The United States Army’s “Finest Hour”

This is a decidedly unremarkable educational video on the American Civil War until the 5:05 mark. At that point, Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, makes the following point:

As a soldier, I am proud that the United States army, my army, defeated the Confederates. In its finest hour, soldiers wearing this uniform-almost two hundred thousand of them former slaves themselves-destroyed chattel slavery, freed 4 million men, women and children from human bondage, and saved the United States of America.

I have trouble imagining any member of the U.S. army today disagreeing with this statement. But I also can’t imagine anyone today outside of the military disagreeing with it as well.

[Uploaded to YouTube on August 10, 2015].

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23 comments… add one
  • TFSmith Aug 13, 2015 @ 18:28

    I use United States and the rebels; it was, after all, what they referred to themselves as…

  • Richard Aug 11, 2015 @ 14:14

    I appreciate the comments about using the term “United States Army” instead of Union or Federal. I may need to start adapting that mindset going forward.

    • Jerry McKenzie Aug 12, 2015 @ 6:46

      I thought the same thing and going forward will not be using Union/Federal.

  • Leo Aug 11, 2015 @ 4:39

    That is exactly right! The United States did not cease to exist at the outbreak of the war, so it only seems historically correct to use United States rather than Union.

  • Will Hickox Aug 10, 2015 @ 20:17

    I think this speaks to a larger issue about the popular memory of the war and the assumption that the Confederate States was a legitimate institution equal to the United States. There’s this notion that in 1861 the United States split into “North” and “South.” Thus we hear of the “Union” or “Northern” army, but as you point out, it was still the U.S. Army that has existed since at least the 1790s.

    The United States didn’t disappear or shrink into one section. The Confederacy was created by a revolutionary movement to break away from the United States, but the United States survived and arguably grew stronger after 1865.

  • Leo Aug 10, 2015 @ 18:07

    That should be “Crowd” and not “Crown”.

  • Leo Aug 10, 2015 @ 18:04

    I have always preferred United States over union in Civil War terminology. It is much more honest and it denies the heritage crown the convince of hiding behind the union monicker when referring to the enemy. Union army sounds too foreign as if it is a Proventil branch of the Canada military rather than our own military. I have noticed where many in the heritage crown try to have it both ways in clamoring for secession and bemoaning the tyrannical government of the United States, but quickly cheering on the good old U S of A when it is convenient. There are a few who consider the United States Army to be an occupation force, but most are just hypocrites.

  • Barbara Gannon Aug 10, 2015 @ 14:31

    I see my service in the U.S. Army as one of the greatest honors of my life, partly because it means that I was part of an institution that did such great things. Saving the Union and ending slavery being central to that feeling.

  • John Betts Aug 10, 2015 @ 13:53

    I rather enjoyed this video and am saving it for use later in the classroom for a clip in a lesson.

  • Ross Hetrick Aug 10, 2015 @ 12:37

    Great video.Too bad it is put out by Prager “University,” which is headed by the arch Conservative Dennis Prager. It puts out videos against Global Warming, Affirmative Action and the Iran nuclear treaty.You can get a taste of his ideology in this video:

    • John Betts Aug 10, 2015 @ 13:56

      That actually makes me like it even MORE then. I say this because if even “arch Conservative(s)” are making such a clear statement about the cause of the Civil War, that only helps IMO. As many have noted before, many on the Lost Cause side are conservative to “arch Conservative” in their modern political views.

    • Marian Latimer Aug 10, 2015 @ 20:12

      Whoa, they like this sort of thing up in the homeland of my mother? I always thought the Canadians were much less conservative than that. I did not watch the entire video because I’m having root canal work tomorrow and I can only endure so much in one 24 hour period.

  • Buck Buchanan Aug 10, 2015 @ 11:51

    As a former Infantry & Quartermaster Officer of the United States Army I could not agree more unequivocally. Colonel Ty Seidule is not saying anything which is foreign to the men and women of our Army today or in our history. We have always referred to the Army during the period of 1861-1865 as the United States Army. Our unit colors are decorated with the honors earned by Soldiers on those battlefields. I served in 3 different Infantry battalions which had lineage and honors from Bull Run, Peninsula, Antietam, Wilson’s Creek, Shiloh, Iuka & Corinth, Fredericksburg, Stones River, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Atlanta, Petersburg, Shenandoah, Franklin, Nashville & Appomattox. The Regular Army and the US Army Reserve have lineage going back to the original and then expanded Regular Army. Army National Guard units share many of these same battle honors…heck some states have honors going back to the colonial wars.
    To those of us of the Regular Army who have a historic bent have always referred to the Union Army as the US Army. I know of one Soldier/Historian who always referred to the American Army and the Confederate Army. Even many of my friends from southern states acknowledge and feel the same way.
    Well, except for the guys from Texas; ‘cause, ya know, they’re Texans.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 10, 2015 @ 11:53

      We have always referred to the Army during the period of 1861-1865 as the United States Army.

      I try as much as possible in the classroom to refer to the United States as opposed to the Union army.

      • Bjorn Skaptason Aug 11, 2015 @ 9:04

        Hi Kevin,

        At the risk of wandering off topic, I wish to respond to one issue that both Colonel Siedule and some of your commenters address. The professional genealogy of the U.S. Army can be Byzantine once we decide to discuss what is and is not service in the U.S. Army. I use the term “Byzantine” because it was the term used by an Army historian I once asked to explain the logic behind the application of campaign streamers to regimental colors, as Mr. Buchanan refers to above.

        In consulting James Sawicki’s Infantry Regiments of the U.S. Army (1981), we see that the 15th and 16th U.S. Infantry Regiments, both established in the expansion of May, 1861, saw their first action at the battle of Shiloh. However, the service of the 16th Regulars was interrupted, and therefore the modern regiment does not get a Shiloh battle streamer. The 15th Regiment experienced no such re-organization, so modern members of that regiment do serve in a unit that fought at Shiloh, just as did Audie Murphy.

        The National Guard gets more complicated. According to Sawicki the 182nd Infantry (Massachusetts National Guard) traces their lineage to 1636, and their earliest battle streamer is Lexington. Few Americans would begrudge that unit genuine pride in their service as a paramilitary militia company composed of rebellious subjects of King George III (but definitely pre-dating the U.S. Army). The 182nd gets a streamer for Civil War Service as the 7th Massachusetts Volunteers.

        Which brings us to examples that complicate Colonel Siedule’s argument, and some of the arguments that we have here (perhaps you saw this coming). The 116th Infantry Regiment won everlasting honor while suffering grievous casualties at Omaha Beach on D-Day. The Virginia and Maryland National Guard unit also traces its ancestry to the Revolution, but regarding this topic, proudly embodies the Confederate service of the 5th Virginia Infantry.

        The U.S. Army (including the U. S. Volunteer Army and the Department of United States Colored Troops) absolutely helped the Navy overthrow slavery and save the Union 🙂 . However, the U.S. Army also chooses to embrace Confederate service for the purpose of distributing battle honors, and serving soldiers and veterans take what I think is justifiable pride in those honors. So, service rendered in the cause of preserving and expanding slavery does merit a battle streamer, according to the policies of the Army as they apply to this subject.

        It’s complicated, even Byzantine.

  • Isaac Aug 10, 2015 @ 10:44

    I think one of the biggest issues concerning the Civil War that has plagued the teaching of the Civil War is the question of: “How much respect should the Confederate Army receive?” This is such a hard question to answer because their nefarious beliefs need to be underlined, yet, as people they should not ALL be branded worthless (some should be castigated if they went on to subscribe to the KKK dogma and other anti-black groups of that ilk). Although I do believe it to be a hard line to walk sometimes, I think it is a defined line that can be taught properly. I believe that the Confederate army is always referred to as one entity – and in many ways it was – there were many men who were part of that army and after the war no longer carried those toxic Confederate beliefs, and it should be those that need to be shown respect for their service.

  • Msb Aug 10, 2015 @ 10:37

    Wonderful video. As for verdicts on the two sides, I go with US Grant’s.

  • Barbara Gannon Aug 10, 2015 @ 9:44

    What’s the issue, the Northern/Union Army of the Civil War is the United States Army. This is a matter of history and lineage. The volunteer units of the states were federalized and under the authority of the US Army. People call it the Union Army; it is the United States Army.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 10, 2015 @ 9:47

      No disagreement, but for some people the two do not occupy the same patriotic space.

      • Kristen Trout Aug 10, 2015 @ 10:50

        Perhaps we can consider it an extension of the Lost Cause… Too many argue that the Federal armies of the Civil War had no legitimate connection to the United States Army of today that they revere. Are they using it to separate present day patriotism from the Civil War and the ideologies Federals ultimately fought for? From what I’ve seen, many supporters of the Confederacy believe the Confederate military resembles the ideals of the American military today much more so than the Federal armies did during the war. As Dr. Gannon pointed out, the Federal army IS the United States Army. Thanks for posting this, Kevin!

  • Noma Aug 10, 2015 @ 9:44

    Wow. That is a keeper. Love the clarity, love the economy of words. Thanks for sharing!

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