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Lee Reconsidered

June 2024
1min read

Mr. Ward replies: My object was not to trash anyone. Lee Considered represents, as I wrote, the case for the prosecution. But Lee’s next biographer will clearly have to respond to the charges it specifies.

Charles Royster should not be blamed for my error. I am sorry that my sloppy writing suggested that Jackson’s Valley Campaign somehow set the standard for savagery against civilians. It clearly did not—and Royster never claims it did. But Jackson’s enthusiasm for killing in what he believed to be a righteous cause seems indisputable. Even before the shooting began he was urging that, should Virginia be invaded, no prisoners be taken, and when, after Jackson had helped direct the slaughter of Union troops at Fredericksburg, a young officer asked him “What can we do?” about Federal looters, he responded, “Do? Why, shoot them.”

Mr. Rollins is right that Jackson never had the opportunity to make war on civilians, but I believe he is wrong about his lacking the “inclination.” In September 1862 Jackson urged an invasion of the North “to give them a taste of war.” And he later outlined to Gen. Gustavus W. Smith just what he had in mind: the Confederate army, he said, should “destroy individual establishments wherever we [find] them, break up the lines of interior commercial intercourse, close the coal mines, seize and, if necessary, destroy the manufactories and commerce of Philadelphia, and of other large cities within our reach;…subsist mainly on the country and making unrelenting war amidst their homes, force the people of the North to understand what it will cost them to hold the South in the Union at bayonet’s point.”

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