Richard Stride Commentary: ‘All We Want Are the Facts, Ma’am’


In the TV series “Dragnet,” Sergeant Joe Friday had two phrases about facts: “All we want to know are the facts” and “All we know are the facts.”

Joe Friday didn’t beat around the bush. All he wanted to know was the facts. A comedic crime movie starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks called “Dragnet” premiered in 1987. Aykroyd played Sergeant Joe Friday, the no-nonsense Los Angeles detective, and Tom Hanks played a modern new-breed cop named Pep Streebeck. 

Consequences and political divisions of America’s Civil War are still with us today. That’s why it’s dangerous for us to throw around the phrase “civil war.” More than likely, those who throw around this term have never seen the horrors of war. War is not glamorous. War is not a game. It is utterly devastating for those who have lived through it, just as the Ukrainian people are experiencing. The fact is that those who fight in wars are never, ever the same. 

Talk to any veteran of any war and they will tell you — war is hell. You cannot cause or see the carnage of war and not be haunted by it, no matter how justified you believe the cause is. 

When I began contemplating why history as we learned it may not be correct, the phrase by Sergeant Joe Friday, “Just the facts, Ma’am,” came to mind. When it comes to getting history correct, all I want to know are the facts. So here are the facts from historical “source documents.” Just the facts, without political spin. 

Because I love history and have an interest in the Civil War and the two World Wars America has fought in, I like to get the facts straight. Let’s consider the legacies of the two most famous generals of the war, Ulysses Grant  and Robert E. Lee. 

These legacies, at least the way I learned them, are incorrect. For instance, I had always taken as truth that Grant was not a particularly impressive general. I realized that I, and maybe you too, did not really understand the man, Grant. Ronald C. White, in his book “American Ulysses,” aims to set the record straight and introduce us to the real Grant. White relies on seven years of research and primary source documents previously ignored by other historians.

Grant is described by White as a gifted general and adamant defender of equal rights in post war reconstruction. As president, he fought to put down the Ku Klux Klan and succeeded. 

I have often heard it said the United States (the Union) only won the Civil War because of overwhelming manpower or because of vast resources.

The United States did have both, but they, in and of themselves, did not win the war. 

The facts are, rebels (the Confederates) had their own advantages: geography (750,000 square miles), fighting mainly in their own territory (home field advantage) and seven of the eight military colleges were in the South (training). While Grant is often underrated, Lee is often overrated. 

The facts are, Lee refused to alter his battle plans or listen to his generals concerning the folly of frontal attacks (Pickett’s Charge) and ill-fated offensive maneuvers (two attempted northern invasions) were failures. Lee bore an astounding 209,000 casualties in one theater. With 55,000 fewer casualties than Lee in, not one, but two theaters, Grant simply out-generaled Lee.

In Grant's memoirs, considered by many to be a literary masterpiece, he sums up his thoughts about the Confederate cause as “one of the worst for which people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

Fact: America is deeply divided today. It does not have to be, but it is. 

Fact: The roots of these divisions go back further than the Civil War but culminated in it.

The war was fought over making sure the American democracy experiment continued. 

What was the American experiment you ask?  That “all men (“persons” in today’s vernacular) are created equal…” 

Every person, no matter their race, religion or ethnicity should be free to live life as they wish and to pursue whatever makes them happy. If we respect the rights of others to live as they would like, and do not attempt to nullify those rights, we are all free. 

This is not a political statement — they’re historical truths — not as you or I may want them to be. 

“All I want are the facts…”    


Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at