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Tags Civil War history , discovery channel , media criticism , Pennsylvania history , The History Channel

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Old 16th December 2014, 09:08 AM   #1
barehl
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The History Channel's Lack Of History

I was watching a show on THC about Gettysburg. Amazingly they repeated several myths. They claimed that the battle began because Confederate soldiers were looking for shoes. There was no shoe factory or warehouse in Gettysburg. The Confederate soldiers would have had to have been incredibly stupid to believe they could get shoes for an army of 75,000 from a town of only 2,000. That never happened.

The show suggested that the first day's victory for the Confederates was only a skirmish and that the real fighting began the following day after the Union soldiers had retreated to Cemetery Ridge. Ridiculous. On the first day, the Union army was in defensive positions along Seminary Ridge, Oak Ridge, and Blocher's Knoll after pulling back from McPherson's Ridge and Herr Ridge. 50,000 men were involved in the battle and there were over 15,000 casualties, which would make this the 12th worst battle in the entire war.

It was next suggested that if Lee had beaten the Union army that he could have threatened Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Well, he certainly could have threatened Washington DC. However, I'm not sure what good it would have done. The US capital had been in Philadelphia and New York as well as several other places. It also didn't seem to have any great effect when the capitol was burned during the War of 1812. Strangely enough, Lee had originally wanted a second Confederate force to advance on Washington DC while he was invading with his force. I'm puzzled what he thought could have been gained by this.

Baltimore is questionable. Richmond VA only had a population of 38,000 in 1860 and held about 75% of the all the manufacturing in the Confederacy. The loss of Richmond would have been crippling and it could have been taken with a fairly small army. Baltimore had a population of 212,000 and was mostly a sea port. If the Washington garrison had retreated to Baltimore, they could probably have raised enough militia to hold out until relieved. Also, I don't see any big benefit to attacking Baltimore nor any ability to hold onto it. Baltimore was actually larger than the biggest city in the Confederacy, New Orleans, with 160,000. Cincinnati, Boston, and St. Louis were all about the size of New Orleans.

Philadelphia would have been impossible since it had a population of over half a million. It did in fact have a higher population than the entire state of Alabama. It's population was about half the size of the entire state of Virginia which was the highest population state in the Confederacy. Even if through some miracle, Lee's army could have sacked Philadelphia, this would not have crippled the Federal effort since Philadelphia was only about 1/3rd of Union manufacturing. The most effective thing Lee could have done would have been to destroy railroads and canals that ran across Pennsylvania. They probably would have had an easier time attacking Pittsburgh which only had a population around 80,000. It too was an important manufacturing city. Charles Dickens described it in 1841 as like Birmingham in England and famous for its ironworks. 3,000 cannon were cast there during the Civil War.
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Old 16th December 2014, 10:31 AM   #2
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These days, expecting history on The History Channel is like expecting science on The Science Channel. Although I must admit I kind of enjoy American Pickers.
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Old 16th December 2014, 11:04 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
These days, expecting history on The History Channel is like expecting science on The Science Channel. Although I must admit I kind of enjoy American Pickers.
Pickin' & Grinnin'...........
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Old 16th December 2014, 12:22 PM   #4
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It is rather sad....I can recall when both History and the Discovery Network had some quality programming...... But more and more nonsense began to intrude. I wrote to both; and recieved replies talking about the "entertainment value" of such absurdities as "Ancient Aliens" and other such.

Got so that the only thing I'd watch was Mythbusters, and I loved their very active message board. Then they dropped that and I don't think I've watched anything since.
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Old 16th December 2014, 12:35 PM   #5
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I remember going camping with my family to Gettysburg (one of the best vacations ever) when I was ten. I studied that entire battlefield and listened to the locals. There was talk of shoes.
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Old 16th December 2014, 02:32 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by barehl View Post
...
It was next suggested that if Lee had beaten the Union army that he could have threatened Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Well, he certainly could have threatened Washington DC. However, I'm not sure what good it would have done. The US capital had been in Philadelphia and New York as well as several other places. It also didn't seem to have any great effect when the capitol was burned during the War of 1812. Strangely enough, Lee had originally wanted a second Confederate force to advance on Washington DC while he was invading with his force. I'm puzzled what he thought could have been gained by this.
...

In agreement with the thrust of your post, but this didn't seem to fit well.

Are you counting the pre-constitution days for "several other places" besides NYC, Philly and Washington being the capital, because the country didn't really exist in any recognizable form at that time. Since 1789, it's been only those 3 cities, and it's been only Washington since 1800. The burning of Washington came only 25 years into the (constitutional) nation's existence, when the population was only a quarter of what it was during the Civil War, so the impact of capturing the capital would be quite different.

On the other hand, quite true that Washington was not important industrially, but then this is the real point -- The Union fought the war with one hand tied behind its back because it could, due to humongous industrial capacity as compared to the almost completely agrarian Confederacy.

Last edited by hgc; 16th December 2014 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 17th December 2014, 01:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
It is rather sad....I can recall when both History and the Discovery Network had some quality programming...... But more and more nonsense began to intrude. I wrote to both; and recieved replies talking about the "entertainment value" of such absurdities as "Ancient Aliens" and other such.
America Unearthed is almost worse than Ancient Aliens. They are both junk science of the worst kind.

We get BBC Knowledge here as well as THC and TDC, and I have to say its programming is superior to the other two in every way, although still too much "Reality TV" content for my liking.
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Old 17th December 2014, 03:56 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
It is rather sad....I can recall when both History and the Discovery Network had some quality programming...... But more and more nonsense began to intrude. I wrote to both; and recieved replies talking about the "entertainment value" of such absurdities as "Ancient Aliens" and other such.
Did you fire back that they should send those to the Entertainment Channel ?
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Old 17th December 2014, 04:03 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
It is rather sad....I can recall when both History and the Discovery Network had some quality programming...... But more and more nonsense began to intrude. I wrote to both; and recieved replies talking about the "entertainment value" of such absurdities as "Ancient Aliens" and other such.
The change over came when they had to start finding new material instead of showing old stuff from the days when history programs had to have at least a homeopathic amount of history in them. These days the bean counters seem to be selecting the shows they buy.
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Old 17th December 2014, 06:50 AM   #10
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A few months ago, I listened to an interview with the current head of the National Geographic Society, talking about the increasing number of....Questionable shows on their TV channel.

He said that the National Georgraphic organization only owned about 40% of the TV channel. That the rest was owned by what amounted to a promotion group....And that they were responsible for the increasing number of realilty shows.
He also said they were trying to negotiate a programming schedule that better reflected the goals of the organization.
May it come to pass....
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Old 17th December 2014, 07:19 AM   #11
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I agree with the OP in terms of THC no longer teaching much of anything accurate. Sad. I also remember The Learning Channel actually teaching stuff too, and not being full of crimes against humanity shows like "Tiaras and Toddlers" and "Honey Boo Boo" (whatever those ghastly shows are called). I also miss the fall of the Discovery Channel.

Bascially, I have no need for cable TV anymore and instead watch shows through Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Ted Talks applications on my Roku device. Saves me a bunch of money too! I let my wallet do the talking.
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Old 17th December 2014, 07:19 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Did you fire back that they should send those to the Entertainment Channel ?
Not sure they would qualify for that channel either.
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Old 17th December 2014, 09:01 AM   #13
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I remember the good old days when the Discovery Channel and TLC actually had interesting shows. I liked the History Channel, too, except that it seemed a little too Hitler-centric at times. "Modern Marvels" had some interesting and informative episodes.
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Old 17th December 2014, 09:23 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by jhunter1163 View Post
I remember the good old days when the Discovery Channel and TLC actually had interesting shows. I liked the History Channel, too, except that it seemed a little too Hitler-centric at times. "Modern Marvels" had some interesting and informative episodes.
It may have been the "Hitler Channel," but at least it stuck to actual Hitler, not Reptilian Hitler.
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Old 17th December 2014, 04:45 PM   #15
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Used to be that there were several good programmes each week and you could always find something worthwhile to watch. Now you have a succession of Survivor (insert location here) programmes and programmes about catching crabs/tuna/abalone/swordfish among the loads of other dross. Really, does it take 10 seasons to show that crab fishing in the north latitudes is dangerous? This could have been adequately explained in a couple of half-hour programmes at most.

I hang out for REAL SCIENCE programmes like Cosmos, programmes about astrophysics, the universe etc. Almost anything hosted by Brian Cox or Neil DeGrasse Tyson is streets ahead of the reality garbage we get fed day after day, week after week, years after year.

Perhaps THC and TDC should get together and make The Reality Channel, then all the Bear Grylls, Survivor type rubbish can go there, and leave THC and TDC for real science.

As for Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed, well, there is already a channel to accommodate them... The Sci-Fi channel
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Old 17th December 2014, 05:44 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
A few months ago, I listened to an interview with the current head of the National Geographic Society, talking about the increasing number of....Questionable shows on their TV channel.

He said that the National Georgraphic organization only owned about 40% of the TV channel. That the rest was owned by what amounted to a promotion group....And that they were responsible for the increasing number of realilty shows.
He also said they were trying to negotiate a programming schedule that better reflected the goals of the organization.
May it come to pass....
That would be Fox, which probably explains Alaska State Troopers and Border Wars.
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Old 17th December 2014, 05:47 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
That would be Fox, which probably explains Alaska State Troopers and Border Wars.
North Woods Law, Southern Justice, etc.
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Old 17th December 2014, 06:02 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Cleon View Post
It may have been the "Hitler Channel," but at least it stuck to actual Hitler, not Reptilian Hitler.
I can't decide whether you Godwinned the thread here or not.
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Old 17th December 2014, 06:11 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by jhunter1163 View Post
I can't decide whether you Godwinned the thread here or not.
More like Tsoukalos'd it.
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Old 17th December 2014, 06:21 PM   #20
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To return to the opening post, a couple of misconceptions to your misconceptions....

The troops immediately moving on Gettysburg the morning of 1 July were Harry Heth's division, probably less than 5,000 men...and they were the ones looking for shoes (among other items), because the South did a lousy job of keep their troops supplied with such equipment. Sure, there were no shoe factories, but probably more than a few stores and warehouses that might have the sort of things soldiers needed (and they would have paid for them, BTW...with Confederate dollars....)

It was Heth's division that bumped into Buford's calvary and started the fighting that continued to drag troops in (since both sides were concentrating in that direction anyway, due to most of the local roads meeting there).

You are quite right that the first day's fighting tends to get short shrift, because it was a major action involving two full Union Corps and about 2/3 of Lee's forces.

As for moving on Washington, Baltimore, or Philadelphia if he had won the battle, Lee had no intention of capturing any of those places, or if by some chance he did occupy them he would have left as fast as he could. As a tactician, he would not want to get caught inside a city that could be cut off by Union troops and losing his supply line (and route back to the Confederacy).

But he would have threatened those places. Because in the Strategic sense, the sense of panic and confusion he could cause might lead to the North seeking peace--or at least having Lincoln in a weakened position that would lead to his loss in the 1864 election.

So Lee would have manuvered to cause the maximum panic on the Northern side, while still leaving himself the ability to return to Virginia when and if sufficient Federal reinforcements showed up.
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Old 17th December 2014, 06:49 PM   #21
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I practically grew up on The Discovery Channel. Give me a documentary on bridge building, or Roman seige weapons, or dinosaurs, and I was happy as a clam. Sadly, there's nothing worth watching anymore. I don't even watch TV anymore, to be honest. Between the crap shows on TV, the wife and me having VERY different opinions on what constitutes "good TV", and the proliferation of online video entertainment sources that can be watched while playing Minecraft, I see no need.

Originally Posted by Hutch
The troops immediately moving on Gettysburg the morning of 1 July were Harry Heth's division, probably less than 5,000 men...and they were the ones looking for shoes (among other items), because the South did a lousy job of keep their troops supplied with such equipment.
Well, there WAS that small issue of the blockaid. But yeah, I see no reason to doubt that first contact for that battle was caused by soldiers sent out to hunt for supplies. It's not inherently implausible, and given the state of the Confederate army extremely likely.

Quote:
As for moving on Washington, Baltimore, or Philadelphia if he had won the battle, Lee had no intention of capturing any of those places, or if by some chance he did occupy them he would have left as fast as he could. As a tactician, he would not want to get caught inside a city that could be cut off by Union troops and losing his supply line (and route back to the Confederacy).
That was my understanding as well. The point of his invasion into the North wasn't to capture territory; the South never wanted to take over the Union, just for the Union to leave them alone. The whole point was to break the Union's fighting spirit. The South knew it couldn't win in terms of military hardware or manpower (sorry, ladies, it was the 1800s); their only real hopes were to hold off defeat until the Union concluded that the war wasn't worth fighting, or to get supplies and re-enforcements from Europe (not a vane hope, as the South was a major source of cotten, but the blockaid sort of ruined that plan). It wasn't about taking territory; it was about cutting into the heart of the Union, and making the population believe that they wouldnt' be safe until the war ended.

Such tactics work, too. It's basically the same thing Sherman and Sheridin did, only far less effective. It's nearly impossible to win a defensive war. Go on the offensive, though, and hit folks where they live, and they suddenly tend to learn the values of pacifism. You don't need to actuallly imapct the nation's military might; you just need the people to tell their government "We really, really don't want to do this anymore", and you win.
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Old 17th December 2014, 07:25 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Did you fire back that they should send those to the Entertainment Channel ?
That would only work if they were interesting to any one above low grade morons, incompetents and/or the happily ignorant...........
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Old 17th December 2014, 07:28 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Used to be that there were several good programmes each week and you could always find something worthwhile to watch. Now you have a succession of Survivor (insert location here) programmes and programmes about catching crabs/tuna/abalone/swordfish among the loads of other dross. Really, does it take 10 seasons to show that crab fishing in the north latitudes is dangerous? This could have been adequately explained in a couple of half-hour programmes at most.

I hang out for REAL SCIENCE programmes like Cosmos, programmes about astrophysics, the universe etc. Almost anything hosted by Brian Cox or Neil DeGrasse Tyson is streets ahead of the reality garbage we get fed day after day, week after week, years after year.

Perhaps THC and TDC should get together and make The Reality Channel, then all the Bear Grylls, Survivor type rubbish can go there, and leave THC and TDC for real science.

As for Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed, well, there is already a channel to accommodate them... The Sci-Fi channel
They are too sciency for the Skiffy Channel.
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Old 17th December 2014, 09:21 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Senex View Post
I studied that entire battlefield and listened to the locals. There was talk of shoes.
Early's men occupied Gettysburg four days before the battle and looked for shoes. There weren't any to be had. Yet, we are supposed to believe that Hill was unaware of this and gave permission to Heth to lead a force to the little town of Gettysburg to look for shoes. And, we are supposed to believe that Heth sent an entire division as a foraging party. That does seem unlikely. The truth seems to be that there were some skirmishes before that day and Heth decided either alone or with Hill's blessing to attack a smaller Union force. However, this was in violation of orders from Lee.

It seems that even Shelby Foote was reporting this myth (from Heth's later letter) as fact:

".... and hearing that Early's men had overlooked a supply of shoes while passing through Gettysburg the week before, Heth sent his lead brigade forward next morning, June 30, to investigate the rumor. Its commander, Brigadier General Johnston Pettigrew, mindful of Lee's warning not to bring on a battle until the whole army was at at hand, prudently withdrew when he encountered Federal troopers along a creekbank west of town, not knowing what number of blue soldiers of all arms might be lurking in the rear of the cavalry outposts. He returned to Cashtown late that afternoon, having put his men into bivouac about midway between there and Gettysburg, and reported on the day's events. Heth did not think highly of such wariness. What was more, he wanted those shoes. So he took Pettigrew to Hill and had him repeat the account of what he had seen. Hill agreed with Heth. "The only force at Gettysburg is Cavalry," he declared "probably a detachment of observation."
Meade's infantry forces were still down in Maryland, he added. "and have not struck their tents."
Heth was quick to take him up on that. " If there is no objection," he said, "I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes."

Again, the overlooked supply was a dubious claim at best. Early's men would have checked anything obvious. You can't stick 1,000 pairs of shoes in a cupboard somewhere. Presumably they checked the buildings at the train depot.
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Old 18th December 2014, 08:57 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by barehl View Post

Again, the overlooked supply was a dubious claim at best. Early's men would have checked anything obvious. You can't stick 1,000 pairs of shoes in a cupboard somewhere. Presumably they checked the buildings at the train depot.
Yes, and even 1,000 pair of shoes would shod only a small fraction of the dead on that battlefield.

The battle of Gettysburg is a battle worthy of great debates and deliberation. I mentioned that vacation to my 82 year old mom recently (because I recalled the vacation here) and she blames Longstreet for sitting the battle out. We all champion our different beliefs. The battle not only changed history but is full of metaphors.
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Old 18th December 2014, 10:07 AM   #26
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I'm in G'burg a couple times a year (my dad lives just outside of town).

It's a fascinating place, and I go to the battlefield every visit. I learn something new every time.

As many times as I go, though, I still can't wrap my head around just how massive the battle really was. Incredible.
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Old 18th December 2014, 10:17 PM   #27
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T.V. is ridiculous -- I have over 800 channels but there's never anything worthwhile to watch. The military channel used to be somewhat okay (they were obsessed with World War II) but now that they've gotten a new name, their programming has gone completely downhill. The History channel was compromised long ago, so then H2 came out and was okay for a few seasons but now it has been compromised too. I turn on the news channels and they're talking about the same thing the entertainment news people are talking about -- celebrities and movies. They also talk about the same things that ESPN talks about. The so-called "good network series shows" have plot holes so blatant and as large as a mountain. The characters are just tossed on features and every guy always has to have gel in his hair...even when he poorly pretends to wake up. Watching women watch Ellen is like watching people be brainwashed.
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Old 19th December 2014, 01:23 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Senex View Post
The battle of Gettysburg is a battle worthy of great debates and deliberation. I mentioned that vacation to my 82 year old mom recently (because I recalled the vacation here) and she blames Longstreet for sitting the battle out. We all champion our different beliefs. The battle not only changed history but is full of metaphors.
I think this is just another fallacy about any number of wars. There was no single battle that could have made any difference. The Confederacy had no chance of winning. If Stonewall Jackson had been at Gettysburg, it wouldn't have mattered. You don't win a war with a single battle. The Civil War was lost when the Confederacy stopped being able to repulse the Union Army in the Western Theater. That happened after the battle of Shiloh, April 6th, 1862.

Now, if you are a delusional Confederate apologist, you'll immediately jump to the battle of Chicamauga on September 19, 1863 which was supposedly a great defeat for the Union army. However, this battle was of very little consequence. It took place in Georgia which meant that the southern invasion of the eastern theater had begun and the Confederacy was facing a war on two fronts that it could not begin to sustain. The Union army did have to withdraw temporarily but the casualties were about equal. And, the Union could replace theirs a lot easier. To be a genuine victory, Union forces would have needed to lose 75% of the 60,000 man army, enough to allow Confederate forces to regain territory. Instead, it was a delay at best and Sherman's Atlanta campaign began in May 1864.

Gettysburg came in June 1863, well after Shiloh in April 1862 and after the largest city in the Confederacy, New Orleans, surrendered on April 25, 1862. This was after the loss of Fort Henry and Donnelson earlier in 1862 and after Burnside successfully created a Union base on Roanoke Island in June of 1862. By the time of Gettysburg, the Confederate States of America was a walking corpse that just hadn't figured out yet that it was dead.
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Old 19th December 2014, 02:48 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Jango View Post
I turn on the news channels and they're talking about the same thing the entertainment news people are talking about -- celebrities and movies. They also talk about the same things that ESPN talks about.
I agree, and I felt like ABC news got really bad when Diane Sawyer took over. It's interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of CBS and ABC on the same night. In my opinion, CBS has a more serious tone and fewer fluff pieces.
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Old 19th December 2014, 07:16 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Galaxie View Post
I agree, and I felt like ABC news got really bad when Diane Sawyer took over. It's interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of CBS and ABC on the same night. In my opinion, CBS has a more serious tone and fewer fluff pieces.
They can, yes, but that is dependent on what's going on, as I've seen them (all of them including the BBC) go gaga over celebrities or for the Brits, the royals and their drama.
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Old 20th December 2014, 02:45 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by barehl View Post
I was watching a show on THC about Gettysburg. Amazingly they repeated several myths...
Paraphrasing that famous quotation, History Channel seeds in one year more disinformation than the whole Middle Ages.
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:00 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
As for Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed, well, there is already a channel to accommodate them... The Sci-fi SyFy channel
Fixed that for you. Speaking of, anyone else remember when that channel was actually good?
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:04 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
Fixed that for you. Speaking of, anyone else remember when that channel was actually good?
That would before the "Two-headed Octoshark" days, I imagine.
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:05 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
Fixed that for you. Speaking of, anyone else remember when that channel was actually good?
Back when it was the Sci-Fi channel it had an anime block on Monday that led me to discover some great shows. Then it was gone. Then it was SyFy. There's nothing good there anymore. Not even old reruns of the X Files.
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:18 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by ehcks View Post
Back when it was the Sci-Fi channel it had an anime block on Monday that led me to discover some great shows.
Oh, so I'm not the only one that remembers that.
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:29 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
It is rather sad....I can recall when both History and the Discovery Network had some quality programming...... But more and more nonsense began to intrude. I wrote to both; and recieved replies talking about the "entertainment value" of such absurdities as "Ancient Aliens" and other such.

Got so that the only thing I'd watch was Mythbusters, and I loved their very active message board. Then they dropped that and I don't think I've watched anything since.
Both History Channel and the Sci-Fi Channel broke my heart. If you took all the Alien stuff and put it on Sci-Fi and brought back History when it was in it's heyday, it would improve both shows. Instead of CGI on Sci-Fi at least play older movies that were classics or even just good ones. And how I long for the days you could watch "The History of TV Dinners" of "The History of Weapons of War" and be entertained and learning at the same time.
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:36 PM   #37
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Every time I turn it on, that damn Pawn Stars is on. What crap.
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Old 20th December 2014, 04:41 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
These days, expecting history on The History Channel is like expecting science on The Science Channel.
or music on MTV. Channels like THC are no small part of why it was easy to give up cable.
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Old 20th December 2014, 05:15 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by barehl View Post
It was next suggested that if Lee had beaten the Union army that he could have threatened Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
The greatest damage he could have done would have been psychological. The North had sufficient resources that, as long as it stuck to its guns, eventual victory was certain. The great danger, as the war dragged on and casualties mounted, was that the North might vote for a negotiated peace (IIRC, Lincoln almost lost the 1864 election to an opponent with a 'negotiated peace' platform, and only came back in the polls due to Sherman taking Atlanta and thereby proving to Northern voters that victory was in sight).

That's the 'realistic' nightmare scenario: If the South had done better in 1863, then maybe the North would have not hung onto its will to fight, voted against Lincoln in 1864, opened negotiations ... then an independent confederacy.
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Old 20th December 2014, 06:02 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by bigred View Post
or music on MTV. Channels like THC are no small part of why it was easy to give up cable.
Agreed.
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