American Civil War question: betrayal by officers.

A recent thread in IMHO, asking what if Robert E. Lee remained a Union general, lead me to a tangential question. Nobody opined on it, so I ask it here as a General :stuck_out_tongue: Question:

Are there any known instances of Southern pre-secession army or navy officers staying in the Union forces post-secession but then betraying the Union at a critical moment in battle? Or the opposite: a pre-secession officer who joined the Confederate forces but then betrayed the Confederacy at a key moment in battle. My guess would be no, but it’s certainly not impossible.

No McClellan jokes, please. :smiley:

Oh, oh, I know a great example!

Oh. Never mind. :stuck_out_tongue:

On a more serious note, these weren’t at a critical moment in battle, but they were noteworthy changes in loyalty.

Col. Edward W. Gantt led Confederate troops until 1862, then switched sides after his surrender and pardon and led Union forces until the end of the war.

Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture article on Edward W. Gantt:

Captain William Thomas Magruder resigned his commission in the Union army in 1862 and joined the Confederate army. He was killed in the battle of Gettysburg in 1863 during Pickett’s Charge.

The sweet-faced 1920s actresses, Joan and Constance Bennett’s grandfather,Morris W. Morris, stagename Lewis Morrison, served as lieutenant in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, mainly free black troops, until New Orleans fell, whereupon he joined the Union’s 1st Louisiana Native Guard.

Which seems… excessively prudent.
Rather hilariously he is claimed to be both black and Jewish. Any Jewish ancestry seems dubious, any black ancestry is assumed because he was born on Jamaica — and because the Bennett Sisters looked so very very black.

The Talk section has an entertaining quarrel on the matter.

He was famous for his Mephistopheles, and was G-Grandfather to a talk show host, a Mr. Morton Downey Jr…

As Prosecuting Attorney in Arkansas

*Two Little Rock businessmen who opposed his radicalism severely beat him in 1869.
You what ?

Generally the “sense of honor” of the times would have prevented such behavior. Most officers who went South were pretty open and upfront about it.

Also, Americans of every stripe had the terrible counterexample of Benedict Arnold’s fate warning them not to pursue such a course.

On the Southern side perhaps. It’s very clear that then as now the South was more of an Honour Culture than was the North.

I would dispute that. I would say that northerners and southerners have equal amounts of honor. Southerners just tend to talk about their honor more.

And furthermore, a significant amount of honor talk was just talk, and “honor” was abandoned or , more likely, discreetly unmentioned when personal or financial interest demanded.

I’d say that the period at the start of the war was marked by an unusually high proportion of “correct” honorable behavior by individuals (behavior by governmental assemblies was substantially more venal, involving a lot of seizure of property and retaliatory legislation), possibly because people realized, even if subconsciously, things were about to become violent and degrading, so they were (temporarily) on their best behavior.

My wife had a great-great-great (or so) uncle, also from Arkansas, who fought on both sides. I think he was an officer, but I don’t remember off the top of my head.

A long time ago a book I was reading mentioned the Corp of Cadets at West Point. Said that the band was playing Dixie when the southern cadets marched away from West Point to join he Confederacy. Anyone else remember reading that? Can’t recall the book to save my life.

Northerners were concerned with dignity; Southerners with honor.

It’s an important distinction. Both groups tried to act along honorable guidelines, and in normal circumstances they appeared the same. But when they were challenged, there were two very different reaction.

If you insulted a Southerner, it was an affront to his honor that needed to be avenged, usually by violence such as a duel. If you insulted a Northerner (especially a New Englander), he would let it pass because it was undignified to get into a fight. Honor insulted much be avenged because it attacks you at your moral core, but dignity grants you the inner strength to let an insult pass.

Obviously, there were exceptions, but the general pattern holds.

Nitpick: they indeed started in the 20’s but they were much more popular in the 30’s and into the 40’s, and both worked almost until their deaths, Constance in 1965 and Joan in 1992. Who could forget Joan Bennett in the original TV series Dark Shadows?

Now back to the other historical observations.

“Honour culture” is a phrase with a specific meaning, which is not the same as “honourable”. The American civil war was bookended by “honour culture” actions (the attack on Fort Sumter and the assination of Lincoln), and even in the 1980s it was clear that the Sourth and North were culturally distinct (I have no later knowledge).

Personally, I’ve always thought that whole “respect” thing with some Americans is a reflection of southern culture brought north. If you were in the south, the need for respect wouldn’t need to be stated: if you were from the north, the need for respect would be kept private. I like to be respected as much as the next man, but I was brought up to understand that a desire for respect was a slightly shameful moral failing, not something to talk about or demand.

Moderator Note

Let’s not hijack this into a discussion about honor and/or honor culture. It’s a perfectly acceptable topic, so feel free to start a new thread if you wish to discuss this in more detail. GD might be a better place for it than GQ though.

There were people, such as Jefferson Davis, who felt that John Pemberton didn’t fight as well as he could have at Vicksburg. Pemberton was from Philadelphia but married a Virginian women and sided with the Confederacy (two brothers sided with the Union). But I don’t think any military historians feel Pemberton betrayed his troops at Vicksburg. He may have surrendered a few days earlier (on July 4th to get better terms from Ulysses Grant) but the siege of Vicksburg was very effective in cutting off food and supplies.
There was a program to recruit Confederate army members from Union POW camps which became known as “galvanized Yankees”. Some 5,600 men switched, assigned mainly to duty on the Indian frontier due to worries of their loyalty (their desertion rate turned out to be about the same as other recruits). The most famous of these was Henry Morton Stanley of “Dr Livingstone, I presume” fame who served in the Confederate army, the Union army and the Union navy.