Army Bob: We need to be careful about rewriting history

by Robert M. Traxler

We need to be careful in rewriting history; it is hard to learn the lessons of history when it has been erased or rewritten. Could it be possible the need to erase the Confederates’ fighting for states’ rights, yes one of the states’ rights was the vile practice of slavery, is to aid the progressive movement to states’ rights?

Sanctuary cities, sanctuary states, drug laws, voting laws, gun control, use of the National Guard, even the use of the incandescent light bulb. The left finds itself in the strange place of advocating for the rights of states over the federal government. For the progressives to champion states’ rights they must deal with the history of the subject. An easy way is to make the Civil War totally a war for slavery, not in any way for states’ rights.

While we are renaming things and tearing down memorials to Confederate soldiers, let’s look at President Woodrow Wilson, a stone cold racist; progressive liberal hero LBJ, in his early days a racist; President Harry Truman, who joined the Klan in his younger days. Franklin Roosevelt imprisoned Americans without due process based on race and sent Jews back to Hitler’s Germany, most of whom died in the death camps.

Let us say in 152 years we look back to World War II and condemn the two million Americans who served in the Eight Air Force for firebombing German civilians. Or the U.S. Navy for sinking ships with civilians onboard. Do we need to erase every American figure before 1920 before women got the right to vote? Do we erase all of those who either objected to or approved of abortion? We may in the future.

One of the first things Joseph Stalin did when he became absolute dictator of the Russian Socialist Republic was erase from history those who opposed him. History is a legacy, good and bad; I have relatives who were Loyalists to the Crown, who fought 240 years ago for the king against the American Revolutionaries. Do I need to be deported or hang my head in shame? Between my Father, Mother, wife and me, we have 54 years of military service to our nation.

Our family history in America started with two brothers, illiterate German carpenters who were indentured to a farmer in Pennsylvania; after they paid the debt, one went to South Carolina and the one we are most directly related to stayed in Pennsylvania. Their grandchildren fought each other decades later in the Civil War. I am not ashamed of the cousins who died for their belief in states’ rights; it happened 85 years before I was born and it cannot be changed.

Many of the memorials to Confederate officers recognize their work to unify the nation after the Civil War during the Reconstruction period. Robert E. Lee publicly signed a loyalty oath and over a million southerners followed his lead. He also took communion at his church kneeling next to an African-American man. General Lee also became the president of a university that was integrated. For 61 years after the Civil War, unity was one of the main goals of our government; have we forgotten that history?

The hard right and rigid left are angry that Donald Trump is our President. I get it; there is nothing they can do to change that, although they are trying, so they vent their anger at our history and our nation. A good question is why now, and not before President Trump, must the memorials to Rebel soldiers come down?

History is our teacher; we need to learn from it, not rewrite it to make it convenient. What’s next, removal of the monuments to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791? Those folks, many Revolutionary War veterans, were traitors as well. While we are condemning traitors, why does the rigid left celebrate Chelsea Manning? I’ll be damned if I know.






  • One of your finest columns! Congratulations on a fine piece of writing and history logic. We must remember the bad as well as the good. The Confederates fought just as honorably as Union soldiers, and remembering them in the form of statues, Civil War re-enactments, and flags is just as important as honoring Union efforts.

    • Thanks, Free Market Man we will see if our friend on the liberal side agree. It will be hard for sanctuary states to shake the comparisons to the Confederate States of America. The more liberal states calling for states rights will come back to haunt them, one more road to hell or Pandora’s Box for the left. The move to states rights hurts the left’s movement to socialism and the move to an all powerful central government.

  • On a spring day 140 years ago, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee met face to face in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. On that historic occasion, April 9, 1865, the two generals formalized the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, thus bringing an end to four years of fighting between North and South.

    After agreeing upon terms of the surrender, the generals each selected three officers to oversee the surrender and parole of Lee’s army. Later that day, Lee and six of his staff signed a document granting their parole.

    On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon to persons who had participated in the rebellion against the United States. There were fourteen excepted classes, though, and members of those classes had to make special application to the President.

    Lee sent an application to Grant and wrote to President Johnson on June 13, 1865:

    “Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto; I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Mil. Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April ’61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Va. 9 April ’65.”

    On October 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he signed his Amnesty Oath, thereby complying fully with the provision of Johnson’s proclamation. But Lee was not pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. And the fact that he had submitted an amnesty oath at all was soon lost to history.

    More than a hundred years later, in 1970, an archivist at the National Archives discovered Lee’s Amnesty Oath among State Department records (reported in Prologue, Winter 1970). Apparently Secretary of State William H. Seward had given Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir, and the State Department had pigeonholed the oath.

    In 1975, Lee’s full rights of citizenship were posthumously restored by a joint congressional resolution effective June 13, 1865.

    At the August 5, 1975, signing ceremony, President Gerald R. Ford acknowledged the discovery of Lee’s Oath of Allegiance in the National Archives and remarked: “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”

  • The UDC was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia on July 18, 1919. As stated in the Articles of Incorporation, the Objectives of the society are Historical, Benevolent, Educational, Memorial and Patriotic and include the following goals:

    To honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate States.
    To protect, preserve and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor.
    To collect and preserve the material for a truthful history of the War Between the States.
    To record the part taken by Southern women in patient endurance of hardship and patriotic devotion during the struggle and in untiring efforts after the War during the reconstruction of the South.
    To fulfill the sacred duty of benevolence toward the survivors and toward those dependent upon them.
    To assist descendants of worthy Confederates in securing proper education.
    To cherish the ties of friendship among the members of the Organization.
    The United Daughters of the Confederacy is a nonprofit organization and it meets the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3) as a tax-exempt organization.

  • “The debate over Confederate monuments has been framed by President Donald Trump — and some who share his views — as a fight between those who wish to preserve history and those who would “erase” it. But let us linger on what history we’ll be preserving as long as Confederate memorials stand.

    The Confederate monuments in New Orleans; Charlottesville, Virginia; Durham, North Carolina, and elsewhere did not organically pop up like mushrooms. The installation of the 1,000-plus memorials across the US was the result of the orchestrated efforts of white Southerners and a few Northerners with clear political objectives: They tended to be erected at times when the South was fighting to resist political rights for black citizens. The preservation of these monuments has likewise reflected a clear political agenda.

    It is going to take equal energy and focus to remove them from the national landscape.

    But the story of the monuments is even stranger than many people realize.”
    From an essay by Dr. W. Fitzhugh Brundage is the William B. Umstead Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    • Mr. Salisbury
      I await your next comment, thank you for all five. Perhaps it is time for you to restart your

  • No thanks. Honestly, I’d rather you simply did substantive research before expressing yourself. I am reminded of how I used to tell my students from time to time: Please don’t raise your hand to participate in class discussions if you haven’t read the chapter and done your homework.

    • Mr. Salisbury,
      You accuse me of not doing research as you cherry pick obscure references that agree with your point. The column is an opinion column, and I did check references, simply not the ones you refer to.
      An opinion column is not a term paper in High School and you are not the editor of this paper. Observing columns in various outlets, the writers do not cite references like they are in High School.
      After years of reading your comments, Ranger Rick and I have noted your edicts and we choose not to footnote our opinion columns. Interesting you never request citations from the liberal writers? Funny how that works. Your desires are noted thank you for them.

  • Bob, in your column you pose the question about removal of Confederate monuments “why now?” My response, why NOT now? People often use the expression “better late than never” when speaking of change, be it personal, professional, national, international or universal. It is only my small opinion that now is as good a time as any to take into consideration the collective feelings of an entire race of people whose lives and futures were thrust into a turmoil that continues to this day.
    I do respect the opinions of all of you men who have written. But what I find missing is the element of compassion, what ought to be the overriding consideration of the human factor innate in this entire discussion. History is valuable and should be preserved, we all agree. Valid citations to back up one’s opinion are responsible, and the expressed personal interpretation of how we view historical events (most of those you cite, Bob, constitute, in my view, acts of terrorism veiled in the hell of war inflicted by men) are valid anecdotes on one’s own life experiences. BUT.
    Underlying it all is the fact that human beings were abused, institutionally, by the United States of America. They were men, women and children with hearts and minds and hopes and dreams who were crushed by oppression, abuse, injustice, and indifference. The oral and written history of these horrors exist in our national narrative and in the families of the Africans who were kidnapped and enslaved. The feelings and sensibilities of their descendants should mean something to us collectively, and we are morally bound to ease their pain. It distresses me that self-proclaimed Christians cannot see the basic tenet, love each other as I have loved you.

  • 400,000,000 plus United States Army Soldiers died to preserve the union and end slavery. I will wager their family’s were sad as well.
    Madam I resent you referring to me as a Terrorist, that is a a vile thing to say. And by the way Mrs. Mandavlle where are your references to back up what you say? Not one reference in the above comment.

  • In early August 1869 Robert E Lee was invited to to a planning meeting regarding the erection of statues in Gettysburg PA to memorialize the battle that took place six years prior. Lee declined the invitation and in his letter stated:

    “My engagements will not permit me to be present, & I believe if there I could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject,” wrote Lee, a Virginian.

    “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife & to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”

    Given that a majority of the statues and memorials were built after the Plessy v Ferguson decision that reinforced the segregated south and were built after 1890. There was an additional uptick post WW2 when the politicians in the South started feeling pressure to integrate after the US military had integrated.

    Those who served in the military for the Confederate Army were not US Citizens aka Americans. They were citizens of the Confederate States of America. Those who fought either believed in fighting for their newly formed country or in the case of many Confederate footsoldiers, they were conscripted/drafted to serve because they happened to live in a state that had seceded from the USA and became a part of the CSA.
    By 1862 it became clear the war was going to last longer and part of the new extended conscription to 3 years and included the “20 Negro Rule” that waived military service to a man who owned at least 20 slaves. Perhaps Mr. Traxler’s family member was not prosperous enough to own at least 20 slaves and may have been required to serve the CSA even if he’d rather have gone home and worked a farm.

    Regardless the CSA seceded from the US. Why are we memorializing traitors and people we would call domestic terrorists in today’s lexicon?

    We don’t see the Dutch memorializing the German occupation government. Germany doesn’t have statues honoring their WW2 generals like Irwin Rommel.

    Its not rewriting history. The USA had 11 states that decided to take part in a military revolt and over 600,000 Union soldiers died fighting the CSA army. The Conferate States of America’s armies were defeated and there was nothing gallant of courageous in their fight to leave the USA to continue to own people.

    Can’t polish a meadow muffin no matter how hard you try.

    • Mr. Couchman,
      So is the left attempting to make the Civil War only about slavery or not? Is the rewriting of history correctly or incorrectly to cover the liberal move to states rights?

      • It comes down the people wanting to act like those who took up arms against the United States of America are war hero’s and they should be memorialized for joining (or being conscripted) for attempting an armed revolt .

        Today we would refer to those politicians and military members as domestic terrorists.

        I am very sorry you are offended by people like myself who have seen the myth of “Southern Heritage” foisted off as a noble cause when in fact the CSA was formed as a breakaway country became they wanted “state’s rights” which included continuing the practice of owning people because it was a critical labor component of the CSA’s agrarian evonomy.

        11 States, The CSA went to war, armed conflct against the United States to secede. They didn’t want negotiation. They chose war.

        General Lee was correct in 1869 and 21st Century revisionist thought doesn’t justify the memorials as romanticized symbols of heritage.

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