The Forgotten Major General George Sykes edition-
- Sykes was promoted to Captain for bravery exhibited at the Battle of Cerro Gordo in April 1847
- At First Bull Run, Sykes commanded the only Regular Army battalion on the field. Sykes ordered the Regulars into a battle square and staved off disaster near the Stone Bridge
- Sykes was promoted to Major General of Volunteers after the Battle of Antietam
- “Tardy George” and “Slow Trot” were nicknames attributed to him, yet his combat record contained no blemishes.
- Contrary to popular belief, Sykes was not relieved of command of the V Corps after Gettysburg- he requested extended medical leave and did not return to the Army of the Potomac
George Sykes is one of two Union Corps commanders without… an equestrian memorial at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Dan Sickles declined one in his honor, claiming “the whole damned battlefield is my monument. The exclusion of Sykes is misunderstood and often erroneously remembered by historians and students of the battle.
Actually Tardy? Do the research
John Sedgwick missed over a third of the battle… and Henry Slocum’s inaction on July 1 bordered on insubordination- yet both these Generals have mounted statues on the battlefield. These monuments were constructed by their states in conjunction with the Gettysburg Memorial Association between 1867-96. The US War Department took no part in the construction of monuments at Gettysburg. So why was Sykes overlooked?
Why not Sykes?
Many assume Sykes was not memorialized because of poor performance… in and after the Battle of Gettysburg. His nicknames of “Slow Trot” and “Tardy George” have become historical cans tied to his record trail. Neither assumption is holds water- the truth is more complicated:
- Sykes’ promotion to Corps command on June 28, 1863 upset some of his fellow officers- especially those who ranked him. Sykes was given the V Corps at the direction of Meade.
- Sykes did not have a good rapport with volunteer troops, who in many cases, led the later efforts to erect monuments- Sykes spent most of the War commanding Regular Army troops.
- He did not have a long career following the war, dying at a dusty Texas outpost in 1880.
- Following the War, Delaware was in no position to contribute funds to a monument depicting someone who permanently left the state as a teenager.
- Reynolds and Sedgwick were popular leaders with volunteer troops; while Howard and Slocum had long public careers following the War.**
**Thanks to Scott Hartwig for the pointers.
It is completely understandable for scholars… to challenge conventional wisdom in regards to Thomas Jefferson. Revisionist historians have won the battle to craft discourse on the Jefferson narrative. Gone are the scholarly works of Dumas Malone and Merrill Peterson; unceremoniously replaced by the pseudo-history of Annette Gordon-Reed while the spectre of Fawn Brodie’s shabby scholarship (Garry Wills’ classic review linked here) haunts all students of history. The Jefferson debate is in the post DNA phase, Gordon-Reed with full support of the Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, have used the inconclusive 1998 test as the catalyst to proclaim their conjectural dribblings as fact….and America listens. David Barton’s ridiculed book was just one of many neo-revisionists studies to hit book shelves trying to redeem Jefferson’s sullied character. Barton had an alternative agenda, something beyond the “Sally accusations.” While there is plenty of evidence to refute the Sally allegations, Barton stooped to the amateurish levels of Brodie to argue the Sage of Monticello was an evangelical.
What’s wrong with this picture? David Barton can’t really say…..
- The Jefferson Bible exists- Barton stretches quotes far beyond reasonable context to argue that the book now on display in the Smithsonian American History Museum is really a secular deception. His source material is misquoted from a dubious secondary source. Check out Jefferson’s correspondence with Dr. Benjamin Rush to see his true intent in compiling the morals of Jesus.
- Jefferson did not lead church services- Barton makes plenty of hay out of Jefferson attending religious services held in the Senate chamber during his administration. Conveniently, he ignores the obvious documentation proving his attendance was for the sake of his daughters (who were Christians.) Jefferson scholar Clay Jenkinson, not a revisionist by any means, cannot understand why Barton would waste so much intellectual energy on such misguided assertions.
- Why Jefferson? Barton’s frustration with revisionists is understandable, but terribly misguided. He never intended the book to be a scholarly examination, but rather an evangelical manifesto- rally the religious right to the most influential of our Founders kidnapped by secularists. Ignore the mountains of evidence to the contrary, focus on miniscule passages or quotations taken entirely out of context, cite questionable sources- when all else fails, make stuff up. Founders who were professed Christians such as; Patrick Henry, Benjamin Rush, Alexander Hamilton, even George Washington, all would have been better topics for Barton’s efforts.
Originally posted on nebraskaenergyobserver:
Headquarters Grand Army of the Republic
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868
I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic…
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Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:
This past Saturday I closed out my work detail—I hate using the word “work” to describe an opportunity to spend a few weeks being a ranger at a national military park–but I digress.
However, my last day coincided with assisting the park with the 20th annual luminary event at Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Established in 1866, the national cemetery is the final resting place for 15,300 American soldiers. The large majority of the interred fought for the Union during the American Civil War.
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Memorial Day by the numbers:
- The roots of Memorial Day can be traced to Athens and the Funeral Oration of Pericles– honor those who have fallen, follow their example of citizenship
- The commemoration was originally made by the Grand Army of the Republic as Decoration Day- flags were to be placed on all the graves of fallen Union soldiers
- The first Decoration Day was celebrated by 27 states in 1868
- By 1890, every state in the Union observed the holiday in some way… it was not a Federal holiday until 1971
- The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1922.
Thomas Jefferson Truitt enlisted in… Company D of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers on July 24, 1861. He was a carpenter working near Kellersburg in Armstrong County PA. His father, Anderson, died suddenly in October of 1860, leaving the family deep in debt and without a steady income. To make ends meet, the widowed Sarah Caldwell Truitt was forced to sell pieces of the family farm and work odd jobs. The outbreak of the war in 1861 rallied the young men of Armstrong County to the Finlay Cadets. It also provided Jefferson and his younger brother David the opportunity to assist their family financially.
Truitt served with distinction… as the company’s color sergeant. On July 1, 1862 at the battle of Malvern Hill, he rescued the 62nd PA’s flag from capture by securing it inside his uniform coat. For his valor, Truitt received a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant. Marching with the 62nd from Antietam Creek to Fredericksburg, Manassas to Gettysburg, Truitt survived the fiercest fighting of the war. With its three-year enlistment set to expire, the 62nd soldiered on through the unprecedented carnage of the Overland campaign in the Summer of 1864. Jefferson Truitt was killed June 3, 1864 at the Battle of Bethesda Church, Virginia, just one month before he was due to be mustered out of service.
Last full measure
Heroism is more than just… exploits on the battlefield. Ordinary citizens, like Jefferson Truitt, display heroism by putting their lives on hold to serve their country. The causes, justifications, and implications are immaterial to the sacrifices made by citizen soldiers. Calling these people heroes does not make a political statement, nor is it a rallying cry for more conflict. Wars can be pondered and debated without applying undue scrutiny to the brave men and women who fought them. Publicly doubting the heroism of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day is not reasonable discourse. His patriot grave is proof that Jefferson Truitt was a hero.
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