Amidst all the cries about a climate of hate and whether anti-government violence can ever be justified, it bears remembering that we formed this country with violence against a government and that we fought the bloodiest war in our history against ourselves. 620,000 American soldiers and countless more civilians died in the Civil War. How much that war was about slavery and how much was about state's rights can be honesty debated, but both sides fought hard and well. It's easy to know that the Civil War happened and yet forget its monumental scale and the horrors that happened right between my house and there. The US Civil War is widely studied and rightfully so. It would be fair to say that some of the best Generalship we have ever displayed happened during that conflict.
Concrete Bob was born and bred in Richmond, Virginia and Saturday he took me around some of the memorials on Monument Avenue there. There are some wonderful statues of the Confederacy's greatest Generals that really brought home just what a tremendous job they did against overwhelming odds. Most people would agree that the South had the better leaders and that the successes they had against superior numbers and equipment were tremendous feats of military strategy, leadership and warrior spirit.
Robert E. Lee was a West Point graduate who opposed both slavery and secession, but when Virginia left the Union he went with her. His Army of Northern Virginia fought some amazing maneuver campaigns and won fixed battles time and time again. There is no question that Gettysburg was a crushing blow and the South never regained the initiative again. His decision to invade the North rather than defend Vicksburg is also questioned, but he is still regarded as a brilliant tactician and strategist.
Stonewall Jackson earned his reputation as one of our greatest tacticians ever with successes at both Battles of Bull Run, stopping a Union attempt to take Richmond in the Valley Campaign and his flanking movement at Chancellorsville which carried the day. His use of terrain and maneuver serves as a standard to teach from to this day.
J.E.B. Stuart was a complete bad ass and the prototype Virginia Cavalier. He dressed the part with an ostrich feather for his rakishly-tilted hat, a red-lining for his cape and a yellow sash...oh and that saber. His statue really brought the war home for me, almost viscerally. It is easy to picture him waving his troopers to follow him and then off at a gallop and into the fray. He caused the Union huge amounts of trouble as he would appear in places it seemed impossible for him to be. His horse marauders disrupted supply lines, destroyed rail lines and bridges and made sure that Lee always knew what the Union was up to. He died right there in Richmond at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. He was a brilliant cavalryman and a living representative of the chivalrous gentleman.
It was best that the Union won the war, but that doesn't diminish the accomplishments of the officers and men of the Confederacy. We can all be proud of their place in the military pantheon of America.