Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: June, 2014

Power Vacuums

Watching “Return of the Jedi” and reading the papers brings back old memories.  You ask what these two topics have in common?

Well, Fang had several issues with “Return of the Jedi” (will discuss his second – and major – one in tomorrow’s post).  His minor point came early in the film.  The team has rescued Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt (or rather, has been captured in the act of rescuing Han from the bounty hunters), and is taken out to the desert to be fed to the whatever-it-is in the pit.  So far, so good in spaghetti-western style.  Have to have conflict.

Anyway, Luke, Leia and assorted mechanicals manage to free the captives and blow up the yacht upon which Jabba and his colleagues are enjoying the execution.  Fang points out that everyone who was Anyone in the Tattooine underworld was probably on that yacht when it blew.  (And the way it blew leaves unlikely the chance of survivors).  Boba Fett is gone, as are assorted other bad-guys.  This creates a huge power vacuum in the underworld of Tattooine.  Fang pointed out that this was going to cause immense turmoil in the planet’s underworld (and probably overworld, if there is any kind of planetary government).

Oddly enough, this has been my complaint since day one of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East.  In 1991, George H.W. Bush (who was no fool) stopped the Allied troops at the Kuwait border.  He did this, it has been revealed, for very specific reasons.  The Iraqi special forces were beaten and sent back to their own boundaries.  Daddy Bush (the only recent president we’ve had with real international savvy) opined that ousting S. Hussein would create a power vacuum in Iraq, one which the US would then have to fill, and Daddy Bush (who knew the ways of the world) had no interest in running the Iraqi government.

QED twenty years and 5000 lives later and no end in sight.

Ditto Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia.  To quote Vizzick from “The Princess Bride” (if you haven’t seen this film, do so now), “rule number one is: never get involved in a land war in Asia.”  Truer words were never spoken.


Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Sherman is deservedly pleased with himself right about now.  As he put it in a letter to a friend “I have brought this army to the Banks of the Chattahoochee 130 miles (yes, as measured on the Interstate) and no part of it has been a day without ample supplies of food, ammunition, clothing and all that is essential”.  (Thank you good people of Georgia, and welcome to the realization that war truly is hell).  Sherman is one of the early practitioners of total war – that civilians must be made to realize the cost of war as well as soldiers.  If the civilian population is not threatened (and remember, up until this time Georgia had been far from the front lines.  Yes there had been shortages, but no real want) then there is not the urgency to call a halt to this nonsense.

Inside Atlanta, people are starting to worry.  More realistically, people are starting to get frantic.  The press insists that Sherman is winning only because he’s “not fighting fairly”, by flanking instead of standing up and slugging it out like a “real” general.  This is starting to have a rather hollow ring to it as the guns get closer and closer, and the citizens of Atlanta can hear distinct battle sounds.

On 17 July, Sherman sends his army forward and reaches Peach Tree Creek, while a branch of his cavalry cuts the railroad lines east of the city.  Told you the railroads were important.  At this time, rumors are spreading that General Johnston is going to be replaced.


Determined not  to make the disastrous Kennesaw Mountain mistake again and attack a strongly-fortified position (see yesterday’s discussion of the Smyrna defenses, which, by the way, still exist in part and are available for viewing), Sherman starts scanning for possible crossings for the Chattahoochee.  There are several fords on the Hooch (as we call it).  Roswell was 16 miles upstream, Soap Creek was about 10 miles away, and Cochran Shoals was within an hour’s jaunt.  The Union Army seizes Roswell on 7 July (much to the delight of the town’s “professional women” who were glad to be out of the war zone).

With Union forces across the river, Johnston has no choice but to abandon his lovely fortifications and pull back to the outer defenses of Atlanta.  A jubilant Sherman joins his men jumping nekkid into the river to wash away two months’ worth of campaign grit and grime; their first real chance for a rest. This is 9 July.  The fun is about to start.

Leaving Kennesaw

By 27 June 1864, Sherman had called off frontal assaults.  He ordered General McPherson to feint to the right of the Confederate lines, and Schofield to demonstrate on the left and threatened General Johnston’s rear.  This succeeded in drawing attention away from the frontal assault. Sherman ordered McPherson to swing behind the divisions of General Thomas (whose battered soldiers had borne the brunt of the frontal assault) and Schofield and reach for the Chattahoochee River.  He hoped that this would convince Johnston that he was being flanked (yet again).

Johnston saw no alternative in his efforts to protect Marietta (railroads) and Atlanta (ditto).  On 2 July, Johnston pulled off of Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman had once more forced Johnston out of a strong position, but at a cost.

Johnston is now on the loose and heading for the Chattahoochee.  Sherman gives chase, thinking that Johnston won’t dare to entrench with his back to the river.  Johnston, however, sets up camp in Smyrna, a tiny town just west of Atlanta, four miles south of Marietta.  His position is a seemingly impregnable six-mile flat horseshoe protecting the railroad bridge (told you so) with both flanks anchored on the river.  Atlanta is less than 10 miles away.

Kennesaw Mountain

We left our friend Joseph E. Johnston perched high above Atlanta (well, 700 feet up) on Kennesaw Mountain.  It’s raining. It’s also 24 June 1864. Union General Sherman has just ordered a frontal attack on the mountain.  The consensus of historians is that General Sherman was either bored or annoyed at the delay in the fighting caused by Johnston’s entrenchment on top of the mountain.  Sherman, no fool, was well aware of the risks and consequences of attacking an entrenched position which commanded the heights. By this time in the War, Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg and the Union attack at Fredericksburg (another story for another time) were already part of the record.  But Sherman got impatient.

Anyway, on 24 June 1864, Sherman ordered a frontal assault on the heights.  His forces struggled through mud (it was, as usual, raining), brambles, brush, undergrowth and tightly packed trees, as well as tightly packed Confederates.  This was not Sherman’s brightest moment.  His plan was for division-sized units to punch two holes through the Confederate lines drive the two-and-a-half miles to the railroad yards (remember the railroad yards) at Marietta, and draw Johnston off his high ground to defend the railroads.

The attack was a colossal failure and resulted in significant loss of life.  Despite the terrain (uphill through woods), the Confederate entrenchments (they still stand – you can walk on and through them and see for yourself how formidable they were) and the hundred-degree heat (yes, this is June in the Deep South, and remember that it has been raining regularly, so humidity and mosquitos are a factor too!), the Federal troops managed to get within a few feet of the Confederate lines but never managed to break through.

Withdrawing from the assault, Sherman’s troops maintain a cordon around the mountain and continue to pressure Johnston on his heights. Sherman attempts several different strategies to get Johnston to leave his position.

More History

When we last heard of General Sherman (also known as Edifice Wrecks in the Deep South), he was bogged down in Dallas, a tiny little town northwest of Atlanta.  It was raining.  This happens here.  The bogging and stalling continued through the beginning of June, 1864, when the good citizens of Georgia screamed loudly enough for action (essentially known as “throw the blighter out of the state”) that Confederate Gen77eral Johnston was compelled to react.  He abandoned his position near Dallas and pulled back (this was not popular with the folks in Atlanta) to Kennesaw Mountain about the first of the month.

Kennesaw Mountain is actually three small mountain-ettes (having just come back here from Denver I can’t dignify anything with an elevation of 700 feet as a mountain), all known as Pine Mountain, Lost Mountain, and Kennesaw Mountain.  They can be seen from the outskirts of Atlanta, and we are now at exit 273 off I-75.  We are also 15 miles from Atlanta.

Johnston dug in on the high ground on 8 June, and held against formidable odds.  Again, “Gone With The Wind” gives a fairly accurate picture of the reaction of Atlantans to battle just outside town.  As an aside, the Park Service holds a re-enactment of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain every year, and you can hear the cannon fire from my place.  It’s that close.

On 15 June, Johnston is forced to abandon Pine Mountain, when Union forces overrun his position.  He consolidates his troops to the remaining two mountains, and the next day loses (ironically) Lost Mountain.  He shrinks his lines to Kennesaw, hoping to lure Sherman into assaulting an unassailable position (namely straight up to a heavily fortified stronghold).  It is raining.  It happens here.

And What Will Be



Keeping an eye on the raspberry bushes just off the trail! The number of folks who use the trail, as compared to the number of folks who actually “commune with nature” while they are on the trail, means that there may be some left for me by the time they’re ripe!  All these people on this glorious path on a lovely day, too busy with their phones, their headsets, and talking at (rather than with) each other to notice the glories of nature around them.


Summer in the South

A walk by the river (the Chattahoochee River) and bright colors.


Me and My Shadow



Midsummer’s Day