Best Defense

Things I didn’t know (a continuing series)

The U.S. Army did the South a great favor at the end of the Civil War when it rebuilt Confederate railroads free of charge.

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— Saladin’s memory is “treasured largely by Sunnis, while for Shiites he remains the destroyer of the Fatimid” caliphate, and so a symbol of division, according to a review by Whitworth University’s Corliss Slack in the April edition of the Journal of Military History.

— The U.S. Army did the South a great favor at the end of the Civil War when it rebuilt Confederate railroads free of charge. For example, the Nashville and Chattanooga line lost $121,000 in capital when its slaves were emancipated, but gained more than $4 million from Army repairs. Talk about government handouts!

— For every mile of railroad built in the Midwest in the 1850s, there were 32 new German settlers, 19 Irish settlers, 7 British settlers, and 200 Americans from the northeast who moved in.

— Speaking of railroads, Lenin left Zurich on April 9, 1917 (European calendar) on a roundabout train journey through Germany and Scandinavia, and arrived in Petrograd on April 3, 1917 (Russian calendar). I read this in Catherine Merridale’s Lenin on the Train. I enjoyed the book, which also told me that Lenin’s train car was “sealed” in Germany not because the Germans were afraid of Bolshevik contagion, but because Lenin was collaborating with the enemy of Russia on the trip, and so wanted to minimize contact.

— Speaking of books, the busiest library in the Army is at Fort Bragg. The article shows how an engaged library can increase usage — updating travel books, getting fitness magazines, having foreign language materials, and appearing at public events.

— Finally, here is an odd list of the 100 greatest generals of all time. Warning: The Geronimo haters out there (and you know who you are) are not gonna like it. I also disagree with the listing of Chesty Puller as the guy who commanded at Chosin. He wasn’t. That’s just ignorant.

Photo credit: Flickr 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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