The principle of loyalty – and its unseemly brother, treason – was at the center of the debate about the coming war leading up to and following the firing of the guns at Fort Sumter. As William Blair points out in his 2014 book With Malice toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era, accusations of treason were ubiquitous in northern newspapers during the war, despite the narrow definition of the crime specified by the US Constitution. Blair argues that popular accusations of “treasonous behavior” were wielded indiscriminately during the period, beyond and sometimes in seeming opposition to an American legal tradition that sought to curtail perceived abuses of Britain’s use of “constructive” treason to “punish people who had committed no actual crime beyond expressing disloyalty.” Faced with war and beset by strife, Americans discarded theory for the more mundane practicalities of determining loyalty of brother, friend, and classmate. Concerns of loyalty were of paramount importance within the military, and were perhaps most fraught with regards to the Army’s officer corps educated at West Point. Debates regarding the motivations of generals such as Robert E. Lee might invoke tension between state and national allegiances, but such philosophical abstractions were not foremost in the minds of most of those at West Point, or those who considered whether to trust the institution’s graduates. As demonstrated by two items in LSU Libraries’ Special Collections, loyalty was the preoccupation of statisticians and schoolboys alike.
Miles, John David
"The Loyalty of West Point’s Graduates Debated,"
Civil War Book Review: Vol. 21
Available at: https://repository.lsu.edu/cwbr/vol21/iss1/4