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Summary of “Surviving Military Revolution: The U.S. Civil War”

LettersSummary of “Surviving Military Revolution: The U.S. Civil War”

Dear Editor,
Please allow me to summarize the article with the above title, written by Mark Grimsley. His thesis is that the Civil War combined the mass politics and passions of the Wars of the French Revolution with the technology, productive capacity, and managerial style of the emerging Industrial Revolution. He explained his position with examples from the conduct of war by Union and Confederacy field armies. Grimsley strongly opposed any idea that the Civil War was a revolutionary conflict in terms of technology and tactics. The author also pointed out that the weapon distance for the rifle-muskets and breech-loading carbine was extended, thus increasing the range for their killing power. However, both weapons did not have that instantaneous impact on combat.

Grimsley provides numerous pieces of evidence to supplement his arguments. He argues that the North’s prominent victory over the Confederacy was due to the rifled musket, breech-loading carbine, emergent industrial technologies, and destructive raids. Additionally, he points out that mass politics aided Grant with 165,000 troops. On the contrary, neither the Union nor Confederates were able to organize such a quantity until 1860. Grant’s financial assistance was also mentioned when he relied on the Federal government’s ability to pay for the ships and the cargo that were transported by water. Finance was a huge aspect of the war. The printing of additional notes occurred, which the Confederacy was unable to use because it was not legal tender. One of the reasons the Confederacy lost the war was because of insufficient funds and poor fiscal policies.

The author was persuasive and categorically stated that individuals or groups do not control military revolutions; they merely seek to survive them. He then clarifies this statement with several supporting arguments comparing the Union and the Confederates’ ways of war. Despite many troops for the war, Grimsley purports that only mass political participation could create armies of such quantity. He also explains that the state and local governments were offering cash of one thousand dollars for men who were willing to enlist. This idea was not promising, as it caused desertions, malingering, stealing, and productivity shortfalls. The author concludes with a statement that the Civil War was fundamentally like riding a whirlwind, whereby each side rode to the best of their abilities, suffering consequences while attempting to inflict them upon the enemy.

As a military officer, it is important to understand the significance of surviving military revolutions and to be cognizant of what transpired during the U.S Civil War. Some of the lessons from this chapter could be practical today. Lessons such as who has a mass number of troops, political support, unlimited finance, creative thinkers, exceptional leaders, the advancement of updated technology, and up-to- date weapon systems would be more likely to win a war against the adversary. What occurred in the U.S Civil War could be applicable for the modern-day. One must not ignore history and should be versed in the lessons learned which can shape views of conflict and assist in decision making. Especially history based on empirical evidence drawn from past wars.

Major Kenrick Lincoln Martinez, Sr.

About the Author
Major Kenrick Lincoln Martinez, Sr., MSc.
Major Kenrick Lincoln Martinez, Sr. is a Belize Defence Force (BDF) officer and is posted at BDF Headquarters. The views expressed are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the BDF or the Ministry of Defence.

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