“It Is a Sad Day Indeed For All Of Us Who Love the South”

Civil War memory is indeed a very strange landscape. Up until today I would have said that the once widely held view that slavery was benign and that the slaves themselves remained loyal throughout the war reflects its most absurd side.  However, the folks over at Richard Williams’s site have somehow managed to trump even that.

In response to a short post marking the anniversary of the surrender of the Army of Norther Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 one reader had this to say:

It is a sad day indeed for all of us who love the South.  This was followed by a response from Williams: “Yeah, me too.”

Apparently, that caught the attention of my good friend and fellow historian, Mark Snell, who posted the following in response:

Why is it sad that the killing ended? Why is it a sad day that the institution of slavery was coming to an end? Why is it sad that this date signaled the beginning of a new era, one that would make the United States the strongest and richest country in the world–with some of the ex-Confederate states in the forefront of that economy today? Can someone explain this “sense of sadness” to me?

Williams offers the following response:

That’s a legitimate question, but please don’t put words in anyone’s mouth. No one laments the end of slavery – at least not anyone I know. That’s absurd. Moreover, it was Lee who did not want to see the killing continue. Grant is the one who seemed to be willing to continue to supply an endless supply of human cannon fodder.

The sense of sadness to which I’m referring was eloquently expressed by none other than General Grant:

“My own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on receipt of Lee’s letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and so valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause.”

First, no one put words into Williams’s mouth.  Mark was simply asking how anyone in their right mind could consider it to be a sad day given that it brought slavery that much closer to being finally extinguished. More to the point, it brought the slaughter to an end.  How could it possibly be a sad day?  Even stranger is the reference to Grant as somehow wishing to continue the violence.  Williams provides no evidence whatsoever for this ridiculous claim.  I guess somehow we are to believe that Grant had an easier time ordering young men into battle and to their deaths.  Of course, the only way one could get away with such a claim is if he ignored the entire Seven Days’ Campaign, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg – to name just a few. That’s not a criticism of Lee.  After all, they were both generals trying to win battles and bring about victory.

Mark offered a follow-up to Williams’s response, but unfortunately it was rejected without explanation.  It’s difficult to understand why:

I didn’t put words in anyone’s mouth. I simply asked some very legitimate questions, and I still haven’t gotten a legitimate response to them. The only reason Lee surrendered when he did was because he had no choice. He was cut off from retreat and had no chance of linking up with Joe Johnston. Your assertion that Grant wanted to continue to supply cannon fodder is illogical: if he wanted to continue the war, he could have refused Lee’s surrender. That makes about as much sense as saying that the South had a vast unused manpower pool–all those black Confederates–that could have been employed to further prosecute the war. Grant’s feeling of depression concerning his defeated foe is quite understandable. After all, weren’t they all Americans? But to use Grant’s memoirs to validate your point tells me nothing about Mr. Simons’ remark that today ‘is a sad day indeed for all of us who love the South,’ nor does it explain your apparent agreement with it. I love the South, and I’m sure a lot of black Southerners do too, but I doubt if they see today as a ‘sad day.’

Thanks for allowing me to comment.

Well, so much for all the silly accusations about how the “liberal elite” stifle the free exchange of ideas.  For the life of me I can’t think of a better example of pure nostalgic bullshit.

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18 comments… add one
  • Robert Moore Apr 11, 2010 @ 16:50

    “… a sad day… for all of us who love the South”.

    Not to overstate the obvious, but that’s just not a fair statement to make regarding those who love the South. Personally, I’m glad the Union was restored and I shudder at the thought of what a divided Union may have meant at different points in the nearly 150 years since the close of the war.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2010 @ 16:57

      …and you are quite sure that you love the South? 😀

  • Corey Meyer Apr 11, 2010 @ 16:26

    One other thing…didn’t Grant place in the hands of Lee the decision to continue the fight or surrender. Does not seem to fit William’s version of the events.

  • Corey Meyer Apr 11, 2010 @ 16:25

    Richard in his reply to Mark does leave out the part of the quote by Grant about the south’s cause for fighting…typical of his “lost causer” stance.

    “…though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse…”

    Darn…should have read the comments better first…oh well. I guess it just goes far to show who is actually attempting to obtain the truth in history and who is attempting to bend it as they need it bent.

  • Emmanuel Dabney Apr 11, 2010 @ 15:31

    As evidence that Lee would have kept fighting IF he had more troops is the fact that he didn’t give up on April 2, 1865. He directed an assault be made on the morning of April 9, 1865 and so Major General John B. Gordon (later a KKK Grand Wizard, as an fyi) led the Second Corps in an assault joined by Major General Fitzhugh Lee (R.E.’s nephew) who led the weakened Cavalry Corps. The Confederates failed and so Lee surrendered. Lee surrendered because he failed to break his army out (I’m not sure if anyone else would have done anything differently but that’s a what IF not a what WAS) of a rural crossroads in southside Virginia. Grant was not interested by some vampire like zeal to continue the war.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2010 @ 15:46

      Exactly. Lee fought as long as possible. Grant fought until he forced Lee’s surrender or until he was forced to do so or until he was ordered by his commanders to cease fighting.

  • Mike B. Apr 11, 2010 @ 14:42

    Thanks Margaret,

    This is exactly the kind of half-truths, outright lies, out of context quotes, non-sequitars, and just plain goofy logic that those of us who have been dealing with Neo-Confederates and “lost cause” mythology for years are all too familiar with!!!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2010 @ 14:46

      I still can’t get over the ridiculous claim made by Williams that somehow Grant was more inclined to continue the fighting than Lee. Grant did his job until the moment that Lee surrendered. Williams makes it sound like Grant is setting policy. He carried out his orders as any general does during war.

  • JB Apr 11, 2010 @ 9:17

    Wasn’t it Lord Acton who said, supposedly, “I grieve more for what was lost at Appomattox than I rejoice at what was gained at Waterloo”?

  • James F. Epperson Apr 11, 2010 @ 4:28

    Kevin, one reason I stopped reading that blog was I got tired of Williams’s autocratic ways and his habit of not allowing several benign comments of mine to be published.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2010 @ 4:40


      You’ve been reading and commenting on this blog for a couple of years now. I’ve not once had to edit or delete a comment of yours on this site. I would love to see an example of what Williams believes to be offensive or inappropriate on your part. If it’s along the lines of Mark Snell’s deleted comment than this is simply a matter of intellectual dishonesty.

      • James F. Epperson Apr 11, 2010 @ 18:16

        It’s been long enough that I wouldn’t want to trust my memory for the details, alas. It was mostly political stuff, not Civil War stuff. I do recall that I would often ask him for specific examples of the kinds of things in modern Civil War writing that he was complaining about, and he would refuse, saying he had given examples so often that he wasn’t going to do it at my request! I found that pitiably weak.

  • Margaret D. Blough Apr 11, 2010 @ 3:29

    Kevin-William’s response is a horrendous example of completely changing the meaning of a quotation by cutting it off in mid-stream without indicating that he did abridge it. The complete sentence is “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and so valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause though that was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2010 @ 3:32


      Thanks. I should have pointed that out. He does this all the time on his blog. You can find little snippets of video and quotes that supposedly prove something even though there is no context for what you are viewing or reading. It’s intellectually dishonest but par for the course. Remember my recent post I did in response to that idiotic FOX “News” video that he posted on “liberal lies” in college textbooks? No credibility. 😀

      P.S. Both Williams and Simons are supposed to be good Christian gentlemen. How the hell do you reconcile feeling sad about four years of horrific violence finally coming to an end as well as the end of slavery with that?

      • Margaret D. Blough Apr 11, 2010 @ 7:12

        Kevin- I regard that sort of intellectual dishonesty as a confession that the offender KNOWS that their position lacks foundation. If you have confidence in your position, you should welcome, not fear, scrutiny. It’s exercise for one’s analytical skills.

        I think the whole Lost Cause myth is an attempt to deny any responsibility for the carnage produced by secession. It’s clear from secessionist writings and speaches during the Secession Winter that secessionists with very few exceptions (and the people who sounded a note of caution were drowned out by the clamor for secession) did not go into this believing the odds were against them. To the contrary, they believed it was a sure thing. They did not anticipate what ensued. They had total contempt to the “Yankees”. They did not believe that the US government had the guts to resist secession. They did not believe that northerners had the guts to support the US government if it tried to resist secession. They believed that if what they were sure was an extraordinarily unlikely event, the U.S. government and people managing to resist, occurred that the US government and loyal citizens were so militarily and culturally inferior to the South that the resistance would be futile and collapse quickly. It’s a prime exhibit in support of Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

        • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2010 @ 7:32

          Williams’s remark about Grant reflects the Lost Cause belief that the Confederacy and its generals were somehow innocent and that all of the violence witnessed during the Civil War was done by the United States. They were simply victims. Lee was just as violent and bloodthirsty as any general in recent wars.

          I suspect that their sadness is in some way a function of this assumption. Of course, it’s just speculation since the deletion of Mark’s comment suggests that we are unlikely to get a response. It’s total cowardice on his part.

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