Old Drum

Commentary on Warrensburg, Johnson County and Missouri issues from a Libertarian perspective. View my earlier commentary at www.olddrum.net.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Time for Reflection

This is the day we observe Memorial Day, set aside to honor those who died in our various wars. The U.S. is suffering casualties in a continuing war in Afghanistan & Iraq and the media is rightly focusing on ceremonies in our national cemeteries and on the wounded veterans who have returned.

According to Antiwar.com, U.S. combat casualties in Iraq since 3/19/2003 are 1987 killed and about 18,000 wounded. I want to reflect on casualties in the war that led to our needing a Memorial Day - the war fought on American soil from 1861-1865. As we look at these casualty figures, it is well to remember that medical science then could not save nearly as many of those wounded as can be saved today, and that the "missing" figures might include many whose bodies were never found in addition to those made prisoner.

Here are a few of the major battles of the "late unpleasantness," Federal casualties only:
1st Manassas (Bull Run), July 21, 1861 - 481 killed, 1,011 wounded, 1,216 missing.
Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862 - 1,754 killed, 8,408 wounde, 2,885 missing.
The Seven Days, June 26-20, 1862 - 1,734 killed, 8,062 wounded, 6,053 missing.
Antietam, September 17, 1862 - 2,108 killed, 9,549 wounded, 753 missing.
Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862 - 1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded, 1,769 missing.
Murfreesboro, Deceber 31 1862-January 2, 1863 - 1,667 killed, 7,543 wounded, 3,686 missing.
Chancellorsville, May 2-3, 1863 - 1,575 killed, 9,594 wounded, 5,676 missing.
Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863 - 3,155 killed, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing.
Chickamuga, September 19-20, 1863 - 1,657 killed, 9,756 wounded, 1,468 missing.
Wilderness-Spotsylvania, May 5-12, 1864 - 4950 killed, 15,400 wounded, 5250 missing estimated -source - Ominpelagos.com.
Cold Harbor campaign, June 1-3, 1864 - 1,800 killed, 9,000 wounded, 1,800 missing (almost half in 40 minutes on June 3rd) estimated -source - Answers.com.

The figures above, most taken from "The Civil War, Volume II" by Newman & Long (1956) have probably been revised some since, but they clearly show what the American People were willing to accept in defense of the nation. Confederate battle casualties were generally similar to the Federal casualties, if not greater, and they were Americans, too.

Like now, a lot of the media of the time flamed with criticism of the President and the war effort. Like now, factions in Congress opposed the war effort and did everything they could to hinder and investigate the conduct of the war. Like now, the President held firm against the critics in his belief that it was necessary to prosecute the war to a finish to achieve the national objectives. Even 140 years after the war ended, that President & his efforts are resented in much of the conquered territory. Like now, those who fought the war, by and large, believed that the cause they fought for was just and resented the meddling of press and politician.

I believe it diminishes the sacrifice of our dead & wounded when we question the value of that sacrifice while they are in harms way. Principled dissent is one thing; public posturing to promote a political program is something else, so if you disagree with what I have said, do it with civility (and sign your name).


  • At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 5:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Your comments here ignore a long history of dissent about wars of choice.

    First, you analogy to the Civil War is not appropriate. It was not a war of choice to save the Union. Remember when Lincoln took office most of the states that made up the CSA had already left the Union. Those that left fired on a Federal military establishment. What should the government do in such circumstances.

    Now, let's consider REAL wars of choice. You do remember a new Whig Congressman from Illinois demanded to know the spot of blood shed on American soil to justify the Mexican War. Was he wrong to do that? Was he unpatriotic?

    Here is what a writer, born in Missouri, said when he was called a traitor because he opposed what US troops were doing in the Phillipines.

    "The gospel of the monarchical patriotism is: 'The King can do no wrong.' We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: 'Our country, right or wrong!' We have thrown away the most valuable asset we had: the individual's right to oppose both flag and country when he believed them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it away; and with it all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism."

    Martin Luther King opposed the Vietnam War.

    The war in Iraq is a disaster. We invaded Iraq based on lies; assumptions made about this war were based on lies; having our troops riding around and being targets is not making Iraq safer.

    It is time to get out. And, that statement is in a long tradition of Americans who have opposed such wars in the past.

    Bob Yates

  • At Friday, June 23, 2006 8:31:00 AM, Blogger Bill Wayne said…

    Bob - There are many who would disagree that the Civil War was not a "war of choice." Some compare Ft. Sumter to the Gulf of Tonkin, a manufactured incident to arouse public support for going to war. The states of the Upper South (VA, NC, TN, AR) declined to secede until after Lincoln's call for troops - thus vastly widening an unnecessary war.

    Almost all wars are "wars of choice." Generally, the unjust war is the war of conquest, and I'll agree that the Mexican War & Spanish War had a great deal of that in them. So did the Indian Wars. That intent doesn't exist in our recent actions in the Middle East.

    It was OK for Pres. Clinton to attack Serbia to stop genocide in the Balkans even though the country had no capability of posing a threat to the US homeland. It's not OK for Pres. Bush to depose a genocidal dictator who was capable of creating and supporting threats to the US?

    I think the quickest way to get the troops home while maintaining our security is to establish a functioning government in Iraq. The constant misuse of individual tragedy for domestic political gain does not advance that goal. Just as the slaughter of Grant's Overland campaign and Sherman's Atlanta campaign in 1864 gave hope to the Confederacy that the peace party would win that fall, the terrorists in Iraq are emboldened by the nature of dissent in this country. The time for political retribution is after the pacification is complete and the Iraqi government has control of their country.


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