Friday, January 23, 2009

More about freed slaves burying Union dead

Here is more about the photograph of the freed slaves disinterring and reburying with dignity the remains of the Union soldiers.

First, here is the background of the battle depicted in the picture. This is from the book “A. Lincoln: A Biography” by Ronald C. White, Jr:

Lincoln could see the cost of the battle in the streets of Washington as the wounded arrived throughout the day and night. Attorney General Edward Bates wrote in his diary on May 15, 1864, “For the last 8 or 10 days, the most terrible battles of the war have occurred in Virginia. The carnage has been unexampled.” After so much bloodshed, questions began to rise about the price of victory. Grant and Meade had suffered [my emphasis in bold letters here:] SIXTY THOUSAND CASUALTIES IN ONE MONTH OF FIGHTING, almost the size of Lee’s entire army. [My comment: again, compare that the USA has lost three to four thousand troops in all of Iraq and Afghanistan; the Union army lost sixty thousand in one month in the war against slavery].

The carnage increased as Grant attacked the crossroads called Cold Harbor at the beginning of June. Lee, for whom Grant had increasing respect, was turning this war into a war of attrition, and so Grant decided to mount a massive assault. On the morning of June 3, 1864, hundreds of troops pinned their names and addresses to their uniforms in a premonition of what lay ahead. In the next hours, Union soldiers charged forward and were met by a withering hail of bullets. Grant lost 7,000 men, while Lee, fighting from trenches, suffered 1,500 casualties. At the end of the day Grant stopped the attack, admitting defeat. The Union army learned that day what European armies would learn a half a century later in World War I: the deadly horrors of trench warfare. General George Mead wrote to his wife, “I think Grant has had his eyes opened, and is willing to admit now that Virginia and Lee’s army is not Tennessee and Bragg’s army.”

The public began to turn against Grant, but Lincoln did not. The president told Noah Brooks, “I wish when you write and speak to people you would do all you can to correct the impression that the war in Virginia will end right off victoriously.” He continued, “To me the most trying thing in al this war is that people are too sanguine; they expect too much at once.” Lincoln, who would not make predictions, told Brooks, “As God is my judge, I shall be satisfied if we are over with the fight in Virginia within a year” (p. 632).

So I went back to the bookstore today after lunch and bought the book where I had seen this tremendously moving photograph that I described in the previous day’s blogging. The book is “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” by James M. McPherson. Here is the caption to the two photographs that I described:

The grim harvest of war is illustrated by these two photographs. The one on the left was taken at Gettysburg on July 5, 1863, two days after the battle, showing the bloated corpses of Union soldiers killed there. The other photograph depicts freed slaves after the war disinterring the remains of Union soldiers who had been killed at Cold Harbor, Virginia, for the reburial in the national military cemetery established there. Those killed at Gettysburg were also reinterred in one of the first such cemeteries, where on November 19, 1863, Lincoln consecrated “these honored dead” and resolved that they “shall not have died in vain.” Seventy-two national cemeteries were ultimately created as the final resting places for Union soldiers who died in the Civil War-and also for later veterans of the U.S. armed forces. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (photographs located between pages 174-175).

Thus by cross referencing two books I found a description of the dreadful battle and Union soldiers toll with the photograph of the freed slaves disinterring the Union bodies and taking them to the new national cemeteries for honorable burial.

The photograph shows four freed slaves in the background digging with shovels into the ground to unearth the bodies. In the foreground a freed slave is crouched next to a simple stretcher upon which they have been piling the remains of the Union soldiers. There are five skulls visible among a pile of their bones and uniforms, and a leg with a boot dangles over the side. It is a remarkable and unforgettable photograph, one of the many treasures of the Library of Congress.

So there are two things we can think about. One is that in Washington, as President Obama was inaugurated, we all thought of how Washington was built by slaves. But we should also remember that Abraham Lincoln saw a constant inflow of the dead and wounded Union soldiers on that very same ground, who had fought and died to free the slaves. In one Virginia battle the dead Union soldiers were piled five deep.

I am making much of this point because young Afro-Americans have grown up only knowing one side of the equation, those who considered them less than human, less than objects and chattel. However, I believe that the self esteem of young Afro-Americans would have been raised if they understood the magnitude of the other side, which is that there were 600,000 Union casualties, dead and wounded, as the Union soldiers fought for the freedom of the slaves. To feel that no one but Abraham Lincoln cared about your ancestors is to forget that hundreds of thousands of people cared with their lives.

So my second thing that you can think about is that those who live near or pass by Cold Harbor, Virginia can stop and contemplate a real moment of history and Afro-American pride. That is in knowing that the Union soldiers who died by the thousand were not left to rot on the battlefield, but were disinterred by the freed slaves and buried in places of honor established by Lincoln and the government. That is something I’d want to tell my children about, and I guess I am now.

While researching this item I came across this passage from the book “Tried by War:”

When the news of Richmond’s fall reached the North, wild celebrations broke out. Lincoln felt the same way, but his response was more restrained. He met with Grant in Petersburg on April 3 and discussed the pursuit of Lee, which would bring him to bay at Appomattox six days later. Meanwhile Lincoln returned to Adm. David D. Porter’s flagship USS Malvern, anchored in the James River, and told Porter: “Thank God I have lived to see this! It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four years, and now the nightmare is gone. I want to see Richmond.”

Porter was dubious about taking the president to see the still-burning enemy capital two days after it fell. But Lincoln insisted, so they went. With an escort of just ten sailors, he walked the streets while thousands of freed slaves crowded to see the Moses they believed had led them to freedom. “I know that I am free,” shouted one woman, “for I have seen father Abraham and felt him.” To one black man who fell on his knees before him, an embarrassed Lincoln said: “Don’t kneel to me. That is not right. You must kneel to God only and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.” The president was profoundly moved by these encounters (p. 261).

By the way, notice that this reference to who and who is not God is on page 261. I’ve written before about how the media is infested with Antichrist obsessed people with weak mental and moral capabilities, who manipulate significant text in even textbooks to occur on what they consider a mystical number of the Antichrist and the beast, 126, 261 and 621. You can read more about this subliminal pushing of occult Antichrist agenda by following the labels I include on this post. It has ruined my enjoyment of media, such as books, for many years now. If I were Afro-American I would also be embarrassed and enraged to be pawns in these dispensationalist and cultists’ manipulation, by the way. It’s quite an insult to be used that way when Afro-Americans have traditionally been the most faithful to pure Christianity and their God. Lincoln would be mortified that his words and deeds have been exploited by those who manipulate for occult purposes.

I have in front of me the Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, which I have quoted from before. I will close this blogging with the first note that he wrote to Robert E. Lee after the fall of Richmond. In a future blog posting I might group all the correspondence together so you can read and enjoy it as I have. I include it because General Grant was quite stoic about the incredible loss of life, and it is here as he urges Lee to surrender (which Lee rejects) that Grant refers to the carnage.

Headquarters Armies of the U.S., 5 P.M., April 7, 1865

General R. E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.
The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of that position of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.