The Best Defense

One of the best military reading lists ever: Direct to you from the Australian army

It's been awhile since I've seen a reading list this good, and so comprehensive. An education itself. One thing I especially like about it is that it doesn't just list books, it tells you why you might want to read each one.

It also has some very helpful introductory essays. For example, there is this comment on how to read an official history:

Learn to read between the lines, particularly the lines of the official histories. Official historians expect their professional readers to be able to read between the lines. For example in speaking of Singapore, the War Office history says, 'Many stragglers were collected in the town and sent back to their units.'

What does this statement suggest? In an advance stragglers are to be expected. Men become detached from their units for quite legitimate reasons. We provide for them by establishing stragglers' posts to collect them and direct them back towards their units. But when we get large numbers of stragglers behind a defensive position, and a long way back at that, it suggests that units have been broken up or that there has been a breakdown of discipline somewhere. And that in turn suggests that the general situation had reached the stage when a lot of people had lost confidence, when morale was at least beginning to break down.

Also, General Paul Van Riper's essay on his own professional education is worth an evening all by itself.


The Best Defense

Sherman's (VII) pet peeves: He loathed reporters, DC, politicians, and even JAGs

Everyone knows that Sherman didn't want to run for president, but I didn't realize how deep his loathing of politics overall ran. This was despite his being the brother of a lifelong politician, John Sherman, who was a senator and also secretary of the treasury and secretary of state.

In April 1861, as the Civil War was getting under way, he was offered the post of assistant secretary of war. He declined, responding, "I wish the Administration all success in its almost impossible task of governing this distracted and anarchical people."

In 1868, when President Andrew Johnson tried to transfer Sherman east from St. Louis to Washington, Sherman said he'd rather retire from the Army. He explained that he found the idea of moving to Washington "highly objectionable, especially because it is the political capital of the country, and focus of intrigue, gossip and slander."

Underscoring his objection, he wrote to Grant that if the president and Congress would just shut up and go to sleep, "the country would ... recover far faster."

Another pet peeve was reporters. "Newspaper correspondents with an army, as a rule, are mischievous. They are the world's gossips, pick up and retail the camp scandal, and gradually drift to the headquarters of some general, who finds it easier to make reputation at home than with his own corps or division."

As for JAGs: "The presence of one of our regular civilian judge-advocates in an army in the field would be a first-class nuisance, for technical courts always work mischief."

By the way, the general is tweeting his march through Georgia at @TecumsehSays. Typical tweet: "Went well, had some fun, burned some stuff, you know, the usual."