Sunday, March 23, 2008

Command Decision

My father and I paid a visit to Bennett Place North Carolina Historic Site, which reminded me how I first became interested in "Old Joe" Johnston, the Confederate commander who met there with Union General William T. Sherman in April 1865. At Bennett Place (which is located inside the present day Durham city limits), there's a small museum, reconstructed buildings and some mixed field and woods acreage commemorating the peace negotiations conducted on site between the two generals after the surrender of R.E. Lee to U.S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, and after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

What's always fascinated me is how history has been shaped and reshaped and distorted and then revised again and again over time. Many American history textbooks -- out of laziness, oversimplification, or romanticization of the "Lost Cause" and the Lee legend -- end the American Civil War at Appomattox. The Bennett (alternately Bennitt) Place, and additional post-Appomattox activities, belie this version. Simply put, the American Civil War continued after Appomattox. In real life, the narrative continued.

At some point, I'll have more to write about Johnston's role in the war, his bitter conflicts with Confederate President Jefferson Davis over seniority and strategy, and his decision, as (after Lee's surrender) senior Confederate field commander, to decisively overrule Davis.

Lee had surrendered about 28,000 men to Grant in Virginia; Johnston surrendered about 89,000 Confederates in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This was the largest batch of Confederates, but not the last, to surrender -- more would take place elsewhere in May and June 1865.

My dissertation: Joseph E. Johnston and the Family List (Temple, 2001).

Today's Rune: Movement.

Happy Easter and a special one to my pals Evan and Susan, who became "Catholicized" today. And, of course:
Go Tar Heels!


Charles Gramlich said...

Good point about the complexity of that war.

luma said...

Erik, I know little of the American civil war. A little beyond the one that Scarlet told! (laughs) Congratulations for its parents! How it was of Passover? For he is holiday there? Good week! Beijus

Johnny Yen said...

I do remember reading that Davis had a hare-brained scheme to continue the war, in a guerilla strategy. I look forward to your future post about Johnston.