Monday, September 17, 2012

Borodino 200 / Antietam 150

Borodino and Antietam: the bloodiest single-day battle of the Napoleonic Wars took place two hundred years ago this month while the bloodiest single-day battle of the American Civil War transpired one hundred and fifty years ago on this very date.

These battles were fought on a gargantuan scale. At Borodino, Napoleon's French Imperial forces attacked the Russian Imperial Army, resulting in a nightmare that collectively sucked in 285,000 men and ended with 72,000 casualties. Borodino was followed fifty years later at Antietam, Maryland, when Union forces attacked Confederates in another epic battle, this one involving 113,000 men and resulting in 23,000 casualties.*
*Numbers approximate.

Antietam and Borodino are testaments to men's apparent inability to reach a rational negotiated settlement without turning to massed violence. Or, it may simply be humankind's built-in fate to fight amongst ourselves.

In both cases, Borodino and Antietam, power was at play, a real headbangers' ball. At Borodino on September 7, 1812, empires led by autocrats went for broke, while at Antietam (or Sharpsburg, as Confederates dubbed it) on September 17, 1862, two fledgling democracies tried to force each other to their desires -- or at least their ruling classes did. One slave-based (the pro-States' Rights Confederate States of America) and not that different in their leaders' minds from, say, the ancient Greeks, the other something a little different, a democratic republic possibly striving for a more egalitarian democracy (the Federal Union, i.e. United States of America) -- at least in its most vivid dreams and according to its most eloquent intellectuals, particularly a small handful of visionaries such as Frederick Douglass, and also according to its most pragmatic, evolving institutional leaders, epitomized by President Abraham Lincoln. Just days after Antietam, Mr. Lincoln proclaimed a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in Confederate territory effective New Year's Day, 1863. Lesser known in North America, perhaps, is the fact that Czar Alexander II had already declared emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861. 

War & Peace. Do we collectively enjoy war and if we don't, why is war the norm and peace the exception?  

Today's Rune: The Self.  (Maps: Wiki Commons).



Adorably Dead said...

From what I've been told, war brings in money, or it used to. But that's just a theory from some of my friends.

I tend to go more towards the whole 'The World Is Made Of Jerks' theory myself.

the walking man said...

Someone has to figure out what to do with the evolution of technology. For God's sake you know we can't make peace with it, that would just leave too many people to consume it.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't see how to argue that we don't collectively enjoy war.