Skip to comments.Comes A Stillness
Posted on 01/17/2013 2:16:28 AM PST by Kaslin
They introduce themselves politely in restaurants or diners, in a movie lobby or at some civic event, even in front of the Little Rock gate in Atlanta, which has become a kind of Arkansas crossroads. ("You don't know me, but . . .") Then they thank me for remembering Robert E. Lee every January 19th with a column on his birthday.
They don't tarry, and I may never see them again. Then they fade away, much like the Army of Northern Virginia (R.E. Lee, General). They have a look about them, or rather a manner. They come in different shapes and sizes, but they all have the same, diffident way about them -- as if they were used to dealing with people as persons, rather than en masse as customers or readers or voters or some other impersonal category. They know how to visit with others. It's a Southern thing, no matter where it happens.
Let's just say they have a shared understanding. They may be older, genteel white ladies or young military cadets. Sometimes they're aging black men, usually with roots in the Deep South, who mention that they had a grandfather or great-uncle named Robert E. Lee Johnson or Robert E. Lee Wilson, much like their white counterparts. Whatever the differences in their appearance, they share a distinctive quality that is never imposing but very much there.
Sometimes they'll let you know they don't make a habit of this sort of thing, that they're not interested in reliving the past or anything like that. They're the furthest thing from the bane of such discussions in these latitudes, the professional Southerner. ("I'm no Civil War buff or big Confederate or anything -- I do well to tell Gettysburg from Vicksburg -- but I just wanted to say . . .")
They're never intrusive. Indeed, they are concise almost to the point of being curt for Southerners, a voluble breed. It's clear they wish to make no display. It's as if they just wanted to . . . enroll. To go on record, that's all, and leave it at that. They know The War is over and, like Lee, they would let it be over.
The quality they have in common may be deference -- not only to others, and certainly not to the general himself, for deference would not in any way approach their feeling on that subject, but a deference to the human experience, with all its defeats and losses. Maybe that is why so many of them are middle-aged or older, as if they had encountered some defeats and losses of their own -- losses and defeats that can never be erased, that will always be a part of them, but that they carry almost with grace. The pain will always be there, but now it is covered by forbearance. They have learned that there are certain hurts that, in order to be overcome, must be gone through. Continually. Till it is part of their ongoing character.
The name for the kind of deference they exude, unmistakable for anything else, a deference to fact and to sacrifice, is maturity. They have discovered that duty is not only burden and obligation but deliverance. They would never claim to understand Lee, and they certainly would not presume to praise him overtly. They just want to indicate how they feel about the General, to let us know the bond is shared, and go on. For where Lee is concerned, there is a silence, a diffidence, that says more than words can. Or as Aristotle said of Plato, there are some men "whom it is blasphemy even to praise."
Ever hear a couple of Southerners just passing the time, perhaps in some petty political quarrel, for we can be a quarrelsome lot, when the name Lee is injected into the argument? The air is stilled. Suddenly both feel ashamed of themselves. For there are some names that shame rhetoric, and when we use them for effect, the cheapness of it, the tinniness of it, can be heard at once, like tinkling brass. And we fall silent, rightly rebuked by our better selves.
To invoke such a presence, to feel it like old music always new, invariably gives pause. The young officer in Stephen Vincent Benet's "John Brown's Body" pauses before he enters Lee's tent to deliver his dispatch. Looking at the shadow of the figure within bent over his papers, knowing that The War is inevitably winding down, the messenger can only wonder:
What keeps us going on? I wish I knew. Perhaps you see a man like that go on. And then you have to follow.
The Lost Cause still has its shrines and rituals, dogmas and debates. For four exhilarating, excruciating, terrible years, it had a flag of its own -- several, in fact -- and an army and even something of a government. But in the end all those proved only transient reflections of what endures: the South, the ever-fecund South.
What held that disparate, desperate concept called the South together, and holds it together still from generation to generation, from heartland to diaspora? After all our defeats and limitations, why do we yet endure, and, in Faulkner's words, even prevail? What keeps us going on? I wish I knew. Perhaps you see a man like that go on. And then you have to follow. If there is a single name, a single syllable for that shared bond and depth and grief and aspiration, it is: Lee.
No brief outline of the general's career can explain the effect of that name still: After a shining start at West Point, our young officer spends 12 years of tedium on the Army treadmill, followed by brief renown in the Mexican War, then a two-year leave to attend to matters at home. Returning to the service to put down a fateful little insurrection at Harper's Ferry that cast a great shadow, he declines a field command in the U.S. Army as a far greater insurrection looms, one he will lead. He accepts command of the military of his native country -- Virginia. Then there comes a series of brilliant campaigns that defy all the odds, at the end of which he surrenders. Whereupon he applies for a pardon, becomes a teacher, and makes peace.
What is missing from such an abrupt summary of the general, his life and career, is everything -- everything inward that made the man Robert E. Lee. His wholeness. His integrity. His unbroken peace within. There was about him nothing abrupt but everything respectfully direct -- in his manners, in his leadership, in his life and, when he finally struck the tent, in his death.
Yes, he would fight what has been called the most nearly perfect battle executed by an American commander at Chancellorsville, defeating an army two and a half times the size of his own and better equipped in every respect.
Even in retreat, he remained victorious. One single, terrible tally may say it better than all the ornate speeches ever delivered on all the dim Confederate Memorial Days that have passed since: In one single, terrible month, from May 12th to June 12th of 1864, from after The Wilderness to Cold Harbor, Grant's casualties on the other side would total 60,000 -- the same size as Lee's whole, remaining Army of Northern Virginia, poor devils.
In the end, it is not the Lee of Chancellorsville or of Appomattox who speaks to us, who quiets and assures us. It is not even the Lee of Fredericksburg and his passionate dispassion atop Marye's Heights as he watches the trapped federals below, poor devils, being destroyed. He was no stranger to pity. ("It is well that war is so terrible," he murmured, looking down at the carnage he had engineered, "or we should grow too fond of it.")
It is not even the Lee of Gettysburg who speaks to us, the Lee who would meet Pickett after it was over -- all over -- and say only: "All this has been my fault." And then submit his resignation as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Jefferson Davis may not have had much sense, but he had more sense than to accept that resignation.
In the end, it is the Lee who saw through all victory as clearly as he did all defeat who elevates and releases us, like one of the old Greek plays. It is the Lee who, for all his legend, could not command events but who was always in command of his response to them. Just to think on him now is catharsis. That is why his undying presence, just the mention of his name, was enough to lift men's gaze and send them forth again and again. It still does.
Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing that.
The Lincoln Coven will show up soon enough, they wish Lee had been tried for treason and hung after the war. They fantasize about it.
According to TR, “(Lee)... was the greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.”
The revisionists have no idea how universally loved and admired, by both Northerners and Southerners, the General was.
“The Lincoln Coven “, hee, hee. Thanks for that remark. Old Abe, he be da debble!
Your writing made me dig deep in my emotional bank to remember goodness after sloshing through the muck of today’s politics.
God bless Robert E. Lee. I wish there were one like him today.
Excellent read - Bravo. I was just there at the Chapel last October, and at Traveler’s grave too. My daughter (23) is a 3L at Washington and Lee in Lexington and we were visiting. What a place!!! I can’t wait for her graduation in May - right near the chapel. As a northerner (conservative though, not liberal), I never expected to “get” what this article is saying, but I do understand (to a certain degree).
Again, Washington and Lee is a very special place.
PS Any FReeper lawyers in NYC hiring 3L’s? Daughter is in top 12% of her class, is on the law review, and has been published - not to mention she is graduating law school at 23 years old. She wants to work in New York. She also has an excellent resume - Freep mail me for her linked in profile.
Oh, there are men like him amongst us, of that I have no doubt.
It’s just that their true character hasn’t been revealed to us through struggle; indeed few knew of either Lee or Grant before the war.
I think that we will come to know them soon enough.
Beautifully written.Thank you for posting this.
Two of my children share General Lee’s birthday. Happy birthday, General! Happy birthday, James (9) and Kathleen (1).
The most touching and telling mark of his great character was that after the war, he took care of his invalid wife until her death, and then took care of his mother until she died. What other “great” men in history did that?
Really? While I am not as big a Lee fan as many on FR, I haven't seen any threads suggesting that he should have been executed.
You may be projecting there, a little bit.
And inverting history, also.
Wife’s family can trace her line back to Robert E. Lee.
You are describing actions that are expected of every decent person.
Who would abandon their ailing wife or ailing mother?
Why should Lee receive adulation for observing the absolute minimum level of personal honor?
Lee was a man of great character, with a tragic flaw, and certainly deserves admiration on many fronts - but it is bizarre to say that he should be admired because he did not abandon his wife and mother.
What other great men in history did that?
Another great man in history, the heroic William Tecumseh Sherman, also tended to his foster mother and his wife in their dying illnesses as well.
Also, many millions of others who are not "great men in history" have taken care of their families.
When I was a kid, the first horse I owned, was a Quarterhorse named Traveler, minus one of the “L’s”...hehehe
Almost like a dog, that horse would follow me around, off lead, most of the time coming around to me on the correct side seeming to want me to hop up and go take a ride on my grandparents property...
I always wondered, until I found out later in school, why my great-grandfather (The Colonel) told me back then that the horse’s name was Traveler...
Whenever I do ride, I always remember the story, and tend to ride a little higher in the sadle knowing all that...
I often reflect upon which side of the argument folks had back then, what side I would have stood with...I had many years of conflict where I believe the north was right in doing what they did...But later on in my life, with more knowledge adn experience, I believe I would have sided differently...And not our of some southern romantacist notion either...
What happened yesterday has almost totally solidified my position...
Re: the revisionists. The amazing thing is that in a low and cynical age that breeds revisionists (some needed) at every turn, the debunkers have never laid a finger on Lee. Sure, one can second guess this or that tactical decision, and he made some mistakes, though fewer than his fair share, but I herewith list below every single discreditable thing that historians have discovered about the man’s character and personal behavior:
And if you try really hard to accentuate the negative, there is:
Washington is in this class as well, but Lee earned his pedestal.
Sherman was neither great nor heroic. He was a common butcher killing, burning and raping women and children. He was the lowest form of filth this nation has ever brought forth.
HOW DARE YOU EVEN BRING UP HIS NAME IN THIS THREAD MUCH LESS COMPARE HIM LEE!
Sherman gave out of his own pocket to any destitute ex-soldier who knocked on his door for year following the war.
I understand the love southerners have for Lee, especially now. We see virtuous behavior among leaders almost as alien these days.
Actually, now that I think about it, that was quite impressive, since he died more than three years before she did.
and then took care of his mother until she died
"Then took care of his mother?" His mother died when he was 22 years old.
He actually rushed home from graduation in New York to be by his mother's bedside for her last few days.
It was apparently his sister, Anne Lee, who primarily cared for their mother in her last illness, and she is the one who sent for Robert so he would not miss her last days.
He left a few days later for the first failed attempt to build Fort Pulaski in Georgia.
Stay safe !
Of course he was both.
He was a common butcher
Because he was a general in a war?
That's a bit silly.
killing, burning and raping women and children.
There is zero evidence that Sherman either personally killed, burned or raped any woman or child, or that he ordered such actions, or that such actions ever happened under his watch or supervision.
Basically, you are retelling a silly myth that has no basis in history.
He was the lowest form of filth this nation has ever brought forth.
You have completely lost touch with reality.
Besides being a warrior of immense physical courage (common enough in those days), he was the only partner in his failed bank who personally made good on all monies owed to his depositors while his partners cut and ran.
He was also reluctant to trade his accomplishments in war for a career in politics and refused to capitalize on his status.
HOW DARE YOU EVEN BRING UP HIS NAME IN THIS THREAD MUCH LESS COMPARE HIM LEE!
There are actually quite a few similarities between the two.
Both were unsuccessful civilians and successful generals. Both were underestimated by peers in terms of their military abilities until they proved themselves in the heat of battle. Both tried to avoid political infighting and focus only on the task at hand, unlike many of their peers. Both used advanced tactics instead of depending on the Napoleonic playbook. Both also were criticized for provisioning their armies off the civilian population (Lee in Pennsylvania and Sherman in Georgia and South Carolina). Both took the lead in trying to reconcile with enemies after the war, instead of encouraging harsh feelings.
You see very long on "feelings" and pretty short on analysis.
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled when he cannot help humbling others. - Robert E. Lee
While no doubt there are those who feel such is the case - there are also many who, while thankful for the preservation of the Union of these Great States, also understand that the General was a gentlemen who performed his duty as he thought he must. A true knight of war executes the terrible duty that falls to him based on his obligations. Many on both sides felt a great split in their souls as they were asked to decide upon which loyalty they would follow. I have little doubt that the decision was not taken lightly or without regret.
Lincoln was no less torn than Lee and while the tragedies of the past cannot be changed, there is no need to sully the name of either when they played their part upon the stage of history as they thought best at the time. Arm chair historians may question all they wish comfortable in their chairs by the fire, but these men fought for what they believed and I will fault neither for executing what they felt was their duty.
This is in stark contrast to the treachery of General Benedict Arnold who, after exemplary service, felt that the cause was likely lost and that he could better further his own situation by committing his treason with no thought or compunction as to his prior commitment to a duty. Yes, the men of the Revolution also broke oaths having sworn at one time to fight for their King. But once they had determined the lack of compassion and suffering multiple harms they broke and declared as such with committment to the new cause. Lee was no different, he declared and he endured and so held true and deserves no further fault than that of his ‘side’ not suceeding in their hard fought effort. Arnold did not or could not perservere and there is where treason lies.
This ability to call truce and make amends is why today we call the English, Germans, French, and Japanese our Allies and it is perhaps one of our greatest strengths. Oh not with the atrocity makers - the executioners and killers of innocents - but those who acted in their capacity as honorable in the execution of their duties.
I fear our next conflict - for surely some day it must come - will not be nearly as ‘clean’. With no State boundaries neatly demarcating the battle lines, instead falling to the suburban sprawl between rural and city, there will be no winner - as there was not these 150 years past - for never in conflict do we win.
Lee was a hero of the Mexican War, distinguishing himself with with courage. He served as Superintendant of West Point and led the troops to put down John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. Lincoln offered him command of all Union armies, but he declined.
He was indeed well known and respected.
Much as i admire marse robert
I’d prefer a certain poor raised self educated warrior among warriors raised in New Albany Mississippi in these trying timed
Our enemies need to fear us more than respect us
Not actually true.
Lincoln offered him a major generalship with responsibility for the defense of DC.
Lee considered it, and tried to get assurances through Francis Blair (a family friend whose son was in the Lincoln Cabinet) that his role could be purely defensive without having any obligation to invade Virginia.
When Blair told him there was no way anything like that could be guaranteed, he turned down the commission.
He was a well-regarded officer, but neither Lincoln nor Davis saw him as the truly great commander he would become, until he had already become such a general.
I condemn Sherman not for being a general in the war but for the way he waged war. You can’t deny that Sherman burned his way through the South destroying everything in his path with little to no opposition. He may not have ordered the plundering but he stood by and let his men rape, loot, and kill defenseless women and children. This is no myth. If you think this behavior is “heroic” shame on you. Your original post was uncalled for and is akin to the Westborough Baptist church demonstrating at a veteran’s funeral.
That can be easily denied, since he ordered the burning of precisely one city - Atlanta - and before he did that he took six weeks to make sure it was evacuated and he also made provision that the churches and hospitals (some still standing today) would be spared.
with little to no opposition.
Once John Bell Hood turned tail and ran, Sherman encountered zero opposition.
He may not have ordered the plundering but he stood by and let his men rape, loot, and kill defenseless women and children.
This simply did not happen. Contemporary reports from the time in Southern newspapers, as well as accounts from private journals and letters - of both Southerners and Union troops - describe plenty of looting (this was the purpose of the exercise, just like JEB Stuart and other of Lee's officers in Pennsylvania), but nothing regarding the rape and murder of defenseless women and children.
This is no myth.
Oh, that part is most certainly a myth. While individual Confederate and Union soldiers committed all sorts of individual crimes against civilians throughout all the theaters of the war, Sherman's March was described by both sides as an orderly and organized affair which accomplished its main purpose: to seize as much provisions and livestock as the army could carry without slowing its march to Savannah, while making sure all the rail connections in their rear were either secured or cut.
If you think this behavior is heroic shame on you.
Were the actions of Confederate looters in Pennsylvania under Lee's command "heroic"? Did their actions, ordered by him, make him not a "heroic" commander?
The fact is, armies need food and transportation for themselves and they need to deny the enemy food and transportation.
Sherman's March affected less than 10% of the Georgia population and took less than 5% of the state's crop yield that year.
What the March proved was that support for the Confederacy in the South was a mile wide and an inch deep.
Your original post was uncalled for and is akin to the Westborough Baptist church demonstrating at a veterans funeral.
What a strange statement.
My original post was completely uncontroversial. What about it could possibly be compared to the rantings of proud Mississippian Fred Phelps?
Also, Wheeler did advance before Savannah.
Sherman was a POS butcher who brought abject terror and misery on the innocent population of GA. May he rot in Hell.
by Donald Davidson
Walking into the shadows, walking alone
Where the sun falls through the ruined boughs of locust
Up to the president's office. . . .
Hearing the voices
Whisper, Hush, it is General Lee! And strangely
Hearing my own voice say, Good morning, boys.
(Don't get up. You are early. It is long
Before the bell. You will have long to wait
On these cold steps. . . .)
The young have time to wait
But soldiers' faces under their tossing flags
Lift no more by any road or field,
And I am spent with old wars and new sorrow.
Walking the rocky path, where steps decay
And the paint cracks and grass eats on the stone.
It is not General Lee, young men. . .
It is Robert Lee in a dark civilian suit who walks,
An outlaw fumbling for the latch, a voice
Commanding in a dream where no flag flies.
My father's house is taken and his hearth
Left to the candle-drippings where the ashes
Whirl at a chimney-breath on the cold stone.
I can hardly remember my father's look, I cannot
Answer his voice as he calls farewell in the misty
Mounting where riders gather at gates.
He was old then--I was a child--his hand
Held out for mine, some daybreak snatched away,
And he rode out, a broken man. Now let
His lone grave keep, surer than cypress roots,
The vow I made beside him. God too late
Unseals to certain eyes the drift
Of time and the hopes of men and a sacred cause.
The fortune of the Lees goes with the land
Whose sons will keep it still. My mother
Told me much. She sat among the candles,
Fingering the Memoirs, now so long unread.
And as my pen moves on across the page
Her voice comes back, a murmuring distillation
Of old Virginia times now faint and gone,
The hurt of all that was and cannot be.
Why did my father write? I know he saw
History clutched as a wraith out of blowing mist
Where tongues are loud, and a glut of little souls
Laps at the too much blood and the burning house.
He would have his say, but I shall not have mine.
What I do is only a son's devoir
To a lost father. Let him only speak.
The rest must pass to men who never knew
(But on a written page) the strike of armies,
And never heard the long Confederate cry
Charge through the muzzling smoke or saw the bright
Eyes of the beardless boys go up to death.
It is Robert Lee who writes with his father's hand--
The rest must go unsaid and the lips be locked.
If all were told, as it cannot be told--
If all the dread opinion of the heart
Now could speak, now in the shame and torment
Lashing the bound and trampled States--
If a word were said, as it cannot be said--
I see clear waters run in Virginia's Valley
And in the house the weeping of young women
Rises no more. The waves of grain begin.
The Shenandoah is golden with a new grain.
The Blue Ridge, crowned with a haze of light,
Thunders no more. The horse is at plough. The rifle
Returns to the chimney crotch and the hunter's hand.
And nothing else than this? Was it for this
That on an April day we stacked our arms
Obedient to a soldier's trust? To lie
Ground by heels of little men,
Forever maimed, defeated, lost, impugned?
And was I then betrayed? Did I betray?
If it were said, as it still might be said--
If it were said, and a word should run like fire,
Like living fire into the roots of grass,
The sunken flag would kindle on wild hills,
The brooding hearts would waken, and the dream
Stir like a crippled phantom under the pines,
And this torn earth would quicken into shouting
Beneath the feet of the ragged bands--
Turns to the waiting page, the sword
Bows to the rust that cankers and the silence.
Among these boys whose eyes lift up to mine
Within gray walls where droning wasps repeat
A hollow reveille, I still must face,
Day after day, the courier with his summons
Once more to surrender, now to surrender all.
Without arms or men I stand, but with knowledge only
I face what long I saw, before others knew,
When Pickett's men streamed back, and I heard the tangled
Cry of the Wilderness wounded, bloody with doom.
The mountains, once I said, in the little room
At Richmond, by the huddled fire, but still
The President shook his head. The mountains wait,
I said, in the long beat and rattle of siege
At cratered Petersburg. Too late
We sought the mountains and those people came.
And Lee is in the mountains now, beyond Appomattox,
Listening long for voices that will never speak
Again; hearing the hoofbeats that come and go and fade
Without a stop, without a brown hand lifting
The tent-flap, or a bugle call at dawn,
Or ever on the long white road the flag
Of Jackson's quick brigades. I am alone,
Trapped, consenting, taken at last in mountains.
It is not the bugle now, or the long roll beating.
The simple stroke of a chapel bell forbids
The hurtling dream, recalls the lonely mind.
Young men, the God of your fathers is a just
And merciful God Who in this blood once shed
On your green altars measures out all days,
And measures out the grace
Whereby alone we live;
And in His might He waits,
Brooding within the certitude of time,
To bring this lost forsaken valor
And the fierce faith undying
And the love quenchless
To flower among the hills to which we cleave,
To fruit upon the mountains whither we flee,
Never forsaking, never denying
His children and His children's children forever
Unto all generations of the faithful heart.
What was the death toll from Sherman's March?
How many civilians died in the burning of Atlanta? How many soldiers? Do you know?
who brought abject terror and misery
Abject terror? Probably. Kind of the point of war, right? To put fear into the enemy?
Georgians in Sherman's March endured hardships, certainly.
the innocent population of GA.
Innocent? Not everyone in Georgia's hands were clean. Not by a long shot.
May he rot in Hell.
That's a nice sentiment. I'd say the incoherent rage undermines your case - but there wasn't much of a case.
Nice poem, thanks for posting
Really? What if Texas secedes again, will that cause urban warfare in Pennsylvania? I think not, the lines will be similar as the first CW. State by state.
Move on to a thread where you will be more warmly received.
The South was destroyed to the extent that it took 100 years
to recover. Is this something to be proud of?
You must of missed the posts by haters of the South that have said they wish Lee and Davis both were tried for treason. They are here you betcha.
Actually, a couple of Southerners have reconsidered Lee's Civil War career and thoughtfully, and with supporting data, identified a couple of lacunae in Lee's thinking (which is more time-consuming than finding eminences in the thinking of his contemporaries) and respectfully reported them and shown how they led the South to disaster in the one campaign that really mattered, that could have won the war for the South, which was the 1864 campaign, when Lincoln's war, and Lincoln himself, were up for reconsideration by the Northern mobs that had been mobilized and incited by the Abolitionists' and the War Party's propaganda between 1830 and 1860.
But after the marble cast by the losing generals has been chipped away, and all the Northern and socialist hate-propaganda; after all the mistakes have been accounted for and impulses parsed out and weighed, there still remains the matter of Lee's character, which still looms above its critics, detractors, and competitors like the Front Range of the Rockies. And that is Greenberg's point.
Permission to order me around denied.
Paul, the occupant of the White Hut is gwine git you for saying things like that ...... bringing up character! You might as well bring a Salvation Army brass band into a Basin Street cathouse on a Friday night.
Barky the Bouncer, he gwine git you! (Well, okay, maybe Reggie will.)
Objectively he committed the crime, and he also had a very negative attitude after the war which did nothing to help matters.
But Davis wasn't really worth the trouble, and so it was dropped, and I agree with that.
Lee, on the other hand, did everything he could to help rebuild the country.
Trying and executing Lee would have been considered an outrage in the North as well as the South.
It would not only have been unjust, but also extremely stupid.
Agreed. One can criticize any number of Lee’s command decisions; he was a great commander, not a perfect one, and the south lost the war so one can always debate alternative courses of action. But when one turns to character, the debunkers have come up empty.
Really, DAvis ASKED for a trial. No one in Justice wanted to try him because that would put secession on trial and they thought they would LOSE.
More generally, one shouldn't feed an energy creature. It deliberately provokes people to feed off their discomfort, unhappiness, and displeasure. Such posters are ghosts, ghouls, and energy vampires. Ignore it, it will go away if you don't feed it responses.
That's a simplification.
We can get into an enormous debate, but the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution by its very nature rules out all unilateral secession.
Whether or not you believe that to be the case, James Speed (AG at the time of Davis' arrest) was 110% certain that it was the case and would have been more than happy to argue it.
That's why he indicted Davis for treason.
Davis fought the indictment, his lawyers seeking to have it quashed or nullified on the grounds that the court did not have authority over him.
This dragged on for four years.
After Davis lost his last appeal to have it quashed, the new Grant administration just took office and believed that starting the new administration with a trial that would reopen all the old wounds was just not smart.
I agree with that.
After the Grant administration dropped the case, which given the composition of the Supreme Court at that time would have gone 7-2 or 8-1 against Davis, Davis - now free and clear of any repercussions - started saying that he would want a trial.
Davis did not get himself elected President of the Confederacy by being a bad politician.
But...there still remains the matter of Lee’s character, which still looms above its critics... And that is Greenberg’s point.”
We should honor General Lee for this reason, if no other. What a remarkable man.
Sherman was not an indiscriminate destroyer. Neither was Phil Sheridan in the Shenandoah. Both WERE intent on wrecking southern logistics, and they accepted that food storage and transportation infrastructure were legitimate military targets, as they have been considered to be in most times and places throughout history and would be considered today. It was still unpleasant to be in the path of the armies, but (aside from Columbia SC) there was very little burning for the sake of burning, and by the standards of almost any armies any time, anywhere, astonishingly few instances of abuse of the civilian population.
Southern mythmakers, of course, have a different view. Every building that burned anywhere in the deep south for the next hundred years got attributed to Sherman’s march, even if the Yankees never came within a hundred miles and the fire took place in 1927.
I don’t know about Sherman’s march, but in the Shenandoah barns were burned if they were full, and left untouched if empty. The point was to prevent Lee from sending another army down the Valley, not to ruin the land (hence Grant’s comment about making a crow carry its own rations). A very few houses burned by accident, whem sparks from the barn were blown by the wind; Sheridan’s men generally tried to put out such fires but didn’t always succeed. Several times, they helped the families get their possessions out of the house. A few other homes were deliberately burned in retaliation for the murder of Union soldiers by confederate guerrilla, but that was a singular incident.
The government wanted Davis to ask for a pardon, but he refused this, feeling that to do so would be an admission of guilt. Davis actually wanted to stand trial for treason, because he felt certain that he would be vindicated. On May 5, 1867 he was freed on bond at Richmond, and soon after he traveled to a home that had been prepared for him near Montreal, Canada. In October it appeared that he would have to go back to Richmond for a trial, but that likelihood evaporated and he never stood trial at all. He eventually moved to Mississippi and became a businessman.