30 June 2009
The Siege of Vicksburg
Coming into Vicksburg from Black River brought great consternation to the natives, and there was a rush for the hills of the Yazoo. The slaveholders forced their slaves to go with them, though many, when they got into the hills, stole away and ran for protection to the Union Army. There were clusters of slave cabins, and as they returned, bringing what little they could, they entered these cabins. The soldiers all expected a siege, and there was a scrambling for cooking utensils for camp. A black man was carrying a frying pan and a mounted soldier ordered him to give it to him. The slave answered: "Lord Massa, I borrowed it, and promised to take it back, sir." He cursed him, but the man ran with the pan and threw it into the door of the cabin where it belonged. The soldier followed quickly and ordered the woman to give it up. She pleaded it was all she had and she could not spare it and closed the door. He deliberately got off his horse, put his musket through a crack in the cabin and fired at her. She fell like a beef and he walked in and got the frying pan and went away! Her left limb was broken above the knee, and the musket being so close the bone was badly shattered. Dr. Roller amputated the limb and cared for her till he was overtaxed with the sick and wounded and begged me to take charge of her. I brought soup and other nourishment and dressed her wound for thirty days. During that time I made use of every means I thought of to inspire courage and bring cheer to her soul, but in no case could I produce a smile. Her heart had died! She was a slave from infancy, had a child when fifteen years old, and her life had been a horror to her. When we came she, with all other slaves, recognized us as her city of refuge and at the risk of her life ran into our arms for safety, to be shot down like a beast!
One morning I went in and saw there was gangrene in her wound, and promptly told her she must die. Her face lighted up as I told her, for the first time in thirty days she smiled! It comforts me now to remember the care I took of that desolate soul. O, what wailing there will be at the judgment seat of Christ!
Actually, Mr. Toilet Brain, that is what my wife has done. It's also fine for her and she's proud of it - and so am I. She's also run a business, fed the poor, taken in the homeless, nursed sick animals (both wild and domestic) back to health, led a 4H youth group, tutored disadvantaged children, taught Sunday school, and borne six children - four of whom she homeschooled and all who've become productive, God-fearing members of society. She's also the grandmother of 13. All her children and grandchildren love her dearly. Most Americans would agree that being a mother is the most important role a woman could play. (Your idiotic, mean-spirited comment says much more about you than anything and proves you - and your ilk - are out of touch with the majority of Americans.)
Of course, being a productive member of society is no doubt foreign to you since your resume consists of being a failed, not-so-funny comedian and a failed, not-so-interesting talk-show host. You tried to be funny and weren't, you talked a lot and nobody listened - come to think of it, the U.S. Senate is the perfect career move for you!
We're all looking forward to your words of wisdom from the Senate floor. You'll be with like-minded folks, that's for sure. By the way, is the stuffed bear one of the "votes" you came up with to steal the election in Minnesota?
One suggestion - put the Luvs diaper over your mouth to catch the filth that will no doubt be spewing out of it.
End of rant - regular programming from the self-confessed ignorant will continue soon. Personally, I prefer self-confessed ignorance over the unaware variety. ;o)
Or, as Amos Bronson Alcott once said, “To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.”
29 June 2009
Just another anecdotal accusation, I suppose. Perhaps Mr. Malstead exaggerated. Perhaps not. But dismissing repeated, persistent charges regarding Grant's drinking problem and whether or not he was just an occasional stumbling drunk, or a wake up in his own vomit drunk, tells us much more about the historian than it does anything else.
We do know this. Grant and Lee both held each other in high esteem after the WBTS. Lee (while President of Washington College), addressing a disrespectful comment about Grant replied:
"Sir, if you ever again presume to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this university."
And Grant said this of Lee:
“My own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on receipt of Lee’s letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and so valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause.”
“All the people except a few political leaders in the South will accept whatever he does as right and will be guided to a great extent by his example.”
Here's my comment which Kevin writes about:
“If Grant had a drinking problem, the answer to your question could be that he was willing to sacrifice thousands of more men due to the fact his judgment was impaired by alcohol.”
As I further clarified (and which Kevin left out):
My comment was a rhetorical response to James's rhetorical question:
"What does it say about Confederate military prowess that they were beaten by a drunk?"
I think there are many who would label someone who drinks themselves unconscious a drunkard.
Again, as I said in my original post, perhaps one prefers degrees of the label.
However, Kevin did get one thing right:
As the argument goes Lee fought a traditional war of virtuous generals and civilized tactics while Grant and Sherman ushered in a new era of warfare that anticipated the blood baths of the twentieith century.
27 June 2009
Kevin bases his opinion (at least in part) on a new book by Joan Waugh. KL writes: "Anyone familiar with recent Grant studies already knows that the evidence against Grant is weak or inconclusive. According to Waugh and others, Grant drank occasionally, but not 'when it counted' and rarely in excess." [Emphasis mine].
As a former indulger of strong drink myself, I'm not sure what Kevin means by "when it counted." In my former heathen life (over 30 years ago), "when it counted" to me meant whenever I was conscious. But I digress.
Not all historians would agree with Levin - no surprise there. Interestingly enough, Kevin's post title has been used before by historian Edward Longacre. In his article on HNN on 9/10/07, titled: Was Grant A Drunk? - Longacre writes that he believes Grant was a "binge drinker."
Longacre further notes:
"Grant’s drinking habits should be recognized and examined, not ignored or downplayed as they have been by overzealous defenders of his good name during his lifetime and ever since. That Grant drank occasionally while on duty is a matter of record, as is the fact that on more than a few occasions he drank until intoxicated, stuporous, and violently ill." [Emphasis mine]
And . . .
"Grant did not fit the stereotype of the falling-down drunk. He drank at irregular intervals, in varying quantities, and with differing results. At times he imbibed moderately, with little or no noticeable effect, and he was capable of refusing a drink, explaining that alcohol brought him nothing but trouble. Even so, he was, in the clinical sense of the term, an alcoholic. On more than a few occasions he drank long and hard, unable to stop short of unconsciousness or some form of intervention . . . "
Uh, forgive me for being picky, but "unable to stop short of unconsciousness" would fit my definition of "a drunk." But maybe that's just me. I suppose we will have to clarify our definitions of "drunk" in degrees: "falling down drunk" to "puking, unconscious drunk." (I would tend to think that the latter is actually worse than the former. Personally, I would prefer being intoxicated with a stumble here and there to waking up in my own vomit. But, again, that's just me.)
I've never studied Grant to any degree, so I don't consider myself an expert on his drinking habits but, assuming Longacre's description is accurate, his opinion would differ with that of Levin's and, according to KL, that of Waugh's "and others."
For those who are a bit cynical and suspicisous when it comes to "recent" historiography, one might detect a trend. Some of the recent biographies and studies of Lee have suggested he was much less the gentleman than many think. Other historians have recently suggested that murderer John Brown's life should be "celebrated" and that he was "an immensely principled activist, a revolutionary whose dedication—whose sacrifice of his life—to the cause of freeing America’s slaves has much to teach a morally relativistic, ethically relaxed age."
As part of this apparent trend and attempt to "equalize" various historical figures, are we now seeing an effort to sober General Grant? So what do you think? Has Grant been mischaracterized or was he truly a drunk?
Its enough to drive a man to drinkin'.
26 June 2009
"Beyond its mythology in the American imagination, Appalachia has long been a vanguard region in the United States-—a cradle of U.S. freedom and independence, and a hot bed for literature and music. Some of the most quintessential and daring American innovations, rebellions, and social movements have emerged from an area often stereotyped as a quaint backwater. In the process, immigrants from the Appalachian diaspora have become some of our nation's most famous leaders."
I just received this book today and am looking forward to begin reading it this weekend. Several months ago, I began writing a lengthy post about the dominance of Southern culture in America. I hope to post that soon.
You can listen to the full 50-minute informative interview by clicking here. As I've done before, I would enourage all my readers to support the great work being done by the Civil War Preservation Trust.
Here's a good read for some of our Northern friends and academics who seem to have lost touch with reality. Yes, I know its hard to believe, but many Southern women really did sew, knit, and support their husbands - and the war effort - during the War Between the States.
From the book . . .
"And then there were the notebook's other contents, the lists — of General Lee's godchildren, of groceries bought and wagonloads of food received, of hundreds of socks and gloves knitted from bales of cotton and pounds of wool, the myriad household uses for common ingredients like salt and ammonia. As I puzzled over the brittle pages, the shabby little notebook grew in fascination. Might it, if understood, illuminate the intimate domestic life of the people in those dim portraits, at least in part? " (Emphasis mine)
This book is written by Anne Carter Zimmer. She is the great-granddaughter of Mary and Robert E. Lee.
25 June 2009
For an interesting discussion on states rights and the WBTS, click here. The 8 minute clip is from the Jefferson Davis ~ An American President documentary and includes commentary from several noted academics.
The clip on the documentary site is also worth watching.
24 June 2009
23 June 2009
22 June 2009
This print, by Henry Kidd, adorns my parlor. My wife and 4 daughters - all Southern ladies - love it.
They believe it catches much of the essence of the idyllic 19th century Southern lady who was loyal to the Confederacy: patriotic, a keeper at home, and dedicated to the cause for which her sons, husband, and father fought.
20 June 2009
18 June 2009
However . . . according to the latest completed crime statistics from the Department of Justice and the Census Bureau (2007), hate crime rates are highest in the North. New Jersey has the highest rate per 100,000 persons of any state in the Union.
Interestingly enough, of the *13 original states that made up the the Confederacy, 9 are among those states with the lowest hate crimes per 100,000.
Shouldn't the drama queens who are constantly stressed out over the "redneck" aspect of Southern culture be directing their energies to combat real harm against our fellow citizens where it would do the most good?
*I'm including Missouri and Kentucky.
And . . .
"But nearly a century and a half has passed since Johnny Rebel whooped for the last time. Slavery is dead, and so too is the large-scale industrial economy that the Yankees embraced as their path to victory over the South and to global prosperity. . ."
Click here to read the rest of this recent article in the Wall Street Journal on "devolution."
Strange times we live in, don't you think?
17 June 2009
16 June 2009
Normally, I would have to agree with the critics that such comments should be left out of these types of memorial speeches. However, in this case, the letter in question also sought to demean those men to whom the monument was dedicated. Maxwell's comments, which touched on the letter, were simply a defense of those men.
Moreover, given the highly publicized letter and the hyper-politicization of our nation's history (and not just the Civil War), along with the fact the letter included an attack on Maxwell and the fact he would be delivering the speech this year, I think his comments were quite appropriate.
The critics suggesting that Maxwell should not have commented on the controversy--and come to the defense of those being memorialized--are either disingenuous or extremely naive.
13 June 2009
"A couple of the panelists on the John Brown session waxed somewhat romantic in their defense of the radical abolitionist, stimulating a useful exchange about what constitutes justifiable revolutionary violence." ~ Professor David Blight commenting on the Sesquicentennial seminar held recently at the University of Richmond.
Along that same line of thought . . .
"The picture of John Brown that has come down through time is largely that of a madman, a fanatic. The leader of the failed 1859 raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, who hoped to touch off a massive slave rebellion, was deranged, a violent psychotic, “a brutal murderer if ever there was one,” wrote the historian Bruce Catton in 1961. But Evan Carton, an English professor at the University of Texas, argues otherwise in his thoughtful, well-researched new biography of Brown, Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America. As Carton sees it, Brown was no psychotic but rather an immensely principled activist, a revolutionary whose dedication—whose sacrifice of his life—to the cause of freeing America’s slaves has much to teach a morally relativistic, ethically relaxed age."
Of course, not all professional historians are of the same mind when it comes to John Brown:
"John Brown was, in effect, a terrorist. Whether you agree or that what he was doing was right or not. There are people in the Taliban who believe what they're doing is right." ~ Gerry Gaumer, spokesman for the Park Service in Washington, D.C.
And . . .
"The fifth victim floated nearby as John Brown and his men washed blood from their swords in Pottawatomie Creek. Brown said that the killings had been committed in accordance to "God’s will," and that he wanted to "strike terror in the hearts of the proslavery people." ~ From PBS' American Experience
So, what you think? Are the first two comments reflective of an objective, careful analysis, and "sophisticated" approach to historiography? Or, are they similar in sentiment and motivation to what many academics accuse "Lost Causers" of?
And, just for some drama and shameless self-promotion, here's what I wrote about Brown's hanging in my book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school class:
On December 2, 1859, a largely military crowd in Charlestown looked on with vindication as the radical abolitionist John Brown was hanged. The only noise heard was the creaking of the wooden gallows and strained hemp as Brown’s “struggles continued, growing feebler and feebler at each abortive attempt to breathe.” When Brown’s body mercifully stilled at last, slowly “swayed to and fro by the wind,” there was a long, pained silence. Preston [John Thomas Lewis], present with the VMI cadets, cracked the icy air with his booming voice, uttering the words, “So perish all such enemies of Virginia! All such enemies of the Union! All such foes of the human race!” He later wrote of the incident, “So I felt, and so I said, with solemnity and without one shade of animosity, as I turned to break the silence, to those around me.”
Yes, I know this controversy is nothing new but it (the sentiments expressed by the first two quotes) does appear to be evolving into a more acceptable interpretation and school of thought. But is it good history?
Hmmm . . .
12 June 2009
The "Lost Cause mythology" was but a part of an understanding reached by most Americans around the end of the 19th century. (I am aware this agreement excluded African-Americans, but that is another story. There was little North/South difference of opinion on that.) The understanding, which was deemed essential to the strength of the country, went something like this: The Civil War had been a terrible ordeal for Americans. But perhaps it had been the crucible necessary to create a new, strong nation out of the original Union. At any rate, most people on both sides were satisfied that in the end America was held together. Nearly all Southerners sincerely accepted this. They would ever after be staunch supporters of the United States, as they have proved many times over ever since in countless ways, including their persistent over-representation in the combat arms of the national forces. All they asked in return was an acknowledgment that, if they had been wrong in the pursuit of independence, they had not been dishonorable and that they had fought a good fight that could be appreciated as a part of the pride of all Americans. Until rather recently that little has been granted, but "America" is now in the process of reneging on its part of the bargain.~ Clyde Wilson Ph.D
That commentary from Dr. Wilson very succinctly describes, in my opinion, the historically correct view of the "Lost Cause" and puts it in the proper context. Unfortunately, criticism of the LC is now being used to drive an agenda. I'll post a recent example tomorrow.
11 June 2009
"Interesting account of the Sesquicentennial kickoff in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a slavery historian from Yale.
For a motif in his article, David Blight despite his pedigree, sophomorically grabs onto so-called "Lost Cause history" and tells how he would like to stamp out this imaginary school of thought and re-educate its purported proponents. Deleriously [sic] waving this red herring, handed to him by respected Centennialists, he completely misses the up-to-date, historiographic struggle occurring under his very nose in real time.
Agitating against "Lost Cause" historiography invites one into a fantasy struggle against a pretend school of thought invented out of scraps of writing and speech and then built into a menace. Centennialism dresses up as Don Quixote to tilt against this windmill while its real foes line up for hard jousting." ~ Dimitri Rotov (Emphasis mine)
The rest of Mr. Rotov's criticism on this trend can be read here.
Mr. Rotov's sharp, though short, critique of "the struggle", and academics' unhealthy obsession with it, dovetails nicely into my previous posts (See here, here, and here) about "Lost Causers" funding America's Civil War (The magazine, that is), and how so many of these academics would have nothing to do or say were it not for "the bad boys of the Confederacy".
As Paul Greenberg has written:
"What is the South?" they always ask. It's a question never answered, not completely, but invariably asked. Usually by some Northerner with a taste for literature. Or by sociology students in search of a thesis.To many, the South is the "Lost Cause" and the only thing left that's sure to be a winning thesis topic.
(Image is of The Lost Cause 1869, by Henry Mosler and has been described as "a poetic tribute to the middle-class farmers of the South who fought and lost the Civil War.")
Augusta County Civil War Politician Topic For RCWRTA state and Confederate political leader from Augusta County will be the topic of next week’s meeting of the Rockbridge Civil War Round Table.
John Hildebrand of Salem will be speaking on “The Life and Times of John Brown Baldwin, 1820-1873: A Chronicle of Virginia’s Struggle with Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction,” the title of his new book.
The meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Turman Room of the Preston Library at Virginia Military Institute.
Baldwin fought to keep Virginia from secession, but failing in this, he served as the colonel of the 52nd Virginia Infantry, which included companies from Augusta, Rockbridge and Bath counties. In 1862, he was elected to the Confederate Congress and served to the end of the war. Baldwin was instrument in writing the new Virginia constitution, which led to Virginia rejoining the Union in 1870.
Hildebrand has authored several books, including “Iron Horses in the Valley” on the effort to run a railroad line from Staunton to Roanoke through Rockbridge County after the Civil War.
The next meeting of the Civil War Round Table will take place in September.
This notice is from the News-Gazette of Lexington, Virginia.
10 June 2009
Tamela's comments were actually in response to my original post about "Lost Causers" funding America's Civil War. Her comments follow, along with my response to her comments:
Hi Richard --
One of my staff members brought yesterday's post to my attention, and I just wanted to take a moment to respond. First off, in fairness to Winston, I should point out that his new book on Vicksburg is not a novel--it's a factual history about the Vicksburg campaign. (That ad, in fact, was the only one I knew about before we took the July issue of America's Civil War to press; I don't get in the sales team's way, and they don't get in mine. :) Anyway, thanks for plugging the magazine, and I just wanted to note for all your readers that we try to treat all the re-enactors and "Confederate bad boys" with respect. We recognize them as a significant and important part of our audience, and neither the former editor nor I can remember a disparaging editorial tone to any issue of ACW that we've been in charge of. We don't take sides in the magazine, but try to build awareness and understanding of all aspects of this horrendous crisis in our nation's history. As for the sales reps, I can't speak entirely for them, but given the current economic climate, they're going to target anybody who has an interest in the Civil War--North, South, or East and West for that matter. :) Richard, thanks again for reading the magazine and for all you do to keep interest in the Civil War Alive. (Emphasis mine)
Editor, America's Civil War
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I apologize for the error regarding Mr. Wintson's book. Sloppy mistake on my part. I'll correct that in the original post.
I did try to go out of my way to make it clear in my post that my comments were not in any way a criticism of your magazine. As I pointed out - I love it!
I would just reiterate that I've not seen anything, editorially speaking, in your magazine that is not fair and balanced - I was just making some observations.
That being said, my post was simply intended to point out that many of the "Southern/Confederate heritage" critics would have little to write about and/or publish if it weren't for some of the folks they seem to enjoy mocking. And, as you acknowledge, that particular segment of the market (though I don't buy into all of the critics' characterizations) makes up "a significant and important part" of your audience.
Again, thank you so much for taking the time to comment and thank YOU for all you folks are doing to keep interest in the Civil War alive. You're doing a great job and I wish you many profitable and successful years in the future. ~ RGW
"Eighty-three percent (83%) of voters nationwide rate the U.S. Constitution as good or excellent, and there is little public support for changing the document. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% believe the Constitution doesn't place enough restrictions on the government. Only 10% hold the opposite view and say the nation’s governing charter places too many restrictions on government."
And . . .
"Overall, by a 59% to 23% margin, voters say there is more danger today from a government that is too powerful rather than a government that is not powerful. Those with Mainstream views overwhelmingly see a bigger threat from a too-powerful government. Among the Political Class, a plurality holds the opposite view."
What do you think?
*Would you consider academics "among the political class"?
For the most part, I would - i.e., many (not all) are elitist in their views and think that "they" and the government are smarter than the rest of us and better able to tell us how to conduct our lives. (What and how to think, what to drive, Who or what to worship, what to eat, and what types of light bulbs we should use.) They are, according to this survey, woefully out of touch with mainstream America when it comes to government and the Constitution, not to mention their incessant nannyism.
As a follow up to yesterday's post:
"I will wager that the Lost Cause icon on the cover will sell more books than the "Lost Cause" critique inside. It won’t be the first time that bashers of Confederate heroes have piggy-backed upon their still-living glory." ~ Professor Clyde Wilson
09 June 2009
Apparently so - at least indirectly. Let me explain.
I subscribe to America's Civil War. Great publication. I look forward to the magazine each month. I recommend it. So no problem with the magazine - I just want to make that clear. But as I was thumbing through the most recent issue ((July 2009), I could not help but notice the full page color ads which, as anyone familiar with advertising rates knows, are very pricey. In this particular issue there were 9 full page color ads directly related to some aspect of the Civil War.
The first one (inside front cover) featured a history of the Battle of Vicksburg by Winston Groom, titled appropriately, Vicksburg 1863. The second one was for the Civil War Museum in Wisconsin. The third, a Bradford exchange sculptured holster featuring the artwork of Paul Strain (a favorite target of Confederate heritage bashers), which includes images of the Confederate battle flag and General Lee. The fourth was from the New York Mint hawking Lincoln wheat pennies (BTW, I have an extensive collection of Lincoln wheat pennies). The fifth was an ad for a Dale Gallon print of General Lee on Traveller. The sixth was an ad for all 16 volumes of Confederate Military History. Number 7 was from The Teaching Company advertising 24 lectures on DVD and/or CD titled, Robert E. Lee and His High Command. 8th in the lineup was "Pride of the South" another product of The Bradford Exchange. This is a ring featuring a Confederate flag display under which there is a banner which reads: 1861 C.S.A. 1865 and "Pride of the South" inscribed on the inside of the ring - a real bargain for just 3 monthly installments of $33 each. ;o) And the the last full page color about related to the WBTS is on the back inside cover and features the Cyclorama at Gettysburg.
Now, for some observations. First of all, 5 of the 9 ads were specifically Confederate oriented. Of those 5, it could be said that 3 were targeting those customers who some would consider "Lost Causers" or "Southern Heritage" types - the holster sculpture, the Gallon print, and the CSA ring. The other two were educational, but, again, CSA focused.
The remaining 4, with the exception of the Lincoln penny, were "neutral" ads - not really focused on either side of the conflict. So, why the inordinate focus on the CSA? This isn't an isolated incident; you'll see this focus often in the various CW publications. We also see it in most CW artists' focus. I'm not the first to note this as quite a few other CW bloggers have made this observation - with the requisite mocking as well.
Regarding the economics of this publication and its readership, what does this tell us? Who and what segment of the marketplace are the advertisers targeting? (Based on total advertising dollars spent.) Who do the publications' sales reps target? Who make up most of the readership of the major CW magazines? Of those readers, which ones are most likely to purchase something because of an ad they saw in the magazine? Would these companies consistently spend this kind of money if they weren't seeing results from the readership of these magazines?
We know that both casual students of the war, as well as academics, read the publication and other ones like it. A number of academics also write for ACW and similar magazines. I enjoy most of those pieces and learn quite a bit from them. However, it strikes me as rather ironic that many (not all) academics/contributors like to make fun of and impugn the segment of the marketplace being targeted by these ads - those considered "Lost-Causers, Confederate Heritage types," etc., etc. It's also becoming more common to hear and read disparaging comments about reenactors; as one Lexington academic/politician type was overheard saying during discussion over locating the Museum of the Confederacy in Lexington a couple of years ago. Regarding reenactors, this person said they didn't want anything in Lexington which would "attract any more redneck reenactor types." How inclusive. But I digress.
Though he's not featured in this issue, another of the favorite targets of the scorners is Mort Kunstler. His ads have been featured quite often in past issues. Some of the rather juvenile comments made about his artwork that I've read would really make you laugh - that is if you're 14 and enjoy watching Beavis & Butthead.
Yet it is quite obvious that this publication is (through its advertising), targeting and capitalizing on that very "segment" of the marketplace (the CW Reenactor, Southern Heritage segment, not the Beavis and Butthead segment) which are so often the target of barbs and scorns coming from some academics and CW writers. Who would the mockers say are buying the ring, the holster - even the Gallon print? We know the answer. Even James "Don't Honor The Confederate Dead" McPherson has weighed in on the subject before. (I wonder if American Heritage returned the ad money, seeing they felt so "uncomfortable" about that ad?)
Even the majority of the other full page ads in this issue of ACW focus primarily on the Confederacy. I'm sure this isn't true in every issue, but I've observed this to be the case more often than not in ACW, as well as other CW magazines.
Isn't this ironic? All this focus on the bad boys. What's up with this? A love/hate relationship? Curiosity? The Union Army is boring? A secret love that must be disguised with criticism? Secretly rooting for the underdog?
My oh my, what would the critics, the CW publications, publishers, and bloggers do if it weren't for the bad boys of the Confederacy and those who study them and also those who wish to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy? What if there were no good ole boys in SCV camps, Civil War Roundtables, Reeanctor Units, no rednecks with CSA flag bumper-stickers? No one to poke and prod under the academic microscope, no one to poke fun at, no one to put down in order to elevate themselves, no one to target advertising to and a lot less fellows from which to extrapolate money. For the Confederate heritage folks to be so "irrelevant", there sure is a lot of bandwidth being used up to impugn them. Are these good ole boys helping to pay the academics who write for ACW? Shouldn't they thank them? Or, should they voice their protests about the ads?
Am I over-stating my case? Perhaps (a little). But how boring life would be without those "redneck reenactor types."
08 June 2009
In addition to our celebration, Winchester also hosted the annual Gathering of Eagles over the weekend. Though not planned, we were invited to attend their reception on Friday night. We did so and had a great time seeing old friends, as well as meeting some new ones.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy also presented some awards for historic preservation and military service on Saturday. Historian Stephen Lee Ritchie (pictured here) was on hand and addressed a gathering at Mount Hebron Cemetery. Ritchie is historian for the Civil War Institute at Shenandoah University, as well as a charter member of the Civil War Preservation Trust and a founding member of the Kernstown Battlefield Association.
See story here.
I'll try to post some more photos from the weekend's festivities later.
04 June 2009
The Civil War round table at Virginia Military Institute and the Rockbridge Civil War Round Table are co-sponsoring a talk this Thursday, June 4, on the secession crisis in Rockbridge County at the start of the Civil War.
Tom Rittenburg, the author of a new book entitled “Compelled to Fight: The Secession Crisis in Rockbridge County, Virginia,” will speak on his book at 7:30 p.m. in the Turman Room at VMI’s Preston Library.
Rittenburg, a lawyer who lives in California, is a 1975 graduate of Washington and Lee University. For his honors thesis, he had written on the secession crisis in Rockbridge County, spending over a year poring over old records and letters in the W&L archives. After years of additional researching, he has expanded his thesis into a full historical study.
Copies of his book, which was printed by Mariner Publishing in Buena Vista, will be available for purchase and signing at the meeting. Refreshments will be served.
Note: I'm off to Winchester tomorrow with the bride of my youth (Update to that post: 13 grandchildren) to celebrate our 29th anniversary - you know, love, kisses, and mushy stuff like that. No posts or comments will be posted until my return late Saturday.
03 June 2009
6 April 2009: "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation" ~ President Barack Obama
2 June 2009: "If you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world" ~ President Barack Obama
Are these statements a reflection of the truth? Can they be supported by facts? No.
According to the federal government's most recent census data, both statements by Obama are patently absurd. Let's look at the facts:
% of United States population professing some form of the Christian faith (Protestant & Catholic): 75.2% (That's over three-fourths of all Americans).
% of Unites States population professing to be of the Muslim faith: .6% - (That's six-tenths of one percent).
The President must be using that new math.
02 June 2009
The following piece is a guest post by historian and journalist Douglas Harper. It is posted here with his permission. Douglas Harper is a historian, author, journalist and lecturer based in Lancaster, Pa. He is the author of "If Thee Must Fight:" A Civil War History of Chester County, Pa." (Chester County Historical Society, 1990); "An Index of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors from Chester County, Pa." (Chester County Historical Society, 1995); "The Whitman Incident: Revolutionary Revisions to an Ephrata Tale" (Lancaster County Historical Society Journal, 1995); "West Chester to 1865: That Elegant & Notorious Place" (Chester County Historical Society, 1999). Harper is a graduate of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., with a degree in history and English. He has been featured in a BBC production on the Welsh settlements in America, and has been interviewed as a source for historical articles by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post and a number of other magazines. Mr. Harper's piece, very succinctly, destroys some common notions which are widely popular and promoted in some academic circles about the war. His approach is objective and refreshing.
The secession of 1860-61 and the shooting war that followed were the climax of a long interplay. Like a couple heading into divorce, the regions fought often, in the open and in secret. But they nursed grudges, and what they argued out loud was not always the real issue.
That the North fought the war as a crusade for the rights of black folks, to free the slaves from their chains, is easily exploded and nobody would seriously maintain it nowadays. However, the modern prevailing view is that the Southern Confederacy was a nation based on, and fighting for, slavery. This view allows no other reason for secession, and thus equates Confederate heritage with racism and slavery.
Making out that the Civil War was "about" slavery also has the advantage of being quick, clean, and easy to write. Get a hatful of quotes and you're done. The Confederate leaders and documents supply them in abundance. Taking this position also seems to show an awareness of the slaves' realities, and it adequately reflects the indignation we know we ought to feel at institutionalized human bondage. Economic history, on the other hand, tends to bog down in a turgid tangle of language. And who would want to peel back the easy answers to probe the complexities of the past, when the easy answers feel so good and absolve so much? A small class of bad guys: an aberation in the great American history.
Compare the Southern revolt of 1860 to the colonial uprising of 1776. What moved the colonists to break the ties with the "mother country?" Taxes? Tea? George William Brown, mayor of Baltimore in 1861, was a non-partisan politician and an opponent of secession (Lincoln jailed him anyhow). Yet like many people in his day he understood the move, in the light of the American Revolution, and how small points of disagreement can be the flashpoints of broader conflicts:
"The men of '76 did not fight to get rid of the petty tax of three pence a pound on tea, which was the only tax left to quarrel about. They were determined to pay no taxes, large or small, then or thereafter. Whether the tax was lawful or not was a doubtful question, about which there was a wide difference of opinion, but they did not care for that. Nothing would satisfy them but the relinquishment of any claim of right to tax the colonies, and this they could not obtain. They maintained that their rights were violated. They were, moreover, embittered by a long series of disputes with the mother country, and they wanted to be independent and to have a country of their own. They thought they were strong enough to maintain that position."
No one can deny the importance of slavery to the feud that split the United States, or that the CSA states made protection of slavery one of their central purposes. But the Southern confederacy -- that is, the national government of the CSA -- was no more built on slavery than was the Northern Union. The Confederate Constitution was pretty much a carbon copy of the U.S. Constitution, except that it stipulated that the government could not impose protective tariffs, grant subsidies, or finance internal improvements. (But then, we are constantly told that the South was "all about slavery," so economic points like that don't matter).
On the matter of slavery, it specifically asserted the inviolability of that institution. This was more clear than the U.S. Constitution, but not at odds with it, and Lincoln and many in his camp publicly declared they were willing to amend the U.S. Constitution to make it say the same, if doing so would end the rebellion.
Other than that, you can read the two constitutions side by side for long stretches and not be sure which is which. The CSA Constitution banned slave imports from Africa, proscribed international traffic in slaves, kept the three-fifths clause, and even allowed non-slave states the option of joining the new nation.
Yet the weakness of the "it was all about slavery" argument seems most apparent when you consider that when the shooting began, four future CSA states, with 1.2 million slaves, remained in the Union. The state with the single largest number of slaves of any state, Virginia, was among them. Together, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas represented half the future CSA's population and resources and held key military installations and armories.
If the entire South was going to be a minority force in the government after 1860, consider how much more so, and how much more vulnerable, the Upper South alone would have been. Yet it was willing to stay, till it saw the course of the Lincoln Administration with regard to force, not to slavery.
The secession of the Upper South, when it came, was hardly a bid to protect slave property. Virginia, Tennessee, even North Carolina, with a hostile anti-slavery United States on their frontier, could never hope to maintain slavery as a viable economic and social institution. Their pre-war complaints about fugitives prove they knew it. The mere presence of "free" states nearby in the 1850s exerted an economic pressure that was rapidly draining slavery out of the Border States.
National union, with slavery intact, was the only guarantee for slavery's continuance in the Upper South. And if you insist that every slave-holder, or slave-holding state, must make choices solely on the basis of interest in slavery, then I will argue that the Border State that remained in the Union did so to protect their slaves. Why else would slaveholders fight for the Union?
As John B. Henderson, the Unionist senator from Missouri, reminded his colleagues, "there are numbers of loyal slaveholders in that state [Missouri], men who have been carrying the flag of their country from the earliest beginning of this rebellion, who have left their homes for the battle-field, leaving their slaves behind them, many of whom are in the service of the country today, and will continue there until the rebellion is over."
I think of Basil L. Gildersleeve, Virginia cavalry veteran and professor (author of a Latin textbook I still use for reference), describing his beloved home state's awkward position in the winter of 1860-61:
Submission is slavery, and the bitterest taunt in the vocabulary of those who advocated secession was “submissionist.” But where does submission begin? Who is to mark the point of encroachment? That is a matter which must be decided by the sovereign; and on the theory that the States are sovereign, each State must be the judge.
The extreme Southern States considered their rights menaced by the issue of the presidential election. Virginia and the Border States were more deliberate; and Virginia’s “pausing” was the theme of much mockery in the State and out of it, from friend and from foe alike. Her love of peace, her love of the Union, were set down now to cowardice, now to cunning. The Mother of States and Queller of Tyrants was caricatured as Mrs. Facing-both-ways; and the great commonwealth ... was charged with trading on her neutrality. Her solemn protest was unheeded. The “serried phalanx of her gallant sons” that should “prevent the passage of the United States forces” was an expression that amused Northern critics of style as a bit of antiquated Southern rodomontade. But the call for troops showed that the rodomontade meant something. Virginia had made her decision; and if the United States forces did not find a serried phalanx barring their way, -— a serried phalanx is somewhat out of date, -— they found something that answered the purpose as well.
What was different about the situation of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, after April 14, 1861? Was slavery any more threatened after Ft. Sumter than before? Nothing in word or deed, with regard to slavery, had changed in the Lincoln Administration between the months of 1861 when Virginia was in the Union and the day she stepped out of it.
How slavery got to be the only acceptable explanation for everything done in the South in the Civil War is a matter of modern historical scholarship going overboard in a horrified attempt to right its old wrongs. I'm convinced future generations will read the tunnel-vision and decide we're all batty.
Gildersleeve, in his essay, describes some of his memories of the war. What he writes is typical; only his expression is more elevated than a hundred other testimonies.
As he's writing, he has before him "The University Memorial, which records the names and lives of the alumni of the University of Virginia who fell in the Confederate war," some 200 of them.
“[A]nd some of the noblest men who figure in its pages were Union men; and the Memorial of the Virginia Military Institute tells the same story with the same eloquence. The State was imperiled, and parties disappeared; and of the combatants in the field, some of the bravest and the most conspicuous belonged to those whose love of the old Union was warm and strong, to whom the severance of the tie that bound the States together was a personal grief. But even those who prophesied the worst, who predicted a long and bloody struggle and a doubtful result, had no question about the duty of the citizen. ... The most intimate friend I ever had, who fell after heroic services, was known by all our circle to be utterly at variance with the prevalent Southern view of the quarrel, and died upholding a right which was not a right to him except so far as the mandate of his State made it a right; and while he would have preferred to see “the old flag” floating over a united people, he restored the new banner to its place time after time when it had been cut down by shot and shell."
"Scant allusion has been made in this paper to the subject of slavery, which bulks so large in almost every study of the war. A similar scantiness of allusion to slavery is noticeable in the Memorial volume, to which I have already referred; a volume which was prepared, not to produce an impression on the Northern mind, but to indulge a natural desire to honor the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy; a book written by friends for friends.
"The rights of the State and the defense of the country are mentioned at every turn; 'the peculiar institution' is merely touched on here and there, except in one passage in which a Virginian speaker maintains that as a matter of dollars and cents it would be better for Virginia to give up her slaves than to set up a separate government, with all the cost of a standing army which the conservation of slavery would make necessary.
"This silence, which might be misunderstood, is plain enough to a Southern man. Slavery was simply a test case .... Except as a test case it is impossible to speak of the Southern view of the institution, for we were not all of the same mind."
The Republicans in the 36th Congress made it clear where the interest lay. Their private correspondence shows them interested in only the appearance of being open to compromise and discussion with the South, for the sake of public opinion. Crittenden's proposal was postponed again and again while the Republicans rushed off to take up the revived Morrill Tariff that had been the promise in exchange for Pennsylvania's votes in 1860, and which was brought up on the second day of the session, despite the secession crisis. The higher duties affected iron, cotton bagging, gunny cloth -- the kind of things that would dip directly into the pockets of Southern planters, big and small. The border state and upper South Congressmen who were risking their careers to keep their states in the union would get no help from that quarter.
"Our national property, our citizens, public officers, and rights must be protected in all the States, and our men-of-war must be stationed off the southern ports to collect the revenue." Bingham of Ohio introduced a bill to authorize collection of U.S. customs from the decks of warships. To the Senate naval appropriations bill, introduced Feb. 11, the Republicans added money for seven new steam warships, light, fast, and heavily armed. Everyone knew what that was about. "It must not be forgotten," the New York Times wrote, "that the 'coercion' by which the Federal Government will seek to preserve the integrity of the Union and the supremacy of the Constitution, must be coercion by sea. It must be mainly a matter of blockades." [Feb. 8, 1861]. After much contention, the amendment passed, 27-17.
At the same time they were striving to enforce the onerous laws on the South, they were cutting off the beneficial services; the same Congress that was insisting the tariff continue to be paid was voting to authorize the U.S. postmaster general to cut off mail service in the South.
1. George W. Brown, "Baltimore & the Nineteenth of April, 1861," N. Murray, for Johns Hopkins University, 1887, reprinted with an introduction by Kevin Conley Ruffner, Johns Hopkins, 2001.
2. Congressional Globe, July 10, 1862, p.3231.
3. "The Creed of the Old South," The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 69, issue 411, January 1892.
5. Isaac N. Morris, Jan. 16, 1861.