Above the Battle (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Thomas C. Leonard sets several tasks in his volume devoted to what he terms the “culture of war.” He presents the views of common line soldiers and of military professionals, of munitions manufacturers, and of the civilians who were not touched by the four military encounters faced by the American nation between 1861 and 1918—the Civil War, the Indian battles, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. The soldiers show us how they viewed themselves and their enemies and what they chose to remember and what to forget. The “preparedness” proponents such as the manufacturers of weapons discuss the values of always-newer machines of destruction, while the civilian media creates propaganda campaigns to portray the enemy as worthy of destruction.
It is this concept of “worthiness” which most surprises the casual or naïve reader, who might suppose that an enemy is an enemy, a person or a country whose purpose is to destroy him. Such is not always—or even frequently—the case in the wars the author chooses to discuss.
During the Civil War when brother often was pitted against brother, one perhaps strove to look “above the battle” to seek and find principles of freedom and politics which were worth defending and which made the enemy a worthy opponent even though he held opposite views. But as Leonard points out, the Civil War was “at times, orderly and chaotic, chivalrous and cruel.” Above all else, it was not a...
(The entire section is 1618 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
American Historical Review. LXXXIII, December, 1978, p. 1326.
Booklist. LXXIV, January 15, 1978, p. 792.
Choice. XV, April, 1978, p. 292.
Library Journal. CIII, February 15, 1978, p. 458.
Modern Age. XXII, Summer, 1978, p. 321.
Reviews in American History. VI, December, 1978, p. 445.
(The entire section is 31 words.)