“I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made.” – US Grant
With that observation in his best-selling memoir… Grant started the historical firestorm around the second-to-last battle of the Overland Campaign. Through the years and volumes documenting every facet of the war, Cold Harbor has come to symbolize the carnage and suffering endured by the fighting men. Writers have elevated the battle to the conclusive example of obsolete tactics brutishly utilized during an ill-conceived campaign. Images of doomed soldiers pinning name tags to their uniforms and ranks of men mowed down in place haunt students of the Civil War. But does the Battle of Cold Harbor truly measure up to the perception of needless slaughter?
The reputed butcher…
Battlefield historian Gordon Rhea… takes this and other misconceptions to task in his multi-volume study of the Overland campaign. The facts simply do not support the popular reputation of June 3, 1864 being a day of unspeakable slaughter. Grant’s forces suffered between 5,500-6,000 casualties- making it only the 5th bloodiest day of that Summer. Every day of the Wilderness battle saw more casualties- Spotsylvania stands as one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Rhea smartly points out that there were bloodier days in the two years preceding the Overland Campaign. What happened to our Remembrance?
The truth stays in the trenches
The Summer of relentless combat… that marked the Overland Campaign took a drastic toll on the Army of the Potomac. The soldiers remembering June 3, 1864 were tired and weary of combat- particularly massed frontal assaults against entrenched Confederates. “Fog of War” is a concept bordering on cliche, but clearly, the judgement of many of the battle’s participants was clouded. Grant’s own recollection of the day only solidified the misapprehensions and flawed narrative.
Robert E. Lee chose General John B. Gordon… to officially surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to the Union on April 12, 1865. Gordon was an amateur soldier who proved to be the consummate warrior. Through the course of the conflict Gordon was badly wounded seven times, with five minnie balls hitting him at the battle of Antietam in 1862. Lee often praised Gordon’s actions in battle, “characterized by splendid audacity.”
True citizen soldier
US Grant selected General Joshua L. Chamberlain… to accept the Confederate surrender. Chamberlain was a college professor (of rhetoric) who enlisted in the 20th Maine Vols. He served with distinction from Fredericksburg to Petersburg, winning the Medal of Honor for his defense of Little Round Top during the Gettysburg campaign. Chamberlain was wounded six times (nearly dying at Petersburg in 1864) and cited for bravery four times during his service.
Soul of a Lion
As Gordon led the Confederate army past… the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the men to “Carry Arms”, the snap of the leather and metal signaled a marching salute. Gordon, surprised by the gesture, ordered the Confederates to respond. Chamberlain described Gordon’s performance, “At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.” Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”
Americans to Americans
“I, am laying the foundation of an University in my native state, which I hope will repay the liberalities of it’s legislature by improving the virtue and science of their country…I have been myself the Architect of the plan of it’s buildings, and of it’s system of instruction. four years have been employed on the former, and I assure you it would be thought a handsome & Classical thing in Italy…I have preferred the plan of an Academical village rather than that of a single, massive structure…So it’s most splendid object, and a constant gratification to my sight. “
Go to community college, kiddies…
No one is comfortable giving President Trump credit for much… but the spoiled, ungrateful cretins who desecrated Jefferson’s likeness on the campus of HIS University are bringing Trump’s somber picture to life. He warned that the removal of statues to Confederate leaders may lead to similar action against our Founders, like Washington and Jefferson.
In the heart of his beloved academical village… Jefferson’s life’s work is naively slandered in name of trendy activism and political correctness. Students taking full of advantage of Jefferson’s foresight, vision, and effort dare to question the man and manner their opportunities were provided. The hubris required to demand the removal of the University’s Founder; as well as, linking him to traitors who fought to destroy the country he helped create- is beyond comprehension. Twenty-somethings so self-centered and lazy as to carry dozens of photographs of themselves(dressed and undressed)- possess a moral superiority over Thomas Jefferson? Irony….
To stop desecrating my memory
The post-millennial generation has doomed us… the Founders predicted our fate if the population became ignorant and forgot its past.
For too long defenders of Confederate heritage… have associated it with freedom and individual rights for all whites. The specter of the conquering Yankee invading the homeland to oppress the yeoman and steal his acre was the rallying cry. Policy makers in the Confederacy used this propaganda to dupe poor whites to defend the landed gentry- a social order built on the aristocracy of chattel slavery. Jefferson Davis and ilk had no interest in expanding opportunity for the thousands of men who volunteered for this abhorrent cause- they were cannon fodder.
Talk of opportunity and liberty were contrary to the Confederate cause… the slave owning power structure needed poor whites to stay right where they were. The egalitarian dreams of Thomas Jefferson had no place in the CSA- and the leadership expressed it openly- The Declaration of Independence was a threat to the south. Far from a “second American Revolution,” the American Civil War was an authoritarian power grab by an entrenched group of oligarchs.
Confederate propaganda from Georgia said it best…
“Thanks to Mr. Jefferson we have made a mistake … and pushed the love of democracy too far … vulgar democracy and licentious freedom is rapidly supplanting all the principles of constitutional ‘liberty’! When shall the American people perceive that all our difficulties arise from the absurdities of deciding that the ‘pauper’ and the ‘landholder’ are alike competent to manage the affairs of a Country, or alike entitled to vote for those who shall?” Athens Southern Watchman 1857
Jefferson’s feelings on slavery and liberty also alienated our apostle of liberty… from these slave owning aristocrats…
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it …The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and moral undepraved by such circumstances [under slavery]. And with what desecration should the statement be loaded, who permitting one half of the citizens to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots and these into enemies, destroys the morals of one part and the amor patriae of the other.” Notes on the State of Virginia 1782
“Every human being must be viewed according to what it is good for. For not one of us, no, not one, is perfect. And were we to love none who had imperfection, this world would be a desert for our love.”
― Thomas Jefferson
Kyle Sammin correctly surmises in the current edition of The Federalist… that historical figures are imperfect- the millennial demands of removing every monument and memorial to historical figures who do not satisfy their modern sensibilities is both foolish and destructive. Though many of his comments following the Charlottesville violence were divisive and insensitive, Trump’s fear that removing monuments to Confederate generals may lead to the destruction of memorials to our Founders were not far from reality. Trump’s implication(inadvertent) is that there is a slippery slope with historical revisionism– Click on links
These links are the steady progression of arbitrary historical revision… being driven by a generation of social justice warriors completely lacking any semblance of humility. So-called activists who are convinced they are not only morally superior to their grandparents, but to all previous generations. This is hubris at its most blatant and dangerous. Politicians, like Nancy Pelosi pander to these intellectual pipsqueaks by joining in this fool’s chorus- moral redemption through historic erasure.
As previously stated in the pages of this blog… there are more appropriate places for Confederate symbols and monuments than government buildings and public squares. This is a reasonable debate and it should continue. The slippery slope of historical revisionism is real and we are well on the way down it. Sadly, legitimate leadership is required during such a crisis of conscience. We have Donald Trump…..
Confederates in the attic
Motion filed to remove Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol… Virginia lawmaker argues against Lee’s place in state history
Obama’s Presidential Library to be entirely digital… no paper documents will be housed, even his birth certificates
LBJ’s Texas sanctuary is for sale… Ranch is being sold for $2.8 million
Nixon’s one liner helped SNL’s parody become reality… “Sock it to me” still resonates today
American Indian history key to North Dakota’s economy… Mandan and Hidatsa people integral to regional history
Cultures collide- and it’s cold!
The grieving optimist- Jefferson lost nearly everyone dear to him…. so he could relate grief to his dear friend, John Adams upon hearing of the death of Abigail. Relating grief is not the same as understanding it, however…..
“Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine….although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again.”
” I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended.”