Sunday, March 18, 2012

Less Officers and More Brains

I found this in the Cincinnati Enquirer of March 17, 1861. The sentiment mentioned herein probably was shared by both sides (and maybe even by some people still today), though this is a re-print of an article concerning the Confederate leadership.

It actually sounds remarkably like future (to the time of the article) thoughts and comments of Union General-in-Chiefs George McClellan and Henry Halleck. They may have been generals, and Halleck was called "Old Brains" but neither were "energetic" men who would "make war" in a different style. The Union would have to wait for Ulysses S. Grant's promotion to Lieutenant-General and move east to experience this change in the Eastern theater.

It also sounds like this article was describing the characteristics that Robert E Lee would soon start to display as the most famous and successful Confederate General, though the general-in-chief title did not apply to him until early 1865. Of course, not even such a man as Lee could lead the Confederacy to ultimate victory.

Less Officers and More Brains 
The Richmond Examiner, of Thursday, has the following editorial in its columns:

"The new office now proposed in Congress appears to be dictated by the actual wants of the service. A Secretary of War is found insufficient for all the duties of the department at the present period. But there are secretaries and secretaries. Twenty secretaries of one kind would not suffice for the little army of San Marino, but one Levouis, one Carnot, one Chatham has been found all that was necessary for some of the greatest complications of military affairs that this world has seen.

At present, it may be found advisable to separate the duties of the War Department, and confide a portion of them to a General competent to understand and direct the campaign at large.  But, if any good is to come out of the new office, it must be filled by an able, and especially by an energetic man, who will make war in a style different from that which has hitherto characterized the operations of the Southern Confederacy. All will depend on the choice of the man. If the Commanding General is only another minnow in the pond, another dummy, a respectable bubble, an echo, an amiable courtier, the position of the country will not be altered by the creation of a new office, the employment of a new set of clerks, and the verbiage of a new set of official documents.

What the Confederate government lacks is not more offices, but more brains. Whether brains come to it under the label of a Commanding General, a reorganized Cabinet, or simply a new Secretary of War, does not matter at all. The foresight that perceives, but is not appalled by upcoming misfortune; the hard sense, the vigorous command, the courage that flames up from defeat and rebounds  unhurt from disaster, the many confidence of others, the strength of body as well as of mind, which supports and renews them all - these are the qualities that are necessary to a leader of a cause like ours, in dangers like those that press hard upon us. The men or man who possesses them is the fit companion, counselor and agent of the President now, and whether he is called the commanding general or something else, will not matter.

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