America goes to war by Bruce Catton

By Bruce Catton

A desirable learn of the 1st glossy warfare and its impression on American tradition.

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He reflects the national character, and the national character has not changed a great deal. Weapons, tactics, strategic concepts, equipmentall of these may have changed enormously; yet the human material of which American armies are made is today very much as it was generations ago. As the battle record of many wars attests, this material has uniformly been pretty good. Yet the ways in which this material has been used have undergone many changes. It may be instructive to note some of these changes, to see what happened in an earlier, more informal period, and to reflect on some of the lessons which can be deduced.

More than 52,000 simply paid their commutation fees. The rest hired substitutes. This created the fantastic institution of the substitute brokerthe man who, for a fee, would find a substitute for any man who wished to hire one. Some of these brokers may have been relatively honest men, though I have seen nothing in any contemporary account to make me think so; most of them operated on the level of the worst waterfront crimps in the days of the Shanghai passage. During World War II there was a common gag: the army Page 45 doesn't examine your eyesit just counts them.

Much more important is the fact that the mental attitude of the two governments involvedwhich of course is to say the mental attitudes of the opposing peoples themselveshad that peculiar, costly, ruthless cast which is the great distinguishing mark of modern warfare. Neither side in the Civil War was prepared to stop anywhere short of complete victory. In the old days, wars had been formalized; two nations fought until it seemed to one side or the other that it would not be worth while to fight any longer, and then some sort of accommodation would be reachedand, in the last analysis, nothing would have been changed very much.

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