and Robert Edward Lee
; the last, most deeply.
Of the three, the first two stood by the flag; the third went with his State.
Each, when the time came, acted conscientiously, impelled by the purest sense of loyalty, honor and obligation, taking that course which, under the circumstances and according to his lights, seemed to him right; and each doubtless thought he acted as a free agent.
To a degree each was a free agent; to a much greater degree each was the child of anterior conditions, hereditary sequence, existing circumstances—in a word of human environment, moral, material, intellectual.
, being as he was, and things being as things were, could not decide otherwise than as he did decide.
Consider them in order; Scott
A Virginian by birth, early associations and marriage, Scott
, at the breaking-out of the Civil War
, had not lived in his native State for forty years. Not a planter, he held no broad acres and owned no slaves.
Essentially a soldier, he was a citizen of the United States
; and, for twenty years, had been the general in command of its army.
When, in April, 1861, Virginia
passed its ordinance of secession, he was well advanced in his seventy-fifth year—an old man, he was no longer equal to active service.
The course he would pursue was thus largely marked out for him in advance; a violent effort on his part could alone have forced him out of his trodden path.
When subjected to the test, what he did was infinitely creditable to him, and the obligation the cause of the Union
lay under to him during the critical period between December, 1860, and June, 1861, can scarcely be overstated; but, none the less, in doing as he did, it cannot be denied he followed what was for him the line of least resistance.
Of George Henry Thomas
, no American, North or South—above all, no American who served in the Civil War
—whether wearer of the blue or the gray—can speak, save with infinite respect—always with admiration, often with love.
Than his, no record is clearer from stain.
also was a Virginian.
At the time of the breaking-out of the Civil War
, he held the rank of major in that regiment of cavalry of which Lee
, nine years his senior in age, was colonel.
He never hesitated in his course.
True to the flag from start to finish, William T. Sherman
, then general of the army, in the order announcing the death of his friend and classmate at the Academy, most properly said of him: ‘The very impersonation of honesty, integrity, and honor, he will stand to posterity as the beau ideal
of the soldier and gentleman.’
More tersely, Thomas