Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/64

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54
Southern Historical Society Papers.

Did General Lee Violate his Oath in Siding with the Confederacy?

By Rev. Dr. J. L. M. CURRY.

The New York Independent of the 6th of June has a letter from Berlin, written by Dr. Joseph P. Thompson, from which I make the following extract:

During the American war the sympathies of the German people were strongly on the side of the North. They showed their good feeling toward the Union and their confidence in its success by subscribing largely for United States bonds, at a most critical period both for our arms and our finances—a confidence which Congress has abused in a most humiliating way by providing for cheating the bondholders out of eight cents on the dollar. Thus do we ourselves efface the glories of the war and of emancipation.

But while on the question of slavery and the Union the German people were with us, yet from a professional point of view military men in Germany rated the Southern generals, and especially Lee, above the generals of the Union. They do not seem to have mastered the grand strategy of Grant and Sherman, by which Richmond was at last shut up in a vice; the energy with which Grant drove Lee back to Richmond; the patience with which, having shut Lee up in his capital, he held him there, until Sherman's arrival at Charleston gave the signal for taking Richmond, without giving Lee a single chance of escape.

The other day, seeing it announced that Captain Mangold, instructor in the Royal Academy of Artillerists and Engineers, in Berlin, would give a lecture on General Lee, I was curious to hear how a German officer would picture the military leader of the Confederacy. Captain Mangold has been a conscientious student of the American war in its military bearings, and so well did he perform this task, with so much discrimination, candor, fairness, that I felt constrained to say to the lecturer: "Were I a Southerner, I could not ask for more; and as a Unionist I should not have been satisfied with less." Surely, all Americans are now ready to accord to Lee his just meed of praise for brave, honorable and skillful soldiership in a mistaken cause.

The lecture was a chapter from a book which Captain Mangold is writing upon the civil war in the United States, and was limited to a sketch of the personal character and the military career of General Lee. In the limits of an hour he could not give details of battles, and, indeed, he only sketched the Peninsula campaign. Briefly describing Lee's birth, family, education and early career in the United States army, and the relations of Virginia to the Union the lecturer entered directly upon the act of secession, by which Lee felt himself drawn with his State—though with reluctance and even protest—into the vortex of civil war. His skill as an engineer in planning the fortifications of Richmond; his manly modesty