The Budget and Alternative Energy |

If you haven’t heard already, The President’s new budget just came out (02/07/08) and it couldn’t be more unfriendly towards the environment in general unless they go that extra mile and put in special tax breaks on the purchase of clubs for the express purpose of baby seal hunting.While there there are many points to the ’09 budget that are great, if you are really interested in an all out nuclear conflict, for the most part, the alternative energy sectors, primarily wind and solar get a big kick in the nards from the administration because of the elimination of the government’s incentives for the addition of solar power. Oh and here’s the best part…the reason. These incentives were removed because the package that was offered for the proposed incentives was funded by taxation on big oil, and many senators thought that these taxes were too harsh, even though the big oil companies have been reporting insane profits lately. The explanation given was that we would ultimately end up paying for this at the pump.Just for those that didn’t get that: The government is saying that they just cut funding offered to put solar/wind on your home for power, something that helps our country get away from foreign oil, helps the planet, cuts pollution..etc..etc, so that gas prices won’t go up.Also, while renewable energy took a beating, nuclear energy got a boost in the form of funding for loans to build new nuclear plants, and funding for nuclear weapons.Yes, we apparently do not need to create new energy sources or keep our water and air clean because we really don’t want to make the oil companies mad, and we need new nuclear missiles. God I love this country. If you want to take a look at this big steaming pile of a budget, just go here:
Budget Environmental News Service has a pretty good article hereI’m not really a politically motivated individual on this topic, nor am I a Birkenstock wearing vegan that has a composting toilet and hordes all my trash in the basement to reduce my environmental impact. What I am, is an individual that believes the world in general would probably be better off if the use of fossil fuels and specifically the dependence on oil from the middle east, or anywhere else were greatly reduced, if not completely eliminated. To me, The President’s budget shows a complete disinterest in long term reduction of dependence on oil, and more of an interest in updating our offensive capabilities in the event of a conflict, most likely in response to Iraq’s nuclear build-up. In my opinion, this is a catch-22 situation. One is connected to the other, and if it weren’t for the need for oil, the ultimate reason, perceived or not for the nuclear buildup wouldn’t be present.
Ok, let me put my political soapbox away.Fortunately, there is quite a bit of momentum going and interest generated that people and governments around the world are starting to see that a change must be made, and the tools for that change are available.What is really great is the amount of clever innovations and applications that the average individual comes up with. The prices for solar and wind powered equipment have been coming down, and continue to drop. This is excellent for new product R&D in the renewable energy fields, and there is a lot that the average individual is coming up with.While surfing around I have come across a couple really good videos for DIY power generation. I’ve also acquired quite a bit of research that I’ve been doing on my own that other’s may want or like as well. Much of this is information that is free, can be found pretty easily and demonstrates how easily alternative power sources can be created by the average person. It’s my thought that hopefully the more people see that building/using renewables, especially solar is easy, affordable and the smart thing to do, maybe the more they will see they can probably do it themselves.

Writing the Civil War: The Why and How It Was Fought |

America has always approached its conflicts as if extending the thought of the uniquely American way of life, that is to say as if to leave each man to his own devices and choices free to make or break his own way into life as he has been endowed by his creator. National defense, up until the advent of the Second World War was something for a small national army to attend to. The American Civil War was fought not by professional armies but by armies filled with patriots who answered the call of their respective side and put aside all personal want or gain for the larger call of defending their nation. As a historian and writer, I’ve collected some of my knowledge and research into this article to aid fellow writers in their desires to write short stories and novels set in the Civil War.Why we foughtReasons for volunteering are as varied as the individuals who fought. They can however be broken down into one of several categories and these can be considered as typical for the majority of soldiers on both sides of the war.At the start of the war, patriotism was the primary reason hundreds of thousands gathered at town meetings, churches, court houses, and post offices to hear speeches, calls for patriotism, and opportunities for adventure. Volunteers on both sides of the Mason Dixon line saw the other in terms of five decades of sectional tensions and propaganda. For the typical northerner, the southern states that one by one voted to secede from the Union were traitors, rebelling against the lawful and legitimate government in Washington. Slavery was considered “that peculiar institution” by the typical volunteer and the cause of the tensions politically, and an otherwise inconsequential issue to the greater problem of the break up of the country along sectional lines. The call for volunteers was more often made for the restoration of the country than for the end of slavery. Depending on where one hailed from, the ardor for restoration vs. the abolitionist call for slavery’s end was proportionate to what state or region one lived.New England states, with a long history and the first to end slavery after colonization tended to be more Abolitionist in sentiment. Wealth also played a part, the wealthy tending towards abolitionism as well as restoration of the Union over just for restoration. Western soldiers tended to be a little more restoration oriented and less concerned for slavery as an institution. No matter what state one lived in, it is clear from letters home and biographical information that the majority of soldiers volunteered for restoring the Union, only a minority having any philosophical qualms about the south and its slaves. After the Emancipation Proclamation, desertions in the Federal army rose and attributed to the change in what many thought was the unacceptable shift in the war’s direction. Obviously, those that deserted where another minority, the majority not caring enough about the change or accepting it as the normal consequence of the goal of victory and restoration of the Union to see the job through.For the typical southerner, the protection of “the sacred soil” and the right to choose ones destiny motivated them to volunteer. Again, for the southern soldier, the fight to keep slavery as an institution was less a question of if it where right or not to keep a human in bondage, but the threat that the federal government would swoop down and dictate policy and society to a sovereign state was unacceptable. Knowing that the Union would not countenance the rebellion, southern strategy was based upon the defense – hoping that they could outlast the federal assaults and ware them down, a victory achieved by buying time and concessions. Having fewer resources and half the population, this was the only course to take. Accordingly, volunteers were drummed up by appealing to the manly virtue of protecting ones hearth and home from the hordes of northern hirelings and foreigners. It is fairly common knowledge that only a small percentage of the southern population owned even one slave.Again, the decades of sectional conflict had created a mutual distrust of the motives of either side, and the average southern soldier only saw the threat of northern aggression. When South Carolina signed the ordinance of secession, the opportunity to express the pent up frustration at the economic, social, and political siege the south felt it had been under since the 1840’s was realized. Although a majority felt for the Union even afterwards, states like Virginia where politicians successfully voted against drawing up an ordinance of secession even after Ft. Sumter was fired upon, changed their minds when Lincoln called for the 90 day volunteers to put down the rebellion. Reasoning that it was better to stand with the other states on the concept of states rights than to allow a federal army to march on its soil, Virginia became one of the last states to vote to secede.The average southern soldier, if asked why he volunteered would have stated that he fought to protect his home, which in many cases was literal. The famous Stonewall brigade spent most of the war fighting in its backyard in the Shenandoah Valley. He would have had little to say about slavery, other than his belief that no one had the right to dictate to him how to live his life or how.How it was foughtLike any organization, an army will not stay static. The Union armies, more so than the confederate army, went through numerous reorganizations. Depending on what time period being considered for a story the military situation will be different based on early war, mid war, and late war.Both sides came from a common military tradition, a common military training from West Point, and their leaders had served with one another in the Mexican war and in the westward expansions and Indian conflicts. Having this commonality, the way regiments were raised on both sides where practically the same and both armies went through similar transitions as they grew.Recruiting for the volunteer regiments on both sides followed similar lines. In the North, each state was given a quota of men to fill into regiments after Lincoln’s call for ninety day volunteers. The Governors of each state commissioned well to do politicians and retired or current military men to raise regiments. These men then would then build a staff of lower ranking officers and send them out to recruit from the counties enough men to fill a company. The typical scene would be a town meeting, where patriotic speeches and music would rouse the fervor of those in attendance and names would be taken down for muster, a time and place being designated as the muster point. Seldom would one find a permanent recruiters point in any location, recruiting taking place sporadically. The philosophy at the time held that men who knew one another were more apt to serve with distinction than with total strangers. The United States had a long history of raising volunteer units in times of crises, and this more than anything lead to how units were raised in the civil war. The federal government still maintained active recruiting for the regular army, but the majority of soldiers who fought were three year volunteers who fought in regiments raised by the member states, which maintained their unique identity throughout the war, and were mustered out at its end.Once the company had been recruited, the practice of electing company officers took place, although this was not a uniform practice, this would remain the identifying trademark of all volunteer units and point of contention at times between the regular officers who had to command them. The companies thus recruited would then be marched to a central location in the state to be united with their sister companies and designated as a regiment of the state. Taking the oath of federal service was the last act that would officially take the volunteers into the army.Being virtually identical in the south, there is no need to describe a southern vs. northern way of recruiting. The south also maintained a regular army though again, the majority of its soldiers served in volunteer units. Though the confederate regular army regiments never were developed to the size of the federal standing army, they did see service in several battles.There was a big difference in the way both sides treated the need for more men. On the Federal side, the states chose to raise more regiments instead of sending men to fill the vacancies in the current units. Though all units occasionally sent officers back home to recruit for the regiment, the need for manpower was usually acute in the existing units. At times units would be combined with others from the same state as they became too small to function on their own.In the confederacy, as time went on and a unit’s attrition whittled it down, recruits would be raised from the state that raised the regiment to fill the vacancies.Another difference between the two sides was the use of bounties and the draft. The confederacy never could levee a draft, the constitution ratified that created the confederation of southern states would not allow a strong central control over the constituent states, which at times created the situation where a state could and often did withhold vital resources in material and manpower claiming the sovereignty of the state as the excuse. In the north however, the draft and bounty created several problems for the regiments in the field. Men raised by bounty, whose motivation was purely money, often proved themselves to be poor soldiers, where more likely to desert and in general were of poor quality. Regiments whose numbers where bolstered by bounty men often saw their effectiveness in combat fall. The other factor was that the bounty men often lowered the unit’s morale. The draft, the last resort of the federal government, brought an even lower quality to the manpower sent to the regiments. For the men who had volunteered to preserve the union, who had survived from the beginning of the war, the advent of the bounty men and the practice of avoiding duty by sending a replacement after the draft left many feeling that their sacrifice and the sacrifice of those that had died had been cheapened.OrganizationThe primary organization throughout the war was the brigade. The brigade was made up of from three to five regiments of infantry. Early in the war, brigades also had a constituent artillery battery assigned to it. This however was then moved to the division structure to be allocated as needed although brigades and batteries often still fought next to one another. The organization into divisions for both sides followed the battle of Bull Run.Division:The use of divisions in army structure was the next form of organization. The division would consist of from two to four brigades and supporting cavalry and artillery units attached. Cavalry for the federals were not used in organic structures until mid war, unlike the confederacy which used larger cav forces. The division became the primary means of command and control as the war progressed. Although a soldiers primary loyalty usually lay within his regiment or brigade, the division would be the primary means of moving forces about on the battle filed.Corps:The corps structure would not see use until after Fredericksburg for the Federal army. Joseph Hooker would re-organize the Army of the Potomac into Corps and assign each a singular badge of recognition, knowing that eventually this badge would not only be a means of identifying a unit on the field, but also a badge of honor and pride for the rank and file. Each division with in the Corps, usually from two to three, would have a specific color to their badge, thus again identifying them further in organization.The confederates did not adopt a similar structure and their Corps and division were usually larger in compliment than their federal counter parts.Army:It would then stand to reason that an army would be made up of between two to five Corps. There did not seem to be any hard and fast rule for the organization of armies and how many corps would make up each. Location of manpower and other resources usually was the deciding factor. The Army of the Potomac at times numbered up to one hundred thousand men at times, while other armies would maybe number twenty to sixty thousand. Area of the country also played a part in where one served. Due to transportation limitations and the need to cover a large front, the Union armies tended to be divided by east and west. Those from western states, with the notable exception of the Iron Brigade and a smattering of other western units who found themselves in the East, usually stayed in the west. The same held true for eastern units with the exception of the two Corps who were sent west after Rosecrans was defeated at Chickamauga to break the siege of Chattanooga. These two Corps then stayed in the west and participated in the March to the sea under Sherman.Due to the constant state of flux that the armies underwent, choosing a unit to place your characters will depend on the time period. Early war, your unit would belong to a brigade denoted by the officer in command of that brigade, i.e. Hatcher’s brigade, Sherman’s brigade, etc. Mid war, the division and army would be the identifying marks, and mid to late war, the corps belonged to. If writing about Bull Run, or Fredericksburg, or the Seven Days battles, you would not have a Corps structure, as all of these battles took place between 1861 and 1862.Although Corps and Divisions had numbers on paper in an armies organization chart, they were referred to in orders and other documentation by the leader in command. Regiments kept their state designations, but brigades and divisions went by the leaders. Artillery batteries also went by the commander, often being designated by both the battery state of origins and the leader’s name. Cavalry units kept their state designations. This held true on both sides. Armies on the other hand, kept the same designations. Federal armies went by the principle water ways that they were organized in or primarily served in. Confederate armies went by the states they served in or were organized in. Some armies changed names over time as they were organized then re-organized.©2005 by Phil Bryant