Monday, July 09, 2007

Sherman on Testosterone Poisoning

Tyler Cowen is intrigued by the destabilizing influence of unattached young men in society (link—see Truth # 4). He isn’t the first to notice. An earlier exemplar is General William T. Sherman, reporting from his Army headquarters in Mississippi in 1863:

The young bloods of the South: sons of planters, lawyers about towns, good billiard-players and sportsmen, men who never did work and never will. War suits them, and the rascals are brave, fine riders, bold to rashness, and dangerous subjects in every sense. They care not a sou for niggers, land, or any thing. They hate Yankees per se, and don’t bother their brains about the past, present or future. As long as they have good horses, plenty of forage, and an open country, they are happy. This is a larger class than most men suppose, and they are the most dangerous set of men that this war has turned loose upon the world. They are splendid riders, first-rate shots, and utterly reckless. Stewart, John Morgan, Forrest, and Jackson, are the types and leaders of this class. These men must all be killed or employed by us before we can hope for peace.

William T. Sherman, Memoirs 361 (Library of America 1960)

That would be Jeb Stewart, more or less the model of the dashing cavalryman (link), and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a much nastier piece of business—a sometime slave trader, a ferocious warrior and one who may or may not have participated in the founding of the Ku Klux Klan (link). By Jackson, I assume he means Stonewall Jackson, but this is an odder choice. Jackson was a brilliant commander, but he himself was a model of order and restraint (link).

And yes, Sherman uses the N-word. His attitude towards African-Americans is complicated and controversial but a fascinating study in its own right. Nothing to be gained by polishing him here.

It’s interesting to compare Sherman’s views of the young bloods of the south with his advice to his own army on its being disbanded (link).

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