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- The commemoration was originally made by the Grand Army of the Republic as Decoration Day- flags were to be placed on all the graves of fallen Union soldiers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.
Chancellorsville is often called Lee’s “perfect battle”… facing the longest odds, using the boldest tactics, and winning the ultimate triumph- but a closer examination of the battle’s casualty statistics reveal a very different picture. Far from perfect, Lee’s victory over Hooker was a costly, bloody gamble with marginal payoff.
Myth becomes fact all too often
Twice dividing his outnumbered force before a superior foe… and executing a bold flanking maneuver clouds the true cost of the battle. Hooker’s inaction is far more striking than Lee’s tactical decisions. By surrendering the initiative to Lee, Hooker allowed his opponent tactical discretion, thus making the flank attack possible. Union reinforcements nullified Confederate gains on May 2. Hooker’s refusal to counterattack with those additional troops only accentuated the modest Confederate gains.
Keep fighting Joe!
Lee went into battle with just under 60,000 effectives… and suffered nearly 13,000 casualties- of which, over 10,000 were wounded or killed. Almost a quarter of his men were gone at a time when the Confederacy was increasingly unable to replace such loss. Comparatively, Hooker entered the battle with well over 130,000 troops, and suffered over 17,000 casualties. But, of this number, nearly 6,000 were captured(11th Corps victims of Jackson’s attack.) Factoring the captured, Hooker’s loss was a much smaller figure of just over 11,000. The statistics show that Lee’s army actually took the worst of the fighting- His action, and Hooker’s inaction have permanently altered the history of the battle. Far from the great army “cut to pieces” as remembered by Horace Greeley, Hooker’s men fought well and proved their mettle in battle.
Robert E. Lee played a vital role… in bringing the Civil War to a conciliatory close. Though he compared his surrender to Grant to “dying a thousand deaths” Lee understood that the two men were doing more than just ending battlefield hostilities; they were working to bring the nation back together. The loyal and dependable Army of Northern Virginia would have followed Lee into hell, he had to convince them to join in the noble crusade of rebuilding.
“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them: but, feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain there until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
Lee did not carry misguided doctrines with him… following the war. He accepted the Confederate defeat and always looked to the future. He lived out his years chastising fellow former Confederates who argued with Federal authority, “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South.”
Historians, politicians, and neo-secessionists who argue that the Civil War… was caused by the Federal government’s manipulation of tariffs are at best terribly deluded, at worst, they are scurrilous ideologues with a shameful political agenda.
A brief history lesson for Tom DiLorenzo, Governor Greg Abbott, President Donald Trump, the Freedom Caucus, Ron and Rand Paul, and any other woefully misguided students of history:
- Article 1, Section 8 of the Federal Constitution- The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States……… Really, this should explain it, but secessionists were never concerned with Constitutional restraint.
- The first tariff in our history was signed into law by George Washington on July 4, 1789.
- The Walker Tariff of 1845 slashed duties in place since the Whig’s controlled Congress- A southern coalition pushed for the reduction
- Tariffs were reduced again in 1852 and 1857. The 1857 tariff was only 18%- the lowest since the 18th century.
- The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was not passed until Southerners had already resigned from Congress. During the secession crisis, Southern Senators had blocked the increase. When in place, it raised the duty from 18-36%.
The Civil War was caused by slavery- not tariffs.
Donald Trump continues to display a disturbing ignorance of American history… A recent interview with a friendly reporter on Sirius Radio gave President Trump the opportunity to question the necessity of the Civil War.
Confederates in the attic
“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
Look how far we’ve fallen
Slavery, Mr. President– The Rebellious states started the war, Lincoln finished it…. It would be no surprise if Trump’s understanding of Civil War history came from an academic huckster like Tom DiLorenzo. Clearly, Trump is pandering to his ultra-right wing, states rights base.
A time for action…running the gauntlet
David Glasgow Farragut had guts…and it showed in his decision to push past the forts protecting New Orleans. For seven full days, the Union navy had shelled Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Some ships were shaken to pieces by the repeated concussions, well over 15,000 shells were fired. Farragut had enough by April 24, 1862, ordering his ships to steam past the forts at 2a.m. Aggressive action was lacking in the Union war effort through most of 1862. Farragut’s decision was precisely the type Lincoln had been waiting for.
Confederate defenses approaching New Orleans
Farragut’s fleet took damage… but the Confederates had no answer for the boldness of the move. Once past the forts, Farragut’s ships easily defeated a makeshift fleet sent to meet them at the mouth of the harbor. A desperate attempt to set Farragut’s flagship on fire was also stymied and the city was his for the taking. At noon on April 25, 1862, Farragut climbed onto the levee of New Orleans. Four days later, 10,000 Union troops occupied the city.
Forget heroics, it just takes guts