Confederate Monument Dilemma

Practically Historical Offers the Following Solutions

1024px-Confederate_Flag_(Modern)

  • The Confederate flag should never be flown over government buildings or property
  • The Confederate flag should not be banned
  • Monuments to Confederate leaders, political or military, should not be kept on government or public property
  • Monuments dedicated to unnamed soldiers who fought for the Confederacy should be allowed on public property
  • Communities have every right to determine which people are publicly memorialized
  • The destruction seen recently is unacceptable
  • The actions of the KKK and ne0-Nazi groups in Charlottesville are unacceptable
  • Confederate monuments in cemeteries should be left alone
  • Confederate monuments on battlefields should be left alone 
  • Comparing Confederate leaders to our Founders is unacceptable
  • Destroying or defacing monuments to our Founders is unacceptable 
  • Studying Confederate history is necessary
  • Confederate Civil War reenactors should not be ostracized
  • Slavery caused the Civil War
  • Not all Confederate soldiers fought for slavery
  • Not all Union soldiers fought to free slaves 
  • We need to keep reading, writing, and learning…..

Jefferson_Davis_Monument,_Richmond,_VA_IMG_4066

The Sykes Monument

A New Memorial Well Deserved

George Sykes is one of two Union Corps commanders without… an equestrian memorial at the Gettysburg National Military Park.  Dan Sickles declined one in his honor, claiming “the whole damned battlefield is my monument.  The exclusion of Sykes is misunderstood and often erroneously remembered by historians and students of the battle.

402px-gengs

John Sedgwick missed over a third of the battle… and Henry Slocum’s inaction on July 1 bordered on insubordination- yet both these Generals have mounted statues on the battlefield.  These monuments were constructed by their states in conjunction with the Gettysburg Memorial Association between 1867-96.  The US War Department took no part in the construction of monuments at Gettysburg.  So why was Sykes overlooked?

statue

Many assume Sykes was not memorialized because of poor performance… in and after the Battle of Gettysburg.  His nicknames of “Slow Trot” and “Tardy George”  have become historical cans tied to his record trail.  Neither assumption is holds water- the truth is more complicated:

  • Sykes’ promotion to Corps command on June 28, 1863 upset some of his fellow officers- especially those who ranked him.  Sykes was given the V Corps at the direction of Meade.
  • Sykes did not have a good rapport with volunteer troops, who in many cases, led the later efforts to erect monuments- Sykes spent most of the War commanding Regular Army troops.
  • He did not have a long career following the war, dying at a dusty Texas outpost in 1880. 
  • Following the War, Delaware was in no position to contribute funds to a monument depicting someone who permanently left the state as a teenager. 
  • Reynolds and Sedgwick were popular leaders with volunteer troops; while Howard and Slocum had long public careers following the War.**

 

**Thanks to Scott Hartwig for the pointers.

July 3, 1863

3532965089_a44f5b1a9c_z

Rising to the occasion is a concept so misunderstood… it borders on the cliché.  When used in the wrong context it cheapens actual heroic achievement.  Too often, historic deeds are overlooked because well-worn studies have rendered them routine because of historic scope.  In the pivotal battle of the war, at its decisive moment, actions speak louder than the words of any biographer…. as Confederate soldiers stormed over the stonewall at the “Angle”- decisive action was needed, and General Alexander Webb provided it.

HWM

Alexander Webb received the Medal of Honor for his actions on July 3, 1863.  Webb’s brigade occupied the crucial position at the “copse of trees” which was the focal point of Lee’s attack.  Webb marched defiantly up and down his line during the fierce bombardment that preceded Pickett’s charge.  The confederates under Armistead  charged into Webb’s position and the two brigades were locked in deadly combat.  Seizing the colors of the 72nd Pennsylvania, Webb led a charge into the confederates  at the famous “angle” in the stone wall.   The two generals nearly came to personal blows as Webb’s counter attack brought them to within feet of each other.  Armistead fell mortally wounded while a ball passed through Webb’s upper thigh, but he remained on the field.  Webb describes the action in his report of the battle.  General George Gordon Meade nominated Webb for the Medal of Honor which he received in 1891.

photo53038

Gettysburg Hidden Treasures

Gettysburg Hidden Treasures

1. Barlow’s Knoll;  Left for dead by his own troops during the first day’s fighting, General Francis Barlow fell grievously wounded near this spot.  Confederate General John B. Gordon’s act of mercy allegedly saved Barlow’s life.

acw-getty-barlow-1

2. Hazlett/Weed Rock; General Stephen Weed had just deployed his brigade down the face of Little Round Top when he fell mortally wounded.  Nearby, deploying his battery was Captain Charles Hazlett, a friend of Weed’s from West Point.  Bending to hear his friend’s dying words, Hazlett was struck on top of him.  This engraving, long a battlefield guide secret, has recently been filled in.

hazlett

3. Hancock’s Wounding;  Involved in the decisive maneuvering on all three days of the battle, Hancock had just ordered a flanking attack to Pickett’s charge when shrapnel drove into his upper thigh.  This small monument marks the place where the hero of Gettysburg received his wound.

3578557

Must See spots at Gettysburg

1. Hancock Equestrian; Cemetery Hill…  One look at the majestic sculpture will convey the effect Hancock had on the disheartened Federal troops July 1st.  The hero of Gettysburg could have had his monument anywhere on the field- but he chose the spot where his presence had the most effect.

Hancock(author)

2. 9th Mass. Battery(Bigelow’s); Trostle Farm…  Captain Bigelow’s brave delaying action slowed the Confederate onslaught and allowed Hancock time to form the final Union line to the rear of this position.  Near this monument is the Sickles HQ site and the Trostle barn, which still bears damage from the battle.

Retreat by recoil (author)

3. Cushing’s Battery; Cemetery Ridge(the Angle)… Lt. Alonzo Cushing’s battery was at the center of the storm on July 3, 1863.  Cushing’s defense and heroism(remaining on the field despite two grievous wounds)  helped hold the Union position during Pickett’s charge.  Cushing gave his life that day, but would receive the Medal of Honor 147 years after his death.

Cushing fell here (author)

Grant vs. Lee in Summary

Lt. Colonel Theodore Lyman, an aide to Major General George Meade, summarized the Overland Campaign with this simple observation:

“It is a rule that, when the Rebels halt, the first day gives them a good rifle-pit; the second, a regular infantry parapet with artillery in position; and the third a parapet with an abatis in front and entrenched batteries behind. Sometimes they put this three days’ work into the first twenty-four hours”

Meade and his staff (LOC)

Grant’s strategic plan for the campaign seemed simple enough, but with overly-intricate movements combined with unrealistic time schedules, Lee was able to beat Grant to key strategic points throughout the campaign.

Cold Harbor Reconsidered

“I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made.”  – US Grant

 

With that observation in his best-selling memoir… Grant started the historical firestorm around the second-to-last battle of the Overland Campaign.  Through the years and volumes documenting every facet of the war, Cold Harbor has come to symbolize the carnage and suffering endured by the fighting men.  Writers have elevated the battle to the conclusive example of obsolete tactics brutishly utilized during an ill-conceived campaign.   Images of doomed soldiers pinning name tags to their uniforms and ranks of men mowed down in place haunt students of the Civil War.     But does the Battle of Cold Harbor truly measure up to the perception of needless slaughter?

General_Ulysses_S._Grant

Battlefield historian Gordon Rhea… takes this and other misconceptions to task in his multi-volume study of the Overland campaign.  The facts simply do not support the popular reputation of June 3, 1864 being a day of unspeakable slaughter.  Grant’s forces suffered between 5,500-6,000 casualties- making it only the 5th bloodiest day of that Summer.  Every day of the Wilderness battle saw more casualties- Spotsylvania stands as one of the bloodiest battles of the war.  Rhea smartly points out that there were bloodier days in the two years preceding the Overland Campaign.   What happened to our Remembrance?

330-4

*NPS Richmond

The Summer of relentless combat… that marked the Overland Campaign took a drastic toll on the Army of the Potomac.  The soldiers remembering June 3, 1864 were tired and weary of combat- particularly massed frontal assaults against entrenched Confederates.  “Fog of War” is a concept bordering on cliche, but clearly, the judgement of many of the battle’s participants was clouded.  Grant’s own recollection of the day only solidified the  misapprehensions and flawed narrative.

June 3, 1864

Three days of indecisive movements by Union forces… allowed Robert E. Lee’s army to strengthen its positions near Bethesda Church and New Cold Harbor.  The delay muted the Federal assaults of June 1-2.   The troops in blue knew exactly what awaited them the following day.  The carnage of Grant’s Overland campaign had taken its toll.

truitt2

 

Truitt6

Jefferson Truitt was one of the Union soldiers… who knew exactly what was going to happen on June 3rd.  The all-to-familiar pattern could again be seen; Confederates controlled the thoroughfares to Richmond, and Union troops would try bludgeon them open.  War-weary troops began pinning names to their uniform coats for easier identification; many penned one final diary entry- “Killed at Cold Harbor.”   Jefferson Truitt, and his regiment, the 62nd PA. were due to leave the service on July 1.  He had survived the bloodiest conflicts of the war: Malvern Hill, Antietam, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania…  now, with just weeks to serve, he would meet his end near the intersection of Old Church and Walnut Grove roads.

truitt7

Memorial Day Tribute

Thomas Jefferson Truitt enlisted in… Company D of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers on July 24, 1861.  He was a carpenter working near Kellersburg in Armstrong County PA.  His father, Anderson, died suddenly in October of 1860, leaving the family deep in debt and without a steady income.  To make ends meet, the widowed Sarah Caldwell Truitt was forced to sell pieces of the family farm and work odd jobs.  The outbreak of the war in 1861 rallied the young men of Armstrong County to the Finlay Cadets.  It also provided Jefferson and his younger brother David the opportunity to assist their family financially.

truitt

1837-1864

Truitt served with distinction… as the company’s color sergeant.  On July 1, 1862 at the battle of Malvern Hill, he rescued the 62nd PA’s flag from capture by securing it inside his uniform coat.  For his valor, Truitt received a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant.  Marching with the 62nd from  Antietam Creek to Fredericksburg, Manassas to Gettysburg, Truitt survived the fiercest fighting of the war.  With its three-year enlistment set to expire, the 62nd soldiered on through the unprecedented carnage of the Overland campaign in the Summer of 1864.  Jefferson Truitt was killed June 3, 1864 at the Battle of Bethesda Church, Virginia, just one month before he was due to be mustered out of service.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Last Full Measure

Heroism is more than just… exploits on the battlefield.  Ordinary citizens, like Jefferson Truitt, display heroism by putting their lives on hold to serve their country.  The causes, justifications, and implications are immaterial to the sacrifices made by citizen soldiers.  Calling these people heroes does not make a political statement, nor is it a rallying cry for more conflict.  Wars can be pondered and debated without applying undue scrutiny to the brave men and women who fought them.  Publicly doubting the heroism of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day is not reasonable discourse.  His patriot grave is proof that Jefferson Truitt was a hero.