Archive for the ‘confederacy’ tag
The issue of national sovereignty of the United States over the states is “indistinct, simple, and inflexible. … It is an issue which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory.” — Abraham Lincoln, 1864
“If Lincoln had been a failure, he would have lived a longer life.” — James McPherson on John Wilkes Booth’s promise to “put him through” while listening to a victory speech from Lincoln on April 11, 1865
Unlike other Lincoln biographies, which typically focus on his stance and political efforts to abolish slavery, his assassination, his humble upbringings and other topics, few, as McPherson points out, have delved specifically into Lincoln’s role as commander in chief. He was in the War Department, for instance, sending off messages and commands to his generals in the field almost more than he was anywhere else in his four-year tenure. He was the only commander in chief whose entire presidency up to that point was bookended by war. He guided the nation through the most perilous and bloody era it has ever known. This book tackles the challenges Lincoln faced in dealing with his often-slow-moving generals (i.e. McClellan, Hooker and Rosecrans), riots in New York, black troops in the military and the long effort to defeat Lee and capture Richmond, Atlanta, Vicksburg and other Confederate strongholds.
The book depicts a president intricately involved with the movements of his troops on the battlefield. Lincoln was not a military scientist, so he studiously took up the task of self-learning strategy and often dictated to his generals how he wanted Lee’s and other armies to be pursued and quelled. Unfortunately for Lincoln, McClellan and numerous generals in succession often languished in the field, constantly asking for more troops and supplies before they could proceed, all the while, Lincoln goading them to get moving. One of the most disappointing failures of McClellan was his dilly-dallying in letting Lee escape in the Shenandoah Valley campaign.
One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.
Anyone who has studied the Civil War in depth well knows that the causes of America’s bloodiest four years on record are and have been in much contention during the 150 years since the first shots rung out at Fort Sumter (April 12 will mark 150 years since the Confederacy fired on Sumter). I’m under the firm belief, however, and in agreement with Lincoln, that while smaller issues were astir at the time (states rights, the different economies between the North and the South, western expansion, etc.) the only substantial dispute was, indeed, slavery. Or, as one of my professors at Clemson University once mused:
Both slavery and anti-slavery caused the Civil War.
True enough, many in the North were just as racist as folks in the South, Northern ships were often used in the slave trade and the North, to some degree, did benefit economically from the peculiar institution. But, we should remember that Lincoln did not initially wish to end slavery. If nothing else, he wanted to save the Union, and at the most acute level, the Civil War began because the Confederacy attacked a federal fort. Lincoln’s abolitionist tendencies only came later. All that said, slavery was at the heart of the war, and nearly all other concerns were sub-issues implicitly bound up with the one big issue. Of this we can be certain: in the days leading up to Election Day 1860, the word “secession” was already on tongue of many, if not most, Southern leaders if Lincoln were to take office. For good reason then, Lincoln used almost his entire first inaugural address to discuss the slave question and the divided nation in March 1861.
ABC News and The Associated Press report that the Atlantic Coast Conference has pulled baseball tournaments from being played in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in 2011-2013 in light of the Confederate battle flag being flown on the State House grounds. For years, the NAACP, which I argued here was all-but irrelevant today, has imposed “economic sanctions” (The organization seems to have dropped the term “boycott” to describe its sanctions) on South Carolina for its continued presence of the Confederate flag on the grounds. The flag was placed there via a bill passed by an all-white legislature in 1962. Since, the NAACP has lobbied for the state to remove the flag. In 2000, lawmakers did take it down from the State House dome — it was formerly third from the top, under the state flag and the United States flag — and place it on a memorial site honoring the fallen during the Civil War. But to remove it completely from the grounds and place it in a museum would require separate legislation.
The State newspaper on Thursday published a telling letter to the editor from a writer describing himself as a “white Republican and graduate of an SEC school.” He had this to say on the topic:
Here’s what I’ve concluded after searching my soul. I don’t need to wait for the NAACP to make me understand that the Confederate flag deeply offends a huge percentage of the population of South Carolina and thus needs to be removed from the State House grounds. A person’s celebration of culture, history and heritage need not needlessly offend many of our fellow citizens. — Jay Glasgow, letter to the editor writer, July 16, 2009
In retort, a commenter on the newspaper’s Web site wrote (parenthesis mine):
Making an honourable (sic) symbol that many BRAVE (using all caps makes points more valid, doesn’t it?) men fought and died under a so called symbol of racism does not make it so. This flag at the monument is historically correct as it is a battle flag … I challenge you to stand up to the tyranny that manifests itself today to those who condemn our people who struggled against an invading army in a war that both sides should have avoided. … The real intelligence here Mr. Bubba (another commenter) is seeing that our heritage is being attacked and doing something about it. Black soldiers also fought for the Confederacy ,too.The monument educates the public on the REAL history of this struggle. — By Pawmetto
Some, like the following, again make the claim that the war was not about slavery:
A little history lesson: The succession of the southern states was about a lot more than slavery. The southern states had every right to succeed. It was that right that convinced the states to unite in the first place. — Pammiesue
Unfortunately, the writer, while stating the war was fought for “a lot more than slavery,” never gets around to mentioning any other causes.
I was going to let some of these comments go, but I should digress for a second. First, the Confederate soldiers, by and large, weren’t brave necessarily (some of them probably were), they were conscripted, or made to fight, by the first draft ever passed in American history. They were green (just like a lot of Northern fighters) and many of them abandoned the army. At one period, the South had an abundance of arms and equipment, but not enough men to use the stuff! It’s not exactly as if able-bodied men were flocking from their farms and families to join the Confederate cause. Most of them were forced to fight, and most of them didn’t even have a dog in that fight, as the Confederate cause was largely that of the slave owners. One of the first sentences a professor uttered to us during a Civil War class at Clemson University was, “The Civil War was caused by slavery and anti-slavery.” So, while states’ rights was an issue later, it wasn’t the issue. It was the reciprocal issue arising from the slavery question as a consequence. Northern lawmakers, of course, couldn’t allow slavery to expand into the western territories because they knew how corrosive a system slavery was to establishing any semblance of an industrial society. A minority of northerners had staunch moral objections to the peculiar institution, but most simply rejected slavery because of the former problem. Nor could lawmakers allow the South to invade parts of South America with intentions of setting up an entire sphere for slavery, in what would have been known as the Golden Circle, an ironic title in itself, since the kingdom would have been borne on the weight of black folks’ shoulders. And to speak on the black soldiers, most of them, as soon as they could, defected to the Union side, and again, like most of the white soldiers, they were made to serve. By that point in the history of slavery in America, I would imagine that at least some of the slaves had developed an institutional mentality, the same that long-time prison inmates develop, which suggests they are happier inside the institution (jail, plantation) than outside in the free world because it’s all they had known.
But back to the comments. Here’s another responding to the letter to the editor:
Applause for your thoughts, Mr. Glasgow! Sadly, most South Carolinians don’t have the intelligence to see as clearly as you do. SC will drown in its ignorance before aknowledging (sic) the error of leaving the flag up. — bubba
Finally, the most enlightening comment I’ve read thus far on this topic came from Sammy in response to another article about the NAACPs “sanctions” against South Carolina, who was noting, like The State’s letter writer, that the flag should be removed for good:
… a personal favorite moment of mine was when some guy in a car saw my anti-Bush bumper sticker and screamed “America! Love it or leave it!” He of course had a confederate flag on his truck. The irony was rather delicious. — Comment by Sammy, reader of ABC News article
Earlier today, I decided that this post would speak for itself, and I should say nothing more on the issue of Confederate History Month, which is in April, but as I thought through the issues and as a child of the deep South, I thought it would behoove me to say more, as this topic touches, not only on heritage, but as we know, on the legacy of hate, racism and a lot more.
As I noted in the earlier post, the Confederacy was a failed mutiny against the United States. The South, of course, wanted to protect its “necessary evil” and its “peculiar institution” of slavery because its economy was so critically dependent upon it. Not to mention, Southern slave holders and politicians (Not the least of which was Ben Tillman, a key player in the founding my own alma mater, Clemson) used the Bible to validate the seemingly relentless oppression they leveled against an entire race of people.
Yet, Web sites touting thoughts such as these are still evident:
April, as you probably do not know, is Confederate History Month. In less politically correct days, Southern governors had no more problem proclaiming it than they did in proclaiming National Pickle Week. Nowadays most governors are too yellow.
its (sic) unfortunate that a few demagogues and hate-mongers insist on associating the Confederate battle flag with racism, but, hey, you don’t exactly expect knowledge or reasoned debate from racist bigots. …
It fought for a good cause — independence and the right of self-government and the rule of law. Those are such good things so worth fighting for it’s no wonder Yankee propaganda keeps repeating the lie that it was fighting to preserve slavery.
In 1860, of 7 million non-slaves in the South, only 384,000 owned any slaves at all. That means that 6.6 million Southerners were non-slave owners, and if you think that they would leave their homes and farms to fight for the planters’ right to own slaves, you don’t know much about Southern culture. — The Confederacy Project, http://members.cox.net/polincorr1/conpro4.htm
So, the South defended slavery, yet this person says folks who associate the Confederate battle flag with racism are “racist bigots?” Astounding. He/she even said, “you don’t exactly expect knowledge or reasoned debate” from these people.
Well, here’s a hard dose of reason: To celebrate the Confederacy is to celebrate a failed attempt. The fight was not for a good cause. The fight was to attempt to maintain the institution of slavery in the South and to perhaps further its propagation in the West. Hiding behind the causes of “independence and the right of self-government” does no good. Why would it fight for self-government if not to protect slavery? Were there other, more compelling reasons to fight for self-government? I know of none. The issue was not about states’ rights. That was a guise. The Southern states were arguing for self-government so they could more easily further the institution of slavery, on which the vast majority, if not the whole, economy was built.
Thus, as I argued in the previous post, if we as a country are going to have a day to honor Southern heritage, let’s call it what it is. Given the rich culture here, particularly among the numerous great authors that have called this place home, let us simply have a Southern heritage month.
It should not be a Confederate History Month, for on the Confederacy’s watch, some of the worst atrocities to humankind in this country have taken place. Let’s, instead, call it Southern History Month, or something similar. Again, the Confederacy failed, and that battle flag summons nothing but ill will among our black brethren and nothing but ill-will among many of our white brethren, including your’s truly. That flag should be banished to the annuls of history. It’s done. It signifies failure, not heritage. The war is over and has been over for 1 1/2 centuries. Get over it. Slavery is abolished. The South failed and could not sustain itself without slavery. We must move on.
Next week, get ready to celebrate Administrative Professionals Day. That’s right. As I was purchasing a Mountain Dew and a pair of taquitos at the local RaceTrac, I saw a small banner on one of the cash registers telling me of this additional cause to celebrate.
Apparently, this “holiday” has been around some form since 1952, but in my book, it can be counted with the large number of useless (and meaningless) observances that have been created over the years. Lest this post begins to resemble a Wikipedia entry, I will keep the list small, but here are just a few:
- Labor Day (Sept. 7) — Pointless. Last I checked, work was a necessity to having food and a roof over one’s head. I think Administrative Professionals Day could probably be lumped into this.
- Arbor Day (April 24) — Trees? Where is the Grass Day? Or how about National Sky Day? Or how about oxygen? That’s just as vital as trees.
- Columbus Day (Oct. 12) — He didn’t discover America.
- Parents’ Day (Fourth Sunday of July) and Grandparents’ Day (First Sunday after Labor Day) — Although Father’s Day and Mother’s Day could be added to the list of days created to feed the greeting card market, I guess I will cede these two since, like Valentine’s Day, they have become so entrenched in our culture that we might as well leave them be, if for no other reason than that they are harmless, and in fact, make people feel good about themselves. But on the next few, I can’t say the same. …
- Black History Month (February), Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) and National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) — In the 21st century, isn’t it counterproductive and hypocritical to still set aside certain months to celebrate our various minorities when, more than 200 years ago, we declared them all to be our equals (although putting this high ideal into practice, we learned, became much more difficult). Black History Month, which Cynthia Tucker, a black woman and editor with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, called “quaint, jarring, anachronistic,” is the most unnecessary of these types of holidays. An African-American is now president, a black man is head of the Republican Party and numerous black people hold public seats in the federal House and Senate and in state and local offices. While racism has certainly not been stamped out, it’s time for us to move beyond cutesy recognitions such as this, for they move us backward, not forward.
- Confederate History Month (April) — While I like learning about Civil War history as much as anyone, the Confederacy is a failed attempt. Southern history is important, but call it what it is; to celebrate Confederate heritage or the Confederate battle flag is to celebrate a failed uprising and the distinction has to be made. The Hootie and the Blowfish song famously included the line, “Tired of hearing this shit ’bout heritage, not hate” and that’s precisely what a lot of folks tout. Southern heritage, that is, the legacy of the South as a region of the country, not as a seceded state, up to and following the Civil War, is a meaningful area to celebrate, but attach the battle flag to it, and it becomes a celebration of some of the worst atrocities this country has seen. So, for the folks who proudly display bumper stickers that read, “Southern by the grace of God,” that’s fine. I’m glad I was born in the South too, for it’s a beautiful part of the country with a rich heritage and which produced some great authors, but let’s not muddy the issue by summoning the legacy of a failed mutiny.
I’ll leave it at that, but you get the picture. We’ve got too many of these holidays and some of them are even offensive, or as Tucker said, “anachronistic.”