Secrets of the Civil War

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Judging from your interview with historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor, there seems to be some new data bringing into question the fabled image of General Robert E. Lee ["The Private Thoughts of a Southern Icon," July 2-9].

While I am from an abolitionist family, and my great-grandfather fought against Lee in the Civil War, I have always held the man in high regard - an opinion that I believe President Lincoln shared. For those who may wish Lee his rightful place of honor in American history I recommend the book April 1865: The Month that Saved America by Jay Winik. In chapter 8 ("Reconcilation") you will find described an act of such towering grace that should forever lay aside any doubts about the man's true character.

M. Dale Hinds

Phoenixville , Pa.  

As a granddaughter of a Confederate veteran of Virginia, I take exception of your article, especially the wording, about his wife's inheritance, on Robert E. Lee. I have read everything written about, and by, Lee, and you are skewing the information to conform with their predisposed opinions. Trying to make a "human" out of Sherman is also ludicrous. You can try to rewrite history to conform to the political views of today, but I don't have to read it.

Edna "Lee" Knight

Via e-mail  

Your article on the re-interment of Lincoln's body could have mentioned that the last person to see Lincoln's face ex pired only a few decades ago ["A Plot to Steal Lincoln's Body," July 2-9]. He was a twelve year old at the time of the ex humation of the body just prior to its being buried under tons of concrete in order to protect the body from any fur ther body-snatchers. The boy's father had sent word for him to come at once to the Oak Ridge Cemetery and the boy rode his bike as fast as he could, arriving just in time to see the coffin opened and Lincoln's corpse revealed, and in rela tively good condition, not much worse for wear except for green mold on the features.

Robert A. Mankoff

Babylon , N.Y.  

"The Golden Conspiracy" [July 2-9] states, "The population [of California before 1848] consisted of at least 300,000 native Indians and only 700 foreigners, most of whom were American." May I ask about the descendants of the Hispanic settlers (subjects of Spain and then citizens of Mexico) who came to Alta California between 1769 and 1848? In addition, many "foreigners" who came to Alta California in this period became subjects of Spain or, later, citizens of Mexico in order to marry and own property.

Benita H. Gray

San Diego  

One thing your recent article, "The Golden Conspiracy" by Andrew Curry, failed to mention when talking about how close California came to siding with the Con federacy in the Civil War is that Rev. Thomas Starr King, for whom the school I serve is named, is often credited as being the one whose persuasive oratory, as he traveled up and down the state, convinced California to remain in the Union. Because of this King is one of the two people California originally chose to represent it in the Hall of Statuary in the U.S. Congress. Both a mountain in the Sierra and one in New England are named after him. One of the most re gretful things done by the California Legislature this year was it's "eleventh hour" decision to replace King's statute with one of Ronald Reagan. We are proud to have our school associated with as no table a person as Thomas Starr King.

Rev. Dr. David Sammons

Acting President and Visiting Professor of Unitarian Universalist Heritage and Ministry
Starr King School for the Ministry
Berkeley , Calif.  

Why should General Sherman be criti cized ["The Man Who Would Shape the Future of War," July 2-9]? After he took Savannah the bloody war was over in 3-1/2 months.

Thomas Walsh

Vallejo , Calif.  

In April I attended a meeting in the National Civil War Museum overlooking Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Built in 2000, it is a must see for the civil war student, both young and old. The tour includes well-produced stories that bring the au dience into the reality of the Civil War. The life size figures in war scenes are a stark reminder that thousands were lost in one day.

Charles Weisgerber

Treasure Island . Fla.  

With all that is going on in this world today, I have a hard time understanding U.S.News & World Report choosing a subject that is 150 plus years old for the cover and then continuing to dedicate a major portion of the edition to the sub ject. How about something that would further the debate on Immigration Bill, all the unfunded retirement programs of major corporations, the spiraling gape between the classes of workers, Wall Street vs. skilled labor.

Jim Draper

Bossier City , La.  

Your recent articles on the "Secrets of the Civil War" failed to reveal another "unknown" secret about the Civil War...the brutal war that was fought in the Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma). Historians, like Ed Beass, believe the war as it was waged in the territory was "war to the knife" and "the knife was usually at the hilt." As the war progressed, both sides did not take prisoners. Researchers have also documented more than 110 battles and skirmishes that were fought in the territory between 1861 to 1865. In dian Territory also saw some of the first battles of the Civil War in 1861. Stand Watie, a Cherokee and a Confederate brigadier general, was the only Native American to attain that high rank and was also the last Confederate general to surrender a field command on June 25, 1865. Problems caused from the war are still faced by the members of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Semi nole, Chickasaw and Choctaw).

Steve Warren

Virginia Beach , Va.  

As a young history buff I would like to commend your publication for having a "soft spot" for history ["From the Editor," July 2-9]. Today, so many publications are tied up in the moment and paying attention to events that come out of Hollywood this has caused so many people to stop paying attention to studying where we came from. For our country to continue to be strong we must al ways remember where we have been. Thank you again for your commitment to showcase new scholarship that draws attention to our past.

Jason F. Hicks

Cookeville , Tenn.