Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

That Other Thing Julian Carr Mentioned. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 28, 2018

As you all know by know, last week a crowd pulled down the “Silent Sam” statue at the University of North Carolina. I don’t have much to say about that, that I didn’t say last year after a mob toppled the Confederate monument in Durham. Pretty much the same dynamics were at play in both cases.

In the Silent Sam case, much attention has been focused on that monument’s dedication address by Julian Carr (right), at that time the Commander of the North Carolina Division of the United Confederate Veterans. Carr was, for all intents and purposes, the official representative for all surviving Confederate veterans in that state. In his address, he boasted about the time he “horse-whipped a negro [sic.]  wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady,” that he remembered as a “pleasing duty.”

Awful as that is, it’s the paragraph that immediately precedes that quote that stands out as speaking more directly to how Carr saw the monument, and what it represented:

The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

When Carr talks about former Confederate soldiers “during the four years immediately succeeding the war,” whose “courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South,” “when ‘the bottom rail was on top’ all over the Southern states,” he’s saluting the Klu Klux Klan and other night riders who used fear, intimidation, and violence to keep Freedmen in check. It’s easy for a modern audience to skim right past his vague, innocuous phrasing, but North Carolinians in 1913, white and black alike, understood exactly what he was referring to.

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9 Responses

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  1. kbrown2225 said, on August 28, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Well said, Andy. I notice that most modern commentators tend to focus on the ““horse-whipped a negro [sic.] wench” part (and that is certainly disturbing). But I agree, the more pertinent part is the preceding paragraph!

  2. J.B. Richman said, on August 29, 2018 at 9:53 am

    I found this reference in a published sermon:

    “Black soldiers took great pride in their new status as soldiers fighting for the freedom of their race. One soldier celebrated his newfound ability to “walk fearlessly and boldly through the streets [of New Orleans]… without being required to take off his cap at every step.” Another found himself face to face with his former owner, now a prisoner of war and looked him straight in the eye and something he would have never dreamed of saying before, “Hello, Massa,” he said, “bottom rail on top now.”10”

    10 Geoffrey C. Ward, The Civil War: An Illustrated History Based On A Documentary Filmscript by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ric Burns and Ken Burns (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1990), 253.

    Yet another example of Black American figures of speech that enter the collective lexicon.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 29, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Yes, IIRC “bottom rail on top” was one of the episode titles in Burns’ film. It’s profoundly evocative. It rings.

  3. bedbugsmith said, on August 30, 2018 at 11:16 am

    It’s always been interesting to me that the “Anglo Saxons” were defeated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and weren’t heard of again until the “South” seceded in 1861

    • Andy Hall said, on August 30, 2018 at 2:23 pm

      And yet, before the war there had been some rhetoric floating around the South that they — or at least the patrician, planter class — were the descendants of the aristocratic, chivalraic Normans, while the Yankees were the crude, common Saxons.

      It’s all made-up nonsense, but interesting how things shifted.

  4. irishconfederates said, on September 1, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    And, it turns out Susan B. Anthony and other suffragette leaders spoke well of Mr. Carr, among others, for helping establish the North Carolina Equal Suffrage League. Go figure.

  5. irishconfederates said, on September 1, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    And, he supported black colleges? According to Phillip Scott opining at the Durham Herald Sun May 14, 2018.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 1, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      My interest is in what Carr said specifically about the meaning and symbolism of the “Silent Sam” monument, and in his capacity as head of the NC UCV.


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