Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Thank you note to Eliot Cohen — Beware of Rashness

I wrote the thank you note below to professor Eliot Cohen, who accepted my application to attend a teaching conference this June in Vermont.  His book, Supreme Command, was a big inspiration to me.  I learned much from it and had success teaching it in the classroom at Chico State.  The letter below is very subdued, actually.  I very much loved his book and think he is a brilliant teacher.


Dear Eliot,

At our Teachers’ Workshop this June I asserted that Joe Hooker very much
admired Lincoln’s “Beware of Rashness” letter [see below].  Attached is the proof from
Foote’s Civil War: A Narrative, Volume II.  This is the key line: “That is
just such a letter as a father might write to his son.”  I believe you will
enjoy the entire section that I have attached.  More generally, I should
add, Lincoln emerges as a master politician and statesman in Foote’s
precious volumes, which in my view should be required reading for the work
is something of a Plutarch’s Lives of our Civil War. The prose, moreover, is
exquisite throughout.  I believe he wrote 2-3 pages per day for 20 years.

Also, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for writing Supreme
Command.  I used it in my classes nearly every semester at Chico State for
four years. Your work made me a better and more dedicated teacher, and more
than a few of my students more ambitious young adults.  I believe you would
have appreciated the readings I assigned in that course: Inter alia, The
Prince, Henry V, selected Plutarch’s Lives including that of Themistocles,
which might be my favorite.  Drawing on your book’s thesis and the readings,
I made them write a long essay on Barack Obama as war leader during the
Afghan surge early in his presidency.

Thank you again for inviting me to attend the Teachers Seminar. I hope to
have the opportunity to attend again.  Nearly everything was excellent.
Really, my only suggestion has to do with elective schedule. I would suggest
keeping to the original plan to have workshops on teaching topics in
international security.  Civil Military, counterinsurgency, etc.

Very respectfully,



Beware of Rashness Letter from Lincoln to General Hooker:

Executive Mansion
Washington, January 26, 1863

Major General Hooker:

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Yours very truly
A. Lincoln



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