Palm Sunday 151 Years Ago

Sunday, March 20, AD 2016

 

 

It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battlefields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it some nobler lesson than to destroy.  Men write of this, as of other wars, as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death.  It seems to me that is the last thing we need to teach;  for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it.  From Louisburg to Petersburg-a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations-they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth.  In the war of secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the great lakes and the gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done and valor exhibited at its highest pitch…There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth.  But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow country-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country…These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some who we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

Rossiter Johnson, Campfire and Battlefield, 1884

 

 

 

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

Grant in his memoirs wrote, “When Lee and I separated he went back to his lines and I returned to the house of Mr. McLean. Here the officers of both armies came in great numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as though they had been friends separated for a long time while fighting battles under the same flag.”

Lee so appreciated the generosity of the terms of surrender given by Grant, that for the remainder of his life he would never allow a word of denigration about Grant to be spoken in his presence.

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3 Responses to Palm Sunday 151 Years Ago

  • Interesting find, Don… so this method of vivid documentary story-telling did not originate with Ken Burns, as I sometimes hear.

    Haven’t watched it all yet, but so far, pretty balanced presentation, with a slight bent in the direction of the victors! Even Vallandigham gets a mention, the Democrat congressman who amazingly was imprisoned for giving speeches critical of the war and of Lincoln, whom he called “King Lincoln.”

    Definitely love seeing Hal Holbrook at Appomattox, just an hour down the road from my house.

  • “Haven’t watched it all yet, but so far, pretty balanced presentation, with a slight bent in the direction of the victors! Even Vallandigham gets a mention, the Democrat congressman who amazingly was imprisoned for giving speeches critical of the war and of Lincoln, whom he called “King Lincoln.””
    Vallandigham was ultimately exiled to the Confederacy. He made his way back into the Union through Canada, after seeking money from Confederate representatives in Canada to buy weapons to set up a Northwest Confederacy, with Lincoln turning a blind eye to his reappearance. He was the moving force behind the peace plank of the Democrat platform in 1864 and was listed by the Democrats as Secretary of War in a McClellan administration. After McClellan repudiated the peace plank Vallandigham withdrew for a time in campaigning for him.

    Vallandigham had a shadowy relationship with the undercover Southern spy group, the Knights of the Golden Circle, later renamed the American Knights. He testified at the trial of several of them in April 1865. While denying that he had joined that organization, he admitted to talking with representatives of the Confederacy in Canada.

    His death in 1871 is a caution to all defense attorneys:

    “Vallandigham died in 1871 in Lebanon, Ohio, at the age of 50, after accidentally shooting himself in the abdomen with a pistol. He was representing a defendant (Thomas McGehan)[citation needed] in a murder case for killing a man in a barroom brawl at the Golden Lamb Inn. Vallandigham attempted to prove the victim, Tom Myers, had in fact accidentally shot himself while drawing his pistol from a pocket while rising from a kneeling position. As Vallandigham conferred with fellow defense attorneys in his hotel room at the Golden Lamb, he showed them how he would demonstrate this to the jury. Selecting a pistol he believed to be unloaded, he put it in his pocket and enacted the events as they might have happened, snagging the loaded gun on his clothing and unintentionally causing it to discharge into his belly. Although he was fatally wounded, Vallandigham’s demonstration proved his point, and the defendant, Thomas McGehan, was acquitted and released from custody (to be shot to death four years later in his saloon).”

  • Oddly coincidental, I just received this post, also dated Palm Sunday.
    ..http://vaflaggers.blogspot.com/2016/03/va-flaggers-re-lee-statue-in.html
    .
    Fascinating stuff on Vallandigham too, Mr. Mac.

Palm Sunday One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

Sunday, March 29, AD 2015

The chiefs and the captains meet,
Lee erect in his best dress uniform,
His dress-sword hung at his side and his eyes unaltered.
Chunky Grant in his mudsplashed private’s gear
With the battered stars on his shoulders.
                                         They talk a while
Of Mexico and old days.
                       Then the terms are stated.
Lee finds them generous, says so, makes a request.
His men will need their horses for the spring-ploughing.
Grant assents at once.
                      There is no parade of bright sword’s
Given or taken.  Grant saw that there should not be.
It is over, then. . . .
                       Lee walks from the little room.
His face is unchanged.  It will not change when he dies.
But as he steps on the porch and looks toward his lines
He strikes his hands together once with a sound. . . .

In the room he has left, the blue men stare at each other
For a space of heartbeats, silent.  The grey ride off.
They are gone–it is over. . . .

The room explodes like a bomb, they are laughing and shouting,
Yelling strange words, dragging chairs and tables outdoors,
Bearded generals waltzing with one another
For a brief, wild moment, punching each others’ ribs,
Everyone talking at once and nobody listening,
“It’s over–it’s done–it’s finished!”
                                      Then, order again.
The grey ghost-army falls in for the last time,
Marching to stack its arms.
                           As the ranks move forward
The blue guns go to “Present.”  Gordon sees the gesture.
He sweeps his sabre down in the full salute.

There are no cheers or words from blue lines or grey.
Only the sound of feet. . . .
It is over, now. . . .
                      The arms are stacked from the war.
A few bronzed, tattered grey men, weeping or silent,
Tear some riddled bits of cloth from the color-staffs
And try to hide them under their uniforms.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

 

 

 

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

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3 Responses to Palm Sunday One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

  • Family members were divided and battled amongst themselves in this “civil” war. The recognition of Almighty God was equally planted in the hearts of both leaders, so I wonder if the timing was a “surrender of sorts” to His Divine authority as another form..higher form of surrender was about to be recalled throughout the nation, divided, in her churches. Just pondering aloud.

  • In the Civil War, in the Catholic Church, I do not know of decent men from the Bergoglio – Kasper camp. None of them seem to care at all about our souls. They seem to care about our groins and our feelings.

    I have had much more than enough of them.

    When they are willing to slap a proud adulterer in the face, in public, and require them to repent or to face formal excommunication, I will secure my sword in its scabbard. Until then, it is war….at least from me.

    Karl

  • Stay on the topic of the post please.

July 2, 1863: 20th Maine Holds Little Round Top

Tuesday, July 2, AD 2013

A stirring tribute to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who, with his boys of the 20th Maine, quite possibly saved the Union at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.  A professor who volunteered to fight, Chamberlain was typical of those who stepped forward, North and South, and risked their lives for love of their country, at a time when the question of what that country consisted of was being decided on the battlefield.

Here is Chamberlain’s report of the 20th Maine’s role in the defense of Little Round Top which he wrote on July 6, 1863:

Little_Round_Top2

Somewhere near 4 p.m. a sharp cannonade, at some distance to our left and front, was the signal for a sudden and rapid movement of our whole division in the direction of this firing, which grew warmer as we approached. Passing an open field in the hollow ground in which some of our batteries were going into position, our brigade reached the skirt of a piece of woods, in the farther edge of which there was a heavy musketry fire, and when about to go forward into line we received from Colonel Vincent, commanding the brigade, orders to move to the left at the double-quick, when we took a farm road crossing Plum Run in order to gain a rugged mountain spur called Granite Spur, or Little Round Top.

The enemy’s artillery got range of our column as we were climbing the spur, and the crashing of the shells among the rocks and the tree tops made us move lively along the crest. One or two shells burst in our ranks. Passing to the southern slope of Little Round Top, Colonel Vincent indicated to me the ground my regiment was to occupy, informing me that this was the extreme left of our general line, and that a desperate attack was expected in order to turn that position, concluding by telling me I was to” hold that ground at all hazards.” This was the last word I heard from him.

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11 Responses to July 2, 1863: 20th Maine Holds Little Round Top

  • The story of 20th Maine and their holding the flank at Little Ropund Top is a great one. They deserve praise. However, they wouldn’t have had a chance to show their heroism if not for the NY 140th. When the Rebels were first attacking Little Round Top, they were making a frontal assault. They were about to take the hill when the NY 140 charged up the hill from the rear (where they had been marching by and were ordered to the top of the hill) and then down on the Rebels – suffering severe casualties (including their commanding officer, Col. Patrick O’Rorke), but they stopped the attack and held the hill. It was then that the Confederates tried to attack on the side where the 20th Maine was. If you go to the battle site there’s a statue of O’Rorke on the top of the hill.

  • Quite right Lee. The 20th’s valiant stand would not have succeeded but for the heroism amply displayed by other Union units fighting on Little Round Top.

  • Minnesota at Gettysburg:

    “The pivot of American history turns on the second day at Gettysburg, and, while thousands of men fought gallantly on both sides that day, there were two points where the fate of the world, really, hung in the balance. The first was at Little Round Top, where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s 20th Maine held off Confederate attacks throughout the day. The second came late in the afternoon, when the Confederates attacked the center of the Union line, which had been stripped almost bare as Union generals sent more and more troops to defend the southern part of the line. It was in the center that the First Minnesota made its famous suicide charge, attacking onrushing Confederates who outnumbered the Minnesotans fifteen to one in a desperate effort to gain time to reinforce the Union line. The regiment suffered a casualty rate exceeding 80 percent, but succeeded beyond General Hancock’s expectations, as they not only purchased with their lives the critical minutes needed to reinforce the Union line, but stopped the Confederate advance in its tracks. No unit of the United States Army has ever exceeded the First Minnesota for gallantry and courage.”

  • Father Corby’s book (I have it), Memoirs of Chaplain Life, does not present possibly his most memorable service when on the second day at Gettysburg he gave the famous General Absolution. He did, however in his book: “And now, the two great armies are confronting each other…. At about four o, set the scene. “at four o’clock the Confederates commenced firing, and one hundred and twenty cannon from their side belched forth from their fiery throats missiles of death into our lines…The proportions of the pending crash seemed so great, as the armies eye each other, that even veterans who had often ‘smelled powder’ quailed at the thought of the final conflict. The Third Corps were pressed back, and at this critical moment I proposed to give a General Absolution.”

    Maj. Gen. St. Clair Mulholland sets the scene: “Now help is called for, and Hancock tells Caldwell to have his men ready… The Irish Brigade whose green flag has been unfurled in every battle in which the Army of the Potomac has been engaged from Bull Run to Appomattox, formed a part of this division… The Chaplain of this brigade, Rev. William Corby, proposed to give a General Absolution to all the men before going into the fight. While this is customary in the armies of Catholic countries in Europe, it was perhaps the first time it was ever witnessed on this Continent.”

    Father Corby stood on a large rock (famous painting and statues) in center front of the brigade. “The brigade was standing at order arms!’ As he closed his address, every man, Catholic and non-Catholic, fell on his knees with his head bowed down. Then stretching his right hand toward the Brigade, Father Corby pronounced the words of Absolution:’Dominus noster Jesus Christus vos absolvat.”‘

  • Very proud of our former Governor, who besides the charge at Little Round Top, went on to have a very distinguished career in the army for the rest of the war, despite a debilitating wound, which caused him immense pain for the rest of his life. He was wounded 5 other times besides and led a rout of Confederate forces at Five Forks. One of only 2 known battlefield promotions to General on the Union side. Mustered out as a Brevet Major General.

    A true Mainer. We will be remembering him and honoring him this year, especially in Brunswick at the Pejebscot Historical Society, when they hold their “Chamberlain Days” celebrations in August. They don’t make many men like him anymore!

    Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine!!

  • Not to take anything away from the men on both sides that bravely fought at little rountop but; Chamberlin lied about his part in the battle and his own men corrected his lie a few years after the war. Chamberlin used his supposed actions to gain a political career, but his men finally got tired of his lies and told the truth; he was less than honorable or brave.

  • Chamberlain did not lie about his part in the battle. Read his report written a few days after the battle. Where these supposed “lies” come from are some articles that Chamberlain was asked to write for Hearst magazine. The editors embellished most of them without Chamberlain’s permission. He wouldn’t even claim them as his own work after they were published.

    To return to battle only 4 months after receiving a wound at Petersburg that should have killed him, even with today’s medical technology is more than brave. And I believe his entire military career as well as the rest of his life serve as more than ample proof of his honor.

    As far as I’m concerned, all the men that served at Gettysburg are heros.

Palm Sunday One Hundred and Forty-Eight Years Ago

Sunday, March 24, AD 2013

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

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6 Responses to Palm Sunday One Hundred and Forty-Eight Years Ago

  • Mr. McClarey. You are doing them justice by trimming the tree that they planted so many years ago. Thank you!

  • Don McClarey: You ain’t so bad yourself!

    May God grant you and your family with a Holy, Blessed Easter.

    Karl J Wengenroth

  • Thank you Karl. A blessed Holy Week and Easter to you and yours!

  • Thank you for this wonderful information.

    As we all see things through our own personal lenses, and as a different “civil” contention goes on this current holy weeK, in our Supreme Court, my hope that we could be as great and good as those generals and soldiers.

    This statement of U. S. Grant spoke aloud to me: “I knew there was no use to urge him to do anything against his ideas of what was right.”

    This week the Supreme Court talks about marriage on a national level. I hope they can be great enough to carefully discern and good enough do what is right.

  • The end of the war would quite possibly have even gone better if President Lincoln had not been shot. Lincoln’s overriding agenda with the ceasefire was to be far more magnanimous in victory than President Johnson was to prove to be. Whether that would have worked out in reality (as opposed to theory) better of course we will never know. But even with what we got, it could have gone a lot worse if not for the basic decencies of Lee and Grant in the conclusion of hostilities between the two sides.