"War cannot for a single minute be separated from politics."
The recent "resignation" of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the encouragement of his angry commander-in-chief, had precedent with President Harry Truman's firing of his Korean War commander, Gen. Douglas McArthur.
But let's turn the clock back another notch, and recall what happened in our very own state as the young United States of America fought to seal that independence our Founding Fathers declared on July 4, 1776.
If the American culture in 2010 resembled that of 1776, the Obama-McChrystal incident might have ended much differently.
Two stories intertwined in Georgia throughout the American Revolution: the war itself, and the struggle to maintain her fledgling government once Gov. James Wright and his Royal Government were displaced. Often, the political battles among the Patriots themselves would be as troublesome as their military clashes with the British.
Conscious of the need for legal authority following the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress asked each state to set up a government of its own, including a constitution. Georgia's Provincial Congress worked through the winter of 1776-1777 to create the document, "Rules and Regulations," which served as the state constitution for the next 12 years.
Acting Gov. Archibald Bulloch then set an early May date for the initial meeting of the state Legislature, when delegates would choose Georgia's first constitutional governor. Everyone expected Bulloch to succeed himself, but he contracted a serious illness and died. Button Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, then became Georgia's second acting governor, a position he hoped to make permanent in May.
But a lot would happen before May.
Perhaps they should have worked longer on those "Rules and Regulations," or spent more time discussing how to put them into practice. Like the once-abused boundaries between the land still held by the American Indians and the territory they ceded to the Crown, Georgia's early government either had no established boundary between military and political responsibility, or none that was recognized by both sides.
The continental commander of Georgia's revolutionary forces, Gen. Lachlan McIntosh, assumed he had authority to make military decisions himself. The acting governor believed the role of commander-in-chief was his alone. The resulting clash between McIntosh and Gwinnett would be catastrophic.
In Gwinnett's mind, defeating the sizable British force camped in Florida was Georgia's best defense. Similar forays into Florida already had failed, but Gwinnett organized a new assault without consulting McIntosh. This offensive also failed, and it sharpened the hostility between McIntosh and Gwinnett.
By the time the general called the governor "a scoundrel and lying rascal," even normal Gwinnett supporter George Walton agreed with McIntosh, comparing Gwinnett to Alexander the Great, who thought himself "the lord of the earth."
On May 8, 1777, Gwinnett's failed Florida coup, plus his feud with McIntosh, cost him the election to John Adam Treutlen. No one was angrier with this turn of events than Gwinnett, and no one happier than the general.
A few days after the election, a still-angry Gwinnett challenged McIntosh to a duel. On the appointed day the former governor and the current general met at dawn outside Savannah, Georgia's first capital, took 12 steps, turned and fired.
The spectacle was over in seconds. Each man fell wounded.
McIntosh recovered quickly, but when Gwinnett died of gangrene four days later, Gwinnett's supporters accused McIntosh of murder. McIntosh was acquitted of the preposterous charge, but sentiment continued to run so high against the general that he asked to be reassigned. In the fall of 1777 the Continental Congress honored his request, depriving Georgia of her finest military leader, and sent Gen. Robert Howe to Georgia to take his place.
A little more than a year later, the weaker, less effective Howe was in command when all of Georgia fell to the British. In July, 1779, a triumphant James Wright returned to Savannah, where he would remain to govern the recovered British colony for another three years.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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