Ambrose Burnside had done it…. he outmaneuvered Robert E. Lee. The reluctant commander guided the massive Army of the Potomac down the Rappahannock river to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was scrambling to catch up, but Burnside’s path to Richmond temporarily lay open. He needed pontoon bridges to get his lengthy supply trains across the river- but they were nowhere to be found- Burnside sat on the Eastern shore waiting. The bridges arrived a week later, but so did Lee’s army.
Reluctant commander with great whiskers
There was still an opportunity to move… against Lee before his forces could dig in. Burnside weighed his options and formed a plan to cross the river quickly at fords south of town. Mother Nature wasn’t playing fair that week, a heavy storm dropped six inches of snow on December 5, forcing Burnside to reconsider. Lee’s men dug in on the heights west of town and covered the fords to the north and south. With Winter closing in, Burnside decided to build his bridges and cross at Fredericksburg.
Soldiers do their duty, but… Burnside’s subordinates were not happy with his decision. Joseph Hooker let it be known in the council-of-war on December 10. Burnside responded,
“I have heard your criticisms, gentlemen, and your complaints. You know how reluctantly I assumed the responsibility of command. I was conscious of what I lacked; but still I have been placed here where I am and will do my best. I rely on God for wisdom and strength. Your duty is not to throw cold water, but to aid me loyally with your advice and hearty service.”
Colonel Samuel Zook minced no words when he learned of the advance, “I expect to be sacrificed tomorrow, Goodbye old Boy & if tomorrow night finds me dead remember me kindly as a soldier who meant to do his whole duty.”
Could see the writing on the wall at Fredericksburg
**special thanks to Don Pfanz for the sources.
Edward Coles freed his slaves… and was a neighbor(at one time) of Thomas Jefferson. Paul Finkelman wants to know why Jefferson couldn’t follow the example of this “contemporary.” Professor Finkelman’s analysis suffers a fatal case of contrariwise- Coles was following the examples set by his illustrious neighbor.
Just a kid
Jefferson and Coles were not contemporaries… Jefferson was 43 years older than Coles- an overlooked distinction in Finkelman’s interrogatory. Coles grew up and matured in a Virginia largely crafted by Jefferson. The anti-slavery spirit so many associate with Coles was made possible by the liberal society Jefferson helped reform(we should also note that Coles freed his slaves in Illinois territory, not Virginia.)
You have done well, my son.
Edward Coles was the perfect representation… of the generation Jefferson predicted would have an impact on slavery. Much ink has been spilled about Coles writing Jefferson encouraging emancipation. While Jefferson never emacipated all his slaves- his anti-slavery views and actions have been documented. Coles’ activism was the next step forward in the cause, while Jefferson’s were becoming a footnote. Jefferson said as much in response to one of Coles’ letters:
“The sentiments breathed through the whole do honor to both the head and heart of the writer. Mine on the subject of slavery of negroes have long since been in possession of the public, and time has only served to give them stronger root…. I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast, & had become as it were the vital spirit of every American, that the generous temperament of youth, analogous to the motion of their blood, and above the suggestions of avarice, would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it….Your solitary but welcome voice is the first which has brought this sound to my ear; and I have considered the general silence which prevails on this subject as indicating an apathy unfavorable to every hope. Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come…” Jefferson to Coles; Aug. 25, 1814
“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.
“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
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
America seemed to represent the future… yet by the end of the 19th century, we became a people obsessed with our past. A paradox not easily explained, and frankly, not wholly considered either. The recent passing of historian Michael Kammen received little fanfare nationally, but to younger academics everywhere, it represented a melancholy turning point.
Kammen’s epic study, “Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture” … was standard reading for first year grad students across academia in the mid-1990’s. The difficult task of explaining why Americans simplify and revere their past was at the core of Kammen’s research- historians agreed with his thesis, students were primed for future frustration. The Civil War was indeed a transformative event, radically shifting our traditions of remembrance and honor. Prior to the war, argued Kammen, Americans viewed their past with casual indifference- the Civil War democratized our past- the masses wanted a story worthy of the sacrifices made in that most bloody struggle…American mythology began.
The good academic he was… Kammen was troubled by the wave of popular history that emerged in the 20th century. His analysis at times bordered on whining- why don’t ordinary folks pay more attention to academic history? To his credit, he never looked to assign blame- his study maintained an analytical approach- and his conclusions are if nothing else, valid. But, like many writers of his background, he misses the true point of historical remembrance- pride. Trying to explain it away with abstract concepts understood only in academic circles is manipulative. Our story is a complex, yet inspiring one, and the American people truly feel a part of it. The study of history is so compartmentalized that it cannot contemplate this collective remembrance. There is room for all types of historical study- academic, public, and popular history alike…. Kammen’s work proved it to be so… though it may not have been his intention.
We must forgive our enemies
“It is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony…Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.”
“I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”
“Sir, if you ever presume again to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this university. “