On 15 June 1861, at the far west edge of US continental expansion, in a tiny adobe village named Los Angeles, Almira Hancock, the wife of Capt. Winfield Scott Hancock , gave a dinner party for her husband and several fellow officers.
It was a going away party of sorts, most of the officers had resigned their commissions and were about to join the Confederate army. One of the wives sat down at the piano, and sang “Kathleen Malvourneen” as the men made their farewells; knowing the next time they met it would likely be in the heat of battle. The officers had experienced combat together during the Mexican War. They knew and trusted each other.
Over the next four years no less than six of the men attending the dinner would be killed by troops under Union Gen. Winfield Hancock’s command – including his closest friend – Confederate General Lewis Armistead.
In her correspondence, Almira Hancock details how Capt. Armistead, a fellow West Pointer, went to her husband and as the tears streamed down his cheeks said, “Hancock, good-by; you can never know what this has cost me.” He was referring to resigning his commission in the US Army and returning to his native North Carolina to take up arms against the Republic.
She goes on to say that she and her husband presented Armistead with a very special and very personal going away gift.
The next time the two friends would meet would be in early July 1865 outside a small Pennsylvania town named Gettysburg. Gen. Lewis Armistead was mortally wounded as he led Pickett’s Charge. He was one of very few Confederate soldiers to breech Union lines but he was shot down and was captured before he bled to death. His immediate request to his captors was to be taken to General Hancock – He wanted to say goodbye to his old friend.
An odd caveat to the story is that one of the personal possessions found on Gen. Armistead’s body was a small family Bible – you know; the kind with the family tree and history of significant events, births, deaths and marriages recorded in it – the kind passed down generation to generation. Gen. Armistead is said to have carried it with him for the entire Civil War – Every Battle.
Unlike the rest of the General’s property the blood soaked Bible was not returned to Gen. Armistead’s kin; the Hancock Family Bible – that special gift presented to Cpt. Armistead that last day in Los Angeles, was returned to Gen. Hancock – himself seriously wounded. He knew his buddy was gone. Some of us know what he felt in that moment.
These two soldiers were brothers the same as if they shared a mother. I challenge any professional soldier to imagine themselves at that dinner party; the Republic you serve has split in two, the United States that you swore an oath to – No More. You have no choice but to choose a side. There is no good choice – Yet you have no choice; but to choose.
Does your choice make you a traitor? – I think not.
There is a movement gaining momentum today to erase the history of honorable men like Lewis Armistead, Thomas Jackson and Robert E. Lee. We even have nincompoops like Errol Louis, calling them traitors and declaring we have no reason to honor or remember them at all.
Errol Louis … You Can Kiss this Old Soldier’s Ass.
I am in full support of the effort to remove the Confederate Battle flag from public buildings and relegate it to museum displays – I know its history. I know that William Porcher Miles referred to his creation as “The White Man’s Flag”, and was a staunch racist. His flag has become the banner of the vilest of racist organizations and a symbol of hate.
It is time for it to go.
You who believe the Stars and Bars is an honorable symbol of the men who fought for the confederacy – Think again. That flag never represented the Confederacy. It was the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and was later adopted as the standard of most confederate units to avoid confusion in battle; but it was never a National Flag of the CSA.
The Battle flag was first flown at the North Carolina State Capitol in 1962 – Yup, I said: NINETEEN- Sixty-Two, its appearance has no connection to the civil war or the Confederacy. It is generally agreed that it was Strom Thurmond and his cronies shooting a big middle finger to the Civil Rights Movement.
The Flag is the banner of the era of extreme racial brutality and inhumanity. No one should look back on it with fondness or pride. There is NO ONE alive today who can remember when that flag represented anything but Racism.
It has no place outside a history lesson.
I understand and agree with the outrage over flying the flag at public buildings. God knows if someone were to hoist the Hakenkreuz , anyplace near me, my poor wife would need to put our Bail Bondsman back on speed dial – but what fool thinks that a re-write or erasure of history is a good idea?
Who came up with the idiot idea that we should change the names of US Army facilities like Fort Lee and Fort Bragg because these men are now considered Traitors! I can understand erasing an image that honors someone like Nathan Forrest but not because he was a Confederate General; because he advocated racism and violence against the innocent.
Soldiers like Lee and Stonewall Jackson were NOT traitors. The government they served was no longer in existence. The effective dissolution of Congress, when southern states seceded, voided the oath each of these officers took and they were forced to choose a side.
They were Soldiers – Nothing less. They were however, treated like traitors. Even their families were penalized. Gen. Lee’s wife was stripped of her great-grandfather’s lands and property. He was another well-known slave holding General from Virginia – George Washington. You would recognize her lands today as Arlington National Cemetery.
In a nation where we will forgive maggots like Hanoi Jane and call latrine scum like Edward Snowden a hero it is no wonder these same fools can’t grasp the concept of a Soldier’s duty. Soldiers don’t make policy and often times the biggest difference between us is nothing more than the place we were born and the side of the line we were on when hostilities broke out.
Much longer ago than I like to admit, while I was working out of Germany, a BND Colonel requested I be assigned to escort him to Holland for a week. This would usually entail security considerations. the Baader-Meinhoff and Rot Armee Faktion were both threatening to snatch senior officials for ransom so it was a common assignment; just not one I usually got.
This particular officer was not just in my chain of command, he was a very close friend. I had an American TV that would pick up AFN so we would make it a habit to get together with a case of beer and watch “A Bridge too Far” every time it was broadcast. Col. Geiß was an SS Lieutenant in 1944 and fought in the main battle depicted in the movie – there tended to be some drinking involved.
The whole thing was a conundrum – Me hanging out and being civil to a former SS officer, oddly enough we both worked for the same Israeli officer. The Colonel was Waffen SS in the war, not to be confused with the Gestapo or “Black SS”. He was just a professional soldier.
I could do with a couple days with Werner. He had a wisdom that only comes with a long hard life and was not averse to sharing it with me. I assumed we were meeting with someone about the upcoming operations. I checked in with the Colonel’s aid and was instructed to travel unarmed; this trip was purely pleasure and all I had to do was drive.
Once in Holland I could do as I wished until it was time to bring the Colonel home. It doesn’t take rocket scientist to do the math and realize that any combination of Gideon Daniel Asche and a week in Holland, on the company dime with no responsibility or supervision will always result in extreme dumbassery – I was looking forward to it.
We arrived at the Gasthaus early evening, it was Sept 26th; I had no idea of the significance of the date. The Colonel surprised me when he immediately suggested that we head to the bar downstairs. I was usually the one looking for the nearest bar, not Werner. We entered the bar and I instinctively checked it for a way out and any significant threat.
An old man at the bar turned to us and yelled across the room; “There’s dat bloody Kraut what blew me damn leg-off”. Before I could fully comprehend what he said the man hobbled up to the Colonel and embraced him, then stepped back and rendered a crisp salute. “Herr Loit-nant, Damn glad you made it! You’re lucky we didn’t have to come looking for you.”
He then began to introduce Werner to the room and I realized who these guys were. A mixture of British Paratroopers and German Waffen SS who faced each other in close quarters combat on the 26th of September, 1944, on the very streets we just walked down. The Colonel had taken me to a reunion of Soldiers who fought in Arnhem. I was speechless.
One of the many things I learned from my Col. is that in real life the enemy is rarely a man, it is usually just an idea that drives men to kill each other. Once the idea is defeated the man is no longer your enemy. Gen. Lee refused to disparage northerners always referring to them as “Those People” rather than the offensive monikers used by most Confederate officers. Lee is said to have rebuked Jackson for the way he referred to a Union General saying “someday, when this is over, we will all need to go back to the business of being Americans”
Let’s take down the symbol of oppression and hate but don’t denigrate the memory of good men who fought with honor. It will only drive a wedge between the people and inflict a mortal wound on the Republic we serve. We reconciled our differences as a nation decades ago. Nothing good can come from picking the scabs from almost healed wounds and packing them with neo-political dung.
Be at enmity with the idea that flag represents today, BUT …
Don’t disrespect the Soldier who did his duty yesterday.