Saturday, January 1, 2011

Union Veterans and Robert E. Lee - the GAR Has Its Say

Greetings Cosmic Americans! And Happy New Year - I hope this very first post of 2011 finds you all healthy and happy.

In an effort to bring some of my yet unpublished research to the world at large, I thought I would post a snippet here and there of interest. Some of the subjects I am sure you will find controversial - so comments are welcome. For example - during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Union veterans had a few choice words for their enemies - like Robert E. Lee. Enjoy...

Lee’s legacy suffered a long and enduring attack at the hands of his former adversaries. Union veterans remained determined to praise only the Union heroes who saved the country, rather than a Rebel who had tried to destroy it. The praise allotted to the rebel chieftain that was taking place all over the country wore Grand Army of the Republic veterans particularly thin. One Collier’s Weekly article citing Lee as America’s most “noble citizen” especially drew fire from the GAR’s patriotic instructor, Robert Kissick of Iowa. “If Lee was all you claim, then the men I represent were wrong in fighting to preserve the nation he fought to destroy.” Further arguing that “Lee did not follow his state out of the Union,” but rather, “his state followed him,” Kissick lambasted the Confederate hero and heaped much of the blame for upper South secession on Lee’s shoulders. As decades past, few Union veterans could stomach the praise of Robert E. Lee. In 1922, when the American Legion attempted to honor Lee’s birthday, veterans of the Pennsylvania GAR shuddered at the idea that anyone would “place a premium on Disloyalty to the Flag and our Country.”

Union veterans embraced reconciliation – but on their own terms. They made sure to remind Americans (as did Confederate veterans) of exactly who, from their perspective, was right and who was wrong. Stay tuned - I'll be posting more of these little tidbits over the next months. Don't worry...each side will have their say.

Peace and Happy New Year,



  1. Good stuff, Keith. I look forward to hearing more. As I'm sure you know, not all Union veterans felt the same way. Some Union vets participated in events that seem to have compromised their own sacrifice. This too drew the criticism of a number of Union veterans. On that note, I'll post something that I found again, with added commentary in relation to your post here.

  2. [...] Harris has an interesting post up today, discussing how G.A.R. members saw Robert E. Lee in postwar remembrance. Between this and their [...]