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William T. Sherman & the Transnational Challenges of Command in the 19th Century

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  • China Harbor Restaurant

    2040 Westlake Avenue North, Seattle, WA (map)

    47.637394 -122.339867

  • Ethan S. Rafuse will discuss William T. Sherman, Helmuth von Moltke, and the Transnational Challenges of Command in the 19th Century. In the 1890s, Helmuth von Moltke, the great architect of the military campaigns that unified Germany, declared, “The days are gone by when, for dynastical ends, small armies of professional soldiers went to war to conquer a city, or a province, and then sought winter quarters or made peace. The wars of the present day call whole nations to arms . . . As long as nations exist distinct from the other there will be quarrels that can only be settled by force of arms; but, in the interests of humanity, it is to be hoped that wars will become the less frequent.” The victor of Königgratz operated in an interesting time in the evolution of warfare, when political, social, and cultural dynamics were reshaping the western world. These placed a premium on the technical and managerial expertise that only professional officers could provide to armies; but they also, as Moltke noted, made limiting war to professionally managed clashes of organized armies exceedingly difficult. 

    These dynamics were evident in both Moltke’s efforts in the Wars of German Unification of[masked], and in Sherman’s efforts during the American Civil War, as well as in both men’s efforts to shape their armies in peacetime. Yet, one of the curiosities of western military history is how little effort has been devoted to comparative study of the Wars of German Unification and the American Civil War. This presentation draws on the author’s experience teaching officers at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, to offer a study of the victor of Königgratz and the conqueror of Georgia and the Carolinas that will illuminate the challenges they and other commanders faced during the second half of the nineteenth century. 

    Ethan S. Rafuse received a Ph.D. in history and political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and worked as a park ranger at Manassas National Battlefield and the Harry S Truman National Historic Site. Since 2004, he has been a member of the faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is a professor of military history. His published works include McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union, Stonewall Jackson: A Biography, Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy,[masked], George Gordon Meade and the War in the East, Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War and countless other works, articles, essays, and reviews.

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