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Civil War Times: August 2000 Letters

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: September 23, 2000 
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Civil War Times
Civil War Times
COVER-HOGGING OVERINDULGENCE

When I was 10 years old, I was at a friend's house and happened upon his father's January 1978 issue of CWTI. I have collected and read cover to cover every issue since February 1978, when William C. Davis was editor.

I have never written before this time and have now done so because of the Behind the Lines editorial by editor Kushlan. My personal opinion was that the last logo of CWTI was the best. In 1978, the first logo was still in use, until June of 1981, when the Illustrated was parked next to CWT instead of under it. No big deal. Then in April 1982, CWTI decided to "bold" everything and change the font, which made for a really cramped cover. In December 1995, you presented your best logo ever, and I cannot believe you changed it to make it "easier to see" on newsstands and on endorsements.

I won't stop my subscription, because as Mr. Kushlan said, "What's behind the logo…has not changed," but I do voice my thoughts against the new logo as an overindulged, modern-appearing cover-hogger (à la 1982-1995) that makes the magazine seem unprofessional.

Scott Fishencord
Wylie, Texas

Editor's note: William C. Davis, by the way, will soon join the faculty of Virginia Tech. Beginning this fall, Davis will be the director of programs for the college's Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.

THE BLOOD IS ON LEE'S HANDS

When I saw Jeffry D. Wert's article about Robert E. Lee in your May issue, I became very excited. It promised to explain why Lee fought on when he knew further resistance was futile.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed in Mr. Wert's answer. It was the same as has been stated many times before, i.e., Lee felt it was his duty. Even more unfortunately, I believe Mr. Wert is correct. I am in awe of Lee's courage, resourcefulness, and determination. But that does not blind me to his faults. As an intelligent and experienced soldier, Lee must have known sometime after the Petersburg siege began that his army could not win. At that point, Lee's duty was to God and humanity, not to Virginia and the Confederacy. Because he did not then surrender his army, he is responsible for every death in the Army of Northern Virginia from that time until the surrender at Appomattox.

Norm Danis
West Hills, California

SOME SORROW, SOME REJOICE

I loved your May special issue. Fairness, however, requires an expansion of Gary Gallagher's quotation from Joshua Chamberlain's famous book The Passing of the Armies. To illustrate the animosity that remained after the surrender of Lee's army, Gallagher quotes an unnamed Confederate officer: "We hate you, sir." Taken just a smidgen out of context, that quotation supports Gallagher's contention that there was great bitterness, not brotherhood, following Lee's surrender.

What precedes that quotation and what follows it deserves mention. Chamberlain quotes other Confederate officers at the time, for example, who said such things as, "General, this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at this day's business." I do not mean to suggest that there was not bitterness or animosity on both sides in April 1865. My letter is intended only to point out that sometimes comments, taken out of context, are like using only one color to paint a picture that actually contains a wide variety of hues.

Paul W. Barada
Rushville, Indiana

HARD FEELINGS DIE HARD

Your special issue "The End of the War" (May) is a keeper. The article by Gary Gallagher reminded me of my introduction to Southern feelings about the end of the Civil War, on October 2, 1947. At 18 years old, I had enlisted in the Air Force and been sent to Lackland Field in San Antonio, Texas. Upon arrival, this naïve Michigander was processed through induction, clipped hair, new fatigues, etc., and marched along with 59 strangers to the front of a tarpaper-covered orderly room. We halted and faced left. A corporal walked out of the O.R. and said in a loud Southern accent, "Are there any Rebels in the crowd?" Immediately, about half the boys whooped and hollered. What is going on? I asked myself. Then the corporal said, "All you Rebs fall out and rest here in the shade. All you Yankees, parade rest." Over the next week, there were many one-sided discussions that included remarks like, "The South should have won," and "My granddaddy fought in the Civil War." Their feelings were still strong. These impressions have stayed with me for over 50 years, and I still chuckle over the experience today.

Jack Cochrane
Edmond, Oklahoma

LOST CAUSE? WHAT CAUSE?

With reference to the excellent May issue, I would respectfully disagree with Albert Castel's (and James McPherson's) fanciful conjectures that the South had "victory in its grasp on three occasions" during the conflict. The outcome of the war was predetermined by the simple fact that for every American wishing to continue slavery, there were at least five who felt otherwise. After one absorbs the 650,000 deaths and uncounted legions of maimed and wounded, the greatest remaining tragedy of the war is that such a tiny percentage of the Southern population, composed mainly of its educated class, was able to convince a large majority of 11 states that they had a cause. The naked truth is that there never was a creditable, cohesive cause.

F.T. Ernst
Tryon, North Carolina

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