Officers in the US military are sworn to defend the Constitution, not the government or flag of the government, the latter mentioned below as a justification for loyalty. William Rawle’s “View of the Constitution” which supported the idea of political secession, was a West Point text at least until 1840, when George H. Thomas graduated, and he was well aware of the seat of loyalty in the Constitution.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Treason Against His Native State — Virginia?
“We have collected the most conclusive proof that General [George H.] Thomas had at first fully decided to come South and cast his lot with his own people . . . But, in the meantime, it may be as well to put into our records the testimony of Senator Cameron of Pennsylvania, in his speech in the United States Senate on the bill for the relief of General Fitz John Porter. Mr. Cameron, in the course of his defense of General Porter said:
“It became my duty to take charge of the railroad from Harrisburg to Baltimore, and while so engaged an incident occurred in my office which impressed me greatly at the time, and which it has always seemed to me should atone to a great extent for any errors General Porter may have committed . . . It was to a great extent through him, in my judgment, that the services of General George H. Thomas were secured to the side of the Union. General Thomas, then Major Thomas, was stationed at the Carlisle Barracks.
The capital of the nation was menaced by an enemy camping within a few miles of it, and had but a handful of men for its protection. Porter . . . selected Thomas from . . . three Majors and ordered him to report to him at my office in Harrisburg, that being Porter’s headquarters.
When informed of the duty to be performed, Thomas hesitated, then began a conversation between the two officers which continued until morning and made a lasting impression on my mind. Thomas argued against the war taking the ground that the trouble had been brought upon the country by the abolitionists of the North, and that while deploring it as sincerely as any man could, the South had just cause for complaint.
Porter took the position that he, Thomas, as a soldier, had no right to look at the cause of the trouble, but as an officer of the United States army it was his duty to defend his flag whenever it was attacked, whether by foes from without or from within. Porter pleaded as zealously, as eloquently, as I have ever heard any man plead a cause in which his whole heart was engaged, and it was this pleading which caused Thomas to arrive at a decision.
“I do not say that Thomas refused to obey his orders, but I do say that he hesitated and would much have preferred that the duty had devolved upon another. Thomas was a Virginian, and had, as many other good and patriotic men had, great doubts as to the ability of the government to coerce the States back into the Union that had, by their legislatures, formally withdrawn . . . ”
(Did George H. Thomas Hesitate to Draw His sword Against His Native State — Virginia? Notes and Queries, Southern Historical Papers, Volume XII, R.A. Brock, Editor, pp. 568-570)