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16 December 2009


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frank durkee

The Lee comment was/is excellent. And I'm a strong supporter of the Union. I do, however have ancestors on both sides.

Fred Strack

Some of that sentiment was present in the North after Appomattox when they learned of Chamberlain's ordering the Army of the Potomac to salute Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. General Gordon was quite chivalrous in returning the salute.


Well said. It's all context.


A group called Abbeville is formed to keep alive the virtues of the South, of course the SPL considers the group racist. The following is a quote from Abbeville, followed by a link to an article about them.


My father's favorite book(s) was "Lee's Lieutenants." I was given Lee as a middle-name. My father wanted to name me Stonewall but my mother wouldn't allow it.


As your recent lead-in graphic said, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.


ah yes, error has no "right


I had a Catholic professor who had difficulty with dissenting views. She believed in absolute moral truths and sides that you could bind up in good and evil.

I suppose that gives life a certain clarity but does it compromise your decision making? Without understanding the other side, the other choices, how can you know your own thinking and the assumptions that you bring with you?

I can't blame Lee. He did the honorable thing by his standard and as a History student I know better than to read my own subjective morality into things. For Lee Virginia was home and he valued it above his other obligations. Fair choice.

Patrick Lang


Which error? Lee's? pl

Duncan Kinder

The "noble foe" traditionally has been a motif of Western civilization:



RAISER William

I'm glad someone still voices the view you have. This good or evil, with us or against division of the world has gotten VERY old.

Now, when will ben Laden cease being "evil" and become a person with both good and bad sides, like the rest of us, whom it would be worth our time to better understand?

Charles I

You're a soldier, you have to fight where the faith hits the ground, I suppose you damn well better respect the enemy soldiers that are try to do unto you. Which at a cretinous minimum should be cognizance of adversaries' completely contradictory mutual confidence in the right of their respective positions. If the good father doesn't know that the Devil thinks he's on the right and winning side of human nature, well, I know a different, confident, more worldly demon I suppose.

Absolutes, they're for children and preachers. Every sinner knows that.

Aspiring to an ideal is a different and fine thing, but then our bloody ideals are so subjective, and so fervently touted that before the sermon's over the fighting's started up again. . .

In any event, when the discussion veers into Soldiers & Honour I'm out of my depth. Closest I could get to is my belief that most people are doing the best they can with what they have until demonstrated otherwise.

You actual soldiers are way outta my league, thanks for letting me play with your virtue.

Charles I

p.s. What a mind-expanding fellow you are Pat. Thanks. I think to your parents and mentors too.


I am reminded by this of the "San Patricios" - the Irish Battalion immigrants of Zack Taylor's army in the Mexican-American war. Most of them either deserted or defected to the Mexican Army, where they subsequently fought with uncommon bravery.

While they were indeed classified as traitors who had committed treason against the US and later were captured, prosecuted, and in some cases hanged, they nevertheless are honored as heroes, annually to this day in both Mexico and Ireland. They have streets and towns named after them.

While their history varies greatly, depending upon the homeland of the historian, they do make for a very interesting story about allegiance, honor and courage in battle... and especially how varied an observer might judge their actions.


"The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil." Solzhenitsyn

Eric Dönges

I am surprised. I always thought judging people primarily by their actions, not their professed beliefs was a basic principle of most systems of ethics (including Catholicism).

As to General Lee - maybe it's the Prussian in me, but I don't see how he could have acted any differently than he did. As a Virginian, it was his duty to defend the sovereignty of the Commonwealth, regardless of his personal thoughts on the wisdom of secession.

Cold War Zoomie

Lee's father fought in the Revolution. Since most Loyalist families were driven from the USA, or decided to leave, after the Revolution, almost all the Southerners who fought in the Civil War were either sons or grandsons of Revolutionary soldiers.

It makes perfect sense why they would not consider themselves traitors.

William R. Cumming

The deep scarring and changing forever of American life, American history, and American government and the American polity itself is revealed by this post and comments. Essentially the meaning of the war and the honor or lack thereof for its combantants will long be argued. In short was it a "Just" war? Perhaps as Mao is once reputed to have said when questioned about the significance of the American Revolution--reputed to have stated "Too Soon To Tell!" Clearly the abolition of slavery was a good thing for humanity and the US but interesting how wage slavery now predominates in the US as many other "developed" countries. So I would argue the Viktor Stencal (sic) no matter how horrible the circumstances doing good in your own mind is perhaps the ultimate test of any event. God(s) and flag (s) have certainly often been the last or first refuge of scoundrals but also for much good.


Where did you get that picture?! It almost looks like Christ is singlehandedly planting the flag on Mt. Suribachi. The mind boggles.

Sidney O. Smith III

I am not sure I understand.

I mean, God bless the great Catholic priest. They are sacrificial heroes who save souls and they should be recognized and celebrated as such. But the charism of a sacramental priest is not one of creating art, literary or otherwise.

From what I can tell, Michelangelo believed the same too. (for more info, check out how he depicted a pope in the Sistine Chapel who tried to tell him how to paint) The charism of a sacramental priest is administering the sacraments, arguably, the most important charism in the universe. And I believe that Michelangelo use to attend Mass daily. But if a priest had the charism of an artist, they would not be priests. (and John Paul II wrote a beautiful letter to artists worth checking out).

Granted, I do not lead a religious life but one reason I have so much respect for and like the Trappist charism is that Trappists don’t talk much. Very, very spiritual folks. And quiet. Very quiet. Highly recommended when working on art projects.

Flannery O’ Connor use to visit the Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia all the time and she was much the devout Latin Mass Catholic. She wrote frequently about Protestant “traitors” in the South. Funny too.

So granted, my viewpoint is different. I am blessed beyond measure. I was baptized and spent my youth as an Episcopalian. Will die as a Catholic and, if I make to heaven, I think I want to become a Greek Orthodox and hang out and have a drink with Moses Jacob Ezekiel ,the Confederate (as well as in the land of prophets with the same names, one hopes).

Let‘s see…Moses Jacob Ezekiel. An artist. A Jew. I believe his long time mistress was an African American (before it was considered politically correct to date someone not of you own race, like today), and, alas, a Confederate. Died in Rome to boot. And certainly he was blessed with the talent of an artist.

I have a self imposed rule from my Episcopalian upbringing and it is one I still follow and would like to share. Never trust a priest or a warrior without a sense of humor. Never. If they do not have a sense of humor, they are either too ambitious or angry at God or both (McCaffrey comes to mind and I don’t trust that fool for a nanosecond).

And, with that in mind, when it comes to the novel, this Catholic prelate is starting to sound as progressive as “Lina”. We really do live in the end times.

And just out of curiosity, does this the Catholic prelate believe Pope XI was a traitor too? To quote from an unverified Catholic website:

“Pope Pius IX never actually signed any kind of alliance or 'statement of support' with the Confederate States of America, but to those who understand the nuance of papal protocol, what he did do was quite astonishing. He acknowledged President Jefferson Davis as the "Honorable President of the Confederate States of America."

“The pope's letter to Jefferson Davis was accompanied by an autographed picture of the pope, along with a miniature crown of thorns, woven by the pope's own fingers. The crown is currently on display at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans”


grae castle

as always, your focused comment (which i firmly believe to be accurate - there is good and bad on all sides and it's what we do that determines which is what) could/does apply to so much that goes on in our current political (domestic and international) and social interactions.

i, and any of your many observant readers, could provide numerous examples from this morning's news (lieberman, pelosi, etc., etc. - are these good or bad people/positions???), but that would take this post way off topic...


"people on both sides of that war were good or bad depending on their actions rather than their adherence to one side or the other."

But isn't adhering to one side or the other one of the actions that has to be taken into account?

Patrick Lang


The Tercio San Patricio is an interesting example to cite.

In the case of Lee and just about all the former regular US officers who fought for the CSA, they resigned their commissions and waited for their resignations to be accepted by the US Secretary of War before they took up Southern service. In Lee's case, Virginia was not a member of the new "country" for a few weeks or months and in that period he was a Virginia officer only.

I don't know of any US Southern officer who deserted from the US forces.

The enlisted men of the US Army then, as now, did not have the possibility of resignation available to them and they nearly all stayed with the US. pl

Stuart R. Wood

I believe the legal definition of traitor is someone who takes up arms against the government. Lee was a graduate of West Point and even back then, I believe he had to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. He reneged on that oath. I hold him to a higher standard than the common Confederate soldier.


"But isn't adhering to one side or the other one of the actions that has to be taken into account?"

It is but consider the sides. On one hand you have a racist south intent on retaining control of it's political destiny which up through Lincoln it could thanks to the 3/5s clause.

On the other side you have a racist Republican/Know Nothing coalition under Lincoln which viewed itself as morally superior and wanted to free itself from the shackles of political slavery.

It's a mistake though to apply our own morality to the question. At the time many things were taken for granted that modern Americans would consider appalling. People and mores change with time. If you or I had been born in that era we would have held very different attitudes on the world and what we find strange or abhorrent now we simply wouldn't have thought about.

What hasn't changed I think is the tension between loyalties. Lee and many other southerners were faced with competing obligations. He and many others decided that their ties to State outweighed their allegiance to the Republic and as Col. Lang notes they left the US Army in a legally permissible manner resigning their commissions and entering service in their respective states.

Patrick Lang

Stuart R. Wood

The legal definition of treason is contained in the Constitution. It is clear that to be guilty of this crime one must be a US citizen. For example, a foreign soldier engaged in combat against us is not a traitor to the United States. If captured he is not treated as a criminal unless he has been guilty of a specific crime against the law of war or commits a crime while a prisoner of war that would be punishable in the armed forces of the detaining power, i,e., murder, etc.

Because that is true, the key issue is whether or not the Confederates were US citizens. None of them were ever tried for treason and the government of the United States required that each of the Confederate States be readmitted to the union during resconstruction. this clearly implies that they had been OUT of the union during the period of the existence of the confederacy. The US government did not treat captured Confederate soldiers as treasonous criminals. they were treated as honorable men, given parole, etc.

In fact, the US government carefully avoided ever having the issue of the constitutionality of secession litigated in federal court. This was probably wise.

Lee graduated from West Point? So what? His state was an equal contributor to the funds that maintained the military academy. He entered the service of his state when when he legally left the service of the United States.

An officer's oath is legal, not sacramental. It is binding only so long as he holds his commission. Once again, Lee, as so many others, resigned from the service of the United States and his resignation was accepted. At that point his oath as a US officer was no longer binding in any way. He did not "renege" on his oath. There was no longer anything to "renege" on.

The United States of America as created by the consitution of 1789 was created as an instrument of limited government for the narrow purposes of men. For all the puritan imagery of the "city on the hill", the US is a country like all others.

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