Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

The White Lies of Paula Deen

Posted in African Americans, Genealogy, Media, Memory by Andy Hall on July 5, 2013

Deen

You’re all familiar with the dust-up over Paula Deen’s comments on race (admitted and alleged), and there’s no point rehashing that mess again here. But I would like to throw a little historical light on something she last year, referring to her g-g-g-grandfather, John A. Batts of Lee County, Georgia:

He had lost his son, he had lost his war, he didn’t know how to deal with life with no one to help operate his plantation. . . . Between the death of his son, and losing all the workers, he went out I’m sure into the barn and he shot himself because he couldn’t deal with those kinds of changes, and they were terrific changes. . . . I feel like the South is almost less prejudiced because black folks played such an integral part in our lives. They were like our family.
 

Note that Deen can’t quite bring herself to use the word “slave” — they’re “workers.”

Now, a lot of white Southerners buy into this line. They insist that their ancestors had nothing to do with slavery, or if they did, their slaves “were like our family” and they were uniformly kind and benevolent masters. It’s a comforting rationalization, usually based on exactly nothing more than several generations’ worth of family lore. But as we saw with the case of Andrew Chandler and Silas Chandler, the beloved stories held dear by the descendants of slaveholders are often very different from those descended from those who were enslaved.

What’s surprising about Deen’s case is that she seems to have made up this tale about her ancestor on her own, and quite recently. Because until a year or so ago, when Georgia College Professor Bob Wilson laid it out for her, Deen had no idea her ancestor had “workers.”

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Wilson: The main source of wealth for Southern planters, when you see a figure like that, is gonna be in people.
 
Deen: [Pause] Oh.
 
Wilson: So let me show you this document here, see what it’s called right up there [at the top].
 
Deen: “Slave inhabitants.” John Batts. [Counting] Thirty-five. That’s a lot. I have said so many times, “well, my family was never involved in slavery, in any way. It’s horrific, and it’s sad.”

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She also said, “If I could go back and talk to [John Batts], I would do everything in my power to convince him not to participate in the heinous act of slavery.”

But that was way back in 2012, and since then she’s convinced herself that Batts’ bondsmen and -women “were like our family.”

Believe me, I understand how disturbing it is to learn from a slave schedule that your g-g-g-grandfather was a slaveholder. But there’s nothing to be done about that. Deal.

There’s a whole lot more to John Batts’ story, though, and it doesn’t mesh very well with her image of a simple farmer, caught up in the turbulent time that ripped apart his “family” and deprived him of his “workers.”

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John A. Batts was born in 1814 in Miller County, Georgia. He and his wife, Mary, relocated to Lee County sometime in the late 1830s, and John began to establish himself as a planter. By the late 1840s, Batts was representing Lee County on a regional committee to develop plans to build a railroad line through that part of the state to the Georgia Central Line at Macon.[1]

Batt’s service on the railroad committee may have been his entre into the political arena. From the mid-1850s, Batts ran for or served in a variety of elected offices. In 1856 he was a Democratic nominee to serve as a justice of the Georgia Inferior Court, which position may be where his title of “Judge Batts” was earned.[2] He served a term in the Georgia House of Representatives beginning in November 1857.[3] In August 1860, Batts was a Democratic delegate from Lee County to the state Democratic convention at Milledgeville, in support of the nomination of John C. Breckinrdige and Joseph Lane in the presidential election that year.[4] In the fall of 1860 Batts was elected to a seat in the State Senate. Batts was a member of the Georgia Senate when that state seceded from the Union, but was not a member of Georgia’s secession convention.[5]

With the coming of the war, John and Mary Batts’ eldest son, William, enlisted as a Private in Co. A of the 12th Georgia Infantry. After William was killed in action at the Battle of Cedar Run on August 9, 1862, Judge Batts was obliged to swear an affidavit that his dead son left no wife or heirs, in order to claim $111.30 in bounty and back pay owed to the soldier.[6]

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WilliamBattsAffidavit
Judge Batts’ affidavit and power-of-attorney, filed to collect monies owed his deceased son, William.

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In August 1865 John Batts applied for a formal pardon from the administration of President Andrew Johnson. Among the seventeen classes of persons ineligible for the general pardon were former Confederate citizens worth $20,000 or more. Batts applied, his application stating that “thus tho [Batts] doubts [that] he is worth twenty thousand dollars, yet he may be worth those sum [sic.] or more.” The affidavit goes on, asserting

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that he admits himself to have voluntarily participated in the late rebellion, having been honestly convinced that he was acting for the best. Thus he now insists to the Government of the United States with equal honesty – thus he has taken the oath hereto attached in good faith, & with the honest intent to keep the same, & hereafter to obey the laws & Support the Government of the United States [.] That soon after the publication of Genl Gilmore’s [sic.] order in reference to the freedom of the slaves he informed his negroes [sic.] thereof and since then he has been employing them at full & proper wages. [7]

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John Batts had no trouble referring to his alleged “family” as his slaves; why does Paula Deen?

John Batts was not ruined financially by the war. Although he undoubtedly went through hard economic times like everyone else in the region, he had gone into the war period as a wealthy man, and remained so afterward. By the time of the U.S. Census of 1870, after a decade of war and Radical Reconstruction, John Batts still was able to list assets amounting to $18,000, $13,000 of that in land. He owned 2,250 acres, making him one of the largest landholders in Lee County. In the 20 years since the 1850 census, his real property holdings had more than doubled (up from 1,000 acres), and the amount of improved land tripled, from 350 acres in 1850 to 1,100 in 1870. In that latter year Batts’ holdings produced 1,500 bushels of corn, 300 bushels of oats, 141 bales of cotton, 300 pounds of wool and 500 bushels of sweet potatoes, with smaller amounts of other products, with an aggregate value of around $16,000.[8]

Beyond the hard numbers collected by the census enumerator, we also have a good narrative description of Batts’ plantation. That same summer, the Weekly Sumter Republican ran a letter describing the place:

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On Monday last I stopped at the plantation of Judge John Batts, where I was cordially received and well taken care of by Mr. Joseph Batts, his son, under whose able management the place is conducted, and where the general thrifty appearance of things reflect credit on his energy and superintendence. In his company I rode over considerable [part] of the plantation, and partook plentifully of the fine watermelons for which his place is noted. Of his cotton crop too much cannot be said in praise, and I venture to say there is not a finer prospect anywhere in Southwest Georgia. I saw plenty waist high, and full squares. He informed me that he expects to make on the greater portion of the place, if not on all of it, a bale to the acre. We also rode over a 60 acre field of corn, some of which I could not reach when standing on a tall horse’s back. Mr. Batts says, unless the season proves unfavorable, he expects a yield of 25 to 30 bushels to the acre. I did not go over the balance of his corn, but he assured me that all on the place was good, and he would, in all probability, make more than he needed for his own use. [9]

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At this point, it seems, many of the day-to-day operations of the farm were being handled by John Batts’ second son, Joseph, then aged about 25. (Joseph would go on to inherit the bulk of his father’s land holdings.) Nonetheless, John Batts appears to have remained active and engaged in his community during his last years, including participation in the Smithville Grange, a sort of farmer’s promotional group. [10]

But then, early one Sunday morning in the spring of 1878, Judge Batts put a pistol to his right temple and pulled the trigger. According to his surviving family members, he’d been suffering from depression “for months past,” and had tried several times to kill himself by ingesting morphine. According to one account, the old judge had “had many family troubles, which had partially dethroned his reason.” He was 63 years old.[11]

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Batts’ death came thirteen years after the end of the war, thirteen years after emancipation, and seven years after the end of Reconstruction. The Redeemers, hard-line white conservative Democrats, again controlled the Georgia State Assembly and had purged its Republican, African American members. Batt’s farm – plantation, as it was still referred to – was bigger than it ever had been, and noted for its success.

Whatever torments haunted Judge Batts’ thoughts when he went out to the barn that morning in May 1878, we cannot know. I don’t know, you don’t know, and Paula Deen doesn’t know, either. It’s a personal tragedy that, at this distance, is probably impenetrable. William’s death at Cedar Run, all those years before, may well have played into John Batts’ deep and ultimately fatal depression. But beyond that, it’s speculation, without any real evidence at all. Paula Deen’s rationalization that Judge Batts’ suicide must have had something to do, fundamentally, with emancipation robbing him of his “family” is a perversion, a twisting of the story to make Batts – and by extension, herself — a victim of the end of slavery in the South. It’s selfish, and it’s shameful.

Even Judge Batts deserves better.


[1] Southern Recorder, May 25, 1847, 3.

[2] Albany, Georgia Patriot, April 3, 1856, 2.

[3] Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia (Milledgeville: Stare of Georgia, 1861).

[4] Federal Union, August 14, 1860. 3.

[5] Albany, Georgia Patriot, September 22, 1859, 2; Journal of the Senate of the State of Georgia (Milledgeville: Stare of Georgia, 1857), 5.

[6] Batts, William. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Georgia, 12th Georgia Infantry, 1861-65 (NARA M266), National Archives.

[7] Batts, John. Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty Papers”), 1865-67 (NARA M1003), National Archives. “Genl Gilmore” is probably a reference to Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore, Commanding Officer of the U.S. Army’s Department of the South (South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in the first half of 1865.

[8] 1870 U.S. Census for Lee County, Georgia; Schedule 1, Inhabitants, 12; 1870 U.S. Census for Lee County, Georgia; Schedule 3, Productions of Agriculture, 4-5; 1850 U.S. Census for Lee County, Georgia, Schedule 3, Productions of Agriculture, 147-49. At the time of the 1870 census, there were 19 landowners in Lee County, Georgia with farms amounting to 1,000 acres or more; Batts’ was more than twice that size. University of Virginia, Historical Census Browser. Retrieved July 4, 2013, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center: http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/collections/stats/histcensus/index.html.

[9] Weekly Sumter Republican, July 15, 1870, 3. The writer’s impression of the overall efficiency of Batt’s farm seems to be correct, as the 1870 census suggests it had above-average production. While Batts’ 1,100 acres of improved cropland made up about 1.34% of Lee County’s total, his $16,000 in product made up about 1.58% of the county’s total agricultural production.

[10] Sun and Columbus Daily Enquirer, August 20, 1874, 3; Macon Telegraph and Messenger, August 18, 1874, 1

[11] August Weekly Sumter Republican, May 24, 1878, 3; Georgia Weekly Telegraph, May 28, 1878, 8; Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun, May 23, 1878, 3.

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GeneralStarsGray

48 Responses

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  1. theravenspoke said, on July 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Great post Andy. Damn fine research.

  2. Betty Giragosian said, on July 6, 2013 at 1:55 am

    My goodness, Andy, you have been hard at work, doing so much research and all. It is rather surprising to see you jump on the bandwagon to destroy Paula Deen. Lots of folks elaborate on their family history.. So what if she said workers insteadof slaves? Perhaps she was ashamed that her granddaddy owned slaves.
    I like Paula Deen, and hope that she can survive the destructive jackals. They have gotten a taste of blood, and it is going to hard to stop them. Too bad that you have joined the pack.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Maybe you can explain how Deen gets from “the heinous act of slavery” to “they were like our family” in thirteen months.

      • Betty Giragosian said, on July 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Easy. One knows that slavery was heinous. I know that. l do know as well, that servants–do you mind if I call them that? did form bonds betweem themselves and their employees–excuse me, Masters. Owners. There were bonds like family. I can also see why she called GGGgranddaddy’s people workers. This was after the Emancipation Proclamation and slavery was no more. Hence, why should she call them slaves? I have a feeling that Paula will land on her feet, and I am going to buy every product she has if I can find them, Several cowardly businesses have dropped her wares. The hysterical American people are at it again, but somehow, I believe there are more of us than they. Let them wallow in their self righteousness.

        • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

          You’re willing to condemn chattel bondage in the abstract, but not in any specific case, nor apply any real moral onus to those most directly and intimately practicing it.

          • Betty Giragosian said, on July 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm

            For God’s sake, Andy, how can you and your correspondents be so judgemental. You all just better hope that you are never in a postiion that you are judged by a nation of self -righteous “souls.” What you and your friends are doing to this woman who has made it on her own, is abominable. You remind me of the Salem Witch Trials bunch. I realize that your blog covers a relatively small group, in comparision with the nation wide frenzy. Keep on with your ‘stoning’ of Paula Deen. ” What goes around comes around.”, You all make me ill.

            • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

              Hope you get to feeling better, Betty.

              • Betty Giragosian said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:26 pm

                Maybe if you start acting like you have good sense and leave this woman alone I will feel better. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Men bent on destroying a hard working woman are not seen as nice guys. Rather petty instead.. What is wrong with her–maybe you don’t like her accent? Folks are often jealous of success. Has it been fun to watch her destruction? Bring on the rocks, Andy, big ones and do her in quick.

              • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm

                You have a good evening, Betty.

  3. Jeff Bell said, on July 6, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Perhaps Dean’s refusal to publicly admit to her Ancestor’s slave-holding status is reflective of her fear of being put into an uncomfortable situation publicity wise – such as with the racial slur she uttered in the past. Instead of trying to repaint her family history she should simply acknowledge it existed and move on. She might possibly be forgiven for saying the word “slave” but after admitting she said the other word, I doubt there will be any such sympathy for her. Such is America these days.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 8:53 am

      What’s bizarre is how she contorts her g-g-g-grandfather’s slaveholding into evidence that she, 150 years later, is not bigoted herself. That’s some impressive mental gymnastics.

  4. DBrown said, on July 6, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Of course, we get the truth here and the mass media carries the lie’s of p. deen. Just like bush’s being AWOL before the election, the media ignored a blogger’s post proving this fact (using Air Force documents available to all vis the Freedom of Information Act!) and how bush avoided his required service (and the war … not that was such a bad idea! Too bad more of those killed in that war couldn’t have had the resources to have done that and instead, managed to live to see the end of that conflict.)

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:06 am

      The media reported Deen’s response to the allegations made about her; that’s their job. We don’t really need to bring Bush 43 into this discussion, though, and I won’t be approving any additional comments along that line.

  5. Caleb McDaniel (@wcaleb) said, on July 6, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Great post! My antennae went up a bit in that interview when she said “he went out I’m sure to the barn” which made me wonder if there was actual documentation of the story. This is fantastic research!

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 8:58 am

      Thanks very much. I loved the excerpt from your book over at TNC’s place, BTW.

      There is some suggestion that Batts’ wealth was devastated by the Panic of 1873. That’s possible, but it’s not well reflected in the records I can find. (His immediate family, particularly Joseph, turn up in 1880 with sizable land holdings presumably acquired through the judge’s estate.) But if true, that further removes the events leading to his suicide from the loss of his “workers” all those years before.

    • Jefferson Moon said, on July 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Ever hear of the McDaniel slave pens,turned in to a jail by the confederates for political prisoners during the war…
      Don’t ask for more information,thats all I have..

  6. chmjr2 said, on July 6, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I agree very good research. I feel that this is a very sad story in so many ways. We will never know what demons caused John Batts to take his own life. Just as we will never understand the demons that chase Paula Deen. I hate to see anyone destroyed as she has been. It just seems to me the punishment just does not fit the crime. I know that I wish for a perfect world. That will never be as we humans are imperfect. Perhaps as in the bible Let the person who is without sin throw the first stone.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

      We are all imperfect, but most of us manage to avoid saying the ridiculous things Deen has said and apparently believes. Deen has made a fortune as a public figure, and inevitably gets more scrutiny than others. That’s just how that works.

  7. pycarecen said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Part of the problem for Deen is her rootedness. A northern chef would rarely put forward her ancestry in, say, Albany New York (where Rachel Ray got her start). She might point to a lack of roots in her community as a selling point “My grandma made these great olive toppings that she brought with her from Sicily”. Southerners are expected to produce a pedigree, or maybe they choose to do so. Since few of us could survive an IRS-style audit of our lineage, faux history steeped in euphemism is the result. Perhaps we should leave the dead confederates to moulder in their graves.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

      “Faux history steeped in euphemism”

      Now that’s a phrase.

  8. Edwin Thompson said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Andy – Thank’s once again for a history lesson. Don’t forget that you have provided a nice piece of American history that belongs many Americans. If this was her g-g-g-grandfather, that potentially connects 32 different families (2 to the 5th power – and that doesn’t include illigimate families). Probably there was some incest, but let’s assume not much. This means, anyone who can trace their family heritage back to South Georgia probably has a historical stake in this slave story. Paula has no right to the white lies – it is our history – whether we like it or not. Ed

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Your point is well taken, but we can stay clear of the minefield of illegitimate offspring — there’s no suggestion of that AFAIK in this case.

      • Edwin Thompson said, on July 6, 2013 at 9:35 am

        absolutely – I didn’t mean to make up facts – there is enough of that going around.

  9. Craig L said, on July 6, 2013 at 11:44 am

    I find myself sympathizing with Paula Deen. I was fifty years old before I began to suspect I had Civil War ancestors and I dug them up on my own by matching up half a dozen or so different databases from the internet over a period of five or more years. One data set would raise questions in my mind and by answering those questions I was led to discover subsequent data sets until a picture of the family slowly began to emerge.

    The truth about Paula Deen’s ancestry was served to her on a silver platter because her success made her a celebrity. The truth about mine led to a series of long phone conversations with my dad, connecting dots that had previously seemed wholly unconnected. There are powerful elements of the Freudian unconscious at work when you trace your genealogy, demons you need to confront that can prove therapeutic over time in the right setting. I don’t think national television is necessarily the best setting for facing unsettling revelations about one’s ancestors. Cruel and unusual punishment shouldn’t be allowed to masquerade as wholesome family entertainment.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Having had a slaveholding ancestor doesn’t reflect on us, as individuals living in 2013, one way or another. What we do with that information does, though, because that’s up to us.

  10. currentdescendent said, on July 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Good job!

  11. slg said, on July 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Just a pet peeve, but since we’re talking accuracy here, please consider carefully the use of historical images for “illustrative” purposes without comment, since this helps to perpetuate a whole other type of misunderstanding about our evidence of the past. While it’s quite possible that the “Tall cotton, Georgia” photograph of 1897, though clearly posed, does shows “genuine” sharecroppers (either ex-slaves or slave descendent African Americans) in the foreground, along with better-dressed and lighter-skinned possible supervisors or land-owners behind them, as readers we’ve not been given sufficient information to know what we’re looking at. We will all bring our own varied knowledge to the making of educated guesses. Surely 1897 is not ca. 1870 without comment. It is certainly, and more importantly, not 1860 or 1850–yet a non-specialist reader might easily assume that this photograph is meant to either depict or stand in for the conditions of slavery in the pre-war American South. If there is no better image available for you to use (and given the date and what’s freely available online I realize there may not be)–and even if there is– a substantive caption that explains the connection between the photograph and the content of your blog post could go a long way toward building a better picture of how accurate historical analysis is achieved. I see way too many assumptions embedded in that photograph to be comfortable with how it’s presented here.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion. My intent was to show a postwar (but still 19th century) Georgia farm, and I originally looked for corn-growing images, without success. (Batts grew a LOT of corn.) I did choose an image I felt was less stereotypical than others.

  12. Craig L said, on July 7, 2013 at 12:25 am

    I’ve noticed a tendency for patterns from the past to repeat from one generation to the next. For instance, my grandfather died twenty years before I was born, my dad’s grandfather died twenty years before my father was born and my grandfather’s grandfather died in the Civil War twenty years before my grandfather was born. Predictable as clockwork.

  13. Woodrowfan said, on July 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

    The thing that annoys me about the Deen story is that with all the debate over “the n word” is that the media lost sight of the reason the story broke in the 1st place; the accusations of racial, sexual and physical harassment at her family’s restaurants, going beyond the “n word” to the point that black and white employees were expected to use separate entrances. This isn’t just some slightly-clueless older woman being un-PC, it’s about illegal and morally indefensible behavior from employers to employees. .

    (and you did nice research Andy, but then, you usually do!)

    • Andy Hall said, on July 7, 2013 at 11:35 am

      “It’s about illegal and morally indefensible behavior from employers to employees.”

      Exactly so. The controversy over what she did or didn’t say when, is a by-product of the depositions filed in a lawsuit alleging very serious workplace abuses. That rather salient fact gets lost in the scramble to find the next little salacious tidbit.

  14. Woodrowfan said, on July 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    One side note, Deen claims that she did use “the n-word” when she was in a bank that was being robbed, and that’s the word she used when the bank robber (who was black) held a gun to her head. Everything else aside, I am pretty sure that if a criminal is holding a gun to your head your best course of action is NOT to call him racist epithet.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Yes. But there’s a meme going around that the coverage is all about her use of the word in that single case. It’s not; there are numerous other examples that have been alleged, and (as you say above) the core issues at hand remain about egregiously discriminatory workplace practices. Where and when (and if) she used the “n-word” is really a distracting side issue. That’s why I chose to focus instead specifically on the claims she made about John Batts, and how she’s using his suicide 135 years ago to defend herself against accusations of bigotry and racism. It’s ridiculous, especially given that a year or so ago she knew nothing about the man, or perhaps even that he existed at all.

  15. H. E. Parmer said, on July 8, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Believe me, I understand how disturbing it is to learn from a slave schedule that your g-g-g-grandfather was a slaveholder.

    I’m not sure when I found out that my g-g-g-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was reputed to be one of the largest slave-holders in Giles County, Tennessee, although it was some years ago. It certainly wasn’t a secret in her family. I don’t think it was ever treated as something to be particularly proud of, either, at least not by my mother or grandmother, just a fact about our ancestors.

    The really disturbing part of it happened when, a couple of years ago, I transcribed some handwritten reminiscences and tidbits of family history compiled by a beloved (she spoiled me terribly when I was a young child) great aunt on my mother’s side, and learned that maternal g-g-g-grandmother sewed outfits for the Klan …

    (As I’m sure many of you already know, the birthplace of the KKK was in Pulaski, the county seat. I don’t know if it’s still there, but at one time there was a brass plaque commemorating the event, on the wall in one of the rooms in the courthouse. Apparently some family friends were in on the founding.)

    Despite my fond memories, I’d naturally expected some pretty retrograde attitudes from someone of my great aunt’s generation. (She was born in the late 1800s, after all.) But oh, damn, reading what she wrote, seeing her evident pride in the connection and her generally approving attitude towards the Reconstruction-era Klan, was not a pleasant experience.

    I don’t want to give the wrong impression about the lady, because the truly sad thing is that her memoir/family history contains so much more that’s fascinating in a non-stomach-turning sense and in fact rather sweet and nostalgic. But the Klan stuff … yikes!

    • Andy Hall said, on July 8, 2013 at 9:50 am

      The slaveholding business was never denied in my family, but by the time I came along it was just sort of avoided altogether. I didn’t think anything much about it until I was grown. Unlike Deen, though, my views on the subject didn’t suddenly change (“heinous act” —> “like family”) upon discovering slaveholders in the family tree.

      There was at least one Reconstruction-era klansman back there, too — that was definitely swept under the rug by the time I came along but, as in your case, his immediate family was quite proud of the fact, back in the day. Again, I’m not going to change my views of that group because I learned I’m kin to one.

      I really am bad at the “heritage” thing, I’m afraid.

      I believe the historical marker in Pulaski on the building where the Klan was first organized is still there. I’ve heard that the current owners wanted to removed the marker, but were barred by law from doing so, so they unscrewed it, turned it over, and screwed it back to the wall with the blank side facing out.

      • H. E. Parmer said, on July 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        … so they unscrewed it, turned it over, and screwed it back to the wall with the blank side facing out.

        Brilliant solution to a stupid law. So appropriate, on so many levels.

        I’d have no problem with the “heritage” thing, if so many of the folks who get caught up in it would quit trying to whitewash it. Or use it to construct a mythology of martyrdom.

  16. Steven Appelget said, on July 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    For anyone interested, this appears to be John Batts’s will and some associated probate documents proving the will: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-30495-2827-60?cc=1999178&wc=MM1Q-CC3:1565740098

  17. Clarissa said, on July 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Whitewashing and mythologizing are especially problematic in Northern interpretations of history. For example, what was a war over the question of resources, territory, and political independence, somehow, inexplicably, was mythologized into a war over the question slavery, where the entire guilty history of the North, as ruthless slave-traders, cruel slave-owners, and calculating slave-profiteers, gets whitewashed from the national consciousness entirely. And even more remarkably, a cold, mean-spirited, avaricious, tyrannical, dictatorial, white-supremacist President, is mythologized into a selfless, crusading, altruistic, perfectly moral martyr. Talk about whitewashing and the mythology of martyrdom.

    • H. E. Parmer said, on July 10, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Methinks Rocky and Bullwinkle had the definitive take on this.

      The scene takes place during the big football game between Wossamotta U. and Boris Badenov’s Mud City Manglers:

      Narrator: Yes, Boris had switched diagrams and the hapless moose was now going over a set of battle plans of the Civil War.
      Colonel Beauregard: Or as we call it, The War Between the States.
      Narrator: Now wait a minute. Who are you?
      Colonel Beauregard: Colonel Jefferson Beauregard Lee, sir.
      Rocky: Yeah, but you’re not part of our story.
      Colonel Beauregard: No, I’m from the League of Confederate Correctors.
      Bullwinkle: The League of Confederate Correctors?
      Colonel Beauregard: Every time a programs refers to the late, unpleasantness as the Civil War…
      Bullwinkle: Uh, you show up and correct them?
      Colonel Beauregard: That’s right, shug. We called it “The War Between the States.”
      Rocky: Yeah, but…
      Colonel Beauregard: I just can’t abide the word “civil.”

      • Clarissa said, on July 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

        Oh my goodness, that is so very, very, very, very, funny. Yes indeed, very very, very,very funny.

      • Woodrowfan said, on July 11, 2013 at 5:32 pm

        I’d forgotten all about that episode. thank you!

    • theravenspoke said, on July 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      There were 4 million slaves in 1860 with an average market value of $1,000. The aggregate value of slaves ($4 billion) exceeded that of all manufacturing enterprises and railroads, combined. The aggregate value of slaves was two-thirds the GDP of what would become the Confederacy and was also 16-times greater than the entire Federal budget. In 1860, slaves were the largest asset class in America. Southern states had lost a battle to extend slavery to the west. The southern economy and especially the personal wealth of southern aristocracy was completely dependent on the continuation of slavery. The southern aristocracy knew the federal government couldn’t ‘write them a cheque’. Not only did $4 billion of slaves dwarf the US budget, we also lacked a national currency. So the southern aristocracy went to war to protect a perceived threat to their wealth.

      The ACW isn’t about anything else. No discussion of mythology is needed nor would any be appropriate. Southern leaders weren’t shy about explaining why they went to war, in fact, they wrote it down in the founding documents of several confederate states. See also, Alexander Stephens’ cornerstone speech.

      Northern states ended slavery voluntarily, decades before the ACW began. All northern states with the exception of Vermont are ‘former slave states’ but none of them instigated a war that claimed 750,000 lives for the express purpose of protecting the wealth of their aristocracy. That ‘honor’ is owned part & parcel by the south.

      • Andy Hall said, on July 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm

        You’re right about the big picture, but I think the math may be even less friendly than that. Total federal spending in 1860 was about $78M, which included a $13M deficit. If the value of slave property was around $4B, that the entire annual federal budget is less than 2% of that.

        Compensated emancipation was never a realistic proposition, even if slaveholders were interested, which they weren’t. I may go into more detail on this a little later.

  18. Edwin Thompson said, on July 10, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Andy – Your blog reminded me of the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum. The link below is about the Lefferts Family who made their fortune from slavery in the 18th and 19th century. Read the section on “How did member of the Lefferts family remember slaver days?”. By the late 19th century, the families memory of slavery was “a kindly feeling existed between owner and slave”. Not likely. Paula’s fictional stories of her family are not unique – they are very human. People don’t want to admitt that we tortured these people, broke up families, and sold them. Ed

    http://www.brooklynhistory.org/exhibitions/lefferts/slavery-in-brooklyn/


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