By Jim Jester
President Abraham Lincoln saw the “War of the Rebellion” (as he called it) as defeating rebellious civilians in order to “save the Union.” He did not recognize the Southern confederacy as its own nation, ignoring thousands of Americans’ votes to secede. By Northern definition, the conflict became known as the “Civil War.” On the other hand, President Jefferson Davis saw the conflict in terms of defending the borders of the Confederate States of America. By Southern definition, the War of 1861 was “The War for Southern Independence,” just as the united colonies had done in 1776. Later they became the United States of America under the Articles of Confederation of 1781. Historians seem to forget (or ignore) that both sides were a confederation of States, both legally and lawfully voted upon by the people of those States.
In 1852, Colonel Robert E. Lee was named superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He had attended the academy from 1825-1829, graduating second in his class, and made a habit of studying military history. During his cadet days, he borrowed many books from the West Point library that covered a wide field, mostly engineering. As superintendent, Lee was an important force in educating both staff and cadets in the classic battles of history such as Cannae, Leuthen, and Austerlitz; and the “Great Captains:” Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great, and especially Napoleon Bonaparte, all of whom would become models for Lee as he led the Army of Northern Virginia into battle. Lee spent free time with the students in the library, many of which he would face as opponents on the battlefield or as comrades in arms. In the time he served as superintendent, he borrowed 48 books from the library, 15 of which related to war, and 7 of which concerned Napoleon. Several of these were withdrawn more than once, and the one’s most often borrowed were on Napoleon’s campaign in Italy in 1796. He also developed his own personal library, which included Henry Jomini’s Art of War published in 1838.
The South held the moral high ground of the war. Robert E. Lee did not believe in waging war against unarmed civilian populations. He wrote his son, Custis, “I am opposed to the theory of doing wrong that good may come of it. I hold to the belief that you must act right whatever the consequences.” Lee did not become a military dictator, but always deferred to the elected government of the Confederacy. Lee saw his job as the defense of his home state, Virginia, and of isolating Union armies and destroying them. Likely the biggest set back to the War of Northern Aggression is the choice Lee made to side with his State rather than accepting Lincoln’s invitation to command the Union armies.
It should always be remembered that a civil war, a war of brother against brother, of neighbor against neighbor, is not what the South wanted; it was the Federals who required it in order to bend the South to accept a Union of which it no longer wished to be a part. However painful it was to resign from his service to the United States, Lee believed his ultimate duty was to Virginia and to his people. – H.W. Crocker III, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War, p.106
If Lee had chosen the Union side (and he was against secession at the time), no doubt, the South’s armies would have been summarily defeated and the war would have been greatly shortened.
It should be obvious to historians that the North did not hold to high moral standards. Many of the Northern generals did not have a problem with ‘fighting dirty.’ They just felt they were legally right and that was enough. Usually what comes to mind is General Sherman’s famous “march to the sea,” but we are not always told how bad it really was: an American holocaust of destruction sixty miles wide. General Butler, in charge of the Union occupation forces of New Orleans, issued his notorious General Order No. 28, which specified that any Southern Belle caught treating a Yankee soldier with contempt, would be treated as a prostitute. General Pope, whose army occupied northern Virginia, boasted of living off Southern civilians. All Southern males were subject to immediate arrest; only those who could prove their loyalty to the Union would be paid for confiscated goods; and any Southerner, male or female, who tried to communicate with a son or a husband in the Confederate army could be executed as a spy or traitor.
If abiding by the law of a free republic and fighting a defensive war solely against armed combatants be flaws, the South had them, and the North did not. Lincoln ignored the law, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court when it suited him. His armies waged war on the farms, livelihoods, and people of the South, not just against their armies. That’s what it took to trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored – H. W. Crocker III.
This is only a ‘drop in the bucket’ of abuses to citizens. All wars have their atrocities committed by opposing armies, but only in America did it take place as policy by the commanders and government officials. So much so, that it was one of the reasons for the famous Geneva Conventions.
The Western front did not go well for the Confederacy. General Braxton Bragg failed to seize opportunities open to him for the Confederacy. He could have easily taken Louisville, Kentucky and cut off the Union’s supply routes to armies in the West. The Cavalry could have harassed railroad lines to St. Louis. This would have made it very difficult for the North to set up new supply routes for its troops around Memphis, Nashville and Corinth, Mississippi. By the end of 1862, he had retreated to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Because of Bragg’s command failures, the North had essentially won the war in the West.
Most Americans are not aware that one of the greatest assets (besides Robert E. Lee) of the Confederacy was in the West. Not only did the Arizona Territory formally secede from the Union, but also the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) which comprised the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole nations. Groups of Comanche, Osage, Quapaw, Seneca, Shawnee, and Wichita also signed friendship treaties with the Confederacy. Americans are unaware that there was a link between the war against the Indians and the “War of Northern Aggression.” Much of the abuse of the Native American tribes was because of their sympathy with the South and the arrogance of Northern armies. The longest war in U.S. history (Between 1840 and 1886 – 46 years!) was against the Apache Nation. The public does not realize that the U.S. government’s problem with the Indian was the same as with the South – they both were in the way of the empire.
In the East, the Federal army was outfought and outgeneraled many times even against overwhelming odds. The Confederacy maintained their ground in spite of their “flaws,” mistakes, and errors in judgment, but it cost them in lives. This was seen in The Seven Days Battle of 26 June – 2 July 1862 where there were numerous errors combined with a direct attack upon the enemy. Because of the invention of the Minie-ball rifle, which had a greater range than the musket, nearly all frontal assaults failed. The War of 1861 was the last of Napoleonic warfare and the beginning of the modern age.
Lee’s custom was to “attack them where they are.” It is human nature to respond to conflict with a direct challenge. We consider anyone who does otherwise as sly, devious, underhanded, or not fighting fair. However, in war sometimes we have to lay these things aside and carefully examine the results of strategic moves. The great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu wrote around 400 B.C., “All warfare is based on deception. The way to avoid what is strong is to strike what is weak. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Author Bevin Alexander believes that this direct attack method of warfare was Lee’s main fault:
At Gaines Mill we see the first full instance of a pattern that Robert E. Lee was to follow throughout the war. When presented, on the offensive, with a defiant enemy in front of him, Lee opted to attack. He did not seek ways around this enemy or hunt for possible mistakes in the enemy’s dispositions that would open up other avenues to defeat him. Lee was fixated on direct attack not only at Gaines Mill but also at Frayser’s Farm and Malvern Hill in the Seven Days, at Gettysburg, and at the Wilderness. This pattern also operated when Lee was on the defensive. Instead of withdrawing and avoiding battle entirely if a defensive stand could achieve no substantial gains, or instead of looking for defensive positions that offered a chance to maneuver if the attacking enemy was repulsed, Lee pulled upon the most easily held location and challenged his enemy to attack. In such circumstances, Lee was able to hold his own, but he achieved no strategic gains. Both the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg were the result of this approach to defensive warfare – p. 85-86, How the South Could Have Won the Civil War.
Lee’s role model, Napoleon Bonaparte, always attempted to block the enemy’s retreat and never made a frontal attack if he could do something else. He counted on the diversion of a move on the rear, even if it failed, to shake the morale of the enemy and force him into a mistake, which might give Napoleon another opportunity to strike. At least one author has deviated from the common criticism of Lee’s strategy, and makes the case that Lee actually tried this at Gettysburg (more on this later).
Lee’s “right hand” man, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, tried everything within the bounds of the command structure to convince both Lee and Davis to transfer the war into Maryland and Pennsylvania thus pulling the Union army away from Richmond and the peninsula. From the beginning, Jackson had strategic rapport with Lee and Davis and believed that, “we must give them [the enemy] no time to think. We must bewilder them and keep them bewildered. Our fighting must be sharp, impetuous, continuous. We cannot stand a long war.” Lee agreed and shared his desire to take the war to the enemy. With this vision, Jackson saw the most mercy and the greatest opportunity for victory, in swift crushing counterstrokes that would shock the North into letting the South go free. Ironically, the North wanted the blacks to go free but not the white southerners.
Jackson had vision and courage at the battle of Chancellorsville, the greatest victory for the South. He had seen that victory requires avoiding the enemy’s strength and striking where the enemy is not. He had also found a way to avoid frontal attacks against the much larger Union army, and getting them to attack Confederate positions. But, it cost the life of the irreplaceable Jackson. Lee had accepted Jackson’s plan at Chancellorsville, but it seems he failed to absorb the lesson (or did he?).
Of course, there were many other reasons that contributed to the defeat of the Confederacy: the dwindling economy; deficiencies in leadership, both political and military; the failure to woo allies; and the failure to temporarily limit states rights. The North did not have these handicaps, other than some of the military leadership; and the North did not need allies because they hired mercenaries.
The Federal plan was to take Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, but the Army of Northern Virginia stood in the way. In the three months since General Robert E. Lee held command, he had broken the imminent siege of Richmond, ended the Confederate retreat, and driven two Union armies – Pope’s and McClellan’s – across the Potomac. The Federal capital now feared a siege, and was preparing to evacuate to New York.
It was an election year, and if Lee could bring troops into Maryland and Pennsylvania (as he and Jackson had wished), perhaps Northern voters would return a congressional majority that would recognize Southern freedom. As Lee crossed his army into Maryland, he issued a proclamation to the state where Lincoln had suspended habeas corpus and imposed martial law. Lee emphasized that the South stood for freedom, free association, and tolerance. In contrast to Pope’s threats against Southern civilians, Lee’s proclamation said,
No constraint upon your free will is intended: no intimidation will be allowed within the limits of this army, at least. Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know of no enemies among you, and will protect all, of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.
The battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam), 17 September 1862, is often considered a Confederate defeat because it ended Lee’s invasion and his plans. So it did, but Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia deserve credit for a brilliant tactical victory in the battle. They held their ground against overwhelming odds, and held it again without challenge the next day. Lee could not take his army any farther north, but J.E.B. Stuart took his cavalry as far north as Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. President Lincoln certainly was not pleased. So much so, that he relieved General McClellan from command. It is also rumored that McClellan did not participate in dirty warfare, which the North did, especially in the later years of the war.
The battle at Fredericksburg helped to build the reputation of an invincible Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia that repeatedly thwarted Union generals, their massive armies, and their plentiful supplies. It also made Lee more aware of the cost of war. He had witnessed the women, children and old men of Fredericksburg evacuate the city, trudging through snow and bitter cold. When the Federals bombarded the city, he said, “These people delight to destroy the weak and those who can make no defense; it just suits them.”
The battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863) was Lee’s attempt to isolate the Union army and destroy it to convince the North to allow the Southern confederacy its freedom. The final troop totals were 95,000 Federals and 75,000 Confederates. From The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War, H.W. Crocker III gives us this account of the battle:
As the initial skirmishes began, almost accidentally, Kentucky born Union General John Buford, an old Indian fighter, secured the high ground for the Federals. The Confederates could have won the battle the first day. They pushed the Federals from their advanced positions in front of Gettysburg and along Seminary Ridge. The subsequent Union position – known as the “fish hook” –eventually formed like the base of the letter J at Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, extending straight down Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top and Big Round on the Union left.
Lee asked General Richard Ewell to attack the base of the fishhook, in order to sweep the Federal line, “if practicable.” Ewell, to Lee’s dismay, didn’t think it was, though General John B. Gordon knew otherwise: “The whole portion of the Union army in my front was in inextricable confusion and in flight… my troops were on the flank and sweeping down the lines. The firing upon my men had almost ceased. Large bodies of Union troops were throwing down their arms and surrendering…. In less than half an hour, my troops would have swept up and over those hills…. It is not surprising that…I should have refused to obey that order [to retreat].”
On the Union side of the line, it had been a lucky escape, but with heavy casualties. I Corps had lost nearly 10,000 men and some units had been virtually annihilated (the 24th Michigan suffered casualties of 80%). But arriving at midnight was the Army of the Potomac’s new commander, General George Meade, who inspected his defensive positions and found them solid.
That was one opportunity lost for the Confederate army. Another came on the second day, when Lee’s plan was to “attack the enemy as early in the morning as practicable” at the opposite end of the fishhook. The attack was entrusted to General James Longstreet. Longstreet, however, disliked Lee’s plan, preferring, according to his later testimony, to maneuver the Confederate army into a defensive position that would force the Yankees to attack.
Longstreet delayed the attack until near day’s end, waiting for reinforcements. By that time, Union troops under General Daniel Sickles had advanced, contrary to General Meade’s orders, into an area known as the Peach Orchard, the Wheat Field, and Devil’s Den, smack in front of Longstreet’s long-delayed advance.
Confederate General John Bell Hood, dispatched scouts to see if it was still possible to flank the Union left, as originally planned. The answer was yes, if the Confederates moved their attack around to the hills of Little Round Top, which had no more than a Union observation unit, or unoccupied Big Round Top.
Hood reported this intelligence to Longstreet, but Longstreet refused to alter the plan of attack. He sent his men charging, en echelon, uphill, into spewing Union fire. Still, the Union line began to dissolve, and the Confederate attack spilled over to Little Round Top.
There the Confederates met the hastily formed line of the 20th Maine led by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Chamberlain’s thin blue line forced back the Confederate attacks, and trusting to courage against numbers, he counter-charged with fixed bayonets, stunning the Confederates into retreat and hundreds of surrenders.
But everywhere else on the center-right of the Union line, furious fighting continued. General William Barkesdale, pushing his Mississippians to almost pierce the Union line, was killed. The 1st Minnesota regiment, rushing to plug a gap in the Union line, sustained 82% casualties, but did its duty and held the position. Cemetery Ridge remained in the hands of the bluecoats.
Twice, fate – in the form of reluctant generals – had deprived Lee of the victory he thought was possible at Gettysburg. On day three, Lee resolved on a daring stratagem.
That night, at the Union council of war, Meade and his officers resolved that they would hold their ground and brace for Lee’s next move. Having attacked the Federals on both flanks, Meade suspected that Lee would attack dead center. Meade was the first general to read Lee exactly right.
Lee planned for Ewell to lead a diversionary attack on the Union right while Longstreet made the main attack under cover of the largest artillery barrage ever attempted by the Confederate army. Longstreet, however, wanted to renew his argument from the day before. He wanted to either renew his flanking attack or have the entire army shift to the Union left and establish a defensive line that would compel the Federals to attack.
Lee listened patiently, but rejected Longstreet’s argument and told him to get his men into position. Longstreet however, delayed all the morning through the afternoon. Indeed, by the time he got his men moving, the artillery, which had barraged the enemy, was depleted of ammunition.
The Confederates now had the challenge of crossing a mile of open ground with minimal artillery support to suppress federal fire. They did not flinch. The brigades of General George Pickett led the charge. Officers to the front, General Lewis Armistead – whose father had been a general and whose uncle had been the lieutenant-colonel commanding the defense of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 – shoved his black hat over the tip of his sword and waved his men forward. With him were Pickett’s other brigade commanders: James Kemper, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates whose grandfather had served on George Washington’s staff, and Richard B. Garnett, a West Pointer suffering from a bad knee and worse fever. He advanced on horseback, however obvious a target that made him.
The Confederates marched forward as if on parade, even stopping at one point to adjust and straighten their lines, oblivious to the holes being torn in their ranks by the Union fire. Of Pickett’s Virginians, Brigadier Garnett was shot off his horse, dead. Brigadier Kemper, calling for Armistead’s men to support his brigade, collapsed, shot in the groin.
Armistead waved his men to come on, they were close enough now to the Union line to break into a jog – and they were blasted by canister. But through the storm of smoke, artillery fire, and Minie balls, the Union front was suddenly pierced. Chasing a line of retreating Federals was Armistead himself, still waving his black hat on his sword, shouting, “Come on boys! Give them the cold steel! Follow me!” They surged forward into hand-to-hand combat, Armistead and his troopers running straight into two Federal regiments rushing to close the line. Armistead, arm out-stretched to a silent Federal cannon, went down, mortally wounded, falling at a point on the battlefield now called “the high tide of the Confederacy.” On another part of the front, the University Greys, made up entirely of students from Ole Miss, managed to plant their colors no more than a yard from the Union line before the devastating Union fire killed every last one of them.
Now it really was over. The Confederate lines wavered and buckled. As one rebel commander said, “The best thing the men can do is get out of this. Let them go.” As the shattered Confederate units drifted back, Lee rode forward to meet them. “All good men must rally…. General Pickett…your men have done all that men could do; the fault is entirely my own…. All this has been my fault – it is I that have lost this fight and you must help me out of it the best way you can.” The Confederate soldiers cheered Lee. They even begged for another chance. However, Lee waved them down, and prepared them – with a newly revitalized Longstreet – for a counterattack that did not come.
Both sides licked deep wounds. The Union army had suffered 23,000 casualties. The statistics were even grimmer for the Confederates. 28,000 men were lost, more than a third of Lee’s army, and among them a high proportion of senior officers whose talents and experience could not be replaced. Lee’s officers had sacrificed their lives in the battle they hoped would secure Southern freedom. – H.W. Crocker III
In the first two days at Gettysburg, things went wrong and Lee had to make adjustments. Most historians say that Lee made a big mistake in ordering Pickett’s Charge or that, as fate would have it, he just had a bad day. Others say he was too set in his ways and would not listen to the advice of his generals. General Thomas Jackson, on more than one occasion, had recommended to Lee that the war be taken to the northern people in order to sway their already wavering support of the war. However, Lee did not want to make attacks on the people, but rather on the armies. To attack cities of unarmed civilians would be wrong but to cut railroads and bridges would have been a good way to prevent Northern armies from being supplied and it would discourage Northern resolve. The fact that Lee was now in Pennsylvania indicates that he was planning such a strategy.
Lee’s Secret Plan
What happened on that third day of Gettysburg (3rd of July) is probably the most debated of the War for Southern Independence. The Army of Northern Virginia expected to be rejoicing on 4 July having won their independence from tyrannical rule as their relatives did in 1776. But no – they had been defeated and now trudged back to Virginia.
Many believe that Lee really blew it by ordering Pickett’s Charge. But how could the former superintendent of West Point who studied and taught the famous victories of Napoleon, Frederick the Great, and Hannibal make such a blunder as Pickett’s Charge using only 20 percent of his entire army? How could the brilliant Robert E. Lee, who had just thrashed a long line of federal generals, now standing at the back door of the nation’s capital at such a pivotal time, launch such an illogical assault? There must be more to the story.
Upon further research on this question, historian Tom Carhart believes that Lee had a secret plan for the third day at Gettysburg. He notes in, Lost Triumph (p. 241-242), that in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Government Printing Office, 1889) the after-action reports of General Stuart concerning the Gettysburg campaign comprise 31 pages, of which less than 2 refer to the fight on East Cavalry Field on July 3. The report of one of his brigade commanders, Wade Hampton, runs less than 5 pages, of which less than one full page is devoted to the fight there. After-action reports of all Confederate commanders on Gettysburg fill 93 pages from various brigade, regimental and battalion commanders under Stuart. However, most of these reports concern fights at Brandy Station, Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, or other noncombat experiences. Nowhere, except as mentioned above from Stuart and Hampton, is there any mention of the fight on East Cavalry Field.
In comparison, the after-action reports on Gettysburg by all cavalry commanders in the Army of the Potomac fill 118 pages, 96 separate reports in which 17 mention the fight at Gettysburg. Carhart believes this is evidence that Lee suppressed the reports by Confederate Cavalry commanders. Such a suppression would not be unprecedented: after Pickett had submitted his initial report on the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee rejected it because he was unhappy with its unknown content, and he told him to rewrite it. All these reports were written well over a month after the battle. This is why most historians have not known about Lee’s secret plan at Gettysburg.
Why would Lee hide the results of this battle? Other battles of competing Cavalry were very close to a tie and they usually maintained their ground. East Cavalry Field was no different and has generally since then been seen as a draw. So why did Lee want minimal coverage of East Cavalry Field to appear anywhere? Because Lee was not critical of the performance of his subordinates after a battle, such as Longstreet’s long delay before battle on July 2. One of Lee’s character strengths was that he never revealed any disagreements or contents of private conversations he had with his subordinates. At all costs, he wanted to preserve the good name of all Confederate soldiers, and if the exaggeration of another might be seen to reflect badly on himself, he did not care. Stuart had faithfully served Lee on many occasions and he was not about to expose his failure at Gettysburg. A true father figure to Stuart, Lee took that secret to the grave.
Lee had planned a three-part assault on Meade’s Army of the Potomac. Stuart’s Cavalry was to attack from the rear if they could get up Baltimore Pike by way of Bonaughton Road. Stuart gave four cannon signals when it appeared his way was clear. The Confederate artillery bombardment was to last about two hours. When it stopped, it meant the charge was on and Stuart was to move. But before he could get down the road he was discovered by some of the Union Calvary led by Custer. The battle that ensued became known as East Cavalry Field (actually an area of multiple fields about 3 miles east of the Union defensive position). This delayed Stuart in getting to the rear of the Union line for a surprise attack resulting in confusion and maybe even stopping the cannon fire upon Pickett’s men.
The effort had failed because Jeb Stuart and his Invincibles, the best of the Confederacy, had been stopped by a Yankee cavalry unit less than half its size (although other regiments came to assist after engaged). If that were made public it would only boost the morale of Union forces while at the same time be a major blow to the Confederate forces. So Lee just swallowed it. Lee was notoriously secretive about his plans – give verbal operational plans only to those who need to know. He did not want any crucial information to leak out (as had before).
Did commanders on the Union side suspect an attack on their rear? General Gregg says as much in his official after action report:
…a strong line of skirmishers displayed by the enemy was evidence that the enemy’s cavalry had gained our right, and were about to attack, with the view of gaining the rear of our line of battle.
Moreover, he goes further in an article he wrote in Annals of the War:
On the 3rd, during that terrific fire of artillery, which preceded the gallant but unsuccessful assault of Pickett’s division on our line, it was discovered that Stuart’s cavalry was moving to our right, with the evident intention of passing to the rear, to make a simultaneous attack there.
And Pleasonton, Union cavalry commander, in his Gettysburg after-action report:
About noon the enemy threw a heavy force of cavalry against this position, with the intention of gaining our rear. This attack was met and handsomely defeated by General Gregg, who reports several fine charges made by the First Michigan Cavalry, of Custer’s brigade, and the First New Jersey and Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, of his own division.
The perception of Gregg, Pleasonton, and others, of the importance of the July 3 fight on East Cavalry Field did not gain wide acceptance at the time. This is mainly because these men were arguing that they and their men were the real heroes that had defeated Lee. Exaggeration was common with after-action reports during the war. They simply were not looking for any evidence of assistance coming from a battle three miles away to take credit away from them. To them it was just another skirmish unrelated to the main front.
George Armstrong Custer marked himself for the first time as a great captain. He was the real hero and high tide for the Union. If Custer had not been there on July 3rd, it seems likely that Stuart would have gotten through to the back of Culp’s Hill and the interior of the Fishhook. Thus, Lee would have crushed Meade’s army and the Union would have recognized the Confederacy. Meade would have been just another name on the long list of Union commanders who had been humiliated on the field of battle by Lee. Custer’s courage thwarted the Confederacy by borrowing more time for the Union.
Lee was in possession of a letter for president Lincoln offering peace for allowing the South to go free. It was planned that after a victory at Gettysburg president Davis was to give control of the Confederacy to the Queen of England in return for their help defeating the Union. England was to take over operations in the west to rout the Yankee aggressors, as revealed in a letter from England to the CSA, and the Confederacy was to be treated as a privileged colony. But with the defeat at Gettysburg, the Southern cause, short of foreign intervention from England or France, was doomed. The South did not have the resources to fight a long war.
Over the next two years the South fought valiantly against nearly impossible odds and usually coming out ahead in spite of set backs and incompetent commanders (such as Braxton Bragg and Joseph E. Johnston, both of whom could execute tactically brilliant retreats). After the battles of Chickamauga (18-20 September 1863) and Chattanooga (24-25 November 1863), General Bragg was removed from command. Unfortunately, Jefferson Davis replaced him with General Johnston, who also specialized in retreat. After the battle of Atlanta (7 May to 2 September 1864), Davis had to remove General Johnston, replacing him with John Bell Hood to stop the federal General William Tecumseh Sherman. General Grant had assigned Sherman the mission to “get into the interior of the enemy’s country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.”
Many of Hood’s fellow officers thought he had been promoted beyond his ability. Turn’s out, they were right. His initial attacks were well planned, but they failed badly in execution and horribly in casualties. His attack at Peachtree Creek (20 July 1864) cost nearly 5,000 casualties while the Union casualties were less than half that amount. Two days later, he surprised Sherman with another attack. It could have been devastating to Sherman’s mission but it lacked coordination and cost the Confederates another 10,000 men to fewer than 4,000 Federals. Six days later, at Ezra Church he lost 5,000 men. Atlanta was besieged for a month, and then Hood had to evacuate the city. The Federals then occupied Atlanta (2 September 1864). Sherman’s fiery “March to the Sea” divided the Confederacy from the Carolinas and Virginia and made defeat inevitable.
After Gettysburg, Lee no longer had the men, the horses, or the provisions to attempt another invasion of the North. He was now compelled to fight on the defensive. Grant’s plan was for Sherman to ravage Georgia and then cut north through the Carolinas and Virginia; Phil Sheridan would go on a crusade burning farms in the Shenandoah Valley; and the U.S. Navy would tighten its grip on the South’s blockaded ports. Grant, Meade and the Army of the Potomac (120,000 strong) would march down to Richmond, slugging Lee’s army (approx. 62,000) until the Gray Fox was beaten into submission.
In the many battles of the Virginia Campaign of 1864, Grant was repeatedly thwarted in his advance towards Richmond. He ordered assault after assault, thinking he had shaken the Confederates. Instead, he had demoralized his own men. The Battle of Cold Harbor (31 May to 3 June 1864) was a Union disaster. Federal casualties were 10,000 men to the Confederate losses of 4,000 men. While Grant’s steady stream of reinforcements kept his army above 100,000 troops, his men were wondering how long this could go on, and his officers’ feared political reaction to the casualties. In the battle of the Wilderness, Grant lost nearly two men for every one of Lee’s (18,000 to almost 11,000). At Spotsylvania Court House, it was the same story (18,000 to 10,000). In a month’s worth of fighting, Grant had lost 50,000 men! In brutal terms, these were casualties that Grant could afford, and Lee could not.
Grant gave up trying to get around Lee to Richmond, and opted to lay siege to Petersburg and cut the supply lines to the south. Lee saw this probability but was powerless to prevent it. He knew if Grant attacked Petersburg it would “become a siege, and then it will be a mere question of time.”
Lee held Grant at Petersburg for ten months, during which time Grant could spare no men to attack Richmond. It was during this time that Lee witnessed the Confederacy wither, put to the torch by Sherman’s men who marched from Atlanta to Savannah to South Carolina to their last engagement at Bentonville, North Carolina, where Sherman defeated the ever-retreating Johnston. In Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley’s wheat, flour, hay, cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens, were destroyed or in Federal hands, thanks to Sheridan – even pets were not spared. The farmers were left with nothing, not even their tools. It was truly a time of “Jacob’s trouble.”
With Grant’s initial assault around Petersburg (June 1864) – where Union troops suffered despite their numbers – their offensive had to be cut short, General Meade saying, “the moral condition of the army” was shattered. In the first two months, the Confederates had taken 5,000 prisoners. Grant kept his men in place, and the siege dragged on through the winter and into the spring of 1865. Lee knew he could not hold the line very long, so he convinced President Davis that Petersburg and Richmond had to be abandoned. Lee’s army (35,000 men; roughly ¼ of Grant’s strength) had to be freed to maneuver and find food to feed itself, and to attempt to unite with Johnston’s fragment of an army in North Carolina.
Lee held the line protecting Petersburg and Richmond as long as he could with occasional offensive maneuvers. But Grant knew that Lee’s lines were thin, and on 2 April 1865, they punched through. Lee dictated a dispatch to the secretary of war, “I see no prospect of doing more than holding our position here till night. I am not certain that I can do that. If I can I shall withdraw north of the Appomattox, and if possible, it will be better to withdraw the whole line tonight from the James River.”
The Confederate army was now under continual bombardment. Lee and his staff mounted their horses, and as they rode away their abandoned headquarters exploded under a rain of Union shells, with artillery bursts chasing them. The Army of Northern Virginia numbered no more than 30,000 men. Lee marched them to Amelia Court House, where he expected to find supplies. Instead, they found cannonballs. The food his men needed was now long marches away. Lee sent a message to the railroad hub at Danville, the nearest supply dump on his route to North Carolina, ordering that rations be sent on to the railroad station at Jetersville, Virginia, eight miles south of Amelia Court House. To thwart this maneuver, Grant sent the bulk of his effective force—infantry from five corps and Sheridan’s cavalry—to pursue Lee and block the road to Danville and seize Jetersville.
Lee marches his men all day, and then all night. At a time when every fiber of their beings cries out for sleep and food, they press forward over muddy rutted roads, enduring rain and chill and the constant harassment of Union cavalry. The roads are shoulder to shoulder with exhausted men, starving pack animals and wagons sinking up to their axels in the thick Virginia mud. Dead and dying mules and horses are shoved to the side of the road so as not to slow the march. Dead men litter the ground too, and are just as quickly tossed to the shoulder or merely stepped over. There is no time for proper burials. Nothing can slow the march to Danville. Men drop their bedrolls because they lack the strength to carry them. Many more thrust their guns bayonet-first into the earth and leave them behind. On the rare occasions when the army stops to rest, men simply crumple to the ground and sleep. When it is time to march again, officers move from man to man, shaking them awake and ordering them to their feet. Some men refuse to rise because they’re simply too weak, in the early phases of dying form starvation. These men, too, are left behind. In this way, Lee’s army dwindles. The 30,000 who retreated from Petersburg just three days ago have been reduced by half. As the long night march takes a greater toll, even those hardy men stagger like drunks, and some lose the power of speech. And yet, when it comes time to fight, they will find a way to lift their rifle to their shoulder, aim at their target, and squeeze the trigger. (Killing Lincoln, Bill O’Reilly, p.46)
Unfortunately, Lee and his men did not get there in time. The Federals managed to get in front of Lee at Jetersville. With Federal entrenchments blocking the road to Danville, Lee was forced to find an alternate route. He ordered his army to move west on the evening of April 5, setting in motion the series of events that led to the fighting in the valley of Sailor's Creek, the last major engagement of the war.
As the Confederate defense began to crumble under the weight of Federal attacks on April 6, Confederate troops began to surrender, so too did many of their commanding officers. A total of eight Confederate generals were taken prisoner, including General George Washington Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee’s eldest son. When the dust settled on April 6, more than 8,800 Confederates had become casualties in the last major battle of the war in Virginia. Of those, roughly 7,700 had been captured or surrendered – one of the largest surrenders of an army without proper terms during the whole war. This was a substantial blow to Lee’s already crippled army, which that morning had numbered scarcely 30,000.
Following the series of debacles along Little Sailor’s Creek, generals from both sides were aware that the end of the war in Virginia was in sight. General Lee, watching his army disintegrate at Marshall’s Crossroads, remarked to General William Mahone, “My God! Has the army dissolved?” To further underscore the scope of the disaster, Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis “a few more Sailor’s Creeks and it will all be over.” On the Union side, General Sheridan wrote of his success to General-in-Chief Grant. “If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.” Sheridan’s report reached President Lincoln who responded by saying, “Let the thing be pressed.” The next morning, April 7, Grant sent a note to Lee, thus opening the dialogue that led to Lee’s surrender.
The end was apparent on 9 April 1865. General John B. Gordon fought the last engagement of the Army of Northern Virginia near Appomattox Court House. “Tell General Lee,” Gordon ordered, “I have fought my corps to a frazzle, and I fear I can do nothing unless I am heavily supported by General Longstreet’s corps.” Longstreet anchored Lee’s other flank; he could not be moved short of sacrificing the entire army. Lee had to surrender. Over six weeks later, General Simon Buckner, acting for General Kirby Smith surrendered what remained of the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy to Major General Edward Canby on May 26.
Robert E. Lee rode to Appomattox house of Wilmer McLean, where he surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. They first spoke in friendly terms of the time they fought together in the Mexican War. Grant wrote out the terms of surrender. The Confederate forces were to lay down their arms. However, the officers were allowed to keep their side arms and horses and the Cavalry and artillery privates were allowed to keep their horses. Lee said his men were a bit hungry. Grant, at once, had 25,000 rations served. Lee gave a brief farewell address and rode away. Grant returned to his headquarters and informed his staff, “The war is over. The rebels are our countrymen again.”
Lee was noble in defeat and Grant was forgiving in victory. Thereafter, Lee allowed no one to criticize Grant. He also dismissed any talk of continuing the fight in a guerilla campaign. General Stand Watie’s Confederate Indians and other small groups continued guerilla warfare along the Arkansas River valley, and finally surrendered on 23 June 1865 (nearly 3 months from Appomattox). It was the opinion of Union Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, who at Appomattox wrote:
The Army of Northern Virginia under Lee…today…has surrendered. During three long and hard-fought campaigns, it has withstood every effort of the Army of the Potomac; now at the commencement of the fourth, it is obliged to succumb without even one great pitched battle. Could the war have been closed with such a battle as Gettysburg, it would have been more glorious for us…. As it is, the rebellion has been worn out rather than suppressed.
Finally, Lee’s personal body-guard (a Negro servant), Rev. William Mack Lee, witnessed this account of the surrender:
At the close of the struggle, General Lee said to General Grant: “Grant, you didn’t whip me, you just overpowered me, I surrender this day 8,000 men; I do not surrender them to you, I surrender on conditions; it shall not go down in history I surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to you. It shall go down in history I surrendered on conditions; you have ten men to my one; my men, too, are barefooted and hungry. If Joseph E. Johnston could have gotten to me three days ago I would have cut my way through and gone back into the mountains of North Carolina and would have given you a happy time.” What these conditions were I do not know, but I know these were Marse Robert’s words on the morning of the surrender: “I surrender to you on conditions.”
“Marse Robert” was the nickname for Robert E. Lee that his servant and bodyguard, Wm. Mack Lee, coined from his mispronunciation of “Master Robert.” He also said,
I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than General Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of Lee’s servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.
There is probably no more revealing aspect of a man’s character than that given by those who work for him. Why are we not told the truth about southern leadership – the heart of American revolutionary thought – and their reasons for opposing the Union? Perhaps the answer to that question is becoming more evident every day.
Tightening the Federal Noose
About a year after General Lee’s surrender (9 April 1865), president Andrew Johnson declared an end to the War Between the States, 2 April 1866, with Proclamation 153, Declaring the Insurrection in Certain Southern States to be at an End. Here is part of it:
Resolved, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the dis-unionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feeling of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.
Whereas it is believed to be a fundamental principle of government that people who have revolted and who have been overcome and subdued must either be dealt with so as to induce them voluntarily to become friends or else they must be held by absolute military power or devastated so as to prevent them from ever again doing harm as enemies, which last-named policy is abhorrent to humanity and to freedom;
Whereas standing armies, military occupation, martial law, military tribunals, and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are in time of peace dangerous to public liberty, incompatible with the individual rights of the citizen, contrary to the genius and spirit of our free institutions, and exhaustive of the national resources, and ought not, therefore, to be sanctioned or allowed except in cases of actual necessity for repelling invasion or suppressing insurrection or rebellion; and
Whereas the policy of the Government of the United States from the beginning of the insurrection to its overthrow and final suppression has been in conformity with the principles herein set forth and enumerated:
Now, therefore, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare that the insurrection which heretofore existed in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida is at an end and is henceforth to be so regarded.
Did you notice the language of this document? Words such as insurrection, rebellion, invasion, enemies, and dis-unionists concerning the citizens of the South and how they were the “bad guys” who forced the war upon the country. How the North did not prosecute the war “in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States.” Such hypocritical liars! And then the contradictory language, “to induce them voluntarily to become friends or else they must be held by absolute military power or devastated.” This is the despotic government we live under today – so lick the boots of your master.
You may have noticed that Texas was not in the list in this proclamation. It was included with Proclamation 157 on the 20th of August 1866. Texans should be proud that they held out nearly five months longer.
An Act to provide for the more efficient Government of the Rebel States; WHEREAS no legal State governments or adequate protection for life or property now exists in the rebel States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and Arkansas; and whereas it is necessary that peace and good order should be enforced in said States until loyal and republican State governments can be legally established: Therefore,
Be it enacted . . . That said rebel States shall be divided into military districts and made subject to the military authority of the United States as hereinafter prescribed, and for that purpose Virginia shall constitute the first district; North Carolina and South Carolina the second district; Georgia, Alabama, and Florida the third district; Mississippi and Arkansas the fourth district; and Louisiana and Texas the fifth district.
SECTION 5. And be it further enacted, That when the people of any one of said rebel States shall have formed a constitution of government in conformity with the Constitution of the United States in all respects, framed by a convention of delegates elected by the male citizens of said State, twenty-one years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, who have been resident in said State for one year previous to the day of such election, except such as may be disfranchised for participation in the rebellion or for felony at common law, and when such constitution shall provide that the elective franchise shall be enjoyed by all persons as have the qualifications herein stated for electors of delegates, and when such constitution shall be ratified by a majority of the persons voting on the question of ratification who are qualified as electors for delegates, and when such constitution shall have been submitted to Congress for examination and approval, and Congress shall have approved the same, and when said State, by a vote of its legislature elected under said constitution, shall have adopted the amendment to the Constitution of the United States, proposed by the Thirty-ninth Congress, and known as article fourteen and when said article shall have become a part of the Constitution of the United States said State shall be declared entitled to representation in Congress, and senators and representatives shall be admitted therefrom on their taking the oath prescribed by law, and then and thereafter the preceding sections of this act shall be inoperative in said State: Provided, That no person excluded from the privilege of holding office by said proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, shall be eligible to election as a member of the convention to frame a constitution for any of said rebel States, nor shall any person vote for members of such convention.
In other words, there will be no freedom until we have a puppet government fully ensconced in the state.
Then there is the District of Colombia Organic Act of 1871, which created a private corporation so the government could operate outside of the original Constitution with impunity. Any semblance of freedom ended in 1871 when the original “Constitution for the United States of America” was changed to “THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. When patriots today discuss the Constitution, it should be asked, which Constitution? The original one of 1788 or, the corporate one of 1871? One was for the constitutional republic and the other is for the democratic oligarchy. This formed the corporation of The United States of America, which gave the federal government the ability to function as a private corporation.
We have all heard the cry, “the South will rise again.” This is not a call to slavery (that we already have), but a desire for freedom. Is there any cause for which Americans, under the authority of God’s Law, will draw a line in the sand? To an ever-growing number of Americans, the Second Amendment is that line. The Second Amendment is our Right to say no to a government gone mad. However, our Right under the Constitution is not so important – our Responsibility to God is. This is something that the patriot community needs to fully grasp. If the Militia movement rises to protect the Constitution only, then they may suffer the same fate as the Southern confederacy. Why? Because our trust and faith should be in God alone, not the Constitution. Nowhere does the Constitution mention God’s Law. Only it is perfect,
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:7-9).
The Constitution begins, “WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” Was the Union perfect? Obviously not, for it caused a war. In contrast, New Haven’s 1639 Agreement said, “We all agree that the scriptures hold forth a perfect rule for the direction of government.” When the founders saw the need to improve upon the Articles of Confederation with this new Constitution why did they not use the laws of God? Instead, they continued with man’s law. Therefore, the Constitution is not perfect. Proof of it’s imperfections is that it needed amendments attached to get it ratified; it required no religious test oath (Article 6 Sec. 3); it provides no punishment for government officials who violate it; and, it made the People the sovereign agent instead of God. Most Americans do not realize that the opening words in the Preamble of the Constitution, “WE THE PEOPLE”, are emphasized this way to indicate who the authority is. Christians should be offended that they are replacing God and stop defending the Constitution as being divine. Furthermore, the Militia should not risk their lives for the Godless Constitution; they should only stand for God’s Law. That is our only Responsibility.
Just as the Declaration of Independence was a break from the king in England, so the Constitution was a declaration of independence from the God of the Bible. The Constitution is not inspired by God. If it were, it would have been patterned after the many State constitutions. Instead, it is both atheistic and humanistic. Its secret drafting in 1788 was a broken covenant with God and Christianity, while at the same time began a new covenant with a new god (the people). With the War Between the States, it became a broken covenant with nearly half of the American population, so why should the Constitution be defended anymore. The South had won the legal arguments surrounding the Constitution and it proved a failure resulting with the war. From then on, the secularization of America was a mopping-up operation. That operation still progresses today and there is absolutely no accountability or punishment for this Lawless rogue government. Since then, the federal government has been morally illegitimate and has increased its power with Proclamations, Amendments, Acts, Executive Orders and Presidential Directives. They do not operate within constitutional limits and what little good remains in the Constitution can be stripped from us at any time for any reason. Those who promote the wonders of the Constitution as being Christian are presenting us an illusion. The absence of a religious test oath, in itself, has delivered the republic into the hands of humanists and anti-Christs. We need a covenant with our God – a theocratic constitution.
Are we a Country with a government or are we a Government with a country? It should be obvious, since 1788, we have been a Government with a country. Our Country was subjugated with the War of 1861. The war, and the subsequent Amendments, proved that Government comes above country, family, church and God. Our Country based on Biblical Law was destroyed. To this regime, patriotism is defined as loyalty to the Government, not loyalty to God. Any deviation from this and you are labeled as “terrorist.” The patriot community blindly supports the Constitution mainly because of the Second Amendment, however that is a minor reason to hold on to the secular humanist document that is the source of all our problems as a nation..
For fifteen years, Madison had wanted to eliminate the test oaths of the states. He got his way with the Constitution. Instead of an affirmation of faith in the God of the Bible, he offered a new deity – the People. Sol Bloom, a 32nd degree Mason wrote in 1938, “All these pillars rest upon an unmovable foundation, a foundation nothing other than the fixed will and affection of the people. They made it. It secures their liberty.” He also praised Washington as a man who was faithful to the teachings of the Masonic Craft and he asserted that a majority of the Founders were Freemasons.
This is a most opportune time to make plain the noble part which Masonry has played in the making of the Constitution and in the history of the United States. We owe it to our ancient brethren to make known to this and coming generations what sacrifices they made, what labors they performed, and what triumphs they achieved. We owe it to future Masons to perpetuate the history of Masonry in connection with the history of the country. . . . A lively appreciation of what Masons have done will inspire Masons of today to defend the Constitution of the United States. – Sol Bloom, “Masons and the Constitution,” The New Age, vol. 46 (March 1938), p. 159. Published by the Supreme Council, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
Defend the Constitution? How can a real Christian defend a secular humanist covenant where “THE PEOPLE”, as the sovereign agent, have replaced God? Christians must repudiate this idolatry and stand for the kingdom of God. Is violence ever justified? The words of our Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded by Luke and Matthew:
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Lk. 16:16).
“And from [since] the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12).
These verses may not necessarily prove violence but they carry the idea of anxious faith and zeal for entering the kingdom of heaven. Since John’s ministry, we have been enthusiastically “pressing” into it, by force if necessary. For example, how many people will push their way through the doors of a store that has drawn crowds to a special sale? Even more so, we desire God’s kingdom – sometimes violence is justified.
In many ways, the War of 1861 was a religious war – the northern Unitarian universalists vs. the southern trinitarian Calvinists. The present administration considers Christianity a threat – and it should be. Jewry (anti-Christs) controls America because there is no religious test to prohibit them from holding political office. They hold more positions in government than any other ethnic or religious minority. The jews benefited greatly (economically; and later by miscegenation) from the War Between the States. White (Israelite) Christians look forward to the day in which spiritual Babylon falls and they rule with Jesus Christ. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ [His anointed]; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Our trust must be in the God of Israel. In our own strength (and that is what the Constitution embodies), we cannot defeat the Beast power. Any Constitution must include God as its sovereign agent and God’s Law as its authority. The salvation of Amerika rests on this principle of covenant. If God delivers us and we succeed in establishing His Kingdom, then fine, if not, it will be up to another generation of Christians to do so.