President Dwight D. Eisenhower Loved Robert E. Lee; Gen. Jack Keane Is Clueless.

Eisenhower speaks with some of the 101st Airborne Division June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion.
Eisenhower speaks with some of the 101st Airborne Division June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Loved Robert E. Lee;
Gen. Jack Keane Is Clueless.

by Gene Kizer, Jr.

I want to make it clear that I have the greatest respect for Gen. Jack Keane, both for his service to our country, and as a commentator on military matters for Fox News. Gen. Keane is astute and highly credible to me. When he is on, I know I am getting good analysis. I have never disagreed with Gen. Keane on anything until a week ago.

On the evening of June 11, 2020, Gen. Keane was on The Story with Martha MacCallum on Fox News discussing the renaming of the 10 U.S. Army bases named for Confederate generals such as Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Gen. Keane was against renaming the bases for basically the same reason President Trump is, because all of those bases have a long and distinguished history in our country by helping us win two World Wars and training our best for a century.

I thought Gen. Keane, a native New Yorker, would be knowledgeable of history and show great respect, as a soldier, for the valor and bravery of those Southern boys fighting for independence who, badly outnumbered and outgunned, were fearless in battle and killed as many of their enemies as their enemies killed of them. Gen. Keane has commanded a lot of their descendants.

But Keane said Confederates in the War Between the States were traitors who were not tried after the war because of a spirit of reconciliation. He said that same spirit of reconciliation led the Federal Government to name the 10 Army bases in the South after Confederate leaders, but that had gone too far. He said today nobody gets any inspiration from those Confederate leaders.

President Donald J. Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to retired four-star U.S. Army General Jack Keane, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
President Trump presents retired Gen. Jack Keane the Presidential Medal of Freedom, March, 2020.

Let me correct the good general by pointing out that the reason there were no treason trials after the war was because Southerners had not committed treason and Yankees knew it. Imminently practical Yankees were not about to lose in a court of law what they had won on the battlefield.

A better case could be made for Yankee treason against the Constitution, along with crimes against humanity, since Southerners were defending their homes, wives, children and firesides from an unconstitutional barbaric murderous thieving invasion. Nowhere in the Constitution in 1861 did it allow or require the Federal Government to invade a sovereign state for any reason whatsoever. The Federal Government was supposed to be the agent of the states, not their master.

If you want to talk about treason and war crimes, the Yankees compare well with other subjugators in world history such as the Romans and Germans who invaded peaceful nations to steal their wealth and control them.

The official White House portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower by James Anthony Wills.
The official White House portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower by James Anthony Wills.

History is so pathetic in this day and age that I'd be willing to bet Gen. Keane has no idea that the Northern economy of Abraham Lincoln (who 61% of Americans voted against in the election of 1860) was dependent on manufacturing for the South and shipping Southern cotton. We were most of the North's manufacturing market and we were fed up with high prices from Northern tariffs, bounties, subsidies and monopolies that were suctioning money out of the South and depositing it in the North constantly.

Gen. Henry L. Benning, for whom Fort Benning is named, was a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court before the war. He had analyzed the economic interaction thoroughly and said in 1860:

The North cut off from Southern cotton, rice, tobacco, and other products would lose three fourths of her commerce, and a very large proportion of her manufactures. And thus those great fountains of finance would sink very low. . . . Would the North in such a condition as that declare war against the South?1

We all know the answer to that is yes.

Lincoln was clever but, as Charles W. Ramsdell proved in his famous treatise, "Lincoln and Fort Sumter," Lincoln manipulated events in Charleston Harbor to get the war started because it was not in his interest to wait a second longer. Several Northern newspapers agreed that Lincoln started the war because he saw a chance to get it going without appearing as the aggressor.

Lincoln's commander in Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, also stated that Lincoln started the war.

Lincoln's economy was headed for annihilation in April, 1861. Hundreds of thousands were unemployed and in the streets. He was petrified of the disintegration of the new Republican Party. He had to act, plus he wanted to announce his blockade and chill European recognition of the Confederacy.

European trade and military treaties would have meant the North could not beat the South. It would have been like the French in the Revolutionary War who helped us mightily to win it.

Southerners had always wanted free trade, anyway, so they could buy from Europe at much cheaper prices than those inflated by Yankee tariffs that enriched Northerners at the expense of the South.

Gen. Keane went to Fordham, so he probably wasn't aware that at West Point, where Lee, Grant, and so many antebellum military leaders went, the right of secession was taught in books such as William Rawle's A View of the Constitution of the United States of America.

There is overwhelming evidence of the right of secession, way beyond the reservation of the right of secession by New York (Gen. Keane's own home state), Rhode Island and Virginia before acceding to the Constitution.

The acceptance of the reserved right of secession of New York, Rhode Island and Virginia by the other states, also gave that right to them because all the states were and are equal with the exact same rights.

The right of secession was unquestioned throughout most of the antebellum era and, in fact, it was New Englanders who threatened to secede many more times than Southerners.

I might remind Gen. Keane that his native city, New York City, was the "principle port of the world" for slave trading during the War Between the States, a half century after the slave trade was outlawed.2 It was outlawed in 1808 but Yankees still carried it on around the world.

Boston and Portland were second only to New York in slave trading during the war. This distinction is noted in W. E. B. Du Bois's book, The Suppression of the African Slave-trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870.3

Maybe New York's name should be changed to satisfy the liberal mob, along with Boston and Portland's and all the other New England cities that were America's slave traders, because just about all of them were in New England.

New York also has the stain of the New York City Draft Riots when New York hate and racism were on full display and scores of blacks were lynched and murdered.

Here are some statistics on what Gen. Keane's "traitors" endured during the War Between the States. This is extremely important because Gen. Keane himself commanded a lot of their descendants.

The death statistics in the War Between the States are now between 650,000 and 850,000. These are the widely accepted statistics of historian J. David Hacker of Binghamton University.4

Drew Gilpin Faust in her excellent book, This Republic of Suffering, Death and the American Civil War, uses the earlier statistics of 620,000 total deaths compiled by William F. Fox, and she writes that those deaths were "approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined."5

If you use Hacker's statistics, you'd have to add Vietnam, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan and the war on terror; in other words, deaths in the War Between the States were higher than all other American wars combined, with plenty of room to spare.

Faust says the rate of death "in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II. A similar rate, about 2 percent, in the United States today would mean six million fatalities."6

Confederate soldiers "died at a rate three times that of their Yankee counterparts; one in five white Southern men of military age did not survive the Civil War."7 Sounds like a pretty brave lot of Americans to me, Gen. Keane.

Faust quotes James McPherson who writes that "the overall mortality rate for the South exceeded that of any country in World War I and that of all but the region between the Rhine and the Volga in World War II."8

To personalize some of those statistics, Confederate Col. George E. Purvis was quoted in Confederate Veteran magazine, March, 1897, from an article he had written about Union Gen. Henry Van Ness Boynton and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Gen. Boynton, with great respect for the courage of the Confederates he faced, wanted to make it a sacred memorial, not just to Union valor, but American valor.

Col. Purvis writes that Gen. Boynton and a friend had visited the Chickamauga battlefield on a quiet Sunday morning in the summer of 1888 and heard singing in a church nearby. The general's thoughts went from those sweet sounds to the hellish and "fearful horrors of that other Sunday, when the very demons of hell seemed abroad, armed and equipped for the annihilation of mankind" almost a quarter of a century earlier:9

They saw again the charging squadrons, like great waves of the sea, dashed and broken in pieces against lines and positions that would not yield to their assaults. They saw again Baird's, Johnson's, Palmer's, and Reynolds's immovable lines around the Kelley farm, and Wood on the spurs of Snodgrass Hill; Brannan, Grosvenor, Steedman, and Granger on the now famous Horseshoe; once more was brought back to their minds' eye, "the unequaled fighting of that thin and contracted line of heroes and the magnificent Confederate assaults," which swept in again and again ceaselessly as that stormy service of all the gods of battle was prolonged through those other Sunday hours.

Their eyes traveled over the ground again where Forrest's and Walker's men had dashed into the smoke of the Union musketry and the very flame of the Federal batteries, and saw their ranks melt as snowflakes dissolve and disappear in the heat of conflagration.

They stood on Baird's line, where Helms's Brigade went to pieces, but not until three men out of four - mark that, ye coming heroes! - not until three men out of every four were either wounded or dead, eclipsing the historic charge at Balaklava and the bloody losses in the great battles of modern times.

They saw Longstreet's men sweep over the difficult and almost inaccessible slopes of the Horseshoe, "dash wildly, and break there, like angry waves, and recede, only to sweep on again and again with almost the regularity of ocean surges, ever marking a higher tide."

They looked down again on those slopes, slippery with blood and strewn thick as leaves with all the horrible wreck of battle, over which and in spite of repeated failures these assaulting Confederate columns still formed and reformed, charging again and again with undaunted and undying courage.

How dare you, Gen. Keane, call these American soldiers from the South, "traitors." Your predecessor in the Union Army, Gen. Henry Van Ness Boynton, who fought against them in the War Between the States, calls them heroes, and you have commanded a lot of their descendants. Surely you owe respect to the men you command and whom you might have to send to their deaths.

To prove your inerudite claim that Confederates were traitors, you need to prove that the right of secession was illegal, and that the Declaration of Independence, where it states the following, is invalid:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Bold emphasis added.)

You can't do either, Gen. Keane.

Secession was a legal right, and there was no "consent of the governed" in the South for a government that was robbing them blind and controlled by a region that sent terrorists into the South to encourage hate and murder of Southerners.

Southerners were fighting for independence and self-government.

Northerners were fighting for their wealth, power, and control of the country, so their cities and people would be rich and dominate the culture, just as Alexis de Tocqueville predicted.

It is provable beyond the shadow of a doubt that Northerners were not fighting to end slavery. The War Aims Resolution, the Corwin Amendment, the six Union slave states that fought for the North the entire war, the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, and many other things prove that it was Union they were fighting for, like Lincoln said over and over, because all their wealth and power was tied to the Union.

Southerners just wanted to be free to govern themselves. They seceded peacefully and would have continued in peace if Lincoln hadn't started the war, and Southerners would have ended slavery soon.

Slavery was dying out and would not have lasted another generation with the automobile and telephone entering our lives. There were machines to pick cotton, and Southerners wanted to do like Yankees and hire and fire as business dictated without a birth to death commitment. Almost a million men died and another million were maimed for nothing.

For African Americans, there was a century of second class citizenship, and before that, horrible treatment by the Union Army.

Hundreds of thousands of newly freed slaves got sick from disease, starvation and exposure, during and after the war because of Yankee neglect, and tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, died.

We don't know the exact number because the Federal Government falsified the record and didn't count thousands of them because it made the government look bad. Dishonest Northern journalists helped cover it up but it is well documented in books such as Jim Downs' Sick from Freedom, African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction.10

Downs writes that in Helene, Arkansas the "bodies of emancipated slaves were placed in the same carts with carcasses of mules and horses to be buried in the same pit."11

This terrible disrespect for the dead bodies of former slaves who had come to them for protection shows that "Northerners, allegedly fighting for the freedom and dignity of those subjected to human bondage, were transporting black people like animals."12

That shows what Yankees really thought of the newly freed slaves. That goes along with the many rapes of black women by Union soldiers recorded throughout the Official Records.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1st Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in World War II, later president of the United States for eight years, had a picture of Gen. Robert E. Lee on his wall in the White House his entire time there.

Like President John F. Kennedy, Eisenhower had great respect for Gen. Lee and his cause, and he appreciated Lee's efforts to bind up the nation's wounds after our bloodiest war.

On August 1, 1960, a New York dentist, Dr. Leon W. Scott, wrote an angry letter to President Eisenhower excoriating him for having that picture of Lee in his White House office.

Scott wrote: "I do not understand  how any American can include Robert E. Lee as a person to be emulated, and why the President of the United States of America should do so is certainly beyond me. / The most outstanding thing that Robert E. Lee did, was to devote his best efforts to the destruction of the United States Government, and I am sure that you do not say that a person who tries to destroy our Government is worthy of being held as one of our heroes."13

President Eisenhower wrote back on the 9th:

Dear Dr. Scott:

Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War between the States the issue of secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.

General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee's caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation's wounds once the bitter struggle was over, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.

Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.

Sincerely,

Dwight D. Eisenhower14

Gen. Keane, I know you are a damn good man. President Eisenhower outranks you. Pay attention to your superior and learn from him.

 

Some of the last part of this article comes from a previously published article by me, "We are in a political fight and not a history debate," published in Confederate Veteran magazine May/June, 2018, and also published on this blog. All the original sources are footnoted.

 


1 Henry L. Benning, "Henry L. Benning's Secessionist Speech, Monday Evening, November 19," delivered in Milledgeville, Georgia, November 19, 1860, in William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson, Secession Debated, Georgia's Showdown in 1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 132. Gen. Benning became one of Gen. Robert E. Lee's most able brigadier generals in the Army of Northern Virginia.

2 W. E. B. Du Bois, The Suppression of the African Slave-trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1896), 179.

3 Ibid.

4 See Rachel Coker, "Historian revises estimate of Civil War dead," published September 21, 2011, Binghamton University Research News - Insights and Innovations from Binghamton University, http://discovere.binghamton.edu/news/civilwar-3826.html, accessed July 7, 2014. Hacker's range is 650,000 to 850,000. He uses 750,000.

5 Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering, Death and the American Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), xi.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Faust, This Republic of Suffering, xii.

9 "American Valor at Chickamauga", Confederate Veteran, Vol. V, No. 3, March, 1897.

10 Jim Downs, Sick from Freedom, African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

11 Maria R. Mann to Elisa, February 10, 1863, Maria Mann to Miss Peabody, April 19, 1863, Maria Mann Papers, LOC, quoted in Louis S. Gerteis, From Contraband to Freedman: Federal Policy Toward Southern Blacks 1861-1865 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1973), 121, in Downs, Sick from Freedom,

12 Downs, Sick from Freedom, 27.

13 Dwight D. Eisenhower in Defense of Robert E. Lee, August 10, 2014, Mathew W. Lively, https://www.civilwarprofiles.com/dwight-d-eisenhower-in-defense-of-robert-e-lee/, accessed 5-3-20.

14 Dwight D. Eisenhower letter, August 9, 1960, to Leon W. Scott, in "Dwight D. Eisenhower in Defense of Robert E. Lee," August 10, 2014, Mathew W. Lively, https://www.civilwarprofiles.com/dwight-d-eisenhower-in-defense-of-robert-e-lee/, accessed 5-3-20.

Gen. Robert E. Lee at Chancellorsville by H. A. Ogden, painting in the LOC.
Gen. Robert E. Lee at Chancellorsville by H. A. Ogden, painting in the LOC.
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14 Comments

  1. Close but misses some key points. Edwin Stanton convinced Buchanan Secession was illegal and had Sumter occupied as Attorney General. His Law Partner Samuel Barlow controlled the NYC Union Club, Union League Press, Union Pacific RR and Union Bank. He pulled Lincoln’s strings.

  2. Thank you Gene. I have also read your book “Slavery Was Not the Cause…”. You should see the material I’ve uncovered. After about 30 years of research, I’ve written an article and it will hopefully be published this September. I’ll send you a copy thereafter. We might then compare notes.

  3. States rights was the cause of the civil war, not slavery!
    Thanks so much for your correction of General Keane Misguided assessment.

    • Tommy,

      Yes, Gen. Keane is a good guy but there are a lot like him that don’t know history. The way history is taught today and presented in the fake news media is all leftist politics, not history. The politicization of history is what has destroyed it. Our country is in uncharted waters. We used to be great about our history. Including more African American, women, Native American and other parts of our history is great. But destroying monuments and promoting the left’s political hate is not good.

      All the good people I know are determined to put out more good, scholarly history and argument than ever before.

      Thanks for writing!

      Gene

  4. 1)U.S. Supreme Court Justice Salmon P. Chase said no one could be tried for treason because “Secession is not rebellion”. 2) Winston Churchill called Lee “the most noble American who ever lived”. 3) FDR said Lee was “the greatest of American Christians”. 4) Lee was anti-slavery and anti-secessionist. 5) 20% of ex-slaves died under the “care” of the federal government in a period of 5 years. That is a holocaust! Thanks for a great article. Please read my book “Slavery and the Civil War – What Your History Teacher Didn’t Tell You” (Shotwell Publications) available on Amazon.

    • Garry,

      I have your book and can’t wait to read it! I’ve had it for a while but haven’t been able to get to it. Thanks for this excellent information. I am always looking for the kinds of credible sources you mention in this post, especially by Justice Salmon P. Chase, and Winston Churchill. I am reading Jim Downs’ Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction. It is most enlightening but not surprising in the least.

      Thanks for writing!

      Gene

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