One of the earliest detailed accounts of what has since become known as the “Great Locomotive Chase” appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in July 1865, in an article by John S. C. Abbott called, “A Railroad Adventure.” Enjoy, and have a great Sunday.
Following is the prepared text of my address on Saturday at San Jacinto for the 2016 Texian Navy Day observance aboard U.S.S. Texas (BB-35). It’s a commemorative speech, rather than an informational one, so it’s long on rhetoric, which is a little different from the research-based presentations I’m used to giving. Nevertheless, I did try to make sure that the points made were on a solid historical footing, which is not always the case when it comes to Texas and Texans.
I’d like to thank Dead Confederates reader Boyd Harris, who serves as Lead Interpreter at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, for helping guide me on relevant source material on the battlefield and the Texian campaign of 1836. I’d also like to thank Texas Navy Admirals Ron Brown and Bob Steakley for adhering to a tight timeline for the ceremony — the event was scheduled for an hour, but we were done in forty-two minutes flat, something that is best appreciated on a steel deck in the bright, late-summer sun. For further reading on the Texas Navy during this period, I recommend Lone Star Navy: Texas, the Fight for the Gulf of Mexico, and the Shaping of the American West by Jonathan Jordan, and The First Texas Navy by John Powers, both published in 2006.
Max Sigler has worked months on the Texas. Image via Civil War Picket blog.
Over at Civil War Picket, Phil Gast has a neat post up on the restoration of Civil War locomotive Texas, that formed the trailing component of the “Great Locomotive Chase” in 1862. The challenge in this case is what colors to paint the restored locomotive — something similar to the bright, colorful (but unknown) livery she carried when new in 1856, and likely still in 1862, or the dull, black finish she had by the 1880s, when she was rebuilt to her present configuration? (Texas remained in service until 1907.) It’s an interesting question, without an easy or obvious answer. Check it out.
Speaking of the Great Locomotive Chase, have you read Russell Bonds’ Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor? What are you waiting for?
Last week I stopped by the Historical Census Browser at the University of Virginia Library, to find this notice posted there:
Due to a recent intrusion by hackers, further security concerns, and data that is both outdated and contains transcription errors, our Historical Census Browser site is being closed. It will remain up in its current state (search working, maps not) through the end of 2016, but will likely be turned off completely after that date. Our librarians recommend that you use Social Explorer, a site that has current and correct data (along with additional data) and that allows mapping of search results.
This is a pretty big deal to folks who use census data. I’ve used this resource numerous times over the last few years, and it’s proved to be very valuable not just for data on the population, but also on manufacturing, the economy, religious institutions, and so on. The library is directing users to Social Explorer, which seems to be a versatile tool, but data from before 2000 is locked behind a paywall that requires either a personal membership (around $500 annually), or access through a subscribing institution.
The loss of this tool at UVa sucks, bad. Does anyone know of another source of county-level census data, preferably in electronic format, for the 19th century?
Joseph sold to (not Muslim) slave traders in the Book of Genesis.
There’s an essay making the rounds, “Political Correctness Strips the South of All Vestiges of Slavery While Ignoring Islam’s Contribution,” by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel James G. Zumwalt. Zumwalt, who writes about the Middle East and Islam at Breitbart, goes through a list of recent controversies regarding Confederate symbols, including the name change to dormitory at Vanderbilt and decision to drop “Dixie” from the play list by the band at Ole Miss, but his main point here (as with most of his recent writing) is to remind us all that ZOMG the Muslims are coming! Even superficially, Zumwalt’s grasp of history is tenuous, like his claim that Muslims were the “originators” of the slave trade. That might surprise people familiar with the story of Joseph from Genesis 37:2-36, that predates the founding of Islam (and Christianity) by many centuries.
There are a bazillion essays like Zumwalt’s out there, and they’re really not worth a lot of attention. I only mention this one because he cites one of my blog posts as support for his screed. About two-thirds of the way through he writes (my emphasis):
Few Confederates were actual slave-owners. The debate continues as to how many were. For Texans, the numbers vary from a low of 2 percent to a high of 36 percent. Furthermore, other motivations existed for fighting, including states rights and territorial expansion.
This is simply not true, and a complete misreading of what I wrote. There is no substantive “debate” about the incidence of slaveholding across Texas or the South among historians who’ve studied it in a serious way; as I explain at length, the “low of 2 percent” Zumwalt mentions is based on a deliberately misleading — to the point of outright dishonesty — claim made by heritage groups about Confederate soldiers from Texas, in an effort to disassociate them from the “peculiar institution.” In fact, census data collected the summer before the war began suggests that about one-quarter of all free households in Texas owned slaves. This squares pretty well with Joseph Glatthaar’s analysis of slaveholding in the Army of Northern Virginia, who found that in the first year of the war about one in ten enlisted men in the ANoVa were slaveholders personally, another one in ten came from slaveholding households, and more than half of the officers owned slaves.
On the other hand, maybe a more succinct response to his assertion that “few Confederates were actual slave-owners” is, “but all the important ones were.”
Furthermore, Zumwalt’s assertion that “other motivations existed for fighting, including states rights and territorial expansion” is one with an extremely short half-life, just long enough to ask, “for what purpose?” The states that seceded were indeed interested in states’ rights — to protect the institution of slavery, “the greatest material interest of the world,” — and territorial expansion, where “the destiny of the Southern master and his African slave. . . does not stop short of the banks of the Amazon.”
The essay Zumwalt cites is one I wrote back in the early days of this blog, and it’s proved to be one of the most-frequently-accessed entries I’ve done. I’m glad of that, because I think it’s one of the more important pieces I’ve written here, although I suspect that a lot of people are drawn to it by the title, which is a quote that the essay itself is actually refuting. No matter. But I do wish that folks like Colonel Zumwalt would take the time to fully digest what I have to say, and think on it, before dropping in a link as a citation as supposed documentation for something I never actually said.
So apparently there’s an online poll somewhere that asks whether people approve of those big-ass Confederate flags out on the highway. And apparently the “disapprove” votes are leading at the moment. There’s also a “secede now” option that barely moves the needle. But, of course, that’s because globalist librul conspiracy:
Because Americans not only support the Confederate flag, they also support secession from America. Or something like that.
Image by Houston Civil War Round Table member Bobby Dover, used with permission.
If you’ve been through Jefferson, in far northeast Texas, you’ve probably seen this Confederate monument on the grounds of the Marion County Courthouse. It’s fairly typical of the monuments found in towns across the South, but this monument had a bit of a mystery to it, according to Mitchel Whitington’s Jefferson: The History and Mystery of the City on the Bayou. According to the book, the monument was initially placed at Polk and Line Streets, facing south, with his back turned to the north (natch!), in 1907. Later, in the 1930s, the monument was moved to its present location at Polk and Austin, in front of the county courthouse. Now the soldier faces north, presumably to keep an eye out for perfidious Yankees. The inscription on the monument reads:
IN MEMORY OF
1861 — 1865
But there’s a large gap between the last two lines, where another line of text had originally been, that was very clearly chiseled off the stone before the dedication in 1907. For 75 years, no one in Jefferson knew, or admitted to knowing, what that line originally said or referred to. People tried all sorts of tricks – chalk rubbings, reflected light, séances – nothing revealed the mysterious, lost text.
Then in 1982, according to Whitington, a member of the Garden Club, Katherine Wise, used a puff and Fabergé makeup powder to reveal the hidden lettering:
IN OAKWOOD CEMETERY
Apparently the monument had originally been intended for the cemetery on the north side of town, where many Confederate veterans were buried. (Which also helps explain why the monument is dedicated to “our dead,” rather than to veterans more generally.) But sometime before the stone was delivered, the decision was made to place the monument in a more conspicuous location at Polk and Line, and the stonecutter was instructed to adjust the inscription accordingly. Who made that decision and why, remains lost to history; the solution to one mystery serves to create another.
An impromptu pickin’ session with Curt Locklear on the banjo (l.), and Frank Reedy on the guitar (r.) at the 5th Annual Jefferson, Texas Civil War Symposium last Saturday. This was unplanned, and I believe these men had never met before. They just saw each had their instruments, and it happened. Didn’t even know if anyone was watching. Unrehearsed, unsynthesized, unamplified, unmixed, and unvarnished. Wish I’d caught the whole thing.
Curt is the author of the new Civil War novel, Asunder. Check him out.
“Confederate Memorial of the Wind” on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Orange, Texas. Photo by Flickr user Patrick Feller, used under Creative Commons license.
One of my regular readers pointed out this article at Politico Magazine, about the SCV monument currently under construction in Orange, Texas close to the Louisiana border. It’s not a very long article, and well worth your time. It does a good job of pointing out both Confederate Heritage™ advocates’ direct refusal to acknowledge relevant historical evidence, and the way their views of the past are inextricably intertwines with their own, present-day politics (my emphasis):
[Historian Kevin] Levin pointed to the words of Confederates themselves, particularly Texas’ Ordinance of Secession. The document, which officially separated Texas from the Union in 1861, declared that African-Americans were “rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.” It says that Texas seceded because non-slave-holding states “demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy.” The document does not mention tariffs or any state right other than the right to own black people.
[SCV camp adjutant Jim] Toungate waved it off the document when I show it to him later. “People have a distorted view of the Confederacy because liberal Northern historians wrote the history books,” he insists. But these are primary sources, I noted, the words of the Confederates themselves. Toungate went silent for a beat, and then changed the subject. “I’m sick of the federal government wasting money,” he said, and “people living off welfare.”
There’s also a good bit of projection going on, to justify his own heritage activities:
“I had five grandfathers who fought for the Confederacy, and they were religious people who didn’t treat black people badly,” Toungate said, earnestly, his Southern drawl growing thicker as he spoke. “They were fighting for states’ rights, not slavery.”
I wonder how he thinks he knows that, since it’s extremely unlikely that he ever actually met a Civil War veteran, his own ancestors or any other.The author, John Savage, goes on to look at the bigger picture, how heritage folks willingly put themselves in a near-impenetrable bubble of ideology:
The SCV’s rejection of unequivocal historical fact, can, in part, be attributed to what psychologists call “motivated reasoning,” says Sander van der Linden, a Princeton University psychologist and director of the school’s Social and Environmental Decision-Making Lab. When people are emotionally invested in a belief, says van der Linden, they are inclined to accept information that confirms pre-existing beliefs and to dismiss conflicting evidence. It helps explain climate change denial, creationism, the anti-vaccine movement, and the belief that Obama is a closet Muslim (which, incidentally, Toungate also believes).
Neo-Confederate adamancy is as much about reactionary politics and identity as it is about history. It’s a declaration of values, a way of seeing the world, and its prevalence divides along political lines. Polls show that Democrats tend to view Confederate symbols, such as the battle flag, as emblems of racism, while Republicans more often see them as representations of Southern heritage.
Go read the whole thing, y’all.
Found this recently on the Internet machine:
“Hitlerry.” Y’all keep it classy.
Tim Kaine was Governor of Virginia from January 14, 2006 to January 16, 2010. The flags were taken down under terms of the Virginia Museum of Fines Arts’ lease with a local SCV camp in June 2010, five months after Kaine left office. If either Tim Kaine or his successor, Bob McDonnell, had any direct involvement in the decision to remove the flags, I’ve never seen evidence of it.
Confederate Heritage™ is fueled by outrage and resentment; whether that anger is based on reality is immaterial. The Virginia Flaggers, whose catch phrase is “are you mad enough yet?” have learned this very well. But I’ve said it before — if you have to make stuff up to “defend” your heritage, it’s not worth defending.