Streetwise Professor

March 15, 2010

The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the Market

Filed under: Military — The Professor @ 8:54 pm

Adam Smith said so, meaning that specialization (the division of labor) will be more extensive in big, thick markets than small, thin ones.  And driving through rural Alabama provides a couple of examples:

  • JB’s Hardware and Grocery.
  • Mike’s Saw and Cycle.

Saw and cycle?

Why was I in rural Alabama, you might ask?  I’m on my (pretty much) annual Civil War trip with my dad.  (We’ve been doing this since 1992.)  We’ve been to all the major battlefields (several more than once), and so are hitting some of the more obscure ones.

We started in New Orleans, with a visit to the WWII Museum, which is OK.  Also went to the New Orleans Confederate Museum, which has an amazing collection of uniforms and personal items.   The museum itself, in the Confederate Memorial Hall, is also quite striking, with a Gothic design and beautiful cypress paneling and beams throughout.

We then drove through Mobile, and on to the Gulf Coast beyond.  We went to Fort Morgan, built in 1819-1833, and the anchor of the Confederate defenses of Mobile Bay and a focus of US Navy gunfire in the Battle of Mobile Bay (5 August, 1864).  Then a first for me: a visit to a nautical battlefield, by taking a ferry from Fort Morgan to Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island across the entrance of the Bay from Ft. Morgan.  The ferry crossed the area in the Bay where Admiral Farragut said “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” (or he didn’t).  This was also where the CSS Tennessee battled Farragut’s entire fleet before succumbing to the hammering delivered by several US Navy ironclads (monitors).

Fort Gaines was quite well-preserved and quite interesting.  It is privately operated, and in much better shape than the state-operated Fort Morgan.

We then traveled up Mobile Bay, and visited the USS Alabama, a South Dakota class battleship from WWII.  I’ve been to several such memorials, and this was probably the best.  The interior spaces were in remarkable condition, with shiny stainless steel surfaces that look like they must have in 1945; for instance, the ship’s geedunk (soda fountain) looked brand new.

Today we visited the Fort Blakeley, site of a sad battle that took place on the very day that Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, on April 9, 1865.  The vastly outnumbered Confederates were defending Mobile, and the forlorn nature of their task is evident in the results of the battle, in which more than half the Rebel force surrendered, a sure indicator of collapsing morale.  And given the circumstances, who in their right mind wouldn’t have decided that resistance was futile?  Indeed, the Blakeley Battlefield Park centers on the redoubt held by the Missouri Brigade, arguably the best combat brigade in the Confederate Army during the war (which is saying something)–and even those redoubtable fighters surrendered in large numbers.

The battlefield includes some of the best preserved earthworks I’ve seen on any battlefield.   Most interesting are the picket/skirmisher pits in front of the main lines–larger, 5 man Confederate pits, smaller, foxhole-like 2 man Federal pits.  Also of interest was the zig-zag approach trenches leading from the Union’s third line (“parallel”).

Although small, and covering a battle that took place during the denouement of the war, Blakeley is worth a visit.  It is largely intact, and permits the visitor to visualize and understand the battle better than is possible at most fields.

Back to Houston tomorrow, and then back to work–and blogging.

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  1. enjoy the rest of your trip, but i have to ask did you see 60 minutes and can you comment on the big short by michael lewis.

    Comment by nathan resnick — March 16, 2010 @ 7:27 am

  2. Thanks, Nate. Just back. Didn’t see 60 minutes. Have read some excerpts of Lewis’s book. Will give it a read when it comes out, time permitting.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 17, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

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