Remember General Trimble!

The battle was over and we had won it handsomely. General Ewell moved about uneasily, a good deal excited, and seemed to me to be undecided what to do next. I approached him and said: “Well, General, we have had a grand success; are you not going to follow it up and push our advantage?”

He replied that General Lee had instructed him not to bring on a general engagement without orders, and that he would wait for them.

I said, “That hardly applies to the present state of things, as we have fought a hard battle already, and should secure the advantage gained”. He made no rejoinder, but was far from composure. I was deeply impressed with the conviction that it was a critical moment for us and made a remark to that effect.

As no movement seemed immediate, I rode off to our left, north of the town, to reconnoitre, and noticed conspicuously the wooded hill northeast of Gettysburg (Culp’s), and a half mile distant, and of an elevation to command the country for miles each way, and overlooking Cemetery Hill above the town. Returning to see General Ewell, who was still under much embarrassment, I said, “General, There,” pointing to Culp’s Hill, “is an eminence of commanding position, and not now occupied, as it ought to be by us or the enemy soon. I advise you to send a brigade and hold it if we are to remain here.” He said: “Are you sure it commands the town?” [I replied,] “Certainly it does, as you can see, and it ought to be held by us at once.” General Ewell made some impatient reply, and the conversation dropped.

Major General Isaac R. Trimble

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.
Brutus, Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3
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Gettysburg the Film

 

At Daffey Thoughts Dave Griffey celebrates the film Gettysburg, the only film that  my bride and I ever hired a babysitter for in order to see, all the way back in 1993, which is now almost a quarter of a century ago, unbelievably enough to me.  Time does run in a rapid stream:

 

An annual viewing tradition around July 4th.  From a time before the dark days of Multiculturalism taught us to ignore the myriad sins of the world while refusing to forgive the sins of the West.

Adapted from Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, it marked that last point where the Civil War was popularly understood as driven by the issue of slavery, but also about many complex issues, as history always is.

But that was then.  Today history,  like so many things, has been whittled down to a soundbite.  Hence the end of the Confederate memorials; hence raising new bigotries and racisms to replace the old.  Those hellbent on ignoring the past are, after all, doomed to repeat it.  Or – good news for the post-war generations – our posterity will be doomed to repeat it.

Sometimes I think the reason we spend so much time focused on the sins of the past is because, deep down, we can’t help but think they were better than we are (exceptions noted).  As a generation, our greatest accomplishment is watching the civilization we inherited crumble under our feet.  And in the end, that’s not much to endear us to future memory.  A generation that has concluded “we can climb higher by kicking down the ladder by which we have come thus far” has shown why the”progressive habit of thinking we can make the world better for our children by murdering the memory of our grandparents is folly.”

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  Just some whimsy on this Independence Day celebration.  Now off to the fireworks!

 

Continue Reading

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American History: Memorial Day Weekend Movies

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

 

A few films to help remember that there is much greater significance to Memorial Day than sun and fun:

 

1.  American Sniper (2015)- A grand tribute to the late Chris Kyle and to all the other troops who served in Iraq.

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle

2.   Hamburger Hill (1987)- A moving film about our troops in Vietnam who served their nation far better than their too often ungrateful nation served them.

3.  Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there,  including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died a few years ago, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the above clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

4.   Hacksaw Ridge (2016):  Mel Gibson fully redeemed his career as a director with this masterpiece.  A film that goes far beyond mere entertainment and illustrates what a man of faith can accomplish when he stays true to his beliefs and cares so much more about helping others than he does about his own mortal life.  Incredibly, the movie does justice to Desmond Doss, a true American hero.

 

 5.   Sergeant York (1941)-A film biopic of Sergeant Alvin C. York, who, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive  on October 8,  1918, took 32 German machine guns, killed 28 German soldiers and captured another 132.  Viewers who came to see the movie in 1941 must have been initially puzzled.  With a title like Sergeant York, movie goers could have been forgiven for thinking that Sergeant York’s experiences in World War I would be the focus, but such was not the case.  Most of the film is focused on York’s life in Tennessee from 1916-1917 before American entry into the war.  Like most masterpieces, the film has a strong religious theme as we witness York’s conversion to Christ.  The film is full of big questions:  How are we to live?  Why are we here?  What role should religion play in our lives?  How does someone gain faith?  What should we do if we perceive our duty to God and to Country to be in conflict?  It poses possible answers to these questions with a skillful mixture of humor and drama.  The entertainment value of Sergeant York conceals the fact that it is a very deep film intellectually as it addresses issues as old as Man.

The film was clearly a message film and made no bones about it.  The paper of the film industry Variety noted at the time:  “In Sergeant York the screen has spoken for national defense. Not in propaganda, but in theater.”

The film was a huge success upon release in 1941, the top grossing film of the year.  Gary Cooper justly earned the Oscar for his stellar performance as Alvin C. York.  It was Cooper’s favorite of his pictures.  “Sergeant York and I had quite a few things in common, even before I played him in screen. We both were raised in the mountains – Tennessee for him, Montana for me – and learned to ride and shoot as a natural part of growing up. Sergeant York won me an Academy Award, but that’s not why it’s my favorite film. I liked the role because of the background of the picture, and because I was portraying a good, sound American character.”

The film portrays a devout Christian who had to reconcile the command to “Love thy Neighbor” with fighting for his country in a war.  This is not an easy question and the film does not give easy answers, although I do find the clip above compelling. Continue Reading

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Truth In a Time of Hysteria

Well, the National Park Service has joined the witch hunt against the Confederate flag, with this truly Orwellian statement:

America’s national parks are no longer selling Confederate battle flags in their bookstores and gift shops.

The National Park Service (NPS) announced on Thursday that the historic emblem will no longer be available as a memento for visitors to the parks system.

“We strive to tell the complete story of America,” said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a statement. “All sales items are evaluated based on educational value and their connection to the park.

“Any standalone depictions of Confederate flags have no place in park stores,” Jarvis added.

So much for attempting “to tell the complete story of America”, especially at Civil War battlefields.  (Who was the Union fighting, the “Censored” States of America?)  This is what happens of course in a country where a cadre of left wing activists live to launch Leftist crusades on the Internet, and their allies in business and government quickly fall into lock step.  An additional problem of course is that so many Americans today received a heavily politicized junk education and are bone ignorant of the history of their country.  To help cure the ignorance, I repeat this from a comment thread back in 2011.  Go here to read the original post.

Jesme:  What’s with the creepy Civil War video featuring some guy celebrating the heroism of Confederate soldiers? Practically ruins the article for me. Granted, I’m prejudiced on this point, but I can’t help it. Those nasty, murderous traitors were fighting for the right to buy and sell my ancestors like cattle. Thank God they lost. And kindly don’t hold them up to me as noble heroes. I’d as soon sing the praises of the SS. And yes, I know they weren’t quite as bad as the SS. But the difference is smaller than you might think.

 

Me:  The scene Jesme is from the movie Gettysburg. The actor is Richard Jordan who portrays Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead who died gallantly leading his men during Pickett’s charge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Addison_Armistead

The scene is given additional poignancy in that the actor Richard Jordan was dying of brain cancer at the time he appeared in the film.

The men who fought for the Confederacy did not invent negro slavery. It was an institution that was over 250 years old in what would become the United States by the time of the Civil War.

What to do about slavery seems simple to us now. It did not appear so to most people at the time as demonstrated by this statement from Abraham Lincoln in 1854:

This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world; enables the enemies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity; and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.

Before proceeding, let me say that I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses, North and South. Doubtless there are individuals on both sides who would not hold slaves under any circumstances, and others who would gladly introduce slavery anew if it were out of existence. We know that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North and become tip-top Abolitionists, while some Northern ones go South and become most cruel slave masters.

When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we are, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists and that it is very difficult to get rid of it in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself. If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves and send them to Liberia, to their own native land. But a moment’s reflection would convince me that whatever of high hope (as I think there is) there may be in this in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days, and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon.

What next? Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this, and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white peoples will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question, if, indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well- or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot, then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South.

When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them not grudgingly but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.”

It was the inability of both the North and the South to remove the stain of slavery peacefully from the land that led to the Civil War. Lincoln viewed the war as the punishment of God for this and I agree with him:

“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

The men who fought in the ranks of the Confederacy were not Nazis. They were men fighting for the freedom of their people to rule themselves. Tragically this included the right to continue the centuries old institution of black slavery. It took the worst war in our history to end that institution and to preserve the Union and it is a very good thing in my mind that the Confederacy lost. However, that fact does not negate that most Confederates fought gallantly for a cause they thought right, just as did their Union opponents, which of course includes their black Union opponents. Continue Reading

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Introduction to Gettysburg

Introduction to the movie Gettysburg.  Released on the 130th anniversary of the battle, I will have it playing at my home during the 150th anniversary next week.  Overlong, and historically suspect, especially as to its Longstreet-could-do-no wrong  perspective, it still is a masterpiece.  It captures perfectly the desperate nature of the battle that has become the symbol of that fratricidal conflict.  The late Shelby Foote once said that to understand this country you needed to understand the Civil War.  I concur, and I would also suggest that it is impossible to understand the Civil War without understanding Gettysburg,  a battle which marked the end of Lee’s perceived invincibility and gave Lincoln an opportunity to explain to the people why so many men had to die so their nation might live.

Stay tuned to The American Catholic for several posts in the next few days on Gettysburg and the Civil War.