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"Were Confederate Generals Traitors?" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 12:13 p.m. PST

"My "Rewriting American History" column of a fortnight ago, about the dismantling of Confederate monuments, generated considerable mail. Some argued there should not be statues honoring traitors such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, who fought against the Union. Victors of wars get to write the history, and the history they write often does not reflect the facts. Let's look at some of the facts and ask: Did the South have a right to secede from the Union? If it did, we can't label Confederate generals as traitors.

Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war between the Colonies and Great Britain, held "New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States." Representatives of these states came together in Philadelphia in 1787 to write a constitution and form a unión…"
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Amicalement
Armand

USAFpilot09 Dec 2017 12:53 p.m. PST

It depends on which side you are on. Have you ever heard the expression "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist". Same idea.

14Bore09 Dec 2017 2:24 p.m. PST

No

mikeda09 Dec 2017 2:43 p.m. PST

Hood was the unions best general. Had to confirm my account to post it

Old Peculiar09 Dec 2017 2:48 p.m. PST

Stupid question. They were rebels so they were traitors. But as rebels they may be lionized as heroes. Like Mr Washington!

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian09 Dec 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

A traitor is defined as someone who betrays their country. Anyone who fought against the Union in the Civil War would therefore be a traitor to the USA.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 4:57 p.m. PST

Oh good lord…

Sobieski Inactive Member09 Dec 2017 4:59 p.m. PST

Glad people are still eager to rise to the same bedraggled fly. (smile)

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 5:00 p.m. PST

Yes, traitors the lot of them.

jdpintex09 Dec 2017 5:07 p.m. PST

Nope

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 5:09 p.m. PST

Absolutely not. The issue was not legally settled until by the blood of the War of the Southern Rebellion. Afterwards their actions would be treason. Before absolutely not.

johnbear4409 Dec 2017 5:25 p.m. PST

Absolutely not

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 5:35 p.m. PST

I would say that those who first resigned their commissions in the US Army and then took up arms in the states which had seceded were not technically traitors. However, there WERE a few officers who while still wearing US uniforms were actively working to aid the seceding states. THOSE men were definitely traitors.

Dynaman878909 Dec 2017 6:42 p.m. PST

Taking up the sword BEFORE the issue was settled makes them traitors, not the other way around.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian09 Dec 2017 6:59 p.m. PST

But a Southerner who fought for the Union… was he a traitor to his state? evil grin

Leadpusher Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 9:18 p.m. PST

I think we have to remember that their first allegiance was to their state and not the United States. That was why Robert E. Lee had such a hard time deciding which side to support. His dilemma was Does he support his neighbors and state or uphold his oath to the United States. He resigned his commission before joining the Confederacy.
Also, lest we forget, secession was at that time not a settled issue. It was not settled by the Supreme Court until 1869. It is not mentioned one way or the other in the Constitution.

Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 9:31 p.m. PST

Both the Union and the individual states are considered sovereign, even today. Some considered their loyalty to their state due a higher allegiance than their duty to the collective Union. Each state that succeeded made an effort to do so in a lawful manner; their state legislatures passing laws and setting up a new government. Many believed their state had voluntarily joined the Union, why could they not voluntarily leave the Union?

I think reasonable minds could differ on the legalities of the issue. As for the issue of slavery, both the Confederacy and the Union were slave holding nations, not all slave holding states left the Union. That issue alone indicates the extent of the uncertainty at the time.

I believe each man should do what he thinks is right in his own mind at the time. At the time, I don't think they were traitors, the issue was not resolved until after the very war that was fought. I think it was a very sad time in our history and a very tragic war to have been fought.

I am glad the Union was preserved, I am glad slavery is over. I don't hold any animus towards those did their duty as they saw it and served with honor. As with the Native Americans who fought against the USA, we are all Americans now and share a common history. I think we should honor all our nations heroes from either side who served as their conscience dictated, even if it differed from our own.

Mike Bunkermeister Creek
Bunker Talk blog

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 10:02 p.m. PST

As written and ratified, The Constitution stated that the Federal Government had soverneignty in all cases stated and any powers not specifically granted the Federal government were retained by the states. The union and protection of the states was something the Federal government was charged with in the Constitution.

The Union army and particularly the U.S. Congress considered the officers who went over to the CSA traitors. They all had sworn to uphold the Constitution and defend the Union.

In fact as nearly half of the West Point graduates decided to fight for the Rebel Cause, including Lee, the one-time head of West Point, Congress was fairly paranoid about West Pointers. How many stayed but were secretly CSA sympathizers. Which ones were actually sabotaging Union efforts to prosecute the war or colluding withe the enemy?

There were a number of Congressional committees [sound familiar?] dedicated to that question and throughout the war, West Point graduates, while being the best trained officers in the Union army never-the-less had their loyalty doubted throughout the war. Grant didn't have that cloud over him when he took command of the Union armies because he had proven himself in the West and because he wasn't a career army officer.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 10:39 p.m. PST

They thought the Union had betrayed the principles of the Founding Fathers. So they probably saw themselves as patriots.

Not relevant today, unless we are looking to pick on cultural scabs, conduct more "cultural cleansing" or to provoke an unfortunate repetition of history.

Dan

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WolfeTone10 Dec 2017 1:13 a.m. PST

Yes.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 3:00 a.m. PST

Yes

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 8:37 a.m. PST

They thought the Union had betrayed the principles of the Founding Fathers. So they probably saw themselves as patriots.

Well, of course they did. They saw themselves as fighting a second revolution for the same reasons the first was fought. I mean, they didn't say, "We're traitors and morally compromised, but we will die for the right to be that wrong."

steve186510 Dec 2017 8:48 a.m. PST

Leadpusher: Any person who was in the Army always pledged his allegiance to the USA. When did Lee every swear to uphold the South? In fact in March of 1861 when Lee received his commission as full COL. IN THE US Army he swore again to protect the USA.

donlowry10 Dec 2017 9:00 a.m. PST

To me, they were traitors. But, of course, they were never tried and convicted, so "innocent until proven guilty." Nevertheless, I think it is highly inappropriate to raise statues to them on public property.

Bill N10 Dec 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

gasoline-fire

Choctaw10 Dec 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

Anyone who betrays his family and friends is a despicable cad.

They were honorable men who were placed in extraordinary circumstances and forced to make a decision that was lose-lose.

No, they were not traitors.

But let's beat this dead horse to death. Now leave me alone because I need to watch football and play with toy soldiers.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 11:33 a.m. PST

In any other nation, they would be considered traitors, and likely would have been executed upon defeat.
Most contrary arguments are legalistic in the extreme, and
are heavily tainted by the "Lost Cause" myth.

In the end, not executing them en masse turned out to be a good idea, as it allowed the war to fade sooner. Of course,
there is a part of the US population that paid dearly for actions taken/not taken to "bring the nation together".

mad monkey 110 Dec 2017 11:43 a.m. PST

No.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 2:19 p.m. PST

Here… in Argentina… we have a quite similar War… Federales vs Unitarios… both named the other as "Savage traitors"… ended as prisioner (officers mostly)… send you to dead squad or worst…


Amicalement
Armand

Trajanus10 Dec 2017 3:01 p.m. PST

Games are often played. After the battle of Bosworth in 1485, Henry VII back dated his reign to the day before the event, thereby making everyone who fought against him on the losing side, traitors.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 3:42 p.m. PST

Would a German citizen Or soldier in ww2 be considered a trader if they resisted their countries efforts due to their own personal conscience?

Regards
Russ Dunaway

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 4:44 p.m. PST

Suppose to be "traitor" in post above – not trader!!

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 7:41 p.m. PST

For those who said they were traitors:

Were the Founding Fathers traitors too?

Dan

RudyNelson10 Dec 2017 7:42 p.m. PST

The question answer will depend on the point of view of the asking person and the answering person.
The same can be asked of any country in which a revolt or civil war occurred.
Were the Generals and political leaders of the French Revolution be considered traitors to the monarchy. The Russian civil war, countless conflicts in China, of course the American Revolution. And on and on. Pointless question.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 9:58 p.m. PST

Seems that the only "traitor" is that who loose the war… (smile)

Amicalement
Armand

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 10:50 p.m. PST

Were the Founding Fathers traitors too?

Well, yeah. They admitted the British would take it that way. Fro instance, John Hancock wrote his name big on the Declaration of Independence so there would be no question of who to hang if the colonies lost the war.

Of course, the Southerners knew that the North would see them as traitors.

Traitor has a particular meaning.

a person who betrays another, a cause, or any trust. 2. a person who commits treason by betraying his or her country.

Traitors aren't determined by who loses the war. Benedick Arnold and Quisling would have been viewed as traitors regardless of who won. The Patriots would have considered Arnold as a traitor regardless of who won the AWI. The British certainly considered his loyalty to the British cause as suspect.

Trajanus11 Dec 2017 2:48 a.m. PST

"Betraying" seems a flexible concept to me.

It's fairly clear cut in cases where you are selling a cause down the river or breaking an oath but I wouldn't consider the "Founding Fathers" as doing that.

Did any of them take an oath of allegiance to the Crown? The crime was being in The Colonies and not liking how they were run, up until the shooting started.

So is that where the line is crossed and armed insurrection makes you a traitor? If so, that nails the Confederates too I would suggest.

arthur181511 Dec 2017 4:44 a.m. PST

Pan Marek wrote:
"In any other nation, they would be considered traitors, and likely would have been executed upon defeat."

After our civil war in Britain, only the regicides who had signed Charles I's death warrant were hunted down and executed. Others, like Sir Thomas Fairfax, who had commanded the New Model Army and defeated Charles at Naseby, were left alone.

Today, we have a statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Palace of Westminster! And named two WWII tanks – Cromwell and Covenanter – after those who fought against the King…

Dave Woodchuck Inactive Member11 Dec 2017 6:28 a.m. PST

Lock this thread- this is gonna get someone dawghoused

donlowry11 Dec 2017 8:37 a.m. PST

It wasn't secession that made them traitors; it was taking arms against the legitimately elected government that made them traitors. Especially those who had previously sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.

The terms of surrender signed by Grant and Lee, and echoed by Johnston/Sherman and others, however, prevented them from being tried and/or punished, except that the higher officers lost the right to vote in Federal elections. Even Jeff Davis was eventually released from imprisonment, even though his order to fire on Fort Sumter led to the death and maiming of thousands of men on both sides.

donlowry11 Dec 2017 8:43 a.m. PST

Lock this thread- this is gonna get someone dawghoused

One of the main reasons the "Lost Cause" myth refuses to die is that we are too afraid to talk about this subject, for fear that someone will be upset.

Dave Woodchuck Inactive Member11 Dec 2017 9:17 a.m. PST

No fear about upsetting someone – facts are facts. I just get sick of beating the dead horse.

thomalley Inactive Member12 Dec 2017 2:42 p.m. PST

It wasn't secession that made them traitors; it was taking arms against the legitimately elected government that made them traitors. Especially those who had previously sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Except that as soon as their State seceded, they were no longer citizens of the US and under no obligation not to take up arms against a "foreign power".

Another reason no one war tried is that it would have end up in the Supreme Court and the majority Southern court may have overturned 4 years of war.

grahambeyrout12 Dec 2017 3:20 p.m. PST

As I understand it, The Southern States were constitutionally entitled to withdraw from the Union. It is not called the war of Northern Aggression for nothing.

Trajanus12 Dec 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

Er, no they weren't, they just decided that they were and it's only called "The War of Northern Aggression" by the side that lost it.

donlowry13 Dec 2017 5:20 p.m. PST

Except that as soon as their State seceded, they were no longer citizens of the US and under no obligation not to take up arms against a "foreign power".

Except that from the Union viewpoint secession was not constitutional, so they were all really still U.S. citizens. Notice that nobody had to be "naturalized" when the shooting stopped.

And how could it be a "War of Northern Aggression" when it was the Confederacy that started the shooting?

Bill N13 Dec 2017 6:59 p.m. PST

Whether the states were constitutionally permitted to unilaterally secede from the Union was decided on the battlefield, rendering the legal question of whether states could secede moot.

Notice that nobody had to be "naturalized" when the shooting stopped.

The U.S. government had no problem moving from the position that the rebelling states were part of the union and the position that they were not, depending on what suited the U.S. government best at that time. The best example of this is probably Virginia. The U.S. government recognized the legality and legitimacy of the loyalist Virginia government at the beginning of the war. They continued to recognize the legality and legitimacy of that government after the western counties separated and became West Virginia, and the loyalist government moved to Alexandria. At the end of the war they allowed the loyalist government to move to Richmond and take over. Then they disestablished that loyalist government.

how could it be a "War of Northern Aggression" when it was the Confederacy that started the shooting?

I never understood that one either. Lincoln would almost certainly have exercised a military option to keep the union together, but the Confederates gave him a gift by firing on Fort Sumter.

RudyNelson13 Dec 2017 7:41 p.m. PST

War of Northern Aggression was a Southern term referring to all of the Union offensive campaigns including blockades.
A position of negotiated peace. Southerners did not want Yankee land. Just to be left alone.
Comparable to the northern use of the War of Southern Rebellion. Each side hated these terms.

Trajanus14 Dec 2017 6:18 a.m. PST

The U.S. government had no problem moving from the position that the rebelling states were part of the union and the position that they were not, depending on what suited the U.S. government best at that time.

Then again there was the Blockade. Big row with the British for breaking it, who point out that belligerent status is in question.

International convention says that Blockades are valid only between waring nations but the US claims the South is not a nation due to secession.

US then says it doesn't matter anyway, as they never signed the convention!

This is what Governments do! :o)

donlowry14 Dec 2017 8:29 a.m. PST

Notice that secession was OK with the Confederates as long as they were the ones doing it, but when West Virginia wanted to secede from Virginia it was not OK.

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