Some years ago, I bumped into this documentary in the History Channel. It is about the last month of the Civil War and how the people involved ended up defining the future of the United States and that includes one Robert E. Lee.
It is about an hour and a half, so I’d say you save it for a time of relaxation and comfort.
After watching it, I ordered the book and devoured it. I did not now the respect that Lee commanded among officers in both sides. I did not know Appomattox was not the official surrender of the war but rather the first. That honor and respect were given to the surrendering party because honor and respect were the norm. We have lost a great deal of that and some want it totally out so history must be rewritten.
Most Americans do not comprehend how unusual was the US Civil War. Usually and unless one side is erased from the map, civil wars have aftermath that last for decades and even centuries as the region that was the former Yugoslavia demonstrated (First record of internal war? The year 1490.) The United States did not have a guerrilla warfare to deal with by the Government, nor did flare ups between armed groups ever occurred, most everybody went home and rebuild their lives. For all the problems that went unresolved then, there was never anther taking of arms.
“Boys, I have done the best I could for you. Go home now. And if you make as good citizens as you have soldiers, you will do well. I shall always be proud of you. Goodbye. And God bless you all.”
Lee addressing his troops after signing the surrender at Appomattox.
On the other side of the lines, Union soldiers began to celebrate. Artillerymen fired their guns to salute the victory over Lee. Grant heard the artillery booming and sent orders that it should stop. “The rebels are our countrymen again,” he said. “We can best show our joy by refusing to celebrate their downfall.”
It was the honorable men we had back then who by honor alone triumphed over scum, and God there was scum on both sides. Lee’s properties were confiscated and after Lincoln’s assassination, some idiot thinking he was paying the ultimate disrespect, used Lee’s land as burial grounds for Union Soldiers. Today it is known as Arlington National Cemetery and I pretty much doubt General Lee would have found nothing but honor in hosting the resting place of servicemen who laid their lives for this country.
The question we need to ask ourselves is: Is there Honor left?