In this book, subtitled "Travels of a Military Historian in North America", Sir John Keegan merges the genres of travel writing and military history to demonstrate the overriding importance of geography in determining the battles that shaped America.
"He writes better on war than anyone else in the English-speaking world." (The Telegraph)
war cemeteries signal themselves from a distance. First, there are indications
of a gardened landscape... Inside, the ideal English garden unfolds, roses,
rosemary, bay, myrtle, and shaven turf, across which stretch the rows of
white Portland headstones, carved with a cross, the regimental badge and
title, the name, the age, and the date of death of the fallen soldier.
At the bottom of the stone is space for a family inscription, two lines
that read all the more poignantly for the effort made, often by simple
people, to cram heartbreak into no more than a dozen wrds. The British
war cemeteries move the visitors readily to tears, as they were intended
to do... Death and beauty intermingle in a cunningly contrived Arcadia,
eloquent of the ease which the British fall into romantic communion with
the ideas of self-sacrifice and love of country.
Other countries do things differently. The central point of the French national war cemeteries is the tricolour, symolk of liberty, equality and fraternity, floating above a field of white crosses, symbol of France, eldest daughter of the Church. The Germans bury their dead among sombre evergreens in terrible mass graves; at Langemarck in Belgium, site of the slaughter of the German student volunteers of October 1914, 36000 bodies, the same number as were killed in battle in the seven years of the Vietnam War, lie intermingled in a single plot... those who stand on its edge are brought to wonder at what dark forces underlie the German urge for dominance over the Old World.
- from "Fortifying the Confederacy"
01 - One
02 - The Forts of New France
03 - The Fort at Yorktown
04 - Fortifying the Confederacy
05 - Forts on the Plains
06 - Flying Fortresses
EX - Beyond The Book
#1 ONE ENGLISHMAN'S AMERICA
I love America. I wonder how many Englishmen can say that? Most of us know it too little to feel strong emotion one way or the other. New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Florida holiday resorts - that is the America of most English people. My America is larger altogether. I have visited, for reasons that will emerge, 32 of the 50 states and most of Canada as well, and I have been making those visits for nearly 40 years.
Small American airports, like small French railway stations, are the prelude to something fixed and unchanging.
There are other large countries on Earth - Russia, China, India. Only the Americans have succeeded in creating a society of complete cultural uniformity, in which one can travel for a thousand, two thousand miles in the sureness that at the end of the journey one will emerge from aeroplane or bus or motor car to hear a common language being spoken in identical form, to find people living in identical houses, to see the crowd dressed in identical clothes, to walk streets built in identical style, to find towns served by identical schools, businesses, public utilities.
Finally and miraculously, when the pieces of the jigsaw had been cut out one by one, they had been asembled into the man-made wonder of settled America. It is the most stupendous achievement of military as well as human history.
The transmission by the English of a common language and law to the Americans creates a resemblance entirely delusive. No two peoples on Earth capable of intercommunication can be less alike than they. I love America, but I am not at home there.
America has changed my life has changed my life. America has saved my world, the European world threatened by two pitiless dictatorships which overshadowed my childhood and growing.
They have a secret, the secret to a way of life different from any other lived on earth. What it is, I am still trying to find out.
The Americans looked American, just as in those days the French looked French; the bland, indeterminate, international style had not yet been invented.
Mediation between the old power of the Anglo-Saxon world and the new if the CIA's calling. The tenured ranks of the republic's professional intelligence officers continue to learn difficult languagesm deal in the history of minority peoples, delve into faction, sect and subculture, dissect the dangerous foreign policies of dissident states, discuss the way the world works in a spirit of detached realism some dying echo of which I caught in youth among the dwindling servants of the British world system on which the sun was then setting.
The ethos of American journalism - disrespectful, hypercritical, self confident - is one of the most potent gifts the republic has transmitted to the European world.
Though the Founding Fathers may have wanted to wall off their American world from the rest of the globe, Americans could only begin to make the interior of the continent their own by repeating within it exactly the same process of step-by-step fortification of key points through which Britain had made an empire around the oceans of the world. The interior of America might, in one sense, be seen as an ocean in its own right, an ocean of forest, of grass, of desert, through which navigable ways had to be found and, once found, secured and fortified. Many of those ways had been found before the Declaration of Independence and many forts built.
By the end of the French and Indian Wars of 1756-63, North America was one of the most fortified regions of the world, and the number of forts was added to by the British and Americans in the revolutionary war that followed.
Forts mark the footsteps of the human venture into the interior - French forts the endeavour by a European kingdom to win an empire in the New World without settling it with people, English forts the strategy of another European kingdom to create an alternative empire by sea power.
The network they (forts) form within the geography of North America is an essential key to the understanding of its natural barriers and highways and so to the military and thus the human geography of the continent. Chance was to make the continent home to mankind's most elaborate and sustained effort to found a revolutionary civilization, based on philosophical principle, freed by distance and inaccessibility from external interference with its process of development. No one interested in mankind's history can ignore that of America.
North America is a land for everyone; it is also the land where the strongest do best. That, I suppose, is the theme of this book.
#2 THE FORTS OF NEW FRANCE
In 1645, twenty years after settlement began, there were only 300 French people in Canada, when there were 5000 English in Virginia, and the discrepancy widened apace thereafter; in 1756, at the outbreak of the war which was to settle the issue of control of North America between Britain and France, the French in all their settlements, from Louisbourg on the Atlantic to New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, numbered only 55000, when the British population of the American colonies stood at over a million, or twenty times as many.
British America was booming; its inhabitants were already among the richest people in the world... New France, by contrast, was a pinched and backward society, an overseas administration of the Ministry of Marine dominated by royal officials, bishops and soldiers.
An agreement to destroy fortifications was one of the weightiest concessions an 18th century state make in a treaty to end a war. It literally altered geography to its disadvantage.
France enjoyed enormous advantages in North America over the British, confined as they were by the Appalachian chain to the narrow littoral along the Atlantic. By their possession of the St. Lawrence, the French did indeed hold the key to the continent; from it ran, by way of lake, river, or natural portage, a continental network of communications northward to Hudson Bay, westward to the Rockies, and southward to the Gulf of Mexico. There is a strategic logic to the geography of North America on which Jacques Cartier had stumbled the moment he found the opening of the St. Lawrence estuary.
In June 1756, what was to be the Seven Years War was formally declared. It is a crudity to say that Britain intended to win the war against France in America, while France intended to defend Canada by victories in Europe. Other interests were involved. France had recently made itself an ally of its old enemy Austria, while Britain had taken up with Austria's upstart foe, Prussia. The Austrians and Prussians cared not a whit about America.
In the end, everything
does return to Quebec. It was there that the epic of French America began.
It is here that it concluded in defeat and heartbreak.
The memories press hard, above all on the narrow acres of rolling grassland of the Plains of Abraham. Is there anywhere in the world a more dramatic battlefield - the sombre ramparts of masonry, built and rebuilt by French and British, that close the landscape on the city side... the sudeen fall of the escarpment on the southern edge, the heavy, relentless, seaward outpourings of the St. Lawrence at its foot? I know of none - not Waterloo, not Naseby, not Austerlitz, not even Gettysburg. Here occured what French Canada to this day calls 'la Conquete'.
#3 THE FORT AT YORKTOWN
The origins of the American Revolution - the War of Independence, as the British call it, in their disinclination to recognise how world-changing was the civilisation to which it gave birth - is a subject that divides historians a dozen different ways. One one point, however, all agree: that the defeat of France in Canada... sharply diminished in the eyes of the British colonists the value of the redcoat presence in their territories.
Misunderstandings, poor communications between American and England, local misjudgement by royal officials, interference by colonists, and above all the absence of any legal vision of changed relationship between mother country and its overseas dominions were more to blame for outbreak of war in 1775 than deliberate intent. Retrospectively, it is all too easy to see how the American Revolution might have been averted; the fact that it was not and that thereby the most productive civilisation the world has ever known was brought into being.
Military reality underlay the fiscal disagreements which are usually charted as steps by the colonists and Crown proceeded to conflict. Victory has a price, as every empire has discovered. The defeat of the French, though resolving a crisis, thereby devolved on Britain a responsibility which its enemy had thitherto largely discharged single-handedly: controlling the Indians of the interior.
No sooner was the Seven Years War over than the British government found itself confronted with the need to find nearly half a million pounds a year, then an enormous sum, simply to pay for its overseas military establishment. The British were already the most heavily taxed people in Western Europe, and the threat of this additional impost aroused outcry in parliament.
Britain had conceded command of the sea at the decisive point to the enemy, an almost unprecedented and rarely to be repeated lapse of strategic grip by the Royal Navy. The concession was to spell the end of the six-year-long effort to reimpose royal rule over the American colonies.
#4 FORTIFYING THE CONFEDERACY
Two and a half centuries of the European presence in North American had seen much warfare, but the spaces of the continent had been touched by little of it. The sea and its inlets, the great rivers and their tributaries - St. Lawrence, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Hudson, Mohawk - the Great Lakes by which they are fed or into which they run, appear in hindsight more significent altogether as determinants of events than any of the human players who acted out the drama of campaign in the narrow corridors made available by nature for their efforts. A few Americans whose intelligence attuned them to accept the smallness of man before the vastness of nature in the New World displayed an ability to work with, rather than against, its forces - Samuel Champlain... George Washington... Benedict Arnold... perhaps the greatest of all was Ulysses S. Grant, whose ability to carry in his head a mental map of the Civil War's nodal points made him the master of manoeuvre between them. Most of the rest, however, those who approached warfare in America in terms of European strategy or tactics, owed the defeats they thereby suffered to their failure to comprehend how fundamentally different the New World was from the Old. No one was more guilty of that fault than George B. McClellan.
In retrospect, the Anaconda Plan can be seen as the equivalent of those earlier strategies, devised by the French against the British, by the British and the American colonists against the French, and by the British against the American revolutionaries, to use the geography of the continent as a means of imposing control over one of its regions.
Stonewall Jackon's army had marched some 350 miles between its starting and finishing points, fought five battles, all victories, kept three armies divided, menaced the Federal capital, thrown the enemy's strategy into disarray, and got off scot-free, causing the commanders of 70,000 Union solders to wonder how a general, whose force never exceeded 18,000, could so completely have mystified and misled them... History would make of Stonewall a figure of romance: the nickname itself, won at the first Battle of Bull Run, was part of it, the valley blitzkrieg its substance, his tragic death — shot by one of his own sentries at Chancellorsville after his brilliant flank maneuver which decided the battles — would crown it; Modest and self-effacing, he owes his romantic reputation to history, not to self-seeking.
When bullet hit flesh, but particularly bone, the effect was terrible. Both sides were using some variant of the Enfield rifle, which threw a solid cone of lead, half an inch in diameter and weighing a full ounce, to a range of four or five hundred yards. The small-calibre bullet of the high velocity rifles of the First World War would travel farther but usually made a neat puncture wound. The ball of the old smoothbore musket of King George's War would kill in close-range combat but otherwise, if it hit, would often track along a bone without breaking it or lodge in muscle; some of the Southern troops at Gaines's Mill were still carrying smoothbores. The Enfield bullet, by contract, being both large and fast-moving, could do catastrophic damage, destroying large volumes of tissue or reducing bones to shattered fragments. To suffer wounding in a battle like Gaines's Mill, therefore, was not a passport off the battlefield, but might mean disablement for life or, indeed, death in the immediate aftermath.
The headstones of Glendale cemetery commemorates an America which belongs to the past, an America of exclusive Anglo-Saxonism and simple state patriotism... The English are a people of fierce local loyalties; hereabouts villages only a mile apart insist on their differences from each other. The English of Michigan and Maine who lie at Glendale had preserved that emotion but invested it in the vast tracts of the continent their settler ancestors had taken as home. That would be in the spirit of the English escape from the narrow constriction of their Domesday fields to the wideness of the New World, where space enlarges the individual and his progeny, and time and history are dimensions to be left behind.
#5 FORTS ON THE PLAINS
It was odd to think of the plan for the most complex air-ground-sea campaign in the history of warfare (Operation Desert Storm) being hatched 8000 miles from the scene of action and on the site of an old Indian-fighting fort (Fort Leavenworth) half a continent distant from salt water.
I venerate Dwight Eisenhower. He personifies the American army which I remember coming to save my country in 1942. He also personifies to me the ideal of America: a poor boy, born to God-fearing parents in the continent's heartland, who by hard work and the practice of simple virtue rose to lead his country and eventually the world. Abilene, 164 miles east of Leavenworth on the railroad, is a backwater now. What impressed me most about the town was the display of school books on which Eisenhower was raised. In 1904, when the high school was built, it was teaching French, German and Latin as well as algebra and geometry; 40 years earlier the place had been wilderness. What should have impressed me was its history. Between 1867, when it was 'a small dead place of about one dozen long huts', and 1872, it was the cattle capital of America.
The Indians of the Great Plains may be thought among the most remarkable of all the world's warrior peoples. Between the middle of the 17th century and the end of the 18th century, they acquired two quite disparate instruments of warfare, the horse and the gun, and assimilated them into their culture, and combined their use into a terrifyingly effective military practice. It is difficult to think of any other pre-literate ethnic group which had made so rapid and complete a transition from primitive to sophisticated warriordom in so short a space of time.
Nomadism, anthropologists have conclued, is the happiest of all human ways of life; and because of the happiness it brings, those who enjoy it react with ruthless violence against outsiders who seek to limit or redirect it. Much of the history of the Old World concerns the feckless expectation of nomads that settled and civilised peoples should submit to their depradations, their determination to persist in nomad habits even when their military ruthlessness made them masters of civilised societies, and the equally stubborn determination of sedentary civilisations to beat nomadism back into the remoteness where it originated. On a smaller scale, and in circumstances which pre-ordained the nomads to defeat, the Old World history of conflict between nomadic horse peoples and sedentary civilisation was to be played out in the New World on the Great Plains in the two decades after the Civil War.
Nomads everywhere are a menace to civilisation. Hardy, warlike, elusive, they have throughout history tested the powers and discipline of regular armies to the limit. Enormous systems of fortification - the Great Wall of China, the Russian 'cherta' lines on the Steppe, the Roman 'limes Syriae' - were built over the centuries to contain them and protect the settled lands from their depradations. Almost all nomads, however, have an Achilles heel - flocks of grazing animals that they must protect.
The American Plains
Indians were unique in that they could sustain their nomadic way of life
by parasitism on another nomadic entity, the millions of buffalo... as
long as the buffalo survived, so would the nomadism of the Indians.
By the early 1870s the systematic slaughter of the buffalo diminished year by year their freedom of action; so did the army's adoption of the practice of campaigning in the winter months, when the Indians traditionally hibernated, and of slaughtering their pony herds when found. Neither was a decisive means of control. In any case, neither government nor army sought to extinguish nomadism altogether.
What the government arrived at was a halfway house, a sort of limited nomadism on what were judged generous spreads, the 77,000 square miles of the Sioux reseveration, today South Dakota, and the 147,000 square miles of 'unceded' territory to the west, today Montana, together exceeding in extent the land area of France or Spain. The Sioux. however, did not want a France or a Spain. They wanted their traditional hunting grounds on the Great Plains, half a million square miles, or nearly one-sixth of the United States; they also wanted their traditional right to wage war among themselves and against their tribal enemies, while granting themselves the liberty to practise pillage and rapine against whites who violated their territories. They saw, moreover, little wrong in taking what the Indian agents dispensed on the reservations in hard times, flour, sugar, blankets, and in slipping away to the good life outside the reservation when times were better.
George Custer was not a nice man. Brave, certainly, bold, dashing, quick in decision, physically attractive, both to men and women, sexually alluring, all that; but nice, no. Niceness is not, of course, a prerequisite quality in a successful soldier. Grant, greatest of all American generals, was not nice. The 1st Duke of Wellington, epitome of the English gentleman, was not nice. Washington, mastermind of Revolutionary victory, was not nice. Sherman, hatchet man of the Civil War and Custer's commander on the plains, was not nice. There was about all of those four, however, a redeeming moral quality that makes their lack of niceness beside the point. Wellington fought Napoleon with the relentlessness he did because he thought the Emperor of the French a political charlatan. Washington and Grant fought for the United States because they believed in the principles on which the republic was founded. Sherman fought in order to bring to an end a form of political intercourse, war between the states, for which he had come to feel distate. For all four, war was no more than a means serving a higher object. The object engaged their moral sense, the means aroused in them an ultimate repugnance. Custer, by every account, enjoyed war for its own sake.
successful and unwounded soldiers have often felt the glory of war. It
is the emotion that runs through 'The Iliad'; but Homer's heroes, like
Alexander's Companions and Bohemund's Crusaders, were the offspring of
warrior societies, in which skill-at-arms rode roughshod over higher values.
There ought to be, however, a difference between the emotions of the young warrior and the old in civilised societies. A young warrior enlists to fight. His senior serves to tame the impetuousness of gallants and braves to more sober purposes. Indeed, the role even of the young officer is as much to restrain as to lead... in that context, the failure of an officer to grow up is calamitous. Custer, the 'Boy General', appears never to have grown up.
Custer, with few more
than 200 men under command, had chosen to ride into a concentration of
several thousand Indians, men, women and children, whose warriors outnumbered
the troopers perhaps by 10 to 1. Some of them were better armed than the
soldiers, firing Winchester repeating rifles against single-shot Springfield
The Indians were not only rebelliously aggressive but frantic to defend their women and children from an attack on the village in which, experience told them, sex and age were no protection against slaughter.
Custer's decision to form a front in all directions along the best ground available had been correct; distance robbed it of point... the length of the perimeter Custer tried to hold was 1.8 miles, in which 200 men go 15 times. Individuals 45 feet apart would have had, with their single-shot carbines, no hope of sustaining an impermeable wall of fire against attackers outnumbering them 8 or 10 to 1. Their line would soon have been penetrated. The gravestones tell the rest of the story.
Much of the killing seems to have been done with arrows, though perhaps only after the soldier targets had been shot or ammunition had run out. Stories of Custer's men being overwhelmed by a hail of dropping arrows are unconvincing, since the bow was an effective killing agent only in flat trajectory against a visible target.
In 1890, Frederick Jackson Turner proposed the idea that it was the frontier which made Americans different from the peoples of other continents. Coming anew to a new world, those with the spirit to abandon the Europeanised coast and push inland found an un-European self-reliance and spiritual freedom through their successful struggle over distance, nature and danger, of which one was danger from Indian hostility. Self-reliance and the sense of liberty bled back from the frontier to make all Americans innovators, democrats and wanderers, fiercely nationalistic as individuals but free of particularistic attachment to a locality or homeland that divided Europeans against themselves.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn is not a unique example of the humiliation of white regulars by indigenous warriors... yet in the longer run, the Little Bighorn stands apart from Isandhlwana, Adowa and Annual. Zululand, Ethiopia and Morocco are today self-ruling, or parts of self-ruling, sovereign states which have escaped from European domination and thrown off white empire. Montana, the 'unceded' Indian territory of the 1870s, is a state of the Union. I cannot say I feel things should be otherwise.
There is much that is tragic in the story of Native America's conflict with the European interlopers, particularly in the treatment of the Indians of the temperate forest lands east of the Missisippi by the young republic; the displacement of the Five Civilized Tribes to an utterly alien environment reeks of racialism. Yet the pretensions of the Plains Indians to exclusive rights over the heartland of the continent cannot, it seems to me, stand. Their claim, the claim of less than a million people, to possess territories capable of supporting not only millions more directly settled, but of still more millions outside American waiting to be fed by those territories' products, is the claim not of oppressed primitives but of the selfish rich. Here were not shy, self-effacing marginalists, like the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert or the pygmies of the African rainforests, but proud. warrior nomads, who had taken from the Europeans what they coveted as a means to support their way of life. the horse and the gun, and then refused Europeans any share of the lands which horse and gun equipped them the better to exploit.
Little wonder that the European immigrants who made their way onto the Great Plains in the 19th century, Slavs of Eastern Europe, Russians from the Steppe, peoples who history was suffused with memories of oppression by galloping, sword-wielding, slave-taking Hun, Mongol and Turkish nomads, should have felt so little pity for those other Mongoloid nomads whose interest in life seemed to subsist in hunting, pillaging, and war. If the Indians' fate was to meet head-on in battle people as tough as themselves, veterans of a civil war in which brother had fought brother, Virginians had slain New Yorkers, Ohioans had burnt out Georgians, so be it. There may be a poignant last hurrah about the Little Bighorn. I do not echo it.
#6 FLYING FORTRESSES
Neither of the Wright brothers were to go to college. The boys had nothing better than a high school education, of the sort Eisenhower had had before he secured a nomination to West Point; Latin, algebra, botany.
It was inevitable that a practicable aeroplane, the Wrights' bequest to the world, would be used for war-making purposes. Human ingenuity all too swiftly serves the devil.
The navy and its aircraft
were responsible for the strategic, long-range defence of the American
coastline. After 1938 the Air Corps was allowed to patrol only 100 miles
from the coast. The Flying Fortresses were literally that - airborne equivalents
of Fort McHenry and Fortress Monroe - dedicated to preventing enemy warships
and troopships from entering American harbours and estuaries, just as the
great Federalist system of forts was dedicated to denying entrance with
their cannon. Air power just extended their range a little, that was all.
The Air Corps, however, had a different, secret idea, just as 'Flying Fortess' had an alternative meaning: that of an aircraft capable of defending itself - it mounted 13 machine guns - while dealing disabling blows against the enemy.
The Army Air Forces
lost 52,173 aircrew in combat in the Second World War, four-fifths of them
in Europe and the majority of these from the Eight Air Force bomber crews
who flew from Britain. Each crew had an obligation to fly 25 missions before
earning a rest from operations. There was, roughly, an even chance of surviving
the course; put the other way, there was an even chance of not.
An analysis of the fate of 2051 aircrew who set out on their series of 25 missions over Germany revealed that 1195 were killed or missing in action, over 200 died of wounds and only 599 survived to the end - about one in four of those who had begun.
Bomber Command, the Royal Air Force's equivalent to the Eight Air Force, suffered similar casualties. Over 55000 aircrew were lost in its bombing campaign against Germany.
The human cost of what between them they did to Germany scarcely bares contemplation. Some 600,000 civilians were killed by Allied bombing, almost all in 1942-44, and of those about 120,000 were children and nearly 400,000 women.
At the outset of the
history of Europe and America's joint involvement in the business of warfare
it was Europeans who fought each other in North America for possession
of the content, French against English, British against French. Then, when
the issue seemed settled, it was immediately reopened by Americans settling
to fight Europeans over who should be master. The defeat of the British
appeared to determine that, as the Founding Fathers of the Republic wished,
there should be no more war in America. Americans judged otherwise, and,
in the Civil War, fought each other over the issue of whether there should
be one America or two. The one America of 1865 decided it had one more
war to fight, a war with the native Americans who obstructed its passage
to the Pacific coast and settlement of the Great Plains, a war that native
Americans were foredoomed to lose but protracted nonetheless to the last
decade of the 19th century. The defeat of native America appeared to close
the last act, pacifying the continent for good.
Thereafter honest friendship, as the Founding Fathers had willed, should have ensured its isolation from the world outside in perpetuity. Honesty in friendship negated that hope. In 1917 it drew the United States into the First World War. In 1941 it drew the US into the Second. By a strange and unanticipated circularity, Americans came from 1942 onwards to be fighting in Europe over should be master in that continent, on the side of the French and British, who had once contested ownership of theirs, from bases in the United Kingdom, to which nearly 200 years earlier they had expelled their colonial rulers.
Canada I think I begin to understand, a bit of the European world implanted south of the icecap, alien in geography,familiar in custom and culture. The United States continues to elude me. If I understand it at all, it is through the strange profession that has shaped my life, the study of war.
War is repugnant to
the people of the United States; yet it is war that has made their nation
and it is through their power to wage war that they dominate the world.
Americans are proficient at war in the same way that they are proficient
at work. It is a task, sometimes a duty. Americans have worked at war since
the seventeenth century, to protect themselves from the Indians, to win
their independence from George III, to make themselves one country, to
win the whole of the their continent, to extinguish autocracy and dictatorship
in the world outside.
It is not their favoured form of work. Left to themselves, Americans build, cultivate, bridge, dam, canalise, invent, teach, manufacture, think, write, lock themselves in struggle with the eternal challenges that man has chosen to confront, and with an intensity not known elsewhere on the globe. Bidden to make war their work, Americans shoulder the burden with intimidating purpose.
There is, I have said, an American mystery, the nature of which I only begin to perceive. If I were obliged to define it, I would say it is the ethos - masculine, pervasive, unrelenting - of work as an end in itself. War is a form of work, and America makes war, however reluctantly, however unwillingly, in a particularly workmanlike way. I do not love war; but I love America.
# BEYOND THE BOOK
In an interview with Think Tank on PBS, Keegan discussed how the interplay between geography and demographics affected the conflicts:
On the French and Indian War: "The French had everything going for them geographically. The British had much more going for them demographically. And it was a question in the end of whether geographic advantages were going to prevail over demographic advantages."
On the Revolutionary War: "The Americans had the geographical advantages, and the British, who had the skills and the weapons, never had quite enough troops or ships. I think that's the story of the war of the revolution. They were trying to hold the great cities of the Atlantic sea coast, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, if they could, and Charleston, Savannah further south. They could never find enough troops to hold all of them at the same time."
On the Civil War: "Demography of course favored, greatly favored the North, okay, and geography favored the South. There were roughly 32 million Northerners and only 4 million white Southerners, so it ought to have been a walk-over. But the South, if you think about it, had terrifically strong, natural frontiers. It had the sea coast, the Atlantic sea coast and the Gulf sea coast, neither of them coasts with good natural harbors or big rivers which lead into the interior, except for the Mississippi. Then they had the Mississippi itself, another great natural frontier, very difficult to cross, in fact, of course, impossible to bridge for a long way northwards, very difficult to cross. Then you had the Ohio and its river system flowing into the Mississippi, and that river system is in confederate hands. So finally, you get back to northern Virginia, and this looks like the only gateway."
On the Plains Indians War: "The Plains Indians at the height of their military prowess were among the most effective warriors who have ever lived. One of their great skills was their ability to disappear into the landscape, not be found. Despite the fact that they had huge strings of ponies, they were encumbered with women and children, somehow they could go away. And the cavalry would beat the landscape for miles in every direction and never get a whisper of them."
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