150 years of blood in ink.
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As a native of St. Louis, Missouri, I have a long-standing fascination with the many and varied battles and conflicts, far removed from the great engagements, say, of Virginia. They were often savage and very personal given the extent of guerrilla warfare in the west and the fact that the German minority in St. Louis conspired with Nathaniel Lyon to keep an essentially Confederate state out of the Confederacy. Lincoln had won only two counties in the entire state in the election of 1860, the City of St. Louis and Gasconade County, both centers of German culture and social activism. Lincoln was supported by their “Wide Awakes” clubs which did not carry the state, but soon began to organize a kind of irregular military force, drilling in secret in beer halls, factories, and gymnasiums.
The story is told well by Adam Goodheart in the April 2011 issue of the American Scholar (“Civil War in St. Louis”). He describes what today we might call special ops, more insurgency than counter-insurgency. The Germans served Lyon the way the Northern Alliance assisted U.S. Special Forces and CIA in the early days of the war in Afghanistan. They called their force Lyons Fahnenwacht, “Lyon’s Color Guard.” This time it was German Americans versus Scots-Irish and other “native” Americans who were universally pro-Confederacy and secessionists. In this way, the sitting government of Missouri was driven from power. Holding onto St. Louis and, eventually, Vicksburg sundered the Confederacy in the Mississippi River Valley.
Regarding the uglier episodes of guerrilla warfare in Missouri, William Clarke Quantrill, a brilliant tactician and leader of Quantrill’s Raiders, led the raid on Lawrence, Kansas, which resulted in the slaughter of approximately 250 men and teenage boys, mostly unarmed and unresisting, and the burning of the town, one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War. For the rather bizarre story of the rest of his life, including his conversion to Catholicism, and the disposition of his remains, read The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders (1976) by Edward E. Leslie.
I make a cameo appearance in the book. While running the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for then Governor John Ashcroft, I was in charge of state parks and historic sites, among them the Confederate Cemetery at Higginsville, Missouri.
The Missouri Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans wanted to move Quantrill’s remains, sitting in a box in a state archaeology lab in Kansas, to Higginsville for proper burial. However, DNR staff thought the old raider should be buried in his hometown of Dover, Ohio. As Leslie recounts the story, after the Sons of Confederate Veterans answered various bureaucratic objections, “Mehan gave his approval.” Actually, it was a legitimate debate over how to resolve the matter. Would burying Quantrill at an official Confederate site besmirch their honor? They did not think so.
But the horror of the Civil War eventually did end, peacefully, rather than descending into a protracted insurgency in the west. Jay Winik’s book April 1865: The Month That Saved America (2001) explains how precarious things were but for the willingness of Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant, Joseph E. Johnston and even that ferocious warrior, Nathan Bedford Forrest, to end the bloodshed, finally, and turn to peaceful pursuits and the healing of the country.
Lee’s famous General Orders Number 9 stated, “… I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.”
Joshua L. Chamberlain, “the fighting professor from Bowdoin College in Maine, who won the Medal of Honor for his valor at Gettysburg’s Little Roundtop,” was in charge of the surrender at Appomattox. His description of the formal surrender is as moving a passage as one can find in the history of American letters. Winik describes the scene:
Without having planned it-and without any official sanction-Chamberlain suddenly gave the order for Union soldiers to “carry arms” as a sign of their deepest mark of military respect. A bugle call instantly rang out. All along the road, Union soldiers raised their muskets to their shoulders, the salute of honor. “At the sound of the machine-like snap of arms,” Chamberlain recalled, “General Gordon [one of Lee’s hardest fighters, wounded four times, commanding Stonewall Jackson’s old corps] started… then wheeled his horse, facing me, touching him gently with the spur so that the animal slightly reared, and, as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung-down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword-point to his toe in salutation.” And as he did, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those “vanquished heroes” — a “token of respect from Americans to Americans.”
Gordon, in turn, ordered his men to answer — “honor answering honor,” said Chamberlain.
“On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word, nor whisper or vain-glorying, nor motion of man… but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.”
John Paul the Great, in his last book, wrote movingly of the organic link between memory and identity. In the many books written about that cataclysmic event which was the Civil War, Americans may recover their identity which, although fragmented along various social and cultural fault lines, is grounded in a history worth knowing and understanding.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?