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Did Hitler Learn Lightning War from Abraham Lincoln?

By Douglas Herman


“There never was a good war or a bad peace.”   - Ben Franklin

Blitzkrieg. Lightning War. Some say the ancient Roman legions invented lightning war, striking fast and forceful. Others claim an audacious African general named Hannibal invented lightning war with his inventive use of infantry combined with the terrifying and demoralizing sight of elephants and archers. They crossed the Alps and attacked Roman forces more than 2,000 years ago. Yet we know modern lightning war from Blitzkrieg, Hitler’s use of airplanes, tanks, and infantry in a ruthless but effective combination of total war. Using Blitzkrieg, Germany conquered the low countries of Belgium, Holland and France in the early stages of WWII, before turning on the Soviet Union.

Perhaps one could claim that Hitler and his NAZI general staff learned lightning war from Lincoln’s total war with the Confederacy. Certainly Sherman’s March to the Sea, encouraged and applauded by Lincoln, resembles an uncanny blueprint for Hitler’s war of aggression.

“While Union General George McClellan and other generals in the east tended to be more conciliatory, in the west generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and others soon began foraging and burning towns and crops. Sherman declared all people in the South enemies and traitors so that he could justify waging war against civilians,” wrote Sanderson Beck, in his brilliant yet revealing essay entitled: How Lincoln Could Have Prevented Civil War

Blueprint anyone? Hitler used this exact same tactic against Russia in 1941 during Operation Barbarossa.

“In the late summer of 1864 Sherman’s army bombarded Atlanta and then destroyed ninety percent of the city,” continues Beck.  “As they marched to Savannah robbing and plundering, Sherman ordered randomly chosen civilians killed in retaliation for attacks by Confederate soldiers. Because South Carolina began the secession movement, Sherman ordered his men to pillage, plunder and sack cities there even more ruthlessly. His chaplain James Stillwell reported that a majority of the cities, villages, and county houses were burned to the ground. In late 1864 the Union cavalry lead by Phillip Sheridan ravaged the Shenandoah Valley by pillaging, plundering and burning. Lincoln was overjoyed by the ‘victories’ of Sherman and Sheridan because they assured his re-election that November.”

By any standard, by the EXACT same standards used against the German and Japanese military leaders at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, Abraham Lincoln was a war criminal, waging a war of aggression, waging a ruthless warfare against civilians. Yet the mainstream media, then and now, exalts Abraham Lincoln as a great patriot. Why?

In her extensive book, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a hefty book applauded by the New York Times and used as a blueprint for Steven Spielberg’s bio-pic, Lincoln, nowhere does Goodwin refer to chaplain James Stillwell. Nor does she refer to Reverend Richard Fuller, of Baltimore Maryland, who led a delegation of 35 delegates from the YMCA, who journeyed to the US Capitol on April 22, 1861. This small group of Christians, who took their faith seriously, intended to plead for a diplomatic settlement between the North and South. They hoped to meet with President Lincoln before the war became wholesale carnage.

Instead of hearing their pleas, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, allowing people to be arrested for opposition to the Union.  People like you and me. Before the war ended, allegedly the war to free the slaves and preserve the Union, hundreds of southern churches were torched and their minsters and congregations arrested.  More than 14,000 civilians were imprisoned by the Union before this great “patriotic” war ended.

Hitler and his henchmen learned this lesson well from ruthless Lincoln’s strategy. Arrest, torture, kill or confine all those who oppose the state in its ruthless, genocidal plans. The NAZIs embraced and employed Lincoln’s use of total war, and perfected it. Had Lincoln possessed an air force, I do not doubt he would have leveled entire cities in the South so much the sooner.  Lincoln would have done the same as Hitler’s air force, the Luftwaffe, waging unrestricted warfare over civilian targets, and as the British and US Eighth Air Force did to Germany in return.

Blueprint for Genocide

During the Civil War, Lincoln did not forget to wage war against Native Americans. His war with the starving Santee Sioux is well-recorded, but most Americans know nothing about the genocide of the Navajos and the Long Walk, ordered by Lincoln and his henchmen.  With full support of Lincoln, Kit Carson launched a blitzkrieg against the peaceable Navajo in January 1864.  According to Wikipedia, “He would destroy everything in his path, eradicating the way of life of the Navajo people. Hogans were burned to the ground, livestock was killed off, and irrigated fields would be destroyed. Navajos who surrendered were taken to Fort Canby (concentration camp) and those who resisted were killed.”

Hitler did the same to the Jewish civilians in the Warsaw ghetto.

But never let unpleasant facts about Lincoln get in the way of a good story. The mainstream media adores an imperial narrative, then and now, and Hollywood can sugarcoat a genocidal war criminal as well, or better, than any NAZI propagandist.

To preserve the Union, Lincoln’s war costs more than half a million American lives. Many of those young men had no real grudge against those they killed or wounded.

“All that day we watched the fruitless charges, with their fearful slaughter, until we were sick at heart,” said Confederate Private Alexander Hunt of the 17th Georgia , gazing down at the dying Union soldiers during the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. “As I watched one line get swept away by one fearful blast from Kershaw's men behind the wall, I forgot they were enemies and only remembered they were men, and it is hard to see in cold blood, brave men die.”

Towards the end of his ruthless, unnecessary war, Lincoln spoke: “War, at best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and its duration, is one of the most terrible. It has destroyed property, and ruined homes; it has produced a national debt and taxation unprecedented.”  Lincoln’s so-called Team of Rivals evidently did NOT include any diplomats among them, certainly not the ultra-hypocritical Lincoln.

“The greatest advantage of a peaceful settlement would have been saving the 625,000 lives that were lost and the other injuries,” added Sanderson Beck. “One can hardly overestimate the psychological trauma caused by young men being forced to kill their countrymen in miserable conditions that caused so many to die of disease.”

Tragedy or Karma?

Lincoln lost several of his sons while they were still young. Historian and filmmakers focus on these sad events. Tragedy perhaps, but I prefer to see it as divine karma. Call it karmic justice. Imagine the MILLIONS of parents and grandparents, imagine all the sisters and wives, now widows, left without their young sons and husbands. In 1864, when Lincoln ordered more troops to feed this voracious carnage, Lincoln’s oldest son, twenty-year old Robert, did not suffer that impressment but sat out the war almost to the very end, safely at an Ivy League college.

When you consider that a union is a voluntary agreement beneficial for both parties, and that when one or the other party chooses to separate, as in matrimony, the other must accept the separation peaceably. Suppose a spouse, a proud, self-righteous and rigid man, refused to separate. Suppose the wife, fearful for her safety, got a restraining order.  Suppose this cruel and sanctimonious man then killed his wife and slaughtered all of their children. How would the law, how would society view this serial killer? Now multiply the number of slaughtered victims by thousands, by hundreds of thousands. And you have the so-called Great Emancipator.

A Bit About The Author

Some readers might suggest I’m just a disgruntled Southerner with an ax to grind, but nothing could be further from the truth. Having grown up in Michigan, I learned early the strange ironies of war. How? My father, Captain James Herman served in England in 1943 with the US Army Air Corp, loading bombs on planes destined to destroy Germany. Much later he reflected that some of those bombs probably killed Herman relatives, family members separated by fate and chance, relatives he would never meet, but then caught in a terrible conflagration much like those caught in the Civil War, sometimes called the War of Brothers.

Addendum: The world awaits the fate of Catalonia. The thuggish police servants of the Spanish state may ultimately punish these brave people for their secession attempt. Or the Catalan citizens may eventually prevail. One wonders how exactly Lincoln and his so-called Team of Rivals would have handled this independence movement. Probably with a punishing force of arms.