It’s a pretty miserable day here in central Virginia. On top of the rain I am strung out on the couch watching college football and dealing with a cold and sore throat. Since it looks like I will not get anything serious done today I thought I might offer you the second installment of my examination of Crocker’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. The following is titled “We’re All Confederates Now” and asks the reader to imagine the following:
Put yourself in Robert E. Lee’s shoes. If the South seceded today, how many of us would think the proper response would be for the federal government to send tanks over the bridges spanning the Potomac into Virginia, to blockade Southern ports and carpet bomb Southern cities? If we don’t, it’s because we see the United States as the Confederacy saw it, as a voluntary union. The idea that we have to keep California, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Maine together by force would probably strike us as ridiculous. And if it came to that, it would probably strike us as horrendous and wrong. (p. 33)
First, why do we need to put ourselves in the shoes of Lee? Does he have some kind of privileged position that would steer us to the correct answer as to what would be considered a proper response by the federal government in case of a modern day secession? To show how absurd this little thought experiment is, why not put ourselves in the shoes of Winfield Scott, George Thomas or any other Southern graduate of West Point who took part in the invasion of their own homes. Scott himself outlined the invasion of much of the South in his Anaconda Plan. More importantly, we now know that the generation of Southern West Point cadets that graduated in the 1830s did not resign their commissions in 1861. In the end, it is irrelevant what we would countenance as a legitimate response. What we do know is that plenty of white Southerners in 1861 believed that “invasion” was the only response to the actions of most of the Southern states.