Principalities & Powers

An Infantile Disorder

"Why, we could lick them in a month!" boasts Stuart Tarleton soon after the Confederates fire on Fort Sumter in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. "Gentlemen always fight better than rabble. A month—why, one battle." At that point, young Mr. Tarleton is interrupted by Rhett Butler, a rather darker character in Mitchell's novel than the swashbuckling playboy created by Clark Gable on the screen. Butler points out that the Southerners do not possess what modern strategists would call the industrial and logistical infrastructure with which a modern war must be fought—the cannon factories, iron foundries, railroads, and woolen and cotton mills that the North has in abundance. "But, of course," he says, "you gentlemen have thought of these things."

Of course they hadn't thought of those things. What they had thought about were the glories of the coming conflict and the rights they were going to vindicate, and within a few years and a few more battles than Stuart Tarleton had anticipated, he and his twin brother were dead, along with most of the others who had listened to them, the Confederacy itself, and the society on which it rested. As for Rhett Butler, he not only survived but flourished, confident in his philosophy that there are two times when a man can easily make a fortune for himself— once when a civilization rises, and once when a civilization...

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