Alan J. Pitts
Thu Jul 12 11:26:59 2001
For those not familiar with John Esten Cooke’s words, “defeat is not dishonor” from “Wearing of the Gray”, here's a link:
It’s interesting to note General Richard Taylor’s response to defeat in late April 1865. As commander of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana, Taylor persuaded most of his men to remain in camp and continue their normal military activities rather than disbanding and taking to the woods. He understood that anyone captured while acting as a guerilla could expect summary justice, while soldiers who surrendered under terms offered by Federal authorities would be treated fairly. Political leaders of the Confederacy had failed to make peace while any chance of a favorable military solution for the South was available, so now it was up to military leaders to end the conflict on the best possible terms.
In Taylor’s mind, the best possible terms would allow his men fair and honorable treatment. Based on the agreement made by Johnston and Sherman in North Carolina, Taylor and General Canby formulated one of the more remarkable surrenders in history. No Federal troops would be present when Confederate commands lay down their arms; only a small number of officers who signed each parole and recorded the names of those who surrendered. For all intents and purposes, it was a do-it-yourself surrender, self-administered and directed.
For what it’s worth, Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest rejected proposals that the armies be disbanded and guerilla warfare begun. In fact guerilla warfare had already been going on for some time with lamentable results for both sides. A favorable outcome for the South was extremely doubtful, while hangings and burning throughout the land for years to come were certain as long as men like William T. Sherman were in command. Sherman took up arms exclusively to enforce the authority of the central government in Washington, D.C., and was willing to sacrifice lives and property in any amount to achieve that end, especially if the lives and property belonged to Southerners.
Thank God our ancestors didn’t go the Viet Cong route and decide that in order to save the country they had to destroy it.