Were Confederate Officers Traitors? And furthermore ….

Bernard,

I feel that you’re stuck in us-good-guys-versus-those-bad-guys on issues around the Confederate statues and traitors. I believe there are no totally-good guys and no totally-bad guys. Just guys and gals in their various groups, also known as countries and religions and fraternal orders. The resigning Southern officers in 1861 had no choice about where they’d grown up. They were imprinted permanently before they could think. They were in large part products of their environments, as we all are. They were faced with no-win choices, and some or many opted for family and roots over the larger country, believing that the choice they made was also for country, their new Confederacy, and for family too. Of course many Southern officers made the other choice, to stay with the Union. No doubt some of those officers earned the undying hatred of the rest of their families. In sum, it’s not black and white. I see no reason to harp again and again on the word “traitor”, which is close to “murderer” in its harshness. It sounds to me like a chimp hoot. Nothing useful comes out of those recitals, only reassertion of the anger and hatred of those long-ago days. Truth and reconciliation, please!

Wayne

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Wayne,

I’m fine with the idea that no one is totally evil or totally good. I’m fine with truth and reconciliation.

Those leaders who rose in rebellion against the United States and brought many citizens along with them, however, committed treason, an evil. But I admit that they were probably good to their wives, children, and kind to their pets.

I disagree with your idea that they had no choice as to what to do. I disagree with your idea that their thoughts and actions were determined by their environments leaving them without moral responsibility for their actions. Many white Southern officers in the U. S. Army and Navy, who presumably had similar environmental influences upon them, remained loyal to the United States government. In the particular case for which I remember the data, about 60% of U. S. Army officers from Virginia resigned their commissions and fought for the rebels, while about 40% of U. S. Army officers from Virginia adhered to their oaths, to the West Point motto, and fought to defend the Constitution. How do you explain the different behavior of these soldiers?

The first group committed treason when they took up arms against the U. S. Army and the  Constitution. What is their moral responsibility, if as you say, they had little choice in the matter.

As you say, I speak of treason as if it were a crime as serious as murder. Murderers typically justify their actions for reasons not unlike those you put forward to justify treason, and other reasons of course. Happened every time Perry Mason trapped the real criminal on the stand: “You have to understand,” they’d say. “I had to do it.”

Insurrection against the government of the United States because some people reject the outcome of a fair and free election is a crime against democracy, not just the Constitution.

Of course, that war ended 150 years ago, so I see no reason why the United States today shouldn’t remember all of the soldiers who fought on both sides of that war. The many monuments throughout the South, however, do not honor all the soldiers who fought in rebellion against the United States and its military forces. Why are their no monuments in Southern states honoring the black former slaves from those states who fought for their freedom and that of their enslaved brothers and sisters?

You, and many others, call for truth and reconciliation, so let’s post the truth about the soldiers honored by the monuments put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the truth about the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and similar groups.

Bernard

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