**Update: After posting this response, I went back again and read the string of comments which caused this "controversy." It immediately became clear to me that, though my comment followed Simons' remark, my "Yeah, me too" was actually in response to the comment prior to Mr. Simons which was:
"I just wish that some of those who hold themselves up as the defenders of the Union cause could show the same amount of respect as Gen. Chamberlin [sic] did toward Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy 145 years ago today."
My response was, as noted, "Yeah, me too." In other words, I, too, wished "that some who hold themselves up . . . could show, etc. " - Responding to "It is a sad day indeed for all of us who love the South" with, "Yeah, me too" does not make grammatical sense. Responding to the previous comment with those same words does make sense. This just further illustrates the point of this post regarding misinformation and comments being taken out of context. It can easily happen and the order in which my response appeared contributed to the confusion, though I still believe the criticism was over the top. That being said, I believe I understand where Mr. Simons was coming from and attempt to explain that further below.
I promised myself that I would no longer get into these back and forth debates in the blogosphere but, alas, I'm finding that unavoidable. Kevin Levin has, once again, posted erroneous information about my comments on this blog. See here. (Warning, Levin displays some of his finer vocabulary skills at the end of his post.) First of all, Levin finds it strange that some folks would connect sadness with Appomattox and attempts to link those who do so to those who believe slavery was "benign?" What!? I've said repeatedly that I believe that God allowed the Civil War to occur due to the SIN OF SLAVERY and punished both sections of the Nation for their involvement in that evil. Levin's suggestion is almost as slanderous as it is ridiculous, in my humble opinion.
So, here we go again. I had 3 great-great grandfathers that fought for the Confederacy during the WBTS. All poor dirt farmers. None of them owned slaves. One of them was wounded twice. Two of them served time in yankee prisons. One of them died in Chimborazo hospital as a result of his wounds and ill treatment while in prison. He lies in a common grave with 2 other soldiers in Oakwood cemetery in Richmond, which, until recently, the City of Richmond would not even allow me to mark. Would you consider that sad? I would. His widow died not ever knowing what had become of him. Would you consider that sad? I would. The rest of the family never even knew what happened to him until a few years ago - thanks to a piece I wrote for the Washington Times' Civil War column and the diligent work of SCV researchers working on cataloguing the names of those buried at Oakwood. Another ancestor lies in a grave marked only by a simple field stone. I'm trying to get permission from the landowner to install a proper marker. One of the two ancestors who survived the war continued to suffer from the wounds he received. The other ancestor died penniless, due in large measure to the devastation and loss brought on by the war. Would you consider that sad? I would. That sadness is connected with the surrender at Appomattox, despite what others may think.
Perhaps Levin believes sadness and pride over my ancestor's sacrifice and courage is "Nostalgic B.S.", but I, and many others, see it quite differently.
So, yes, sadness in connection with Appomattox and my ancestors' bravery, courage, and suffering after the war is, in my opinion, appropriate. Rejoicing is also appropriate. Rejoicing that the bloodshed was over. That sons, brothers, and fathers could finally return to their homes - or what was left of them - and to loved ones. And, of course, that slavery would be ending; albeit at the cost of over 600,000 lives and followed by decades of continued bitterness and division. Could the issues that led to Appomattox have been resolved some other way? Without war? Without the death of over 600,000 Americans - South and North? Without the bitterness that followed? Certainly, sadness over "what if" is appropriate in connection with Appomattox, in my view. How sad to think that the loss of 600,000 lives might have been avoided had cooler heads on both sides prevailed. Sadness and joy are not necessarily mutually exclusive over a war as complicated as was our Civil War. I'm sure even many of those Southern soldiers present at Appomattox were simultaneously sad and joyful over the end of the war. Sad they had given so much and lost. Joyful that they would be returning home. Human emotions at such times are often complicated and difficult to sort through. That Levin would attempt to use such simplistic, "Gotcha history" tactics as a morality play, twist it out of context, and then attempt to get so much mileage out of a simple comment is quite strange, as well as quite instructive, in my opinion.
Now, as to my allegedly rejecting a comment by Mark Snell. That is utterly false. I received no follow up comment from Professor Snell. I don't doubt he attempted to post another comment, but I did not receive it. I sent a private email to address that issue with him. He's responded and I've responded back. Our conversation will remain private, but our exchange was quite civil and I appreciate the fact he took the time to respond. I've invited him to comment in the future. But it really is no business of Levin's whose comments I choose to post and whose I choose to reject (though I never rejected the one in question). Levin comes off as a busybody attempting to police other blogs. Lord knows he has earned quite a reputation of banning people, rejecting comments, and deleting them. He's deleted several of mine before, which is one of the reasons I no longer bother to comment there. I'd say he has a credibility issue with any criticism over rejecting comments. But that's just my opinion.
Regarding Professor Snell's comment that Lee "had no choice", I would disagree. I believe Lee did have other choices - specifically guerrilla warfare, which he rejected. He could have fought on to the death, as some of his men urged him to do, but which he also rejected. And, as I noted in another follow up comment, Grant obviously could afford more casualties than Lee. Regarding the comment about Grant, I suppose Levin rejects the notion that Grant waged a war of attrition against Lee. That's fine, but I interpret the facts differently, as do many others.
Now, as to the criticism that I culled Grant's quote for my own purposes, that's a legitimate criticism and I agree the words chosen don't reflect Grant's complete thought. I had several sources for that quote. I pulled one that did not include the complete remark. That was admittedly sloppy on my part. Here's the complete sentence:
“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and so valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause though that was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”
Nonetheless, including the whole quote would not have taken away from my point - Grant expressed sadness - perhaps better expressed as "empathy" as one comment noted - over his foe's surrender; this despite the fact Grant thought their cause "one of the worst for which a people ever fought." I think bringing up the omitted part of Grant's comment served as more of a distraction than anything else, since it does not change the crux of Grant's expressed sentiments regarding Lee's surrender. Thus, the point I was making stands.
And, another quote from Grant in which he acknowledges the sadness of Lee's foes at Appomattox:
"When they passed out of the works they had so long and so gallantly defended, between the lines of their late antagonists, not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give pain. I believe there was a feeling of sadness among the Union soldiers at seeing the dejection of their late antagonists." Ulysses S. Grant, Surrender of Vicksburg, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (New York, 1885)
I'll conclude here with a passage from the last chapter of Bruce Catton's A Stillness At Appomattox:
"One of [Union General] Ord's soldiers wrote that the army should have gone wild with joy, then and there; and yet, he said, somehow they did not. Later there would be frenzied cheering and crying and rejoicing, but now . . . now, for some reason, the men sat on the ground and looked across at the Confederate army and found themselves feeling as they never dreamed that the moment of victory would make them feel.
". . . I remember how we sat there and pitied and sympathized with these courageous Southern men who had fought for four long and dreary years all so stubbornly, so bravely and so well, and now, whippen, beaten, completely used up, were fully at our mercy - it was pitiful, sad, hard, and seemed to us altogether too bad."