On March 19, 1836, a force of approximately 350 Texans under Colonel James Fannin, near Goliad, Texas, found themselves under attack by 900 Mexican troops under General Jose Urrea. The initial attacks by the Mexicans were beaten off, with the Texans suffering about 60 casualties while inflicting about 200 on the Mexican force. Surrounded and without water, the Texans surrendered on the morning of March 20, 1836. The Texans were taken to Goliad by the Mexicans. (more…)
Those familiar with my writings here and on other blogs knows that I hold no truck with the neo-Confederate revisionist history of the Civil War. Notions that the war had to do with “tariffs” or that Lincoln was a great tyrant and thus the CSA was in fact fighting for a just cause are completely wrongheaded. But I’m not here to re-fight those blog battles.
Though I am a Yankee by birth, and though I maintain that Lincoln and the Union were in the right, I cannot abide the opposite extreme. I am talking about those who deem the Confederates to be little better than Nazis, and who think that the Confederate battle flag is something akin to a swastika. This post over at Southern Appeal by Tom Van Dyke (no longer a contributor to saud blog, naturally) is but one example of the phenomenon I am talking about. But I’ve seen similar arguments in other places, and I need not focus my attention on Mr. Van Dyke.
Lamentably, I used to be one of those who arrogantly and dismissively compared the Confederates to Nazis. I personally used the term “Confederate swastika” in reference to the battle flag, most notably while a young pup attending a southern university.
But a funny thing happened. I grew up. Though my views on the war and the causes of the war did not change, my attitude towards the Confederacy changed. Well, not so much the CSA, but my attitude towards the confederate soldier, and to great generals and gentlemen like Robert E. Lee. As I read more and more (and more and more and more) about the Civil War I came to respect the figures that graced the pages of these histories. Their cause was unjust, but they displayed great valor and bravery even in the face of superior numerical forces. There are still figures that I care for not a wit – Jefferson Davis and the political leaders I still view as traitors to this great Nation. I suppose the same could technically be said of Lee and the soldiers under him, but I cannot hold them to the same level of personal guilt as the men who led the south into rebellion.
Perhaps it is a contradiction to hold the Confederate warrior in esteem even while acknowledging the unjustness of their cause. But while their leaders may have fought for secession in order to hang on to their dreams of an empire for slavery, I truly believe that the southern warrior was simply fighting for his home. I won’t call them pawns – that somehow seems disrespectful to them. But their motivations were different. Like every young man sent off to fight a great war, the southern soldier wasn’t too much concerned about the politics that got him into the mess. He was merely fighting for his country, and in 1861 his country was his state. He was fighting for home and for family.
The Civil War was a terrible conflict in which more men were killed than in all other American wars combined. We shouldn’t whitewash what the war was about, but nor should we dishonor the brave men who died, giving every last measure of devotion to their home and to their state. Let us not sully their memory by horrendous analogies to truly despicable regimes such as the Nazis. As a Yankee, smug Yankee superiority is quite simply a turn off.
“Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat, but the Alamo had none.”
My post yesterday which featured a You Are There video clip about the Alamo, reminded me about that battle, the American Thermopylae. I have always been deeply moved by the letter of Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis asking for aid from “all Americans in the world”: (more…)
From 1947-1950 CBS broadcast on radio an educational show called You Are There which would be a newscast reporting on a historical event. The series was revived for Television from 1953-1957 and briefly in 1971-72. The video at the beginning of this post is from an episode of the 71-72 revival. Walter Cronkite hosted the show in both the Fifties and the Seventies.
Something for the weekend. Riding a Raid, sung by Bobby Horton, the man who has dedicated his life to bringing Civil War music to modern audiences. Stuart and his cavalry troopers were the glamor boys of the Army of the Northern Virginia. Twice they rode around the Army of the Potomac, and until 1863 they completely dominated the Union cavalry, although they were usually heavily outnumbered on the battlefield. This song captures well the spirit of the cavaliers in grey.
Winchester, Virginia has the distinction of perhaps being the most fought over town in the Civil War. It changed hands 72 times between Union and Confederate control, on one exceptionally busy day 13 times. Three major battles were fought at Winchester during the war, along with innumerable skirmishes and raids. (more…)
Yesterday we took a look at the movie The Devil and Daniel Webster in which Daniel Webster beats Satan in a jury trial and saves the soul of Jabez Stones. Stories not unlike this sprung up about Daniel Webster during his life. He was acknowledged to be the finest American orator of his day, a day in which brilliant speech making was fairly common on the American political scene, and his contemporaries often referred to him blasphemously as “the god-like Daniel”. Perhaps the finest example of Webster’s oratory is his Second Reply to Senator Haynes of South Carolina during the debate on tariffs which took place in the Senate in January of 1830. In the background lurked the nullification crisis and possible secession, a crisis which would build over the next three decades and explode into the attempted dissolution of the union in 1860. The ending of this speech was once known by every schoolchild: Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable! Here is Webster’s Second Reply to Hayne: (more…)
A fantastic video review of the film the Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). The film is based on the Stephen Vincent Benet short story in which the American statesman Daniel Webster defeats the Devil in a jury trial and saves the soul of Jabez Stone, a New Hampshireman. My favorite section of the short story is when Daniel Webster is making his closing argument to the jury of the Damned: (more…)
Federalist 38 is one of the more interesting essays written by James Madison. It is somewhat more polemical than any of the other essays he penned in this series. Also, depending on how deeply between the lines one is willing to read, it is a strikingly Hamiltonian.
Madison spends a great deal of time at the outset discussing the history of constitutional development. He notes that for most of human history constitutions were handed down by individuals. The constitutional convention was truly a groundbreaking achievement, none the least of which because it produced a constitution created by a group of men rather than a single lawgiver.
There are several possible ways to interpret this mini history lesson. One is to simply accept it at face value for what it is: a history lesson. Of course it might be more than this. Perhaps Madison wants to highlight the achievement of the Framers by placing it in historical context. Also, he is quite possibly building upon the previous essay by showing that the Framers had an incredibly difficult job, and any perceived imperfections in the final document had to be understood in light of the fact that it was the product of a committee that had to compromise along the way, as opposed to men like Solon who handed down constitutions according to their own whims.
The fact that Madison proceeds to spend much of the rest of the paper running down the anti-Federalists and their inability to offer up any meaningful counter-proposals suggests an even more sinister possibility. Maybe Madison is suggesting that the only alternative to the Constitution is chaos or tyranny (or both). That might be taking interpretation too far, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Madison is once again engaging in a little bit of rhetorical trickery. “If you guys are so smart, let’s see what you can do” seems to be the overriding theme of this paper.
At any rate, we should read Madison’s own words to understand what he’s trying to accomplish.
Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.
William Tecumseh Sherman
Without a doubt the most successful military partnership in American military history, Grant and Sherman made a very odd couple. Sherman the high strung cynical military intellectual; possessed of an intelligence that verged both on genius and madness as he displayed at disparate points in his career; unhappily married and often at odds with conventional beliefs; spoke truth bluntly with no diplomacy, as when he labeled war, his avocation, hell. Grant, a failure all of his life except for war, marriage and his last valiant race with the Grim Reaper to finish his memoirs and provide for the financial security of his family; seemingly a dull plodder, but possessed of iron determination and an uncanny ability to never let the trees obscure the forest; happily married and a firm believer in God, but subject to bouts of depression when he would grasp for the bottle; the shabby little man who won the greatest war in American history. Together they led the Union forces to victory in the West and then finished off the Confederacy in two brilliant campaigns in 1864-65. The poet Stephen Vincent Benet in his magnum opus John Brown’s Body, reminds us of the friendship between the men that cemented them as a team: (more…)