31 July 2015

Of God & Pirates

Besides revisiting Shelby Foote's Civil War narrative, I also started reading Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship last night. It is truly a page turner and difficult to put down. I stayed up an hour later than I intended to last night because I was hooked with the introduction. If you love history and adventure and tales of treasure, you'll love this book. I'm only into chapter 4, but thus far would give it 4.5 stars. And I love this epigraph at the beginning of the book:
"Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates." ~ Mark Twain
The book was just released last month. Great summer reading. Author's website. If time allows and I catch up other promised reviews, I'll do a complete review once I've finished reading it.

29 July 2015

My Favorite Feminist Utters Profundity

Camille Paglia said something quite profound about militant atheists recently. It is exactly the same thing I've thought about many modern historians and history bloggers of our day.  Her observation came in response to an interview question:
You’re an atheist, and yet I don’t ever see you sneer at religion in the way that the very aggressive atheist class right now often will. What do you make of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the religion critics who seem not to have respect for religions for faith?
Paglia's response is spot on:
I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.” It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. 
And many modern historians write and analyze things the same way - as juveniles with little real world experience and very limited in their intellectual capacity (or maybe honesty). It seems to always be about "the most recent scholarship." These intellectual adolescents think that just because it's "new", it's superior to what's been written in the past. They remind me of the junior high student who is embarassed because they're not wearing the newest style of jeans. You know, the ones that come with the holes arleady in them. (Yes, the analogy applies in more ways than one.)

And I do believe, like Paglia, that it has something to do with how they view their parents and our collective past, which they connect in some way. They're acting out some type of temper tantrum. This immature bitterness toward, and "sneering" at, our collective past along with the shallow myth that the current generation is always wiser and more enlightened, has other consequences as well as some psychologists have noted:
. . . awareness of the present and future aren't the most important predictors of a satisfying, meaningful life. Instead, extensive studies show that our most important orientation toward time is a positive appreciation of the past. The more we savor memories of relationships and let go of grudges ... the more we connect to our roots and let go of our forebears' failings ... the more we treasure their legacy and let go of the myth that we are self-made: the stronger our sense of a positive past, the better grounded and centered we will be. In fact, the more crazy and stressful our circumstances, the more the past helps us navigate our way. ~ Dr. Christine Chakoian
As I noted in a comment on the Shelby Foote post (before I even read Paglia's comments): "Foote remains one of the few adults in a room of Civil War historians populated by juveniles."   

And Paglia continued with this:
I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives.
The exact same thing could be said of academia's and the media's dismissive "sneering" attitude toward Confederate monuments, etc.

And she has some more tough words for the hypocrites in academia:
The proof of the vacuity of academic leftism for the past forty years is the complete silence of leftist professors about the rise of the corporate structure of the contemporary university–their total failure to denounce the gross expansion of the administrator class and the obscene rise in tuition costs. The leading academic leftists are such frauds–they’ve played the system and are retiring as millionaires!
You can read the complete interview here at Salon.

28 July 2015

Revisiting Shelby Foote's Enduring Work

As I was perusing my library last night, I came across my copy of the 40th anniversary edition (1998) of Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative ~ Secession to Fort Henry. Foote originally published his first of three installments of his history of the War Between the States the same year I was born - 1958. (The 40th anniversary edition was published in 14 volumes and was illustrated.)

I had just read a review of Foote's massive history that Professor Clyde Wilson had penned in 1980. Wilson wrote, in part:
In the long view, the most important aspect of any civilization, nation, or epoch is its literature. Great Britain will be known through Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Spencer, Scott, and Kipling long after the Bank of England and Buckingham Palace have crumbled into dust and the last jaunty Union Jack has sunk beneath the waves. . . . It is my contention that Shelby Foote's Civil War will be one of those enduring works that will be turned to in centuries hence, that it is a major event in world literature and in the Southern contribution to world literature.
Wilson's glowing review continued:
Like most great works, The Civil War: A Narrative, is simple and straight-forward in its business. It is a narrative of events. The success of this narrative is an achievement of both literary skill and historical scholarship. Foot's history is literature and not "social science." . . . His vision is far too wide to be contained within or to be satisfied by such narrow axe-grinding. He is an artist, not an ideologue. (It is a curious phenomenon that, while historians know and acknowledge that interpretations of past epochs change every generation or so, many of them remain slavishly devoted to the interpretation that is currently most fashionable.) But, in fact, "modern scholarship," in points of interpretation, is no truer than old scholarship; sometimes it is less so. It is just a different perspective. [Emphasis mine.]
And . . .
Finally, it is one of the characteristics of a great piece of literature - the King James Bible or Shakespeare, for instance - that it may be picked up and read with profit at random moments. . . . We have now reached the summit of that [Civil War] literature. The Civil War: A Narrative is the best work that has ever been or ever will be written about the great War. It is the place to begin and the place to end any study of America's crucial experience.
And so with Wilson's words still fresh in my mind, I pulled the dusty book off the shelf and cracked it open. I had not read any of it (except excerpts and snippets online) since 2000. As I began reading Foote's introduction to the new edition, Wilson's words began to ring truer and my memory was refreshed as to how truly unique and penetrating Foote's writing was is. His description of Jefferson Davis's farewell speech on the floor of the Senate is as good as it gets. Simple, yet captivating. And Foote's own words as to how he felt about his work are worth noting:
Two compliments I found welcome all the same. One was when a reader declared that he couldn't tell which side I favored in the conflict, and the other was when someone asked, in regard to some exchange or event in the text, "Did you make that up?" . . . Though I do confess in part to the charge, leveled by a fellow historian I respect, that my heart seemed to beat somewhat faster in the course of a Confederate victory. That might be, but I hasten to add that Americans in general tend to pull for the underdog in a fight.
Foote's narrative is such a breath of fresh air when compared to much of the politically motivated and agenda driven Civil War history of recent years. That alone would make it bad enough but, in addition, much of what is being written is not only poor history, it is poor literature.

Not Foote. If you've never read Foote's work - or not done so lately - and you want to be reminded that there is still scholarly, solid, fresh and well-written history to be read about the War Between the States, pick up Foote's book. You will not only learn, you will enjoy doing so.

27 July 2015

PC Run Amok

A somewhat popular Civil War blogger has, on more than one occasion, poo-pooed political correctness - most likely because he's up to his neck in it. I suppose after you're surrounded by crap for a long time, the smell becomes unnoticeable. 

But not everyone in academia can ignore the current PC madness and continue to look themselves in the mirror. For example, the latest:
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson are out. Too much racial baggage.
Harry S. Truman is in. So are others to be named later.

The latest wave of discarding symbols of America’s unpleasant racial history has hit the Jefferson-Jackson dinner circuit. State Democratic parties for years have routinely used such events named for the party icons to raise big money and attract big names. They’re often been known as Jefferson-Jackson dinners in honor of the former presidents.
Harry Truman? Uh, wasn't he a member of the KKK? Ah, and wait until all of these moronic politicians discover Abraham Lincoln's "baggage." That's going to really throw them. Then again, since they don't put much thought into all this anyway, maybe not. After all, it's activist "historians" providing them with "intellectual" cover. So they just refer back to their supporters and fellow agitators for support. But at least one academic has had enough:
“It’s extraordinary Democrats would go this far,” said Gary Rose, a professor of politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. “It’s political correctness run amok.” 
"PC run amok"? Yes. PC is - by it's very nature - already "amok." "Go this far"? Ha - they're just getting started! Of course, the "me too, me too" idiots in the Republican Party aren't far behind. What a circus of absolute morons all brought to us by the activist historians and their soul-mates in politics. How utterly embarrassing.

The one positive from all this is the fact that many more in the general public are seeing the "historians" supporting all this for what they really are. It's just further eroding their credibility - as if they had much left anyway. To their own peril, they read all the positive press about this, listen to the clowns in elected office, get the affirming nods of approval from their peers and then assume this is majority opinion and that the average Joe on the street agrees with them - or even cares. They all live in a huge echo chamber and their confidence is just the consequences of their "incestuous conversations." And we all know the results of incest, don't we?

But just remember, it's not history, it's agitating and activism.

Source. Hat tip to Robert Moore.

And, in related news . . . 

Christian leaders – including an 89-year-old bishop – have taken to the streets of eastern China to protest against an “evil” campaign to remove crosses that many see as a coordinated Communist party attack on their faith.

Activists say more than 1,200 crosses have been stripped from churches in Zhejiang province since the government initiative began in late 2013. There has been a spike in such actions in recent weeks.

One church leader, whose name is being withheld to protect him from retaliation, said authorities were attempting to transform Christianity “into a tool that serves the party”.
“What they are doing feels like something from the Cultural Revolution era,” he complained, referring to the period in the 1960s when churches and temples were ransacked and destroyed by Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.

No, I'm not equating the Christian cross with Confederate monuments. However, one can't help but noting the similarities as many Southerners view the calls to remove monuments as an "attack on their region and heritage" - not to mention the history. And this concern has moved way beyond the "heritage crowd."

23 July 2015

The Politicization of American History Continues

Thanks, of course, to academia and the activist historians who have been paving the way to all this for many years now. Evidently, the low-hanging fruit of Confederate flags and monuments is going faster than I thought it would. Time to move up the tree:
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson are history in Connecticut. . . . Party leaders voted unanimously Wednesday night in Hartford to rename the Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner in the aftermath of last month’s fatal shooting of nine worshipers at the historic black church in Charleston, S.C. . . . Democrats cited Jefferson and Jackson’s ownership of slaves as a key factor in the decision, as well as Jackson’s role in the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern U.S. in what was known as the Trail of Tears. (Source.)
I told you this was coming. So who looks foolish now? Ok, how about portraits of these men in the halls of government? How about all the buildings, roads, schools and parks named after them throughout the United States? How about the General Sherman monument in Washington D.C., since Sherman believed American Indians should be "exterminated"? How about FDR, since he had Japanese Americans interned in prison camps for the simple "crime" of being Japanese? 

Of course, as one activist historian recently opined, this kind of thing should not just be "brushed aside." Oh no, this is serious stuff here.

No, it's not. It is political correctness (something other moronic "historians" have claimed doesn't even exist) on steroids. It is intentionally petty and divisive and is ripping our country apart. It is shallow and juvenile - all adjectives which also aptly describe the current crop of puritanical moral reformers posing as serious historians. LOL.

I suppose after we get done sandblasting Stone Mountain, we can head to D.C. and take care of the Jefferson Memorial. And let's not forget, President Lincoln has quite a bit of "baggage" too, does he not?

So, go ahead, keep up your incestuous conversations while the rest of us sit back and laugh at you.

Relic Hunting Post #130 - A Prince Edward Island Penny

My wife and I recently returned from visiting my daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandsons in Canada. While we were there, I spent quite a bit of time doing some relic hunting with the oldest of the boys. My daughter's family bought a home that was built circa 1860 and the 10 acres that came with the property provided some great opportunity to see what kind of history was lying beneath the surface. It didn't take too long to find out. Within 10 minutes of the first day out, my grandson shouted, "Hey Grandpa, I think I have a good signal!" 

Not expecting much, I scanned the same spot and he did, in fact, have a promising signal. Helping him carefully remove about 5 inches of dirt, he reached in the hole and grabbed a beautiful 1871 Prince Edward Island penny! PEI is one Canada's maritime provinces and this province issued it's own coinage for a short time. 1871 was the only year PEI issued this coin. Coins and Canada website notes the following:
Prince Edward Island was the last of the British North American colonies to adopt a decimal system of currency. 'Going decimal' in 1871, the island chose a dollar equal in value to the United States one-dollar gold piece, in line with the decimal currency system introduced earlier in the Provinces of Canada and New Brunswick and adopted by the Dominion of Canada in 1867. The only decimal coin struck for P.E.I. prior to its entry in Confederation in 1873 was a one-cent piece in 1871. This attractive coin was designed and engraved by Leonard C. Wyon, who for some forty years was the principal engraver for the Royal Mint in London.

The obverse of the coin depicts a diademed head of the queen, a design that was already being used for the Jamaica halfpenny. The reverse was adapted from thc official seal for the island. The central design shows a large oak tree (representing the United Kingdom) sheltering three smaller ones (the three countries of the island) with the Latin phrase PARVA SUB INGENTI ('The small beneath the great') below. Because of heavy pressure of work on other coinage, the Royal Mint was forced to contract with the Heaton Mint in Birmingham (a private firm) to produce the Prince Edward Island cents.
We made quite a few other great finds (and memories) over the next few days, but this was the best. I will be sharing this whole story, along with some life lessons, in one of the relic/treasure hunting magazines soon. In the meantime, check out this very happy boy and his prize find.

PEI coin on the left, bottom. To the right is a 1913 Canadian penny
and, at top, a 1964 silver Canadian dime.

Note for those interested: Current writing projects include an article about this experience with my grandson, another product review for one of the relic hunting magazines, assisting the Shenandoah Valley Preservation Foundation with writing a self-guided tour of the Battle of Waynesboro, and another essay for a noted CW publication which will be adapted from my book about the Battle of Waynesboro. I'll also be working on an article which focuses on a different twist regarding Civil War veterans and which I hope to get published and, finally, the review (which keeps getting delayed) of Kent Masterson Brown's Daniel Boone documentary. As hectic as that may seem, it is a welcome pace from writing books, which I've been heavily involved in over the last several years.

21 July 2015

SCV Membership Inquiries are "Exploding"

Recently another Civil War blogger celebrated the "end of the Sons of Confederate Veterans." 

I attempted to contact SCV headquarters to get some hard numbers on how all of the recent uproar has impacted membership activity. I did not get any specific statistics (though I will get those later), but the overall report was what I expected:
"The avalanche of phone calls & emails are quite overwhelming & response to the Friends of the SCV associate membership is exploding. . . . and growing by the minute."
To steal a line from Mark Twain, "The reports of the end of the SCV have been greatly exaggerated." Just wishful thinking on the part of some. I do know that the current membership (before the current debate) was over 30,000. And, if you count all the men who just wanted a frameable certificate and were only members for a year or so, that number is estimated to be well over 100,000. Compare those numbers to the membership of another fine heritage organization, the *Sons of Union Veterans which stands at a little over 3000 (the last time I checked) and you get some feel for where the enthusiasm for heritage and connection to the WBTS lies.

As long as the debate rages, and the louder the high priests of political correctness scream about removing monuments, banning books and flags, I think you will see this trend continue. The phenomenon is known as "reaping the whirlwind" or, unintended consequences. The very rebellious and independent spirit that many are saying really had nothing to do with the WBTS is, once again, manifesting itself in the defiant response to political correctness with, "just because you said I can't."

*Though the Williams side of my family hails from New England, I've been unable to find a qualifying ancestor to join the SUV. I am, however, in the process of becoming an associate member.

20 July 2015

Yankee Projection?

Justice Clarence Thomas Weighs In
A writer from the Washington posts seems to think so:
Northerners seek to absolve themselves of responsibility for their own sins by holding aloft an outdated and inaccurate caricature of a socially stunted South.
As I've been saying for years. And, from all places, the Washington Post.

Which is why the morality play currently being displayed on many Civil War history blogs is so transparent. It's activism and agitating, but it's not history. And, of course, this whole issue goes much deeper than the current debate over Confederate images and icons. While readers may get tired of me saying it, Confederate icons are just the low-hanging fruit. The "moral hand-wringing" in American history studies is systemic.

As National Review's commentary about the reaction to Professor Gordon S. Wood's previously published perspective on the current state of American historiography so accurately points out:

“It’s as if academics have given up trying to recover an honest picture of the past,” Wood writes, “and have decided that their history-writing should become simply an instrument of moral hand-wringing. .  .  . College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history.”
All of this, of course, should be obvious to any student of the subject, and the consequences of politicizing history are evident for all to see: a growing ignorance about American origins, hostility to learning about them, and the reflexive habit of judging the behavior of people in the distant past by contemporary standards. This has had the effect not only of distorting our understanding of American history, but of alienating students from an appreciation of their country’s rich heritage.
And that pretty much sums up what those who do appreciate our country's rich heritage are up against, does it not? The chasm between these two perspectives is wide and getting wider. I see little hope of reconciling the competing perspectives any time soon.

Hat tip to Robert Moore for the WAPO link.

19 July 2015

My Interview with Scott Patchan

About my latest book, The Battle of Waynesboro.

A few excerpts from the opening of the interview:
Richard Williams grew up in the Wayne Hill [sic] area of Waynesboro in the Shenandoah Valley, site of the last significant battle action during the Civil War. He is quite knowledgeable of the local area and even though the battlefield has been consumed by 20th Century development, Mr. Williams knows the area well enough to enable the reader to get an understanding of the battle. 
And . . .
When we get to the battle, the narrative starts clicking, and the author does a commendable job in relaying the story of the actual battle of Waynesboro in a clear and concise manor. 
Shen1864:      Tell readers about your passion for the battle of Waynesboro and how it drove you to write this book:

R. Williams:  Waynesboro is my hometown, as well as that of my father, my grandparents and my great-grandparents. Those roots were a large part of the motivation, along with the fact I serve on the board of our local museum, grew up on the battlefield (actually born on it) and the battle’s sesquicentennial being commemorated in 2015.
Scott is a noted Civil War author and historian. I sincerely appreciate his taking the time to talk with me about my book. You can read the complete interview at Scott's blog here: Shenandoah 1864.

18 July 2015

Red Herrings & Straw Men Abound . . .

. . . when it comes to much of what we're reading about the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments. 

Where does one even start when it comes to the tidal wave of lies, deceit, half-truths and agenda-driven, sociologists posing as historians who continue to agitate, divide and twist the views of others so as to support their true position: self-righteous moral critic and reformer? The ongoing, Orwellian-like nonsense you can read on a number of blogs and websites is the same, tired old arguments (now on steroids) repeated over and over and over again.

I used to believe that these bloggers and historians were simply misguided and misinformed - useful idiots, if you please (many of them anyway). But that is no longer the case. They may be "misguided" in a broader sense, and they may be idiots in a real sense, but when it comes to what they're writing about history - especially in regards to the current debate - they are intentionally lying and deceiving to advance their own ideology. It's sickening. 

I've already drafted a lengthy post about this whole ongoing debate regarding the CBF and Confederate monuments, but haven't finalized it yet. Every day brings the need to add yet more. But until I do post my comments and thoughts, here are some suggestions refuting many of the misguided arguments presented by others and bringing thoughtful, reasonable, honest, common sense conversation to this whole issue.

Confederate-inspired military service?

Tolerance includes putting up with things you find disagreeable.

Legacy of the Confederacy on military service.

Confederate Culture Wars at the National Cathedral.

Obviously, there is a HUGE gap of understanding between the perspectives represented by the discussions at these links and the ones represented by the "reformer" blogs and websites. I don't thing that gap can be closed. As a matter of fact, I don't think the moral reformers want to close the gap. Agitating and activism is what they're really all about.

A Grateful Southern Writer

William Faulkner
In my bio, I never refer to myself as a historian, but rather a "Southern writer" who happens to "focus on the War Between the States and Virginia history." That's truly not some type of phony humility. I've never been comfortable with the title "historian" and have even had my publisher delete that reference. I have no academic credentials in the field of history, so I just think that's the more honest approach. That being said, one can certainly obtain some credibility by self-study and accomplishment. I trust I've done that, at least to some small degree.

But "Southern writer" is certainly a designation of which one can be proud. And I am, as well as grateful. Providence has been kind. So it is with interest and curiosity that I came across an article recently titled, Southern Writers: Why We Love Them.

The piece mentions a number of the great Southern writers, such as Faulkner and Twain, but the explanation as to "why" Southern writers are so popular is worth thinking about - especially for non-Southerners. Consider this observation:
It’s no easy matter to make writers hear the words you write as though they’ve just been spoken in a certain time and place. When Mark Twain writes as Jim in Huckleberry Finn, we can hear the older black man as he sputters, “De bes’ way is to res’ easy en let de ole man take his own way. Dey’s two angels hoverin roun’ ’bout him.”  Huck, too, is given a voice with, “it warn’t no time to be sentimentering,” and the like.  Working dialect as a writer is an art form, and it isn’t for the faint of heart.
And this:
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Southern writers is that their books and plays withstand the tests of time.  It’s why To Kill a Mockingbird is still assigned in almost every high school in America, and why your teenage daughter will enjoy Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo every bit as much as you do.    It is why we still know the titles True Grit and The Red Badge of Courage.  The lessons they contain still hold true, today, as they did twenty years ago, and as they will twenty years from now.  That’s transcendence.  It’s also staying power.

I certainly will never be counted among these legends, but just feeling the kinship of "Southerness" is reward enough.

You can read the article here.

17 July 2015

Contextualize This

There is a growing chorus among some discussing Confederate monuments and statues that there is a need for such monuments to be "contextualized" - comments added at the site to explain the purpose of the monument so as to put the monument and it's meaning in "the proper context." I'll have more to say on that soon but, in the mean time, consider this quote:
We too easily lose sight of the fact that while the activities of Confederate veterans during the postwar decades reinforced their connection to the 1860s and with one another it did not prevent them from moving forward.  These men ought not to be interpreted as stuck in time.  It may not be a stretch to suggest that their experiences in the war eventually enhanced their love and attachment for the United States.
The author of these words and I seldom agree on much. But on this, we certainly do. The "postwar decades" is when most of the Confederate monuments and statues went up. So let's keep the words of Kevin Levin in mind when we consider the whole lives of Confederate Veterans and, in particular, their "love and attachment" to these United States.

16 July 2015

My Latest Essay at Essential Civil War Curriculum

"With A Rebel Yell" by Mort Kunstler

The Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech has just published my 3rd (and likely last), essay for their Essential Civil War Curriculum website.
The Essential Civil War Curriculum is a Sesquicentennial project Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech. It is sponsored by two eminent Civil War scholars and authors, Dr. James I. (Bud) Robertson and Professor William C. (Jack) Davis both Professors at Virginia Tech. The Essential Civil War Curriculum is a sesquicentennial project of the Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech.
I must say it has been a privilege to write for this very worthy project. The project's director, Mr. Laurie Woodruff, has been a joy to work with and has been a passionate promoter of Virginia's commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. He has done a superb job of organizing this effort and the site's topics cover a wide range of subject matter for those interested in this aspect of American history. I strongly recommend readers visit the site for becoming better informed about the War Between the States. With each article, authors recommend additional resources and reading material for a more in-depth study of the specific topic. I think the project and website is one of the best overall resources students (of all ages) could have at their disposal.

My most recent essay is about the Rebel Yell and is titled, The Rebel Yell: The Seething Blast of an Imaginary Hell.

I'd be interested in what readers think of the latest essay. The other two essays I've written are linked below.

15 July 2015

George Mason on Slavery & History's Complications

The background image for this blog was taken from a digitized version of George Mason's first draft of Virginia's Declaration of Rights:

    The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are "the basis and foundation of government." The Virginia Declaration of Rights also influenced the drafting of the Bill of Rights added to the U.S. Constitution as the first ten amendments.
Yes, you read that correctly. Mason views states rights ("the good people of Virginia") as "the basis and foundation of government." This shows how much our history has been twisted by so-called historians who are little more than moral critics advancing a modern political agenda cloaked by their "profession."

But Mason had more to say. He was one of the more vocal opponents of slavery stating:
The infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. the British government constantly checked the attempt of Virginia to put a stop to it…Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves…Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.
Yet Mason owned slaves all his life and did not free any of them in his will. This contradiction is explored briefly, here, in Mason's own words.

This is just one example of the complicated history of slavery in our country. But it's good to be reminded by these examples that history is far more nuanced than what we're seeing argued in the current "discussion" over Confederate American monuments and names related to our history - back to our very founding. The over-simplification being promoted by "professional" historians is, in many cases, juvenile and embarrassing. I'm confident their own profession will, at some point in the future, judge them harshly.

14 July 2015

The Problem with Academia, the Bubble Dwellers & the Real World

I've pointed out before how many in academia have been insulated from the real world (along with consequences and accountability) and it is why so many of their notions and ideas are, well, kinda wacky. What sounds oh so erudite and sophisticated in the classroom and faculty lounge often crashes and burns when it meets reality. I've seen it firsthand time and time again in business, government and in other parts of society. We are currently witnessing an excellent example of this as academics and other historians debate the presence of Confederate monuments, statues, flags, etc. Where has the impetus for much of the "TEAR IT DOWN!" mentality come from? Colleges, universities and their associated comrades and institutions. Pulitzer Prize winning Professor Gordon S. Wood gives a good summation of what's happened with the writing of American history since the bubble dwelling notions of academia have collided with reality:
College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality . . . And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The  inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars. . . . These historians see themselves as moral critics obligated to denounce the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present.
As Richard Weaver once wrote, "ideas have consequences." And we're seeing the consequences of academia's ideas played out all across the country when it comes to these public displays - and this is no longer confined to Confederate imagery. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln are also recent targets. And the list will grow. As I've stated before, Confederate icons are simply the low-hanging fruit. The moral critics will continue their crusade against much of the rest of American history with even more vigor once the easy-pickin' fruit has been plucked.

So it was with great interest I read of another example of how this lack of real world "awareness" is often exasperated by a college or university setting:
A number of our members consistently tell us they’re seeing students come out of university or training programs and they might have the academic or theoretical skills, but no skills to work at all. It makes them really hard to employ . . .
While the above quote comes from a piece specifically addressing jobs unrelated to the field of history (and outside the U.S.), the basic criticism still applies to that field as well - in many cases.

And just today, Gordon Wood further drives home the point by doubling down on his prior criticism of academic historians and scholars stating:
The people who came out of the ‘60s are currently in control of the profession and it’s has become essentially race-class-gender issues. Now, a new generation will come along and they’ll want to contest that. . . . But you can’t do much else and still have a career. It’s very difficult for young people to want to work on more traditional subjects. . . . We are cutting ourselves off from the general public [reality] and that's lamentable.
Oh my.

I know this will likely upset some of the academics and professional historians who read this blog. Good. You need to be upset. Many of us in the general public believe you're making damned fools of yourselves. And, despite what you may think, our numbers are growing.

Tobacco Farming in Virginia - A History & Heritage Worth Preserving

My great-grandfather, Robert M. Williams, was a God-fearing tobacco farmer in Crewe, Virginia (Southside). This is an important part of Virginia's rich history and these old structures are worth preserving - at least until someone's offended and they have to be torn down and their owners put in jail.

13 July 2015

Should We Burn Faulkner's Books?

I hate to keep saying I told you so, but I told you so:
It is a fine thing that the Confederate flag will no longer fly above the South Carolina state capitol. But displaying the Confederate flag anywhere is, at bottom, an act of hate. It should be recognized as such, and punished as a hate crime.
So says an American Studies professor. The desire to criminalize and jail one's ideological opponents for free speech and thought is nothing new. I, along with many others, have been documenting these things for years. A few years ago, on another popular Civil War blog, one academic suggested that those who hold a different perspective on Civil War historiography than he did should be jailed. The criticism was tepid, at best.

Yet a number of Civil War bloggers rush to poo-poo (and even defend) such notions claiming political correctness does not exist and that these "extreme" views, and those who hold them, aren't taken seriously. Really?

A writer at National Review discussing the American Studies professor's wishes to criminalize the CBF writes:
For some on the Left, we’re well past anything resembling an actual argument and on to the cultural search and destroy mission. But why stop at flags? After all, the governmental Left days ago moved on to statues, monuments, and graves. The academic Left should go after books. Let me suggest a target — William Faulkner. After all, he wrote this:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, . . . we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble . . .
So what say all the activist historians?

Cue the crickets.

And, for further discussion on this topic, I would recommend Robert Moore's post:
The Confederate Flag… what some people seem to fail to realize

12 July 2015

"Soldiers as good as any who ever fought under any flag."

Dwight Eisenhower's Centennial Proclamation:  

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
The years 1961 to 1965 will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the American Civil War.
That war was America's most tragic experience. But like most truly great tragedies, it carries with it an enduring lesson and a profound inspiration. It was a demonstration of heroism and sacrifice by men and women of both sides who valued principle above life itself and whose devotion to duty is a part of our Nation's noblest tradition.

Both sections of our now magnificently reunited country sent into their armies men who became soldiers as good as any who ever fought under any flag. Military history records nothing finer than the courage and spirit displayed at such battles as Chickamauga, Antietam, Kenesaw Mountain, and Gettysburg. That America could produce men so valiant and so enduring is a matter for deep and abiding pride.

The same spirit on the part of the people at home supported and strengthened those soldiers through four years of great trial. That a Nation which contained hardly more than thirty million people, North and South together, could sustain six hundred thousand deaths without faltering is a lasting testimonial to something unconquerable in the American spirit. And that a transcending sense of unity and larger common purpose could, in the end, cause the men and women who had suffered so greatly to close ranks once the contest ended and to go on together to build a greater, freer, and happier America must be a source of inspiration as long as our country may last.

By a joint resolution approved on September 7, 1957 (71 Stat. 626), the Congress established the Civil War Centennial Commission to prepare plans and programs for the nationwide observances of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and requested the President to issue proclamations inviting the people of the United States to participate in those observances.

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite all of the people of our country to take a direct and active part in the Centennial of the Civil War.

I request all units and agencies of government--Federal, State, and local--and their officials to encourage, foster, and participate in Centennial observances. And I especially urge our Nation's schools and colleges, its libraries and museums, its churches and religious bodies, its civic, service, and patriotic organizations, its learned and professional societies, its arts, sciences, and industries, and its informational media, to plan and carry out their own appropriate Centennial observances during the years 1961 to 1965; all to the end of enriching our knowledge and appreciation of this momentous chapter in our Nation's history and of making this memorable period truly a Centennial for all Americans.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this sixth day of December in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-fifth.

By the President:
Secretary of State


10 July 2015

Soon To Be Banned

I just bought this VHS online at Amazon so my grandchildren will be able to watch it before the new totalitarians come to cart us all off to the the reeducation camps. I remember watching it as a kid and I loved it.


08 July 2015

Will We Eventually Dig Up Their Corpses?

Update: Every time I utter and absurdity to illustrate absurdity, it soon becomes reality. Digging up the Confederate dead is, in fact, being pursued. All hail the activist historians. You should be so proud. Hat tip to Professor Michael Bradley.

End of update.

On Tuesday evening, the House approved an amendment to a spending bill that would prevent graves on federal lands from being decorated with the Confederate flag. . . . The House passed another Huffman amendment that would bar the National Park Service from selling Confederate flag merchandise . . .

The bill's actual fate is in doubt due to unrelated issues. But it could still become law. I have to wonder what's next. Removing their headstones? Perhaps a scarlet letter on their markers would suffice (for now)? Maybe we can dig up the bodies of Confederate soldiers, drag them through the streets and then burn their remains. We could use banned books as kindling.

04 July 2015

Happy Independence Day

St. Helena Island, South Carolina ~ July 4th, 1939

02 July 2015

Real Historians Love America & Work to Preserve Our History

While the flippin', trippin' trinity of academia, politicians and talking heads continue to call for removing monuments and rewriting history, real historians work quietly behind the scenes, away from the feeding frenzy of pop-culture, twerking historiography:

Here's just one great example:

I'm out of the country right now, my thoughts on the insanity taking place over Confederate imagery will be posted some time next week.