Thursday, April 09, 2015

Lee Surrendered, But His Lieutenants Kept Fighting

By Elizabeth R. Varon, NYT
April 9, 2015 7:00 am

“If the programme which our people saw set on foot at Appomattox Court-House had been carried out … we would have no disturbance in the South,” testified the former Confederate general (and future senator) John Brown Gordon in 1871. Speaking before a congressional committee investigating the widespread anti-black violence in the former Confederacy, Gordon was accusing Radical Republicans of bad faith – specifically, of breaking the “Appomattox Compact.”

Some Northerners might have been surprised by the idea that anything resembling a “compact” came out of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant in April 1865. But Gordon, along with other prominent veterans of Lee’s army, believed that the agreement at Appomattox was more two-sided than many in the North believed.

The notion of the compact was rooted in two points: that the Union military victory was illegitimate, a triumph of might over right, and that Lee had negotiated a deal with Grant at Appomattox containing the promise that “honorable” Southern men would not be treated dishonorably. This position might have seemed incongruous, were it not for the fact that Gordon and a cadre of influential former Confederate officers – including the former generals Henry A. Wise, Armistead L. Long, William N. Pendleton and Edward Porter Alexander, along with other senior officers like Charles Marshall and Walter Taylor — spent decades advocating it, long after the North grew tired of arguing about the war. And to a large extent, they won, not only undermining Reconstruction, but distorting its memory.

(More here.)

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