Thoughts on Appomattox (part three)

One of the dearly held tenets of the Lost Cause is that Southerners didn’t lose because they were outfought. Rather, Ulysses S.¬†Grant only won because he had more soldiers and so overwhelmed the Confederates.

Isn’t that the point?

Of course it took the Union a while to figure that out. With more men, more supplies, and more resources, the math was stacked favor of the Union from the start, yet Lincoln couldn’t seem to find a general who could–or who was willing to–do that math.

And it turned out to be grim math, indeed. By the time Grant wore down the Confederates “if by no other means than through attrition.” Some 200,000 men of both sides would fall as casualties between the start of Overland Campaign in May of 1864 and the surrender at Appomattox the following April.

As I walk through Appomattox today, I think of all the men who didn’t make it here. I’ve come on this sesquicentennial for them, to pay my respects and remember their stories. That makes it all the more of a privilege to be here.


With thanks to Daniel T. Davis for his on-the-spot number crunching while I was out in the field.

2 Responses to Thoughts on Appomattox (part three)

  1. That is the point. One of my disappointments as I reflect on the commemoration period is that the Lost Cause is still as strong as ever. Criticism of Lee, even in the North, is met with disapproval. Moreover, I think holding on to the Lost Cause also prevents us from having an honest dialog about race.

  2. I agree with Derek and I would like him to expand on his thoughts here. I attended a Robert E. Lee presentation Friday. It was ok, but still more of the same. Lee from Lee’s perspective: whitewash of his views on slavery and of his failure to provide a more rational and moral guidance after the war. Maybe that was ok in this instance because it was a reenactor acting the part of Lee. But the nation needs more. Whites have not come to grips with their role in slavery, not in the failure of the nation to uphold its own laws, constitutional laws no less.

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