In his letter (“You’re confusing patriotism with treason,” The Daily News, June 19), David F. Smith denies the patriotism of Confederate soldiers and charges them with treason. I believe he's wrong on both counts, both as a matter of law and in light of history.

As for the law, the withdrawal of a Confederate state from the Union absolved its citizens of any further loyalty to the Union. In taking up arms in defense of the South, a Confederate soldier was acting patriotically toward his government, both state and national.

As for history, after Appomattox the U.S. government never tried, let alone convicted, any former Confederate for treason.

C. Michael Harrington



Recommended for you

(36) comments

Carlos Ponce

Confederate soldiers were pardoned. But some today are vindictive 155 years after the end of the war. Haters gonna hate.

Jim Forsythe

Convicted of treason during the Civil War.

John Brown was tried for treason against the state of Virginia and, despite making some powerful speeches attacking slavery, was convicted and hanged on December 2. His follower Aaron Dwight Stevens was hanged for the same raid three months later.

Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surrat was one of the four people who helped John Wilkes Booth pull off the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.Only Mary Surratt was convicted of treason. She's the first woman to ever be convicted of treason in the U.S. and the first woman the federal government executed

In 1862, shortly after Union soldiers entered New Orleans and raised their flag,it was torn down and replaced by the Confederate flag. General Benjamin Butler, who promptly ordered William Mumford arrested and hanged for treason. This being war, there was no trial. Mumford was dragged, to a gallows near the U.S. Mint and executed.

Tomoya Kawakita was arrested in 1946 but his treason charges were not decided until a 4–3 decision by The Supreme Court on June 2, 1952. The Supreme Court upheld Kawakita's treason conviction and death sentence.

Tomoya Kawakita remains the last American citizen to be convicted of treason and sentenced to the electric chair. .

Eisenhower commuted his sentence to life in prison in 1953.

Read more about Tomoya Kawakita

Carlos Ponce

"Convicted of treason during the Civil War."

John Brown was not convicted of treason during the Civil War. He was hung on December 2, 1859 - that's prior to the 1860 elections and prior to the Civil War.

Aaron Dwight Stevens was hung on March 16, 1860, prior to the 1860 elections and prior to the Civil War.

Mary Elizabeth Jenkins was charged with abetting, aiding, concealing, counseling, and harboring her co-defendants, not treason. Her charges, trial and execution came after the Civil War.

William Mumford was charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors against the laws of the United States". Special Order No. 70: William B. Mumford, a citizen of New Orleans, having been convicted before a military commission of treason and an overt act thereof, tearing down the United States flag from a public building of the United States, after said flag was placed there by Commodore Farragut, of the United States navy: It is ordered that he be executed according to sentence of said military commission on Saturday, June 7, inst., between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. under the directions of the provost-marshal of the District of New Orleans, and for so doing this shall be his sufficient warrant.

So does that mean that those who tear down and/or burn the American flag today should be tried for treason and executed?

"Tomoya Kawakita was arrested in 1946" That was AFTER the Civil War, Jim.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, I clearly stated that Tomoya Kawakita was the last person convicted of treason in 1946,. I guess I should have not taken it for granted that people would know the Civil War was over for many years. I guess in your case, I need to spell it out. I also stated that "John Brown was not convicted of treason during the Civil war"

Mary Surratt and William Mumford were both arrested and hanged for treason.

Carlos said, "So does that mean that those who tear down and/or burn the American flag today should be tried for treason and executed?"

At this time, Flag burning is freedom of speech topic. It does not carry a penalty of death or any other penalty. One could be charged with littering if they did not clean up after.

Jim Forsythe

I left out December 2, 1859.

Carlos Ponce

"I clearly stated that Tomoya Kawakita was the last person convicted of treason in 1946," But your heading was "Convicted of treason during the Civil War". Why include Tomoya at all?

"Mary Surratt and William Mumford were both arrested and hanged for treason." Agreed on Mumford but Surratt was charged and convicted of abetting, aiding, concealing, counseling, and harboring her co-defendants.

So you are writing they violated William Mumford's freedom of speech..... Okay.

Jim Forsythe

William Mumford's action was under the penalties at that time. As I stated was that William Mumford was hung for treason.

As we were talking about treason it's nice to know when the last person convicted of treason happened. Tomoya Kawakita was that person and Tomoya's story is very interesting.

Mary Surratt was convicted of abetting, aiding, concealing, counseling, and harboring her co-defendants and treason. If you watched the U-tube clip you would have heard that her son was also charged with treason, but the time limit ran out before he came back to the USA, so he was not convicted of treason.

Carlos Ponce

Treason has a time limit?

Although Mary Surrat's family was sympathetic to the Confederacy she was not a member of the Confederate Army and lived in DC. She was tried, convicted and hung post-bellum.

Emile Pope

Jefferson Davis

Carlos Ponce

Jefferson Davis was on trial for treason but the US attorney dropped charges after President Andrew Johnson's pardon. Jefferson Davis also received a posthumous presidential pardon on October, 18, 1978 from President Jimmy Carter.

Jefferson Davis was a veteran. In the US Army he was a 2nd Lt. Later he led a group of volunteers as a colonel for the Mississippi Rifles under the command of General Zachary Taylor in the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War. After the war President Polk offered him the rank of Brigadier General but he declined. He served as Congressman and US Senator.

As a veteran if anyone destroys his statue, that person can be imprisoned for no more than 10 years, pay a fine or both.

Carlos Ponce

Correction: President Andrew Johnson issued a Declaration of amnesty, not a pardon. It was President Carter who gave Jefferson Davis a pardon.

Also Congress issued the following on October 17, 1978:

“In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States. Earlier, he was specifically exempted form resolutions restoring the rights of other officials in the Confederacy. He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee's citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment."

Emile apparently never got the message.

Emile Pope

Accepting a pardon is automatically an admission of guilt. So they ALL were traitors...

Carlos Ponce

If they were traitors they would have tried as such. They weren't. Put your hate aside, Emile.

Claudia Burnam

Emile. I don't know of any Confederate convicted of treason. Therefore they were innocent because they were not proven guilty. Trump 2020

Carlos Ponce

"Accepting a pardon is automatically an admission of guilt."

President Carter's pardon was given posthumously. How can a dead man admit guilt?

Carlos Ponce

"It has been said that I should apply to the United States for a pardon, but repentance must precede the right of pardon, and I have not repented,” Jefferson Davis 1881.

But he was pardoned without repenting or admitting his guilt, Emile.

Did Galveston pugilist Jack Johnson admit guilt? President Trump pardoned him anyway.

Neither Jack Johnson nor Jefferson Davis admitted guilt, yet both were pardoned posthumously. But their families accepted the pardon for them.

Emile Pope

Davis spent two years in prison. He got bail and fled to Canada. Two crimes. And a living person accepting a pardon automatically admits guilt.

Carlos Ponce

"Davis spent two years in prison." But was not convicted.

"He got bail and fled to Canada". That's a stretch, Emile. After posting bail, Davis is released and the indictments for treason were dismissed.

Finally, in May 1867, he was released on bail and went to Canada to regain his shattered health. Several notable Northern lawyers offered their free services to defend him in a treason trial, which Davis longed for. The government, however, never forced the issue—because, many believe, it feared that such a trial might establish that the original Constitution gave the states a right to secede. The case was finally dropped on December 25, 1868.

His family had "fled" to Canada and Davis joined them.

Carlos Ponce

And even if admitted guilt... SO WHAT?????

jimmy winston

Not only were the treasonists, they were also LOSERS. Yall keep defending loser confederate monuments and showing your real colors and how you really feel.

Carlos Ponce

"they were also LOSERS" That's what the statue in front of the old Courthouse is all about. And there are some who want to tear it down?

jimmy winston

why do we need statues of LOSERS? Take a peek around Germany, I dont think you see very many statues of Hitler, yet we still seem to know about him.

Carlos Ponce

Why? As a reminder, jimmy. If you don't learn history you are doomed to repeat it. What good was removing statues of Hitler when many Germans still espouse his ideas? Some need a reminder of the "losers".

jimmy winston

So statues honoring Hitler is what you are advocating here? Since it will remind those who still agree with his ideas that they are wrong? I am not seeing the logic.

Carlos Ponce

"So statues honoring Hitler is what you are advocating here?" No. Just pointing out by removing the statues had an adverse effect on restricting Hitler's evil message.

Bailey Jones

It is plainly absurd to insist that, in a nation where even the slightest change to the national constitution requires a two thirds majority of both the House and Senate and the agreement of three fourths of the states, any state can unilateral dissolve the union.

It is plainly absorb to insist that, in a nation where "no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress", any state can unilateral decide to leave.

One need only read the US Constitution, Article 1 Section 10, which explicitly forbids any state from exercising the functions required of any independent nation: "No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."

This idea that the nation was formed by a loose alliance of independent states is just as easily proved absurd. For one, most of the confederate states were not a part of the original 13 states, but were entered into the nation under the constitution, after the nation was formed. Second, the whole purpose of the 1787 Constitutional Convention was to replace the Articles of Confederation (which was such a loose alliance of states) with a unitary nation under a federal government.

Finally, if this idea that states had the right to come and go at will was commonly held at the time, there would not have been a civil war. Thousands of northern Americans would never have volunteered to kill fellow Americans who were simply exercising a commonly understood right. Nor would the Congress have funded such a war. Nor would the military have been complicit in such an illegal act.

It simply defies common sense, the simplest test of all.

As for treason - one can't hold the common soldier to a charge of treason. They were simply following the mandates of the governments who ruled over them. But those individuals who were the architects of secession, who violated the oaths they took before God while serving on the floor of Congress or in the military, who took up arms against the United States of America, the very nation they swore to protect - yes, traitors all.

Carlos Ponce

So Bailey will charge the founders of CHAZ/CHOP with treason.

Wayne D Holt

Bailey, much like that old Star Trek episode with Frank Gorshen engaged in eternal battle with himself, I am resigned to enter the fray yet again with you on this topic.

The most compelling argument against your position is one that is the foundation of constitutional law, even at this late date of the decaying Republic. And that is: We the People are sovereign. We are the body from which ALL powers flow, delegated to the States and from the States to the seat of the federal government. There is no inherent power in any such delegation that does not adhere in its original form within the sovereign people. The sovereign may change that form of government at any moment in time it sees the need to do so (see Declaration of Independence). It may withdraw its consent. The federal government has ZERO constitutional prerogatives to lawfully thwart the will of the people. What it has is grapeshot then, Reaper drones now.

While we may disagree on how that sovereign is parsed jurisdictionally as states, there is absolutely no doubt that the bottom of the Republic's food chain is the federal government. If that were not the case, the Revolution would never have been cast in terms of human rights over the right of kings to dictate to us.

Slavery must be treated apart as the repellent antithesis of individual freedom. As such, it is indefensible under any philosophy that embraces inalienable human rights. Just as that is so, it is also true there is no collective that the sovereign has delegated authority to, to which it no longer has the right to withdraw such authority. To say otherwise is to create another class of slavery, rather than ending the one the Confederacy was identified with.

Emile Pope

Since secession was illegal, the soldiers of the confederacy were traitors.

Carlos Ponce

So Emile also accuses founders of CHAZ/CHOP with treason!

Wayne D Holt

Secession wasn't illegal. It was made illegal. That is a distinction with a difference.

Kimberley Jones Yancy

Wow! This discussion board is wild. The Confederate soldiers fought to have their own government and a full withdrawal from America. It is amazing how people try to rewrite history. They fought against America and her ideals. If they had won, I might still be a slave in shackles today. So in my eyes, its treason and everything the Confederacy stands for eliminates my full humanity and designs to label me as subpar. So yes its treason. Our 2020 President says dismantling statutes is treasonous. But Confederate soldiers are not? Smh....

Wayne D Holt

Ms Yancy, you may want to reconsider your position regarding what treason is and where the danger lies. In a hypothetical situation that saw everything exactly the same as we know from history except the North were the slaveholders and the South wanted to secede as non-slave holding, the defeat of the South would mean you likely would be in the position you describe, a slave in shackles. If the South provided a safe haven for slaves in such a scenario, Lincoln (who supported returning escaped slaves) would have had two reason to go to war with the South--saving the Union and continuing slavery.

Secession is anathema to us only because it was the slave holding South who attempted it. If the positions were reversed, you and every other decent human being would have been rooting for the South to secede. Secession is a very useful tool when a government becomes hostile to human values. That was the basic thrust of the Declaration of Independence.

Any government strong enough to compel its people to remain loyal to it by pointing a gun at their head has enough power to enforce any policy it pleases, including slavery. It's much better to design a government that is so virtuous, a free people will naturally want to be a part of it voluntarily.

Charles Douglas

Folks sure are senile, Let me just qualify that by saying I'm talking about folks in GENERAL! Here we are with the opportunities to step up and maximize our God given resources and those opportunities which are staring us in the face do good and be rich in helping others less fortunate than ourselves, and all I hear and read about Is SLAVES! I cannot imagine one slave who walked the dirt in America who is worried about one human being walking the earth today! However, here we are in and day out .....WORRIED ABOUT DEAD SLAVES, and how we can PROFIT of their misery! ( Reparations ). What a "CROCK!" In reality today the African-Americans has almost one hundred percent been voting for the Progressive Democrats for decades....I said for DECADES,...and the African-American race still seems as though it's people are standing on a corner holding up a sign saying us! Give us equal schools! Give us better housing! Give us equal job opportunities! Something is wrong with that , is all I'm saying! Think about that, what have the Democrats given back to the BLACK PEOPLE, who for decades gave them the African-American vote and loyalty? I'll tell yall, not a [censored] Thing!! They are laughing at the stupidity of a people voting for years for others who only reward those 2-3 BLACK surogotes who convinced the MASSES to vote Democratic! I have BLACK ancestors, like many people in this country, and I have WHITE ancestors from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, I've done the research twice, but I don't waste my days thinking about NONE them!!!!!!!!! THEY ARE DEAD.....DEAD......DEAD! I will shake hands with them one day hopefully, ... but now is a time to worry about widows, orphans, the poor, the hurting,...The SHEEP of Christ! Now is a time to be a stumbling block to the Devil, and to seek and to save that which is lost! ( Luke 19:10 ). A slave is not sick, lost, hungry, or poor, because they are DEAD! Lord, the Devil is whipping [censored]..and taking names now!!!

Ted Gillis

No Carlos, I don’t think anyone wants to charge CHAZ/CHOP with treason, just like nobody felt it was worth engaging or charging Clevon Bundy and his group of armed rebels with treason.

Carlos Ponce

So only Southern men should be charged with treason.[huh]

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.