Things that Keep Me Up at Night–And Civil War Trivia

This kept me up last night and is doing so now. I’ve been reading Civil War accounts for the past few weeks—the campaigns, the battles, the men with no names who fought in them and the men with well-known names who made their decisions (it’s always seemed to me and seems so still, that almost all the decisions made during that war were bad but for a striking few) and I arrived at Gettysburg, which led me down a wormhole of differing scenarios, each one leading to a parallel universe as a result of that outcome. I’ve rested on the fact that the Battle of Gettysburg should have never happened at all. It was a consequence of Lee’s Virginia-centric war outlook. For, in Lee’s view, if the Old Dominion ceased to be, then the Confederacy died all at once. This view was held despite 750,000 interior square miles, the Mississippi River, what was but limited, industrial and munitions centers, the Gulf of Mexico and no less than a dozen ports (albeit mostly blockaded, but theirs nonetheless, and a decisive victory would have lifted that blockade from European recognition).

During the summer weeks of ’63 that Lee was contemplating taking the war into Pennsylvania, Rosecrans was in Tennessee. Grant was in Mississippi running over token resistance until he reached and burned Jackson. With the capital secured and on his flank, he’d march west and take Vicksburg—the real prize for the Union—for the capture of Vicksburg cut the Confederacy in half, denied it any control over the Mississippi, while allowing complete Union control over it, and greatly reduced the Confederate interior. It was Vicksburg and not Gettysburg that spelled doom for the Confederacy.

Whatever the infinite outcomes and decisions one can create, securing the interior, cutting Grant off from the rest of the Union, and destroying him as he tried to break out, would have either secured victory for the Confederacy or prolonged its existence for an eventual defeat by other means not influenced by the outcome of Gettysburg.

Instead of taking his army north, Lee should have sent a sizable portion of his command under Longstreet, perhaps two divisions, into the interior, to join Bragg and Johnston in Tennessee. Combined, the army now numbering 130,000 to 150,000 effectives was well within the interior and space and time to counter both Rosecrans and Grant’s separately. An all-out offensive would have been possible much like the Confederacy did in ’62 when during the end of that year there wasn’t a Union boot on confederate soil. In Tennessee, they would draw Rosecrans out to a ground of their choosing, defeat him soundly and push him beyond the Ohio. The command could then head west, secure Memphis and cut off Grant’s access up the Mississippi. Grant completely boxed in and cut off, low of supplies, and with no hope of receiving more, would have seen the jig was up. Consequently, he’d had to give up his designs on Vicksburg or face total defeat. Out of military necessity, he’d have no choice other than to make a run for it up river against an overwhelming force in complete control of the Mississippi and the interior. Grant would have no doubt been defeated, possibly in toto.

With no Union threat within the interior, the command would then split into two parts. One part would reinforce Kirby Smith who would then retake Missouri all the way down to Louisiana. The other part, under Longstreet, would reinforce Lee in Virginia, who could then take up his decision to invade the north, except under much stronger and more contemplated strategic military terms.

Oddly enough, this scenario is a mixture of Beauregard’s and Longstreet’s proposed plans in response to Grant’s designs on Vicksburg with modifications on my part made from the advantage of hindsight. They were dismissed in Richmond at the highest reaches of government in two rounds of voting, with the same result each time, 5-1, in favor of Lee’s Virginia optics—the one holdout who remained unconvinced of a northern invasion was a non-Virginian native, who was the Confederate postmaster general from Texas.

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Forget I Mentioned It

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I’ve always thought I’ve done my best thinking when others do it for me. That’s when I’m at my intellectual best. But every now and again, I get an original thought. Just so happens I got one last night. It’s a tired subject, the age of the earth and for that reason, humanity.

Those busy archeologists find artifacts, buildings, and even entire cities, buried beneath rock or hundreds of feet under water. No biggie except that these things are older than the accepted 5000-6000 years idea before man is thought to have gained the knowhow and ability to construct and build cities and monuments.

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In 2000-numnummnum, off the Gulf of Combay (off of India) a city was discovered that had no business being there. Another problem: carbon dating placed its construction 12,500 years ago. I suppose the hunters and gatherers got bored, built a city, decided it wasn’t that big of a deal and went back to hunting and gathering. Of course, Indian history and their historic epics said there were great cities south of India, back when its land extended hundreds of miles southward above water. Same with the Incas, Mayans, and the Sphinx told from Egyptian epics. Each told of a preceding civilization, in which from they inherited the monuments and structures.

At any rate, this, along with many other things, challenges the orthodox view when civilization began. The Darwinist’s view is that some things happened, at some point before time began, then life began precisely 4 million years ago 6am next Tuesday, animals and humans emerged extremely slowly from highly improbable accidental causes over a period of time according to laws of probability.

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Therefore, the four billion year old earth was determined not by scientific observation or geologic evidence but by estimating how long it should have taken these random events to have occurred given the extreme probability of life having occurred at all through random, material causes. I almost forgot. We all happened in Africa, and we left from there about 100,000 years ago, day after tomorrow. Problem is there is evidence that life was already present everywhere, simultaneously.

Oh well, it’s better not to think of this stuff on your own. Forget I mentioned it.

Some Different Advice on College and Learning

The Higher Learning Blues

First, let me start by saying this: College will not make you smart and your degree of success is not based on your intelligence. Rather college teaches you to learn, think critically, and express your ideas clearly and effectively. What you will learn in college has already been discovered, thoroughly debated and discussed. It is unlikely you have anything substantial to add. So you must learn to interpret (I never spell that word right on the first try) other’s thoughts and present them in your own voice. Strive for this only and you will be successful as a college student.

Instead of trying to become the next great theorists, one should start by setting goals instead.

  • I will not make less than a B on any exam or essay.
  • I will study, read, and practice.
  • I will study, read, and practice (repeat as much as you like).
  • I will not cram or write the day before the due date.
  • I will remember that if others can do it, so can I.

On the other hand, if you solely rely on your professors, lessons, and recommended readings to take you to your highest possible level, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Learning is a love of labor. So it is important that you have a high level of interest in whatever it is you decide to study. You should read widely and continuously. You should amass a formidable personal library. You should become a sponge. Nothing should come as a surprise to you in your given field of study. You should be able to give at least one clear and articulated point on any subject within your field on a moment’s notice. If you do these things mentioned you’ll be able to without knowing exactly how you did. This is the point when you’ve become a serious student.

If you can’t do this, you aren’t learning. If you can’t do this, you aren’t studying. But you’ll probably do well enough – all things being equal.

Learn to learn: Instead of knowing who Karl Marx or Hans Morgenthau was and what they wrote, you should know why each wrote in the first place. What was their era’s like in which they lived? What was their environment like that which motivated them to come to their conclusions? If you can do this, their ideas become more than just words in a book, and their photographs become more than black and white images. You’ll begin to understand them. This is how you learn. This is how you develop instincts and assume ownership of your ideas. This is what separates students from aspiring theorists.

Why did I say intelligence had very little to do with any of this? Let me put it like this. If you can form up, lay plumbing, frame, cut in rafters and build your own house, then you are intelligent. If you can cut and lay tile, you are intelligent. If you can tie a knot suitable for any burdensome task, you are intelligent. If you can crack open a motor and replace the heads, you are intelligent. If you can teach yourself to invest in the stock market, you are intelligent. The person I described may have never heard of Marx or may not even care to know more than just his name, but give him a task he understands and he’ll take ownership of it and complete it comparable to any trained professional.

In other words, college isn’t the be all and end all. It’s just another avenue toward higher learning. It’s not necessarily the place for higher learning. It’s what you do with the access to knowledge and tools for understanding that makes the difference.

You’ll want to link these gems.

The Feeling of Thinking – A Psychology Today blog by successful high school drop-out and author of Buccaneer-Scholar James Bach.

The Art of Self-Education – Lifelong learning enthusiast Race Bannon shares the self-education tips he picked up from experience with dozens of exciting careers.

Wide Awake Minds – Ryan McCarl, a graduate student studying education, blogs about his thoughts on teaching, learning, and self-education.

Freedom to Learn – A Psychology Today blog about the importance of play in learning from psychology professor Peter Gray.

Buccaneer Scholar – James Bach’s personal blog about his experiences with self-education.

LiteMind – A unique blog from Luciano Passuello examines the most effective ways to use your mind.

H/T to Self Made Scholar. Be sure to look around at this site.