By Bruce Catton

A desirable examine of the 1st sleek conflict and its impact on American tradition.

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But the Civil War is clearly worth a great deal of re-examination, not because it sheds light on anything soldiers may have to do in the latter half of the twentieth century but simply because it shows how the American people made their democracy work in a time of most extraordinary trial and complexity. It may help us if we forget the stereotype and look on the Civil War as primarily a political rather than a military Page 30 affair: a tragic, bloody, and infinitely costly extension of American politics.

They would respond to leadership, but it had to be the kind of leadership that talked their own language. In plain English, it had to be political leadership. Yet there was a huge pitfall in this path. The war might well be a violent extension of the political campaign of 1860of the whole political struggle which had made the decade of the 1850's the haunted, tormented decade of American historybut it could not be made a straight Republican war. There was, to be sure, an important segment in the Republican party which wanted to do it that way, but if it were, the war would inevitably have been lost.

It destroys the old bases on which society stood; and because it does, it compels men to go on and find the material for new bases, whether they want to do so or not. It has become so all-encompassing and demanding that the mere act of fighting it changes the conditions under which men live. Of all the incalculables which men introduce into their history, modern warfare is the greatest. If it says nothing else it says this, to all men involved in it, at the moment of its beginning: Nothing is ever going to be the same again.

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