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General George H. Thomas - George Thomas - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 08:45 pm
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ole
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"Deprecate" is a bit strong. Thomas had a different method. To Grant and Sherman and others, he was slow. We might now recognize the trait as meticulous preparation, but they saw it as "slow." And they said so. But Thomas's value was such that they accommodated "slow" and gave him huge responsibilities. That they might have considered him slow did not at all deter them from trusting him to take on critical tasks.

ole



 Posted: Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 02:45 am
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slowtrot
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Texas Defender wrote:     When an person takes an oath to become an officer (military or civilian), he pledges to defend the Constitution of the United States. As long as he occupies that position, he is bound to honor his commitment.

   However, the officer has the option to resign his office. If the office is vacated, that person cannot be legally or morally bound to that oath. The oath is for the period of time that the person is a federal officer. It is NOT some kind of lifetime commitment.

  When I chose to become a military officer, I pledged to protect the Constitution, and to obey the orders of those military officers appointed to higher office. If I had resigned my commission, I would no longer have had to obey the orders of military officers. Nor would soldiers have been bound to obey orders from me.

  The idea that officers who resigned their commissions, whether to join the Confederate service or not, somehow violated their oaths of office is fallacious. The idea that because General Thomas chose to remain in the federal service and Robert E. Lee did not does not mean that Lee did not take his oath of office as a federal officer as seriously as George Thomas did his.

   If the officer performed his duties faithfully and well while in the federal service, he fulfilled his obligations under the oath of office that he took. When he resigned that office, his obligations ended.




I don’t know about that. Dumping his oath as an expediency to join an enemy of his former country sounds a bit Machiavellian to me! Gee! I think I’ll keep this oath as long as it serves my purpose, then when it doesn’t I’ll quit and take someone else’s oath. When the going gets tough, jump ship, or change loyalties. On April 20, three days after Virginia seceded from the Union, he submitted his resignation from the U.S. Army. On April 23 he became commander in chief of the military and naval forces of Virginia. Changing sides has some quick benefits. Eh?

So, as I said, I think Thomas thought his oath meant something more. Maybe that’s why people likened him to a Rock.

 

Don



 Posted: Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 03:11 am
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Texas Defender
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   Lee did not: "dump" his oath because his loyalty to his state was a higher priority to him than the federal government.  He gave over thirty years of faithful service to the US Government. When forced to choose between the US Government and Virginia, he chose Virginia. If he had been: "Machiavellian", as you maintain, he would have accepted command of the Union armies, and been viewed today as one of the greatest US Army generals, instead of a Confederate Army one.

   When he resigned his commission, it was to offer his services to his state, which was not yet a member of the Confederacy. When Virginia seceded, as far as most Virginians were concerned, it ceased to be a part of the United States. It became an : "enemy" because Mr. Lincoln would not allow it to leave peacefully. It would have pleased General Lee much more if he never had to practice the military profession again. I'm sure that he saw no: "benefits" in what transpired for the next four years.

   Both General Lee and General Thomas had a terrible choice to make, for which both knew that there would be a terrible price to pay, no matter what they chose. As I said previously on this thread, I respect both men very much. It is too bad that you do not.

  



 Posted: Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 03:23 am
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Slowtrot,

I am currently in the process of reading "Reading the Man," by historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor. It is a collection of previously unpublished letters and documents of Robert E. Lee, with commentary by Pryor.

I just finished the chapter on Lee resigning his commission. Lee, as we all know, struggled with his decision and did not take it lightly.

Here is the last graph of the chapter:

"That pensive, disciplined Robert E. Lee made an emotional decision affects each of us every day. One of the most trenchant 'what-ifs' of the Civil War is the question of how Lee's stance shaped the course of the nation. We sense that history would have been altered if the options presented to Lee — resignation; leadership of the Union troops; acceptance of high command in Virginia — had been decided differently. We do not know exactly how this would have developed, but intuitively we know it to be true. Lee's dilemma was not simply a historic wrestling match between right and wrong, patriotism or treachery. It stands as a critical moment in our nation's pageant because it forces us to consider some very basic questions. What is patriotism? Who commands our first loyalty? Can loyalty be divided and still be true? And who decides truth anyway? It is the excructiating gray area that makes these questions universal. Lee tells us that the answer to each is highly subjective. By taking a stand and never turning back, Lee also teaches us that they must be faced by every individual at the moment they are summoned, no matter how unsure or unprepared, and that the grandest theories in the world fall away at the moment of heightened instinct. And then his decision tells us something more: that following the heart's truth may lead to censure, or agonizing defeat — and yet may be honored in itself.'



 Posted: Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 07:45 am
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Both General Lee and General Thomas had a terrible choice to make, for which both knew that there would be a terrible price to pay, no matter what they chose. As I said previously on this thread, I respect both men very much. It is too bad that you do not.

  
 Defender I agree wholeheartly with you on this point .  I think each man searched their heart and soul and did what they felt was best .  It is a decision I would hate to have to make.  I too respect both men.  I find many men on both sides of this war that I can respect and admire. 

I have a problem when someone has to tear one person down to build another up.  Both these men deserve to be honored and respected.  They gave up so much to follow the path they chose.  I can't even imagine never speaking to my brother again.  Yet George's sisters never did , turned his picture to the wall.

Lee lost so much , the insult at the time of burying Union soldiers on the grounds of his family home (actually his wife's) .  That can't have been a small thing to him. 

We talk so much about loyality to our country.  We have to remember it was different then.  We are now so connected .  Look at this forum.  We live all over rhe USA but here we are talking to each other instantly on line.  We walk around (well some do) with cell phones staying in touch constantly.  Nightly news tells us and breaking news even more shows us something happening all the way across the continent and the world .  You all all over the USA saw our fires burning here in Southern California. 

At the time of Thomas and Lee most people only knew what was going on right around them.  Their loyality was to first their family , their community and their state, then their country.  Soldiers moved around.  I have noticed many men married ladies from a different region of the county.  I find it interesting to see which side they chose considering the factor of where their wife was from.  Would be interesting to chart it but that is for someone else  to do .  Just that Thomas did marry a northern woman and Lee not only a southern woman but from one of the leading famlies . 

Lee's roots were deep in Southern tradition ,Virginia .   He did move around to various post in his military career but the home was Arlington .    Thomas too had that southern home but he had a northern wife and I am sure she and her family would have a pull on him . 

I had never thought of it before but men like Lee did resign from the US army.  After they resign I agree they would no longer be held to an oath they followed while serving in the military. 

I have seen many headstones that mention dying in the country they love and it is a reference to the state .  I am thinking of one in particular in the Lexington Cemetery near Jackson's monument.  The man had done everything from Texas Independence to  Civil War.  His tombstone says Died in the country he loved --Viriginia.  

Who was right ?  Who made the best choice?  Who knows?  We can't go back in time and ask .  We can only respect each man's choice for what they did and why they did it . 

Oh  and was Washington wrong when he joined the Continental Army ?  He had served in the British Army in the Indian Wars , Did he not take his oath to the British Army seriously  when he became the Commander of the Continental Army?  Does an oath is an oath apply here?   Things that make you go hmmmm

Susan



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 02:28 am
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SusanSweet Said"

"I have a problem when someone has to tear one person down to build another up."

Now, as to your first accusation that I "tear Lee down to build up Thomas." You must have visited some of the same sites that I did. That’s one of the first allegations thrown out when ones hero’s morals or values or abilities are questioned. My usual answer is "Because it’s so easy." That response is used because I usually direct my comments to Grant and Sherman. Neither of which "I" believe deserves the idolatry they receive.

In my original post I questioned Thomas’ decision also. I stated that he married a northern girl with the implication that she may have influenced his decision. I fortified that with a statement that Maury (Dabney H. http://civilwarriors.net/wordpress/?p=232 )also thought she might have influenced him. Can’t you accuse me of slandering both?

Why do you defend only Lee?

Here is a site dealing with the deviciveness of two schools of thought about Lee. Interesting read.

http://civilwarmemory.typepad.com/civil_war_memory/2007/10/peter-carmichae.html

Don

Last edited on Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 12:07 pm by slowtrot



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 03:06 am
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"Texasdefender said:

"The idea that officers who resigned their commissions, whether to join the Confederate service or not, somehow violated their oaths of office is fallacious."

There appears to be some dispute about that statement!

"A U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, former instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School and NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program, with a 20-year Air Force career said the following:

"I am 100% convinced that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were planned, organized, and committed by treasonous perpetrators that have infiltrated the highest levels of our government

Those of us in the military took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic". Just because we have retired does not make that oath invalid, so it is not just our responsibility, it is our duty to expose the real perpetrators of 9/11 and bring them to justice, no matter how hard it is, how long it takes, or how much we have to suffer to do it."

 

Don



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 03:54 am
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Slowtrot-

  Apparently you have never been in the military, since you don't know the difference between resigning your commission and being in retired status.

  I am a retired Army officer. That means that I am still a member of the military, though I have retired. In theory, at least, I can be reactivated. Since I did not resign my commission, the oath I took to defend the Constitution still applies.

  If I had chosen at some point in the past to resign my commission, I would have cut all my ties to the military, and under those circumstances, I would have no further obligation to the national government.

  If the retired Air Force pilot you cite is genuine, and if he believes that the September 11, 2001 attack was an "inside job," then I feel sorry for him. Perhaps the supply to his oxygen mask malfunctioned at some time during his career.

Last edited on Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 04:00 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 04:25 am
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Why do you defend only Lee?


I dont' think I did .  What I wrote said  Both these men deserve to be honored and respected.  They gave up so much to follow the path they chose



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 03:12 pm
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I disagree on the aspect of an oath, a mans word was his bond. Enlisted men did not have the option of resigning their commision so they might hurt their country... neither should officers. Some of those resignations were applied after officers had willfully betrayed their men and country.

There is no end date on that oath, it is reaffirmed now w/ every enlistment. IMO those officers who dropped their oath because it was no longer convenient betrayed their word and they betrayed the nation that had educated and given them a career.

An oath doesn't have an appelet on the end that states "so long as is convenient."

Just my couple pennies worth influenced by the writings of a couple Regulars who were on the receiving end of what they saw as the basest betrayal.



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 03:25 pm
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I think it is VITAL that both Lee & Thomas be honored. IMO both were outstanding soldiers and good men who made a tough decision and stuck w/ it.

Neither were they the only to have a very tough decision to make; there were quite a few resignations. IMO many lacked the integrity of Lee's. I do not believe either Lee or Thomas looked at it as a way to advance their careers; though others certainly did. I see more of that in the actions of Davis, but that is another matter entirely. There were several Post commanders that resigned only after they guranteed the CS got the most out of their resignation. Those were the men who commited treason of the highest order IMO.

Texas Defender... you're spot on about that particular officer lacking Oxygen at some point.

I like Thomas, not so much because he remained loyal to his oath and country but because he was such a capable military commander. He was careful and as inexorable as a mudslide and his men generally adored him; nuff said.



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 05:18 pm
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slowtrot
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Johan Steele wrote: "Texas Defender... you're spot on about that particular officer lacking Oxygen at some point."



I posted the statement as an example of another view of what oath's entailed.  Apparently somewhat nearer to your view Mr. Steele. 

As to his view of who were the perpetrator's of 9/11, I tend to agree with both of you.  But, this is a free country and as any lawyer will tell you it's "freedom of speech."  I also have some thoughts about that.

 

Don

 



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 05:37 pm
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I think it is VITAL that both Lee & Thomas be honored. IMO both were outstanding soldiers and good men who made a tough decision and stuck w/ it.

Johan  my feelings too.  I agree with this statement .  That is what is important that both be honored. 

I also know there were some commanders that did turn everything over to the Confederates but others like Albert Sidney Johnston did not .  They were honorable men. 

I tend to pick and chose between both sides which men I feel deserve respect for their actions during and even after the war.

Lee and Thomas are two . 



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 05:49 pm
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My thoughts on both men are this: Lee was overrated & Thomas underrated. Why? A lot can be gleaned from what the men thought of their commanders; the men of both generals idolized their men... the same is true of Sherman. Then again you have officers who hed their men despise them and they are idolized bny the stay behinders... Jackson stands out. I've never quite figured that out.

AS this is a thread about Thomas, and I like him anyway I'll concentrate on him.

His men idolized him, thought him the best general of the war, bar none. His enemies respected him, that in itself speaks volumes. Even the men who disliked him, both Sherman & Grant didn't think highly of him, respected his prowess as a profesional soldier.

That said Thomas only faced the CS "A" Team once and to be honest he clocked Longstreet good on that hill. How would he have fraed against Lee? We'll not know, and I despise what if's as they detract from actual research.

Sherman w/ Thomas was a good choice, he was as dependable and as stable a commander as served under Sherman. SAome would argue the most capable. And it speaks volumes that Sherman placed Thomas in command to deal w/ Hoods TN campaign. He was a good choice.



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 06:01 pm
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I don't think for many officers that resigning their commissions was an act of convenience, but rather an act of conscience. I also think they took their Federal oath seriously. It's all part of the agony that is our Civil War, an agony that is at once both singular and awful in every respect. Also, we must be careful not to apply our 21st century sensibilities against 19th century virtues. For many, a man considered his state to his his "country," as Susan noted. That concept might not make much sense to us now, but it was no doubt very real then. If you can accept that premise, then imagine living all your life in the southern state of your birth and suddenly waking up one day to find that essentially you were living in two countries at once without taking a step in any direction. Where does your loyalty lie then? With your home? With your family? With your country? Tough choices. What's convenient about that? It goes directly to what Pryor was saying when she wrote, "What is patriotism? Who commands our first loyalty? Can loyalty be divided and still be true? And who decides truth anyway?"

Who, indeed.

One man's loyalty is another man's betrayal. That's what is at the bleeding heart of the Civil War. Now, with nearly 150 years of hindsight, it might be easy to suggest Lee betrayed his oath. Not quite so easy to say that back then.



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 06:32 pm
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Johan-

   You and I agree on more points here than we disagree on.

   For example, as long as an officer wears the uniform of the United States, he should not purposely damage its personnel, equipment, or interests. If he doesn't like what the government is doing, he can resign. In the case of enlisted personnel, they can complete their enlistments and then choose not to enlist again. That is more honorable than engaging in some treachery or conspiracy while still wearing the uniform.

   We agree that Robert E. Lee resigned with integrity. He could have done great damage to the federal cause, either by omission or commission if that had been his aim.

   I am curious to hear your views on some other officers. One for example was Richard Kidder Meade, West Point Class of 1857. He was an officer stationed at Ft. Sumter when it was attacked. Soon after that, he resigned his commission and then joined the cause of the Confederacy. He died in 1862.

   Another interesting officer was Frank Crawford Armstrong, the stepson of US Army General Persifor Smith. He was a regular Army officer who fought on the Union side at First Manassas. Soon after that, he decided that his loyalty was to the other side. In August of 1861, he resigned his commission and became a Confederate officer. In 1863, he became a brigadier general, and he continued to the end of the war.

   In the 1880s and 1890s, he was again employed by the US government as an Indian inspector, and later as the Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

   Do you put these two men in the same category as General Lee, or with those who betrayed the cause that had employed them up until their resignations? (David Emanuel Twiggs might be an example of that type). Did the fact that they decided that their loyalty was to the other side mean that they: "Broke their word," or somehow violated the oath that they took when first commissioned?

   What should the federal government have done with such men? Not accepted their resignations? Put them in jail? In almost all cases, the government of the day accepted the resignations and let them go on their way. Clearly, it would be handled differently now.

   I know that when a person leaves the military, there is no longer a legal obligation to serve the government. But you seem to think that there is, or at least should be, some moral obligation. What should an honorable officer do when his government follows a course that he is against?

   To me, the only honorable course under those circumstances is to resign, to completely remove yourself from government service. How can this be viewed as :"breaking your word," or :"violating your trust?" That is simply not the case.

   Accepting a commission does not obligate you to a lifetime of government service. Taking an oath upon entering federal office requires your loyalty while occupying that office. If the military had the view of it that the oath applied for ones entire lifetime, then there would be no need to administer a fresh oath when a person re-enlisted.

  

Last edited on Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 06:50 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 10:50 pm
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I've put a lot of thought into the subject over the years. To me men like Lee & Johnston who resigned their commisions and did so in a way that guaranteed their actions would in no way harm the men they commanded or the country they had served were a different sort than those who conspired to surender their commands in such a way to benefit the CS, a Nation at that point that was certainly a clear & present danger to the US. IN these men I am specifically referring to those in TX. As I'm away from my references at the moment I don't know their names. The men who were surrendered were less than appreciative of what they felt was a base & cowardly betrayal. There were others but I don't recall where.

Those officers out Cali way who resigned and took ship eastward to join the CS were those I believe who resigned their commisions in good faith.

I was honorably discharged and continued on in the Reserves was honorably discharged from that and continued on in the American Legion. I do believe a man who has given his oath to protect & serve is bound by it and that oath has no end date.

I was present when a question of why the oath was administered upon each re-enlistment... the answer was that it was a reminder as to what exactly that oath was. I have accepted that and agree w/ it.

I do believe some of those who resigned did so in good faith, but certainly not all.

What should an officer do? Resign and get the hell out. Bearing arms against your own country is, IMO, treason. Yes, Wasington commited treason against England. He knew that and he knew the consequences if he failed.



 Posted: Sun Nov 4th, 2007 06:27 am
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Why is it that always in debates, depending on views, we must demean that of ones actions to build up anothers? It annoys me to no end. Similar to sports fans who chant "over-rated!" again and again where their team beats a higher ranked foe. By chanting over-rated, you are demeaning your own accomplishment. If Lee was, as the vogue opinion many places seems to be, nothing but a butcher with some tactical qualities but little capacity for strategic thought, then that means that Grant, and others that opposed Lee, were really not particuarly good generals (lest they would have defeated him in very short order).

I tire of debating Lee's merits as an Army Commander, as this subject has been broached on other threads repeatedly. Suffice to say I believe he was superb, and by extension then Grant was also superb. They both had their particular qualities and faults (Gasps from the pro-union crowd-Grant and Thomas had faults? Blasphemy!; Gasps from the pro-southern side-Lee and Jackson had faults? Blasphemy!).

Many commanders are under-rated, Thomas is not the only one (north or south). The fact that this thread was started in order to discuss his merits as field general, and already has influenced us to take up other topics seemingly more interesting does not bode well for Mr. Thomas' future recognition. lol



 Posted: Sun Nov 4th, 2007 12:44 pm
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Kentucky, the Lost Cause has idolized, overrated Lee to the point of ridiculousness. Lee did this, Lee did that... no his men did this & did that he put them in the place where they could and then he prayed to God that they would hold. IMHO Lee's men are the one's who deserve the credit, not Lee.



 Posted: Sun Nov 4th, 2007 10:35 pm
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Mostlty agree, Johan, but all the generals deserve some credit for the actions of their troops. They controlled the colonels who controlled the regiments. I wouldn't say how much credit they should get, but the goals of the commander ought to trickle down to the private.

Would that collection of western boys be the "Iron Brigade" without Gibbon? Or those Virginia boys bear the name "Stonewall Brigade" so proudly?

ole



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