26 April 2011 by Published in: Neo-Confederate hooey 19 comments

This little beauty, published in today’s Opalika-Auburn News Reader, amply proves that the Lost Cause remains alive and well. Here’s some lovely neo-Confederate hooey for you, courtesy of the SCV:

Letter: South forced into ‘shotgun wedding’ with the North
By Opelika-Auburn News Reader
Published: April 26, 2011

Not only is Wayne Snow’s column on the April 15 Opinion page factually incorrect, the caption for the article is outlandish. It should have read: “Outcome of War for Southern Independence Moved Nation from a Free Republic to an Imperialistic Socialist Empire”… The founders of our country had no intentions of these states united becoming “aggressive abroad and despotic at home” … which are the exact words that the brilliant and honorable Gen. Robert E. Lee used to prophetically describe what would become of the U.S. after the South was subdued and forced back into a shotgun wedding with the North.

I submit to you, sir, the truth of the matter: The South is not united with the current federal government. It is held in the so-called Union at the point of a bayonet.

Overwhelming manpower and resources settled nothing, except to prove that one section can be subjugated and coerced by the sheer force of arms. Ideologically, the nation is still divided as much today, if not more, than it was in 1862.

If slavery was the defining issue of the war, as you have tried to imply, then why did the South not just stay in the union and ratify the original 13th Amendment, which was worded to keep slavery legal in perpetuity?

The war was not caused by slavery any more than the American Revolution was cause by tea. Abraham Lincoln is the one and only cause of the needless deaths of nearly 620,000 Americans. Apparently you have not read or have chosen to ignore the incontrovertible and well-documented true history of the war researched and put into print by Thomas DiLorenzo, “The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War.” Perhaps you should do a little factual research yourself before you again try turning real history upside down.

W.G. Anthony

2nd Lt. Commander

Tallassee Armory Guards

SCV Camp 1921

A DiLorenzo disciple holding forth. Lovely, just lovely.

This is yet another example of why we need to remain vigilant and fight this neo-Confederate hooey wherever we find it.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Jon
    Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 10:15 am

    What utter baloney. Dilorenzo has been debunked by serious historians several times over. It is utterly clear that those who support his nonsense are simply towing the neo-Confederate line. Blaming the entire war on Lincoln is so supremely stupid that I would endeavor to call that person an ambulance to take them off to the looney bin. It simply ignores the primary documentation, the facts of the matter, & history in general.

  2. Ken Noe
    Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 10:33 am

    You’re reading my hometown newspaper? ;-)

    This is the third recent letter from the same local group, all written in reaction to an editorial celebrating Union victory. What has fascinated me is that so far most respondents in the usually conservative, indeed Tea Party-friendly comments section are refuting the letter writers.

  3. Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 10:42 am

    This stuff continues to proliferate, which is why I feel compelled to dispute it.

    Somebody tipped me off to it, Ken. I’m glad to hear that reasonable people are taking steps to refute this nonsense.

  4. Ken Noe
    Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 10:48 am

    Here’s the editorial that started it all: http://tinyurl.com/3hjoo7c

  5. Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 11:26 am

    Thanks, Ken. Now I understand the hate mail. The editor is indeed a brave fellow to write and publish that, knowing that he would be inundated with hate mail for it.

  6. Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Eric,

    Having read the editorial kindly linked by Mr. Noe, I can’t let it go without comment.

    I find the piece entirely P/C and overly simplified and easily rejected for those reasons alone.

    I would like to see a followup piece in which the editorialist supports his completely speculative and emotional contention with evidence:

    “The world is a better place because the South lost.”

    I think there will be no such followup.

    The editorial states that Freeman’s Lee “is one of my most treasured possessions.”

    I wonder how the editorialist could have read it (it’s a multi-volume massive set) and missed so much.

    The editorialist continues: “Stated simply, the South was wrong. It was wrong about secession, it was wrong to fire the shot at Fort Sumter and it is wrong to deny the overwhelming role that slavery played as a cause.”

    In all fairness to the Confederates the editorialist should have mentioned that most CS soldiers were not slave holders. In addition, primary source materials show that a great many if not most of the Confederates considered themselves fighting for the Constitution, and against Northern aggression – not for the continuation of slavery specifically (if at all).

    The fact that the CS government enacted (in part) Patrick Cleburnes’ Proposal to arm the slaves and give them their freedom in exchange for service seems to me to show that the Confederate authorities were prepared to let slavery go in order to secure their independence. If this had been done this in early ’64 when Cleburne first proposed it rather than in late March, ’65 the Confederacy could well have won the War.

    Both sides hold a great deal of responsibility and collective guilt for the crime of slavery, once Constitutionally legal throughout the Union. This new politically correct demonization of the Confederacy is unfair in my view and tends to simplify a very complicated mix of causes.

    This current apparent anti-intellectual need (on the part of some vocal commentators) to put everything in a little drawer of “here is the reason for the war” and here is the guilty party” entirely overturns the responsibility of the historian and dumbs us all down.

    I prefer a more sophisticated and historically accurate picture of the War. The editorialist in question does not supply either.

    Thank you for posting this important discussion.

    Best Regards,
    Daniel

  7. Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I am by no means a “historian”, but would call myself a “buff”. A plain reading of Lincoln’s speeches and writings before secession would lead one to believe that, if it would preserve the union, he would have certainly allowed slavery to continue to exist “in perpetuity” where it already existed. His opposition at that time was to the expansion of slavery into the territories. (And he certainly opposed the Dred Scott decision).

    So how was the cause of the war Abraham Lincoln?

    Unless of course, what the letter writer really means is that it was Lincoln’s insistence on fighting secession itself that was the cause of the war. Though this is a little disingenious (and circular): fighting the insurrection was the cause of the insurrection?

    If so, then why fire upon Ft. Sumter?

  8. Jon
    Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Daniel, I would disagree with you on several points. I thought the editorial was well done & not “PC” at all. Would you claim that the major cause of the war was NOT slavery? Would you go against what the Southerners from the 7 Deep South states were saying when they left? The Declarations of Causes of Secession are pretty well right on the money. The Confederate Vice President pointed it out in his Cornerstone Speech. And the Apostles of Seccession pointed to slavery when addressing their fellow slave states-notice that they didn’t send those same commisioners to the NON-slave states….
    The first paragraph I have a major issue with is, “In all fairness to the Confederates the editorialist should have mentioned that most CS soldiers were not slave holders. In addition, primary source materials show that a great many if not most of the Confederates considered themselves fighting for the Constitution, and against Northern aggression – not for the continuation of slavery specifically (if at all). ” Actually, depending on the state, many were slave holders. The oft quoted % of 8% is of the South as a whole & only title holders. Once you factor in entire families & those who were directly affected by slavery (overseers, etc.), then that percentage jumps up dramatically. The primary source materials I have seen from people like James McPherson & Chandra Manning would contradict what you say there.

    As far as Pat’s proposal goes, you leave off the fact that his proposal was buried & he was silenced on the matter. If the South had NO purpose in keeping slavery alive, why do so? Craig Symond’s “Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne & the Civil War” talks about ole Pat submitting his proposal to have slaves freed from bondage to fight for the South. Here is an interesting exerpt & exchange from pg 190-191 of that book:

    Quote:
    “Within the army, secrecy was maintained. Only now & then did rumor of the meeting seep out. After securing a pledge of confidentiality from Colonel James Nisbet, Brigadier General Clement Stevens told him the secret of Cleburne’s astonishing proposal. Stevens suggested that although Cleburne was a “skilled army officer, & true to the Southern cause,” he did not have a “proper conception of the Negro, he being foreign born & reared.” When Nisbet responded that he thought arming slaves was a good idea, Stevens exploded. Slavery, he declared, was the cause of the war & the reason why the South was fighting. “If slavery is to be abolished then I take no more interest in our fight. The justification of slavery in the South is the inferiority of the negro. If we make him a soldier, we concede the whole question.” Steven’s outburst was evidence of how badly Cleburne had misread the society he called his own. Cleburne’s assumption that “every patriot will freely give up……the negro slave rather than be a slave himself” failed to take into consideration the fact that many southerners viewed the loss of slavery as virtually synonymous with the loss of their own liberty. ”

    and this from right after he delivered the proposal:

    Quote:
    “If Cleburne was disappointed by the lack of enthusiastic support, he soon heard much worse. William Bate, Patton Anderson, & especially W.H.T Walker all made emotional attacks on Cleburne’s proposal. Bate declared that Cleburne’s proposals were “hideous & objectionable”, & he branded them as nothing less than the “serpent of Abolitionism”. He predicted that the army would mutiny at the very suggestion of such a scheme. Anderson called it a “monstrous proposition” that was “revolting to Southern sentiment, Southern Pride, & Southern honor”. He also predicted that if black troops were enlisted, the white troops would all quit in disgust…….Walker was the most offended, asserting that the proposal was nothing less than treason, & that any officer advocating it should be held fully accountable.”

    What I find interesting here are two things. First is that here is yet another primary account of a Southern officer offering up the major cause of the war. Second is the notion of “black” Confederates. Here you have several divisional commanders scattered throughout the Army of Tennessee declaring that “armed” blacks would be detremental to the existence of the army. Now if there WERE any armed blacks operating in what amounts to the 2nd major army of the Confederacy (after the Army of Northern Virginia in the East), you would think these gentlemen would be aware of it. You would think that the arguments would be along the lines of “well, we have a few blacks in one of my brigades, but they are the exception not the rule”, but you don’t hear that one bit. To me this is simply more proof that at BEST the notion of armed “black” Confederates is extremely rare.

    As to your next line: “Both sides hold a great deal of responsibility and collective guilt for the crime of slavery, once Constitutionally legal throughout the Union. This new politically correct demonization of the Confederacy is unfair in my view and tends to simplify a very complicated mix of causes.” I agree with the first line & anyone who is a Civil War scholar would say the same. Lincoln himself admitted as much in his 2nd Inaugural Speech, “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?” The Confederacy is only demonized when people try to talk their way out of slavery as a cause. It’s like my 5 year old getting in trouble for something & trying to lie his way out of it. Admit the wrong in what you did & move on. It is only when folks like Dilorenzo lie about things that we really get mad & start pointing fingers.

  9. Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I suggest that there is an unspoken movement afoot in the clueless mainstream press to take hold of the sesquicentennial to achieve several things:

    1. Over-simplification of the causes of the war so that even ill-educated and ignorant people can reject any legitimacy of the Confederacy (or of secession, then or now).
    2. Demonization of the Confederacy and its supporters.
    3. Assertion that the cause of the war was slavery and little or nothing else.
    3a. The South and all its supporters were evil traitors.
    4. Deconstruction of the “Lost Cause” so that Unionism (one could say that Unionism was the “state religion” of the North) is unquestioned and secession and the Confederacy (and its soldiers and heroes) are utterly de-legitimized and criminalized.
    4a. Governor of California Jerry Brown recently stated that the country’s divisions have never been as bad except since the Civil War. Governor of Texas last year re-asserted Texas’ “sovereign rights,” as have other leaders.

    One could make a case that this politically correct historically-challenged revisionism and deconstruction so often seen now in the mainstream press is meant more for today’s highly charged and divisive political environment than it is about truly understanding the War.

    I think that we as historians must be incredibly careful with the shift that public discussions on the sesquicentennial have taken.

    I provide this bizarre drivel as a case in point. It is more inflammatory politically partisan agitprop than it is historical analysis and shows the depths to which public discussion about the War has plummeted:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dispelling-the-myth-of-robert-e-lee/2011/04/25/AFrXC1kE_story.html?fb_ref=NetworkNews&fb_source=home_multiline

  10. Liz L.
    Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 7:32 pm

    A few observations, if I might:

    There were a lot of things involved in the coming of the Civil War, but it seems to me that slavery is the dark and bloody thread running through nearly all of that part of history’s tapestry. For instance (I apologize for not including quotes – more information can be found in Jame MacPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom:
    1. Even though all Southerners didn’t support slavery, there was still a frenetic insistence on the part of many Southern leaders that slavery be extended into the new territories, so that property in slaves (this phrase, or others like it, was very commonly used) would be secure. Even if the new land wouldn’t allow cotton to be grown, they thought that slaves could harvest hemp, dig for gold, etc. This was clearly expressed by some of the “border ruffians” who fought in “bleeding Kansas” – they said they wanted to kill or drive off all the free-soil settlers.
    2. Southern opposition to homestead grants for settlers in the new territories was expressed in the same terms – they didn’t want any more Yankee settlers who’d oppose slavery.
    3. Some Southerners, with varying degrees of support from the Federal & State governments. tried to annex Cuba and Nicaragua to give slavery more room for expansion.
    4. The secession documents specifically mentioned that slavery was the sticking point; Alexander Stephens, who shortly thereafter became the Confederacy’s Vice President, affirmed that the Confederacy was founded on the principle of Black inferiority.
    5. Part of the economic disparity between North and South that made Southerners so resent tariffs and internal improvements, which they saw as only benefiting Yankees, was because the South had too much capital tied up in land and slaves to allow for the same rate of industrial expansion.
    6. “States’ Rights” doesn’t exist on it’s own – it’s a means, not an end, and whether it’s moral or not depends on the end it’s serving, and the right to own human beings as chattel property IS NOT a moral end.
    ON THE OTHER HAND:
    Any Yankee slave trader (for whom the phrase “d–d Yankee!” seems to have really been invented) was much more responsible for slavery and the coming of the war than some young Southerner who simply signed up because he wanted to repulse the Northern invaders.
    Yes, there were many brave and good men who fought for the South, who might not themselves have intended to fight specifically for slavery (See above).
    When it came to Black equality, Northerners certainly didn’t universally cover themselves with glory during the war OR Reconstruction
    Lincoln was right; all Americans, North and South, needed to acknowledge their responsibility. David Von Drehle says: “Two fallacies prop up the wall of forgetfulness (about the war’s causes). The first is that slavery somehow wasn’t really that important…But slavery was important…And the fact that it ended is important too. The second fallacy is that this was only the South’s problem and that the North solved it…As long as this belief persists…Americans whose hearts lie with Dixie will understandably continue to defend their homes and honor against such Yankee arrogance.” (Time, 4/18/11, p. 51.) I think we Yankees need to remember this more sincerely, and more often, and not give ourselves airs.

  11. Tue 26th Apr 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Daniel,

    It’s disingenuous to claim that the South enacted Cleburne’s proposal “in part.” The part they refused to enact was the emancipation part, choosing instead to leave that up to the states (who would not have gone along with it otherwise). This, despite even Robert E. Lee’s recommendation that they be freed if they served under arms.

    In other words, all they did was act out of absolute desperation at the 11th hour to try to stave off the inevitable, and EVEN THEN they were not willing to grant slaves freedom outright, since that would have defeated the whole purpose of going to war in the first place.

    David

  12. Thu 28th Apr 2011 at 11:21 am

    Daniel,

    I am curious. Are you familiar with the Fugitive Slave Act? That was an imposition of Federal law over States’ Rights that Southerners seem to have been perfectly comfortable with. Seems like they were willing to ignore States’ Rights when it suited them.

    Confederate soldiers were neither criminals nor demons. Their reasons for enlisting and fighting were varied. That the Confederacy was established in order to preserve slavery is certain, but that doesn’t mean that individual soldiers enlisted for that reason. Very few northern men enlisted with any interest in ending slavery at all, but that doesn’t remove slavery as the cause of the war.

    I concur that Cohen’s conclusions and the comparison of Lee to Rommel (and implication that Jefferson Davis was Hitler), which fulfills Godwin’s Law, make the column basically useless.

    Humbly submitted,
    David Navarre

  13. Thu 28th Apr 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Dave,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Regarding your statement, “Very few northern men enlisted with any interest in ending slavery at all, but that doesn’t remove slavery as the cause of the war,” my response is as follows:

    Lincoln said that if he could save the Union without freeing any slaves, he would do it.

    The Union was not (at first) fighting to end slavery, though it became an abolition effort later. In addition, the adoption of an anti-slavery position by the North effectively kept European powers from entering the war on the side of the Confederacy, which Northern leaders were deeply concerned about and Southern leaders actively sought to bring about. After the Emancipation Proclamation there would be/could be no European military assistance for the Confederacy.

    Consider the following: If the South had seceeded simply because, for example, they were unwilling to continue the economic relationship with the industrial North that they considered contrary to their benefit (or whatever reason), do you suppose the North would have opposed their secession with force?

    The point I am making here is that the North fought to “save the Union” – that was the war aim of the North. The South fought for its independence – that was the war aim of the South.

    So, saying that “the Civil War was about slavery” – period – is a total oversimplification and not historically defensible. To return to your original construction, I will restate my position here… “the cause of the War was not slavery, but rather the secession of the South from the Union.”

    Was slavery one of the reasons why the South seceeded? Yes! Was it the sole reason? No.

    While there is no denying that slavery was a key foundational component (some southerners considered it the central pillar) of Southern society prior to the war, the (albeit too late and incomplete) acceptance of Cleburne’s Proposal (March, 1865) shows that the Confederate Government and military leadership (including Lee who supported the measures) were prepared to make extreme changes – including jettisoning slavery.

    They were prepared to do this for one reason only – to secure their independence. The fact that the Proposal was suppressed and rejected when first presented (Jan. ’64) is not relevant.

    The term “Second American Revolution” to describe the War is entirely appropriate.

    Regards,
    Daniel

  14. Thu 28th Apr 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Dan is correct. Is there any doubt that the North would have invaded the Southern states is the South abolished slavery and seceded? The North fought to keep the 11 Southern states and their tax revenue in the Union, slavery or no slavery.

    I have been researching Civil War history for more than ten years and have read literally thousands of pages of diaries, letters and memoirs, mostly of Confederate soldiers, and most of them from enlisted men and lower grade officers. I can honestly say that I have never read a single soldier who wrote that he was fighting to keep slaves in bondage. Not one. Every mention I have ever read of the reasons the writer was fighting was for national independence and to repel the Northern invaders.

    An argument might be made that among Southern politicians slavery was a reason for the Civil War, but no credible case can be made that the common Confederate soldier gave a wit about slavery. Slavery may have been one of the reasons for Southern secession but slavery had nothing to do with the subsequent war. The Southern men that did the fighting didn’t fight to keep slavery. I haven’t read enough Northern soldiers’ writings to have an opinion on why the common Billy Yank fought.

  15. Fri 29th Apr 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I was trying to separate out the motivations of the soldiers, which in any war are usually only loosely related to the reason the war is being fought. Do we ever worry about why the average Redcoat enlisted and fought during the American Revolution?

    Why did the southern states secede? I think we have to take them at their that it was to preserve “the peculiar institution”. If they had abolished slavery, they would have had no reason to secede.

    I fully concur that the Federal government’s motivation was preserving the Union, but the “sine qua non” for the Confederacy was slavery. They would never have seceded if they were not trying to preserve slavery.

    It’s like saying “it wasn’t the fall that killed him, it was the landing”.

  16. Fri 29th Apr 2011 at 12:31 pm

    That should read “we have to take them at their word that it was”

  17. Terry Walbert
    Sat 30th Apr 2011 at 9:53 am

    I’m gratified to read so many historically informed and intelligent comments. The problem is that uninformed or half-informed columnists and politicians see that Civil War as a way to advance their current agenda. This is an updated version of David Donald’s 1955 essay “Getting Right with Lincoln” the enlisting of Lincoln in anti-smoking (the pamphlet “Lincoln Never Smoked a Cigarette”) and other causes. We can expect to see opining about how Lincoln would be for or against Obamacare, gay rights, the Tea Parties, or TARP.

    The Civil War era must be understood on its own terms and not as an anticipation of what came later. No one at the time knew how things would turn out. To see Lincoln as the father of Big Government or the Confederate States as a forerunner of 20th century totalitarian regimes is wrong.

    To understand how people thought in the 1860s, you have to look at what went before. For instance, when General Hooker spoke of the country needing a “dictator,” he was thinking of Napoleon or Caesar, not Hitler or Stalin. When critics attacked the arrests of suspected Confederate sympathizers in the North, they thought of the Bastille, not Dachau.

  18. Sun 01st May 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Daniel wrote:

    In all fairness to the Confederates the editorialist should have mentioned that most CS soldiers were not slave holders. In addition, primary source materials show that a great many if not most of the Confederates considered themselves fighting for the Constitution, and against Northern aggression – not for the continuation of slavery specifically (if at all).

    A substantial proportion of Confederate soldiers, while not hold legal title to slaves, came from slaveholding households. Roughly a third of households in the Confederacy contained at least one slaveholder, although the actual proportion varied greatly be region.

    More important, you’re making the common error of confusing the motives and beliefs of individual soldiers — which were many and varied, as they are today — with the objectives of the government they fought for. There is no question why South Carolina and other states (including mine) seceded; they had convinced themselves it was necessary to protect the future of the institution of slavery. We know this because they said so themselves.

    You also claimed that

    the CS government enacted (in part) Patrick Cleburnes’ Proposal to arm the slaves and give them their freedom in exchange for service seems to me to show that the Confederate authorities were prepared to let slavery go in order to secure their independence.

    Not true. The Confederate Congress did eventually authorize the enlistment of slaves, but — contrary to both Cleburne’s proposal and Lee’s wishes — offered no emancipation in return for such service. The authorizing legislation was explicit on that question. Even as the vote passed, in the middle of March 1865, with the concussion of Federal guns rattling the windows of the capitol in Richmond, Confederate legislators continued to view even limited emancipation — of the black Confederate soldiers themselves — as too high a price to pay for their national survival.

    Finally,

    Both sides hold a great deal of responsibility and collective guilt for the crime of slavery, once Constitutionally legal throughout the Union.

    This is true, across the broad sweep of American history. But if you look at the United States as it was on the eve of war, the “crime of slavery” was almost entirely an attribute of the states that would form the Confederacy, and the Border States. The Lincoln Administration was willing to fight a war to preserve the Union; the Confederacy was willing to fight a war to preserve the “peculiar institution.” And they both ended up doing exactly that.

  19. Sun 01st May 2011 at 8:25 pm

    The Southron Heritage™ movement, and especially the SCV, is very good about coordinating letters to the editor, blog comments, and so forth in response to views that counter their own, so expect plenty of letters like this one over the next four years.

    Brag Bowling, a former senior official in the SCV and the media’s go-to guy for quotes reflecting the Southron perspective, recently published a piece in the NYT’s Disunion group blog about Fort Sumter. It was largely a rehash of cliched Lost Cause talking points on the subject, and when he started getting called out on them in the comments, he put the word out to his comrades on Facebook — twice — to log on and make comments in support of his piece.

    It’s not about history; it’s about winning the news cycle.

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