Trashing George Thomas

Thomas the TraitorOh my. I didn’t know Thomas swore an oath of loyalty to Virginia …I always thought it was to the United States.

It’s also hard to see how this strained argument does not make the concession that Lee and Jackson were in fact traitors. One could argue that while Lee and Jackson were traitors, Thomas was not. However, if you argue that Thomas was a traitor, you have to concede that Lee and Jackson were traitors. So there is a silver lining here.

 

17 thoughts on “Trashing George Thomas

  1. neukomment April 26, 2014 / 6:43 am

    Pap Thomas kept his sworn oath and word. Lee and Jackson did not…. Case closed…. My Great-Grandfather was with the Ohio 182nd Inf. at the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864…. Those Ohio veterans will testify to. Thomas’s patriotism…..

  2. John Foskett April 26, 2014 / 8:25 am

    If I’m correct, the three West Pointers named here took the following solemn oath:

    ” “I, _____, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.”

    Note: it doesn’t say “subject to my overriding loyalty to my individual native State.Additional note: It doesn’t say “Revocable at any time.”” All three were also trained and educated at the expense of the United States. Only one of three, however, was faithful to his oath. Only in the hallucinogenic world of this crowd does that make him the traitor.

    • tmheaney April 26, 2014 / 11:43 am

      ‘Upon meeting a Southern officer who said that he loved his State more than he loved his flag, [Robert] Anderson responded, “The selection of the place in which we were born was not an act of our own volition; but when we took the oath of allegiance to our Government, it was an act of our manhood, and that oath we cannot break.”’
      (Eliza McIntosh Glinch Anderson Lawton, “Major Robert Anderson and Fort Sumter, 1861,” 1911)

      • John Foskett April 27, 2014 / 8:24 am

        That is a crucial point here. Most states had, and have, provisions which penalize “treason against the state.” The Virginia provision was enacted in its 1848 Criminal Code. It was applied to Brown in an example of the types of gamesmanship which could be brought into play, because Brown was not a “citizen” of Virginia and had not voluntarily sworn an oath to Virginia. Rhode Island’s provision was applied in the Dorr Rebellion in the 1840’s and I believe that Missouri’s may have been applied against Joseph Smith. But those provisions, and that in the United States Constitution, ordinarily will apply based on the fact of “citizenship”, which in most cases is an accident of birth. One can buy into the flawed secession theology and construct an artificial world in which citizenship in the State trumps citizenship in the United States. Regarding Lee, Jackson, and Thomas, however, one need not get into the thicket cultivated by Lost Cause apologists which suggests that they faced an unresolvable dilemma as a result of “citizenship”. As Anderson so eloquently put it, they voluntarily took an oath to the United States. Game, set, and match. Only one of the three honored his freely-taken oath. The other two chose to dishonor it. That means that they were not men who were true to their word. And it makes them traitors.

    • Jimmy Dick April 26, 2014 / 3:31 pm

      Now you have the modern version who call themselves Oathkeepers who think their interpretation of the Constitution means they don’t have to obey orders. They’re really Oathbreakers. It seems their version of the Constitution is that right wing extremist version that has been rejected by the courts and the majority of Americans. Yet, they think they can just do whatever they want.

  3. tmheaney April 26, 2014 / 9:54 am

    While Thomas was certainly shunned by his family, Thomas got quite a bit of recognition from the “Northerners” after the war. Indeed, the only reason he wasn’t promoted to Lt. General was because he refused the honor. He also refused to do any public self promotion such as writing his memoirs or writing essays defending his actions during the war (as so many others did . . . [“Longstreet” cough cough]). So, what evidence is there that he was “ignored and passed over by the Yankee military”?

    Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the Senate and House of Representatives have heard with deep regret of the sudden decease of Major-General George H. Thomas, endeared to the country by a series of unbroken, patriotic services during a period of thirty years.
    Section 2. – And be it further resolved, – That his distinguished career in the defense of his country against foreign and domestic enemies, his never faltering faith and zeal in the maintenance of the Union and the integrity of the Government, and his stern execution of every trust confided to him, constitute a record in life made memorable in death.
    Section 3. – And be it further resolved, – That the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, are hereby authorized to make such arrangements in connection with his obsequies as will attest the sympathy of Congress at this national bereavement.

    A shame his family lacked the Christian quality of forgiveness, though.

    • M.D. Blough April 26, 2014 / 12:15 pm

      Why the crack about Longstreet? He was one of many Civil War figures who wrote his memoirs. In Longstreet’s case, it was in response to a decades long campaign of character assassination starting with a lie so blatant that even Lee’s adoring aides disowned it because Longstreet had the nerve to accept that the rebels had been defeated. Otherwise, I quite agree with you about Thomas.

      • Brooks D. Simpson April 26, 2014 / 4:26 pm

        Thomas died while penning a defense of his actions during the Nashville campaign.

      • tmheaney April 26, 2014 / 4:33 pm

        Sorry, that wasn’t really meant to be a criticism of Longstreet. He’s just a good example of someone who spent a fair bit of energy try to justify his actions and shape the memory of his role in the war in contrast to Thomas. I’m actually a big fan of Ole Pete. So, my apologies.

        • tmheaney April 26, 2014 / 5:12 pm

          Well, see? He couldn’t even bring himself to complete that task; he had a stroke just trying to do it. His body was so pure and honorable, it died rather than let him do what I mistakenly said he didn’t do.

  4. Jim H April 26, 2014 / 1:52 pm

    After the catastrophe at Chickamauga, Pap Thomas rallied a number of troops, including my great-grandfather’s light artillery battery, and held out till dark to cover the retreat to Chattanooga. “The Rock of Chickamauga” was a very capable commander, and trusted enough by Grant and Lincoln to replace Rosecrans after his very unlucky blunder.

  5. chancery April 26, 2014 / 3:28 pm

    The trial of John Brown showed that antebellum Virginia courts were capable of stretching the meaning of “treason against Virginia” to mean practically anything.

    • Andy Hall April 26, 2014 / 4:09 pm

      The case of John Brown shows that proud Virginians were unable to get their shit together enough to deal with twenty men holed up in a forty-foot-square engine house in the middle of a military armory without calling for military assistance from the federal government. Even after Colonel Lee arrived from Washington and got things organized, the brave sons of the Old Dominion declined to take part in the assault on the engine house, leaving it to federal forces, the Marines, to take the actual physical risk of getting shot or being run through with a pike. It was only *after* the hard, dangerous part had been handled by the federal government, when Brown and his men were either dead or in irons, that the Virginians boldly asserted their authority under states’ rights to imprison, try and execute Brown.

  6. Will Hickox April 26, 2014 / 3:43 pm

    Nothing so incriminates a war criminal like the fact that acorns didn’t grow at his grave site. Case closed.

  7. Bob Huddleston April 27, 2014 / 10:00 am

    When did Lee and Jackson swear an oath to Virginia?

    • John Foskett April 27, 2014 / 1:29 pm

      I’m not aware that they ever did – at least before they reneged on their federal oaths. I also believe (but could be wrong) that the cadet oath at the school where Jackson taught (but was never a cadet) swore fealty to the school but didn’t mention the Commonwealth of Virginia.

  8. Bob Huddleston April 27, 2014 / 7:30 pm

    One of the fascinating points of the Civil War was the willingness of the Lincoln Administration to allow US Army and Navy officers to resign and go south, often before their resignations had been accepted. Lee double-dipped for a couple of days, Longstreet for a month or more and Lewis Armistead tried to wait and kept bouncing back and forth from Los Angeles to his duty station in San Diego. At one point he was carried AWOL since no one – including himself! – knew where he should be. He at least waited until the approval came through.

    Some, like Carter Stevenson and Dabney Maury, did not bother with the technicalities and were consequently dismissed from the US Army.

    But most of the active duty Southern officers took their responsibilities seriously and followed the forms and the United States let them go! Can you imagine that happening today: they would be thrown in jail as traitors, and definitely not be allowed to use their skills against the United States.

    In 1860-61 the attitude it seems everyone had was once an officer resigned, *all* their obligations to the US were over. Even USAHMI has not been able to figure out whether a resignation ended one’s obligations! (see their on-line bibliography)

    The 1858 Army Regulations had this to say about the procedures for accepting resignations of officers [Material in brackets was added in the August 1861 edition]:

    ARTICLE V.
    RESIGNATIONS OF OFFICERS.

    24. No officer will be considered out of service on the tender of his resignation, until it shall have been duly accepted by the proper authority. [Any officer who, having tendered his resignation, shall, prior to due notice of the acceptance of the same by the proper authority, and, without leave, quit his post or proper duties with the intent to remain permanently absent therefrom, shall be registered as a deserter, and punished as such.]
    25. Resignations will be forwarded by the commanding officer to the Adjutant-General of the army for decision of the War Department; and with them, where leave is given, the officer’s address.
    26. Resignations tendered under charges, when forwarded by any commander, will always be accompanied by a copy of the charges; or, in the absence of written charges, by a report of the case, for the information of the Secretary of War.
    27. Before presenting the resignation of any officer, the Adjutant-General will ascertain and report to the War Department the state of such officer’s accounts of money, as well as of public property, for which he may have been responsible.
    28. In time of war, or with an army in the field, resignations shall take effect within thirty days from the date of the order of acceptance.
    29. Leaves of absence will not be granted by commanding officers to officers on tendering their resignation, unless the resignation be unconditional and immediate.

    Cadets took an oath when entering the Military Academy and, after commissioning, on each promotion when they accepted the higher rank. Interestingly enough, R.E. Lee’s 201 file has his oath and acceptance when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1855, but, although the acceptance for his promotion to colonel, on March 16, 1861 is in the file, the oath of allegiance is not there. Did it simply disappear over the years, gone to some souvenir hunter, or did he not file it? (BTW, Lee – and Grant – have 201 Files although it was not invented until the 20th Century. The reason I can explain later)

    The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress 29 September 1789 (Sec. 3, Ch. 25, 1st Congress). It applied to all commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States. It came in two parts, the first of which read: “I, A.B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the constitution of the United States.” The second part read: “I, A.B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and to observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over me.” The next section of that chapter specified “the said troops shall be governed by the rules and articles of war, which have been established by the United States in Congress assembled, or by such rules and articles of war as may hereafter by law be established.”

    It was slightly changed in 1813 (Sec 13, Chap 16, 12th Congress, 2nd Sess.) to “I, A.B., do solemnly swear or affirm, (as the case may be,) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America; and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against their enemies or opposers whomsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles of war.”

    A change in about 1830 read: “I, _________, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.” See http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/faq/oaths.htm but I cannot find statutory authority. Article 10 of the 1857 Articles of War quotes this as the oath to be administered to enlisted men.

    An act of August 3, 1861 required all cadets now in service or later joining the Academy had to take a new oath, “I, A.B., do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and bear true allegiance to the national government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, to Fealty that I may owe to any state, county, or country, whatsoever and that I will at all times obey, the legal orders of my superior officers and the rules and articles governing the armies of the United States.” (Sec. 8, Chap. 42, Vol. 12, p. 287)

    Under an act of 2 July 1862 (Chap. 128, 37th Cong., 2d Sess.) the (“Iron-Clad”) oath became: “I, A.B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have never borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto; that I have neither sought nor accepted nor attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatsoever under any authority or pretended authority in hostility to the United States; that I have not yielded voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto. And I do further swear (or affirm) that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.”

    An act of 13 May 1884 removed the “Ironclad” issue: “I, A.B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This version remained in effect until the 1959 adoption of the present wording:
    “I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.” (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

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