(Editor’s Note: This open letter by contributor Cade Logue is intended as a further response to the article Another Day, Another Hoax, and Another Black Eye for Our Pathetic MSM which was published by The Blue State Conservative on May 20, 2021.)
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Recent events and changing attitudes in this republic has led to an emerging debate into the prospect of changing the names of installations and vessels that bear the names associated with the Confederacy. A commission has been appointed to provide a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense for this very purpose. As one would expect, this has initiated a firestorm of debate on the nature of the civil war. This debate has led many to pontificate as to the causes of the war ranging from slavery, states’ rights, and economic disparities.
I, like many, am prepared to offer my opinion and will eagerly engage in such debates depending of course on the specific charge levied, however, I wish at this time to address the narrowly focused charge that those who fought for the confederacy were traitors. I shall keep my arguments probative to this single claim.
The word traitor has been used at least twice in articles published my military.com. These articles included several reasons for the war and none to show how the bases were named, in absence of a direct charge, I can only offer up few points.
I assume that the majority make this argument based upon the claim that these individuals led an armed conflict against their parent country or advocated for secession. If so, then we need to broaden the scope of installations to be reviewed to include most of the founding fathers and every single officer of the Continental Army. They too led an armed insurrection against their parent nation with some having received their military training by serving in the British Army. Of course, that would mean that we should pardon and venerate Benedict Arnold for remaining true to his oath. Using this logic, we should be praising Arnold and condemning Washington.
The charge of treason because of the act of secession is also hollow. There were secession movements in the north over the Louisiana Purchase (1803), Jefferson’s embargo against Great Britain and France in 1807, and the following War of 1812 in which several New England states even refused to provide troops to the federal government. This move towards secession was again renewed with the Annexation of Texas (1848) and having to enforce the infamous Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In each of these situations, the states in question remained through last minute comprises. Heck, to underscore the north’s hypocrisy of the secession argument, it allowed West Virginia to secede in 1863 and join the union. This right to secede was even confirmed by the Supreme court in 1866.
Furthermore, it needs to be noted that even in 1860 most of the population still identified more with their state than a central union. During the war, units were often given state identifiers like the 1st Ohio, 3rd Pennsylvania, not just simply 1st inf reg or 3rd Art. I mention this to help reinforce the point that most people, both north and south, were tied to their state, which surely weighed heavily on those that chose to side with the south before the war started. Others had the choice thrust upon them when they woke to an army marching through their farms, or saw their ports closed to shipping through blockades. It was the Union army that first marched an army across state lines to include states that didn’t even secede like Maryland, Kentucky, Kansas and Minnesota.
Just look at the names given to the larger formations, Army of the Cumberland, Army of Ohio, Army of the Potomac. Even today, National Guard units that are loosely affiliated by state don’t bear state names.
It’s crucial to remember that not a single Confederate officer was tried at the end of the war for treason or even sedition, not Robert E. Lee or even Jefferson Davis. And this was when passions still ran quite hot. The only Confederate officer to be formally tried after the war was Henry Wirz, the commander of P.O.W. Camp Sumter (aka Andersonville) and even that was for war crimes, not treason. The professional soldiers that left the Federal army to fight for the Confederacy were giving up everything; a potential career, current standing, and in most cases their homes were either occupied like Lee who was never to return to his, or had them put to the torch by a warfare that included the pillaging and theft of personal property.
The bases, places and things named after Confederate soldiers were named to honor their bravery or military prowess, not in some conspicuous fading hope that the social conventions of the day would be enshrined. That’s why their battlefield exploits continued to be studied worldwide to include our service academies. It is why President Eisenhower kept a picture of Robert Lee by his bed, and he wasn’t alone. Robert E. Lee had been publicly venerated by no less than eight other US presidents: Ford, Carter, Johnson, Truman, Kennedy, both Roosevelts and Reagan, not to mention Booker Washington and Winston Churchill.
This reverence might also have played a role in the decision from May 23, 1958, in which the US Congress approved USC Public Law 85-425, Sec 410, in which Confederate soldiers, sailors, and Marines that fought in the Civil War were made U.S. Veterans in regards to pensions. This law made all Confederate Army/ Navy/ Marine Veterans equal to U.S. Veterans. Let me reiterate: those that fought for the Confederacy are not considered traitors according to AN ACT OF CONGRESS.
I have tried to limit myself to the charge of treason, but since this debate stems mostly from the larger discussion of slavery, I am compelled to address it at least in a small way. I could devote quite a few lines to its place in history but for the purpose of this letter I will keep it short and simple.
If slavery was the cause for the Civil War, then why wasn’t it abolished at the start of hostilities? How hard would it have been to pass when only one southern member remained in Congress? At a minimum, slavery could have been abolished in the states of the union, yet the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed no one, was issued eighteen months after the start of the war and the 14th Amendment was not ratified until July 9, 1868, a whole three years after the north had complete control of south.
Cade Logue MSG-Ret