You’ve got to appreciate the candor of J. Michael Hill, founder, president, and self-described “big chief” of the League of the South; he leaves no one in doubt about what really matters to him:
Majority rule only works where there is already a consensus of sorts on the fundamental issues within a particular society. For instance, in a Christian nation that enjoys a high degree of homogeneity in its racial and ethnic make-up, language, institutions, and inherited culture, most matters up for a vote are largely superficial policy issues. They don’t tamper with the agreed-upon foundations of the society. However, in a multicultural and multiracial polyglot Empire such as ours is today, the concept of majority rule is often fraught with dire (and even deadly) consequences for the losers, especially if the winners bear a grudge. As I write in 2012, there are projections that these United States—and our beloved Southland–will have a white minority by 2040 (or before, depending on immigration policy). Simply put, that will mean the end of society as we know it. You and Bill Clinton may be OK with this, but I’m not. Who stands to lose by this devil’s bargain? The descendants of America’s founding stock will be the losers. As a native white Southerner, I’m primarily concerned about the future of the South. Our ancestors bequeathed us a republican society based on Christian moral principles, the English language, racial (and some degree of ethnic) homogeneity, and British legal and political institutions. All this will be gone with the wind if we don’t stand as united white Southerners against the unholy leftist trinity of “tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism.”
To be sure, this line of argument is nothing new coming from Hill; this essay dates back to 2007 (at least), with only a few slight edits. It’s not a gaffe, a one-off, but rather suggestive of a thought-out, stable perspective on Hill’s part. It’s policy, and an idea he’s expressed before:
We are already at war—we just don’t know it. One instance: Immigration. This is not just a matter of policy. It’s a matter of our very survival as white men and women of European Christian stock on this land we call the South. It is a zero sum game—we win or they win. There is no middle ground for compromise. Losing means that my grandchildren will grow up in a third world country. Multiculturalism and diversity means “we” cease to exist as a viable and prosperous people.
You have to wonder what Hill sees as the role and voice for African Americans and others is in his vision of an independent South is; some of those folks undoubtedly have families that trace back as far as Hill’s does, regardless of how they came to be there. (And note, as Will Rogers used to say, “some of them were there to meet the boat.”) What is their voice, their political agency in the “Free South” Hill and the League of the South envision? Sure, there will always be a place for highly-paid entertainers, fluffing people like Hill and assuring them how grateful black folks ought to be for helping them when the Supreme Court forced Jim Crow on the South, but what about everybody else?
Honesty can be invigorating, even when it’s unpleasant — like getting a cold bucket of water dumped on you. For all the discussion of abstract concepts like liberty and freedom, Hill’s core concern is, explicitly, about maintaining and preserving white power — political, cultural and social. His candor should be welcomed; it’s always good to know exactly where he and the League of the South stand, and what they stand for.
In 1932 a U.S. Army cavalry officer, Major George S. Patton, Jr., submitted a term paper to the Army War College on the likely characteristics of the next major war, and how the military should prepare for that event. As part of the background to his analysis, Major Patton gave brief synopses of previous wars going back to Egypt’s Sixth Dynasty, and the broad lessons to be derived from them. This is what Patton wrote about the American Civil War:
In the Civil War both sides used identical organizations and tactics.Lesson. — Identical methods produce long wars. Up until the Summer of 1863 a regular force on either side would have had decisive results. After that date both sides were professional in everything but discipline. NOTE. — In 1864, Lee wrote a long order on the necessity of securing discipline. (HENDERSON) The initial successes of the South were largely due to the fact that the superior enthusiasm — emotional urge — replaced discipline. In the North this enthusiasm was less marked, especially in the eastern armies.
The reference Patton cites appears to be this passage in G. F. R. Henderson’s Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War:
That [Lee's] circular [on discipline] was considered necessary after the troops had been nearly four years under arms establishes beyond all question that the discipline of the Confederate army was not that of the regular troops with whom General Lee had served under the Stars and Stripes; but it is not to be understood that he attributed the deficiencies of his soldiers to any spirit of resistance on their part to the demands of subordination. Elsewhere he says, “The greatest difficulty I find is in causing orders and regulations to be obeyed. This arises not from a spirit of disobedience, but from ignorance.” And here, with his usual perspicacity, he goes straight to the root of the evil. When the men in the ranks understand all that discipline involves, safety, health, efficiency, victory, it is easily maintained; and it is because experience and tradition have taught them this that veteran armies are so amenable to control. “Soldiers,” says Sir Charles Napier, “must obey in all things. They may and do laugh at foolish orders, but they nevertheless obey, not because they are blindly obedient, but because they know that to disobey is to break the backbone of their profession.” Such knowledge, however, is long in coming, even to the regular, and it may be questioned whether it ever really came home to the Confederates. In fact, the Southern soldier, ignorant, at the outset, of what may be accomplished by discipline, never quite got rid of the belief that the enthusiasm of the individual, his goodwill and his native courage, was a more than sufficient substitute. ‘The spirit which animates our soldiers,’ wrote Lee, ‘ and the natural courage with which they are so liberally endowed, have led to a reliance upon those good qualities, to the neglect of measures which would increase their efficiency and contribute to their safety.” Yet the soldier was hardly to blame. Neither he nor his regimental officers had any previous knowledge of war when they were suddenly launched against the enemy, and there was no time to instil into them the habits of discipline. There was no regular army to set them an example ; no historic force whose traditions they would unconsciously have adopted; the exigencies of the service forbade the retention of the men in camps of instruction, and trained instructors could not be spared from more important duties. Such ignorance, however, as that which prevailed in the Southern ranks is not always excusable. It would be well if those who pose as the friends of the private soldier, as his protectors from injustice, realised the mischief they may do by injudicious sympathy. The process of being broken to discipline is undoubtedly galling to the instincts of free men, and it is beyond question that among a multitude of superiors, some will be found who are neither just nor considerate. Instances of hardship must inevitably occur. But men and officers-for discipline presses as hardly on the officers as on the men-must obey, no matter at what cost to their feelings, for obedience to orders, instant and unhesitating, is not only the life-blood of armies but the security of States; and the doctrine that under any conditions whatever deliberate disobedience can be justified is treason to the commonwealth.
That the Confederate armies matched off to war in 1861 with great enthusiasm is undoubted, as was the widespread belief that one Confederate soldier could whip five, ten, twenty Yankees. But Patton makes the point that both the Union and Confederate armies, being overwhelmingly composed of non-professionals, always lacked that final ingredient that marked professional armies, that of unbending discipline. (Lee may have bemoaned the lack of discipline, but was himself known to be a soft touch.)
In his paper, Patton suggests a drop-off in Confederate enthusiasm from mid-1863 on, but Henderson goes further, making the argument that when the enthusiasm that had marked the Confederate effort during the first two years of the war began to fail, after two hard years of war and twin defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the Union was just finally taking hold of a cause that would carry them to victory. Henderson writes:
Enthusiasm in the [Union's] cause was fast diminishing when Lincoln, purely on his own initiative, proclaimed emancipation, and, investing the war with the dignity of a crusade, inspired the soldier with a new incentive, and appealed to a feeling which had not yet been stirred. Many Northerners had not thought it worth while to fight for the re-establishment of the Union on the basis of the Constitution. If slavery was to be permitted to continue they preferred separation; and these men were farmers and agriculturists, the class which furnished the best soldiers, men of American birth, for the most part abolitionists, and ready to fight for the principle they had so much at heart. It is true that the effect of the edict was not at once apparent. It was not received everywhere with acclamation. The army had small sympathy with the coloured race, and the political opponents of the President accused him vehemently of unconstitutional action. Their denunciations, however, missed the mark. The letter of the Constitution, as Mr. Lincoln clearly saw, had ceased to be regarded, at least by the great bulk of the people, with superstitious reverence. They had learned to think more of great principles than of political expedients; and if the defence of their hereditary rights had welded the South into a nation, the assertion of a still nobler principle, the liberty of man, placed the North on a higher plane, enlisted the sympathy of Europe, and completed the isolation of the Confederacy.
It’s worth recalling that, though he was born in California, Major Patton was a Virginian by family history, a former cadet of the Virginia Military Institute, and the namesake of his grandfather, a Confederate officer mortally wounded at the Third Battle of Winchester. When Patton was a child, one of his father’s closest friends, and a frequent visitor to the Patton household, was John S. Mosby, one of the most famous cavarlymen of the war. Patton’s “Confed cred,” as it were, is unassailable, and his admiration for the soldiers of the Confederacy is unquestioned. But at the same time, neither he nor his source, Henderson, fall into the ideology of the Lost Cause, that the South was simply overwhelmed by force of numbers, its nobility and morale intact. Rather, they argue that a lack of discipline, in both armies, was temporarily offset by gung-ho enthusiasm and esprit, that finally came to full flower in the Union army — “investing the war with the dignity of a crusade” — just as it began to falter in the Confederate ranks.
Are they right?
(H/t to Tom Ricks’ fantastic Best Defense blog.)
Image: Colonel George S. Patton, Jr., between the World Wars. Fort George G. Meade Museum.
Tuesday morning NPR had an interesting segment on David Hebert Donald’s Lincoln, the first in a new series of interviews that discuss presidents from the past in the context of the 2012 presidential campaign. Participating in the discussion were three other prominent Lincoln biographers, Eric Foner (right), Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Andy Ferguson. As you might guess, with those panelists the discussion was less about Donald’s work than it was about those three making the key points they wanted to make — which is just fine with me. You can listen to the piece here, or read the transcript here.
I particularly liked this exchange between the interviewer, Steve Inskeep, and Eric Foner, whose book on Lincoln and the question of slavery, The Fiery Trial, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in History:
INSKEEP: If it were up to you, each of you, if you were presidential speechwriters, how would you want candidates to think of Lincoln, deploy Lincoln when they’re talking about him today? FONER: You know, I would love to see a candidate – I don’t care which party we’re talking about – forthrightly say: I have changed my mind about this. That’s what Lincoln did during the Civil War. He changed his mind over and over again. He didn’t change his core beliefs. Lincoln was a flip-flopper, if you want to use the terminology of modern politics. But we don’t seem to allow our politicians to do that anymore. INSKEEP: Andrew Ferguson, you’re smiling. FERGUSON: It’s partly because politicians won’t let their speechwriters talk that way. I don’t think that Dr. Foner should wait for a phone call from any political campaign because… FONER: I’m not holding my breath.
I get what Foner’s saying, but he does his own scholarship a serious disservice by labeling Lincoln “a flip-flopper.” Lincoln knew his own mind, and was from early adulthood (if not earlier) opposed to slavery, personally. That never changed. But neither was it a priority for him as a public official, either. He was not, regardless of how he was depicted by the fire-eaters in the run-up to the 1860 election, a secret abolitionist bent on overturning the institution where it already existed. He himself held attitudes and spoke in terms that would be deeply offensive today. He told an occasional “darkey” joke. He explained once that, in his view, whites and African Americans could not peaceably live together. He considered any number of schemes in considering the “Negro problem,” including voluntary recolonization to Africa. (Colonization was an idea, one should note, that long pre-dated Lincoln and long survived him, as well.)
Confederate apologists often point to these ugly examples and say, “Lincoln believed so-and-so, ” or “Lincoln said such-and-such.” They do this reflexively, as a means of deflecting criticism of slavery in the the South. Such mentions of Lincoln are often narrowly true, but they miss the larger, and much more important, truth that lies at the core of Foner’s (and many others’) work, which is that Lincoln himself changed and grew over time. The president who told “darkey” jokes also had Frederick Douglass as a visitor to the White House in 1863, the first African American to enter that building not as a servant or laborer, but as a guest. The president who’d said he would be willing not to free a single slave if it would preserve the Union also asked Douglass, in the summer of 1864, to use his contacts to get as many slaves into Union lines as he could before that fall’s presidential election, which Lincoln fully expected to lose. The chief executive who had toyed with the idea of re-colonizing former slaves back to Africa publicly suggested, just days before his death, that suffrage should be extended to at least some freedmen, specifically those who’d served in the Union army.
I personally don’t have a lot of use for political flip-floppers, whose deeply-held convictions change according to the latest Rasmussen polls. But neither do I have a lot of use for those who are unwilling to learn, to grow, and to change their minds when the circumstances warrant. That latter group are the ideologues, and while they may shape the debate over public policy, they end up accomplishing very little themselves. Successful leaders are those who are able to distinguish between what they would prefer and what they can accomplish, and push hard for the latter. Idealism has its role, but pragmatism gets the job done. The perfect, the saying goes, must not be the enemy of the good.
Presidents don’t have the luxury of being all-or-nothing ideologues: not in 2012, or in 1862. They are expected to lead, but can only lead where the country — or at least a large part of the country — is willing to follow. Wholesale emancipation — regardless of how much Lincoln might or might not have wanted it at the time — was never a possibility in 1861. It was not a priority for Lincoln, nor was it a priority for the rest of the country. But by the third year of the conflict, it was an established war aim for the Union. Lincoln understood, as well, that his Emancipation Proclamation was a wartime expedient, a stop-gap measure that would not likely hold up once the conflict ended, so he backed the 13th Amendment, passed by the House of Representatives and Senate weeks before his own death.
Flip-floppers chose the positions they do because they believe those position will make them popular. And they do, for a time, before the public catches on to the fact that they’re being played. There are many words that might describe Lincoln during his presidency, but “widely popular” isn’t generally one of them. He might not have won the presidency in the first place had not some Southern states, including my own, kept him off the ballot altogether in 1860; he only took 55% of the popular vote in 1864, when an ultimate Union victory was clearly visible on the horizon. Lincoln probably would have been a far more popular and successful politician in his own day if he had paid more attention to public opinion, and chosen more popular positions. He would have had a much easier time of it, but American history would look very, very different. And not in a good way.
There’s a hoary anecdote among museum staffers – invariably told as one personally witnessed by the speaker – about a tired parent, dragging an even-more-tired kid through the galleries. At one point the parents stops, turns, and snaps at the child, “how are we going to see the whole museum if you keep stopping to look at things?”
I thought about that anecdote recently watching the reaction to the brief installation (now removed) at the Museum of the Confederacy’s new annex at Appomattox of an image of the cross-dressing entertainer RuPaul in a sequined dress patterned after the Confederate Battle Flag. Over at Simpson’s Crossroads blog, Jackie Haddock was in full pearl-clutching mode, demanding to know “what were small children to make of this?” When I replied that it was extremely doubtful that many small children would even recognize RuPaul, much less know enough about him to find the image confusing/offensive/troubling, Haddock replied, “for the record in order to learn whom Ru Paul was I had to do a google search.“
Nothing puts the faux in faux outrage like having to go digging around the Internet to sort out why you’re supposed to be outraged in the first place. I’m furious about this, and if you’ll just give me a minute I’ll be able to tell you why! What a joke.
There are a couple of points worth making here. The first is that nothing the MoC does, short of full-out hagiography of the Confederacy and its heroes, would ever satisfy the small-but-loud group of critics who’ve been carping about the institution for years. If it weren’t RuPaul, it would be something else. They would be unhappy to discover a mention that Lee owned slaves, or that there’s a section devoted to Lincoln’s visit to Richmond a few days before his death. If the flag display out front that’s caused so much heartburn, was to feature (say) Union and Confederate national flags of April 1865 flying side-by-side, they’d be bitching about the presence of the “Yankee rag.” Outrage is what these folks do. Fish gotta swim.
The second thing is that, because they’re always looking for a new excuse to take righteous offense, they’re also easily trolled. This latter point causes me to think that, with this RuPaul thing, MoC Director Waite Rawls may have intentionally yanked the Southrons’ chain.
Sure, it may be exactly as he told Martha Boltz the other day, that it was an idea they’d been kicking around to emphasize the outrageous ways the flag has been used, and then removed it within hours when they received complaints. But it could equally have been Rawls and his staff never intended for it to be up more than a few hours regardless.
I’ve never met Waite Rawls, nor corresponded with him. But it’s clear that he’s not a stupid man, nor one to be intimidated easily. Given the ridiculous vitriol that man’s received — everything from being called “traitor” and “scalawag” to having Southrons urge their comrades to “get in ‘these peoples’ face and spit and spit again” and hint (repeatedly) that he should be lynched — I’d be surprised if Rawls didn’t also have a pretty cynical sense of humor about the fools who carry on like that. He’d have to. Given the unwarranted crap he’s had to put up with in recent years from people who should be working to support that institution, Waite Rawls is entitled to have a little fun at their expense. I’d like to think that’s what happened here, and wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it did. Well played, sir.
I hope to visit the Museum of the Confederacy at Appomattox sometime soon. I kinda wish I’d been there to see the RuPaul picture, too — not for the sake of the picture itself, but to watch visitors’ reactions. It must have been fabulous.
The hot new topic this week in Confederate Heritage™ is an incident that happened last Saturday in Richmond, where the Virginia Flaggers, a group that protests perceived slights to the Confederate flag, was put off the property of the national headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, with the assistance of local law enforcement. You can watch a video of part of that encounter, above.
The video went viral on the Internet machine, as the kids say these days, among Confederate Heritage groups, spurred on by posts by folks like Billy Bearden and Mark Vogl. It prompted the vitriolic hyperbole one has learned to expect from such quarters, including comments like these, posted at the Southern War Room:
the guardians embrace treason
The South has been betrayed by her very daughters, the United Daughters of the Confederacy!
Sucking the breast of the PC crowd!
Well for me, they have Sold Their Soul To The Devil, they are Traitors Of The Highest Measure…
Maybe we could convince the UDC chapters to secede from the National Chapter.
If it sleeps with the enemy, acts like enemy, talks like the enemy…. It IS the enemy!
The SCV National & your camp…. Should have their hands around the necks of those that don’t up-hold the charge.
And of course, there’s the casual, sort-of-joking-but-maybe-not-really reference to lynching:
Well, we all knew what the founders did to treasonous leaders……..there was usually rope involved. The founding fathers would roll in they’re graves if they could see what we’ve allowed. Please understand I’m talking about federal leaders…..but some of our UDC are giving in to liberals and their ideas.
While Bearden, who argues that the UDC leadership are trying to “sell out their birthright!!,” claims to have witnessed the incident himself, he leaves no hint that Saturday’s confrontation has been one brewing for months, and one that went entirely according to script, at least from the perspective of the Flaggers. In fact, none of the righteous outrage over this incident acknowledges that was a long time coming, and in fact was set up by the Virginia Flaggers themselves — or at least one of the group’s leaders — knowing full well that they would be removed from the property by the police.
On Wednesday, UDC President-General Martha Rogers Van Schaick posted a lengthy response to the allegations being made by the Flaggers, including a detailed chronology of the UDC’s interactions with Susan Hathaway of the Virginia Flaggers, going back to late 2011. Van Schaick’s account makes it clear that the UDC had repeatedly declined to participate in, endorse or host any of the Flagger’s activities. Hathaway subsequently acknlowledged that “the account in the the statement today by Mrs. Van Schaick, with a few minor exceptions, is accurate, and in fact, is almost exactly as has been previously reported.” But she didn’t specify what her “few minor exceptions” were, so we’re left with is President General Van Schaick’s account as the only detailed description of the events leading up to Saturday. It’s long, but worth reading in detail:
On December 14, 2011, an email was received from Ms. Susan Hathaway by the UDC Office Manager requesting that the VA Flaggers be allowed to use two flag poles outside the UDC Memorial Building to fly one Confederate Battle Flag on each. The email was forwarded to me for action.
On December 26, 2011, I responded to Ms. Hathaway advising that Pelham Chapel is not a UDC memorial and that our involvement in this issue could be construed as a ‘political activity’ that would possibly put our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status at risk. I further advised that our Bylaws prevent our involvement in ‘political activity’ and for that reason; the UDC was unable to allow the use of the flag poles located on the front of our UDC Memorial Building. I reminded her that the First National Flag flies daily in front of the UDC Memorial Building in perpetual honor of our Confederate ancestors.
On Wednesday afternoon, March 7, 2012, Ms. Hathaway came to our building and asked to speak with me. Mrs. Lucy Steele, Chairman of the Memorial Building Board of Trustees (who was in the building on other business) and I met with Ms. Hathaway. The request was that they be allowed to ‘gather’ on the front of our property. She was advised that we would not allow that.
The request was then made to allow them to ‘gather’ on the back corner of our property. Mrs. Steele pointed out that the property at the back corner belonged to VMFA but that we did not have a problem with it but she would have to seek approval from VMFA.
Ms. Hathaway then asked if the “No Trespassing” signs that had been posted recently were because of them and if they gathered on our property would the police be called. She was told that, as with any trespasser, we would call the police.
We explained to Ms. Hathaway that there have been instances of people sleeping under the bushes around the building. Recently during a work day, a man was seen crouching between the bushes and the building with binoculars which raised questions as to his intentions. The police were called at that time. “No Trespassing” signs were placed on our property in an effort to protect not only our building but our employees as they come and go, often times during early morning and evening hours.
On Saturday, March 10, 2012, during our Annual Spring Board Meeting, the VA Flaggers gathered on the sidewalk in front of the UDC Memorial Building. A short time later, they were observed leaning and perched on the cannons ignoring signs stating do not climb on the cannons. They then moved from the cannons to the steps leading to our building for a group photo. At this point, Mrs. Steele went out to ask them to move from the steps to the sidewalk – some moved immediately. Others remained on the steps. During this time, the Richmond City Police were called.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the presence of the Virginia Flaggers on their property threatened the UDC’s tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status. But whether on not the UDC had a good reason to reject the Flaggers is immaterial; they’re a private organization and they chose to do so. The bottom line remains: the UDC had (1) repeatedly denied the Flaggers authorization to use the UDC headquarters property, (2) explained that any such activity by the Flaggers would be considered trespassing, and (3) stated that such a circumstance would be handled according to the UDC’s usual practice, which is to call the Richmond Police Department. According to Van Schaick, Ms. Hathaway was told this in person at the UDC headquarters by herself and the Chairman of the Memorial Building Board of Trustees, Lucy Steele, on the Wednesday preceding the rally.
So, of course, the Flaggers went anyway. And the UDC did exactly what it said it would, which is to order them off the site and call the po-po. And then the Flaggers — without mentioning any of the events or discussions that had gone before — tossed it up on YouTube and various Southron social media sites. Dodging bullets…FROM BEHIND! The guardians embrace treason!
It was a set-up, staged and orchestrated to make the Virginia Flaggers look like victims of PC oppression. It’s ludicrous. Oh, there are victims here, but they ain’t the Virginia Flaggers; they are President General Van Schaick, Chairman Steele, and other members of the UDC leadership who’ve made clear their unwillingness to get dragged into the dispute over the Pelham Chapel next door, and for their troubles have now been framed by the self-appointed Defenders of Southron Heritage™ as traitors to the memory of their Confederate ancestors, and made the target of “jokes” about lynching.
I haven’t posted much about the Virginia Flaggers, because until recently I was ambivalent about them. I like the idea of peaceful protest; in general, it’s a healthy thing. It’s small-d democracy in action. While I think the Flaggers are wrong about Lexington, I’ve also thought they had a legitimate case to make for the Pelham Chapel.
But they’ve also proved to be mendacious and dishonest in promoting their efforts, eager to depict themselves as victims, and constantly trying to stir the pot. Take this video from last fall on their YouTube channel, for example, titled “Black woman attacked for carrying Confederate Flag.” What “attack” are they referring to? The passerby on the street engages another Flagger, Karen Cooper, in a discussion about their protest. There’s no shouting, no name-calling; no one gets all in anyone else’s face — where’s the “attack,” exactly? It’s dishonest, self-serving navel-gazing, in which the True Southrons™ are always the victims. “Attacked,” really?
Then there’s this video, “Va Flagger Tossed off State Property at VMFA for Carrying “That” Flag! 2-18-2012,” where Flagger Jimmy Jones is set up to confront a security guard at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the main target of the Flaggers. The video is shot from a distance, but — by remarkable and fortuitous coincidence — Jones is wearing a mic to catch the dialogue with the guard. Perhaps the Flaggers were looking to record the security guard saying something incendiary, but the best they got was him saying, “because I said so.” Now there’s an outrage for you!
And now we have this foolishness with the UDC. Hathaway claims she wasn’t looking to pick a fight with the UDC, and I doubt she’ll get one — if for no other reason, because the leadership of the UDC has consistently sought to avoid getting dragged into the rough-and-tumble over display of the Confederate Battle Flag, as is their right. The UDC had made their position very clear, well in advance. So why deliberately force a confrontation? Perhaps posing in front of the UDC headquarters was perceived as a win-win; if the UDC did nothing, the image might imply UDC support of the Flaggers; if the UDC had them removed from the premises (as warned, and as actually happened), the Daughters could be depicted as the unreasonable aggressors in the incident, arbitrarily bringing down the boot heel of the PC police (literally, police) on innocent protesters, just out to display their pride in their Confederate heritage. And of course, that latter narrative is exactly how the Flaggers ended up depicting it. It’s a spiteful, manipulative and cynical approach, but it works, at least for folks who aren’t paying attention.
Of course, that narrative only works when listener doesn’t know the long backstory of the discussions and communication that went on before last Saturday. President General Van Schaick managed to put the lie to that narrative when she provided the actual context of Saturday’s event, a context that Hathaway acknowledged is “with a few minor exceptions. . . accurate.” If the Virginia Flaggers — or rather, the leadership of the Virginia Flaggers — set out to make the UDC look bad, they only ended up making themselves look shrill and desperate. Somehow, I think the United Daughters of the Confederacy will survive.
If the Virginia Flaggers, and the larger Confederate heritage movement, really believed themselves to be under siege, they’d be trying to build alliances with others, not seek conflict with them. They’d look to find common ground with folks like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Museum of the Confederacy, and all the rest. But they don’t because, at some deeper level, folks like Martha Van Schaick, Waite Rawls and the rest are more useful as exaggerated, cartoon-like enemies, a common foe against whom the true believers can unite in shared resentment and carefully-stoked outrage. Even in the short time I’ve observed it, it’s clear that the Confederate heritage movement defines itself as much or more by whom they oppose, as by what they believe. It’s an ever-tightening spiral of anger and bile, and it won’t result in any positive outcome; it puts off people more than it attracts. It’s an approach that unites them, but also increasingly isolates them from the rest of American society — Southerners, Civil War buffs, the general public, everybody — and that’s a dead-end road. These folks may feel like they’re circling the wagons, but increasingly it looks like they’re circling the drain.
One area that the advocates of black Confederate soldiers (BCS) are mostly silent on is the stated attitudes and opinions of actual Confederate leaders who lived and fought through the war of 1861-65. Those views comprise a hard, bitter lump of historical reality that must surely cause indigestion for BCS advocates, given that the “Confed cred” of those men is unassailable. We’ve seen, for example, how both Howell Cobb and his fellow Georgian, Governor Joseph Brown, viewed the prospect of arming slaves with revulsion, and saw it as a betrayal of everything the Confederacy stood for. We’ve seen how Kirby Smith asserted that the Confederacy should “go to the grave before we enlist the negro [sic.].” And we’ve seen how, according to John Brown Gordon, even the venerable Robert E. Lee himself liked to humor his colleagues with an anecdote mocking the pretensions of an African American cook to being a soldier. It’s ugly, unpleasant stuff, but it’s right there, and ignoring it won’t make it go away.
Stephen Dill Lee (right, 1833-1908) was a Confederate general — the youngest of the South’s lieutenant generals, in fact — who after the war went on to a varied career as an author, a legislator, and educator. He was very active in Confederate veterans’ organizations, and succeeded Gordon as Commander-in-Chief of the United Confederate Veterans. In many ways, S. D. Lee was the public face of Confederate veterans, both in the North and the South. S. D. Lee is remembered today particularly for his charge to the Sons of Confederate veterans, given as part of a speech in New Orleans in 1906. Lee’s charge has been used ever since as the guiding principle of the organization, and features prominently in SCV publications, both in print and online. (Read it here, at the bottom of the page.) Indeed, the quasi-academic arm of the SCV, the Stephen Dill Lee Institute, is named in his honor.
The SCV has, of course, spent a great deal of time and effort in recent years pushing the BCS meme. While lots of folks endorse or promote the idea that there were large numbers of African Americans formally enlisted and armed in the Confederate ranks, the SCV is (through its state divisions and local camps) by far the largest single proponent of the idea. Much of this is simply based on careless research or misunderstood documents, but it also results in cases of over-reach that should be genuinely embarrassing to the group, including retroactive assignment of name and rank to men who never claimed such, or the creation of an entire faux cemetery of black Confederates, without a single actual interment there.
So it comes with considerable irony to learn that around the same time the SCV was founded, S. D. Lee was telling reporters at a Confederate reunion what he thought of as a funny anecdote, complete with cartoonish African American “dialect,” that relies on ugly racial stereotypes about African Americans’ courage under fire and instinct for self-preservation for its “humor.” From the Idaho Statesman, January 25, 1896 (warning: offensive language and themes follow):
There’s been speculation brewing for a while now whether Governor Perry would take a position on the proposed Texas license plate promoting the SCV (right). On Wednesday, he gave his answer:
The Republican presidential hopeful was in Florida for a fundraiser and told Bay News 9′s “Political Connections” and the St. Petersburg Times that, “we don’t need to be opening old wounds.”
The plates have been requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a nonprofit Perry has supported over the years. They show the group’s logo, which is derived from the Confederate battle flag. . . .
But [rejecting the proposed license plate] was a departure from Perry’s past opposition to NAACP-led efforts to remove two plaques with Confederate symbols from the Texas Supreme Court building in Austin 11 years ago.
Then lieutenant governor Perry wrote to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in a March 2000 letter obtained by The Associated Press that, “although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques, and memorials from public property.”
“I believe that Texans should remember the past and learn from it,” Perry wrote in the letter, obtained through an open records request.
One of the 11-inch by 20-inch bronze plaques featured the seal of the Confederacy, and the other the image of the battle flag and quotations from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They were eventually removed in coordination with the office of then Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Perry had waffled on the license plate question previously, simply saying its was a matter for the board to decide. That body will meet next month and may vote on the issue then. Last time it came up, a few months ago, the vote was 4 to 4, with one member absent. My thoughts on the license plate here.
I don’t think this helps Perry much, politically; it really is a no-win deal. His rhetoric in the past has pretty well established him (fairly or not) as a states-rights, secession-leanin’ sort of guy in his opponents’ eyes. To them, he’s already a caricature, and rejecting a license plate with the Confederate flag on it isn’t going to change that. On the other hand, certain folks have gone to great lengths to denounce Southern pols who, once deemed friendly to Confederate heritage issues, are seen to have become apostates in their pursuit of higher office.
Will Rick Perry be the next target of Brag Bowling’s ire?
Update: Thursday’s print editions of the Houston Chronicle put this story on the front page, above the fold, all the way across. You know, the headline you see looking through the window of a newspaper vending box. This seems like a pretty small story in the larger scheme of things, but I guess it sells papers.
Some folks may recall the case last year in South Carolina where Annie Chambers Caddell moved into a historically African American neighborhood, and put a Confederate flag on the front of her house. Her neighborhood’s origins go back to the close of the Civil War, when the area was settled by several former members of the 1st USCT, who’d been stationed there at the end of their military service. Caddell, who is white, argued she was honoring her Confederate ancestors; her neighbors, not surprisingly, see the flag as a symbol of something else entirely.
Inevitably there were protests against Caddell, and counter-protests in response (above). It got worse; someone reportedly threw a rock through Caddell’s front window. There has been inflammatory, over-the-top rhetoric on both sides. Not surprisingly, both sides have chosen to escalate the dispute.
Earlier this year, two solid 8-foot high wooden fences were built on either side of Annie Chambers Caddell’s modest brick house to shield the Southern banner from view.
Late this summer, Caddell raised a flagpole higher than the fences to display the flag. Then a similar pole with an American flag was placed across the fence in the yard of neighbor Patterson James, who is black. . . .
“I’m here to stay. I didn’t back down and because I didn’t cower the neighbors say I’m the lady who loves her flag and loves her heritage,” said the 51-year old Caddell who moved into the historically black Brownsville neighborhood in the summer of 2010. Her ancestors fought for the Confederacy.
Last October, about 70 people marched in the street and sang civil rights songs to protest the flag, while about 30 others stood in Caddell’s yard waving the Confederate flag.
Opponents of the flag earlier gathered 200 names on a protest petition and took their case to a town council meeting where Caddell tearfully testified that she’s not a racist. Local officials have said she has the right to fly the flag, while her neighbors have the right to protest. And build fences.
“Things seemed to quiet down and then the fences started,” Caddell said. “I didn’t know anything about it until they were putting down the postholes and threw it together in less than a day.”
Aaron Brown, the town councilman whose district includes Brownsville, said neighbors raised money for the fences.
“The community met and talked about the situation,” he said. “Somebody suggested that what we should do is just go ahead and put the fences up and that way somebody would have to stand directly in front of the house to see the flag and that would mediate the flag’s influence.”
Caddell isn’t bothered by the fences and said they even seem to draw more attention to her house.
“People driving by here because of the privacy fences, they tend to slow down,” she said. “If the objective was to block my house from view, they didn’t succeed very well.”
You can see where this is going; by this time next year, one side or the other will have put up a big-ass flag.
More seriously, this is just headache-inducing. The only people benefiting from this rancorous business are flagpole installers and the local lumber yard.
I don’t know what the answer here is. Caddell has a right to display her flag; her neighbors have a right to make their objection to it clear. But neither benefits from continually upping the ante, nor does it help to bring in outside groups and activists to use this case to fight a larger proxy battle for historical memory, as recently happened in Lexington. That only serves to harden the resolve of all concerned, by raising the purported stakes beyond what they actually are. I hope Caddell and her neighbors eventually come to some sort of resolution in this business. But that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, so long as all parties insist on following the tired script of action and reaction, and insist on having others fight their rhetorical battles instead of talking to each other like responsible grown-ups.
Image (Original Caption): Brownsville Community resident Tim Hudson (right) tells H.K. Edgerton of Ridgeville he looks “ridiculous” in his Confederate uniform as he stands with outside the home of Annie Chambers Caddell Saturday, October 16, 2010. Brownsville community members marched past Caddell’s home to protest her flying of the confederate flag outside her home in the predominantly black neighborhood. Hudson was not a marcher in the protest group. Photo by Alan Hawes, postandcourier.com.
Just two days before Arthur Fremantle toured the batteries defending the eastern end of Galveston Island, the Confederate military engineer in charge of designing and building the defenses wrote out his report for the month of April 1863, outlining the work accomplished to date, and some of the challenges still to be overcome. Colonel Valery Sulakowski (1827-1873, right) was a Pole by birth, and a former officer in the Austrian army. After emigrating to the United States in the late 1840s, he worked as a civil engineer in New Orleans. He’d met General Magruder early in the war, in Virginia, and after the island was recaptured from Federal forces on New Years Day 1863, set about expanding the island’s defenses. Sulakowski had the reputation of a strict disciplinarian but, along with another immigrant engineering officer, Julius Kellersberger, is credited with quickly expanding the fortifications at Galveston and making the island a much more defensible post than it had been during the first eighteen months of the war.
Sulakowski’s report, being essentially simultaneous with Fremantle’s observations, also give a better sense of what the British officer saw but declined to record in detail due to the sensitive military nature of the information. From the Official Records, 21:1063-64:
ENGINEER’S OFFICE, Galveston, April 30, 1863.
Capt. EDMUND P. TURNER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Brownsville
I have the honor to make the following report for the month of April, 1863:
Fort Point–casemated battery.–The wood, iron, and earth work was completed during this month; five iron casemate carriages constructed; the guns mounted; cisterns placed, and hot-shot furnace constructed. It has to be sodded all over, the bank being high and composed of sand. Two 10-inch mortars will be placed on the top behind breastworks.
Fort Magruder–heavy open battery.–The front embankment, traverses, platforms, and magazines were completed during this month; two 10-inch columbiads mounted. The Harriet Lane guns are not mounted, for want of suitable carriages, which are under construction. Bomb-proofs and embankment in the rear commenced and the front embankment sodded inside, top and slope. With the present force it will require nearly the whole of this month to complete it.
Fort Bankhead.–Guns were mounted and the railroad constructed during this month.
South Battery.–For want of labor the reconstruction of this battery was commenced within the last few days of the month; also the construction of the railroad leading to it.
Intrenchment of the town is barely commenced, for want of labor.
Obstructions in the main channel.–Since the destruction of the rafts by storm, before they could be fastened to the abutments, this plan of obstruction had to be abandoned for the want of material to repair the damage done. The present system of obstructing consists of groups of piles braced and bolted and three cable chains fastened to them, the groups of piles in the deepest part of the channel to be anchored besides. This was the first plan of obstructing the channel on my arrival here; but being informed by old sailors and residents that piles could not be driven on account of the quicksand, and not having the necessary machinery then to examine the bottom, it was rejected. Having constructed a machine for this purpose, it is certain that piles can be driven and are actually already driven half across. This obstruction will be completed and the chains stretched from abutment to abutment by the 10th of May. Sketch, letter A, represents the work.
Obstructions at the head of Pelican Island.–Two-thirds done. It will require the whole of May to complete this obstruction and erect the casemated sunken battery of two guns, as proposed in my last report. These works are greatly retarded by the difficulty of procuring the material.
Pelican Spit ought to be fortified, as submitted in my last report, with a casemated work. For its defense two 32-pounders and one 24-pounder can be spared. This work is of great importance, but it had to be postponed until the intrenchments around the town shall be fairly advanced.
The force of negroes [sic.] on the island consists of 481 effective men. Of these 40 are at the saw-mills, 100 cutting and carrying sod (as all the works are of sand, consequently the sodding must be done all over the works), 40 carrying timber and iron, which leaves 301 on the works, including [harbor] obstructions. The whole force of negroes consists, as above, of 481 effective, 42 cooks, 78 sick; total, 601.
In order to complete the defenses of Galveston it will require the labor of 1,000 negroes during three weeks, or eight weeks with the present force. The work of soldiers amounts to very little, as the officers seem to have no control whatever over their men. The number of soldiers at work is about 100 men, whose work amount to 10 negroes’ work.
Brazos River.–After having examined the locality I have laid out the necessary works, and Lieutenant Cross, of the Engineers, is ordered to take charge of the construction. Inclosed letter B is a copy of instructions given to Lieutenant Cross. Sketch, letter C, shows the location of the proposed works at the mouth of Brazos River.
Western Sub-District.–Major Lea, in charge of the Western Sub-District, sent in his first communication, copy of which, marked D, is inclosed. I respectfully recommend Major Lea’s suggestions with regard to procuring labor to the attention of the major-general commanding. I have ordered a close examination of the wreck of the Westfield, which resulted in finding one 8-inch gun already, and I hope that more will be found. Cash account inclosed is marked letter E; liabilities incurred and not paid is marked letter F.(*)
I have the honor to remain, respectfully, your obedient servant,
My emphasis. “Major Lea,” mentioned in the last paragraph, is Albert Miller Lea, a Confederate engineer and staff officer who, after the Battle of Galveston four months before, had famously found his son, a U.S. naval officer aboard the Harriet Lane, mortally wounded aboard that ship.
Sulakowski’s report also mentions the importance of sodding the built-up earthworks, as the sand of which they were constructed would otherwise blow down in drifts. That technique was also used in the fortifications around Charleston, as in this detail (above) of a painting of Fort Moultrie by Conrad Wise Chapman. At the center of the image, African American laborers gather sand to be used in repairing the fort.
Image: Detail of “Fort Moultrie” by Conrad Wise Chapman. Museum of the Confederacy.
Update: A new reader asks about the title Dead Confederates juxtaposed with a story about an African American cemetery. It’s the name of the blog, which generally deals with the American Civil War, and I didn’t even realize how it would look. I hope folks will understand and not be offended, because that was not my intent. I apologize for how this looks, and hope readers will consider the blog as a whole, and not by this particular whiplash-inducing combination of phrases.
Tucked away in a nearly-impossible-to-find part of Galveston is Rosewood Cemetery, a burial ground for African Americans between 1911 and the last known interment, in 1944. Historical records identify 411 burials there, but only a handful of graves remain clearly marked. The site was originally a couple of hundred yards from the Gulf beach, but after the Seawall was extended past the site in the 1950s, and subsequent fill operations closed off the cemetery’s natural drainage, leaving the site subject to periodic flooding. Over time, grave markers succumbed to natural deterioration, vandalism or simply settled into the soil. Many of the markers that remain have been displaced from their original locations.
There’s only one marker clearly identifying the person interred there as a former member of the military, that of World War I veteran Ben L. Scott (c. 1896 — Feb. 21, 1937). Many more burials there are of freedmen and -women who were born into slavery. William Lewis (c. 1840 — November 22, 1913) is almost certainly one of those.
Eventually the land including the cemetery passed into the hands of local developers John and Judy Saracco. The Saraccos, well-known members of the local community, were aware that the cemetery lay within the boundaries of their new holdings, and had the property surveyed to define its limits. The Saraccos then had the cemetery fenced to maintain its boundary while development went on around it.
In 2006, the Saraccos donated the Rosewood Cemetery land to the Galveston Historical Foundation, which now maintains the property. The formal re-dedication of the cemetery was held in June 2007. In January 2008, local Boy Scout Sean Moran raised money and organized a crew to construct a new rail fence to surround the cemetery property. That fence was destroyed nine months later, during Hurricane Ike, so Moran — by now a college student — raised yet more money and organized volunteers to re-install a new fence again in March 2010.
This coming Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m., there will be a dedication ceremony for the new Texas Historical Commission Historic Cemetery marker for Rosewood Cemetery, on 63rd Street, just back from Seawall Boulevard. The Galveston Historical Foundation is still seeking information on persons interred at Rosewood; if you have any information on such persons, please contact Brian Davis at 409.765.3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two photos of the cemetery in 1999:
And pictures from last Saturday’s cleanup project after the jump: