Marines.Together We Served

Monday, February 06, 2006

Quaker Guns

Things are not always what they seem.

The Civil War is arguably the most fascinating era in our nation’s history. The art of warfare brings about some of the most creative of inventions.

Consider if you will, what became known as the “Quaker Gun.” Quakers, as is commonly known, are pacifists. During the Civil War, Quakers did not take sides. Instead, they emphasized their doctrine of non-violence. They remained a neutral force throughout the war, often providing medical care for combatants from both sides.

Early in the War Between the States (another term used for the Civil War), General Joe Johnston of the Confederate States of America (CSA), came up with what could only be described as a brilliant ruse. Johnston had 40,000 troops in the small northern Virginia town of Centreville. He used the Mount Gilead House for his headquarters. Built in the 1800s, it was originally used as a tavern. Knowing he would eventually be surrounded by Union forces and driven out, he decided to build several “forts” around the town. These forts, however, were made of earth, not wood. Union forces spying on the town from a distance could not clearly make out what was actually taking place, but it didn’t look good.

General George McClellan, commander of the Union forces, received reports that Centreville was heavily fortified. It was decided that an attack on the town would be too costly in loss of life for Union troops because of Johnston’s strong defenses. The Union scouts were awestruck by the fortifications – particularly the huge cannons set in place around the walled forts.

In the meantime General Joe and his forces were able to make good their escape from under the noses of Federal Troops strategically positioned in the defense of Washington, DC.

McClellan, not known for being particularly aggressive in engaging enemy forces, fell for the Confederate trick. When Union troops finally arrived in Centreville, they found the massive fortifications abandoned. General Joe and his merry men had moved elsewhere.

To the eternal embarrassment of McClellan and his forces, the fearful defenses that were set up in Centreville were merely armed with “Quaker Guns.” Johnston’s troops had felled large trees, skinning them of branches, and placing them along the walls of their fortifications to look like large cannons. It worked. This was not the only time in the war that southern forces made fake guns – some from tree trunks, and others out of cardboard.

You can’t blame the Union forces, though. Only eight months earlier they had been soundly beaten at the First Battle of Manassas, June 1861, or what the north called Bull Run for the stream that flows through the area. Manassas is not quite three miles from Centreville, so I can understand if the boys in blue assumed that the boys in gray had come up with more powerful weapons. Then, a few months later in August of 1862, Confederate forces once again defeated Union forces at the Second Battle of Manassas.

Not to be outdone, the captain of a Union ship on the Mississippi River created a fake warship using logs for cannons, causing enemy ships to believe they were seriously outgunned. Commander David Porter was promoted to the permanent rank of rear admiral – simply for employing a ruse which tricked the enemy into surrendering.

In more modern times during the Gulf War in 1991, though not intended to be used as a deceptive measure, a large Iraqi force came out of their bunkers to surrender to, of all things – a drone! These unmanned aircraft fly over enemy areas providing us with a real-time camera view of enemy fortifications and movement. These aircraft are also unarmed. The camera is monitored by a sailor located in the bowels of a Navy ship sitting off the coast of Kuwait. Imagine his surprise when he sees on his monitor screen Iraqi soldiers looking up at the camera of a passing drone with their hands held up indicating surrender. With coordinates quickly established helicopters were soon dispatched to round up these enemy combatants.

Tricks, fakery, ruses, and deception are part of the tactics of war. But make no mistake: Our men and women in uniform today are engaged in battling against an enemy that wants to see us all dead. Suicide bombers, IEDs, RPGs, and AK47s are not Quaker Guns.

Please continue to pray for our military and our leaders. With the delicate dance that is taking place on the world stage right now, we need to be united, and our leaders need Godly wisdom.

God bless America!

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