15 April 2014

Did Hitler Emulate The United States Army's Example Of 1864?

The Long Walk & the Bosque Redondo Reservation
I pose the question for two reasons. First, in recent years we've seen an increase in the number of articles and blog posts comparing Confederate soldiers to Nazis. I believe it to be, in most cases, an intellectually dishonest comparison with ideological and political motivations.  Fortunately, many are on to this history twisting for the sole purpose of dishonoring Confederate soldiers and impugning the motives of those who honor Confederate ancestors - those like former Virginia Senator James Webb; who described the practice in his excellent book, Born Fighting:
Even the venerable Robert E. Lee has taken some vicious hits, as dishonest or misinformed advocates among political interest groups and in academia attempt to twist yesterday’s America into a fantasy that might better serve the political issues of today. The greatest disservice on this count has been the attempt by these revisionist politicians and academics to defame the entire Confederate Army in a move that can only be termed the Nazification of the Confederacy. Often cloaked in the argument over the public display of the Confederate battle flag, the syllogism goes something like this: Slavery is evil. The soldiers of the Confederacy fought for a system that wished to preserve it. Therefore they were evil as well, and any attempt to honor their service is a veiled effort to glorify the cause of slavery. ~ From Born Fighting by former Virginia Senator James Webb (Page 208, emphasis mine).
But perhaps this "Nazification", as Webb terms it, has targeted the wrong group. Which leads to the second reason I posed the question. An article posted in 2013 at the Jewish Journal website discusses Hitler's emulation of the Federal army's war on the American Indian. The writer was motivated to write the piece after watching Broken Arrow, a documentary about the United States Government's treatment of American Indians:
The film talked about The Long Walk of the Navajo, which was the 1864 deportation and attempted ethnic cleansing of the Navajo people by the U.S. government.  8,000 Navajos were forced to walk more than 300 miles at gunpoint from their ancestral homelands in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to an internment camp in Bosque Redondo, which was a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico.  Many died along the way.  From 1863 to 1868, the U.S. Military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Navajo (the DinĂ©) and 500 Mescalero Apache (the N’de).  Living under armed guards, in holes in the ground, with extremely scarce rations, it is no wonder that more than 3,500 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women, and children died while in the concentration camp.
The title of the article is Hitler’s Inspiration and Guide: The Native American Holocaust. The writer found the parallels to Hitler's Germany shocking:
I learned about something that shook me to my core that I had not heard before.  I learned that the genocidal mentality and actions of the U.S. policy makers would find similar expression years later when the Nazis, under Hitler, studied the plans of Bosque Redondo to design the concentration camps for Jews.
The article goes on to quote Pulitzer prize winning author and historian, John Toland:
Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government's forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large 'reservation' in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease. (Emphasis mine.)
The man "credited" with creating Bosque Redondo is James Henry Carleton. Carleton was a brevet Major General for the Union army during the Civil War.
I've not read Toland's book, so I don't know if Toland reveals anything regarding Hitler's observation of the old Confederacy. But the writer of article referenced above is certainly not the only one who has drawn the Union army/Nazi parallel. Jim Cornelius of Frontier Partisans writes:
The Long Walk grew out of the context of the Civil War, as the Union Army attempted to exert its control over the New Mexico Territory.
Charged in overseeing the "control" of the Navajos was Kit Carson. Cornelius writes:
It was distasteful work that Carson — ill and fatigued to the bone — hated. Nevertheless, he was under orders and he did his duty. For revisionist historians, that smacks of the Nuremberg defense, and Carson’s reputation carries an indelible blot from his harrowing of the Navaho nation.
2014 marks the 150th anniversary of The Long Walk of the Navajo. Ironically, The Long Walk was supposed to "save" the Navajo. 

Frankly, it's my opinion that any historic comparison to Hitler and Nazi Germany should always be suspect. Despite my willingness to post this, such comparisons always make me a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps that's a weakness in my sensibilities. But it's been said that any time your debating opponent brings up Hitler or Nazi Germany, it's a sure sign you've won the argument. That being acknowledged, this bridge was crossed long ago by others. Nonetheless, if parallels are going to be drawn, they should be drawn accurately and completely. 

*For those who might be curious, I started writing this post last week. 


Anonymous said...

The strong arm tactics of Lincoln can be seen in the subjugation of the Border States by Federal troops before the war even started, such as what happened in Baltimore. Entire governments of cities and states were replaced with Lincoln cronies in the weeks leading up to the "war." We don't see too much of that story by focusing just on Virginia history, except as it relates to the issue of WV.

It took a long time to figure out why federal troops were sent to western VA in those first months of the war, where there were no forts, ports, railroads, and not that many slaves or residents. What was the point of traipsing up and down steep mountains with wagon trains? It is hard enough going through there on the Interstate.

The point was to subjugate the populations which had the least "political" resistance. Never mind that disease claimed so many.

ropelight said...

Yes, the flurry of misguided comparisons of Confederate soldiers to Nazis is not only intellectually dishonest it's also a crystal clear example of the worst sort of underhanded political smear gymnastics willingly embraced by today's deceitful academic hate mongers.

Neo-abolitionist "professors" whose kneejerk response to today's political conservatives, especially the non-compliant ones who stubbornly reject federal government coercion or complain about excessive taxation, unmasks their twisted partisan motives when they falsely blame 19th Century American secessionists for the atrocities of 20th Century Europeans.

Moreover, if there's an American antecedent for Hitler's internment camps it's the genocidal Indian removal and reservation policies of federal officials from the time of Andrew Jackson and The Trail of Tears which predates the War Against Southern Independence by decades, and continues to displace Navajos to this day.