Confederate Icons

JeffersonDavisStatue2In the Memphis Flyer, Chris Harrington writes about attempts to change the name of various parks named for the Confederacy. In it, he states:

The parks issue is essentially a localized proxy war in a larger conflict over the past, present, and future of Southern identity. Memphis’ Confederate parks and monuments, like most remaining emblems of the Confederacy throughout the South, are essentially political. They were not and are not about remembering the Civil War but were and are symbols of resistance to what came after, namely the long, hard slog toward the equality that the Confederacy was organized to deny. Anyone clinging to long-corrupted memories of the Confederacy in 2013 is not doing so out of a respect for history or fealty to ancestors but out of their own present resistance to changing demographics and other impingements of modernity.

The most common and most eye-rolling complaint about the prospect of renaming these parks or removing these monuments is the contention that to do so is to erase or whitewash history. In fact, that’s exactly what the parks and monuments were designed to do.

This suggestion is an affront to the very notion of historical seriousness. As if these inherently political 20th-century monuments to racist defiance are somehow akin to the sacred battlefields of Shiloh or Gettysburg. The monuments are part and parcel with the immediate attempt by the Confederacy and its descendants to rewrite the meaning of the war. And few were so flagrant in this regard as Jefferson Davis, whose three years living in Memphis late in life in no way justify the blight of his visage along Front Street today.

I spend time here at the League trying to explain, and in some cases defend, the South. So I don’t write a whole lot about the above. Not because I disagree with it, but because I more-or-less assume that everybody here does. And the only relevant discussion is whether this sort of thing is detestable or whether it makes the entirety of the region it occurs in detestable. But Harrington is quite right. That I don’t write posts saying so should not indicate otherwise.

There is a thin line between recognition and exaltation. Though I sometimes wish we could, we cannot with any honesty write away that period from our history. It was important. It should not define us as it sometimes does with people on both sides of the line, but it’s there. One of the six flags over Texas is the Stars & Bars, and it should remain there. One of the four stars on the Arkansas Flag is for the Confederacy, and I don’t advocate changing that. Using things like Rebels as mascots is tricky and needs to be done with care. I’d probably advocate doing away with that, too, actually, but it’s not essential so long as we strip it of its cultural reference. Statues of Jefferson Davis should not necessarily be deconstructed, but should not be displayed in places of prominence (or anywhere outside of a museum, really). Schools, counties, and parks should not be named after people whose primary claim to fame was fighting for the continued enslavement or subjugation of others.

Such things are not always easy, and sometimes not for the reason people might think. People grow attached to certain things, for reasons other than what the names actually represent. Such an attitude carries, at best, a tin-ear towards real concerns. But it’s there. It’s also no excuse at all for continuing to try to lend respectability to disreputable historical figures. Which is, undeniably, exactly what groups like Sons of the Confederacy are trying to do. They’re doing more than trying to preserve history (a fine goal), but trying to add a veneer of respectability. That we were in the Civil War is an undeniable fact. So, too, is the fact that we were on the wrong side of it. It shouldn’t define us, but it should be recognized. And recognized as the dark smirch it is.

(On a last note, I should point out that this is happening because Nashville is making it happen. Good for Nashville.)

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. I don’t know if it’s worth saying again, but:

    The South has a lot to be proud of: statesmen, writers, artists, musicians, athletes, cuisine, culture, etc. etc. It’s a unique part of the US and of the world. Tying Southern pride to five years spent fighting to defend the indefensible is a pathology. It has to end.

    • Tying Southern pride to five years spent fighting to defend the indefensible is a pathology.

      I think there’s a lot of truth to this. I’ll note that tying (regional pride) to (dubious moments) is not particular to the South, or even to America.

      It’s the standing thing, again. The debate becomes about who has standing to define a collective. “You can’t tell us that the Stars and Bars is about racism, because it isn’t (to us)” ignores that the “(to us)” part is necessarily exclusive.

      You don’t get to define what things mean to different people. You only get to choose whether or not you will embrace things that will signal something you don’t mean to someone else, and if so, what that’s worth to you.

      You don’t get to reject what that signal means to other people.

      The whole debate over the Confederate flag seems to boil down to two sides arguing that they get to reject what that signal means to other people. The flag supporters want to reject that it’s a symbol of racism to those people who see that embedded in that symbol, and the anti-flag want to reject that the flag means more than that to the people that support it.

      They’re arguing about the wrong thing. The fact that they’re arguing about the wrong thing leads to this pathology.

      • Standing matters but what do “flag defenders” or people for naming things after Nathan B Forrest say to black or white southerners who object. This debate sometimes gets framed as Southerners vs judgmental northerners. That certainly fuels some of the “leave us alone” sentiment but it really really avoids most of the important parts of the debate. Why should a black kid go to a park with NBF’s statue there? How would a flag supporter feel about going to Nat Turner High School? One of those two guys was fighting for freedom from oppression, the other not so much.

        The entire but its our history of that big war is also weak history. Plenty of those statues and flags went up during the civil rights era as a clear signal against and for certain things.

        • Standing matters but what do “flag defenders” or people for naming things after Nathan B Forrest say to black or white southerners who object.

          It varies. That we “don’t get it” or are being excessive deferential to the opinions of outsiders. For white southerners, anyway. For black southerners, it’s that they are being too sensitive and/or misconstruing what is being done and why.

          I think Patrick is right to a degree, though that only gets us so far. Ultimately, the debate does come down to what the flag means. My view is that communication is done in two parts. The first part is what the sender means, the second part is the message the recipient receives. In my view, if the recipient is not going to receive what the sender is intending to send, then generally it’s the sender that needs to reconsider whether or not that is the message that the sender wishes to send. I do think that there is room for more benign interpretation. But really, in the case that we are talking about, the message being received has been made clear enough for long enough that the senders need to give it up and find a new way to do what they want to do.

          And, of course, the “what they want to do” needs some reconsideration as well. How they want to celebrate their home and how they want to deal with the ignoble aspects of its history.

      • Patrick,
        they mean to include the black kids in that statement — by force of societal will, if nothing else. I mean, this is how they turned grandkids of black folk into white folk, ya know?

        “leave it be, and conform” is a cultural mantra.

  2. It’s certainly bizarre when you wander around campus and find a statue of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. on the same grounds. I’d love to see the statue of Lee removed. Texas has plenty to be proud of with 20th century figures like Barbara Jordan and Lyndon Baines Johnson. (Though not in the realm of pubic affairs)

  3. Martin Luther King is so 20th century. I think we should tear every single statue, sign, and change the name of every school bearing his name. So how do you feel about that?

      • Also illuminating. Bluntly put, there is a sizeable number of people in the South who feel the only thing wrong about the Confederacy was losing.

        So they don’t understand what they have to apologize for. These were fine men, standing up for their convictions against the overbearing power of the Federal Government and how dare you imply that slavery had anything to do with it.

        Because it didn’t. It was State’s Rights, 100%. Sure, maybe slavery might have been like ONE of the issues, but it could just as well have been, I dunno, like regulations on cotton bales or something! Slavery was totally incidental.

        And they believe it.

        I know these folks. Not one of them thinks the Civil War had a darn thing to do with slavery. That’s a vile northern slander, revisionist history forced upon the land by the Reconstructionists.

        • Amen to that morat20. Thank you kind sir for saying my piece for me. To pretend the north gave a dam about the slave is a lie that has too long been covered over. And to the chap who hates the Robert E. Lee Statue of gllant, brave and honorable man is too good for the likes of you, instead you sir justly deserve The statue of Lincoln, the tyrant and trasher of the constitution.
          The bottom line was northern greed – Money is at the root for them; and for us in The South the slavery part was tied to States Rights for the people who lived there to determine the slavery issue and not some northern invader who turned them out of their homes without a job and as Lincoln said to root hog or die. How you can condone that horrible invasion and war on civilians, the killing and death of my foounding ancestors is just beyond me. I am a descendant of Charleston, Jamestown, and yes even George Soule a NE pilgrim. These are my people so leave them the hell alone.

          • Of all the subjects to bring the driveby commenters, I hate that it’s this one. Maybe I should write another post about the New Mexico State Aggies or fluoride.

          • I would stay away from fluoride there will. never know when you will get some drive by “fluoride is a commie plot!” hate splashed on ya.

          • Wow. Thanks for proving my point.

            Anyways, this lovely post there explains why you get ridiculous comparisons like the “Why aren’t we renaming all the Martin Luther King” stuff above.

            Now, I keep wanting that to be a Poe’s Law sort of post, and maybe it is, but I’ve met folks who believe it, so..yeah.

            On the bright side, most of them are dying off and their oddly romantic (and specifically ‘We were totally the good guys’) view of the Civil War isn’t passing onto the next generations all that well. Sure, members of Gen X and Y believe it, but a lot fewer (even as a % of whites) than of the Boomers.

  4. Well, how many monuments are there in the South to run-away slaves, rebellion organizers, etc.? Do they embrace all the narrative, or just the ‘confederate’ narrative? Do they celebrate Tubman, Douglass, or other southern activists who fought to end slavery?

    With most of history, the victors get to write it. The Civil War and the Confederacy seems to be the big exception; not only have they had 150-year propaganda effort to rewrite it to their own end; but to whitewash the 3/5 population out of it as activists, agitators, or the like.

    • +1. I don’t mind having a few monuments. But for god’s sakes, people, there were heroes! Real brave men and women we ought to be celebrating.

      Up here we have Negro Mountain. I think they’re still trying to get it renamed (I think the plan is to name it after the actual guy’s real name).

    • As mentioned before, our history books included Tubman, Douglass, and the like. In terms of monuments, in places I am familiar with, there was basically the “MLK Compromise.” If people are asking for a Robert E. Lee statue be taken down, instead of doing that you add an MLK statue right next to it (I think this is the explanation for what Nob refers to, as well).

      This kept the sides placated for a while, but I think we’re approaching the point where we can actually start taking statues down.

      • This is a one of my favorite writer’s on the topicc. I found Andy Hall and his blog Dead Confederatesfrom reading Ta-Nehisi Coates. He and Coates, both, have done an incredible job of standing real history in the stead of Confederate Myth.

        Hall documents much of the history of the war; current post is on Torpedo Boats. He’s been a stalwart challenger of the notion that slaves willingly fought for the Confederacy, showing the evidence of such is in the class of the evidence for Friends of Hamas.

        Coates writing researching primary documents, the voices of slaves, many recorded during WPA, others taken from diaries, letters, etc., reveals the voices of slaves, the remembered experience of slavery. From reading his work, I think it wrong that we continually look at slaves as passive, waiting for northern whites to save them, or always on the verge of rebellion. They actively agitated and worked for freedom; most particularly, the freedom to keep their families intact.

        • And, putting it like that puts it in perspective. Folks working within the system, somewhat, some working outside the system.

      • If people are asking for a Robert E. Lee statue be taken down, instead of doing that you add an MLK statue right next to it

        Are there more? Like next to Nathan Bedford Forrest, you put up Malcolm X, and Jefferson Davis gets Marcus Garvey?

    • Its been said the South lost the War but won the Peace. A lot of the issues we talk about now and how the CW is remembered stem from the South’s fight against Reconstruction after the CW. The South won that and destroyed Reconstruction. While we teach kids about MLK, Tubman and watch Glory, they really don’t get taught about Reconstruction. That would be to hard and painful and raise the ugly issues we prefer to sweep under the rug.

  5. What is interesting about the Confederate Flag is that it seems to have become the universal flag of the white, rural, working class. This speaks to the resentments that we were discussing in the main page post.

    Pride in the Confederate Flag is no longer isolated to the South. It has become a universal sign of defiance against urban, upper-middle class liberalism. I still think it is primary that the Flag supports the Confederacy but many followers also get glee about how it pisses off NPR-type liberals.

    On another internet community there was a woman from rural and working class Canada. She said her ex wanted to sew a Confederate flag on their daughter’s jacket. I can’t imagine what a Canadian would see in the flag except knowledge that it upsets/offends a certain group of people and he wanted to offend away.

    Needless to say I don’t find this to be very mature.

    • I think one of the funniest/oddest things is how West Virginia has a huge number of Confederate flag displayers, despite the fact that the state itself only exists because it wanted no part of the Confederacy.

      • I think you have to know more about West Virginia history to understand it. Most of what is WV consists of counties that voted for the Confederacy, the state was put together with military backing from the Union. The Union government in WV was actually a minority government. It is a very complicated story that historians have not really bothered to explain in detail.

    • I think it’s a sign of rebellion more generally. The symbol of Dukes of Hazzard. Somewhere I have a picture of folks in Scandanavia (Sweden?) flying it.

      The meaning of the flag varies a great deal from person to person. I know people who listen to NPR that like the flag. My brother had it on his bedroom door for the longest time growing up. It’s often a defensive “screw you” to would-be critics, along the lines of what you’re saying. Often it’s a statement that they won’t be deterred from being proud of who they are. Sometimes it’s just a symbol of pride. Sometimes it’s to piss off black people. Or outsiders. It really varies a great deal.

      I had briefly wondered if there was any way I could put it on Hit Coffee. Not as a matter of pride or to piss people off, but as a quick symbol that would be easily recognized that would give a piece of my background. I kept trying to find a way to alter it somewhat so that it would be recognizable but not emblematic of what many people consider it emblematic of. (I tried negative-ing the colors, replacing the red with orange a-la-Dukes, even implementing pan-African colors as contrast.) Ultimately, I decided that there was just no way I could do it, no matter what my actual intentions and no matter what explanation I slapped on there. It’s just too loaded a symbol.

      But anyway, there’s a lot that goes on with the whole thing. And a lot of people seem to get hung up on the “no matter what my actual intentions” part.

      • I know an immigrant from India who displays the flag on his pickup, and a Philipino who has had one in his car ever since he spent a year at U. Kentucky. I’ll admit I don’t get it.

    • I think you are onto something – it has become a generic symbol for “rebel” without real thought of the implications. In this it reminds me of the “Anarchy” symbol so many youthful punks like to affect.

      In college, we went to a concert of a band with “radical” revolutionary politics – you know, “Smash the state, and anarchy and such, and see those police over there? You could totally take them…”

      My friend and I looked at each other and said, “if anarchy/revolution really comes, the first thing the band will lose is those amplifiers, ‘cos they are NICE gear.”

      • Well, some folk are pretty determined not to let it take on some truthful and ugly meanings. Better the Hazard County then hazarding reality.

    • If she’s rural and working class, it’s probably a country music thing, or her husband thinks it is. He’s probably watched concerts or shows where people had that weird flag on their t-shirts or hanging in the back of the bar, and thinks it’s soooo Dukes of Hazzard or something.

    • I, for one, am overly fond of the aesthetics of the Maryland flag. I hope that doesn’t make me a monster.

      • Better than michigan’s state seal.
        ProTip: if you need two banners, your motto’s too damn long.

        • Not that I endorse calling women degrading names, but as a native Michigander and a denizen of the internet, I believe the appropriate response to statements like this is:

          Circumspice, bitch.

          • Ever since I moved here I’ve been advocating for the shorter, simpler, “Thumbs Up!” as the state motto.

            Sadly, my efforts have been fruitless.

          • Exactly what I’m talking about. Circumspice makes a wonderful motto!
            all’s i’m trying to say is shorten the thing!

  6. I’ve been spending some time on a possibly related question. One can make an argument of sorts that much of the celebration of Confederate heroes and the battle flag represents an ongoing regional resentment of “things that were forced on us by the rest of the country.” That’s not intended to defend any of the practices the South was required to abandon, from slavery through Jim Crow and beyond. But the Civil War is not the only case where one region of the country had something, or at least felt strongly that they had had something, forced upon them to their detriment, or that military action was taken. I’ve been trying to compile a list. Lots of smart people here that know lots of history; are there others that I have missed? And in relation to Will’s post up there, is the South’s long-term reaction only a matter of degree?

    The 1891 Whiskey Tax disadvantaged small distillers west of the Appalachians relative to larger better-established distillers in the East. Eventually, Washington raised the militias (which required the first drafts in US history, a completely different sort of topic) and sent them to western Pennsylvania to suppress the insurrection. A couple of the leaders of the rebellion were found guilty of treason, but then pardoned.

    The 1828 “Tariff of Abominations” was a boon for northern states and a drag on the economy of southern states. Some southern states passed “nullification” laws which the Supreme Court subsequently overruled. At one point, Congress authorized the use of military force to enforce collection of the tariffs in South Carolina. SC folded before the military were actually deployed.

    The 1976 Land Management Act was passed, as near as I’ve been able to tell, without a single “aye” vote from any member of Congress representing one of the 12 western states that were affected by the law. Some of the western states have since passed nullification acts or resolutions similar in spirit to those passed in 1828. Arizona and Utah in particular seem to be slowly working themselves up to more serious confrontations over decisions made under the law.

    In 1987, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was amended so that only Yucca Mountain could be considered as a waste repository. 96 of the 104 US commercial reactors are located east of the Great Plains; all of those are more than 1,000 miles from Yucca Mountain. The amendment was attached to the budget reconciliation bill in the conference committee so that it avoided any sort of Congressional debate. One suspects that this maneuver was intended to avoid setting up another East vs West vote, especially with Reagan (who had openly supported the “Sagebrush rebels”) in the White House.

    • Dear Michael, I like your list so far. However, I have read enough to know that I am on an Anti-South blog and I don’t know how I got here, but it is a sure thing I don’t belong with the yes people and andy hall types here. Before I leave these esteemed liberal progressives, I do want to mention for your edification that the 14th amendment was illegally passed and has been used ever since to subjugate and pervert the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. After all the take over and the occupation of the Confederate States is surely a war that has come to bite the North in the butt time and time again.

    • Sigh… I was hoping it wouldn’t attract comments like that. Could the editors please just delete my original comment/question and everything that fell under it. Thanks.

  7. While were taking down the ugly stuff when does the Dillon Memorial come down?

  8. Why to force the South to forget the sons, husbands, fathers and all men which gave up their lives for the Southern cause? Why falsify the history? I believe it would be everybody’s loss to forget Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, JEB Stuart, James Longstreet and many others great soldiers and wonderful human beings. The Civil War was not only about slavery but also taxation in favor of the North and rights of the States. Only 10 percent of the CSA population owned the slaves. I believe that South should be able to decide what statues they want keep and what names give to their parks, streets and avenues.

    • If it was about states rights, why did the CSA constitution forbid states from abolishing slavery in their own states? That seems like an imposition on the rights of states to have or abolish slavery as they wish.

      • MO the answer is FEAR of being killed in their beds while they slept, ala, Haiti and Santo Domingo, and from all those phamplets
        the NE and John Brown’s NE backers sent through the mails and even dropped from balloons. Prudence, and common sense were
        the norms in those days. How about we drop u off in the ghetto and see how u do.

        • yeah i am sure the whole “holding another race in permanent bondage and treating them as savages” thing had no effect on the attitude of the slaves at all.

          terrible how the south got crushed and had to lose their “Particular Institution” huh?

          • russell yhoju are speaking in the extreme and spreading false doctrine. There were some slaves ocassionally that may have been ill treated, but by and large they were NOT as you treated as you portray and out of the 4 MILLION there were many many with good attitudes towards their situation. Had you really studied history you would know that! assholes!

          • You know, Josephine, it would bolster your persuasiveness if you avoided invective and profanity. Maybe focus more on the facts, like,

            “There were only 9 million people in the Confederacy and 4 million of them were slaves — they had to have been at least minimally content with their situations, for the most part, or their sheer numbers would have led to revolt, a revolt which never happened despite John Brown’s best efforts.”

            I’m not saying I’d agree with a claim like that. But it would be both more polite and more persuasive than the one you made.

        • Fear of pamphlets dropped from balloons?

          I thought those southerners were supposed to have been brave?

        • There were plenty of southern abolitionists, wasn’t just John Brown.
          But if you studied history, you’d know that.

          Now, can you please lay off Lee’s old war horse? He’s gone and buried already!

      • Here’s the clause:

        The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

        The point is clearly to avoid the situation covered by the Fugitive Slave Law, Dred Scott decision, etc. where property was legally held in one jurisdiction but not another. Note that, the different states’ secession documents invariably complain that the non-slave states are not doing their job returning runaway “property”. This clauses prevents all of that for good.

        • Actually, I meant this clause:

          “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

          or this one preventing new states from abolishing it.

          “The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.”

          • Same motive. Or to say it another way, they believed what Lincoln said:

            A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.

            But drew the wrong conclusion.

  9. More Americans died in the Civil War than WW1 and WW2 combined, that in a nation of 23 million people. The military deaths alone were around 625,000. We really don’t know how many civilians died but the South suffered horribly.

    There were, at the time of the 1860 census, about four million slaves in the United States, almost thirteen percent of the population. About nine million people lived in the Confederacy, somewhat less than half the population was enslaved and a considerable number of non-slaves were essentially serfs, tenant farmers even then.

    The Confederacy was never really a nation. Its true nature is contained in its name. From our perch, here in the 21st century, we want to look at those people as united in the cause of slavery but surprisingly few of them owned slaves. Even the noblest of them chose their state over the government in Washington, men in grey who had fought together in Mexico with the men in blue, back when they all wore blue.

    The Stars and Bars was only the battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. It was never “the” Confederate flag. If it has become a symbol of Southern Pride in the intervening years, it was, then and now, the symbol of a Lost Cause.

    People love lost causes, especially Americans. The first romances ended terribly, in loss and sadness. The madness of love never leads to Happily Ever After: the fairy tales end with happiness. Not the romances. They end with Arthur bleeding out on the field of battle, of the glittering sword thrown by Bedivere, of the hand reaching forth from the water to seize it, pull it under, never to be seen again. Of the grieving women, bearing Arthur away to Avalon. Spoiler alert: Lancelot and Guinevere break up.

    Let the South have its statues and its icons. The chief icon of the Church is a device of execution and upon it hangs a crucified man. The erstwhile Confederacy erected monuments in stone, not in the hope of the resurrection of their cause, but to the men who bled and died for that cause. We have the Vietnam Memorial, a remembrance of men we lost in an equally pointless and stupid cause. The Parks Service has a huge warehouse full of artefacts grieving people still bring to that black wall. In time, that black wall will become just another monument, like all the others.

    I do hope, in the future, the same sentiments are not expressed about that black wall that we now hear from the opponents of the Confederate monuments. Grieving people knelt and prayed before those monuments and touched the graven names of men they knew.

  10. I believe I am probably the most virulently anti-Southern member of this here League, so I have to say I’m really enjoying the drive-by commenters this post managed to pull.

    • Meh. I’m not really convinced they aren’t a piece of liberal performance art – a little too over the top.

      • Yeah. If any of them actually know who Lee’s old war horse -is- I’ll eat my hat.

        That said, true lost causers will go on and on about how traitors lost them the war…

      • Visit the South. Swing a dead cat.

        You’ll meet these people. They are for real. These commenters might be playing the equivilant of faux-Creationists, but their parody is indistinguishable from real life.

        • Again, if Bobby Cheeks and his ilk above can’t even talk Civil War with me, who is NOT a buff, they ain’t the people you and I BOTH know.

          • The groups in Texas might be a wee bit different than, say, South Carolina or Mississippi. Texas’ experience in the Civil War was a lot different than most of the South.

            There weren’t a lot of battles fought here, for one. Heck, Sam Houston was basically deposed as governor when they seceded, and he’s still a Texas Icon — despite being, you know, not willing to take an oath to the confederacy and thus getting the boot from office.

            I do take great, deep, and abiding joy at how bluntly Texas spelled out the rationale for the Civil War which flat out contradicts the whole “Civil War wasn’t about slavery” claim (in Texas, it was spelled out as one of the primary causes).

            In Texas, there aren’t a lot of ‘The South Shall Rise Again’ sorts. There’s not a deep history of death or destruction. Texans fought and died, but they were volunteers in battlefields far away (there were a few here, some blockades — we weren’t ignored by the North). By and large, Texas was…adjacent to the Civil War. Peripheral. We provided men and supplies and the North occasionally remembered us (even then, it was fighting around the Mississippi River that was aimed at cutting off Texas contributions, not forays into Texas proper) but….

            No large battlefields. No massive casualties. No major cities burned.

            Texas was still a major slave state, but IIRC it was concentrated in East Texas and somewhat along the Gulf Coast — and East Texas is the Appalachia Hills of Texas proper. And unsurprisingly, that’s where a large chunk of the volunteers for fighting came from, and where the pro-Confederate sentiment remains strongest.

          • On the other hand, Texas is the only state that fought two wars to preserve the institution of slavery.

          • Likewise, it is the only state that can boast both Nob and Chris as residents.

            Coincidence? Or something much more sinister?

  11. Some people — and it may be a very small amount of ’em, granted — take this stuff really seriously.

    There was a guy down South who had an entire monument set up for his relative that died in the Civil War. It bein’ 2008 when someone was drivin’ by, they noticed he had an Obama sign in his yard. So, they stopped to interview the guy. Apparently he was upset that nobody had ever memorialized his relative, more than what side of the war he was on.

  12. I’d give a damn about this issue if everyone would acknowledge that the Civil War was not primarily about slavery. Yes, it was an issue, but it’s not the root cause. (ducks)

    And yes, the Flag pisses off NE liberals, not that they need it; they are always pissed off about something, but it’s become a symbol of all that many find offensive with that group. And it’s a well deserved contempt.

    • Everyone won’t acknowledge that because it’s not true. And the flag doesn’t just piss off northeastern liberals; it also pisses off Southern liberals like myself and, you know, nonwhite people.

      • I’m ok with it pissing off all liberals, regardless of location. They deserve it. Now, as to non while folks, I agree and why I see validity in their complaint.

    • I like to be polite, but I’m not going to state a complete falsehood.

    • I won’t acknowledge that, Damon. State’s rights was not the root cause. Slavery was. State’s rights was the legal gloss upon which slavery was justified.

      It’s true that Lincoln didn’t advocate immediate emancipation of slaves. He advocated gradual emancipation, and free-soilism, and flirted with expatriation too. That was because he wished to position himself politically as more moderate but still opposed to slavery. He changed his mind, or at least changed his position, over time.

      As did a lot of people who all thought slavery was an evil but that it was so massive and pervasive an evil that it could not be immediately excised from the patient’s body without substantial risk of morbidity. (A caution which a four-year civil war demonstrated was warranted.)

      That should not be understood as disregarding slavery as an issue or even of using abolition as a tissue over less noble ends. It should be understood as a form of opposing slavery.

      • As Blaise has pointed out, most of the folks fighting the North we not slave owners. They were defending their homes, in a manner of speaking. If, by that, they were defending slavery, I guess, the GIs in WW2 were defending Communism since because the US sided with the USSR.

        Slavery was already on the way out in the world. It wasn’t necessary to go to war to remove it. Additionally, given the horrors that Lincoln unleashed upon the country, I don’t think the benefits were worth the costs—we’re STILL dealing with it. I think Thomas DiLorenzo got it pretty much right.

        • Most of the German soldiers in WWII weren’t themselves Nazis.

          • And when Lee’s troops were marauding across Pennsylvania, kidnapping every black person they ran across to take back South as slaves, they were defending their homes. Or maybe States’ Rights.

        • I remember an historian writing a few years ago that, while only 10% of those who fought owned slaves, their connection to slavery was actually much greater (I can’t remember if it was 50% or 70%). That is, a much higher percentage had family members, mostly parents, who owned slaves. The thing was, most of the soldiers were young, and slaves were expensive, so they hadn’t made enough money to own slaves of their own yet. What’s more, since many of them still lived at home before the war, they might as well have owned slaves themselves.

        • Lincoln said:

          “If as the friends of colonization hope, the present and coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means, succeed in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery; and, at the same time, in restoring a captive people to their long-lost father-land, with bright prospects for the future; and this too, so gradually, that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation.”

          DiLorenzo reports that he said:

          “Eliminating every last black person from American soil would be a glorious consummation.”

          Yeah, he’d fit right in at Breitbart.

        • In general, those that didn’t own slaves proper had relatives that did — close relatives. Siblings, parents. Or more tellingly — hoped to become wealthy enough to own one of their own.

          • Zic: Um, the point was that 10% is..undercounted.

            That’s 10% of households. Which meant if you had, say, a father, a wife, and three young men — that’s one slave-owner.

            Would it shock you to find the young men taking up arms to defend their right to have a house slave?

            And again, given the demographics — if you didn’t personally own a slave, odds are either one of your parents or siblings did. Outside of plantations, most slave owners had at most a single slave for a household — which made the overall ownership % look a lot lower than it effectively was.

  13. How much of this do you really think is about the war, and how much is a big middle finger to the repression of reconstruction?
    (Note: My home state of NM just celebrated 100 yrs of statehood last year, and I really don’t have a dog in this fight, other than the belief that chunky peanut butter is better than smooth.)

    • “… the belief that chunky peanut butter is better than smooth.”

      Yes, sir. If there is anything that is going to break up Zazzy and I, it is her belief in the inverse of this Known Rule of the Universe.

  14. The Stars and Bars are exactly like a swastika.

    (It’s true in that it pisses off the right people.)

  15. Note, the stars and bars is not what we’re talking about when we talk about the Confederate flag. Two different flags.

    • When it was created, the CSA adopted a flag that looked very different than the battle flag, yes. But didn’t the CSA eventually adopt a flag that incorporated a blue star-studded St. Andrew’s Cross on a red field?

      • Correct. There were a couple. One that was pure white and another with a red bar along the right side when it was deemed problematic to have a flag in the field that could be confused for the flag of surrender. It’s often si laid that’s why the added the bar, anyway. It’s also often said that the first flag (stars and bars) was confusing people by being too similar to the union flag.

          • James, you have an awesomely sick and twisted sense of humor and little sense of shame. I imagine your mother often bit her tongue as she tried to discipline you while keeping a straight face.

          • James, you have an awesomely sick and twisted sense of humor and little sense of shame.

            It’s really unfair of you to say that about James. Stop ignoring me and Glyph!

          • How can anyone ignore you or Glyph? It simply isn’t possible to read these pages and ignore either one of you.

            But — here’s the thing; you both assume the role of comedian. You’re clowns. The noble role of the jester, speaking truth to kings. James’ role seems more of a court advisor and trainer of future kings. We don’t expect them to be funny.

            You, on the other hand, are expected to humor and entertain on a daily basis or else.

          • You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fished up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fishin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?

          • Thank you, zic, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me in a long time.

          • The difference between Mike and me, is that Mike is for real wise and smart, and just likes to play the fool sometimes; whereas I am just a wisenheimer and a smartass, no foolin’, pretty much all the time.

          • Glyph, I thought the difference was that Mike’s predictable; he always shows up in that backward hat, shades, and a T with an ad for illegals on it.

            You? I never know what the hell you’ll be wearing. Right now, you’re a speaker. For all I know, tomorrow you’ll be a bagel, an elf, or some aging rock star.

    • Kind of OT but I worked on a two sided Regimental Banner from the first Georgia regulars. One side was a (Stars and Bars) First national flag with 11 stars (July 2, 1861 – November 28, 1861) The other side was silk painted with the State seal of Georgia

  16. How much of the war was about keeping the nation whole? I mean in the end, what differences would arose from north telling the south, “ok go your own way”.

    Where would that have played out to? statistically it doesn’t look tenable.. Any opinions?

    • Well, there is the fact that life would’ve been even more terrible for millions of black Confederate-American’s and they wouldn’t even had the possibility of moving to the North as people stuck in the Jim Crow South had.

      Again, I understand people who say, “we should’ve just let the South go and we’d be at least Canada by now,” and I’ve had those feelings before, but there would’ve been real negative consequences to letting the South go it’s own way.

      • Jesse way off base; For pete sake,you should be ashamed; Demoncrats hate whites, they hate white history, and they hate white Southerners the most. I do not care if you like or believe what I post; I want you to feel my anger. Iimagine writing with glee that we Southerners who don’t agree with you are finally dying off and hoping no one will take our place. That is pretty hateful to me!

        The South had 50,000 free ex-slaves they had already freed, and the ex-slaves met the criteria of being very capable of taking care of themselves and not being a drag on the community. Not all were this capable, as Lincoln found out. Look at the wills sometimes with a clear head and you will see that many were freed even in the very earliest times. The 4 Million I mentioned before, albeit a sizable number, had been mostly treated decently and had multiplied to this number. Compare that to the treatment and age of those in South America and the Caribbean, most of them did not live past age 30. The fact is slaves in the South were the best treated slaves on the Continent. ,

        • Yeah. ,

          (It’s the punctuation that makes it so persuasive.)

    • The South would have gone the way of Haiti. When slaves outnumbered whites, they would have revolted.

      At one point, the Romans wanted to make slaves wear a leather belt with the name of their master upon it. When they realised just how many slaves there actually were — and when they realised the implication of all those slaves realising how many other slaves there were, they thought better of that stupid notion.

      With the black slave, they already had some idea of just how many people had been enslaved. One of the dirty little secrets of the American Revolutionary War is just how many slaves ran off to the British lines.

      • The South would have gone the way of Haiti. When slaves outnumbered whites, they would have revolted.

        Query as to what the USA might have done about that when it happened (or seemed likely to happen).

        “Scandal: President Blaine secretly authorized weapons shipments to CSA slave rebels!”

        • I see what you did there with “President Blaine”. The counterfactual does raise the question of what would happen to party politics with almost all the Democrats gone.

        • Again, America’s relationship with Haiti is a rather good guide to the Overthrown Confederacy. American troops invaded Haiti any number of times. And like Haiti, the South would be just another Caribbean shithole.

          • Blaise you mean the USA relationship with Haiti; don’t say America’s relationship as though the USA and America are one and the same. Because they are NOT! There is a lot of land in America, and a lot of other countries too that you are not a citizen of or that does not belong to the USA. You have a lot more to learn for back up, your statements are silly.

            Although Washington NE Elites always did want Canada and had they let the South go, I am sure they would have made an invasion and takeover of Canada to increase their holdings. After all, consider that Little Big Horn and the genocide of the Indians was after 1865.
            I always knew some of the slaves joined the British in the Rev War, and some of them joined the Revolution our side, not a secret at all.
            The really dirty secret is this one:
            Lincoln promised Ohio and the other states and territories that he would bottle the ex-slaves up in the South, and they were until after WWII; we were all so church poor for stuff that staying down on the farm was the best thing we could do. Too poor to go anywhere. See Equal but Not Free by black Chicago author written about 20 years ago. Best recent black author book today is Erik Rush “Negrophilia”.

      • I’m not convinced of this.

        The counterfactual of ‘letting the south go,’ brings up efforts for new states to be slave states before the war; there was already a population imbalance in some southern states, and they wanted those slave states to open new markets for slaves. There were also growing problems of soil depletion/fertility from growing too much cotton/tobacco without proper crop rotation/nourishment, so the pressures were twofold: new land for new crops, new markets for slaves as a way to offset the agricultural losses from poor farming practices.

        If we’d let the south go, there’s a good chance we’d still have ended up in a war over the lands being opened to the west.

        • Of course; the open lands would have been too valuable to resolve by treaty. Why else do you think President Blaine would have armed the slaves to rebel?

          And the USA would probably have allied with Mexico to split them back up, resulting in a new southern border considerably further north of where it is in reality — or maybe Mexico would have moved in on its own to try and take back at least Texas.

        • If we’d let the south go, there’s a good chance we’d still have ended up in a war over the lands being opened to the west.

          Yeah, it’s hard to imagine it turning out any other way, isn’t it?

          All we can really do is wonder which route would have had the lower human cost, given that the human cost of either is unacceptably high.

        • Haiti, while the French ran it, was tremendous money maker. Read the history of Haiti and you’ll see how this worked out in the long term. Haiti got its independence and began to slowly self-destruct.

          After Plessy the North showed it was no friend to slaves. The slaves ran all the way to Canada. They didn’t stop in Ohio or Indiana, let’s put it that way.

          The slaves would have revolted eventually. There had been hundreds of revolts across the South. I don’t think slavery could have held out for long. The cost and manpower to continue repressing the slaves would have been enormous.

        • If we’d let the south go, there’s a good chance we’d still have ended up in a war over the lands being opened to the west.

          I’ve long maintained that the result of a Confederacy would have resulted in not two nations in what is now the continental USA, but at least four and a strong possibility of five or six. More if the Confederacy were to split up (which I would consider a possibility).

          Another reason for God Bless Abe Lincoln.

          • There’s a great, well, I don’t know what to call it, but series of writing out there on the Internet called “Decades of Darkness.” It’s an epic alternate history with better writing than most books about what would’ve happened if New England would’ve actually been able to secede in the early 1800’s.

            Spoiler – The US turns into a Southern-dominated country with a caste-like society of slaves, peons, and such that extends from the present day US all the way down to South America.

            I think that’s likely what would’ve happened on a smaller scale w/ the CSA. They would’ve gone after places like Cuba and other islands with new “property” they could easily grab from dying European nations, maybe do some invasions of Mexico or Central America and “whitewash” the leaders there to get even more land and property.

            Slavery might’ve eventually died out due to economics, but only to be replaced with something much worse than Jim Crow, but maybe a little better than slavery, only it’d be applied to all poor people, not just black people.

          • It does seem likely to me that you’d just replace the Civil War with something even more horrendous 30-40 years later when the American successor states get caught up in the Great Game and then the Entente System leading to World War I…trench warfare and poison gas along the Mason-Dixon line for example.

          • I can’t picture the South as an imperial power. They were able to do well in the first year of the war here largely because they were spread out over three disconnected fronts (the West, Tennessee, and the Virginia), they were fighting on their own turf, and not enough time had passed for the North’s vast superiority in manpower, manufacturing, and transportation to have an effect. Their navy sucked for the most part, as did their logistics.

            I think the real worry for the northern states, if they’d just let the South go, would have been that some European power could have, through economic and perhaps military ties, come to have way too much influence on the continent. With England to their north, and maybe England or France or whoever to their south, they’d have felt boxed in. Plus they wouldn’t have had some of the most important parts of the Mississippi River, and from an economic perspective, that would have been unacceptable.

          • Unfettered control of the Mississippi is very often overlooked. I am also inclined to believe that the Confederacy would have had a really hard time carrying out imperial ambitions. They’d have had their hands full just trying to stay together.

          • Hey, me too!

            Actually not tomorrow, but Saturday. I spent this morning lining up the UHaul. Which, in Arapaho, isn’t easy. Saturday I made an reservation only to be called today and be informed that they can’t fulfill it unless I can drive 60 miles to pick the moving van up. Which I can’t do because Clancy is on call this weekend and there’s no way that I can take the baby in a UHaul.

          • I decided I could ask for movers (they were quite affordable) compared to a Uhaul + potential of uninsured big injuries hauling heavy boxes of books up 3 flights of stairs.

            Sadly they botched the delivery of the packing materials, so I had a last minute speed packing challenge.

          • Like I said, the POD is the new US would’ve been basically everything to the south of the NY/Philly line. But, I still think a CSA with a win under its built would’ve tried to grab Cuba or someplace like that to expand it’s reach.

            But yeah, once the butterflies start flapping, it’s a whole different world and it’s unlikely that either the US or the CSA is the leading world power.

          • The CSA would have had problems with any foreign policy because its states were so disunited. Jefferson Davis met fierce resistance (including being called a dictator) for trying to impose a unified military command (e.g. have the ability to shift troops from the West, where they weren’t needed, to Virginia, where they were) in the middle of a war for the CSA’s very existence.

          • There were attempts by Southerners to “annex” cuba and haiti i believe before the CW. They explicitly stated taking some of the Caribbean islands would have been a great way to expand slavery

          • There’s a running joke (heck, I may have first encountered it here) that many Southerners claims as to ‘what’s Constitutional’ are things explicitly spelled out in the Constitution the Confederacy wrote, but are not in any sense explicit (or even implicit with broad agreement) in the US one.

            The very weak federal government, for one, and the extreme end of the state’s rights argument. One reason I see a Confederate Empire as somewhat laughable, their government was set up in powerful state-sized fiefdoms — it would have been akin to the League of Nations starting an empire.

          • Will,
            my friend’s research (for the bicentennial) supports that idea. even if the whole confederacy had been allowed to stand, it would have all been the United States within 50 years. The US would absorb them piecemeal.

  17. Will stated above:

    Unfettered control of the Mississippi is very often overlooked. I am also inclined to believe that the Confederacy would have had a really hard time carrying out imperial ambitions. They’d have had their hands full just trying to stay together.

    Worth a rethread, IMO. After Vicksburg, Winfield Scott’s Anaconda had completed its coil. The naval blockade was not perfect, but of course it never could have been. It was good enough, though. The more I read and learn about the war, the more important Vicksburg looms: Gettysburg gets a lot of press but Vicksburg cut the western states out of the action and opened up commerce to the Union’s interior again.

    One would have thought that someone in Richmond might have realized its importance and tried to reverse the situation — oh wait, I think Jefferson Davis did realize that, but couldn’t do anything about it.

    • This is absolutely right. I was going to write a comment (hey, I was the one who brought up control of the Mississippi, dangit!) about how after Vicksburg, the war was over, even if that’s slight hyperbole (losing Vicksburg and Tennessee, opening the South’s underbelly, meant the war was over, though). In hindsight, it’s clear that after 1863, the only way the South comes out of the war with anything is by Lincoln losing in 1864 and the North to negotiating, because from a military perspective, the Southern cause was doomed by then.

  18. Late to this but…

    My city is somewhat unique with regards to monuments. We have both Union and Confederate monuments here because KY was very divided during the war. Our cemetaries contain graves for both sides. So I tend to think of Confederate monuments as respect towards the people who fought and died in an abstract sense, not because they were fighting to keep slavery.

    Every war has its men of questionale morals that are later exhaulted. There are some beautiful monuments to Douglas MacArthur who wanted desperately to kill millions with nukes during the Korean War.

    • And this? this i don’t mind. I’d ask for a memorial to escaping slaves (and the abolitionists), because that’s part of our heritage too… But that’s me, and if you don’t have enough folks in your town that want it, meh.

    • Many, probably most — of the dead of the Civil War were buried not far from the battleground. Many of the grave sites were unknown. These monuments stood in for the graves themselves: the bereaved would visit them.

      Though nobody’s commented on it, I tried to make a point about the Vietnam War and its questionable legacy. In the distant future, America’s involvement in SE Asia will not be viewed favourably. Tearing out these Confederate monuments is truly Orwellian: it’s an attempt to erase history. It’s a hallmark of bad history and weak thinking.

      We need those monuments to remind us of what really happened, that hundreds of thousands of Americans were chewed up in the meat grinder of a pitiless and avoidable war. The much-ballyhooed Founders could have abolished slavery in 1789. Congress could have done something in the intervening years. We need to be reminded of the fatal conceit of Loyalty to a Cause. Not all causes are just.

      • I’d say there is a difference between a wall commemorating dead soldiers and a statue of McNamara on Main Street. I don’t think we should put strip malls over confederate cemeteries. Nor that we should disappear a of it from our history. Mostly that we shouldn’t exalt the leaders of the rebellion or the cause. Which is the line that a lot of these monuments cross (that the Vietnam Memorial doesnt).

        • There is a difference, sure. McNamara wasn’t a general. Most the generals of the Vietnam War have something named for them. Creighton Abrams got the main battle tank named for him.

          The Confederates are past praise or contempt. It’s sorta like that old Irish joke about how to get to heaven. It doesn’t matter if you give your goods to the poor and live a good life and go to mass or help little old ladies across the street. “Yev got to fookin’ die first.”


          Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
          And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
          To find his happiness in another kind of wood
          And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
          The words of a dead man
          Are modified in the guts of the living.

          I’m telling y’all plainly, removing these statues is bad business. Every two-bit Bart Simpson wants to knock the head off the statue of Jebediah Springfield. Gets us into First Amendment issues. Every attempt to rewrite history backfires horribly. Let those monuments stand, to be punished under our foreign code of conscience.

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