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.
It is important to note that Atlanta had been burned by Hood before Sherman got there. Sherman cut off the railroad routes, and in a fit of temper, Hood set fire to his train which fire spread. The Union soldiers entering the city had as their first task, to put out the fires set by the Confederates.
Yes, he did one thing and said another.
That is why his two post war books should be classified as fiction - alternative history.
The destruction of Columbia, South Carolina by Sherman's troops is a prime example of Sherman looking the other way while his troops looted and burned wholesale. For information about what went on in Columbia, I suggest that you start at the following link to post 147 and subsequent posts all the way to post 229.
Sherman later testified the following about his actions at Columbia (documented in Post 169 of the thread I just linked to):
Q. -- You testified, a little while ago, that it was very likely they [Sherman's own men] might burn Columbia, and you permitted them, or your officers did -- permitted them to go about the town?
A. -- I could have had them stay in the ranks, but I would not have done it, under the circumstances, to save Columbia.
Q. -- Although you knew they were likely to burn Columbia, you would not restrain them to their ranks, even to save it?
A. -- No, Sir. I would not have done such harshness to my soldiers to save the whole town. They were men, and I was not going to treat them like slaves.
Words fail me.
Once Sherman's troops got to North Carolina, the order apparently went out to reduce the amount of burning and looting, orders Sherman could have issued at Columbia.
lentulusgracchus posted about the demonization of the South by the liberal media as a way of splitting the Republican Party years ago in these threads and had noted the New York Times article that Rush cited. Rush is just slower to catch on than lg.
Too bad he is so delusional about any such demonization at FreeRepublic.
rockrr, when I look up bigotry in the dictionary it has your picture. Go figure.
“Except that Lee was a slave owner, and a person who served as slave overseer for a slave plantation.”
Let’s see... Lee was a professional soldier right up to the end of the Civil War. But you manage to have him being an overseer for a slave plantation. There is no twisting of history too bizarre for you, is there donny boy?
Self reflection is lost on you, my neo-yankee South-hating friend.
You should try celebrating your own heritage instead of spending your time expressing the hatred that you so lovingly cultivate. But then I suppose you’d have to have a heritage worth celebrating.
Funny how little time our post-modern neo-yankees spend on their own business. They appear to be little more than shriveled souls who can only make themselves feel better by tearing down others. But we’ve all seen that in action, it’s not news.
“William Barksdale was my wifes great great uncle.
His sister Virginia Barksdale Wade was her great great gandma and the wife of State Senator Levi Wade”
Well, that explains one male offspring’s name. ;o)
“Ironically...all of the descendents I know today are Republicans...it would be hard to explain to them if you could today how the parties have sorta switched as to who is now the progressive.”
Profound! Thanks for writing what I’ve been perplexed as to how to communicate.
Let me help remind you. He took a leave of absence to settle his father in law’s estate.
To do that he had to work the slaves to pay off debts.
Accordingly as executor he installed himself as overseer, put the slaves to work on the plantation, as well as renting them out.
Ring any bells yet?
The more-resolving telescope is supplied by RiNO/Neocon contributing editor of the Weekly Standard Christopher Caldwell, who has discussed this memetic warfare extensively, particularly in a series of articles, speeches, and reviews that he wrote between 1996 and about 2003. In 1996 he wrote in The Atlantic Monthly (alias The Atlantic) an article entitled "The Southern Captivity of the GOP". You can metasearch his name and find most of these articles and speeches.
In the article, hereafter SCGOP for short, he listed all the unfavorable images of the South (some of them imaginary and actually libelous) that Clintonoid propagandists, sometimes called "journalists", were propagating in an attempt to drive Western and Midwestern moderates and conservatives away from knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, Southerners who, as everybody knows, secretly eat Negro babies and hang black men from trees on Saturday night and set them on fire as a form of community entertainment, like the Romans' noxii ad bestias in the amphitheaters of the Empire.
The period 1990-present has represented a crescendo of this kind of political lying, as the Alinskyites labor to break the United States to the wheel of Marxism-Leninism by turning against one another everyone who isn't a Marxist.
It remains to comment that Caldwell was offering in gross another example of what Rush was commenting on, about the eagerness of RiNO's to throw "problem" people (people and groups that are being attacked by Media Mau-Maus) out of the lifeboat and under the bus -- to mix metaphors in a higher cause. This was what Caldwell was arguing about Southern conservatives, who practically singlehandedly had recaptured the Speakership and the leadership of the Senate for the GOP less than two years before after 40 years of wandering in the desert, that the RiNOate illuminati should bend every fiber to minimize and eliminate the obsecrate Southern Menace to the good name and electability of the GOP.
What Caldwell does not fess up to, is that East Coast RiNO's and Neocons have their own strong distaste for Southerners (and social conservatives generally, and their issues), and the "they're going to cost us offices! we'll lose our majorities!" meme was really cover for a different meme: "I hate these g***amn cracker-publicans -- they can't even talk right, never mind their never having gone to an AAU Listed Eastern Liberal Arts University. (That, FYI, is author Paul Fussell's -- in Class -- snob list of universities; if you didn't go to one of these, you are as unlettered and unqualified as a Slobbovian yak herder. Google "Palin +education" if you don't believe me.)
Rustbucket, thank you for the courteous ping, and the kind words.
Reference to Lee’s unhappy time as executor and overseer of his father in law’s estate.
Or are you just getting up a vigorous game of "Mark of Cain" again? -- which used to be imputed to other people, mind.
Or is it more serious, a zealous desire to break into other people's churches -- like the homosexuals did who defecated on the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in the 80's -- and besmear and desecrate their objects of veneration?
That would seem to bespeak a certain pathological hatred.
So do you agree that Lee spent several years as overseer of his father in law’s estates?
So his alleged spotless character is somewhat marred by his association with the horrific institution of human slavery.
Feel free to venerate him. Far be it from me to interfere with your heresy. Just understand that others may disagree.
Well, guess what? Your impulse is naked now, even if your arms are still as short as ever. Run along, little man. Honest people don't have the time of day for reflexive backbiters like you.
No. I have no need to smear. He rolled around in it himself. I merely report what others have reported. Freeman who I referenced is a kind reporter of events in Lee’s life.
That you are embarrassed by his flaws, speaks well of you. That you project that embarrassment onto me speaks poorly of you.
Two posts in a row referencing fecal issues.
I think you need to do some soul searching.
...or use a better grade of toilet paper.
Go fly a kite Bozo. I don’t hate Southerners. I have no use for morons like you. You’d flatter yourself thinking I waste the effort to hate you.