Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Lyon Fremantle is a unique character in the annals of the Civil War. He was a foreigner in America and a member of Queen Victoria’s Coldstream Guards, yet more of a tourist than an official observer. He entered the States through Mexico and Texas and originally, because of the slavery issue, held sympathies for the Union. He eventually reached Richmond, Virginia, and from there, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On the 30th of June, 1863, he met the famous Southern general.
Michael Shaara used Fremantle’s published diary Three Months in the Southern States (now, The Fremantle Diary) in research for his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Killer Angels. One chapter is devoted to the curious Englishman, and it dramatizes much of Fremantle’s opinions on the war and the relationship between the Confederate States and England.
According to this, then, Fremantle can be seen as a prim and excitable foreigner, fascinated by the roughness, yet familiarity of the Southern army. His most significant idea is that the Southerners were merely “transplanted Englishmen” (Shaara, 150) and that the war was really about how the South preferred class and cultural unity over the North’s diversity of religion, expansion of industry, and “aristocracy of wealth” (156). Fremantle recognized a distinctly American coarseness in the people, yet considered that they could only have imagined themselves a new nation: The names were all European, they were gentlemen in too many ways, they respected proper breeding in animals and women, they loved tradition – not the “equality rot” of the North (156). How can they be anything but the “Old Country” itself (156), Fremantle reasoned.
Fremantle concluded the prologue to his published book with this insightful statement:
I have not attempted to conceal any of the peculiarities or defects of the Southern people. Many persons will doubtless highly disapprove of some of their customs and habits in the wilder portion of the country; but I think no generous man, whatever may be his political opinions, can do otherwise than admire the courage, energy, and patriotism of the whole population, and the skill of its leaders, in this struggle against great odds. And I am also of opinion that many will agree with me in thinking that a people in which all ranks and both sexes display a unanimity and a heroism which can never have been surpassed in the history of the world, is destined sooner or later, to become a great and independent nation.
Fremantle, A.L. (1864). Three months in the southern states. Mobile: S. H. Goetzel. Retrieved from http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/fremantle/fremantle.html
Shaara, M. (2004). The killer angels. New York, NY: Modern Library. (Original work published 1974)
The previous entry is a part of a series of Gettysburg posts recounting Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels and the actual battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. The complete list of entries can be found at the page The Killer Angels.