History is a very messy affair. No person of historical significance (other than Jesus) has ever been perfectly good or perfectly bad because we are all flawed beings. We all make conscious choices that we know when we make that choice are good or evil, sometimes the choices we make and think are good turn out later to have disastrous consequences and vice versa.
My lesson here is "Never take the condensed version of history at face value."
Case in point: The Cuban Missile Crisis. History is full of stories about how JFK "Faced down the Soviets aggression and made them blink under the threat of a nuclear war." History is not as compelled to tell you why the Soviets put those missiles in Cuba. You see, in 1961, Kennedy deployed Jupiter IRBMs (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, ICBM's baby brother) in Turkey and Italy. Which for the Soviets, was their equivalent of them planting missiles in Cuba was for us. Had Kennedy not deployed IRBMs to Europe, the Soviet Union would not have deployed IRBMs to Cuba.
Second case in point: Have you ever owned or ridden in a Volkswagon Beetle? This iconic vehicle, of which over 21 million were made, was the brainchild of... Wait for it... Adolph Hitler. In German, "Volkswagon" literally means "People's car" or "A car for the people." Please, tell your local Antifa member who owns one of this fact. Does that excuse his brutal extermination of 20 million "undesirables" plus the 83 million war dead? Of course not.
So now let's get to my main point, the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee was initially offered the position of Commander of the Union Army when the Southern States started seceding. At that time, many Citizens of the United States regarded themselves as Citizens of the State first, then as a Citizen of the United States. Lee declined the offer when Virginia seceded because his loyalties were with Virginia, not the Union. Technically, he did not own slaves. His wife (a granddaughter of Martha Washington, her father was adopted by Washington) inherited 57 slaves and the land that now comprises Arlington Cemetery when her father died in 1857. George Washington Parke Custis (Lee's father-in-law) stipulated in his will that the slaves be freed within five years of his death. Lee, one of the executors of his father-in-law's estate, freed the slaves five years and two months after Custis' passing. Lee had not owned slaves prior to this, nor afterwards.
Abraham Lincoln, that "savior of the Union," tromped on the Constitution so hard and so many times that it is astounding. Too bad history does not cover very well that he suspended habeas corpus so that Lincoln could jail state and federal lawmakers who opposed him. His violations are too numerous to mention in the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, Lincoln's presidency could be best described only by words from a hundred years later, "We had to destroy the village to save it."
Then you have that old devil, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Yes, that "founding member and Grand Wizard of the KKK." The facts state otherwise. He was an early member, not a founding member, there is a difference. The evidence he was a "Grand Wizard" of the KKK seems to be that the position was invented for him.
Yet, he turned away from the KKK. As Grand Wizard, in January 1869 he issued KKK General Order Number One: "It is therefore ordered and decreed, that the masks and costumes of this Order be entirely abolished and destroyed."
His last public appearance, at a July 1875 meeting of the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, an organization of black Southerners advocating racial reconciliation, Forrest made these remarks:
Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) This day is a day that is proud to me, having occupied the position that I did for the past twelve years, and been misunderstood by your race. This is the first opportunity I have had during that time to say that I am your friend. I am here a representative of the southern people, one more slandered and maligned than any man in the nation.
I will say to you and to the colored race that men who bore arms and followed the flag of the Confederacy are, with very few exceptions, your friends. I have an opportunity of saying what I have always felt – that I am your friend, for my interests are your interests, and your interests are my interests. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, and live in the same land. Why, then, can we not live as brothers? I will say that when the war broke out I felt it my duty to stand by my people. When the time came I did the best I could, and I don't believe I flickered. I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe that I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to bring about peace. It has always been my motto to elevate every man- to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going.
I have not said anything about politics today. I don't propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, that you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Use your best judgment in selecting men for office and vote as you think right.
Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. I have been in the heat of battle when colored men, asked me to protect them. I have placed myself between them and the bullets of my men, and told them they should be kept unharmed. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand" (Prolonged applause.)
I don't know about you, but that sounds like someone who made a mistake and was trying to do the right thing. Did I mention that in August 1874, Forrest wrote to Tennessee Governor Brown, offering "to exterminate the white marauders who disgrace their race by this cowardly murder of Negroes"? Does this sound like a man who he is currently painted to be?
Don't paint people in absolutes, because we aren't.