I have great respect for Robert E. Lee as a man and a soldier, but disagree with his example, cited in Gary Gallagher’s October article, “A Question of Loyalty,” of George Washington as a person who had to change his conduct after fighting against the French in the service of the British king and then joining the French to battle the same king. Lee was trying to make the point that his actions in leaving the Union for the Confederacy were similar to Washington’s before and during the Revolutionary War.
The difference is that Washington consistently fought for the American colonies. He did not change; the situation around him changed over a period of time. In General Lee’s case, he switched sides from the North to the South.
William G. Williams
Camp Hill, Pa.
Gaines’ Mill Casualty
I read Drew Gruber’s story about the Battle of Gaines’ Mill in the June 2013 issue. My great-grandfather, Robert A. Sayers of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserves, was wounded at the battle. He lay on the battlefield and received aid from a Confederate soldier. He was then transferred to Belle Isle Prison, from whence he was exchanged and transported home with what sounds like cerebral malaria, from which he almost succumbed. I have in my possession the singular compassionate remnant of that encounter, a Confederate uniform button that he exchanged for one of his uniform buttons.
Clarke Russ, M.D.
Virginia Beach, Va.
Maps and Jeb Stuart
I am happy that I recently discovered your magazine. I plan on being a lifelong reader. I enjoyed the article titled “Fighting on Strange Ground,” by Earl B. McElfresh in August 2013, but I do object to his criticism of General Stuart. I suggest that he read Plenty of Blame to Go Around, by Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi, which is well written and well researched. It stated that General Stuart followed General Lee’s vague and confusing orders. Also that General Stuart did send a courier to General Lee, informing him that the Army of the Potomac was moving north. Additionally, he left four full brigades behind to screen Lee’s army under Grumble Jones and Beverly Robertson. The book states “the upshot is the blame for General Lee’s lack of intelligence cannot be deposited at Stuart’s feet.”
I am appalled that Mr. Gallagher would include any commentary regarding General Grant’s tactical abilities by Winston Churchill [“Blue&Gray,” August]. His condescending remarks about Grant such as “more is expected of high command than determination in thrusting men to their doom” or “tactics of unflinching butchery” are ridiculous when one reflects on Churchill’s own military blunders. Who can forget such sterling military achievements as the Gallipoli and Mesopotamian campaigns during WWI, when tens of thousands of British and troops of the empire were slaughtered, with little gain achieved?
Add to this his World War II faux pas, insisting on the invasion of Italy, referring to Italy as “the soft underbelly of Europe.” One of Churchill’s contemporaries more aptly referred to Italy as “a tough old gut.”
William R. Need
Originally published in the December 2013 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.