Lee and Jackson by Mort Kunstler
Scene set at Blandford Church Hill, Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 1:45pm – July 30, 1864 in The Battle of the Crater by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen
“Finish it,” Lee said, looking at [William] Mahone. “For heaven’s sake, they are cornered. Bag the lot, and finish it. If we wait until dark they will escape. For that matter, I am stunned they have not yet brought up reserves to strengthen their line and perhaps threaten another section to draw us off. I want it finished now, before they can launch another attack and stretch us too thin to hold.”
“Is it true a colored division was in the assault?”
Lee stepped closer to Mahone and in an uncharacteristic gesture put a fatherly hand on his solider. “I want the full honor of war observed. Those who surrender are to be treated as proper prisoners, with respect, their wounded tended to, their officers shown the respect due their rank.”
Mahone looked at him, as if to reply.
“I know what our President has said, but in this army, sir, my orders on this day carry full weight. We are Christian soldiers, sir. Do you understand me? Passions must not rule, even in the heat of battle. If I hear of any atrocities, I will ensure that those involved shall face court-martial and the full penalty of military law.”
He drew Mahone a bit closer. “Do we understand each other, sir”?
There was only one answer Mahone could possibly give to such a man. “Yes, sir.” [pp. 281-82]
Of course, there is no evidence that such a conversation ever took place and there is no evidence to suggest that Lee did not know or disapprove of the slaughter of black soldiers after the battle. This is nothing less than a gross distortion of the battle even for a work of historical fiction. Why this scene is necessary for their narrative will be the subject of my review.