08 July 2015 by Published in: Neo-Confederate hooey 3 comments

imrsHere is some fascinating food for thought on how the Confederacy is remembered today, and why pernicious myths about it spun by Lost Causers greatly impact the way we remember it today. I think that the analysis set forth in this article is right on the money. It appeared in the July 1, 2015 edition of The Washington Post.

Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong. False history marginalizes African Americans and makes us all dumber.
By James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is the author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.”

History is the polemics of the victor, William F. Buckley once said. Not so in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War. As soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done and why. The resulting mythology took hold of the nation a generation later and persists — which is why a presidential candidate can suggest, as Michele Bachmann did in 2011, that slavery was somehow pro-family and why the public, per the Pew Research Center, believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.

The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about. We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation they spread, which has manifested in our public monuments and our history books.

Take Kentucky, where the legislature voted not to secede. Early in the war, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm, as we imagined and hoped, but hostility.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones.

Neo-Confederates also won parts of Maryland. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) put a soldier on a pedestal at the Rockville courthouse. Maryland, which did not secede, sent 24,000 men to the Confederate armed forces, but it also sent 63,000 to the U.S. Army and Navy. Still, the UDC’s monument tells visitors to take the other side: “To our heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland: That we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”

In fact, the thin gray line came through Montgomery and adjoining Frederick counties at least three times, en route to Antietam, Gettysburg and Washington. Robert E. Lee’s army expected to find recruits and help with food, clothing and information. It didn’t. Instead, Maryland residents greeted Union soldiers as liberators when they came through on the way to Antietam. Recognizing the residents of Frederick as hostile, Confederate cavalry leader Jubal Early ransomed $200,000 from them lest he burn their town, a sum equal to about $3 million today. But Frederick now boasts a Confederate memorial, and the manager of the town’s cemetery — filled with Union and Confederate dead — told me, “Very little is done on the Union side” around Memorial Day. “It’s mostly Confederate.”

Neo-Confederates didn’t just win the battle of public monuments. They managed to rename the war, calling it the War Between the States, a locution born after the conflict that was among the primary ways to refer to the war in the middle of the 20th century, after which it began to fade. Even “Jeopardy!” has used this language.

Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded over states’ rights. Yet when each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights. In its “Declaration of the Causes Which Impel the State of Texas to Secede From the Federal Union,” for example, the secession convention of Texas listed the states that had offended the delegates: “Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.” Governments there had exercised states’ rights by passing laws that interfered with the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Some no longer let slave owners “transit” across their territory with slaves. “States’ rights” were what Texas was seceding against. Texas also made clear what it was seceding for — white supremacy:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Despite such statements, neo-Confederates erected monuments that flatly lied about the Confederate cause. For example, South Carolina’s monument at Gettysburg, dedicated in 1963, claims to explain why the state seceded: “Abiding faith in the sacredness of states rights provided their creed here.” This tells us nothing about 1863, when abiding opposition to states’ rights provided the Palmetto State’s creed. In 1963, however, its leaders did support states’ rights; politicians tried desperately that decade to keep the federal government from enforcing school desegregation and civil rights.

So thoroughly did this mythology take hold that our textbooks still stand history on its head and say secession was for, rather than against, states’ rights. Publishers mystify secession because they don’t want to offend Southern school districts and thereby lose sales. Consider this passage from “The American Journey,” probably the largest textbook ever foisted on middle school students and perhaps the best-selling U.S. history textbook:

The South Secedes

Lincoln and the Republicans had promised not to disturb slavery where it already existed. Nevertheless, many people in the South mistrusted the party, fearing that the Republican government would not protect Southern rights and liberties. On December 20, 1860, the South’s long-standing threat to leave the Union became a reality when South Carolina held a special convention and voted to secede.

The section reads as if slavery was not the reason for secession. Instead, the rationale is completely vague: White Southerners feared for their “rights and liberties.” On the next page, the authors are more precise: White Southerners claimed that since “the national government” had been derelict ” — by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying the Southern states equal rights in the territories — the states were justified in leaving the Union.”

“Journey” offers no evidence to support this claim. It cannot. No Southern state made any such charge against the federal government in any secession document I have ever seen. Abraham Lincoln’s predecessors, James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, were part of the pro-Southern wing of the Democratic Party. For 10 years, the federal government had vigorously enforced the Fugitive Slave Act. Buchanan supported pro-slavery forces in Kansas even after his own minion, territorial governor and former Mississippi slave owner Robert Walker, ruled that they had won an election only by fraud. The seven states that seceded before Lincoln took office had no quarrel with “the national government.”

Teaching or implying that the Confederate states seceded for states’ rights is not accurate history. It is white, Confederate-apologist history. “Journey,” like other U.S. textbooks, needs to be de-Confederatized. So does the history test we give to immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens. Item No. 74 asks them to “name one problem that led to the Civil War.” It then gives three acceptable answers: slavery, economic reasons and states’ rights. (No other question on this 100-item test has more than one right answer.) If by “economic reasons” it means issues with tariffs and taxes, which most people infer, then two of its three “correct answers” are wrong.

The legacy of this thinking pervades Washington, too. The dean of the Washington National Cathedral has noted that some of its stained-glass windows memorialize Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. There’s a statue of Albert Pike, Confederate general and reputed leader of the Arkansas Ku Klux Klan, in Judiciary Square.

The Army runs Fort A.P. Hill, named for a Confederate general whose men killed African American soldiers after they surrendered; Fort Bragg, named for a general who was not only Confederate but also incompetent; and Fort Benning, named for a general who, after he helped get his home state of Georgia to secede, made the following argument to the Virginia legislature:

What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction .?.?. that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. .?.?. If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. .?.?. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. .?.?. The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile Earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy.

With our monuments lying about secession, our textbooks obfuscating what the Confederacy was about and our Army honoring Southern generals, no wonder so many Americans supported the Confederacy until recently. We can see the impact of Confederate symbols and thinking on Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine in a Charleston, S.C., church, but other examples abound. In his mugshot, Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, wore a neo-Confederate T-shirt showing Abraham Lincoln and the words “Sic semper tyrannis.” When white students in Appleton, Wis. — a recovering “sundown town” that for decades had been all white on purpose — had issues with Mexican American students in 1999, they responded by wearing and waving Confederate flags, which they already had at home, at the ready.

Across the country, removing slavery from its central role in prompting the Civil War marginalizes African Americans and makes us all stupid. De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.

While they may have lost the war, it seems rather clear that the Lost Causers won its aftermath decisively. The resurrection of talk about secession, nullification, and the continued existence of neo-Confederate organizations such as the League of the South amply demonstrate the scary truth of this statement. We need to address these issues, and we need to pursue the object of removing this repulsive spinning of neo-Confederate and Lost Cause ideology from the national dialogue.

Scridb filter


  1. E.F. Barnes
    Sat 29th Aug 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Slavery, one man buying and selling another has to be the most abomination one human can foist on another. It was forbidden by God in the scriptures and therefore is to be forbidden by all…period.

    We can all agree slavery should have never happened within our country…but it did…and all we can do now is learn our lesson so that we can live our remaining lives…not in vein.
    There are many perspectives about the civil war depending whether one has an agenda to prove or disprove. Then there is truth and it is often hard to dig out because of prejudices, emotion, a desire to be right, etc, etc. Truth is often not found in textbooks for the causes of war are often papered over with untruths, hidden by the perpetrators of the powers that be at the time and what their true agenda is for starting a conflict or war. The civil war as many others had a hidden agenda that has never been published in school textbook for these publishers are one and the same as the perpetrators of war in many cases . The civil war was not even planned in this country. It was planned in London England by central bankers wanting to get their banks established in America. Having had their charters revoked by our congress they were livid and the London bankers financed the war of 1812 and having lost this attempt to put America back in colonial status, schemed for the next few decades to break up the union (divide and conquer) and place their central banks in the north and south. The north was to go to Engalnd and the south to France. England’s and France’s central banks were owned by the same people so it did not matter who got what as long as these family of bankers got their way. This was the first cause of the civil war and states rights as well as slavery were used to stir up the north and south against one another to get them divided. The truth is often not found in one narrative but in several. I do not believe Lincoln was an advocate of the slave at all from my readings and research. He plainly stated his views before and during the war. He sued for peace with the south and one of the conditions were that the sout as well as the north could keep their slaves. It has been said there were many slaves in the north and when the emancipation proclamation was declared many of the Union troops threw down their weapons and refused to fight for the issue of slavery. We will find many points of view about this most unfortunate war but when we look at it objectively we see the sum parts as the whole with much truth in all views. Regardless of how and why the slaves gained their freedom I say it was a good thing. The many faceted truth is as any faceted as their are people with agendas to prove but truth cannot be altered, only covers up. Lincoln understood the bankers behind him as he quoted that he feared then more than the union. Lincoln understood who was behind the war and how it got started and for what purpose. The bankers accomplished there purpose in 1913 with the formation of the Federal reserve Bank. As wrong as slavery is and should have never been the civil war was first a war instituted by the bankers, second states rights and as sad as it is slavery. As freeing the slaves was the best thing that came out of the civil war it was not the first cause although it should have been. Anyone who will do a little research will find it was a bankers war as pretty much all others and as history is always recorded, another cause is given. We humans are learning a hard lesson in how we should treat our fellow man. I hope and pray we learn sooner than later and see all as we would want all to see ourselves. There is a lot to consider in studying different subject matter as is also given on this blog. We should be guided by our love for our fellow man and not by those who would divide us. When we do not look at the whole picture the people who commit these frauds on us have won for they simply tell one story that should be another. We should search out the truth for ourselves as we respect those who have not yet done so. The truth of light frees us to understand the why so we do not have to repeat our failures. May we learn the first time so we do not continue in our confusion and misery. Believing truth frees no matter the subject. Truth is a tall mountain to be viewed from all sides and while one may be on one side with a beautiful ocean and another in a forest on another side, all views cannot be proven and considered until each has his view revealed to the other. Although all views and perspectives are different they are are elements of the same truth. As with all truth this subject also has many different but conclusive parts of the same truth. Best Regards

  2. E.F. Barnes
    Sat 29th Aug 2015 at 8:09 pm

    And…some people fought against the banks (whether in the north or south) and some for states rights, and some for freeing their enslaved brothers. All were not right or wrong in the views of another as all had their own agenda as to why they were fighting. Even Lincoln as wrong as he was for making the statement that all people could keep their slaves if the union could only be preserved. Russia at the time was having the same problem with the bankers as was the U.S. And Lincoln and the Tzar corresponded about the banks trying to get control in both countries. Many people do not understand Russia has a major role in the outcome of our civil war. That’s another perspective few understand or know. It’s all there to research if one chooses.

  3. E.F. Barnes
    Sat 29th Aug 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Please excuse my typos

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