Tag Archives: GAR

Union Veterans Reflect on Robert E. Lee

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 4.43.30 PMAfter the Civil War, the renown of Robert E. Lee spread far beyond the borders of the former Confederacy. He was respected and praised in the North for his virtues, his fighting prowess, and his conciliation in defeat. Historians such as Alan T. Nolan have noted that the North, whose people “had to acknowledge the honor of the South,” fully embraced the Lee tradition. “Revisionism,” especially in terms of Lost Cause interpretations of the war where Lee figured centrally, argues Nolan, “could not become part of the Civil War legend without northern acceptance, and the North did accept the South’s rewriting of the record.”

While some in the North may have been retrospectively kind to the former Rebel general, Nolan has made far too great a generalization. Union veterans, for example, were hardly generous in their assessment of Lee. To them, Lee was a traitor. In 1891, the Grand Army Record passionately objected to the “saintly slopping over Robert E. Lee,” and others agreed. In fact, GAR protests against Lee helped create a lasting thread in northern commemorative literature. In 1910, one Union veteran wrote, essentially expressing in the same breath how some might find Lee both virtuous and reprehensible: “Though in his Confederate uniform [Lee] may possess all the culture and personal worthiness he had before he thus clothed himself, this badge of disloyalty – of rebellion – so characterizes him that by it he must be judged.” As late as 1922, a variety of groups continued to honor the veterans’ legacy by protesting in “unmeasured terms” the organizations that celebrated the Rebel chief, arguing that treason should never be forgotten, much less rewarded. “No Grand Army man,” offered one Union veteran, “can honorably lend his name to any movement which shall dignify to posterity the name of the traitor Robert E. Lee, or shall make him the equal of the loyal, victorious Grant.”

Union veterans remained determined to praise only the Union heroes who saved the country, rather than a Rebel who had tried to destroy it. The praise allotted to the rebel chieftain wore Grand Army veterans particularly thin. One Collier’s Weekly article citing Lee as America’s most “noble citizen” especially drew fire from the GAR’s patriotic instructor, Robert Kissick of Iowa. “If Lee was all you claim, then the men I represent were wrong in fighting to preserve the nation he fought to destroy.” Further arguing that “Lee did not follow his state out of the Union,” but rather, “his state followed him,” Kissick lambasted the Confederate hero and heaped much of the blame for upper South secession on Lee’s shoulders. As decades passed, few Union veterans could stomach the praise of Robert E. Lee. In 1922, when the American Legion attempted to honor Lee’s birthday, veterans of the Pennsylvania GAR shuddered at the idea that anyone would “place a premium on Disloyalty to the Flag and our Country.”

Although adulation of the Rebel general found a place among northern civilians who perhaps sentimentalized or romanticized the genteel south and all that the Lee family embodied, Lee’s standing among Union veterans never reached the heights the general obtained in the South.

With compliments,

Keith

The Face of (Post) War

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.28.56 AMGreetings all,

I found this rather extraordinary image on the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park Facebook Page. This is Jacob Miller, a veteran of the 9th Indiana Infantry and member of the Grand Army of the Republic, who was wounded in the face while fighting  in the Brock Field at Chickamauga on September 19, 1863.

His stern countenance reflects his memories of battle: “I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving.”

With compliments,

Keith

 

Stanton Post, GAR – Angeles Rosewood Cemetery

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.15.54 PMGreetings all – today I went to visit the Stanton Post, Grand Army of the Republic cemetery plot at the Angeles Rosewood Cemetery in Los Angeles. One of the older area cemeteries, I found it to retain its antiquated (for LA) charm, but also thought it in need of drastic attention. The grounds are overgrown and the lawns dead in many areas, and a great deal of the stones and monuments are in a grim state of disrepair. This is especially the unfortunate condition of the veterans’ plot – consecrated by the Stanton Post, GAR in 1908. Here rest Union veterans of the Civil War and United States soldiers from the subsequent Indian Wars and the War with Spain in 1898.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.30.20 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.30.33 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.31.42 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.31.53 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.32.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.32.19 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.34.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.34.27 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 6.34.36 PM

By the way, this is an integrated plot, something that cannot be said of the other early-twentieth century cemeteries in the area.

With compliments,

Keith

What You Might Find Inside a Used Book

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.16.47 AM

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 8.22.42 AMThis is the inscription on the frontpiece of my personal copy of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg: Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, c1913). Or what I simply call the “Pennsylvania Report.” I bought the book in Gettysburg back in 2001 from a small book store specializing in battle ephemera. I wish I could remember the name of the store…or where exactly it is (or was) located. Anyway…it’s pretty cool when you can trace a book’s history. I did a little digging and found a great image of Francis H. Hoy – who, as stated, served as the Senior Vice Commander of the Department of Pennsylvania, GAR in 1915. In 1919, as I discovered, he served as the department’s Chief of Staff.

But enough about Hoy. The book is full of photographs from the 1913 Blue-Gray reunion at Gettysburg, marking the 50th anniversary of the battle. A significant number of the images clearly depict a reconciliatory spirit…and these images have dominated much of the scholarly analysis of the reconciliation movement. I take issue with some of these ideas and underscore a number of the most “forgive and forget” images in the August issue of The Americanist Independent. It would it worth it to you to check it out.

With compliments,

Keith