In the aftermath of the Civil War only one person (the commandant of the infamous Andersonville prison camp) was ever held directly accountable for war crimes. Robert E. Lee lost his swank plantation at Arlington and the right to vote. Jefferson Davis was imprisoned by the Army under harsh conditions for two years before being set free; he was never tried or convicted of anything. But no one doubts their culpability in the carnage they wrought. Between 2% and 3% of the American population died due to violence, disease, and deprivation. But after four years of hell, the nation was exhausted and, miraculously, had lost the will or the taste for vengeance (some might also say justice).
As a result, we got 150 more years of unrest, division, and resentment. Jim Crow. The KKK. The Lost Cause. The transmogrification of the Republican Party from the party of Lincoln and anti-slavery into the party of Christian Nationalism, gun zealotry, racism, chauvinism, anti-intellectualism, and xenophobia.
Imagine, just for a moment, had we been able to purge and indict and convict and imprison those who were fomenting violence and insurrection against the United States BEFORE the fighting had started.
[Originally posted on Facebook.]