Saturday, January 10, 2015
Reconstruction Part Two
Road Plan for Reconstruction
The road to fully restoring the Union would be a long and expensive one and the soldiers occupying the South would not be the only Americans discontent. The initial plans for Reconstruction came to life following the 1915 Battle of Fredericksburg, where a quarter of a million Americans on either side of the divide perished. Taking and holding the small scrap of land galvanized President Theodore Roosevelt as well as his Secretary of State and members of Congress into preventing a similar disaster from again occurring.
As Roosevelt was no fool, he knew the next war would use weapons even more powerful and lethal than the machine guns of the Great War. The only way to prevent a future war was to prevent two separate sides from occupying the same continent. It was an idea his administration toyed with since the war began. When war broke out in 1913, War Plans Gray and Red were activated. In each case, the objectives and how to defeat the enemy were discussed in great detail. What came afterwards was a matter the War Department did not plan.
Nobody in 1913 or 1914 would openly discuss restoration, though there was plenty of talk about regaining land lost to the British following the Second and Third Anglo-American Wars. As for concessions from the C.S.A. they ranged from indemnities to disarmament to cession of land. As 1915 rolled in, the question of how much cession would justify the loss of life. Following Fredericksburg, there could only be one answer to the question.
The war, indeed the previous five decades, were nothing less than a national tragedy. In the States’ War, brother fought brother. In the Great War, cousin fought cousin. Even the Canadians were viewed as wayward relations, though the quest to ‘conquer Canada’ was long since abandoned and any hopes of them peacefully merging with the United States long past. It was time for the American family to come back together.
In 1915, restoration was unthinkable to the Confederates. Their war aims were simple: survival. They had hoped for a quick defeat of Germany in Europe followed by an influx of British soldiers to aid against the Union. Even Canada was denied the level of aid Ottawa requested. With a population of seven million, Canada could not hope to stand up alone to the United States with its sixty million. Philadelphia knew this and decided to mark Canada as secondary in importance. The twenty-seven million Confederates concerned them greater.
Comparing populations between Union and Confederacy is always a bit of a problem. The Union has its entire demographic of men between the age of eighteen to thirty to draw upon. In the Confederate States, nearly one-third of their population is automatically discounted. Black soldiers were not part of Montgomery’s equation, not even freedmen volunteers. In the beginning of the war, they were bared from industries the same as women. Only the tremendous losses at the front changed the stubborn minds of Southerners, though only enough to permit Black men into occupation previous classified as White only.
Even halfway through 1916, the Confederates defiantly claimed to rather fight to the last man than rejoin the Union. Or rather that was the word of the Confederate Congress. By the middle of the year, Tennessee lay in ruins with Virginia and Cuba not in much better shape. With more than half his State already administered by the Union, Governor Harold Wilson sought any means to stem the tide. Requests for more soldiers from other States went unheeded. Even if his prayers were answered, Wilson doubted the Union could be kept out of Chattanooga and the industrial heart of eastern Tennessee.
His State already counted more than two hundred thousand among the dead, not including civilian losses. If his compatriots in the Confederate States could or would not aid him in the fight, he had few options in saving Tennessee. He had no option in evicting the Union. Even if restoration was never achieved in the Deep South, there was no way the Union would ever let Tennessee go when the war ended. No matter who won, Tennessee was under the Stars and Stripes.
With the fate of his State already decided, Wilson saw no reason why his people should continue to suffer. His momentous decision to seek a separate peace opened a flood gate. With Tennessee quitting, Cuba follow, then Virginia and even the whole of the Confederate West threw in the towel as a whole, leaving the Deep South alone to face a wave of destruction with nothing but disorganized State divisions wanting nothing more than to return home.
Once the Confederate Congress surrendered, the former C.S.A. was divided into three military sectors; west, central, east. The Eastern Sector consisted of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Cuba. To oversee the occupation, Roosevelt nominated General Clarence White Water, the man who commanded Second Army since 1915. The general from the State of Iroquois was a war hero in the eyes of all Americans, though perhaps not of the same level as Pershing or Arnold. For White Water it was a well earned post. For the former Confederates it was a calculated insult as the racially minded Southerners scoffed under the command of a general who was three-fourths Indian.
The Central Sector was granted to General John ‘Black Death’ Pershing. His virtual destruction of Tennessee saw the nickname Jack replaced by that of Death. Pershing held the position until 1919, when he decided to transfer to the Military Academy at Fort Arnold as an instructor in history. One of the Joint Chiefs famously grumbled upon hearing of Pershing’s transfer “great, now we’re going to have a whole generation of officers spouting nonsense about Gilgamish and Sargon.” Finding a successor was a great challenge. Samuel Arnold, self-styled Conqueror of Memphis, was the obvious choice. However, as with many in his family he stepped on the toes of politicians. Congress decided on an anyone-but-Arnold policy for command of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The Western Sector (Durango, Sonora, Chihuahua, Jefferson, Texas and Oklahoma) was placed under the command of a lesser known commander. Lieutenant General Charles Rhodes commanded XVIII Corps on the Colorado Front. The western part of the Great War received far less press than the massive body counts of the Ohio and Potomac Fronts. The war also lacked any solid front and consisted of large maneuver and sieges. Rhodes participated in the conquest of Nogales in 1913 and the Siege of Guaymas in 1915. The less populated West would prove much easier to reconstruct than the other regions.