Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Frederick Douglass on Decoration Day, 1871

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 24, 2020

On Decoration Day, 1871, Frederick Douglass gave the following address at the monument to the Unknown Dead of the Civil War at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a short speech, but one of the best of its type I’ve ever encountered. I’ve posted it before, but it think it’s something worth re-reading and contemplating every Memorial Day.

The Unknown Loyal Dead
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871

Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.

Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.

When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to hat terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.

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Image: Graves of nine unknown Federal soldiers in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. Photo by Flickr user NatalieMaynor, used under Creative Commons license. Text of Douglass speech from Philip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.

“Sponge, Load, Fire!”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 9, 2020
Today, Monday, is the 158th anniversary of the famous battle between Monitor and Virginia in Hampton Roads. So it seems like a good occasion to repost this account of the action by the Acting Chief Engineer of the Confederate ironclad, Henry Ashton Ramsay (1835-1916), originally posted here eight years ago.
 
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Yesterday the Civil War Monitor presented another segment in the magazine’s “Voice from the Past” series, this one highlighting the account of Samuel Dana Greene, Monitor‘s executive officer, who commanded in that ship’s turret until forced to take over command of the ship when his captain, John L. Worden, was temporarily blinded by a shot from C.S.S. Virginia.

What follows here is another account of the action, this one from the Acting Chief Engineer of the Confederate ironclad, Henry Ashton Ramsay (1835-1916). Ramsay’s perspective on the action is unique; he probably knew the ship better than anyone else aboard, have spent most of the previous three years operating, maintaining, repairing and rebuilding the ship’s machinery. He’d joined U.S.S. Merrimac as Second Assistant Engineer at Panama in 1859, and sailed with her around Cape Horn. During this passage he reported to Merrimac‘s Chief Engineer, Alban C. Stimers. Engineer Stimers would later assist John Ericsson in constructing Monitor, and would serve as that ship’s Chief Engineer during the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Upon Merrimac‘s return to Norfolk, her engines were condemned and the ship laid up. There she remained until the spring of 1861, when she was burned to the waterline during the evacuation of the Navy Yard. When the war came, Ramsay cast his lot with the Confederacy, and soon found himself in Norfolk, working to convert the burned-out hull of Merrimac into a casemate ironclad.

While steaming out into Hampton Roads on the morning of March 8, Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, commander of the rebuilt ironclad, now rechristened Virginia, called Ramsey up to the pilothouse and asked him how secure the ship’s machinery was in the event of a hard collision. When Ramsay assured him that the boilers and engine well-braced, Buchanan replied, “I am going to ram the Cumberland.” Fifty years later, in an article for Harper’s Weekly, Ramsay  described what happened next:

The crux of what followed was down in the engine room. Two gongs, the signal to stop, were quickly followed by three, the signal to reverse. There was an ominous pause, then a crash, shaking us all off our feet. The engines labored. The vessel was shaken in every fiber. Our bow was visibly depressed. We seemed to be bearing down with a weight on our prow. Thud, thud, thud, came the rain of shot on our shield from the double-decked battery of the Congress. There was a terrible crash in the fire-room. For a moment we thought one of the boilers had burst. No, it was the explosion of a shell in our stack. Was anyone hit? No, thank God. The firemen had been warned to keep away from the up-take, so the fragments of shell fell harmlessly on the iron floor-plates.

We had rushed on the doomed ship, relentless as fate, crashing through her barricade of heavy spars and torpedo fenders, striking her below her starboard fore-chains and crushing far into her. For a moment the whole weight of her hung on our prow and threatened to carry us down with her, the return wave of the collision curling up into our bow port.

The Cumberland began to sink slowly, bow first, but continued to fight desperately for the forty minutes that elapsed after her doom was sealed, during which we were engaged with both the Cumberland and the Congress, being right between them.

We had left our cast-iron beak in the side of the Cumberland. Like the wasp we could sting but once, leaving the sting in the wound.

Our smoke-stack was riddled, our flag was shot down several times and was finally secured to a rent in the stack. On our gun-deck the men were fighting like demons. There was no thought or time for the wounded and dying as they tugged away at their guns, training and sighting their pieces while the orders rang out: “Sponge, load, fire.”


Virginia pulls away from U.S.S. Congress after setting her afire, March 8, 1862. Painting by Tom Freeman.

Virginia‘s score for the day included U.S.S. Cumberland, sunk, and Congress, abandoned and fully ablaze. Two more Federal vessels, St. Lawrence and Roanoke, had grounded themselves in trying to escape the guns of the ironclad. U.S.S. Minnesota had moved into shallow water where Virginia could not pursue, so the Confederate ironclad hauled off to her mooring at at Sewall’s Point. Ramsay continues:

All the evening we stood on deck watching the brilliant display of the burning [U.S.S. Congress]. Every part of her was on fire at the same time, the red-tongued flames running up shrouds, masts, and stays, and extending out to the yard arms. She stood in bold relief against the black background, lighting up the Roads and reflecting her lurid lights on the bosom of the now placid and hushed waters. Every now and then the flames would reach one of the loaded cannon and a shell would hiss at random through the darkness. About midnight came the grand finale. The magazines exploded, shooting up a huge column of firebrands hundreds of feet in the air, and then the burning hulk burst asunder and melted into the waters, while the calm night spread her sable mantle over Hampton Roads.


U.S.S. Congress explodes around midnight on the night of March 8-9, 1862. Battles and Leaders.

The Monitor arrived during the evening and anchored under the stern of the Minnesota, her lighter draught enabling her to do so without danger. To us the ensuing engagement was in the nature of a surprise. If we had known we were to meet her we would at least have been supplied with a solid shot for our rifled guns. We might even have thought best to wait until our iron beak, lost in the side of the Cumberland, could be replaced. Buchanan was incapacitated by his wound and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Jones.


Monitor arrives alongside U.S.S. Minnesota, late on the evening of March 8, 1862. Battles and Leaders.

We left our anchorage shortly before eight o’clock next morning and steamed across and up stream toward the Minnesota, thinking to make short work of her and soon to return with her colors trailing under ours. We approached her slowly, feeling our way cautiously along the edge of the channel, when suddenly, to our astonishment, a black object that looked like the historic description, “a barrel-head afloat with a cheese-box on top of it,” moved slowly out from under the Minnesota and boldly confronted us. It must be confessed that both ships were queer-looking craft, as grotesque to the eyes of the men of ’62 as they would appear to those of the present generation.


Virginia steams out into Hampton Roads, past the Confederate batteries on Craney’s Island. Battles & Leaders.

And now the great fight was on, a fight the like of which the world had never seen. With the battle of yesterday old methods had passed away, and with them the experience of a thousand years “of battle and of breeze” was brought to naught. The books of all navies were burned with the Congress, by a conflagration as ruthless as the torch of Omar. A new leaf had been turned, a virgin page on which to transcribe and record the art of naval warfare.

We hovered about each other in spirals, gradually contracting the circuits, until we were within point-blank range, but our shell glanced from the Monitor’s turret just as hers did from our sloping sides. For two hours the cannonade continued without perceptible damage to either of the combatants.

On our gun-deck all was bustle, smoke, grimy figures, and stern commands, while down in the engine and boiler rooms the sixteen furnaces were belching out fire and smoke, and the firemen standing in front of them, like so many gladiators, tugged away with devil’s-claw and slice-bar. inducing by their exertions more and more intense heat and combustion. The noise of the crackling, roaring fires, escaping steam, and the loud and labored pulsations of the engines, together with the roar of battle above and the thud and vibration of the huge masses of iron being hurled against us, altogether produced a scene and sound to be compared only with the poet’s picture of the lower regions.


Inside Virginia’s casemate during the action. From Blue Jackets of ’61: A History of the Navy in the War of Secession.

And then an accident occurred that threatened our utter destruction. We stuck fast aground on a sandbar.

Our situation was critical. The Monitor could, at her leisure, come close up to us and yet be out of our reach, owing to an inability to deflect our guns. In she came and began to sound every chink in our armor–every one but that which was actually vulnerable, had she known it.

The coal consumption of the two days’ fight had lightened our prow until our unprotected submerged deck was almost awash. The armor on our sides below the water-line had not been extended but about three feet owing to our hasty departure before the work was finished. Lightened as we were, these exposed portions rendered us no longer an ironclad, and the Monitor might have pierced us between wind and water had she depressed her guns.

Fearing that she might discover our vulnerable “heel of Achilles,” while she had us “in chancery,” we had to take all chances. We lashed down the safety valves, heaped quick-burning combustibles into the already raging fires, and brought the boilers to a pressure that would have been unsafe under ordinary circumstances. The propeller churned the mud and water furiously, but the ship did not stir. We piled on oiled cotton waste, splints of wood, anything that would burn faster than coal. It seemed impossible the boilers could long stand the pressure we were crowding upon them. Just as we were beginning to despair there was a perceptible movement, and the [Virginia] slowly dragged herself off the shoal by main strength. We were saved.

Before our adversary observed we were again afloat we made a dash for her, catching her quite unprepared, and tried to ram her, but our commander was dubious about the result of a collision without our iron-shod beak and gave the signal to reverse the engines long before we reached the Monitor. As a result I did not feel the slightest shock down in the engine-room, though we struck her fairly enough.


1886 chromolithograph of the Battle of Hampton Roads, by J. O. Davidson.

The carpenter reported that the effect was to spring a leak forward. Lieutenant Jones sent for me and asked me about it.

“It is impossible we can be making much water,” I replied,” for the skin of the vessel is plainly visible in the crank-pits.”

A second time he sent for me and asked if we were making any water in the engine room.

“With the two large Worthington pumps, beside the bilge injections, we could keep her afloat for hours, even with a ten-inch shell in her hull.” I assured him, repeating that there was no water in the engine and boiler rooms.

We glided past, leaving the Monitor unscathed, but got between her and the Minnesota and opened fire on the latter. The Monitor gallantly rushed to her rescue, passing so close under our submerged stern that she almost snapped off our propeller. As she was passing, so near that we could have leaped aboard her, Lieutenant Wood trained the stern-gun on her when she was only twenty yards from its muzzle and delivered a rifle-pointed shell which dislodged the iron logs sheltering the Monitor’s conning tower, carrying away the steering-gear and signal apparatus, and blinding Captain Worden. It was a mistake to place the conning tower so far from the turret and the vitals of the ship. Since that time it has been located over the turret. The Monitor’s turret was a death-trap. It was only twenty feet in diameter, and every shot knocked off bolt-heads and sent them flying against the gunners. If one of them barely touched the side of the turret, he would be stunned and momentarily paralyzed. Lieutenant Greene had been taken below in a dazed condition and never fully recovered from the effects. One of the port shutters had been jammed, putting a gun out of commission, and there was nothing for the Monitor to do but to retreat and to leave the Minnesota to her fate.

Captain Van Brunt, of the latter vessel, thought he was now doomed and was preparing to fire his ship when he saw the [Virginia] also withdrawing forward Norfolk.

It was at this juncture that Lieutenant Jones had sent for me and said: “The pilots will not place us nearer to the Minnesota and we cannot afford to run the risk of getting aground again. I am going to haul off under the guns of Sewall’s Point and renew the attack on the rise of the tide. Bank your fires and make any necessary adjustments to the machinery, but be prepared to start up again later in the afternoon.”

I went below to comply with his instructions, and later was astonished to hear cheering. Rushing on deck I found we were passing Craney Island on our way to Norfolk, and were being cheered by the soldiers of the battery.

Our captain had consulted with some of his lieutenants, and explained afterward that as the Monitor had proved herself so formidable an adversary he had thought best to get a supply of solid shot, have the prow replaced, the port shutters put on, the armor belt extended below water, and the guns whose muzzles had been shot away replaced, and then renew the engagement with every chance of victory. I remember feeling as if a wet blanket had been thrown over me. His reasoning was doubtless good, but it ignored the moral effect of leaving the Roads without forcing the Minnesota to surrender.


One of C.S.S. Virginia’s ensigns. This ensign was reportedly replaced with a variant with 11 stars during the March 9, 1862 action against U.S.S. Monitor. Time-Life, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy.

As the [Virginia] passed up the river, trailing the ensign of the Congress under the stars and bars, she received a tremendous ovation from the crowds that lined the shores, while hundreds of small boats, gay with flags and bunting, converted our course into a triumphal procession.

We went into dry-dock that very afternoon, and in about three weeks were ready to renew the battle upon more advantageous terms, but the Monitor, though reinforced by two other ironclads, the Galena and the Naugatuck, and every available vessel of the United States Navy, was under orders from Washington to refuse our challenge and bottle us up in the Roads. This strategy filled us with rage and dismay, but it proved very effective.

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Nikki Haley’s Butternut Bonafides

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 8, 2019

After the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (above) embraced and argued for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag that flew on the State House grounds, adjacent to the Confederate monument there. Haley was widely lauded in some circles for her supposed courage in challenging South Carolina’s traditional Lost Cause-y view of the Civil War, but in truth the circumstances were so horrific that virtually any governor, of either party, likely would have followed the same course she did. The pressure to take down the flag was overwhelming, and that outcome was probably inevitable.

Naturally, the Confederate Heritage™ folks lost their ever-lovin’ minds over the issue, and gave vent to the vulgar bigotry that’s always there, but is usually papered over with tired tropes about “honor,” “sacrifice,” and all the rest. It’s what they do.

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, Haley was careful to say the right things, as dictated by the circumstances of the moment. At the time, she decried the state’s decision in 2000 to remove the flag from the State House itself, to its position by the monument.

“I think the more important part is it should have never been there,” she said. “These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”

Haley, a rising star in the Republican Party, is the youngest current governor in the U.S. She is also the first woman and the first Indian American to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

Haley said the flag should be in a museum, a place that preserves history, not in a place where people gather to implement policies about the state’s future.

“There is a place for that flag,” she said. “It’s not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.”

It should never have been there,” she said then. “Not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.

That was in 2015. A lot has changed since then. Haley went on to serve for two years as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position that these days is curiously both high-profile and of relatively little consequence. Having put that on her resume, and published her obligatory memoir ever-so-politely distancing herself from the excesses of the roiling kleptocracy that is the current administration, she’s looking out once again for the main chance. And that, apparently, includes re-embracing the Confederate Heritage™ narrative about the shooting. Haley may think of herself as being “the face of the New South” (right, in 2014) but she still speaks in the voice of the Old South:

Nikki Haley, who formerly served as the South Carolina governor and then as the Trump administration U.N. ambassador, blamed “the national media” for making a white supremacist’s 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers at a historic African American church “about racism.”

In an interview with Glenn Beck, Haley also said that the murderer, [the killer]* “hijacked” the supposedly virtuous nature of the Confederate battle flag.

“Here is this guy that comes out with his manifesto, holding the Confederate flag, and had just hijacked everything that people thought of,” she said.

“We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority that’s always going to be there, but people saw it as service and sacrifice and heritage. . . .”

“Once he did that,” Haley said of [the shooter’s] attack, “there was no way to overcome it.”

“The national media came in in droves,” she continued. “They wanted to define what happened. They wanted to make this about racism, they wanted to make this about gun control, they wanted to make it about the death penalty.”

Well, no. Lots of people, in South Carolina and elsewhere, didn’t view the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of “service and sacrifice and heritage” — not in 1962 when it went atop the State House dome, not in 2000 when it was moved to the grounds, and not in 2015, and Nikki Haley damn well knows that. She knew it when she first ran for governor in 2010, and she knew it when she ran for re-election in 2014, when it was a major campaign issue in her race against her Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen. She won that election handily. Then came the Emmanuel AME killings, seven months later.

Haley now says the media — it’s always “the media” with these folks — “made this about racism.” This is unadulterated bullshit.

I read the killer’s “manifesto,” and viewed the dozens of pictures he posted with it, before his “Last Rhodesian” site was taken down. I kept copies, too, although I’ve never shared them. While only a few of the photos were posed with the Confederate Battle Flag, virtually all of them trace back to slavery, antebellum plantations, Confederate cemeteries — even a museum run by the SCV. He even had Confederate flag plates on his car. He was, in his own addled way, quite clear about his intent to target African Americans, and to start a wider war for the survival of the white race. Period, full stop.

Nikki Haley knows that white nationalism/-supremacy/-identity/-whatever-you-want-to-call it is widespread in the Confederate Heritage™ community; we’ve seen this over and over and over and over and over and over again. She herself witnessed it up close when the Klan organized a rally on the State House steps in Columbia to protest the removal of the flag from the grounds there.

In retrospect, everyone should’ve seen this coming. Haley herself telegraphed that her stated views in 2015 were, shall we say, flexible when she chose to preside over a reverential ceremony (above) to remove the flag that, she claimed, “should never have been there.” That’s not how you handle an object that, in your own words, causes “hurt and pain.”

Haley, of course, is laying the groundwork for a 2024 presidential campaign. And she knows two things — (1) that the South Carolina Republican primary, that comes early in the primary cycle, will be make-or-break for her pursuit of the Republican nomination, and (2) that the Republican Party in South Carolina (“too small for a republic. . . .”) is going to demand her fealty to the tropes and deflections of the Lost Cause. That’s what she was doing the other day on Glenn Beck’s podcast, signaling to hard-core Republicans, and especially that subset of the far right that tunes in to Glenn Beck, that she’s all-in on perpetuating that narrative. It’s the media’s fault, this the inexplicable act of a single deranged person, no one ever associated that flag with racism, etc.

As I said, unadulterated bullshit.

There are many adjectives one can fairly apply to Nikki Haley; stupid is not one of the them. She knows what she’s doing, and is counting on Republican voters in South Carolina and elsewhere to have short memories. I wouldn’t bet against her being right about that.

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* I have redacted the Charleston shooter’s name. You all know it anyway.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 28, 2019

For a while now I’ve been posting this well-known Thomas Nast cartoon from 1868, “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner.” This year, though, I’d like to direct my readers to Pat Young’s detailed discussion of the work and the symbolism in it — there’s a lot there you may not have noticed.

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Two Monument Stories

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 28, 2019

There were two news stories this week on the future of Confederate monuments in North Carolina and Alabama.

First, the University of North Carolina ceded the “Silent Sam” monument that had stood on the campus at UNC Chapel Hill to the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Under the terms of the agreement, the SCV will relocate the monument but not place it in any of the fourteen counties where UNC maintains a campus. In addition, UNC will establish a $2.5M trust fund, the proceeds of which can be used for limited purposes in maintaining the monument at its new location. The trust fund does not use public monies, and I suspect this part of the agreement was influenced by the Vanderbilt case from a few years ago, where that university paid the United Daughters the Confederacy a sum in exchange for removing the Confederate name or one of the buildings on campus.

In Birmingham, city officials had set up a wooden box obscuring a Confederate monument in 2017. After a drawn-out legal battle, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that that violated the terms of a state law that prohibits removal or alteration of monuments and memorials that had been in place for 40 years or more. The state law is one of several passed in recent years that prohibits alterations to monuments, even those (like Birmingham’s) that are on city, not state, property.

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Confederate Heritage “Boycott” of Lexington Quietly Abandoned

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 17, 2019

The Confederate Heritage™ folks’ “boycott” of Lexington, Virginia, was always mostly smoke-and-mirrors; it was a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do sort of thing.

Still, it’s pretty funny to see that they’ve finally dropped even the pretense of observing a boycott, and are hosting their two-day Lee-Jackson Day 2020 symposium, memorial service, and luncheon right smack in the middle of Lexington’s historic district and, yes, within the City of Lexington proper. In fact, attendees are encouraged to make their room reservations there, too, that will maximize the amount of tax revenue flowing into the city’s coffers. Not so long ago, the Virginia Flaggers went so far as to publish a map of Lexington’s city boundaries so folks would know areas to avoid, so as not to contribute to the city’s economy, but that was then, and this is now.

Even better — the notice of the meeting appears on the “SAVE OUR FLAGS – BOYCOTT Lexington, Virginia!” Facebook page. Do’oh!

Have fun in Lexington, y’all — I heard the food at the Red Hen over on East Washington Street is great, and it’s within easy walking distance from the Hampton Inn.

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That Didn’t Take Long. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 30, 2019

Pleased to learn today that my friend and colleague Kevin Levin’s book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, has gone into a second printing just seven weeks after its original release by the University of North Carolina Press.

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Canister! — Monumental Edition

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 3, 2019


The big equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee (above) that was taken down in Dallas a couple of years ago has a new home at a private golf resort at Lajitas, Texas, near Big Bend National Park. Fans of the Marble Man can pay homage after paying a $50 golf cart rental (off-peak greens hours only). Beer and sodas are sold in the pro shop.

Kehinde Wiley’s new sculpture, “Rumors of War,” was unveiled in Times Square in New York recently, and will move to its permanent home at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond later this year. The equestrian statue is a riff on a statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart in Richmond. You can probably guess who’s unhappy about that.

In Shreveport, a planning committee of the Caddo Parish Commission approved an expenditure to relocate the Confederate monument located on the grounds of the parish courthouse. The Caddo Parish Commission had voted to relocate the monument almost two years ago, but were challenged by the local UDC chapter that claimed they not only owned the monument, but also had a “private property interest” in the land on which the monument stood. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their claim of owning the property, and in August 2019 Caddo Parish gave them 90 days’ notice to have the monument relocated. If the monument isn’t moved, the Caddo Parish Commission is expected to formally approve moving the monument itself.

Earlier this year, two members of the “Heirs to the Confederacy” group, Ryan Barnett and Nancy Rushton McCorkle, were charged with vandalizing the Unsung Founders Memorial on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both had been heavily involved in protests against the proposed removal of the “Silent Sam” monument on campus there. Despite McCorkle’s insistence that the charges against them would be dismissed, and declining a plea offered them, they were both found guilty last month of injury to real property and larceny, I believe the latter because they stole a UNC flag that they paraded the next day at another rally (above). Barnett was also convicted of indecent exposure and for urinating on the Unsung Founders Memorial. Interestingly, the court found them not guilty of ethnic intimidation under North Carolina statute, because the law focuses on targeting individuals. “My belief is they are not guilty of ethnic intimidation [as defined by the statute],” Orange County District Court Judge Lunsford Long said. “I think they intended to intimidate a whole race of people, not a person.”

Finally, we shouldn’t leave Nancy McCorkle and thre “Heirs to the Confederacy” folks without a mention of Daniel McMahon (right), a man from Florida who went out of his way to taunt UNC students online, and aligned himself with McCorkle, praising her on the far-right chat site Gab, saying “Nancy Rushton makes a damn good admin too!” McMahon, posting under the alias “Jack Corbin,” corresponded with the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter on Gab, and reportedly praised him after the mass shooting. McMahon was indicted by the Justice Department in September for making threats and intimidation against a candidate for City Council in Charlottesville, and against UNC students.

These people are exactly who you thought they were.

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Better Late Than Never, Dead Klansman Edition

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 15, 2019

It seems that klansman, League of the South stalwart, and Confederate Heritage™ figure Steven Monk has gone to his reward. Now that he’s departed, the “heritage” folks are denouncing Monk as having been “eat up with hatred and racism.” While there’s a better-late-than-never angle to this, it’s also worth remembering that these same people weren’t nearly so fastidious about Monk’s views and affiliations while he was alive and useful to their purposes.

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A New Steve Perry Image

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 4, 2019


While looking for something else this evening, I happened on this recent addition to the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs at the Library of Congress of an image of Steve Perry of Rome, Georgia. Perry, who spent the last couple of decades of his life using the persona of “Uncle Steve Eberhart,” was a regular fixture at Confederate Veteran reunions, playing to crowd by carrying around live chickens and expressing his appreciation to “the southern white man” for having been a slave. The photo also shows one of the military-style coats he routinely wore, both at home and at reunions.

My friend and colleague Kevin Levin discusses Steve Perry in his new book, Searching for Black Confederates. Have you got your copy yet?

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