Grant Finally Underestimates the South

by Ray B on October 16, 2007 · 1 comment

I never quite grasped where such strong feelings towards the Confederacy come from. Some southerners (certainly not all) pine for and bemoan a government that barely existed 150 years ago- a country founded in war and never tested for its mettle outside that war. As a “northerner” born and raised in the heart of Yankee territory, I probably never will understand the proclamation that they are southerners first, and Americans only by happenstance.

I’ve tried to rationalize- for my own understanding- that people are merely honoring the soldiers that fought and died for what they believed would be a better way of life. I have also come to realize that for many people, it is so much more. Almost form the conclusion of the war, there have been those who would cry for their lost cause, and even attempt to claim victory from defeat. Throughout the course of the last 145 years, there have been southern movements by groups such as the SCV that have made every attempt to glorify their ancestors, and put the best possible light on the reasons for secession in the first place. Some have done so to the point of distorting history in favor of their own views, while accusing others of doing just that!

General Grant, one of the greatest generals of the war, and perhaps history, almost always snatched victory from the hands of the enemy. He had an almost uncanny sense in determining the personalities and the military prowess of those he was going up against. He smashed the confederate armies time after time, executing some of the boldest campaigns in history. He never underestimated his foe, and because of that, he was never defeated. But he was an American, and a loyal unionist. He believed that in time the southerners would be again as well, while also understanding that it would take time; the wounds were too fresh to be healed in his time.

As I struggle to understand the strong CS sentiments of the south, I realize that far more enlightened men than I have struggled over this same question. For, even with his military genius, in this subject even Grant finally underestimated the true tenacity of the south.

“I would not have the anniversaries of our victories celebrated, nor those of our defeats made fast days and spent in humiliation and prayer; but I would like to see truthful history written. Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance and soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what section of the country he hailed from, or in what ranks he fought. The justice of the cause which in the end prevailed, will, I doubt not, come to be acknowledged by every citizen of the land, in time. For the present, and so long as there are living witnesses of the great war of sections, there will be people who will not be consoled for the loss of a cause which they believed to be holy. As time passes, people, even of the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man”

“Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant”

“In time”, he says. How much time? Isn’t 150 years time enough?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

guitarmandanga October 18, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Tony Horowitz talked about this in his book Confederates in the Attic, and draws the conclusion that Southerners are actually not that unique in their inability to forgive and forget, even 150 years later. As an example, he talked about the work he had done reporting the Kosovo War in the 1990s, and being surprised that the Serbians invading Kosovo “talked about the defeat of their ancestors by the Mulsims in 1300 as if it were only yesterday”, then used that defeat, and the atrocities committed by the Mulsim Turks afterwards, as justification for the war crimes in Kosovo.

The point is that the defeated have elephantine memories, the victors hardly ever…

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