Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Death in the Trenches

Davis, William C. Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg. The Civil War. Alexandria, VA; Time-Life Inc., 1986.

I knew that there was trench warfare in the Civil War. I did not know, however, the scale of the entrenchments. The excavations were seemingly as elaborate as those of World War I. Speaking of which, why the heck did the generals of World War I become obsessed with the bayonet? If generals are always experts in the last war, surely they should have realized that attacking trench lines en masse was a fool's game. What is wrong with people?

The engineering challenge of pumping air into the tunnel for the ill-fated battle of the crater was brilliant. They made the tunnel air tight with a ventilation hole and pipe that allowed inflow only at the working end of the tunnel, and then lit a fire under the exhaust shaft to draw the air out. Simple and classic.

It also amused me that, after the 1864 election, Grant embarked on a purge of political generals--"Thanks for your support, but we won't need it by the next election, and we don't need you now."

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