Update: I don’t mind having to admit a mistake every once in a while, but this time I really dropped the ball. I thought I had confirmed this story with a sufficient number of SCV websites, but Karen Cox tells me that the entire story is apocryphal. Ruth Ann Coski, who used to work at the Museum of the Confederacy, carried out the necessary research and discovered that the crown was made by Varina Davis. It looks like the Myth of the Lost Cause is indeed just a myth, but I would still like to know why Pope Benedict is standing in front of a Confederate flag.
I had no idea that Pope Pius IX sent Jefferson Davis a hand-written note along with a crown of thorns during his brief imprisonment following the war. The note included the following: “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” and supposedly the crown was handwoven by the thorn. Robert E. Lee, pointing to his own portrait of Pius IX, is supposed to have told a visitor that he was “the only sovereign…in Europe who recognized our poor Confederacy.” The crown is located in a museum in New Orleans. Apparently, Pope Benedict is continuing the Catholic Church’s tradition of sanctifying the Confederate cause. So, it looks like the Myth of the Lost Cause wasn’t a myth after all. I had no idea.
As part of a search for information on Robert E. Lee and Arlington House I came across teaching materials that I assume are to be used for home schooling purposes. It includes a multiple choice test. Let’s see how well you do and remember that some of the questions have more than one answer. Good luck. Here is the link, which includes a “history” as well as the test.
1. _____ In Lee’s January 22, 1861 letter to his cousin, Martha Custis Williams, whom does he state can save us; and from what? (Circle one)
a. The Federal Government
b. The media; bad publicity
c. The Union; anarchy
d. God alone; folly, selfishness, short-sightedness and sin
2. _____ In his General Order; whom does Lee state is our only refuge and strength? (Circle one)
a. The Confederate Army
b. The cavalry
c. Stonewall Jackson
d. Almighty God
3. _____ According to Chaplain Jones of the Confederate Army, the result of this Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer was a work of grace among the troops, which widened and deepened, causing at least: (Consult your text and fill in the blanks)
a. 500 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
b. l,000 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
c. 5,000 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
d. 15,000 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
4. _____ What results does Chaplain Jones state “eternity alone shall reveal” in terms of Robert E. Lee’s actions during this Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer? (Circle one)
a. Lack of interest and participation
c. Quiet influence and fervent prayer
d. Resignation and “moment of silence”
5. _____ Colonel Johnston was an intimate friend of Lee, and a distinguished faculty member of his college. In his eyewitness account of the General’s dying moments reflect Lee’s true character traits in action. They are: (Circle all correct answers)
e. Self-contained composure
f. Obedience to proper authority
j) Christian meekness
Make your way over to Vast Public Indifference for a fascinating series of posts on the naming of enslaved and free blacks after Confederate heroes.
The Richmond Dispatch included a great deal of commentary that referenced the presence of black soldiers in the battle to both warn its readers of possible dangers and as a means to maintain support for the war effort. By including such detail readers on the home front were made aware of the dangers that black soldiers represented and, by extension, the threats posed by their own slaves. According to one editorial, “Negroes, stimulated by whiskey, may possibly fight well so long so they fight successfully, but with the first good whipping, their courage, like that of Bob Acres, oozes out at their fingers’ ends.” The attempt to deny black manhood by assuming they were “stimulated by whiskey” to fight reinforced stereotypes while the reference to “whipping” took on a dual meaning between the battlefield and home front as a way to maintain racial control. In addition, the North’s use of black troops allowed the newspaper to draw a sharp distinction between “heartless Yankees” who brought themselves to a “barbarous device for adding horrors to the war waged against the South” and “Robert E. Lee, the soldier without reproach, and the Christian gentleman without stain and without dishonor.” Highlighting Lee’s unblemished moral character highlighted his role as the Confederacy’s best hopes for independence, but also served as a model for the rest of the white South to emulate as the introduction of black troops represented an ominous turn.
The Richmond Examiner not only acknowledged the execution of black Union soldiers, but went a step further and encouraged Mahone to continue the practice in the future:
We beg him [Mahone], hereafter, when negroes are sent forward to murder the wounded, and come shouting “no quarter,” shut your eyes, General, strengthen your stomach with a little brandy and water, and let the work, which God has entrusted to you and your brave men, go forward to its full completion; that is, until every negro has been slaughtered.—Make every salient you are called upon to defend, a Fort Pillow; butcher every negro that Grant sends against your brave troops, and permit them not to soil their hands with the capture of a single hero.
“If Grant had a drinking problem, the answer to your question could be that he was willing to sacrifice thousands of more men due to the fact his judgment was impaired by alcohol.” – Richard Williams [scroll down for comment]
Thousands of more men compared to what exactly? Compared to someone who is best remembered as the embodiment of civilized warfare?
Robert E. Lee’s Casualties (1862-1865)
- Seven Days battles – 20,204
- Second Manassas – 9,000
- Sharpsburg – 13,000
- Chancellorsville – 13,000
- Gettysburg – 21,000
- Overland Campaign – 31,000
- Petersburg Campaign – 28,000
Ulysses S. Grant’s Casualties (1861-1865)
- Battle of Belmont – 3,100
- Forts Henry and Donelson – 2,700
- Shiloh – 13,000
- Vicksburg – 4,800
- Chattanooga – 5,800
- Overland Campaign – 38,000
- Petersburg Campaign – 42,000
Yesterday I mentioned that beliefs about Grant and alcohol typically have something to do with larger issues. Williams’s comment is a case in point. If it can be shown that Grant had a serious enough problem with alcohol it might provide evidence for another long-standing belief, which is that he needlessly sacrificed his men in battle. The image of “Grant the butcher” provides the perfect foil against Robert E. Lee who embodies the martial characteristics of the Virginia cavalier. Does anyone doubt that this is exactly who Williams had in mind in his implicit comparison. As the argument goes Lee fought a traditional war of virtuous generals and civilized tactics while Grant and Sherman ushered in a new era of warfare that anticipated the blood baths of the twentieith century.
My noting Lee’s casualty statistics should not be interpreted as an attack of any kind. I tend to agree with Gary Gallagher’s analysis of Lee as a modern general who understood the importance of offensive, but costly operations as representing the best strategy given issues related to infrastructure, manpower, and the expectation of the civilian population. Still, one might conclude that Grant’s casualty figures demonstrate that he did indeed needlessly sacrifice his men in battle. Of course, you do not have to be an alcoholic to order large numbers of young men to their deaths. You could just as easily be a Virginia gentleman.