Union Veterans and Robert E. Lee – the GAR Has Its Say
In an effort to bring some of my yet unpublished research to the world at large, I thought I would post a snippet here and there of interest. Some of the subjects I am sure you will find controversial – so comments are welcome. For example – during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Union veterans had a few choice words for their enemies – like Robert E. Lee. Enjoy…
Lee’s legacy suffered a long and enduring attack at the hands of his former adversaries. Union veterans remained determined to praise only the Union heroes who saved the country, rather than a Rebel who had tried to destroy it. The praise allotted to the rebel chieftain that was taking place all over the country wore Grand Army of the Republic veterans particularly thin. One Collier’s Weekly article citing Lee as America’s most “noble citizen” especially drew fire from the GAR’s patriotic instructor, Robert Kissick of Iowa. “If Lee was all you claim, then the men I represent were wrong in fighting to preserve the nation he fought to destroy.” Further arguing that “Lee did not follow his state out of the Union,” but rather, “his state followed him,” Kissick lambasted the Confederate hero and heaped much of the blame for upper South secession on Lee’s shoulders. As decades past, few Union veterans could stomach the praise of Robert E. Lee. In 1922, when the American Legion attempted to honor Lee’s birthday, veterans of the Pennsylvania GAR shuddered at the idea that anyone would “place a premium on Disloyalty to the Flag and our Country.”
Union veterans embraced reconciliation – but on their own terms. They made sure to remind Americans (as did Confederate veterans) of exactly who, from their perspective, was right and who was wrong. Stay tuned – I’ll be posting more of these little tidbits over the next months. Don’t worry…each side will have their say.
Peace and Happy New Year,