Thursday, March 15, 2018

American Civil War Demobilization

Grand Review of the Armies May 23-24, 1865

      With the end of the Civil War, the Union army gathered for one last grand victory parade in Washington.  Anne Frobel wrote in May 1865, “Today we see tents and camps spring up in every quarter…. The roads filled with soldiers as far back as we can see through the woods, coming-coming-coming, thousands and tens of thousands. I hardly thought the world contained so many men and the wagons, O the wagons, long lines of white wagons coming by roads and crossroads...Tomorrow there is to be a 'grand review' of the 'grand' U.S. Army at Washington and great has been the stir of preparation...Rose Hill is literally covered with Sherman's army and such immense, immense numbers of splendid horses and mules.”

      The one million men under arms in the Union army at the end of the Civil War were largely volunteers and wanted to go home. (Many professional Prussian officers derided the armies of the American Civil War as, “Two armed mobs colliding.”)  Almost all of the volunteers were mustered out by late October 1867.  Congress voted for the establishment of a regular army of 54,302 officers and enlisted men on July 28, 1866.  This number was reduced to 27,442 in 1876.  The army was scattered over a vast continent, mostly in the West.  America’s defense depended almost completely on the same thinking that existed at the time of the American Revolution, “leave it to the volunteer militias”.

     In November 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy called for the rapid expansion of the United States Navy, stating that since the end of the Civil War the fleet had been neglected and become technologically obsolete.  America stood twelfth among the naval powers of the earth.  The U.S. fleet consisted of 11 armored and 31 unarmored vessels, whereas the British fleet boasted 76 armored and 291 unarmored vessels.  The German fleet had 40 armored and 105 unarmored ships.  The American fleet was outranked by even the eleventh rate navy of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire which had 12 armored and 44 unarmored ships.  Secretary Tracy complained, “We have an exposed coast line of 13,000 miles upon which are situated more than twenty great centers of population, wealth, and commercial activity, wholly unprotected against modern weapons.  These are inviting objects to attack, with a wide range of choice as to the points to be selected.”

General George S. Patton once said, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” Here are four stories about the history of the world IF wars we know about happened differently or IF wars that never happened actually took place.