Confusing Politics with History


It happened three years ago. While testifying before congress, General Mark Milley called those who served in the Confederate Army traitors. At that moment I realized something significant was taking place. Why would the chairman of the Joint Chiefs feel he could make such a political statement in public, in uniform?

I don’t know very much about the Civil War, and I knew even less then. I had read some 19th century history and a few biographies of Lincoln, Grant, and Stonewall Jackson. I considered secession and the causes of the war itself complex subjects. This is why I concluded that Milley’s testimony was political.

We have an important tradition in this country that senior military leaders stay out of national politics. I saw this eroding. In addition to Milley, the Chief of Naval Operations included modern leftist material on his recommended reading list. A goofy colonel made a 5-minute video on slavery and the Civil War in uniform for Prager University. I had not been paying attention, and these seemed like giant leaps in a dangerous direction.

Suddenly, I was interested in the history. I wanted to understand what was true. Were those Confederates traitors? I have found that my initial reaction was likely correct. It is a complex topic. I believe they were not, and I have a firm rationale based on evidence. Yet, it is far from indisputable or “settled” history.

There are facts in history. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. To make that statement is not political. There are also complex questions in history. In 1860, was secession seen as a legitimate action by a State? The answer to that question for an individual will most likely align to their politics or worldview. Here is another fact. A 19th century Northern abolitionist argued powerfully that Confederates were not traitors.

The proposed destruction of a monument in a cemetery is political. Don’t be fooled by historians claiming otherwise.



Garrick Sapp at Trudge to Truth

Career consultant turned substitute teacher and writer. I enjoy the outdoors and poker.