What is the protestors’ plan? (Nancy Rommelmann & Bret Weinstein)

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Bret Weinstein says Portland Protestors are trying to turn the public against the police and render the police unable to do their job.

He says the evenings start as a protest (for the media) but then escalate into a riot.

Media can help fight misinformation, says Harvard’s Joan Donovan

THANKS TO GLOBE-SPANNING SOCIAL PLATFORMS like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, misinformation (any wrong information) and disinformation (intentional misinformation like propaganda) have never been able to spread so rapidly or so far, powered by algorithms and automated filters. But misinformation expert Joan Donovan, who runs the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, says social media platforms are not the only ones who play a critical role in perpetuating the misinformation problem. Journalists and media companies also do, Donovan says, because they often help to amplify misinformation when they cover it and the bad actors who create it, often without thinking about the impact of their coverage.

There is clearly more misinformation around than in previous eras, Donovan tells CJR in a recent interview on our Galley discussion platform, because there’s just a lot more media, and therefore a lot more opportunity to distribute it. “But quantity never really matters unless there is significant attention to the issue being manipulated,” she says. “So this is where my research is fundamentally about journalism and not about audiences. Trusted information brokers, like journalists and news organizations, are important targets for piggybacking misinformation campaigns into the public sphere.”

Donovan’s research looks at how trolls and others—whether they are government-backed or freelance—can use techniques including “social engineering” (lying to or manipulating someone to achieve a specific outcome) and low-level hacking to persuade journalists and news outlets of the newsworthiness of a specific campaign. “Once that story gets picked up by a reputable outlet, it’s game time,” she says. Donovan and other misinformation experts warned that the Christchurch shooter’s massive essay about his alleged justification for the incident in April was clearly designed to get as much media attention as possible, by playing on certain themes and popular topics, and they advised media outlets not to play into this strategy by quoting from it.

ICYMI: I went to prison for leaking state secrets. Now, I want to make sure sources are protected.

Before she joined the Shorenstein Center at Harvard last year, Donovan was a member of the research group Data & Society, where she led the Media Manipulation Initiative, mapping how interest groups, governments, and political operatives use the internet and the media to intentionally manipulate messages. Data & Society published an extensive report on the problem last year, written by Syracuse University media studies professor Whitney Phillips, entitled “The Oxygen of Amplification,” with advice on how to cover topics like white supremacy and the alt-right without giving them more credibility in the process.

“Sometimes, I want to throw my hands in the air and grumble, ‘We know what we know from history! Journalists are not outside of society. In fact, they are the most crucial way the public makes sense of the world,” Donovan writes in her Galley interview. “When journalists pay attention to a particular person or issue, we all do… and that has reverberating effects.’” As part of her postdoctoral research, Donovan looked at racial violence and media coverage in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Ku Klux Klan was active. “The Klan had a specific media strategy to cultivate journalists for positive coverage of their events,” Donovan says. “As journalists pivoted slowly to covering the civil rights movement with a sympathetic tone, Klan violence rises—but also public spectacles, torch marches, and cross burnings. These acts are often done with the potential for media coverage in mind.”

Sometimes, I want to throw my hands in the air and grumble, ‘We know what we know from history! Journalists are not outside of society. In fact, they are the most crucial way the public makes sense of the world.

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While mass shootings are clearly newsworthy, Donovan says, the internet introduces a new dynamic where all stories on a topic are instantly available to virtually anyone anywhere around the globe. And the fact that they are shared and re-shared and commented on via half a dozen different social networks means that “journalists quickly lose control over the reception of their work,” she says. “This is why it is even more crucial that journalists frame stories clearly and avoid embedding and hyperlinking to known online spaces of radicalization.” Despite this kind of advice from Donovan and others, including sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, a number of media outlets linked to the Christchurch shooter’s writings, and at least one even included a clip from the live-streamed video of his attack.

When it comes to what the platforms themselves should do about mitigating the spread of misinformation and the amplification of extremists, Donovan says the obvious thing is that they should remove accounts that harass and use hate speech to silence others. This “would go a long way to stamping out the influencers who are providing organizing spaces for their fans to participate in networked harassment and bullying,” she says. On YouTube, some would-be “influencers” use hate speech as a way to attract new audiences and solicit donations, Donovan says, and these attempts are aided by the algorithms and the ad-driven model of the platforms. “These influencers would not have grown this popular without the platform’s consent,” she says. “Something can be done and the means to do it are already available.”

On the topic of the recent Christchurch Call—a commitment to take action on extremism signed by the governments of New Zealand, France, Canada, and a number of other nations, along with tech platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter—Donovan says that until there are tangible results, the agreement looks like just another pledge to do better. “These companies apologize and make no specific commitments to change. There are no benchmarks to track progress, no data trails to audit, no human rights abuses accounted for.” Something the Christchurch Call also doesn’t address, Donovan says, are the fundamental incentives behind how hate groups are financed and resourced online, “thanks to access to payment processIng and broadcast technologies at will.”

Trump’s Wag-the-Dog War

The president is looking for a dangerous domestic enemy to fight.

Some presidents, when they get into trouble before an election, try to “wag the dog” by starting a war abroad. Donald Trump seems ready to wag the dog by starting a war at home. Be afraid — he just might get his wish.

How did we get here? Well, when historians summarize the Trump team’s approach to dealing with the coronavirus, it will take only a few paragraphs:

“They talked as if they were locking down like China. They acted as if they were going for herd immunity like Sweden. They prepared for neither. And they claimed to be superior to both. In the end, they got the worst of all worlds — uncontrolled viral spread and an unemployment catastrophe.

“And then the story turned really dark.

“As the virus spread, and businesses had to shut down again and schools and universities were paralyzed as to whether to open or stay closed in the fall, Trump’s poll numbers nose-dived. Joe Biden opened up a 15-point lead in a national head-to-head survey.

“So, in a desperate effort to salvage his campaign, Trump turned to the Middle East Dictator’s Official Handbook and found just what he was looking for, the chapter titled, ‘What to Do When Your People Turn Against You?’

“Answer: Turn them against each other and then present yourself as the only source of law and order.”

America blessedly is not Syria, yet, but Trump is adopting the same broad approach that Bashar al-Assad did back in 2011, when peaceful protests broke out in the southern Syrian town of Dara’a, calling for democratic reforms; the protests then spread throughout the country.

Had al-Assad responded with even the mildest offer of more participatory politics, he would have been hailed as a savior by a majority of Syrians. One of their main chants during the demonstrations was, “Silmiya, silmiya” (“Peaceful, peaceful”).

But al-Assad did not want to share power, and so he made sure that the protests were not peaceful. He had his soldiers open fire on and arrest nonviolent demonstrators, many of them Sunni Muslims. Over time, the peaceful, secular elements of the Syrian democracy movement were sidelined, as hardened Islamists began to spearhead the fight against al-Assad. In the process, the uprising was transformed into a naked, rule-or-die sectarian civil war between al-Assad’s Alawite Shiite forces and various Sunni jihadist groups.

Al-Assad got exactly what he wanted — not a war between his dictatorship and his people peacefully asking to have their voices heard, but a war with Islamic radicals in which he could play the law-and-order president, backed by Russia and Iran. In the end, his country was destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed or forced to flee. But al-Assad stayed in power. Today, he’s the top dog on a pile of rubble.

I have zero tolerance for any American protesters who resort to violence in any U.S. city, because it damages homes and businesses already hammered by the coronavirus — many of them minority-owned — and because violence will only turn off and repel the majority needed to drive change.

But when I heard Trump suggest, as he did in the Oval Office on Monday, that he was going to send federal forces into U.S. cities, where the local mayors have not invited him, the first word that popped into my head was “Syria.”

Listen to how Trump put it: “I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country.”

These cities, Trump stressed, are “all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left. If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

This is coming so straight from the Middle East Dictator’s Handbook, it’s chilling. In Syria, al-Assad used plainclothes, pro-regime thugs, known as the shabiha (“the apparitions”) to make protesters disappear. In Portland, Ore., we saw militarized federal forces wearing battle fatigues, but no identifiable markings, arresting people and putting them into unmarked vans. How can this happen in America?

Authoritarian populists — whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, or al-Assad — “win by dividing the people and presenting themselves as the savior of the good and ordinary citizens against the undeserving agents of subversion and ‘cultural pollution,’” explained Stanford’s Larry Diamond, author of “Ill Winds: Saving Democracy From Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency.”

In the face of such a threat, the left needs to be smart. Stop calling for “defunding the police” and then saying that “defunding” doesn’t mean disbanding. If it doesn’t mean that then say what it means: “reform.” Defunding the police, calling police officers “pigs,” taking over whole neighborhoods with barricades — these are terrible messages, not to mention strategies, easily exploitable by Trump.

The scene that The Times’s Mike Baker described from Portland in the early hours of Tuesday — Day 54 of the protests there — is not good: “Some leaders in the Black community, grateful for a reckoning on race, worry that what should be a moment for racial justice could be squandered by violence. Businesses supportive of reforms have been left demoralized by the mayhem the protests have brought. … On Tuesday morning, police said another jewelry store had been looted. As federal agents appeared to try detaining one person, others in the crowd rushed to free the person.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, according to The Post, found that a “majority of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement and a record 69 percent say Black people and other minorities are not treated as equal to white people in the criminal justice system. But the public generally opposes calls to shift some police funding to social services or remove statues of Confederate generals or presidents who enslaved people.”

All of this street violence and defund-the-police rhetoric plays into the only effective Trump ad that I’ve seen on television. It goes like this: A phone rings and a recording begins: “You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department, we’re sorry but no one is here to take your call. If you’re calling to report a rape, please press 1. To report a murder, press 2. To report a home invasion, press 3. For all other crimes, leave your name and number and someone will get back to you. Our estimated wait time is currently five days. Goodbye.”

Today’s protesters need to trump Trump by taking a page from another foreign leader — a liberal — Ekrem Imamoglu, who managed to win the 2019 election to become the mayor of Istanbul, despite the illiberal Erdogan using every dirty trick possible to steal the election. Imamoglu’s campaign strategy was called “radical love.”

Radical love meant reaching out to the more traditional and religious Erdogan supporters, listening to them, showing them respect and making clear that they were not “the enemy” — that Erdogan was the enemy, because he was the enemy of unity and mutual respect, and there could be no progress without them.

As a recent essay on Imamoglu’s strategy in The Journal of Democracy noted, he overcame Erdogan with a “message of inclusiveness, an attitude of respect toward [Erdogan] supporters, and a focus on bread-and-butter issues that could unite voters across opposing political camps. On June 23, Imamoglu was again elected mayor of Istanbul, but this time with more than 54 percent of the vote — the largest mandate obtained by an Istanbul mayor since 1984 — against 45 percent for his opponent.”

Radical love. Wow. I bet that could work in America, too. It’s the perfect answer to Trump’s politics of division — and it’s the one strategy he’ll never imitate.

How Toxic Masculinity, Honor Culture, and Lack of Discipline Undermined the Southern Army during the Civil War

Why the Confederacy Lost: The Experiences of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia

Joseph Glatthaar, the Stephenson Distinguished Professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke at Vanderbilt University Feb. 8, 2011, as part of a College of Arts and Science-sponsored series of lectures about the Civil War. Glatthaar teaches about the Civil War and is the author of “General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Defeat.”

Transcript

00:07
thank you very much I’m really delighted
00:09
to be here let’s hope you still have
00:13
that same commitment to applause when
00:15
the talks over when Jefferson Davis
00:22
became president of the Confederate
00:23
States of America it was apparent to him
00:25
that a war was going to occur and Davis
00:28
formulated the Confederate strategy the
00:31
strategy was simple to punish the
00:33
invaders the objective was to discourage
00:37
future attacks and also to convince the
00:40
northern public that future attacks
00:43
would be futile and that military
00:46
efforts to reconquer the Confederate
00:48
States would fail one of the most
00:52
celebrated officers in the Confederacy
00:53
Edward Porter Alexander explained the
00:57
Confederacy hoped quote that the
00:59
desperation of her resistance would
01:01
finally exact from her adversary such a
01:04
price in blood and treasure as to
01:07
exhaust the enthusiasm of its population
01:09
for the objects of war Davis wanted his
01:21
subordinate generals to strike the enemy
01:24
as close to the borders as possible as
01:27
Davis explained to one general officer
01:29
resist invasion as far as may be
01:32
practicable and repel the invaders
01:34
whenever and however it may be done
01:36
because citizens and soldiers lived
01:40
along avenues of invasion Davis believed
01:43
the Confederacy could not yield
01:45
territory unless it was absolutely
01:46
necessary quote the evacuation of any
01:50
portion of territory involves not only
01:52
the loss of supplies but in every
01:55
instance has been attended by a greater
01:57
or less loss of troops end quote now
02:01
every strategy has its flaws
02:03
particularly one against an enemy that
02:06
has superiority and manpower and
02:08
resources those nations such as the
02:11
Confederacy with inferior resources in
02:14
manpower can compensate by developing a
02:17
sound strategy and utilizing resources
02:19
more efficiently
02:20
we also by tapping soldiers and
02:23
civilians commitment to the cause and
02:25
requiring them to endure more hardships
02:28
than their enemy but the fact remains
02:30
they have a limited margin for error as
02:34
that margin for error is stripped away
02:36
the demands of war cutting to the sinew
02:39
and bone of the war effort
02:41
breaking down institutions and morale
02:44
and inflicting ever-increasing hardship
02:46
for the Confederate States of America
02:48
there would be enormous hardship
02:51
sacrifices and tragedies the war would
02:53
stretch manpower and resources to the
02:55
breaking point and they would incur
02:58
heavy losses delivering powerful blows
03:01
against the enemy nonetheless Davis
03:04
believed the Confederate people could
03:05
endure any sacrifice for freedom and
03:08
independence we will do all that can be
03:11
done by plucking muscle endurance and
03:13
dogged courage
03:14
– and red-hot patriotism Davis claimed
03:18
no Confederate Army fulfilled that
03:21
strategy like the Army of Northern
03:23
Virginia yet even it wore down in the
03:26
face of two then three and finally four
03:28
years of fighting against those
03:30
overwhelming odds the margin for error
03:34
dwindled and ultimately disintegrated
03:37
fissures appeared in every institution
03:39
in every facet of life including the
03:42
Army of Northern Virginia and despite
03:44
its efforts it too was ultimately
03:47
overcome now the Army of Northern
03:49
Virginia had to utilize manpower and
03:51
resources effectively but the two early
03:54
commanders Pierre Gustav Teuton
03:57
Beauregard and Joseph E Johnston
04:00
established ineffective precedents and
04:03
policies three times those officers
04:07
abandoned position one in Harpers Ferry
04:10
another in Northern Virginia and a third
04:12
at the Manassas Centreville axis the
04:15
result was massive destruction that not
04:18
only affected the Confederacy’s ability
04:20
to prosecute the war after all the
04:22
resources were precious but it also sent
04:25
the wrong message to troops the
04:27
destruction helped establish aspects of
04:30
the military culture that encouraged in
04:32
discipline in the
04:34
and that paid little credence to the
04:36
preservation of valuable resources which
04:39
in turn reduced the Confederate margin
04:41
for error now every organization has a
04:45
culture and the Army of Northern
04:46
Virginia was no different army culture
04:50
derives from two areas elements that
04:53
individuals bring into the military from
04:56
civil life and military experiences in
04:59
training normally boot camp tears down
05:03
and rebuilds so that the military
05:05
culture flows from the top down but with
05:08
no such experience and because officers
05:11
largely came from home we’re learning on
05:14
the job and failed to rigorously
05:16
discipline their men the culture tended
05:19
to flow from the bottom up at the core
05:23
virtually all these citizen soldiers
05:25
share the same fundamental beliefs in
05:28
the rightness of secession and slavery
05:30
from society they inherited Southern
05:33
Honor an overarching concept that
05:36
embraced powerful perceptions of manhood
05:39
integrity independence valor kinship and
05:43
esteem and among the elite both luxury
05:47
and generosity in times of war a
05:50
wholehearted allegiance to the spirit of
05:52
Honor would serve its soldiers well but
05:56
southern society also promoted certain
05:58
qualities that did not benefit the
06:01
Confederate nation in a war against the
06:03
better resourced Union a lack of
06:05
discipline and particularly among the
06:07
well-to-do a spirit of prophecy and
06:10
self-indulgence were acceptable modes of
06:13
conduct before the war closely related
06:17
to one another these three behaviors
06:19
elevated the individual over the group
06:22
and tolerated conduct and uniform that
06:25
was not conducive to effective military
06:27
service more than a simply a spirit of
06:30
individualism which the army could
06:32
harness and convert to military purposes
06:35
these qualities diminished the
06:37
usefulness of the soldier in the pre-war
06:40
South an individual who squandered money
06:42
recklessly was not necessarily scorned
06:45
in some circles he earned prey
06:48
days by distinguish himself from his
06:50
penurious materialistic northern
06:52
countrymen southerners particularly
06:55
males aspired to fulfill their every
06:57
impulse and desire and society tolerated
07:01
often encouraged such indulgence
07:04
attention to administrative detail and
07:07
other mundane matters were beneath many
07:09
of them undisciplined conduct and open
expression of passion or a ready resort
to violence was not necessarily
considered unbecoming in the pre-war
South
after all to adhere to a code of
discipline meant that others impose
their will on the individual such
dominance of the individual smacked of
slavery and southern whites were
extremely sensitive to it
even in the
realm of laws and codes of moral conduct
southern males abided by them
voluntarily not out of compunction if
society compelled them to obey then it
dominated the individual and deprived
him of his manhood and no
self-respecting white southerner could
endure
that these qualities made them
wonderful motivated soldiers but they
also promoted the resistance to
discipline which in turn was the key to
effective utilization of limited
resources
now the Battle of Seven Pines on May
31st 1862 Joseph e Johnston was badly
08:12
wounded and Jefferson Davis assigned
08:16
robert e lee quote/unquote temporarily
08:19
to be commander of that army when lee
08:22
stepped into that position he confronted
08:24
two huge problems one the obvious one
08:27
Union forces were literally at the gates
08:29
of Richmond they were three miles
08:31
outside of Richmond and the second one
08:33
was that there were administrative and
08:35
discipline problems in the army staff
08:39
officers practice sloppy paperwork
08:42
procedures and soldiers failed to
08:44
conserve and as a result troops went
08:46
without and suffered I remember one
08:48
instance where troops literally outside
08:50
of Richmond had to trap rats soak them
08:53
in water overnight and then fry them for
08:55
food that doesn’t appeal to me perhaps
08:58
your dietary practices or otherwise
09:01
and of course these practices also
09:05
encouraged undisciplined behavior
09:07
because soldiers coming from American
09:10
society were problem solvers if they
09:12
didn’t get fed by the army they were
09:14
going to solve the problem themselves
09:15
which means that they were going to take
09:17
from civilians now when Lee stepped in
09:20
he had a great reputation of course you
09:23
probably know this Lee graduated second
09:25
in his class at the United States
09:27
Military Academy he graduated without
09:28
receiving any demerits he was one of
09:30
several of his class who did so and of
09:33
course he emerged from the Mexican War
09:35
as Tim Johnson will say as Winfield
09:38
Scott’s favorite Winfield Scott said in
09:40
testimony that he thought Robert Ely was
09:42
the finest soldier in the US Army yet
09:46
within certain circles there was an
09:47
undercurrent of doubt about Lee by May
09:50
1861 after exposure to Lee over the six
09:53
previous years Edmund Kirby Smith had
09:56
come to the conclusion that Lee lacked
09:58
ability for large-scale command
10:01
describing his selection to head
10:02
Virginia forces as quote unfortunate
10:05
unquote Smith like numerous others was
10:08
put off by Lee slowness to come to a
10:10
decision
10:11
Sam Melton who served on Brigadier
10:14
General millage L bottom staff and had a
10:16
very fair favorable opinion of Lee I
10:18
might add informed his wife in May 1861
10:22
that Lee quote is a splendid officer
10:24
slow too slow but thoroughly
10:26
accomplished
10:27
end quote in a letter that has become
10:30
almost famous for its miss reading of
10:32
the man South Carolina Governor Francis
10:36
W Pickens announced a bonham just before
10:39
the Battle of first Manassas quote the
10:41
truth is Lee is not with us at heart or
10:44
he is a common man with good looks and
10:46
too cautious for practical revolution
10:49
end quote
10:50
be careful what you write because it may
10:52
be saved and you’ll look like an idiot I
10:55
mean this will go this is really the
10:57
most representative document we have of
10:59
Francis W Pickens I’m sure he did other
11:02
things some things right in this
11:04
instance he sort of missed even least
11:07
trusted staff member Walter H Taylor
11:10
complained to his Bradt future bride
11:12
late in the war about Lee’s slowness
11:15
he is too undecided Taylor grumbled
11:17
takes too long to firm his conclusions
11:20
after the first campaign a failure
11:23
amid the rugged terrain of western
11:25
Virginia Lee’s reputation plummeted even
11:28
more fueled by excessively optimistic
11:31
tales in the newspapers as the campaign
11:34
was unfolding soldiers and civilians
11:36
alike reacted to the results of the
11:38
campaign as if Lee had committed some
11:40
monstrous blunder the newspapers and the
11:44
public how old over leaves incompetence
11:47
Edward a power to Richmond newspaperman
11:50
and sharp critic of the Davis
11:51
administration determined quote the most
11:54
remarkable circumstance of this campaign
11:56
was that it was conducted by a general
11:59
who had never fought a battle who had a
12:01
pious horror of guerrillas and whose
12:04
extreme tenderness of blood induced him
12:07
to depend exclusively upon the resources
12:10
of strategy to essay the achievement of
12:13
victories without the cost of life end
12:16
quote
12:17
a student at West Point when Lee was
12:19
superintendent there Ben Alston reported
12:22
to his father that people called Lee a
12:25
dirt dauber a small insect that leaves a
12:29
soil trail in its wake Alexander C
12:33
Haskell a family friend of the Lee’s
12:35
described to his mother a satirical
12:38
sketch he had seen of Lee quote with a
12:40
double-barrel spyglass in one hand and a
12:44
spade in the other reconnoitering in the
12:46
position of the enemy the caption of the
12:48
of the cartoon read quote to retreat a
12:51
little and throw up fortifications the
12:53
instant he sets eyes upon them shooting
12:58
Haskell believed this is unjust to a
13:00
fine officer but it does somewhat
13:03
exhibit his very cautious policy to
13:07
remove Lee from the Richmond spotlight
13:09
Davis sent him to the Department of
13:11
South Carolina Georgia and Florida to
13:13
oversee defenses there a job hardly
13:16
worth the third highest-ranking officer
13:18
in the Confederate Army as the spring of
13:21
1862 approached however Davis brought
13:24
Lee back to Richmond to help him the
13:27
reaction remained hostile
13:28
the appointment of General Lee is chief
13:31
military advisor of the president looks
13:33
like a fatal mistake a member of
13:35
Johnson’s staff wrote his wife B’s quote
13:39
traits of mind unquote would prove more
13:42
problematic than they were the previous
13:44
year he predicted and then he concluded
13:46
with the words may God in mercy protect
13:49
us
13:50
Catherine Edmundston a North Carolinian
13:52
and an unusually perceptive diarist held
13:55
nothing but contempt for Lee he is too
13:59
timid believes too much in master Lee
14:01
inactivity finds his strength too much
14:04
in sitting still even Lee’s counterpart
14:08
on the Union side Major General George B
14:10
McClellan rejoiced when he thought that
14:13
Lee in his new position would replace
14:14
Johnston as the field commander
14:17
I prefer ally to Johnston he elaborated
14:20
to Lincoln
14:21
the former is too cautious and weak
14:23
under grave responsibility personally
14:26
brave and energetic to a fault he yet is
14:29
wanting in moral firmness when pressed
14:32
by heavy responsibilities and is likely
14:34
to be timid and irresolute in action end
14:38
quote we would call that projection
14:44
that’s exactly the way McClellan was to
14:47
a tee getting his job as commander of
14:54
the Virginia forces and then as military
14:56
adviser to the President Lee gained
14:57
great insight into the Confederacy’s
14:59
capacity to make war he fully understood
15:02
that the Confederacy had a limited
15:04
margin for error the Confederate people
15:07
Lee insisted must make up our minds to
15:09
great suffering he then concluded all
15:12
must be sacrificed to the country as
15:15
army commander Lee began immediately to
15:18
institute changes one of the first
15:20
things he did in special orders number
15:22
22 June 1st 1862 he referred to it as
15:25
the Army of Northern Virginia other
15:28
people had called it that at times but
15:30
the name never stuck and once Lee did
15:33
and he announced that his headquarters
15:35
was part of the department of Northern
15:37
Virginia then the name Army of Northern
15:39
Virginia became fixed with
15:42
li and that body of soldiers he
15:44
established and enforced routines for
15:46
the distribution of provisions and
15:48
required division commanders to
15:50
scrutinize requisitions of subordinates
15:53
as I mentioned Johnson’s staff was
15:55
pretty inept at administering and then
15:58
the galacon neglect in paperwork meant
16:01
that soldiers didn’t get provided for
16:03
with supplies li circulated directives
16:07
to all officers to pay attention to the
16:10
quote health and comfort of the men
16:12
under command and spare unnecessary
16:14
exposure and fatigue so that everyone
16:17
was ready for battle in one of Richard’s
16:19
favorite moments Lee even authorized the
16:23
distribution of whiskey rations at the
16:25
discretion of officers quote when deemed
16:28
essential to the health of the men from
16:31
inclemency and weather or exposure in
16:33
the swamps I’m sure many college
16:35
students would mind Sherman Lee’s army
16:37
for a day Lee crackdown on lost or
16:43
damaged supplies which hindered the war
16:44
effort severely quote the increasing
16:47
difficulty in replacing them he directed
16:49
makes greater watchfulness and care
16:51
necessary in their preservation one week
16:54
later he complained quote the means of
16:57
supply are becoming more limited while
16:59
the demand continues great end quote
17:01
on his daily rides Lee quote observed
17:05
with concern in passing through camps
17:07
too much disregard to the proper
17:09
preservation of public property be
17:12
careful to use those kinds of P words
17:15
and public addresses it’s really easy to
17:17
stumble over the words he was firmly
17:20
convinced that our successes mainly
17:23
dependent upon the economical and proper
17:25
appropriation of public property at all
17:27
times end quote compared to the northern
17:31
enemy Confederates had a very little
17:33
margin for error and to win they must
17:35
husband those resources Lee then
17:38
gathered intelligence from the enemy
17:40
from newspapers and he sent Jeb Stewart
17:42
on a cavalry ride around the Union
17:44
position he directed his sharpshooters
17:47
and our terrorists to pester the enemy
17:48
as much as possible so they couldn’t
17:50
build works meanwhile he was employing
17:53
his own troops at building works
17:55
here he was challenging a naive cultural
17:58
perspective on warfare soldiers thought
18:02
they would just slug it out in the open
18:03
field against the Yankees and rely on
18:05
their superior character and martial
18:07
skills to win the day it never crossed
18:10
their minds that they would have to
18:11
wield axes and shovels that was worked
18:14
for slaves our people are opposed to
18:19
work Lee alerted Davis our troops
18:22
officers community and press all
18:24
ridicule and resisted yet he went on to
18:27
explain that it was the very means by
18:29
which McClellan was closing in on
18:31
Richmond why should we leave to him the
18:34
whole advantage of holding advantage of
18:36
laborers combined with valor fortitude
18:39
and boldness of which we have no fair
18:41
proportion it should lead us to success
18:44
after describing how the Romans combined
18:47
fortifications and fighting so
18:48
skillfully we then concluded quote there
18:51
is nothing so military as labor and
18:53
nothing so important to our army as to
18:56
save the lives of its soldiers end quote
18:58
three days into his command he ordered
19:01
each division to assign 300 men to work
19:04
on the supervision of engineer officers
19:07
to dig fortifications soldiers resented
19:11
the labor Lee didn’t care
19:13
trenches and works would save rebel
19:16
lives and multiply combat power he also
19:19
ordered men to quote strengthen their
19:21
positions in the most perfect manner
19:24
with redoubts barricades a batiste
19:27
rifle pits etc so that everyone has a
19:30
hand in the manual labor in quote they
19:37
finally entered combat and fight they
19:39
did winning the seven days battles in
19:41
June and early July and then taking the
19:44
war into Northern Virginia and winning
19:46
the second Manassas campaign literally
19:48
driving the Yankees out of almost every
19:50
ounce of Virginia soil and then taking
19:54
the war into Maryland but after three
19:56
months of fighting Lee knew that he had
19:59
serious discipline problems Lee believed
20:02
quote the material of which it is
20:04
composed is the best in the world and
20:06
nothing can surpass the gallantry and
20:09
intelligent
20:09
of the main body in quote soldiers
20:12
brought with them from civil life
20:14
qualities and motivations that make
20:16
confederate soldiers in lee’s opinion
20:18
the best infantrymen in the world but
20:21
other aspects injured their cause in
20:23
other ways have the Confederacy
20:26
organized units differently Lee believed
20:28
had they not been introduced prematurely
20:30
into combat without adequate training
20:32
and regimentation had they not endured a
20:35
series of harsh conditions hard marches
20:38
and frequent campaigns and battles we
20:40
felt they might have been able to alter
20:42
military culture but the demands of war
20:45
permitted no such opportunity by the
20:48
time Lee was in a position to implement
20:51
any changes he encountered three
20:52
difficulties first military culture had
20:56
already taken hold and it would be
20:58
extremely difficult to break to the
21:02
officers upon whom he would have to rely
21:04
to alter that military culture came from
21:06
the same communities and to a great
21:08
extent the same backgrounds as their
21:10
enlisted men those officers shared the
21:13
same values in civil life and brought
21:15
them into the army and third new
21:18
recruits and furloughed troops revived
21:21
that sentiment by coming from civil life
21:23
back into the Army and so they left
21:26
steady reminders of what that culture
21:27
everyone left behind was all about that
21:31
however didn’t stop Lee from trying
21:33
after Antietam in September 1862 he’d
21:36
elected he directed his subordinates to
21:39
quote infuse a different spirit among
21:41
our officers and to inspire them in
21:43
making every necessary effort to bring
21:46
about a better state of discipline they
21:48
must impress men and officers with the
21:52
importance of a change necessary to the
21:54
preservation of this army and it’s
21:56
successful accomplishment of its mission
21:58
as it’s better discipline greater
22:01
mobility and higher inspirations must
22:03
counterbalance the many advantages over
22:06
us both in numbers and materiel which
22:09
the enemy possess end quote but those
22:12
who were expected to inculcate
22:14
discipline the officer corps had
22:16
suffered very heavy losses over the
22:19
entire war almost a quarter of all
22:22
officers in Lee’s army were killed in
22:25
action and one of every two officers was
22:29
either killed in action or was wounded
22:32
in action and wounded at least once many
22:36
multiple times
22:37
officers were more than twice as likely
22:40
to be killed in battle than were
22:41
enlisted men and more than one and a
22:43
half times as likely to be wounded in
22:46
battle from the seven days through
22:48
Antietam that’s the late June to mid mid
22:52
to late September 600 officers were
22:55
killed and 2,000 officers were wounded
23:00
from Antietam through the summer of 1864
23:04
another 1,000 officers were killed and
23:08
4,000 officers were wounded so from the
23:11
day we took command until mid 1864 1600
23:17
officers were killed in action and over
23:20
6,000 were wounded in action the
23:23
Confederacy of course had a finite
23:26
number of quality officers and the
23:28
staggering number impaired its ability
23:31
to train and discipline the troops what
23:35
our officers most lack is the pains and
23:37
labor of inculcating discipline Lee
23:39
complained to Davis in mid 1864 it’s a
23:42
painful and tedious process and is not
23:45
apt to win favor Lee believed his
23:48
enlisted men lacked discipline and the
23:50
officers cannot instill it in them
23:52
because they lacked discipline as well
23:54
as one inspector explained to
23:58
Confederate headquarters the extensive
23:59
fighting stripped away quote the best
24:02
and most efficient men in each command
24:04
and in too many companies there is not
24:06
material left out of which to make
24:08
company commanders end quote
24:11
yet there was little the Confederacy
24:13
could do if there was any consolation at
24:15
least these replacements were as Major
24:17
General George Pickett argued quote
24:19
Galit gallant and meritorious in action
24:23
end quote and the soldiers trusted them
24:25
to lead them in battle even worse supply
24:29
and transportation problems became so
24:32
severe that soldiers had to take matters
24:33
into their own hands young people
24:36
as we know can each staggering
24:39
quantities of food and quality is not
24:42
always a priority but these soldiers did
24:46
not know how to cook and were
24:47
unaccustomed to such bad food
24:49
a Georgia private grumbled of eating
24:51
biscuits so hard quote I could knock a
24:53
bowl down with one end quote I like this
24:56
guy the soldier has a perfect name his
24:58
name is bacon and he’s trying to bake
25:00
bread the first time I made up dough I
25:03
had a mess of it stuck to my hands I can
25:05
just envision him trying to swing his
25:06
hand to get it all stuck to my hands and
25:08
I could hardly get it off then I tried
25:10
to bake it but I could not get it done
25:12
some was burnt up in some was raw what a
25:15
mess I had my favorite story though a
25:18
soldiers who stole what they thought was
25:21
a tub of lard but in fact it was
25:24
actually tallow for candles and they
25:26
baked the biscuits and somebody came by
25:28
and said that wasn’t lard that’s tallow
25:30
one of the guys in the mess decided to
25:32
try the biscuits out anyway and he said
25:35
pronounce them good and tried to
25:36
convince his fellow soldiers to eat them
25:38
but they wouldn’t have any of it that
25:43
was early in the war then shortages
25:45
kicked in in an average year before the
25:48
war 800,000 to 1 million bushels of
25:51
wheat were shipped into Richmond in 1862
25:54
even though the city’s population had
25:56
doubled and on top of that you had the
25:59
army ranging in between 70 and 80
26:01
thousand men only 250,000 to 300,000
26:05
bushels of wheat arrived by mid January
26:09
1863 the army supply of cattle had
26:11
dwindled down to enough to last through
26:14
the end of the month only and those that
26:16
they had had becomes skinny as a result
26:19
of the winter regarding the other meat
26:22
pork the standard joke in the army was
26:24
that the bacon quote outranks General
26:26
Lee unquote in late April early May 1863
26:30
rations for a single day had to be
26:33
stretched out over three by early
26:36
January 1864 Davis admitted that the
26:39
army issued 1/4 of a pound of meat per
26:42
man per day and Lee only had one more
26:45
day’s issue on hand can you imagine
26:48
trying to run
26:50
armie when you only have food enough for
26:52
the next day it’s incredible when the
26:56
Yankees quipped that the Confederates
26:58
had a new general general starvation
27:00
they wanted very far off the mark that
27:04
was supposed to be funny has got a limit
27:06
lighten up here people I know this is a
27:08
tough subject for many of you
27:09
southerners but this you got a lighten
27:11
up here with shortages soldiers took
27:15
matters into their own hands on the
27:17
marcher encamped troops regularly
27:19
purchased and then later on swiped food
27:21
from locals by late 1863 though there
27:23
was nothing left to swipe instead they
27:26
turned on their government as an Alabama
27:28
private asserted hunger will drive a man
27:31
to anything you may depend the
27:33
Confederate government admitted that in
27:35
1863 alone six hundred and seventeen
27:38
thousand pounds of bacon alone were
27:41
stolen the commissary of subsistence in
27:45
January 1864 confessed quote every
27:48
shipment of meat is robbed of from eight
27:50
to fifteen hundred pounds end quote
27:54
to combat the practice the Confederacy
27:57
had to place guards on all the trains
27:59
with orders to shoot people on the spot
28:03
we tried to solve the food problem as a
28:06
solution and get loaded this is quite a
28:08
revolutionary proposal Lee suggested an
28:11
alteration of priorities and civilian
28:15
consumption habits soldiers in the field
28:18
should become the nation’s top priority
28:21
quote if it requires all the meat in the
28:23
country to support the army it should be
28:25
had and I believe this could be
28:27
accomplished by not only showing its
28:29
necessity but that all equally
28:31
contributed if the government could
28:33
convince the public to consume
28:35
foodstuffs that quote cannot be so well
28:38
used by the troops in the field end
28:40
quote it would save other eatables for
28:42
his men that’s pretty revolutionary
28:44
calling for a change in consumption
28:47
practices clothing clothing of course is
28:50
a big problem in the army many of the
28:51
guys came in with their Sunday best and
28:53
they quickly wore out
28:54
one soldier grumbled about his pants
28:56
that were a quote more holy than
28:58
righteous and quote
29:00
and of course soldiers had shortages of
29:03
coats hats pins etc but shoes with a
29:07
single biggest problem replacement items
29:10
were often poor in quality for example
29:12
in one shipment Lee’s army got 10,000
29:14
pairs of shoes and over 3,000 of them
29:16
were absolutely unusable and had to be
29:19
sent back Lee’s solution to the problem
29:21
he located 271 pre-war shoe makers in
29:25
his ranks and pulled them out of the
29:27
ranks and made them make shoes during
29:29
all the months when the servant when
29:32
they weren’t in active duty that was not
29:34
enough soldiers accustomed to solving
29:37
problems themselves took matters into
29:39
their own hands early on they had
29:41
plundered on the battlefields for money
29:43
and valuables weapons and mementos by
29:46
late 1862 they had no choice but to
29:49
plunder for food and clothing as the
29:51
cold weather approached once again and
29:53
soldiers hoped for a battle so that they
29:56
could clothe themselves properly that
29:59
winter the majority of the troops are
30:02
eager for a fight when officer wrote his
30:04
father the battlefield is the greatest
30:06
storehouse of winter equipments and
30:07
pocket money and our boys have a
30:09
penchant for both end quote
30:11
a Virginia private concurred
30:14
semi-literate I have rather been in
30:16
hopes that if they were going to fight
30:18
it all that it would come off or I want
30:20
some overcoat and blankets if our men
30:23
whipped them I would stand a good chance
30:25
to get some he explained so what they
30:27
needed to do was defeat the Union and
30:30
control the battlefield so they could
30:32
strip the Union soldiers of the clothing
30:33
so they’d have clothing and blankets for
30:35
the winter
30:37
of course if soldiers are being fed
30:39
poorly you can imagine how badly the
30:41
animals were being fed the artillery by
30:43
spring of 1862 was already short 1,200
30:47
horses if they had them they probably
30:49
couldn’t offend them though by early
30:51
1863 Lee directed subordinates to feed
30:54
their animals on twigs and bark from
30:56
poplars maples and sweet gums in the
30:59
latter part of 1863 we had to reduce the
31:02
number of guns in his artillery because
31:05
he could not feed the animals in
31:07
November 1863 he complained to Davis
31:10
quote no corn was received here on the
31:13
21st and
31:14
and on the 22nd and 24th about five
31:17
pounds per horse that average is of
31:20
course two and a half pounds per animal
31:22
per day the Union fed its animals
31:25
between 23 and 26 pounds per day in the
31:31
course of one 40 day period without any
31:34
campaigning a cavalry Brigade increased
31:37
its dismounted men from 292 to 681 due
31:42
to food shortfalls prior to secession
31:47
the southern states had developed a
31:48
transportation network that service
31:50
distant markets predominantly with non
31:52
perishable goods such as cotton tobacco
31:54
and sugar with few exceptions most
31:57
perishable products came locally by the
32:00
winter of 1860 to 63 the Confederacy had
32:03
so overused its rail system in Virginia
32:06
that was becoming increasingly
32:08
unreliable at the time Lee’s army was
32:11
was occupying a position on the southern
32:13
bank of the Rappahannock River near
32:15
Fredericksburg the Richmond
32:17
Fredericksburg and Potomac railroad ran
32:19
there but it was not designed to carry
32:21
Freight just passengers that left the
32:24
Virginia Central probably the most
32:26
important railroad in the state as the
32:28
only viable alternative now the Virginia
32:31
central intersected with Richmond
32:33
Fredericksburg and the Potomac at
32:34
Hanover Junction and from there it went
32:37
all the way up into the Shenandoah
32:39
Valley which of course is the richest
32:41
region for food production in the state
32:43
workers could then unload supplies at
32:46
Hanover Junction put them on wagons and
32:48
cover the 35 miles to the army but of
32:51
course that became more problematic in
32:53
the wintertime when the roads converted
32:56
into mud even worse it resulted in the
33:00
badly over you in a bad overuse of this
33:03
Virginia Central Railroad its tracks had
33:06
declined significantly in just two years
33:08
of war due to the overuse and a lack of
33:11
repairs it’s quote efficiency is most
33:14
seriously impaired end quote so the
33:17
railroad president informed Davis in
33:19
mid-march 1863 the line suffered for
33:22
derailment in a five-day period to
33:26
reduce derailments the Confederacy
33:28
had to cut the weight in each car by 25%
33:31
and then slow down the speed of the
33:34
Train Li solution by early 1864 li
33:38
sought the suspension of all rail travel
33:41
except on government business with the
33:44
space designated for use in supplying
33:47
the army
33:47
in addition quote this is pretty
33:50
revolutionary all the population whose
33:53
presence would impede or endanger our
33:55
efforts should be removed especially
33:58
that part of it
33:59
which increases the consumption of
34:01
public stores without aiding or
34:03
strengthening the army he wants to
34:05
depopulate Richmond fewer mouths food
34:09
goes farther he wanted prisoners
34:11
parolees federal deserters and
34:13
unemployed person to remove from the
34:15
city and quote every encouragement given
34:18
to the rest of the non-combatant
34:20
population to retire except those whose
34:23
services may be useful or who will not
34:26
increase the scarcity of supplies end
34:28
quote
34:29
if the individual didn’t contribute
34:32
directly to the war effort through
34:33
military or government service
34:35
production direct labor or
34:37
transportation the government needed to
34:39
urge them to leave the richmond area to
34:42
conserve supplies for the troops as the
34:46
confederate margin for error winnowed
34:48
and the in the area of supply and
34:49
transportation it declined in manpower
34:51
as well effective implementation of
34:54
Davis’s strategy was extremely costly
34:57
for of every 10 soldiers in lee’s army
35:00
was either killed or wounded and five of
35:03
every nine soldiers who ever served in
35:05
lee’s army was either killed wounded or
35:07
captured once prior to the surrender at
35:11
Appomattox one in 16 suffered multiple
35:16
wounds and another one in ten were
35:18
wounded and also captured by factoring
35:24
in those who died of disease and
35:26
accidents or who were discharged for
35:28
disabilities almost three of every salt
35:31
for soldiers who ever served in the Army
35:34
of Northern Virginia were either killed
35:36
died of disease were wounded at least
35:39
once were captured at least one
35:41
or were discharged for a disability
35:44
that’s unbelievable when you factor out
35:49
those who deserted the army permanently
35:52
the percentage of casualties rises to
35:55
80% not only did these terrible losses
36:00
damage the army but they also hurt
36:02
morale even in the face of resounding
36:04
triumphs casualties cut to the core of
36:07
wartime support let me give you a great
36:09
example the state of North Carolina
36:11
which narrowly embrace secession what
36:15
fueled the fires of disaffection more
36:17
than anything in North Carolina with the
36:19
tremendous casualties among North
36:21
Carolinians in Lee’s army now listen to
36:24
these statistics because they’re
36:25
unbelievable behind the provost state of
36:28
Virginia North Carolina sent the most
36:30
troops to Lee’s Army in the spring of
36:32
1863 at Chancellorsville three of every
36:37
ten North Carolinians in Lee’s army was
36:40
killed wounded or captured that was but
36:43
by far the greatest total and the
36:45
greatest percentage of any state in
36:48
Lee’s army the seven highest totals of
36:51
killed and wounded fell to North
36:53
Carolina regiments two months later at
36:57
Gettysburg after the army had received
37:00
two huge brigades of North Carolinians
37:05
46.4% of all North Carolinians were
37:08
killed wounded or captured that’s almost
37:10
half the top four regimental casualty
37:14
figures and six of the seven highest
37:17
occurred in North Carolina regiments at
37:19
Gettysburg North Carolina lost 1782 more
37:25
men than the next highest state Virginia
37:27
that 1782 amounted to more casualties
37:32
than eight Confederate states suffered
37:35
in the Battle of Gettysburg then to
37:39
worsen the discrepancy at the Battle of
37:41
Bristow station in October 1863 almost
37:44
every single casualty in the battle was
37:47
a North Carolinian and again another 10%
37:50
of all North Carolinians and Lee’s army
37:52
so while it’s difficult to ascertain
37:55
precision a reasonable calculation over
37:58
a five and a half month period indicates
38:02
that seven of every North 10 North
38:04
Carolinians in Lee’s Army was either
38:06
killed wounded or captured in that
38:08
period the impact of those losses in the
38:13
most successful and visible Confederate
38:15
field command the Army of Northern
38:16
Virginia on the North Carolina home
38:19
front was devastating and coincided
38:21
precisely with the rising disaffection
38:24
in that state to compensate for
38:27
productivity decline associated with
38:30
manpower loss to the army Confederates
38:32
relied on blacks who proved increasingly
38:34
undependable as the war went on more and
38:38
more they slowed down work ran off to
38:40
the Yankees and caused general uneasy
38:42
uneasiness among the population that
38:44
remained at home the situation was so
38:47
severe that by 1864 the former governor
38:51
of Virginia General Henry wise told a
38:54
family friend that quote slavery is a
38:58
dead issue here in Virginia end quote
39:01
regardless of who won the civil war in
39:05
other words even if the Confederacy want
39:07
one you could never maintain slavery in
39:10
Virginia again attrition wore down
39:15
Confederates as we tried desperately to
39:18
increase manpower he notified the
39:20
Secretary of War in January 1863 that
39:23
they needed every man and he asked the
39:25
secretary to call on governor’s to
39:29
appeal to their constituents to fill the
39:31
ranks using quote shame against those
39:35
who will not heed the dictates of honor
39:37
and of patriotism
39:38
end quote in one instance Lee found
39:41
himself under arrest I’ll bet most of
39:43
you need to know that Robert Ely was a
39:44
had an order issued for his arrest what
39:48
happened was the Secretary of War
39:49
ordered two privates to come to Richmond
39:51
to act as clerks and Lee did know who
39:54
issued the order but immediately
39:55
overturned the order and directed the
39:57
guys to go back and be rifle toters
39:59
again when the Secretary of War found
40:01
out he ordered Lee to be arrested that’s
40:05
kind of a funny concept imagine Leonor
40:08
under arrest of course we explained
40:09
situation in guess what the Secretary of
40:12
War rescinded his order the men’s state
40:14
as his rifle toters so we even won the
40:17
battle the grind of the 1864 campaign
40:21
took its toll on Lee’s army after two
40:24
weeks of fighting in May 1864 Lee had
40:28
six generals killed sick nine generals
40:31
wounded and three generals captured by
40:33
the end of May one corps commander
40:36
Longstreet was wounded James Longstreet
40:39
that is another Corps commander Richard
40:41
Ewell had collapsed from exhaustion a
40:43
third Corps commander ap Hill had a
40:45
flare flare up of his old illness
40:48
prostatitis as a result of a youthful
40:51
indiscretion and then Stewart of course
40:55
his cavalry commander was killed Lee
40:57
suffered from dysentery and which he get
40:59
this I got when I found this out found
41:01
this in in the medical army medical
41:04
directors report Lee did not get more
41:07
than two consecutive hours of sleep for
41:11
a three week period now Lee is 59 years
41:16
of age was he born in 1850
41:20
it’s about 56 years of age that’s all
41:23
that’s not very much sleep and of course
41:25
he’s sleeping on a rack and a torte have
41:28
you ever seen it Museum of the
41:29
Confederacy has has leaves caught it’s
41:32
more like a torture rack by early June
41:37
1864 the campaign locked into trench
41:40
warfare with all the harsh conditions
41:42
that entailed from September 1862
41:45
through July 1864 the hospitals in
41:49
Virginia had admitted almost four
41:51
hundred and thirteen thousand soldiers
41:53
as patients due to illness or injury
41:55
during the three months of May June and
41:58
July 1864 those hospitals admitted one
42:02
hundred and two thousand soldiers alone
42:06
now even if every soldier was
42:09
transferred from one hospital to a
42:11
second one
42:12
that means 51,000 soldiers in a
42:15
three-month period were sent to the
42:18
hospital
42:19
that’s incredible in it
42:22
nor could lee effectively replace those
42:24
who went down he had squeezed everyone
42:26
he could in uniform back into the ranks
42:29
and conscription had augmented his
42:31
numbers too as the army passed by
42:33
communities his corps commanders had
42:35
orders to conscript any male who
42:38
appeared physically able incidentally
42:42
and and by the late stage of the war I
42:45
would say one in every eight soldiers
42:46
and Lee’s army was a conscript but I
42:49
want to mention this because this plays
42:51
into the 15 slave law in Virginia only
42:55
2% of all exemptions from conscription
42:58
were given to people under the 15 slave
43:00
law to put it in context four times as
43:04
many farmers railroad workers and
43:08
Millers received exemptions five times
43:11
as many shoemakers and government
43:14
officials received exemptions even
43:17
doctors and clergymen received twice as
43:20
many exemptions as slave holders on the
43:23
15 slave law by the end of 1864 the
43:28
bureau of conscription decreed that
43:30
there were no more conscripts to tap
43:32
except 16 year-olds who were coming of
43:36
age in the next year in Virginia that
43:39
amounted to the precise number of 2719
43:45
in fact the Confederacy just doesn’t
43:47
have the manpower anymore the strain of
43:49
war proved almost unbearable one brigade
43:52
of 1187 privates for example had to
43:56
defend 2,401 yards of works and two
44:01
thousand three hundred yards of picket
44:03
area every day the Union was able to
44:07
rotate troops from the trenches back the
44:10
Confederacy didn’t have that luxury by
44:12
1864 food for man and beast became more
44:15
and more scarce combat had discouraged
44:18
farmers from planting in the Shenandoah
44:19
Valley as far south as Bunker Hill and a
44:22
drought had devastated the corn crop
44:24
between Stanton and Newmarket reducing
44:27
corn production to one-third its usual
44:30
harvest animals got between two and a
44:32
half and five pounds of feed per day and
44:35
it was no
44:36
better for humans in one instance
44:38
cavalry commander Wade Hampton see seas
44:41
2500 head of cattle from the Federals
44:43
that gave the Confederate Army enough
44:46
meat for a month but other than that as
44:48
the winter came on the situation proved
44:51
bleak soldiers seldom received more than
44:54
a pound of cornmeal and a quarter pound
44:56
of beef per day by 1865 the commissary
45:00
could not sustain even that meager
45:02
bounty often 1/4 pound of beef and
45:06
either a pound of bread or 3/4 pound of
45:09
corn meal per day was issued that
45:11
equaled 900 to 1,200 calories per day
45:15
the US Army feeds its soldiers in the
45:19
combat environment 4000 calories a day
45:22
because that’s what the army feels is
45:24
essential to maintain muscle mass and
45:27
body weight not put on weight just to
45:29
maintain existing weight these guys are
45:31
living on 900 to 1,200 calories a day
45:35
that’s like two hours at the at the
45:38
local pub for most undergraduate
45:40
students many days the government could
45:45
supply troops with either meat or the
45:47
starch but not both the government
45:50
diverted corn intended to go to horses
45:52
for their soldiers the corn had
45:54
contained dried leaves and stalks from
45:57
the corn plant roughage that the that
46:00
the animals would find nutritious but of
46:02
course the soldiers found it unpalatable
46:04
supplies from everywhere came at a
46:07
glacial pace we had to draw a supplies
46:10
from as far away as Georgia taxing the
46:12
rail lines even more one line was so bad
46:15
the trains averaged one mile per hour
46:20
once Sherman began his advance through
46:23
Georgia and then South Carolina he cut
46:25
off those areas from food access and so
46:28
Lee’s area from which he could drawn was
46:31
shrinking more and more but it was not
46:33
until the combination of Lincoln’s
46:35
reelection Sherman’s march that
46:37
desertion began to truly soar in 1865 it
46:41
got worse and worse little clothing
46:44
little food too little rest and too much
46:47
work sapped soldiers
46:49
their motivation to fight good soldiers
46:52
tried soldiers began to lose faith and
46:54
desert men who had fought well in
46:56
literally dozens of battles those final
46:59
weeks were awful for men in Lee’s army
47:01
over the course of February and March
47:03
Lee’s army lost on average about 120 men
47:06
to desertion every day that’s comparable
47:10
to an infantry brigade present for duty
47:13
every 10 days just a desertion others
47:17
held on on the retreat from Richmond the
47:20
Richmond Petersburg line westward their
47:22
physical deterioration from poor
47:24
condition prevented thousands from
47:26
keeping up on my previous campaigns
47:29
where soldiers purposely straggled many
47:32
just could not stay up on the March 4
47:35
months Lee’s army lived on a diet that
47:37
lacked half the necessary protein to
47:40
maintain muscle mass and provided less
47:43
than two-thirds the necessary calories
47:45
to sustain body mass the diet by that by
47:49
this point largely down to a quarter
47:51
pound of beef and two pints of cornmeal
47:53
and occasional small amounts of molasses
47:56
was woefully deficient in most vitamins
47:59
resulting in weakness and absorption
48:01
problems of protein minerals and
48:03
vitamins with soldiers suffering skin
48:06
ailments night blindness anemia scurvy
48:08
and diarrhea in other words they weren’t
48:11
taking in enough good nutrition to break
48:14
down the food that they were actually
48:15
eating in a telling assessment doctor JW
48:20
Powell medical director for the Third
48:21
Corps commented on the Corps inspection
48:24
report in February quote while there was
48:27
not much well I’m sorry
48:29
while there was not found’ much absolute
48:32
sickness existing there were many weak
48:35
and feeble men who cannot be relied upon
48:38
to undergo any great physical exertions
48:41
end quote although Lee wants more a call
48:44
for discipline and reminded them a
48:46
patriotism he could get nothing more
48:48
from many of his troops pressed by
48:51
Federals Lee had to push his men hard on
48:54
the retreat thousands dropped out of the
48:56
March some falling into Yankee hands
48:58
others slowly working their way home
49:00
because they liked the stamina
49:02
to keep up for four long years this army
49:05
had battled overwhelming federal
49:07
manpower and resources brilliantly close
49:10
to 30,000 of them fell in combat and
49:13
more than 125,000 suffered wounds but
49:17
punished the Yankees they did Lee’s army
49:20
inflicted 45% of all the Union soldiers
49:24
killed and 45% of all the Union soldiers
49:27
wounded in the entire war in the last
49:32
year of the war despite the decline in
49:35
Lee’s Army grants forces sustained some
49:39
127 thousand casualties that’s almost as
49:45
many casualties as the Army of Northern
49:47
Virginia suffered for four years of war
49:49
in general order number nine a farewell
49:54
to his troops Lee stated that they had
49:56
been quote compelled to yield to
49:58
overwhelming numbers and resources end
50:00
quote to President Davis 10 years later
50:02
he told something different he blamed
50:04
the quote moral condition of the army
50:06
for defeat quote the operations which
50:10
occurred while the troops were in the
50:12
entrenchments in front of Richmond and
50:13
Petersburg would not marked by the
50:15
boldness and decision which formally
50:17
characterized them except in particular
50:19
instances they were feeble and a want of
50:22
confidence seemed to possess officers
50:24
and men this condition I think was
50:27
produced by the state of feeling in the
50:29
country and the GB and the
50:31
communications received by the men from
50:34
their homes urging their return and the
50:37
abandonment of the field end quote
50:39
both were correct the rebels confronted
50:42
vast Union superiority and over the
50:44
course of four years of war it wore down
50:47
the Confederacy ultimately the Army of
50:51
Northern Virginia did not collapse
50:52
because of southern culture industry
50:56
agriculture slavery motivations manpower
50:59
shortages discontent at home or any
51:02
other solitary factor intense and
51:05
sustained Union pressure caused serious
51:08
fissures in all these areas winnowing
51:11
away that margin for error and cutting
51:13
into muscle and bone collectively
51:14
bringing down the
51:16
and the entire Confederacy four long
51:20
years of war damaged or disrupted
51:22
virtually every aspect of Confederate
51:25
life
51:25
the demoralisation to which Lee referred
51:29
was a consequence of all these problems
51:31
not a cause let me conclude by telling
51:35
you a little story about private Thomas
51:37
Petty a native of Virginia and a pre-war
51:39
clerk in Washington DC he lost some
51:42
friends over the Secession issue he
51:44
joined the Confederate Army and in a
51:46
warm July night 1861 he was gazing up to
51:49
the sky and saw a comet rocketing
51:51
through the sky the next day he read in
51:53
the new Richmond newspapers that no one
51:55
had anticipated the comet he wondered
51:59
what it meant
52:00
perhaps it portends refer shadows the
52:03
speedy acknowledgment of our Confederate
52:05
States independence he pondered and by a
52:08
sudden apparition typifies the
52:10
Confederate States which is coming to
52:11
the host of nations like the comet
52:13
blazing gloriously in quote petit was
52:18
wrong about independence but correct
52:19
about the comet as a metaphor in the
52:22
grandeur of time the Army of Northern
52:23
Virginia might the Confederate States of
52:25
America was a short-lived shooting star
52:28
it appeared as a powerful illumination
52:31
and quickly passed into darkness perhaps
52:34
200,000 or more men stepped into its
52:36
ranks throughout the course of the war
52:38
undermanned underfed poorly clothed and
52:41
inadequately equipped the Army of
52:43
Northern Virginia kept a significantly
52:45
larger and better resource Union Army at
52:47
bay for almost four years its success
52:51
was so great that in the minds of
52:53
northerners and southerners alike it
52:55
came to symbolize the viability of the
52:58
Confederate states its commander was
53:01
perceived by many as a general superior
53:04
to all including Napoleon himself the
53:08
combination of Lee and his army have
53:11
left an indelible mark on the landscape
53:13
and the psyche of the American nation
53:15
far beyond its four years even today
53:19
many decades after its last veteran has
53:21
passed away Lee’s army continues to live
53:24
in the imagination of the American
53:26
public not so much for what it
53:29
represents
53:29
but for what it accomplished on the
53:31
field of battle under the most difficult
53:34
conditions and circumstances thank you
53:37
very much
53:47
question

Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

“Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrates that the violence sanctioned by the Second Amendment was a key factor in transforming America into a ‘militaristic-capitalist’ powerhouse. . . . Dunbar-Ortiz’s unhealthy relationship with guns ended after about two years. America’s has lasted a lot longer, but in the wake of Stoneman Douglas, there might be reason, at last, for some very cautious optimism.”–Kevin Canfield, San Francisco Chronicle

“There’s a new book that just came out that lays out a provocative argument for getting rid of the Second Amendment in its entirety, and the book asserts that the NRA has become a white nationalist organization.”–Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

“Dunbar-Ortiz’s subtle deconstructions of the various works which contributed to our misunderstandings of the Second Amendment’s roots are vitally required reading, especially in our current era of daily mass shootings and political inaction toward better gun control. The white supremacy that Dunbar-Ortiz exposes with surgical exactness is the true foundation of the America we know today.”—Sezin Koehler, Wear Your Voice Magazine

Loaded recognizes the central truth about our ‘gun culture’: that the privileged place of guns in American law and society is the by-product of the racial and class violence that has marked our history from its beginnings.”—Richard Slotkin, author of Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America

“From an eminent scholar comes this timely and urgent intervention on U.S. gun culture. Loaded is a high-impact assault on the idea that Second Amendment rights were ever intended for all Americans. A timely antidote to our national amnesia about the white supremacist and settler colonialist roots of the Second Amendment.”—Caroline Light, author of Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense

Loaded unleashes a sweeping and unsettling history of gun laws in the United States, beginning with anti-Native militias and anti-Black slave patrols. From the roots of white men armed to forge the settler state, the Second Amendment evolved as a tool for protecting white, male property owners. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to uncover the long fetch of contemporary Second Amendment battles.”—Kelly Lytle Hernandez, City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965

“Now, in Loaded, she widens her lens to propose that the addiction to violence characteristic of American domestic institutions also derives from the frontiersman’s belief in solving problems by killing. Whether expressed in individual cruelty like the collection of scalps or group barbarism by settler colonialists calling themselves ‘militias,’ violence has become an ever-widening theme of life in the United States.”—Staughton Lynd, author of Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution

“For anyone who believes we need more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ to address our national gun crisis, Loaded is required reading. Beyond the Second Amendment, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz presents essential arguments missing from public debate. She forces readers to confront hard truths about the history of gun ownership, linking it to ongoing structures of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and racial capitalism. These are the open secrets of North American history. It is our anxious denial as much as our public policies that perpetrate violence. Only by coming to peace with our history can we ever be at peace with ourselves. This, for me, is the great lesson of Loaded.”—Christina Heatherton, co-editor of Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter

“Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz’s Loaded argues U.S. history is quintessential gun history, and gun history is a history of racial terror and genocide. In other words, gun culture has never been about hunting. From crushing slave rebellions to Indigenous resistance, arming individual white settler men has always been the strategy for maintaining racial and class rule and for taking Indigenous land from the founding of the settler nation to the present. With clarity and urgency, Dunbar-Ortiz asks us not to think of our current moment as an exceptional era of mass-shootings. Instead, the very essence of the Second Amendment and the very project of U.S. ‘settler democracy’ has required immense violence that began with Indigenous genocide and has expanded to endless war-making across the globe. This is a must read for any student of U.S. history.”—Nick Estes, author of the forthcoming book Our History is the Future: Mni Wiconi and Native Liberation

“With her usual unassailable rigor for detail and deep perspective, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has potentially changed the debate about gun control in the United States. She meticulously and convincingly argues that U.S. gun culture—and the domestic and global massacres that have flowed from it—must be linked to an understanding of the ideological, historical, and practical role of guns in seizing Native American lands, black enslavement, and global imperialism. This is an essential work for policy-makers, street activists, and educators who are concerned with Second Amendment debates, #blacklivematters campaigns, global peace, and community-based security.”—Clarence Lusane, Chairman and Professor of Political Science at Howard University and author of The Black History of the White House

“Just what did the founding fathers intend the Second Amendment to do? Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s answer to that question will unsettle liberal gun control advocates and open-carry aficionados alike. She follows the bloodstains of today’s mass shootings back to the slave patrols and Indian Wars. There are no easy answers here, just the tough reckoning with history needed to navigate ourselves away from a future filled with more tragedies.James Tracy, co-author of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times

“Gun violence, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz compellingly shows, is as U.S. American as apple pie. This important book peels back the painful and bloody layers of gun culture in the United States, and exposes their deep roots in the killing and dispossession of Native peoples, slavery and its aftermath, and U.S. empire-making. They are roots with which all who are concerned with matters of justice, basic decency, and the enduring tragedy of the U.S. love affair with guns must grapple.”—Joseph Nevins, author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid

Loaded is a masterful synthesis of the historical origins of violence and militarism in the US. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reminds us of what we’ve chosen to forget at our own peril: that from mass shootings to the routine deployment of violence against civilians by the US military, American violence flows from the normalization of racialized violence in our country’s founding history.”—Johanna Fernández, Assistant Professor of History at Baruch College of the City University, and author of the forthcoming book, When the World Was Their Stage: A History of the Young Lords Party, 1968–1976

“More than a history of the Second Amendment, this is a powerful history of the forging of white nationalism and empire through racist and naked violence. Explosively, it also shows how even liberal—and some leftist—pop culture icons have been complicit in the myth-making that has shrouded this potent historical truth.”—Gerarld Horne, author of The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the USA

“Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has done an outstanding job of resituating the so-called gun debate into the context of race and settler colonialism. The result is that the discussion about individual gun ownership is no longer viewed as an abstract moral question and instead understood as standing at the very foundation of U.S. capitalism. My attention was captured from the first page.”—Bill Fletcher, Jr., former president of TransAfrica Forum and syndicated writer

“Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz provides a brilliant decolonization of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. She describes how

  • the ‘savage wars’ against Indigenous Peoples,
  • slave patrols (which policing in the U.S. originates from),
  • today’s mass shootings, and
  • the rise in white Nationalism

are connected to the Second Amendment. This is a critically important work for all social science disciplines.”—Michael Yellow Bird, professor and director of Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Studies at North Dakota State University

“This explosive, ground-breaking book dispels the confusion and shatters the sanctimony that surrounds the Second Amendment, revealing the colonial, racist core of the right to bear arms. You simply cannot understand the United States and its disastrous gun-mania without the brilliant Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as a guide.”—Astra Taylor, author of The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

“There is no more interesting historian of the United States than Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. And with Loaded she has done it again, taking a topic about which so much has already been written, distilling it down, turning it inside out, and allowing us to see American history anew.”—Walter Johnson, author of River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Mississippi Valley’s Cotton Kingdom

“Loaded is a compelling antidote to historical amnesia about the brutal origins of the United States’ unique ‘gun culture.’ Dunbar-Ortiz draws on decades of historical scholarship to illuminate the practice of Native genocide while framing the Second Amendment as the grounds for a violence-based nationalism.”—Caroline E. Light, “Public Books”

About the Author

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a tenant farmer and part-Indian mother. She has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than four decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her PhD in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly established Native American Studies Program at California State University, Hayward, and helped found the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Her 1977 book The Great Sioux Nation was the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indigenous peoples of the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. Dunbar-Ortiz is the author or editor of many books, including her acclaimed An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. She is the recipient of the Cultural Freedom Prize for Lifetime Achievement by the Lannan Foundation, and she lives in San Francisco, CA.

American Paganism

It’s not what the Religious Right thinks it is.

Claims of moral decline are a perennial feature of conservative rhetoric. But in recent years, pro-Trump Christians have emphasized a new reason to be afraid. The United States, they say, is devolving into such wanton “paganism” that the country may not survive. The true America awaits rescue by the Christian faithful, and in such an existential struggle, nearly any means are justified—even reelecting a morally abhorrent president.

Examples of this rhetoric are not in short supply, among pundits and even in more scholarly work. In an essay praising Donald Trump’s “animal instinct” for “order” and “social cohesion,” Sohrab Ahmari opposed an America of “traditional Christianity” to one of “libertine ways and paganized ideology.” These are our only choices, he insisted. Between such incompatible enemies, there can be only “war and enmity,” so true believers should be ready to sacrifice civility in the battles ahead to reconquer the public squareRod Dreher has speculated that Trump, while unpalatable, could be a divine emissary holding back the horrors of Christian persecution, like the biblical figure of He Who Delays the Antichrist, an implicit nod to old pagan enemies. “If Christians like me vote for Trump in 2020,” Dreher warns, “it is only because of his role as katechon in restraining what is far worse.” Though in a calmer tone, Ross Douthat entertained similar ideas in his column “The Return of Paganism,” wondering if the pantheist tendencies in American civil religion could morph into a neo-paganism hostile to Christian faith.

Douthat cites a recent book by law professor Steven D. Smith, Pagans & Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac. According to Smith, what we know as “secularismis actually ancient paganism in modern guise. Since paganism is inherently anti-Christian, this means Christians should oppose both secular politics and secular universities at any cost. They are not fighting against a neutral arbiter, but against the wiles of pagan Rome redivivus, a strain of this-worldly sexualized spirituality nearly eradicated by Christianity, but now mutated and all the more lethal.

Smith is only the most recent Christian author to invoke the specter of paganism. R. R. Reno, the editor of First Things, wrote Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society on the eve of the 2016 election, apparently anticipating a Clinton victory. The book’s title alludes to T. S. Eliot’s 1938 essay on “The Idea of a Christian Society,” in which Eliot condemns the rise of “modern paganism.” Reno told his readers to view 2016 in light of 1938. “Would the West seek a Christian future or a pagan one?” he asked. “We face a similar decision today. Will we seek to live in accord with the idea of a Christian society, or will we accept the tutelage of a pagan society?” Yuval Levin called Reno’s book a “call to arms against a postmodern paganism.”

This charge of looming paganism exerts a twofold political function. First, it

  1. rationalizes Trumpism, casting our situation as a state of emergency that threatens the survival of U.S. Christians.
  2. Second, the sacrilege of pagan religion prevents Trump’s supporters from indulging in political moderation by making that seem like a form of apostasy. It’s probably not a coincidence that “paganism” is on the rise just as Christian conservatives decide whether to support the current administration in an election year. It is challenging to explain how Trump’s policies are Christian. It is far easier to label his opponents as pagans, and thus align the president with Christianity by default. But there are fundamental problems with the conservative narrative of a resurgent paganism.

In the first place, the term “paganism” only works in this maneuver because it is vague and perspectival. It always has been, ever since Christians invented it. Ancient Christians stuck the name on those who continued the traditional rites of Greco-Roman religion rather than adopt the true faith. Indeed the largely urban Christians meant it as a mild pejorative for the rural country bumpkins, the pagani, who lived far from imperial centers and persisted in their benighted worship of the old gods. In our terms, the first “pagans” lived in flyover country and clung to their traditional religion. 

Since “pagan” has come to mean “un-Christian,” every invocation of “pagan” brings with it an implicit understanding of “Christian.” The meaning of the former is parasitic on the latter. Misunderstanding the essence of paganism, therefore, also means misunderstanding the demands of Christianity, and vice versa.

More left-leaning Christians might well agree with Smith and Reno in one sense: there is indeed an ascendant paganism afoot in our country today. It threatens the social and moral fabric of American public life and contends directly against the voice of Christian truth. One can brook no compromise in resisting it. The difference comes in how that paganism is defined. The debate is not whether paganism is real, but where it lives, how it appears, and what it does. If conservatives have mistaken its location, they might be training their weapons in the wrong direction.

Much hangs, then, on accurately discerning the meaning of “modern paganism.” Let us consider three proposals: Steven Smith’s recent version, T. S. Eliot’s original version, and another timely version from First Things.

Christians were the most conspicuous defenders of divine immanence in the ancient world. It was pagans who derided Christians for violating the self-evident truths of divine transcendence.

Steven Smith suggests that secularism is not a neutral space, but conceals its own religious identity, which is essentially pagan. It venerates the sacred within the natural world, knows only the cycle of birth and death, and thus celebrates a libertine sexuality. As opposed to Abrahamic religions that affirm the “transcendent sacred,” paganisms old and new prefer the “immanent sacred.” Smith delves into the emergence of Christians in the Roman Empire and vividly evokes the oddity of Christianity in the ancient world, heeding the scholarship of Peter Brown, Jan Assmann, and Kyle Harper (but Edward Gibbon most of all). Smith then applies his ancient model to American constitutional law and finds it confirms conservative positions on religious freedom, public symbols, and sexual norms.

But there are serious problems with Smith’s argument. Since the 1970s, scholars of religion have largely retired the vague categories formerly used to organize speculation about comparative religions—sacred and secular, immanent and transcendent, holy and profane, this-worldly and other-worldly. Major religious traditions are massive and multifarious in the ways they sustain rituals, ethics, and beliefs. Their communities cut across languages, continents, empires, and epochs, teeming with exceptions and discontinuities. The blunt tools applied by Smith are simply not up to the task of uncovering the essence of one religion, let alone two or three, and they are certainly not able to trace the notoriously complicated history of the “secular.”

For the sake of argument, though, let us grant Smith his chosen terms, and even focus on his central claim, that Christianity can lead the way in challenging modern secularity, since it insists on the “transcendent sacred” in a way that secular paganism does not. Smith’s proposal rests upon a fundamental analogy: paganism is to Christianity as immanence is to transcendence. Christians pray to the God beyond the world; pagans encounter divinity inside the weft of nature.

Even a cursory knowledge of Christianity is enough to refute this analogy. It is true that Judaism teaches the absolute transcendence of the one God, as do Islamic theologians today, and as did Neoplatonist pagan philosophers in antiquity who sought a divine One beyond every thought, word, and image. By contrast, orthodox Christians claim that God arrived and now eternally resides within the fabric of nature, as the Creator enters into creation in the body of Jesus Christ. To cite Smith’s definition of “paganism,” it is Christianity, in fact, that “refers to a religious orientation that locates the sacred within this world.” The Christian belief in the Incarnation is nothing if not a belief in the “immanent sacred.”

The new Christian movement distinguished itself from Greek philosophy, Roman cults, and Jewish faith alike by affirming an extensive and peculiar list of divine incursions into immanence: the Incarnation of God in the body of Jesus; Anne’s immaculate conception of Mary; Mary’s virginal conception and vaginal birth of the Son of God, making her Theotokos; the real flesh of Jesus suffering on the cross, against the Gnostics (Tertullian); the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic bread and wine, also against the Gnostics; the Resurrection of the body after death; the bodily assumption of Mary; the martyrdom of the body as bloody birth into heaven (Perpetua) or as the grinding of flesh into bread (Ignatius of Antioch); the church birthed through the bleeding side wound of a dying Jesus; the church as maternal breast suckling the Christian with milk; the union of Christ and Christians as the exemplar of which sexual union is the image (Ephesians 5, Origen of Alexandria). Above all, the scandalous immanence that might have sounded pagan to Jesus’s disciples: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6). The enemy of these traditional Christian teachings is not sacred immanence, but rather a gnosticism that dematerializes and disembodies the real presence of God within creation.

The radically immanent sacred of Christians scandalized the Romans. As Ramsay MacMullen observes, Christians worshipping a new transcendent deity would have passed unremarked. But the Christian belief that Jesus was neither prophet nor sage but a fleshly God would have been mocked by pagan intellectuals as a risible error. The late New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado writes: “In the philosophical traditions, an ultimate and radically transcendent deity was often postulated, but you did not typically engage that transcendent deity directly.… But there was a still more unusual and, in the eyes of pagan sophisticates, outlandish Christian notion: the one, true, august God who transcended all things and had no need of anything, nevertheless, had deigned to create this world and, a still more remarkable notion, also now actively sought the redemption and reconciliation of individuals.” For pagan intellectuals, Hurtado concludes, “all this was, quite simply, preposterous.”

For instance, in his work On the True Doctrine (178 CE), the pagan philosopher Celsus is ready to accept that God exists, creates all things, and transcends nature. But in shades of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, Celsus laughs away the claim that God was incarnated in Jesus, or that the body could be resurrected. “I mean, what sort of body is it that could return to its original nature or become the same as it was before it rotted away?” he mocks. “And of course they have no reply for this one, and as in most cases where there is no reply they take cover by saying ‘Nothing is impossible with God.’ A brilliant answer indeed! But the fact is, God cannot do what is contrary to nature.”

Christian philosophers saw the divide similarly. Tertullian admits that pagan philosophers might even discern that God exists by their own lights. But they always miss that God descended into a virgin and was made flesh in her womb. Augustine reports that he learned from the pagan philosopher Plotinus that the Logos was transcendent—but only Christians taught him how the Logos embraced the human body in all of its weakness and vulnerability, and its awful exposure to the whims of imperial violence.

To put it bluntly: paganism cannot simply mean divine immanence. On the contrary, Christians were the most conspicuous defenders of that principle in the ancient world. It was pagans who derided Christians for violating the self-evident truths of divine transcendence.

The resemblances between the modern paganism feared by T.S. Eliot in 1938 and conservative politics in 2020 are uncanny.

A better starting point for defining “paganism” is T. S. Eliot’s essay “The Idea of a Christian Society,” written in the dark days of 1938, where he proposes that the greatest enemy of modern Christianity is “modern paganism.” Reno and Smith alike summon Eliot as a sober authority in perilous times, but neither presents Eliot’s own account of the term in question. So how did Eliot define paganism? It’s important to stay as close as possible to his own words.

First, Eliot says paganism embraces an authoritarian politics that confuses religion and nationhood. The “distinguishing mark” of a Christian society, Eliot writes, is its productive “tension” between church and state, but pagan society seeks to “fuse” them. Pagan culture “de-Christianises” individuals gradually and unwittingly, as authoritarianism creeps in. Soon, he warns, one’s hymns are no longer to God alone, but also to the dear leader.

Second, Eliot says that modern paganism incites ecological destruction. The Christian lives in harmony with nature; the pagan destroys public resources for private profit. “Unregulated industrialism” and “the exhaustion of natural resources,” writes Eliot, lead to “the exploitation of the earth, on a vast scale.” In a formulation that strikingly anticipates Laudato si’, he puts it succinctly: “A wrong attitude towards nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude towards God.

Third, modern paganism imposes a puritanical public morality. It promotes, in Eliot’s words, “regimentation and conformity, without respect for the needs of the individual soul” and “the puritanism of a hygienic morality in the interest of efficiency.” According to Eliot, in fact, modern paganism will even attempt to elevate the status of Christian identity in society. But paganism embraces Christianity not because it’s true, but because it consolidates the nation and discourages dissent. He notes that authoritarians have always celebrated public morality. They want, in a way, more morality, even if their priorities are haphazardly formulated. Eliot warns that such a moralistic Christianity is not only a perversion of the faith: “It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society.” Such versions of Christianity might even “engender nothing better than a disguised and peculiarly sanctimonious nationalism, accelerating our progress toward the paganism which we say we abhor.”

The resemblances between the modern paganism feared by Eliot in 1938 and conservative politics in 2020 are uncanny. The “paganism” that future Christians will need to identify and resist, he warned, will appear as

  • unrestrained capitalist greed; as
  • authoritarianism seeking to weaken democratic norms; as
  • callous environmental degradation; as a
  • superficial Christian moralism seeking to fuse church and state; and as a
  • petty “sanctimonious nationalism.” 

In the poignant final paragraph of his essay, Eliot confesses that the churning political surprises of the 1930s had left him shaken, not only because of the events themselves, but in the revelation of his own country’s moral poverty. In the face of Britain’s failure to mount an adequate response to modern pagan violence, Eliot felt a justified “humiliation” that demanded of him “personal contrition” along with “repentance, and amendment.” He felt “deeply implicated and responsible” and began to question his country’s frequent claims to moral authority. When Eliot enjoins his readers to fight against modern paganism, it is specifically because its brew of authoritarianism and capitalism were already beginning to charm Christian intellectuals who should know better. Eliot’s final sentences prick the conscience today:

We could not match conviction with conviction, we had no ideas with which we could either meet or oppose the ideas opposed to us. Was our society, which had always been so assured of its superiority and rectitude, so confident of its unexamined premises, assembled round anything more permanent than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and industries, and had it any beliefs more essential than a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends? Such thoughts as these formed the starting point, and must remain the excuse, for saying what I have to say.

The paganism we should fear is not secularism, sacred immanence, or pantheist naturalism. It is power celebrating its violence, perceiving the world empty of everything save the contest of will.

But there was at least one other account of paganism in the pages of First Things as Trump campaigned for the presidency—this time from Matthew Schmitz, an editor at the magazine. Over the summer of 2016, Schmitz displayed an admirable prescience while Christian conservatives were still hesitating to endorse the eventual Republican nominee. The “faith taught by Christ,” he wrote, “is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord.… In Trump, it [Christian faith] has curdled into pagan disdain.”

Schmitz’s analyses from April and August of 2016 really must be considered at length, given where they were published. Take this representative passage:

At a campaign event in Iowa, Trump shocked the audience by saying that he had never asked God for forgiveness. All his other disturbing statements—his attacks on every vulnerable group—are made intelligible by this one…. Human frailty, dependency, and sinfulness cannot be acknowledged; they must be overcome. This opens up the possibility of great cruelty toward those who cannot wish themselves into being winners. A man who need not ask forgiveness need never forgive others. He does not realize his own weakness, and so he mocks and reviles every sign of weakness in his ­fellow men.

And here’s another:

In his contempt for losers, he [Trump] embodies one of the most unchristian ideals ever advanced in American politics. With a unique consistency and vehemence, he expresses his hatred of weakness. He ridicules the disabled, attacks women, and defends abortionists. This is the opposite of Christianity, which puts the weak first and exalts every loser…. Liberalism, much as I hate it, has preserved this Christian inheritance. The GOP before Trump, despite all its contempt for the 47 percent, was leavened by the influence of sincere Christians and so was never so sneering. Trump is an altogether more pagan figure.

By 2019, however, in the wake of the midterm battles over immigration and the mythic “caravan” of refugees at the southern border, Schmitz joined others to cheer on the “new nationalism” that Trump promoted at his rallies. Within a few months, Schmitz had decided that Christianity and liberalism could never be reconciled, since modern society—wait for it—had become paganized. “The Church,” he now saw, “is at odds with an increasingly pagan culture.”

If there was an ancient paganism of sacred immanence, it was soon outstripped by the more radical immanence of Christians in their claims of an Incarnation, a Resurrection, and above all the enduring food of the Eucharist. In every Mass the priest washes his hands in imitation of the pagan Pilate, but now as an act of humility and celebration. The  Catholic repeats as her own the words of the pagan centurion—Lord, I am not worthy—but now as an intimate prayer on the threshold of Communion. That version of paganism was overtaken and dissolved from within by the Christian sacralization of the body.

But there is another paganism that has survived into the present, and has emerged so vividly in contemporary politics that even First Things in 2016 could not miss it. This is not the paganism of immanence, but the paganism of cruelty and violence. It mocks the vulnerable, reviles the weak, and gains strength through hatred. We don’t have to look too far to discover the “postmodern paganism” threatening American Christianity today. 

Last summer the Trump administration argued in court that more than two thousand migrant and refugee children should be separated from their parents, concentrated in crude detention camps with minimal supervision, and locked in chilled rooms with the lights left on all night. The administration has yet to condemn the petty cruelty of some camp guards and instead has mused that such violence might be politically useful. Hundreds of children as young as two are deliberately denied diapers, soap, and toothbrushes for months at a time to punish their parents. Community donations of the same are turned away. Young women are denied tampons. Young children are denied inexpensive flu vaccines, and if they contract a terminal cancer, they are deported without medical care. Chickenpox and shingles are common. Federal contractors win upwards of $700 per day for each imprisoned child. Seven children have died in custody to date, and many more have been hospitalized. Doctors worry they cannot serve in the camps without violating the Hippocratic oath. The camps themselves were continued from the Obama administration, but the withdrawal of basic necessities is Trump’s innovation. What is this if not the very paganism conservatives decry?

This modern paganism ultimately means the nihilistic exercise of power for its own sake, especially power over weak and vulnerable bodies. In its purest form, it is expressed as conspicuous cruelty, both to render one’s power maximally visible and to increase that power by engendering fear. The cruelty is the point. This is the joyful paganism that Nietzsche sought to revive as the Wille zur Macht, retrieving from ancient Rome the glorious pleasure in cruelty that rewards the strong who exercise their strength. This is the reason Italian fascist Julius Evola hated Christianity for its compassion for the poor and weak.

We find this paganism exposed in the ancient world as well, in the Athenian mockery and massacre of the Melians in Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, in Thrasymachus’s authoritarian attacks on Socrates in Plato’s Republic, or in Augustine’s shrewd deconstruction of imperial power in The City of God against the Pagans. John Milbank calls this Nietzschean worldview an ontology of eternal violence opposed to an Augustinian counter-ontology of eternal peace. As Schmitz himself suggests, the perfect example of pagan disdain for vulnerability and conspicuous cruelty is the Roman practice of public crucifixion. Pagan is to Christian not as immanent is to transcendent, but as Rome is to the Crucified—a cruel empire to its tortured victims.

But modern paganism can also assume subtler forms, whenever the common good is reduced to ruthless economic competition, confirming Eliot’s fears that we have no values more essential than our “belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends.” The paganism we should fear is not secularism, sacred immanence, or pantheist naturalism. It is power celebrating its violence, perceiving the world empty of everything save the contest of wills, a nihilism ruled by the libido dominandi.

This paganism views moral responsibility as a fool’s errand for the weak, since all that matters is to dominate or be dominated. It sacralizes the emperor as an agent of God, scorns truth, despises the weak, and tortures the vulnerable. And it cloaks its nihilism, to cite Eliot once again, in “a disguised and peculiarly sanctimonious nationalism, accelerating our progress toward the paganism which we say we abhor.”