    Slavery ended when it did in North America due to men sacrificing their lives without hesitation, and men don’t make such sacrifices merely because they have been ordered to. To depict the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the manner you did does great disservice to men who sacrificed all, with nary an atrocity on their hands.

  69. To depict the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the manner you did does great disservice to men who sacrificed all, with nary an atrocity on their hands.

    I’ll take issue with you there, Mr. Allen. The only people I’ve criticized are the individuals who committed atrocities. …and I would contend that those who committed atrocities did a great disservice to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

    I’ll say it once again. Who would have guessed that coming out against atrocities, regardless of who committed them, would be controversial?

  70. Actually, if you’re referring to my comment on May 29, 2006 12:12 PM, where I besmirched the title of the song, after further review, I wrote that in anger after getting pointlessly insulted, and I regret having written that. (I hope the guy that insulted me realized that it’s possible to be against both atrocities and slavery.)

    …but I’d still contend that those who perpetrated atrocities did the real disservice to their innocent fellow soldiers and the song.

  71. Well, yes, Ken that was a pretty offensive remark, as it was when you contended that the song was presumably being sung as atrocities were committed. First, you have not established the degree to which atrocities were committed (another poster nicely illustrated your ignorance of the matter), but you have no hesitation in saying that the hymn was employed as the atrocities were committed. No doubt atrocities were committed, as this is always the case with wars, but to use this post regarding the origin of the song to denounce atrocities, via nothing more than your imagination regarding a song which no doubt inspired others to engage in great, noble, sacrifice (no doubt because that was plainly the intent of the songwriter), is nothing more than smug, self-centered, drivel. “Raping Hymn of the Republic”, indeed.

  72. Even when we’re at war, theoretically, in some cases, civilians don’t present much of a threat. If the purpose of our military is to defend us from foreign threats, it makes sense to engage the threat rather than the non-threat. Indeed, isn’t it possible that targeting civilians may create a foreign threat where none existed before?

    Isn’t it possible that targeting civilians may prevent a foreign threat that otherwise may have existed? Seems to me that if you want to influence someone’s activity, you should target that person directly rather than targeting the guard s/he hired.

    And still nobody’s answered my question of how the world’s first military organiz’n got started. It must‘ve been to target civilians, since everyone else in the world was a civilian — unless they were organized to fight amongst themselves.

  73. Please accept my aplogy Ken Shultz for my closing remark. It was uncivil, unnecessary, and I regret it. I took offense at what I read as a slur on the Union Army on Memorial Day. I completely accept your explanation that you were only referring to the atrocities. I think they were unfortunate, but they happened and it was part of the price paid to end slavery.

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