by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
I am in the process of rereading The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara. It is a historical fiction book about the last two years of the War of Northern Aggression after Gettysburg. Shaara is an entertaining writer and he has obviously had to do quite a bit of research on his subject to make it believable to discerning readers.
Having said that does not mean, by any means, that I agree with all of his commentary or suppositions.
When I first read the book, I made a few notes in the flyleaf about some things that caught my attention. On page 2 he makes brief comments about some of the men who fought for the North. He says: “Some are barely Americans at all, expatriates and immigrants from Europe, led by officers who do not speak English.” Anyone who knows the history knows who he is talking about here, the socialist and communist Forty-eighters from all over Europe who came here to try to push their agenda on this country because they had not been able to make it work in Europe. But Shaara does not tell us any of that. He ignores it as though it didn’t exist. Indeed, his readers are not supposed to realize it did exist and he ain’t about to let them know. He would not have had to go into great detail. In about three sentences he could have at least given us a brief overview of them. If he’s done any homework at all he has to be aware of who these guys were, yet he says nothing.
On page 88 he mentions Franz Sigel, one of Lincoln’s socialist generals. Of Sigel he only says: “He was a graduate of the German Military Academy, an experienced fighter who had emigrated himself because he happened to pick the wrong side in a brief revolution.” He doesn’t tell you much does he? You are not supposed to realize who Sigel and the other Forty-eighters really were. There was much more to Sigel and his socialist comrades than you get from these perfunctory comments. Sigel just didn’t “pick the wrong side in a brief revolution.” Shaara’s “brief revolution” rocked the entire European continent in 1848-49 and that’s why so many of its participants ended up here, in the North. Austria, Hungary, Italy and Germany, along with others were all involved in Shaara’s “brief revolution” which literally swept through much of Europe.
Shaara does the exact same thing many authors do when writing about the War, he downplays the socialist involvement of many in the North, including many high officers in Lincoln’s armies because that sort of information does not fit the agenda of a righteous North fighting to end evil slavery in the evil South. And if you are going to get anything about the War and the personalities involved in it published in this day and age by any big company you already realize that you have to approach this topic from the position that the North was righteous and virtuous and the South evil and venal. Thinking people realize that isn’t the case, but if you want your stuff out there for a mass audience then you better learn to write it that way, and damn the facts!
If you want to find out the truth about Franz Sigel, who, by the way, was no military whiz kid, you need to read Donnie Kennedy’s and my book Lincoln’s Marxists and I am not trying to make money off of it when I say that. There are no more royalties to be made off our book. However, if you want to begin to see what a large part of the War of Northern Aggression was really all about then you need to read this book.
Franz Sigel was part of an orchestrated push to install socialist and/or communist governments in most of the European countries in 1848-49–and that’s what the Forty-eighters had as their agenda when they came to America. With Lincoln in the White House they were able to accomplish quite a bit of that, both in his administration and those that followed it. We still live with the results of that in our day and it’s time we started to realize that.