Oh, Felicia, you’re something else.

I’m working on some other posts (in between being mama bear) right now and something that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is an experience I had with a Canadian acquaintance I was friends with on Facebook. I’d posted something about the Confederate battle flag (it’s been awhile, so I forget what) and she lit into me like a bat outta hell with her righteous indignation.

Anyway, I’m sitting here chuckling at something she said to me before cutting the conversation short with a good unfriending (which was rather like the trash taking itself out since clearly she didn’t want an answer to her points). She said that her evidence proving how slavery was the only issue, how everything was about that and yadda, yadda, yadda was that when she “visited the South” she didn’t see any slaves’ graves.

I don’t know who goes on vacation to another country and spends that time looking for 150 year old graves but let’s run with this for a second. She is probably right BUT not neccessarily for the reasons she thinks. There are certain things she forgot to factor in:

First, the war decimated the South. In the areas where there was fighting a lot got destroyed and this includes graves. It was especially common for any graves that looked recent to be dug up by Union soldiers just in case some sneaky southerner was trying to hide their valuables or other supplies. Putting aside issues of whether it is moral to steal or destroy every bit of food possible that belongs to civilians, or to dig up dead bodies, often failing to properly rebury them after the fact, the bottom line is a lot of graves were disturbed.

Second, last I checked gravestones don’t typically read: John Doe, white man. Or Jane Doe, slave. Or whatever or however she expects to know for a certainty the color of who is buried where.

Third, gravestones surviving to this day from that period tend to belong to the very lucky or the very wealthy. I’ve enjoyed genealogy research since my teens and I know of gravestones for ancestors of that period on about… Just to estimate… One in twenty ancestors. Several more I’ll be able to find information on where the grave yard is that they were buried but when I go there I find that most of the graves are unmarked so I can be sure if my ancestor is buried there or, if so, which grave is theirs. My ancestors weren’t by and large working class farmers who didn’t have money for things like slaves or fancy burials. Am I supposed to be offended by their lack of grave marker?

Fourth, most slaves probably got what in the modern day would be considered a sub par burial. Slavery, as a whole, is a black mark on our history and it’s a shame it wasn’t eradicated earlier. You will never, ever find me attempting to justify slavery with excuses about how they were somehow benefiting. I don’t believe that and I’m not going to undermine my points or my credibility with such despicable logic.

What I will state and will stand by is that the war involved MORE than slavery and that proving slavery isn’t moral (no shit, Sherlock) has absolutely nothing to do with what was or wasn’t the meaning behind the flag.

You can argue over what the war was about. You can argue about how many who flew the flag were slave owners. You can argue about how best we should treat the flag in the modern day. What you cannot logically argue is that the burial customs of a particular demographic is proof positive of the symbolism behind something unrelated to burial. It doesn’t work.

Bye, Felicia.

What does the Confederate battle flag mean to you?

I received an email from a young lady who is working on a research paper for school and had a few questions for me on this topic. With her permission, I’d like to share her questions here, my response, and open it up for others to add their thoughts as well in the comments.

Her email, name omitted:

While looking around for sources for a research paper, I found your site. I found it very interesting and helpful, and wondered if you could answer a few questions about my topic for me.

My topic is this: “What does the Confederate flag (the battle flag) mean to Southern Americans today?”.

My questions are:

1) The main opposition to the flag seems to be for racial reasons. Do you think that African Americans take offense at the flying of this flag, and why?

2) What does the flag mean to you, personally?

3) Do you think that it is a symbol of a dead cause, or do you feel that the principals for which the South fought are still alive today?

If you could answer any or all of these questions, I would greatly appreciate it, however, if you do not have the time, I completely understand.

My response:

I’m happy to give you an answer to your questions as far as my own thoughts/perspective on the matter. I’m glad to hear the site has been useful to you.

1) The main opposition to the flag in the modern day is racial, yes. I think most who take offense do so because they have been given a tainted narrative about the war. They, as most of us, have been taught that the war was all about slavery and the southern whites were determined to keep
blacks enslaved. Given such a story, I don’t think anyone can blame them for opposing the flag. The problem is there is more to the history than that and we can’t start erasing history because we’ve been conditioned to believe it something it wasn’t. Nobody was perfect, there was certainly
slavery and there were plenty of bad people on either side, but those of southern ancestry (of all colors) are being asked to give up our heritage based on a lie and that’s not okay.

You may be interested in checkout out the work and writings of H.K. Edgerton. He runs the website southernheritage411.com and is a former president of the Asheville, NC NAACP chapter. He is one of the most vocal African Americans who are speaking up on behalf of the flag and don’t want it removed from southern culture. Here is a recent headline that involved him:
https://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/bystanders-break-up-bizarre-scuffle-between-angry-kkk-members-and-black-pro-confederate-activist/

2 & 3) I’m a Virginian, and that impacts my answer more specifically than just being a southerner. Our ancestors thought of themselves not as Americans first, or even as Confederates first, but first as Virginians (or whatever other southern state) and other earthly allegiances came second to that. Virginia was not as attached to slavery as some of the deep south. My own ancestors were farmers and as a genealogy buff I can tell you that next to no one in my family owned slaves at the time of the war. I can think of maybe two instances among dozens of ancestors… one was a single slave that it looked like was inherited and she just lived with the family, the other being a more distant family that owned several but nothing like the sprawling plantations we are led to think about. Most of my family owned none. A fellow Virginian, Robert E. Lee chose to free his slaves (inherited also, not purchased) at the beginning of the war when the south was actually winning whereas Ulysses S. Grant chose not to do so until the war ended. So I think just on that topic alone there are a lot of misconceptions about how people here viewed slavery.

The fact of the matter is our founding fathers didn’t all agree as far as having a loose collective of states who governed themselves versus a strong central power. Our Constitution left most things in the hands of the individual states but by the mid 19th century the federal government had already taken more liberties than many could stand. Through politics in the federal government, where the South was at a disadvantage, the South had been given the tax burden of the entire country. We paid most of the taxes and many northern industries were given subsidies using that tax money. Lincoln stated that they couldn’t let the south go because they couldn’t afford to lose the revenue. Charles Dickens, looking upon the war from England, wrote that slavery as a cause was “specious humbug” and that the war was a “fiscal quarrel.”

When Virginia ratified the Constitution, our ratification specifically included a clause that we reserved the right to leave the union if down the road we determined that the power was being abused. We determined that, we left as we had a legal right to do, and the federal government
chose to fight to retain us regardless of our wishes. Politicians and others in “union” states were arrested to prevent secession from spreading. It all became this big power struggle of whether they could force a union or whether we were still free people. I think that’s one of the most insulting things about the common claim about the war being over slavery and being just so the wealthy could keep their wealth. These people are saying that my family fought and died not for something that they believed in, but because they were the foolish pawns of rich men. What part of that really makes sense? We had cousins travel back here from what is now West Virginia to fight with us and died in military prison after being captured… Do these people pushing this narrative really think they chose to come back here and leave their families at risk in West Virginia all for the sake of some rich plantation owner keeping their slaves? In what universe does that make sense?

What the battle flag — and remember that’s what this flag being fought over was, a flag the men designed and chose to fight under, not an official flag of the Confederate government — means to me is a symbol of how much my ancestors valued their freedom. They fought and died because
they believed they should have a right to determine who governed them rather than allowing themselves to be controlled and taken advantage of, just like my ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. The difference is that one set of ancestors won their war and the others lost
but that doesn’t change what they valued enough to fight (and in some cases die) for. I don’t think the desire for freedom will ever be a dead cause. The Confederacy is dead, but that was more something that mattered to politicians who were concerned about political borders, tax revenues,
military prowess, whatever. I don’t really care whether there is a “Confederate States of America” in existence. I just care about honoring a cause that is tied to this land and these people, and I do think those principles are alive today. They are pretty universal among anyone who prefers freedom to safety or however you want to phrase it. People find different ways of pursuing it, find different ways of explaining it, but the cause is the same.

It’s a shame, to me, that so many people get caught up debating points that don’t really affect that and start wanting to criticize each side for how “wrong” they are. That’s exactly the type of division that was intended by whoever it was brilliant enough to come up with this flag drama. I think a lot of people are passionate about it and that passion makes them handle matters in ways that are more detrimental than anything.

What are your thoughts for her?

The Truth About the Confederate Flag

When I was growing up, I was always one way or another around the Confederate flag (one cannot possibly live in the South without seeing it). I was rather indifferent to it and my mother and father never really told me to think otherwise because they raised me to think for myself when it came to something like the flag or anything that people widely disagreed upon.

I believe that I first saw it when someone had not changed the channel for me so I could watch my Saturday morning cartoons.

It was left on the History Channel (you know, back when it was good), the show that was on was “Civil War Journal” and I was utterly fascinated with it.

When I was watching it I saw a flash of a Confederate Soldier carrying the the flag and in my boyish joy I thought to myself “How cool! I love this show!”

It was then when my quest for knowledge began at the age of five.

I never really attached the flag to pure hate after I watched a documentary about the KKK because I realised that they fly the American flag so I started to believe that the battle flag couldn’t be all that bad if the American flag wasn’t considered racist.

And about that…

Let me ask a question:

Do you honestly believe that a FLAG could be racist?

Please take a moment to think about that……

To try to get this over with here is the truth about the Confederate battle flag….

When the Southern States seceded from the Union starting in late 1860, they formed a Confederate Congress, similar to the Union’s congress. In Feb 1861 the Confederate Congress created a “Committee on the Flag and Seal.” which was chaired by William Porcher Miles, to design a flag and seal of the Confederate States of America. William T. Thompson was NOT the “creator” of the Confederate battle flag, or even of the Stainless Banner, The Second National Confederate flag.

(See this link on that)

The “Confederate Battle Flag” was originally designed by William Porcher Miles.

This flag was originally in the design of the St George’s Cross, Miles received a variety of feedback on this design, including a critique from Charles Moise, a self-described “Southerner of Jewish persuasion.” Moise liked the design, but asked that “the symbol of a particular religion not be made the symbol of the nation.” Taking this into account, Miles changed his flag, removing the palmetto and crescent, and substituting a heraldic saltire (“X”) for the upright one.
The Design.

Mile’s original design was one of many that were proposed but were rejected.

Seen here.

More information on the battle flag’s origin here.

1st National Flag “The Stars And Bars”

The Stars and Bars was chosen to to be the first official Confederate Flag. It was designed by Nicola Marschall who was a German American artist credited with designing both the first flag of the Confederacy and the grey Confederate army uniform.  The Uniforms design was influenced by the mid 1800s uniforms of the Austrian and French armies.

He was born into a wealthy Prussian family of tobacco merchants in 1829. As a budding artist he decided to come to America. In 1849 he emigrated to America and first lived in New Orleans and then moved to Mobile, Alabama. He then relocated to Marion, Alabama in 1851. He opened a portrait studio and taught art at the Marion Female Seminary. In 1861 with the coming of the war he was approached to design a flag for the new Confederacy. He offered three designs, one of which the “Stars and Bars” became the official flag of the C.S.A. It was first raised in Montgomery, Alabama on March 4, 1861. It was the official flag from March 4, 1861 to May 26, 1863.

As early as April 1861, a month after the flag’s adoption, some were already criticizing the flag, calling it a “servile imitation” and a “detested parody” of the U.S. flag. In January 1862, George William Bagby, writing for the Southern Literary Messenger, wrote that many Confederates disliked the flag. “Every body wants a new Confederate flag,” Bagby wrote, also stating that “The present one is universally hated. It resembles the Yankee flag and that is enough to make it unutterably detestable.” The editor of the Charleston Mercury expressed a similar view, stating that “It seems to be generally agreed that the ‘Stars and Bars’ will never do for us. They resemble too closely the dishonored ‘Flag of Yankee Doodle’ … we imagine that the “Battle Flag” will become the Southern Flag by popular acclaim…”

The Second National Confederate Flag “The Stainless Banner” AKA “Jackson’s flag”

The Third National Confederate Flag “The Blood Stained Banner”

More information on the flags of the CSA here.

 

Nicola Marschall and the First Official Flag

 

Please feel free to comment on this, ask any and all questions, and show this website to your friends.

M. Williams

Why bother studying history?

When I was a kid I became interested in genealogy. Some of my most treasured belongings are these surveys my mom and I put together and sent to all of my grandparents asking them to list their parents, grandparents, childhood stories and other family history information. Some of my grandparents didn’t bother, thinking I really wouldn’t be interested in it. The irony is that the one grandparent who took the most time to fill it out with information and stories was also the one who issued this caution: Be careful of looking in the past. You might find a horse thief.

I think sometimes when people talk about studying history or learning about their ancestors they have this mindset where it’s all about bragging rights. They want to find out they were descended from a president or royalty or who knows what else. They have these rose colored glasses on and aren’t so interested in the stories of five generations who lived in poverty but worked hard or maybe the story about the great-great-grandfather who grew up in a poorhouse and was always bitter and mean from such a rough childhood. They don’t want to know about the grandmother whose husband forced her to drink turpentine to cause an abortion because he didn’t want another mouth to feed. These are stories of real life and, yes, a sample of the things I learned when I began to look at my own family’s history. Is it all warm and fuzzy? No, but I don’t regret knowing it. I don’t regret understanding what they went through that made them who they are and eventually led to me. I’m okay with them not being a president. I’m proud to come from stock that endured so much and managed to carry on.

Also when I was a kid I learned about history from my school textbooks and what movies and books I was introduced to. For the most part nobody in my family had an interest in history (though that developed after I became interested and was constantly rattling on about some historical fact or event I’d learned about). That early introduction to history was… flat. Lifeless.

We learned about Plymouth and the first Thanksgiving… but they kinda scanned over the parts about introducing diseases to the Native tribes and just how those tribes were steadily pushed out of their land.

We learned about the American Revolution… but not about the internal struggle of the founding fathers regarding whether or not to rebel. It was portrayed as this simple decision because of taxation without representation and they didn’t really explain the thoughts of the American Loyalists or what was going on in the British parliament.

We learned about the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We didn’t learn that the states still considered themselves separate and many states like Virginia even specifically stated in their ratification of the Constitution that they reserved the right to leave the union of states if they so desired in future.

We learned about slavery… We learned that the slaves were black men, women and children that had been brought over from Africa. We learned that it was the South that owned them and profited from the trade. We learned that the slave-owners were all rich white people and that the South was full of this huge, sprawling plantations with hundreds of slaves each. Of this paragraph, every single sentence is half-truths.

That’s what we have been taught though. A series of half-truths which give us an incomplete big picture and yet that big picture is what most of the nation judges each other by.

Everyone is being cheated of their heritage. Everyone is being cheated of understanding where they are from, why their family ended up where it was, what made their grandparents and great-grandparents the sort of people they were.

Start turning over rocks and looking at information you haven’t looked at before. You might find your own horse thief. You might find sadness and pain in that history. Then again, you might find something else too. You might find out that your ancestors were survivors, facing terrible odds and coming out of it the other side. You might find that they fought for something you hadn’t known they fought for, or that the reasons for it weren’t the reasons you’d thought they were. History isn’t pretty. Never has been, never will be. It is full of the very best and the very worst of people. It is full of atrocities. It is full of hate and pain and loss. It is also full of joy and triumph and kindness. Don’t deprive yourself of the one just because you’ll also find the other.

What sparked your interest in history? Were there topics you were uneasy with reading about or things you hoped not to find? What changed your mind? (Or has it?)

Corporal Julius Howell 24th Virginia Cavalry C.S.A.

Born on January 17th, 1846 in Nansemond County, Virginia to his parents Rev. Edward Howell and his wife Americus Howell.

Julius grew up on a plantation the youngest of 16 children. He attended school at home and then later was a student at Reynoldson Institute in Gates County, North Carolina. The institute closed with the declaration of war in 1861. At the age of sixteen Howell entered Confederate service and would later become a member of the 24th Virginia Cavalry.

On occasions, he was on detached duty, serving general officers as a trusted courier. In the final days of the war he was captured and imprisoned until after the war’s end. In the years after the war Howell became a well-regarded educator. He remained invested in the preservation of the memories of the Confederate soldier, and his title of “General” was obtained from his time as the Commander-in-Chief of the United Confederate Veterans.

Howell’s long and useful life spanned more than a century, and when he died at the age of 102, he was purported to have been the final survivor of General James Longstreet’s Corps. He is buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Sullivan County Tennessee, USA.

 


 

In the 1940’s Julius gave a speech to the library of congress…it was recorded for future generations.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj43Jvi6JXLAhVIVh4KHcbYCBsQtwIIKTAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DuHDfC-z9YaE&usg=AFQjCNELtKvt8T9LL9nwhJ0eTKwsX8X9gQ&sig2=ipEwBSDORvRlikyRpUDk-A

A wartime image of Julius.

http://www.wadehamptoncamp.org/j-f-h.jpg

Stop the finger pointing — both the Union and the Confederacy were full of racists.

I have this pet peeve when it comes to discussion of the War of Southern Secession and it is the people who finger point saying that such and such person or group was racists as if that ad hominem somehow settles everything there is pertaining to the war. Newsflash for the unaware: the entire United States was FULL of racists. It was ingrained in the culture and it was wrong but it was there nonetheless. It was in the South, it was in the North, it was in the East, it was in the West. It was everywhere.

Some common finger pointing statements:

There were few slaves in the North. Typically pointed out by people who are anti-Confederacy.True, but the majority of northerners still treated people of color as sub-human. Additionally, many made money off the slave trade even after getting rid of their own slaves because their issue with it wasn’t slavery itself but having to be in near proximity with people of color.

Many of the slaves in the South were treated well and didn’t wish to leave their owners after being freed. Typically pointed out by people who are anti-Union and usually when they are feeling defensive. This is quite subjective but there is evidence to support it as well. However, no matter how well you are treated being a slave means your life decisions are in the hands of someone else.

Neither of the above statements prove that either side had the moral superiority when it comes to slavery. I can think of racist southerners as well as southerners who went out of their way to free the slaves they had inherited before abolition because they felt it was immoral. I can think of abolitionist northerners but I can also think of northerners who didn’t want slavery to end, owned slaves of their own, thought people of color sub-human, and/or were known to abuse their slaves. The fact is that there were crappy people then and there are crappy people now and none of the above means a thing when it comes down to a discussion of the war. The stereotypes hurt everyone.

If some of the above is all you know to say when debating the war it’s time to do some more research and come up with some legitimate talking points.

Freedom or Fear?

When the Europeans came to the New World they brought with them civilization. A funny word because essentially what it means is “our way of life is the right way and you will comply or we will force you because we are right and your differences cannot be tolerated.” The native American tribes had their own religious beliefs, some of which were not far from Christianity but different enough that it was a threat. So over years it was stamped out. Only Christianity could be tolerated among the natives because any other belief is a threat. Fear of their differences won out, even when it was among tribes they were allied with.

I remember when I was about nine years old reading a book called the Witch of Blackbird Pond. That book was one of my favorites and even as I grew older I’d still occasionally read it. It was set in the late 1600s in New England and there was a character named Hannah Tupper who was an elderly Quaker woman that lived on her own. She was suspected of being a “witch” essentially because she didn’t conform to the social norm of her community. Her greatest “sin” was in being a Quaker, a variation of Protestant faith that emphasized the relationship between a person and God rather than putting faith in a central church. To the Puritans of New England this was abhorrent, a threat to them and their faith. They had both been persecuted in Europe but when the shoe was on the other foot the Puritans had no problem persecuting the Quakers because they allowed their fear to rule them.

Around the late 1700s and early 1800s there was discussion about Islam. Many of the slaves brought into the country followed that faith and this required some careful thought on the part of those Christians already established here. Some founding fathers were opposed but many including George Washington actually either found merit in the Muslim teachings or at the very least supported their freedom to continuing practicing that faith. After all, had we not just fought a war for freedom, to create a country where we could have differences but still work together?

Into the 1800s, forgetting how we had worked together to gain independence, the divisions in the country once again began to fester. Tariffs unfairly targeting certain sections of the country, no matter that we had objected against unfair taxation practices from King George. It festered and it festered and when things came to a head with secession fear was once again used to control the populace. The Union, as Lincoln admitted, was terrified of losing the tax revenue from the South if they successfully seceded since they had been financially supporting the majority of the federal government as well as subsidies to many industries that didn’t wish to take a financial hit (the early days of our crony capitalism). The South was afraid of losing their autonomy as they lost more and more power within the government while their share of the taxes seemed to only get higher. For some there was a fear of abolition, though that was far from the only fear. In that war, terrorizing others became a favorite tool. Rarely did the Confederate armies attempt to cross into the Union but in the South civilians, both free and slave, were being targeted by the Union armies. All food was stolen, homes burned to the ground, women were raped, black men regardless of whether they were free or slave were forced into leaving and joining the Union army, graves of the newly dead were desecrated on the off chance that civilians might be attempting to hide supplies. Fear and destruction were the tools to obtain compliance.

Following the war came a period known as Reconstruction which is somewhat glossed over by the history classes. Immediately after abolition of slavery the southern legislatures had passed laws of their own volition, modeled after laws in the north, in order to make sure the newly freed would have no trouble with their rights to travel freely, etc. However, soon after more and more started migrating from the north to buy up land and take political power. There began to be laws and policies meant to divide the races, to keep everyone as separated as possible to keep the south weak and ensure the northerners maintained control. Fear was the order of the day. Whites, fear blacks. Blacks, fear whites. Worry about each other and don’t look over here at what we are doing. The racial tensions from that still rock us to this day.

Over the next few decades the world continued to turn and life went on. Technology was developing quickly and there was so much going on in the world. Wars happened, as they always do.

Fast forward to World War II and the Nazis were quickly gaining control in Europe. We knew Jews were being persecuted but that wasn’t on our doorstep and it was easier to say we didn’t want them here. After all, they had money. They could figure something out and it wasn’t our problem. Besides, we were just coming out of the Great Depression so we really didn’t have the resources to be helping foreigners… If millions died, well, we had to protect our own first. Why didn’t the Jews do more to stand up to the Nazis if it really was so terrible? And there could have been Nazi agents that snuck in with them had we accepted the refugees!

We helped our allies from a ‘safe’ distance but that sense of safety wasn’t to last. Pearl Harbor happened and our fears skyrocketed. We had so many Japanese immigrants already, what if they turned on us too? If they didn’t agree with what the Japanese had done to us, why weren’t they doing more to speak out against it? Keeping our borders safe and preserving our culture was the most important thing, so we rounded up all the Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps to make sure they couldn’t act against us. Though, if they wanted to serve in our military we would let the young men out and arm them with guns and planes to go into battle. The women, children and elderly though? They were scary. They needed to stay in the camps so we could feel safe.

Now, in 2015, we have forgotten the threat of the Native American faiths, the Quakers and other dissenting Protestant faiths, the Japanese… but some fears we still cling to. Why? Are we better people for allowing our fears to rule us?

Yes, we are told to fear the Syrian refugees. We are told we have enough economic troubles as it is, that these are Muslims who hate us, that they could do something else and don’t need to come here, that there could be agents of ISIS among them. If they truly oppose ISIS, why haven’t they done a better job of standing up to ISIS?

My question is, “Why are a people who claim to cherish freedom so quick to cling to fear?”

Why other movements should matter.

This is something I was pondering while working earlier. I can’t explain why some of these things pop into my head when they do but inevitably these ideas will start to form in the back of my mind and drive me nuts until I put them into writing.

I feel like there is a deep divide that we have allowed to be created. Perhaps not intentionally but it is there. We all know that for every Confederate history enthusiast there is also some idiot who knows nothing about the war but thinks the flag is cool and quite often it is that supposed connection to being … I’m not sure how I want to phrase this. White supremacist would be the best term, I suppose. I saw this a lot when I was living for a few years north of the Mason-Dixon line. There are exceptions, of course, people up north who actually do know about the history and people down south that really only care for the flag because they think of it as some sort of validation for their racist ideals. After living up there though it really made me start to question the flag owner when I saw one out somewhere. It became less of the “that’s cool” reaction and more of a “do they even know anything about that flag they are choosing to fly?”

I’m not sure if it was being a history enthusiast or knowing that I have ancestors that fought under the flag but I really began to get in a way judgmental when I saw someone sporting the Confederate battle flag. I would like to see the flag and think to myself, “Awesome. There’s someone else who understands the history of that.” Unfortunately, nine times out of ten the first thing that crosses my mind is, “Oh, great. Is this another idiot that is going to give the battle flag a bad name?” It’s such a frustrating feeling because I truly want people to be able to fly it proudly, I want more of the history of the war to be acknowledged, I want people of both sides to be able to discuss our opinions openly without resorting to insults or assumptions about one another.

At the same time, I get it. I understand why many of these people oppose us. I think it’s based on a lot of misinformation, based on a lot of idiots appropriating the Confederate battle flag to turn it into something tainted, but when I put myself in the shoes of some of these critics and force myself to think of it from the perspective of what information and knowledge they have on it, I understand why they have such a distaste for the flag.

We have a history as a country of attempting to assimilate everyone with differences into this one culturally acceptable group rather than accepting that differences in race and culture and various opinions are acceptable and not a threat to anyone. Sitting there wondering what I mean? Think of what the United States did with the Native Americans, sending their children to “Indian schools” where the US forced them to forget their culture and adopt the beliefs and habits that were deemed acceptable for them. Did it really threaten us for them to continue believing the religion of their forebears?

Remember the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — when discussing history. I’ve recently been viewing a lot of “Southern heritage” type pages on Facebook to see what bits and pieces they’ve been sharing and I’m seeing WAY too much hate from people. Outright vitriol aimed at those who don’t know any better or at those who are more interested in movements like Black Lives Matter. If the first response to those who don’t share our interest in the Confederacy is such anger, how then can we say things like “Heritage Not Hate”? If the truth is important and we want the truth about the war to be acknowledged by society, we can’t be giving people reasons to want to shut down and not listen to what we are saying. That isn’t going to win over anyone. It’s not going to give other people reason to respect our desire to openly honor our heritage with flags and license plates and whatever else.

I’ve heard it joked that a Southerner is someone who can tell someone else to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. I’m not suggesting we tell anyone to go to hell but I am suggesting we all choose our words carefully and show others the respect we ourselves wish to be shown. There is no reason to lash out at people when we can speak with respect and facts to back us up.

What’s In A Name?

What comes to mind when you hear someone refer to a “civil war”? By definition, a civil war is a war between two or more factions of a country over control of that country. Yet the fighting between the Union and the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865 was not over control of the United States government. This is setting us all up to misconstrue the motivations behind the war.

The question was not whether the Confederacy wished to take control of the United States’ federal government – that has clearly never been an issue. The question was whether the individual states had a legal right to secede from the United States. The Union maintained that they did not, for reasons best left to other posts, and the matter was settled in blood.

However, if we are going to accept the outcome of the war as a legitimate answer to whether or not the Confederacy was within their rights to secede, then we must also accept that the American Revolution was a civil war too and that the colonies were in the wrong for declaring their independence. After all, the foundation of the Confederacy’s belief that they held this right was from a number of sources around the time of the Revolution including our Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Now, I know there will be some people reading this who wish to point out that slaves did not consent to their slavery. That is absolutely correct, and you may enjoy reading my post On Slavery to get a better idea of where I’m coming from. However, since there were additional issues as far as taxation and federal control that went beyond disagreements regarding slavery, and since at the onset of the war Lincoln had absolutely no intention of abolishing slavery, that doesn’t really play into this. Even if we cannot agree on this point, we should be able to agree to use the most appropriate terms in reference to the war.

So what’s in a name? Let’s look at some of the names commonly used for the war between the Union and Confederacy and what is implied by each:

American Civil War … implies the Union and Confederacy fought over who would control the United States’ federal government.
War Between the States … implies a general sense that states were at war but gives no indication of how many sides there were or what was being fought over.
War of Southern Secession … implies the war was fought over whether the South could secede.
War of Northern Aggression … implies a vague sense of wrongdoing on the part of the Union.
War of the Rebellion … implies the Confederacy was simply rebelling and conveys a sense of wrongdoing.

 

The way in which we refer to previous events matters. Most of the above terms are either inaccurate, vague, or extremely biased. I use the first two at times because that is how the war is best known, but honestly I prefer War of Southern Secession because I feel it is the most factually accurate with the least bias. During the war many of these were used, including the term Civil War, but even acknowledging that I feel that it is not the best for us to use in the modern day nor do I believe they would have expected the war to be interpreted quite as it has been. The words we choose to use mean a great deal.

Do I expect my words here to have a significant impact in what terms are used by the majority of this country? Of course not. I certainly intend to begin embracing my preferred terms on this site though now that I have had a chance to briefly explain why I favor them and I hope this is further food for thought on the debate in general.

In Memoriam: Jeremiah McBride, West Virginian in the Confederate Army.

There is a man I am distantly related to by the name of Jeremiah McBride and a few months ago I was told his story which I now pass on to you. We are told that the “Civil War” was about retaining the right to slaves and nothing else, told that it was a war the rich slaveholders tricked the poor whites into fighting for them. Soldiers like Jeremiah show how much more there is to the story, and how they were rewarded for it.

Charles and Sarah McBride and their children. The little boy in a light shirt standing between his parents is Jeremiah.

Charles and Sarah McBride and their children. The little boy in a light shirt standing between his parents is Jeremiah.

Jeremiah McBride had been born in Bedford County, Virginia, but years before the war they had moved to what is now West Virginia. When war broke out, there were men on both sides who chose instead to enlist in the other army. In the case of Jeremiah and his brother Thomas, they traveled to a place called Narrows, Virginia to enlist and help the Confederacy. Jeremiah enlisted in March 1864, a time when the tide had turned and the Union was winning the war, but he went anyway believing it the right thing to do even though his immediate family no longer lived in what had become the Confederate states.

By September, only six months later, Jeremiah was listed as a prisoner of war and sent to Point Lookout in Maryland. The Union used freed black men as guards, encouraging them to violence by the officers offering them $10-15 for each Confederate prisoner they found an excuse to kill in the course of their duties each day. A letter from Jeremiah’s brother, Thomas, to their family tells that the prisoners were made to dig graves every day, but it was not just those who had already died who was placed in them if there were ditches left to fill. Additional prisoners would be carried out to the graves and buried. Sometimes they were shot first, sometimes buried alive.

Thomas wrote “… they carried Jeremiah out alive and he was buried. Didn’t hear any shots that day.”

Jeremiah is listed in the official record as dying November 22, 1864 at Point Lookout of “pneumonia.” He was about 19 years old.

To think he could have just stayed home in West Virginia safe and sound.