Download A Stillness at Appomattox (The Army of the Potomac, Volume by Bruce Catton PDF

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By Bruce Catton

Whilst first released in 1953, Bruce Catton, our optimum Civil struggle historian used to be offered either the Pulitzer Prize and the nationwide booklet Award for excellence in nonfiction.  

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Additional info for A Stillness at Appomattox (The Army of the Potomac, Volume 3)

Sample text

But the case is very different, I think, when we come to consider the officer’s responsibilities for the civilian casualties of the battles he fights. As a moral agent, he is also responsible outward—to all those people whose lives his activities affect. This is a responsibility that we all have, since we are all moral agents, and it is, at least in the first instance, non-hierarchical in character. No organizational chart can possibly determine our duties or obligations to other people generally.

The two together, it seems to me, capture the force of the opposed moral understandings and assign to each its proper place. I can’t reconcile the understandings; the opposition remains; it is a feature of our moral reality. There are limits on the conduct of war, and there are moments when we can and perhaps should break through the limits (the limits themselves never disappear). ‘‘Supreme emergency’’ describes those rare moments when the negative value that we assign—that we can’t help assigning—to the disaster that looms before us devalues morality itself and leaves us free to do whatever is militarily necessary to avoid the disaster, so long as what we do doesn’t produce an even worse disaster.

The example in my mind when I first made that argument was the British decision to bomb German cities—specifically the orders issued to bomber crews in the early 1940s to aim at the city center or at residential areas (that is, not at military bases, factories, shipyards, warehouses, and so on). The intention of the British leaders at that point in the war was to kill and terrorize the civilian population, to attack German morale rather than German military might. ≥ In order to display the theoretical issue in all its difficulty, it is enough to say flatly that the intention was wrongful, the bombing criminal; its victims were innocent men, women, and children.

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