08 May 2010

Just For Review


"Reading some recent blog posts, editorials, and comments condemning Robert E. Lee as a traitor coming from those who consider themselves serious Civil War scholars, convinces me that these individuals have no fundamental understanding of federalism and how many 19th century Americans viewed their home states in regards to their state's relationships to Washington and the federal government. Condemning Lee as a 'traitor' for resigning his army commission reveals a shallowness in interpretation. Those who hold to such views are, no doubt, suffering from "presentism" - superimposing their modern views of patriotism - love of, and loyalty to, a government - on to what was the common 19th century view: love of a land and its people. Let's examine Lee's decision in a little more detail and in light of this 'less modern' view of patriotism."

Revisiting a previous post: Robert E. Lee - Quintessential American Patriot

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Robert E. Lee was a traitor he would have accepted command of the entire Union army and would have surrendered Washington along with Lincoln,Congress,and the army of the Potomac to the Confederacy.If you want to see a traitor go study Benidict Arnold and then compare him to Robert E. Lee and then see how worlds apart those 2 men are.One is a man of honor,the other is a man of unbridled ambition,who would do anything to advance his lot in life.

To correctly understand Robert E. Lee you must understand what it means to have honor and especially what having honor meant in the 19th century.Today we look upon honor as some sort of self rightious pride but thats not the way Lee and other honoable been viewed it in their day.For them honor was not about yourself but about revereing things greater than yourself,God,family,country,etc.It was about being honest to yourself,to your fellow man and before God.Honor for them was a thing worth dying for and it was sacred.For them their was a fate worse than death,to lose ones honor.If you can't understand that,you can't understand Robert E.Lee and the other men of his generation.

Tom Gann

cenantua said...

Richard,

Federalism does not totally explain the mindset of mid-19th Southerners when we consider the over 300,000 Southerners in blue and the countless number of Southern civilians who continued to side with the Union. Was Federalism a factor in those who did not remain Unionists? Sure, but we can't assume that it accounts for the thinking of all Southerners, including some who volunteered. The point is that it probably did weigh on the minds of many Southerners.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Tom: All excellent points. Lee had nothing to gain by following Virginia, other than his honor. Regardless of how one sees Lee, he certainly was selfless in his decision.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert:

I realize your focus of study is Southern Unionists, but that is not the subject of this post. It should also be noted that Lee was not a rabid secessionist and made his decision reluctantly. As I've noted before, his devotion to the Union was intense. (Given his family history, how could it be otherwise?). It's just that his devotion to Virginia was greater.

cenantua said...

I agree with you. Lee was not a rabid secessionist, and I understand that. I think Lee was no different than those we see in Staunton (for example) at the opening of events. Unionists, but not unconditional. In fact, I suspect that he was probably initially critical of the deeper South's decision to secede. Do you know of anything that shows how he may have felt about those deeper South states prior to the actions of the Virginia secession delegation?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"In fact, I suspect that he was probably initially critical of the deeper South's decision to secede."

No question. My perspective is that hotheads on both sides wanted a war that, I believe, could have been avoided. Of course, that's just my opinion. Who really knows?

"Do you know of anything that shows how he may have felt about those deeper South states prior to the actions of the Virginia secession delegation?"

No, I don't. That's your area of expertise. My guess would be that those, who may at first have been reluctant, grew more sympathetic toward the Southern cause as the war progressed due to a number of reasons. As I've said before, my own ancestor used to say when asked why he fought, "I was fightin' them damn invaders."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, & I am willing to sacrifice every thing but honour for its preservation. . . . Secession is nothing but revolution. . . . " ~ Robert E. Lee, Fort Mason, Texas, to Rooney Lee, 29 January 1861

However, Lee qualified the above sentiment with:

"I therefore Conclude that those States [of the deep South] on no Condition will adhere to the Union. . . . If the bond of the Union can only be maintained by the Sword & bayonet, . . . its existence will lose all interest with me. . . . " ~ Robert E. Lee, Fort Mason, Texas, to Agnes Lee, 29 January 1861

cenantua said...

I don't necessarily agree with increased sympathy to the "Southern cause", at least as defined as the "Confederate Cause", but I do agree that the impact made by Union soldiers did draw more to serve against what became known as a common threat to whatever (many different reasons) was of interest to them personally. On the other hand, the impact of Union soldiers also kept a good number of men out of the Confederate armies, as they felt they could see to their families better at home than in the army.

cenantua said...

"I therefore Conclude that those States [of the deep South] on no Condition will adhere to the Union. . . . If the bond of the Union can only be maintained by the Sword & bayonet, . . . its existence will lose all interest with me. . . . " ~ Robert E. Lee, Fort Mason, Texas, to Agnes Lee, 29 January 1861

Yes, and that, I think, defined the boundaries of Unionism for quite a number of Virginians. who defined themselves as Unionists up until that point. Then, after that, it (measures of loyalty to the two different sides) becomes even more difficult to explain.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I don't necessarily agree with increased sympathy to the "Southern cause", at least as defined as the "Confederate Cause"

Given the fact there were many Confederate sympathizers in the North, would you also say that the "Union Cause" and the "Northern Cause" are not necessarily synonymous?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"Yes, and that, I think, defined the boundaries of Unionism for quite a number of Virginians. who defined themselves as Unionists up until that point. Then, after that, it (measures of loyalty to the two different sides) becomes even more difficult to explain."

Much of it, I believe, is because they saw the Union as a voluntary (though strong) association and would agree with Lee's sentiment that a "Sword & bayonet marriage" had little attraction.

cenantua said...

My comment: "I don't necessarily agree with increased sympathy to the "Southern cause", at least as defined as the "Confederate Cause"

Your response: "Given the fact there were many Confederate sympathizers in the North, would you also say that the 'Union Cause' and the '"Northern Cause' are not necessarily synonymous?"

The Confederate Cause of '61 was just that, but the Southern Cause of later years was not necessarily the Confederate Cause of '61. The latter part of the war saw not an increase in sympathies to the Confederate Cause, but expanded more to a Southern Cause. I think this created a greater sense of Southern bond, a greater common thread, than had existed in the South as of 1861.

The "Northern Cause"/"Union Cause" thing is complex as well, but in a different way, and I don't see Confederate sympathizers in the North as comparable to Southern Unionists, but this digresses greatly from the intent of your post.

cenantua said...

"Much of it, I believe, is because they saw the Union as a voluntary (though strong) association and would agree with Lee's sentiment that a "Sword & bayonet marriage" had little attraction."

Yes, but as I've pointed out, I've seen accounts of Southern Unionists of Virginia mentioning the "sacred soil of Virginia" in such a way that it isn't at all different from the passion we see in others who opted for the Confederacy.

Bill Vallante said...

300,000 "Southerners in blue?" ROFL! Last time I checked the figure being touted was 50,000. Now it's up to 300,000? Pretty soon, the hackademics who have solemnly declared "the Lost Cause" to be a "myth" will have succeeded in creating their own even more unbelievable myth.... Let's see now, we got dem 300,000 southern boys fightin' in blue, we got dem 3.5 million slaves working feverishly to subvert the southern war effort and secretly rooting for the union army to come rescue them, we've got a disinterested civilian population being led into a war they don't want by a werry werry bad group of men (those evil, nasty, slaveowning planters) we've got southerners in gray deserting in droves.... err, but wait...there's just one problem - if all this is true, who the hell put those 360,000 "yankees stiff insouthern dust?" Sure does sound like someone on the Southern side was doing an awful lot of shooting! And why the hell did it take so damned long for the union army to subdue the south? How is it that an army of 2.5 million, with an additional 300,000 of the enemy fighting FOR it, AND, 3.5 million slaves working as spies, took 4 years to win against a dispirited, misled, unmotivated people who were hell bent on deserting? Why wasn't the war over in 2 weeks?

Keep adding new parts to your own "myth". By all means, please keep adding! The more absurdities you add, the more visibly absurd it becomes. Hopefully, when it gets too absurd not to be noticeable, America will take a good deep breath and finally get a wiff of that B.S. that you and others like you have been peddling. Please, keep going. Make your figures as absurd as possible. Go for half a million! Push the limits! Go for it. I await to see what new limits you can reach!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I was just following your digression Robert. You are always careful to distinguish between the "Southern cause" and the "Confederate cause." I was just illustrating that I rarely see that same care in making the distinction with the "Union cause."

Yes, the diverse loyalties in both sections were quite complex, I agree.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I've seen accounts of Southern Unionists of Virginia mentioning the "sacred soil of Virginia" in such a way that it isn't at all different from the passion we see in others who opted for the Confederacy."

Of course, I agree. I believe it came down, as I originally pointed out in the post, to an understanding of "Union" - federalism. At what point does one's loyalties to country trump one's loyalties to the government?

"Patriotism is the love of a land and its people, nationalism is the love of a government." ~ Dr. Clyde Wilson.

Lee loved the land of Virginia and his people more than he loved the cold concept of "Union" - i.e. the government.

cenantua said...

Sorry to see BV's rant foul an otherwise enjoyable exchange, Richard. I'm sure his firm understanding of the numbers is based on his many, many hours spent in examining service records (need I say that I'm being sarcastic?]. Not to mention that his passionate rebuke is based in his ancestral connections with Confederate soldiers (oh, wait, he is an associate member of the SCV... sorry, more sarcasm again on my part).

Nonetheless, and getting back to our exchange, Richard, I think the distinction between Northern Confederate sympathizers and Southern Unionists merits a post and I hope to get around to it in the near future.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Mr. Vallante:

Please review blog rules - "no cussin'."

Robert:

Along those lines, Professor Daniel Rolph posted this commentary about "Northern Secessionists" a while back:

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2009/08/guest-post-by-professor-daniel-n-rolph.html

BorderRuffian said...

RM-
"Federalism does not totally explain the mindset of mid-19th Southerners when we consider the over 300,000 Southerners in blue..."


US Troops organized in Southern States-

AL.......2578
AR.......8289
FL.......1290
GA........195 (itd.nps.gov)
LA.......5224
MS........545
NC.......3156
SC..........0
TN......31092
TX.......1965
VA......~2600 (itd.nps.gov)

Total...56934

USCT....99337 (from 'rebel' states)
(how many were volunteers RM?)

Sources: Dyer's Compendium, itd.nps.gov

~


Now if you include all the pro-Lincoln German immigrants of Missouri...

...and "Kentucky" and "West Virginia" units organized of men from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, &etc...

...you might get 300,000 "Southerners."

cenantua said...

BR,

WV alone provided between 22,000 and 25,000, and they were Southern by culture, and as defined by the geographical definition established by the Mason-Dixon line. The same goes for Maryland, though the number of Union troops from there isn't handy right now.

Take a look at the back of Richard Current's book, Lincoln's Loyalists. He spent a great deal of time coming up with his 100,000 figure, but I think he dismisses some things too easily. One thing that I recall offhand is his dismissal of an earlier theory (ca. 1912) that there may have been over 634,000 Southern Unionists in blue. I too think that number is extremely high, and a large overestimation. Yet, a portion of the theory that Current dismisses has merit. While I don't agree with the 634K, I agree with the belief that there were quite a number of Southerners who had moved North before the war and served in units organized in a number of Northern states. I've seen this several times for Virginians in Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri, but Current said since the person (I can't recall his name right now) didn't provide evidence, it couldn't be verified. I think I'm building the evidence to show that there were a number of these folks, but it may be a life's project to identify each and every one, and I don't see myself going quite that far. I will add, however, that it appears that some deserted from the Union army in cases where the unit in which they enlisted was headed for the eastern theater. I think it makes sense that many of them simply didn't want to fight kin.

I've also encountered a number of Virginians (that's because Va is the primary focus of my work) in Union units that were formed from various Northern states, but that these people were, as of 1860, residing in Virginia.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert:

I don't believe that including WV and MD in the totals is correct. They were, after all, Union states.

cenantua said...

BR,

I agree with you on the point made about WV. Not all were from WV, just as in the case of those in Maryland's Union units. Co. C of Cole's Cavalry, just as an example, had a significant number of men from Gettysburg, Pa. Some men in the 12th WV Infantry were from Md. (though also falling under the definition of a "Southern" state).

As for Kentucky, I even have two distant uncles from Hardin and Breckinridge counties who were in Union units from Ky. I'm not denying that men came from other states, but how many is up for review (once someone actually takes the time to go through and find out how many were not from Ky).

I'm not well-versed on Texas, but do know of the heavy German population that sided with the Union.

cenantua said...

Richard,

Union states, but culturally Southern. I don't consider men from those states who joined the Confederacy "Northerners." Additionally, I've also seen where Marylanders who enlisted in Union units considered themselves "Southern".

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert - that is somewhat objective. I think for the purpose of the discussion and the subject of the post, we were discussing Confederate states and secession. Neither WV nor MD seceded or were part of the Confederacy.

cenantua said...

Richard,

No doubt, we've strayed far from your initial post focused on Lee and treason. Yet, as you allowed BV's comment, and the subsequent comment by BR, both focused on my figure of 300,000 plus "Southern Unionists" in blue, it is relevant. Of course, I won't continue down that road and start discussing why Maryland didn't secede as it opens up an entirely different round of discussion, moving even further from the subject of your initial post.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert - it's been an interesting discussion. My point wasn't about "allowing" or off topic, just that including MD and WV doesn't really make sense in the context here, at least in my opinion, since they were not part of the CSA.

Regarding MD, are you referring to Lincoln's arrest of legislators?

cenantua said...

I'm not sure I'm following you regarding Md. and WV and, like I said, you allowed BV and BR to comment, specifically, on my estimation of "Southerners in blue", not "Southerners within the seceded states, in blue". My point is that in defining Southern Unionists, culture matters first, not boundaries as defined by secession. I'm simply addressing their comments.

Re: Md. legislators... yes, some were arrested, but I'm afraid I see the number of legislators being arrested grossly exaggerated in some works. The point there is that the eastern delegates (more secessionist in sentiment than the west) had a firmer hold on the state legislature. The governor even moved a critical session to Frederick, into an area with more Unionism to help prevent a slide toward secession. Frankly, had Maryland seceded, it may well have been another split state, like Virginia. That restraint was critical in Md. for Unionists to retain their voice. Virginians outside the area of what became West Virginia, didn't have that same advantage and became part of the war within a war.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"My point is that in defining Southern Unionists, culture matters first, not boundaries as defined by secession."

Two separate issues, in my opinion (culture/boundaries).

What prompted my post was the charge of "traitor" for those who actually were secessionists (even reluctantly) like Lee. That would not include those who might be considered "cultural" Southerners, notwithstanding BV's and BR's comments.

"Virginians outside the area of what became West Virginia, didn't have that same advantage and became part of the war within a war."

True, but that could be said of any war.

cenantua said...

I clearly understand what prompted your post, and understand the nature of responses from BV and BR directed immediately at my remark about 300,000 Southerners in blue, and I addressed them accordingly. I'll leave it at that.

"True, but that could be said of any war."

Any war? No, I totally disagree. Any war in which a single country became divided in a similar way? Perhaps, but will focus strictly on the Civil War.

Southern Unionists living within the boundaries of states that had seceded were subject to a great deal more than Northerners with sympathy for secessionists. I'll grant you, there are incidents in which copperhead types were killed in the North because of their sentiments, and there were certainly imprisonments, but I don't see their suffering on the same scale as Southern Unionists (arrests, imprisonments, deaths, etc.) The loss of or the threat of loss of individual rights was probably the common thread in the two groups, most especially if they were outspoken about their sympathies, but Southern Unionists had a great deal more at stake, and likely sustained more loss overall. I'm not into speculative history, but had the Confederacy won the war, it would have been interesting to see who would have been among the exodus out of the South and who would have remained. What level of tolerance would people have and remain for the sake of home and land?

If you would like to post something related to this, I'll be sure to comment, but I don't want to blur a line between the intent of your post and the direction the discussion is moving away from the post. It's been an enjoyable exchange, Richard.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert:

"True, but that could be said of any war."

I was speaking in general terms of citizens disagreeing with participation in a war. Sorry I didn't make that clear. Thanks for your input.

cenantua said...

Ok, I understand now about the "could be said of any war" comment, and agree with that. Thanks again, Richard.

Bill Vallante said...

Sorry to have upset you Mr. Cenantua. Actually, I'm not upset at all. I'm being "sarcastic." Like I said, please keep inflating your numbers of Southerners in blue and please keep adding more pieces to the "Myth of the Lost Cause" picture that y'all are so intent on constructing. The more pieces you add, the less like a "myth" the Lost Cause becomes, and the more of a lie your contentions look like. And as far as my "ancestors" are concerned, no, they were not Southerners. They were hard working immigrants from Italy and I am proud of them, as I am also proud of my "associate membership" in several SCV camps.

cenantua said...

One more thing. I appreciate BR taking the time to come up with a good response to my numbers of Southern Unionists in blue. He based it on some good source materials. Incidentally, one of my comments apparently didn't get through (not faulting you, Richard, but Blogger on making it difficult to get comments through on one try), but I agreed with him about some people (an undetermined number) from other states joining WV & Ky. units. I've also seen the same thing in Md. with Cole's Cav. One company had a good number of men from Gettysburg, Pa. Incidentally, I had relatives in blue in Ky, WV, and Md. units and all were from those states, at that time.

On the other hand, I'm sorry to see BV bellowing empty rhetoric, based on very shallow/narrow knowledge/understanding of Southern life at the time of the war. At least I can appreciate the effort of Southerners who think that they are telling what is right about their own Confederate ancestors. It may not always match up to the complex realities that encompass the full body of facts surrounding their ancestors or the nature of their service, but at least they are trying to take care of their own. As a Southerner myself... one who has more Confederate ancestors (not to mention my cousins... with the names Lee, Hill, and Pickett) than BV can fathom, I have far more respect for those people today who try to take care of their own, than BV and his hot air...

Bill Vallante said...

I have met and have come to know many Southerners in my life, most of whom I find to be fascinating, charming and refreshing. Unfortunately, there are some, like yourself, who seek to ingratiate themselves with the loonies in wack-ademia by showing how enlightened or how progressive they are. I am not impressed at all. So please spare me your blatherings about how many Southern ancestors you have. If you're trying to hurt my feelings you have to do a lot better than that. “A Southerner’s thoughts on the Civil War…and not what you might expect.” I’m sure that slogan will ingratiate you with most contemporary historians but I’m not sure what your “many” ancestors would think. My guess is that if they came to life today they would probably all join in a mass pistol whipping of you.

There isn’t much that I trust these days that comes out of academia. When I was majoring in history several decades ago, historians took different points of view when it came to the interpretation of historical events. Indeed, the arguments over these different points of view were what actually constituted the study of History. When I look at the study of history today in hack-ademia, especially in matters relating to the “Civil War,” I see the same interpretation from everyone. The general agreement that exists regarding most facets of the “Civil War” suggests to me that there is something horribly wrong. There is no argument, no disagreement, none of that which used to constitute the study of history. There is instead, the peace, the serenity, the monotony of the hive. Something is horribly wrong and I am not sure when it started or why it proliferates so. You are not the first or only one ever to tout the figures of southerners who fought for the north. And you won’t be the last. I wonder how many researchers are out there doing studies on northerners who fought for the south?

So no, I do not trust your figures, though I do hope you keep inflating them. Go for a million southerners in blue. Please do. As I said before, eventually, the entire "Lost Cause as a Myth" thing is going to implode as it becomes an even bigger myth than the Lost Cause myth itself.

I won't take up any more space on Richard's blog. He seems to put a lot of time and effort into it and I don’t think he intended it to become a forum for insult-slinging. I will make this my last post on this matter and leave the “last word”, or insult, if you prefer, to you, Mr. C.

Wildbill4dixie@yahoo.com

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Speaking of Northerners who fought for the South . . . we have our very own Jed Hotchkiss, buried right here in my neck of the woods.

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