Wig-Wags

Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Archive for July 2008

Manet and the American Civil War – 2 The Artist

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Continuing from post 1 here, in this post I explore the life of Edouard Manet, the artist. Born in 1832 to upper-middle class parents, Manet’s father was a magistrate who had hopes that his oldest son would follow him in his profession. But young Edouard had no interest in law and though attracted to art, decided to go to sea. But he couldn’t pass the French Navy’s entrance exam. Authors Wilson-Bareau and Degener provide a fascinating glimpse into the system by which young men could qualify for careers in the French Navy in their book Manet and the American Civil War which provides the reference for this series. A sixteen year old Manet would spend several months aboard the vessel, Le Havre et Guadeloupe on a trip for the sons of the wealthy who had failed the exam and could qualify to retake it if they sailed across the equator. The ship was staffed with teachers tasked with drilling the boys in the topics required for the naval exam. Manet failed the test again regardless but was exposed to the sea to a greater extent than most Frenchmen. (Wilson-Bareau and Degener, 12-13)

Manet had another tie to the military. His interest in drawing and art was sparked by an uncle who was “attached to the [Army] artillery school who spent a lot of his time sketching…” (Wilson-Bareau and Degener, 13-14)

“The schoolboy soon fell under the spell of blended lines and blurred cross-hatching. [Note: For a great glimpse of crosshatching, see a post at the blog, Big Time Attic here.) From that moment on, he had only one calling. He neglected his compositions and translations and filled the blank pages of his notebooks not with schoolwork but with portraits, landscapes, and fantasies.” (Ibid)

This diversion would lead Manet to produce arguably one of the most famous paintings of the naval engagement between the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama, that took place in June of 1864 off France’s Normandy coast.

The Battle of U.S.S Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama

Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, Manet and the American Civil War, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

In the next post, the ships engaged in the battle.

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Manet and the American Civil War – 1

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A recently received a gift of a book that I am thrilled to add to my library. It is, Manet and the American Civil War published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [which I had the opportunity to visit for the first time this year], and Yale University Press. It is co-authored by Juliet Wilson-Bareau, “an independent art historian based in London” and David C. Degener, an independent researcher based in San Francisco.

The Battle of U.S.S Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama

Click on image to be directed to my bookshelf listing.

 Manet and the American Civil War

  • Published on: 2003-06-10
  • Publisher: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Yale University Press, New Haven and London
  • ISBN: 0-300-09962-2 
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 86 pages
  • The book’s primary focus is the battle of the U.S.S. Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama. This from the front flap which provides an eloquent introduction to the book which I could not better….

    “On June 19, 1864, the United States warship Kearsarge sank the Confederate raider Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France, in one of the most celebrated naval engagements of the American Civil War. The battle was widely reported in the illustrated press and riveted public attention on both sides of the Channel. When Kearsarge later anchored off the French resort town of Boulonge-sur-Mer it was thronged by curious visitors, one of whom was the artist Edouard Manet.  Although he did not witness the historic battle, Manet made a painting of it partly as an attempt to regain the respect of his colleagues after being ridiculed for his works in the 1864 Salon. Manet’s picture of the naval engagement and his portrait of the victorious Kearsarge belong to a group of his seascapes of Boulonge whose unorthodox perspective and composition would profoundly influence the course of French paintings.”

    In part 2, more on Edouard Manet followed in subsequent posts about the two ships and their encounter across the Atlantic.

    Note that I have added a shelf to my online library titled “Civil War Art and Artists.” You can access that shelf here. I will shortly cross-reference this book on the Naval History shelf as well.

    Technology in U.S. Military History – 4

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    This post completes this series on Technology in U.S. Military History. See post 1 here, 2 here, and 3 here.

    P. Balaram in his editorial for Current Science titled “Science, Technology and War,” describes the widespread use of incendiaries and chemical defoliants which, he suggests, “reached its peak during the Vietnam War, with the United States resorting to napalm bombs and the spraying of herbicides like Agent Orange (dioxins),” with, unfortunately, “little regard for human toxicity.”

    Alex Roland describes the predictable phenomena that “armed services in the United States found themselves competing with each other to claim precedence in fielding the same technology.” Krepinevich confirms this in his description of the competition between the Army and the Air Force in the formation of the “airmobile concept.”

    Interestingly, Roland claims that “the drive toward ever more sophisticated weaponry reached a climax of sorts in the American decade (1965-1975) of the Vietnam struggle for independence (1945-1975).” As Krepinevich also clearly argues, “prompted in part by the superiority of its weaponry, the United States military undertook the Vietnam mission of fighting a guerrilla insurgency with conventional arms developed for war on the plains of Europe.

    ”]

    Sensing devices were introduced to locate the enemy. The helicopter gunship evolved in the course of the war, a combat expedient to give Americans superior mobility and firepower in the face of an elusive and potent enemy. Strategic bombing targeted the enemy’s infrastructure as if North Vietnam was an industrialized state with the same vulnerabilities as the United States.”

    But the fact remains that the advanced technological prowess brought to bear by the United States in the Vietnam conflict did not result in a victory. Rather, as Roland so aptly puts it, while exacting a horrific toll, the side with “superior technology lost to superior strategy.” So while the United States continues to lead the world in the technologies of war, a support of Millet and Maslowski’s premise, equal prowess in other facets of war are required to ensure success, a notion that remains true today.

     

    Sources:
    P. Balaram, “Science, Technology and War,” Current Science, Vol. 84, Number 7, 10 April 2003. http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/apr102003/859.pdf Accessed 13 July 2008.

    Alex Roland, “Technology and War,” http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_4/roland2.html
    Accessed 13 July 2008.

    Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.  The Army and Vietnam. Reprint. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

     Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America, xiii.

    Technology in U. S. Military History – 3

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    This post continues on the theme introduced in post 1 here and continued in post 2 here.

    The growth in level of focus that the United States has placed on technology as manifested by the Vietnam War era cannot be stated better than by Andrew F. Krepinevich (The Army and Vietnam) who posited that the United States’ army was “equipped with the most sophisticated technology in an age when technology had assumed the role of a god of war.” [1]

    Public Domain, Wikicommons

    The helicopter is Sikorsky H-19. Army Infantry troops about to board helicopters to be transported to front lines, at the 6th transportation helicopter, eighth Army, in Korea. NARA FILE#: 111-SC-422077 Camera Operator: PFC. E. E. GREEN Date Shot: 24 Dec 1953. Source: Public Domain, Wikicommons


    Air power technologies continued to grow in importance throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The helicopter was used in the Korean War for both removal of wounded and the shuttling of commanders to and from the front. Use of helicopters in Vietnam was extensive as a tool for troop mobility and weapon. Roy E. Appleton (East of Chosin) describes the masterful albeit not flawless use of Marine Corsairs in support of ground troops and their ability to deliver deadly machine gun and rocket fire as well as napalm. [2] Use of radio communication between ground personnel (air controllers of the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) and fighter and bomber pilots was also impressive in ensuring that strikes hit their mark.

    Public Domain, Wikicommons

    A Vought F4U-4B Corsair of U.S. Marine Corps fighter squadron VMF-214 Blacksheep being readied for takeoff between August and November 1950 on the escort carrier USS Sicily.

    More in Part 4. 

    [1] Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. The Army and Vietnam. Reprint. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

    [2]  Roy E. Appleman. East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950. Reprint. Texas A&M University Press, 1991

    Technology in U.S. Military History – 2

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    This post continues on the theme introduced in post 1 here.

    The growth in technological firepower was certainly evident in the Korean War. Roy Appleton in his fascinating work, East of Chosin (see previous post here) brings to life the murderous effect of mobile artillery including the M19 full-track (dual-40) below as used by trained American soldiers in their desperate defense of positions east of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

    M-19 full-track (dual 40)

    M-19 full-track (dual 40)

    The two 40-mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns which were mounted on revolving turret wreaked havoc among attacking Chinese soldiers as long as ammunition held out as did quad-50s.

    Chinese Soldiers - Korean War Casualites

    Chinese soldiers in Korea.

     

    That said, the effects of the extreme cold and lack of fuel also showed the weapon’s vulnerability as a mobile gun platform. Tanks were used by the American’s as well although Appleman covers well their limitations on icy terrain in Korea. The American’s use of 75-mm recoilless rifle (below) was also deadly, especially when in the hands of trained gunners. Likewise, the use by Chinese soldiers of American-made Thompson submachine guns showed the destructive power of automatic small arms against U.S. forces.

    75-mm. Recoilless Rifle in Action

    75-mm. Recoilless Rifle in Action

    More in part 3.

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    Technology in U.S. Military History – 1

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    My current course on Studies in U. S. Military History (see courses page here) is drawing to a close. We have been examining the last of Millett and Maslowski’s major themes which is that “the United States has used increasingly sophisticated technology to overcome logistical limitations and to match enemy numbers with firepower.” [i] I find this supportable in the sense that it has been possible to see a steady progression of technological prowess over time. Nowhere, arguably, have technological advancements been felt more than in the arena of weaponry.

    Patent drawing for R.J. Gatling's Battery Gun, 9 May 1865. (Source: Wikicommons, Public Domain)

    Professor of history Alex Roland (Duke University) posits that “before the twentieth century, most soldiers and sailors ended their careers armed as they were at the beginning. New weapons were introduced slowly, if at all, and most professionals resisted the uncertainties new arms introduced.” But, Roland asserts, “by the second half of the twentieth century, this traditional suspicion of new weapons had changed to a reckless enthusiasm.”  The phenomena of obsolescence on introduction entered the national psyche in that, by the time many “weapons entered service, their successors were being planned. This was especially true in large-scale weapons systems such as ships and aircraft. It even found its way into thinking about less complex military technologies, such as radios and computers.” [ii]

    More in Part 2. Note I provide a link below to Professor Roland’s excellent article titled “Technology and War” which can be read online.

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    ——-For the Common Defense

    [i]   Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America, xiii.

    [ii] Alex Roland, “Technology and War,” http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_4/roland2.html Accessed 13 July 2008.

    Coggins’ Arms and Equipment of the Civil War

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    I’m a fan of Jack Coggins. An author and illustrator, Coggins has captured some golden nuggets of information in his book,  Arms and Equipment of the Civil War. He has also written and illustrated a number of other mlitary history books no doubt influenced by his tour of duty as illustrator for YANK magazine during World War II. Members of Coggins extended family have put up a website (quite well done) by way of tribute to Jack. You can reach it here.

    Arms and Equipment of the Civil War

  • Published on: 2004-04-02
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 160 pages