10 April 2011

The War Is Over - So Why The Bitterness?


(For illustration purposes only. I
never 
once voted for Jeff Davis.)
"The fact that it is acceptable to put a Confederate flag on a car *bumper and to portray Confederates as brave and gallant defenders of states’ rights rather than as traitors and defenders of slavery is a testament to 150 years of history written by the losers." - Ohio State Professer Steven Conn in a recent piece at History News Network (No, I'll not difnigy his bitterness by providing a link)

This sounds like sour grapes to me. Were it not for the "losers", commemorations both 50 years ago and today would be virtually nonexistent. Were it not for the "losers" supporting advertisers of books and art which focus on the "lost cause" memory of the WBTS, most Civil War magazines would go out of business overnight. One publisher responded to one of my posts about this issue stating that their magazine welcomed all readers, regardless of perspective. This person sounded a bit worried that I raised the question. They should be worried. What would happen if those to whom Mr. Conn is directing his remarks suddenly lost all interest in the WBTS or decided to boycott all national parks, museums, and Civil War publications? My guess is there would be a bit of a panic. But why the bittern tone in Mr. Conn's remark above? After all, one academic conference recently announced "we" [meaning academic historians] had "won" the narrative war and gleefully announced "victory." Mr. Conn should be celebrating. According to the announcement at the conference, the "losers" have lost again.

But then again, maybe the proclamation of victory was a bit premature. More recent scholarship has suggested that at least part of the "Lost Cause Narrative" is valid. Southern historian David Goldfield's recent book puts "more responsibility for the conflict to an activist North and away from intransigent slaveholders." The book is on my summer reading list. In addition, Marc Egnal, professor of history at York University in Toronto, Canada, has recently published Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War. Professor Egnal "presents a new interpretation of the sectional conflict. A one word summary of its argument is 'economics.' It stands apart from the prevailing viewpoint, which sets forth "slavery" as the cause of the war." Neither of these academics could hardly be categorized as "neo-Confederate Lost Causers." Reviewers have claimed both books offer an objective view of the WBTS - not "150 years of history written by the losers" as Professor Conn claims.

That rather simplistic, shallow, historical analysis is sssoooo 20th century. Of course, none of the objective bloggers and historians will point out Professor Conn's liberal perspective and that just maybe, it's influencing his analysis (as they never miss doing with so-called "neo-Confederates.")

But Mr. Conn is right about my claim that my ancestors did not fight to defend slavery. And yes, they were brave and gallant soldiers. And, though history twisters will poo-poo the claim (without addressing its validity), none of my ancestors owned slaves. As I've noted before, one of my ancestors, when asked why he fought for the Confederacy replied, simply, "Because of them damn invaders." And we know that "them damn invaders" were not here to free the slaves.


15 comments:

Brock Townsend said...

Good one and posted.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Brock. I guess you're one of those "losers" too. ;o)

Chaps said...

My ancestors very likely never even saw a slave.... unless they were working along side them. My g-g-grandfather and his brother were dirt poor yet left Maryland to go to Virginia and fight for Southern independence. One is buried in an unmarked grave near Monterey Pass, PA. It isn't over until the last one surrenders.

Chaps said...

Forgot to mention that I think a lot of the animosity and put downs from the north are because we never hung our heads in shame and, to this day, do not accept the mantle of rebels and traitors.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Chaps - I think you have a valid point. Also, some academic historians have such large egos, they think only "professional" historians should be heard.

The Warrior said...

I'm a proud "loser"!

BorderRuffian said...

These academic historians are extremely arrogant.

That will be their downfall.

Patience.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BR - you are correct. We've seen quite a bit of that already. Their "declaration of victory" is so petty and full of hubris - its very distasteful and will turn lots of folks off. Wait until you see my upcoming post on the HNN "Historians For Obama" that was published in 2008. It will be quite revealing. The Emperor has no clothes.

David Rhoads said...

Many of my own Southern ancestors were slaveholders, including my great great grandfather who served in the Noxubee Rifles, Co. F, 11th Mississippi. And as near as I've been able to determine, the ones who experienced and survived the war, as well as their immediate descendants, seemed not to have been shy about claiming the mantle of rebel in its literal sense despite the outcome of the war. I'm not sure if saying this makes me politically correct
or not, but it does seem to make me more of an outlier among contemporary Southern voices than the historic demographics would suggest.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello David - deep South, not all that uncommon, of course. My ancestors were from western VA - poor dirt farmers.

Chaps said...

George Washington and his colleagues were rebels in that they broke from a government that had a presumptive claim to their loyalty. Davis, Lee, et al, did no such thing.

msimons said...

My family came from a Plantation in the Cross Anchors Area of SC. We were rich before the War and Dirt poor afterwards.

Michael said...

Very interesting post. I do have a question, though, that I hope you can answer for me: if the North was not at war with the Confederacy to free the slaves, why did the War between the States bring an end to slavery?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Because Lincoln changed the focus for political reasons. You know that. I doubt you would find anyone today who would not rejoice at the downfall of slavery, but it is my opinion that its days were numbered anyway. Do you believe 600,000 lives was an equitable price to pay? It's a tough question. With an independent South, the pressure on slavery would have been much greater - both practically and politically. The abolitionists would have become stronger and with freedom just a state or two away, escapes would have increased. Slavery in America would have collapsed upon it own immoral foundation of sand.

Matt said...

It is a case of "to the victor belong the spoils" dismissing historical facts instead for a generic slavery facade. The education system shows no sign of giving a fair view of the south's legitimate argument. It is embarrassing we cannot accept our own past.