As I compose this epistle, snow is falling, and so is the thermometer, which is forecast to reach single digits within a few hours. These circumstances lead to increased contemplation on the vital role of logistics and economics in warfare. Several recent speakers at our monthly meetings have touched on the support required to keep an army in the field. In addition to feeding, clothing, sheltering, and arming the troops, the horses and mules required immense amounts of accouterments, fodder, and water. One of Jerry Patterson’s article reprints at the January meeting reviewed some impressive numbers for the animals. Of course, winter weather often magnified logistical difficulties due to cold, snow, mud, and agrarian unproductivity. Wood became fuel and shelter. The armies often needed more of everything, and got less of it. It all cost money, and lots of it. Winter must have been very unpleasant if not miserable for Civil War soldiers, and for civilians too.
When I was a callow youth, a history professor startled my class by stating that all wars were based in economics. He went on to say that almost all armed conflicts had primary if not total economic causation, although higher-sounding excuses such as religion or culture were often advanced. Furthermore, economics generally determined the victor, especially if the conflict was prolonged. I’m sure there are exceptions to his rule, but the area is worthy of much more study and attention than it usually receives.
Join us on February 13 as Kent Wright explores the complex web of cotton, economics, and politics both domestic and international in the 1860s. This is an unusual but timely topic and should be of great interest to all.
The 108 who attended Michael Shaffer’s presentation on January 9 heard new perspectives on Civil War maneuver and fixed fortifications. 71 members enjoyed dinner together and were joined by an additional 31 members for the lecture. We also welcomed 3 non-members for dinner and an additional 3 for the program.