Belinda Craft of Gloversville, New York, was up before dawn, checking the eggs from their brood, happy to see that the new fence she and Grandpa had repaired was still holding fast. Foxes, fisher cats, wild dogs, coyotes . . . whatever had raided them last week were at least being blocked out now. There were a dozen chickens pecking and cackling at her, and she was pleased to find five warm eggs, which she carefully deposited in a basket lined with hay.
“See you later, gals,” she said, as she went out of the coop and started walking back to their farmhouse. There was the smell of farm animals, wet hay, feed, and . . .
A slight scent of cinnamon?
Something flickered in the distance.
She turned and with basket still in hand, looked off to the west, near the soft peaks of Peck Hill State Forest.
“Oh, no,” she whispered.
Rising up above the wooded hills was the highest peak, the one with the fire tower, and there was a battle going on. She had seen plenty of battles over the years, usually at a distance, quick sharp things that didn’t take long, but as she stood there, she had a feeling this one had been going on for a while. There were the flickering flashes of laser beams from the alien Creepers, and the long tongues of flame, lancing out as well, and the faint sounds of human firearms being fired back.
A military unit, then, up on top of the hill.
Robert E. Lee has a reputation, in many ways deserved, as one of the greatest of American military commanders. No other general of the modern period—possibly excepting George Washington—accomplished more despite holding such a poor hand. Utilizing only interior lines and the difficult geography of northern Virginia, Lee succeeded in keeping the might of the industrial north at bay for nearly four years. He defeated several separate armies sent against him. He gained some of the most crushing victories ever witnessed on the North American continent. He not only defeated but utterly humiliated the Union commanders opposing him—many of them his former classmates. He staved off the defeat of Confederacy longer than almost anyone thought possible.
But he didn’t stave it off long enough. Avoiding defeat was Lee’s major strategic goal. All that he needed to do was to keep the Confederacy intact long enough for exhaustion to take the Union out of the war. It is there, on the strategic level, that Lee failed. Though a master tactician—one of the most skilled on record—Lee was no strategist.
The strategy for winning the Civil War and gaining southern independence was straightforward: hold northern forces off by defeating any attempt at invasion of the southern heartland while at the same time keeping the north off-balance by continual raids, feints, and threats against high-value targets. Such a strategy would have forced the north to tire itself out while preserving southern assets.
Instead, Lee carried out a continual series of invasions of the north that wasted southern manpower and resources and finally left the South so exhausted that defeat was inevitable.