11 April 2014

Admission Of My Lost Cause Omission

Someone is complaining I omitted General Grant's complete quote in a recent post when referring to Grant's admiration of Lee. Here's what I posted quoting General Grant:
“My own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on receipt of Lee’s letter, were sad and depressed. 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.” ~ General Grant on Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
As the complainer points out, here's the whole context of Grant's words:
What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.
So, yes, I did omit much of this particular quote - but not for any nefarious reason as the complainer seems to be insinuating. Granted, I should have included an ellipsis to indicate this was not a complete quote. That was admittedly sloppy on my part. But does the complainer really think readers would believe Grant supported the cause for which Lee was fighting - even with the omission - and that that was my intent? The emphasis was on Lee the man, not specifically on why he was fighting, nor to suggest that the officers quoted supported Lee's reason for fighting. That, I think, is clear from the rest of my post.

The quotes in my post were all from Union officers expressing an admirable opinion of General Lee. It was that aspect of Grant's quote which was germane to my point. The part I posted expressed Grant's opinion of Lee the man. Those opinions simply suggest that the same traits which garnered the admiration of Southerners were also appreciated by Lee's former enemies - long before the creation of any "Lost Cause Myth." These quotes (many more could be cited) suggest that Lee's part (i.e. his reputation as the Christian warrior, Southern gentleman, etc., etc.), in the "Lost Cause" aspect of WBTS historiography was not something created by Southerners after the war. That was the point of the post. The complainer is either throwing out a red herring or he missed my point. Regardless, the omission does not negate the point of the post.

Moreover, the complainer accuses me of suggesting things in my original post which I did not write:
Some people claim that the term “Lost Cause Myth” and “Lost Cause Historiography” are inventions devised by certain “anti-southern” folks who are also usually described as “left-wing academics.” One example of such a complaint can be found here.
Does that sound anything close to what I actually wrote? To wit:
This is just a sampling of sentiments from Lee's former enemies. Scores more could be included. Yet, despite this type of evidence, you still have WBTS bloggers and historians suggest the "Lost Cause myth" (which, of course, involved Lee's memory and reputation) was, more or less, a fabrication by Southerners to save honor. In at least some aspects, the "myth" was anything but. 
But just to be clear: I completely acknowledge that all the Union officers whom I quoted in no way supported the cause of the Confederacy, no matter how much they admired General Lee (perhaps even more than their own general - which would, given Grant's reputation, be completely understandable). I also submit my most humble apologies to all readers who were misled by my omission and who were led to believe that General Grant was actually a Confederate sympathizer.

And, if one would like a more intellectually stimulating treatment of the "Lost Cause", I would suggest reading this article by Professor Clyde Wilson.


olesonms said...

Well said, thanks for the insight,

ropelight said...

RGW, Grant's self-serving words came nearly 20 years after the war. He was broke, in disgrace, dying of cancer, and relied on his recollections of the surrender at Appomattox to write his Memoirs. Grant's last labors were guided by the hope of finding a receptive audience broad enough to sell a sufficient number of copies to leave his widow financially secure.

In his condemnation of General Lee's efforts, Grant neglected to mention he had also once fought for what he believed was the cause of slavery and he did it without the sincerity he generously ascribed to the great mass who opposed him in the War Against Southern Independence.

In his memoirs, Grant admitted he felt that the Mexican-American War was wrongful and believed that territorial gains were designed to spread slavery throughout the nation. Grant said "I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation."

Yet, Grant had voluntarily exposed himself to front line combat in the Mexican War winning distinction for bravery even though his later claims revealed the personal hypocrisy of his actions.

Even more damning, Grant, according to William McFeely's 1981 Pulitzer Prize winning biography, "...also opined that the later Civil War was inflicted on the nation as punishment for its aggression in Mexico."

Hypocrite or fableist? You make the call, but in either case Grant's words are tainted with hypocrisy and self-interest.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

RL - Very interesting. I think I'll explore this a bit more. Perhaps the Complainer omitted something himself, that was germane to the point he was ostensibly trying to raise.

Actually, I don't really think he read the complete post and got the context. It was obvious what the point of the post was. Adding what was omitted would not have changed anything in regards to the point I was making. In regards to "getting my point" - just read one comment from one of his readers:

"Because it doesn’t fit their narrative. The war was not about slavery. Slavery is BAD. Our ancestors had nothing to do with slavery. Therefore they were not bad. Sounds pretty simplistic to me."

Huh? My oh my how they can grab something and run with it - right off a cliff.

ropelight said...

The day following the Union surrender at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1861 President Lincoln called for 75,000 militia to be raised from the states (Virginia's quota was 3 regiments of 1,780 men each) to ...repossess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union;

(Governor John Letcher responded to Lincoln's call by reminding him of Virginia's intent to remain neutral. Consequently since the President had "chosen to inaugurate civil war, he would be sent no troops from the Old Dominion.")

Only 4 days later, on April 19th Grant wrote to his father-in-law, Frederick Dent, a plantation owner and slave master, to express his opinion on the future of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act, and his expectation the effects of a war would have on the price of both cotton and slaves.

In all this I can but see the doom of Slavery. The North do not want, nor will they want, to interfere with the institution. But they will refuse for all time to give it protection unless the South shall return soon to their allegiance, and then too this disturbance will give such an impetus to the production of their staple, cotton, in other parts of the world that they can never recover the controll of the market again for that comodity. This will reduce the value of negroes so much that they will never be worth fighting over again.