Hattip to commenter Dennis McCutcheon for giving me the idea for this post. We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history. If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality. Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers. Here history balanced on a knife edge. If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us. Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy.
“Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.
Something for the weekend. We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam sung to the tune Whiskey in the Jar. A nice tribute to the Irish volunteers who were a mainstay of the Union Army of the Potomac. The song is also celebratory of George Brinton McClellan who led the Army of the Potomac in 1861-62. Little Mac was a good organizer and he made sure his men were well fed and clothed. He took care of his men and they were fond of him as a result. Unfortunately, although not a bad strategist, he was a lousy battlefield commander. During the battles of the Seven Days, though McClellan outnumbered the Confederates under Lee, he allowed Lee to take the initiative and force him back from Richmond. At Antietam, in spite of enjoying better than two to one odds, McClellan’s uncoordinated attacks blew a prime opportunity for the Army of the Potomac to destroy Lee’s army. As a battlefield commander McClellan was worse than having no commander at all. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Riding a Raid, sung by Bobby Horton, the man who has dedicated his life to bringing Civil War music to modern audiences. Stuart and his cavalry troopers were the glamor boys of the Army of the Northern Virginia. Twice they rode around the Army of the Potomac, and until 1863 they completely dominated the Union cavalry, although they were usually heavily outnumbered on the battlefield. This song captures well the spirit of the cavaliers in grey.
“Once let the Black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”
Blacks after the Civil War would be shamefully denied equal rights for a century. However, that sad fact does not detract in the slightest from the heroism of black troops fighting to preserve a nation that had given them little reason to love it. The great lesson of the Civil War is that we are all Americans, all part of this experiment in self-government, and it is a lesson to be remembered on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
A moving video of the Irish Brigade at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, based on the movie Gods and Generals. It was criminal military malpractice for Burnside, perhaps the most incompetent general in the war, to assault the fortified Confederate positions, but his idiocy does not derogate in the slightest from the extreme heroism of the Union troops who suffered massive casualties while attempting to do the impossible.
The Irish Brigade was one of the units called upon that day to do the impossible. One of the regiments in the Brigade was the 69th New York, the Fighting 69th as they would be designated by Robert E. Lee for their gallant charge at this battle, a unit faithful readers of this blog are quite familiar with. This day their chaplain personally blessed each man in the regiment. They called him Father Thomas Willett. That was as close as they could get to pronouncing his actual name. Continue reading
I normally take great pride in being an American, but there are passages in our history which all Americans should be ashamed of. During our Civil War in many prison camps, both North and South, POWs were treated wretchedly with inadequate shelter, clothing and food. The worst by far was Andersonville.
Some of our readers south of the Mason-Dixon line no doubt have perhaps felt left out in my many posts regarding Abraham Lincoln. I am fully aware that great Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War, and one of the greatest of Americans, of his time or any time, was Robert E. Lee.
Something for the weekend. The Battle Cry of Freedom was a popular song North and South during the Civil War. Of course, they sang different lyrics to the song. The Union version was such a favorite among the Union troops, that President Lincoln, in a letter to George F. Root, the composer, wrote: “You have done more than a hundred generals and a thousand orators. If you could not shoulder a musket in defense of your country, you certainly have served her through your songs.”
Hands down the most moving inaugural address in American history is the second inaugural address given by President Lincoln, little over a month before his death. It is short, to the point and powerful. It is also the most important theological document written by any American President. Here is the text:
Part of my continuing series on Lincoln leading up to his 200th birthday. I thought on the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it would be appropriate to take a look at remarks about Lincoln made by the foremost black American of his day Frederick Douglass. These were made on April 14, 1876, at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Memorial to Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln Park in Washington DC An analysis by me will follow the remarks.
Something for the weekend. As we approach the 200th birthday of the Great Emancipator on February 12, 2009, I intend to be submitting various posts regarding Lincoln. The above tribute is to the tune of Ashokan Farewell, a modern composition now forever linked with the Civil War due to its use in Ken Burn’s Civil War. I think Lincoln would have found the music moving. He also would have found the use of his image howlingly funny. Lincoln considered himself ugly, as did most of his contemporaries, and I can imagine him saying that although the tribute was well intended that it should focus instead on those he regarded as the true heroes of the war: the common Union soldiers and sailors.
“It’s a warm spring Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. As the minister is about to present Holy Communion, a tall well-dressed black man sitting in the section reserved for African Americans unexpectedly advances to the communion rail; unexpectedly because this has never happened here before.