Browsing "Historians on History"

Americans Face Total War

The manner of conducting civilized war changed with the French Revolution of 1789, which introduced mass conscription and the mobilization of entire societies to the fighting. Armies formerly of several thousand gave way to armies of hundreds of thousands, and unimaginable carnage.

Added to this were technological advancements in weaponry which only increased the carnage; in the case of the American Civil War, the great advantage of war material production inherent in the industrial North, a navy with which to blockade the South, and the impressment of immigrants and black freedmen into the mercenary ranks gave the South little chance for independence.

By the last year of the American Civil War, the North had 2 million under arms against the dwindling Southern ranks. Southern units were assailed by infantry and cavalry armed with Henry repeating rifles, and Gatling guns were making their appearance on the battlefield by 1864.

Additionally, Sherman’s infamous march through poorly-defended Georgia and the Carolinas, destruction of the South’s agricultural strength, and his waging of war against defenseless civilians brought an inhuman total war to Americans in the South.

Total War

“Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant.” They make a desert and call it peace.” (A Briton of the first century A.D., speaking of the Romans, as quoted by Tacitus, Agricola, 30 (A.D. 98)

“Diplomacy without armaments is like music without instruments.” (Frederick the Great of Prussia, 1712-1786)

“I have heard it said that peace brings riches; riches bring pride; pride brings anger; anger brings war; war brings poverty; poverty brings humanity; humanity brings peace; peace, as I have said, brings riches, and so the world’s affairs go round.” (Italian historian Luigi da Porto, 1509)

“To wage war, you need first of all money; second, you need money; and third, you also need money.” (Prince Montecuccolli of the Hapsburg court (1609-1680).

“The crowd is unable to digest scientific facts, which it scorns and misuses to its own detriment and that of the wise. Let not pearls, then, be thrown to swine.” (Roger Bacon (1214-1292), explaining why he hid his formula for gunpowder in a cryptogram)

“Wars are not paid for in wartime, the bill comes later.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“I don’t want to set fire to any town, and I don’t know any other use of rockets.” (The Duke of Wellington, following the burning of Copenhagen by 25,000 British rockets in 1806.)

“I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.” (General Sherman to his wife, Ellen, in a letter dated June 30, 1864) “If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.” (General Sherman to General Halleck, September 4, 1864, justifying his scorched-earth policy)

“The main thing in true strategy is simply this: first deal as hard blows at the enemy’s soldiers as possible, and then cause so much suffering to the inhabitants of a country that they will long for peace and press their Government to make it. Nothing should be left to the people but eyes to lament the war.” (General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888)

“It is useless to delude ourselves. All the restrictions, all the international agreements made during peacetime are fated to be swept away like dried leaves on the winds of war.” (Italian theorist of air power and strategic bombing, Gen. Giulio Douhet, 1928)

“Sixty percent of the bombs dropped are not accounted for, less than one percent have hit the aiming point and about three percent [land] within 500 feet.” (Letter from then-Colonel Curtis LeMay to an old friend, January 12, 1943, describing difficulties bombing German targets accurately.)

“We should never allow the history of this war to convict us of throwing the strategic bomber at the man in the street.” (Gen. Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Eighth Air Force in Britain during WW2, in a letter of January 1, 1945.)

[Captain Robert] Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, silently wrote in his log of the mission, “My God, what have we done?”

“Hundreds of injured people who were trying to escape to the hills passed our house. The sight of them was almost unbearable. Their faces and hands were burnt and swollen; and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hang down like rags on a scarecrow. They moved like ants.” (Dr. Tabuchi, reporting on what happened to him in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945).

“Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.” (Scientist Robert Oppenheimer to Truman in 1946.)

(Total War: What it is, How it Got That Way, Thomas Powers and Ruthven Tremain, William Morrow & Company, 1988, excepts)

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

The author below views “Northern History” as a highly fertile and under-explored frontier for historians. The early concerns of Republican politicians regarding Northern support for their war is underscored by Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois, advised by a constituent in June 1862: “The minds of our friends are filled with forebodings and gloomy apprehensions . . . all confidence is lost in the Administration, and a disaster to our Armies now at Vicksburg, in Tennessee, or on the Potomac, will disintegrate this whole Country . . . if we cannot speedily secure victories by our [Northern] arms, peace must be made to secure us anything!”

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

“[Steven] Spielberg’s cinema offering [Lincoln] is balanced by the good news that Ron Maxwell, creator of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, will soon release a film called Copperhead with a screenplay by sometime Chronicles contributor Bill Kauffman.

It is based on Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel The Copperhead, about a New York State family persecuted for its opposition to Lincoln’s war. Such opposition was far more reasoned and prevalent than has ever been admitted. And rampaging Republican mobs punishing dissent in parts of the North were common. Indeed, Northern opposition to the war and its suppression is the biggest untold story in U.S. history.

Ron Maxwell’s films are stupendous achievements unmatched by anything in American cinema in the last half century. But even if he falls for a little of the Treasury of Virtue. In Gods and Generals a Virginia family has a slave pretend to be the owner of their house on the idea that Union soldiers will not ransack and burn the property of black people.

Anyone who has studied the actual behavior of Union soldiers in that war knows that a black person’s property would be more likely, not less likely, to be stolen or destroyed, because in that case the victims were less able to complain or retaliate and less likely to evoke the sympathy of Northern soldiers.

In fact, some Northern soldiers pretended or had been told that black people, even free, could not own property, and thus their possessions were really those of white Southerners and therefore fair game. Instances of such oppression are countless.

Advance reports on Copperhead bill it as a story about opposition in wartime. I hope the film does not miss that the story is about opposition to the war in particular, and why.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 46-47; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Hollywood’s Fake History

The battle of Jenkins Ferry near Little Rock, Arkansas in late April, 1864, is pronounced a victory for Northern forces by Wikipedia despite Gen. Kirby Smith holding the field of battle afterward and preventing the juncture of two enemy armies. The infamous Red River campaign of Northern commander Nathaniel Banks, of which Jenkins Ferry was part, was as noted below, a cotton-stealing campaign, as officers had their men confiscate cotton bales and send them to New Orleans for their personal enrichment.

Hollywood’s Fake History

“The [Steven Spielberg] film [Lincoln] begins with a false portrayal of the battle of Jenkins Ferry, a victory by outnumbered (as usual) Confederates that put an end to a major Union cotton-stealing campaign. There was no massacre of black troops at Poison Springs, nor any massacre of Confederate prisoners by blacks in retaliation at Jenkins Ferry, as is claimed.

Most Northern soldiers would have slaughtered their black “comrades” before allowing them to slaughter Confederate prisoners. I suppose this invention makes a gratifying vicarious revenge fantasy for the leftist homosexual screenwriter.

The 1st and 2nd Kansas Regiments (Colored) are described inaccurately as cavalry. There were no black cavalry units in active service in the war. Northern soldiers would have balked at blacks riding while they walked.

During the war blacks soldiers were mostly labor and garrison troops, and occasionally, as at Ft. Wagner and the Crater, sacrificed in forlorn hopes of sparing the lives of white Northerners. Ambrose Bierce, a frontline Union soldier for the entire war, said he never saw any black people except the servants and concubines of Union officers.

The film shows Lincoln in friendly conversation with black soldiers who were veterans of Jenkins Ferry, though how they got to Washington from Arkansas is not explained. Such a scene is unlikely. Lincoln throughout his life had relatively little contact with black people. Some were run out of Springfield in Lincoln’s time, and at least one lynching occurred there after the war.

Lincoln did receive a delegation or two at the White House, to whom he hinted that the best thing their people could do was to emigrate to some friendlier clime . . . [and] used the N-word routinely. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was emphatically “the white man’s president.”

Obviously, these filmmakers wanted the film to be all about slavery, requiring a basic perversion of accuracy. But like so much of the treatment of the war, charity for black people actually takes second place to the whitewashing of Northern behavior, to safeguarding what Robert Penn Warren called “the treasury of virtue.”

Southerners and Confederates fared much better in Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century than they do now, although the picture is mixed, and an occasional sympathetic treatment sneaks through. A recent film, The Conspirator, about the execution of Mary Surratt for the Lincoln assassination, was fairly even-handed and accurate. Even so, it could not escape a certain amount of whitewash, almost as much as Tom Sawyer’s fence.

Inevitably, the degree to which Lincoln was beloved by his own side is exaggerated. Lincoln worship was a posthumous thing. And the film implies that Mrs. Surratt would not have been executed if her son had not escaped, thus shifting the blame of her murder from her killers to John Surratt. Think about it: It is suggested that these people were right to execute a mother since they could not lay hands on the son.

Indeed, the film entirely fails to convey the atmosphere of haste and secrecy that surrounded the whole of the proceedings after Lincoln’s assassination. Here again is something that has been broached by an occasional maverick historian but which Americans have never faced.

You would think in a matter so important there would be an exhaustive investigation. Instead, the supposed guilty parties were bound, hooded, gagged, and swiftly executed, and Booth when cornered and badly injured was killed rather than captured.

Why the haste? Cui bono? In fact, [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton’s secret and summary dealings guaranteed that the full truth would never be known.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 45-46 www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

“In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared in pseudo-biblical language that our forefathers had brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and that “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln at Gettysburg committed a quadruple lie that has since become standard American doctrine about the Revolution.

First, what was created in 1776 was not a nation but an alliance. At that time there was not even the Articles of Confederation. Second, he elevated the bit of obiter dicta about equality above the Declaration’s fundamental assertion of the right of societies of men to govern themselves by their own lights, attaching a phony moralistic motive to the invasion and conquest of the South – what [historian Mel] Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.”

Third, Lincoln was not engaged in preserving the Union. The Union was destroyed the moment he had undertaken to overthrow the legitimate governments of 15 States by force. He was establishing the supremacy of the government machinery in Washington, which he controlled, over the many self-governing communities of Americans.

Fourth, he cast the Revolution in a mystical way, as if the forefathers had met on Mount Olympus and decreed liberty. But governments, even of the wisest men, cannot decree liberty. The Americans were fighting to preserve the liberty they already had through their history, which many saw as a benevolent gift of Providence. The American Revolution was reversed, its meaning disallowed, and its lesson repudiated.

Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

Lincoln could launch a war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southerner soldiers and civilians and even more of his own native and immigrant proletariat. The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 17-18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

American Historians Today

American Historians Today

“Our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of its people, it must one day perish.” President James Buchanan, 1860

“A poll of American historians, not long ago, chose James Buchanan as “the worst” American president. But judgements of “best” and worst” in history are not eternal and indisputable truths. They are matters of perspective and values, even of aesthetics. They can change as the deep consequences of historical events continue to unfold and bring forth new understandings.

These historians show their characteristic failure to pursue balance and their subservience to presentism and state worship. They think Buchanan should have ordered a military suppression of the seceded Southern States during the last months of his term of office in 1861.

Not only do they have no sympathy for a desire to avoid civil war, but they totally fail to understand the context. There was only a small army, most of the best officers of which sympathized with the South, and there were eight States that had not seceded but were averse to the action against the Confederacy.

More importantly, there was an immense and powerful and even predominant States’ rights tradition that had its followers in the North as well as in the South. For most Americans, even many who had voted for Lincoln, coercion of the people of a State was unthinkable until it became a fact. These historians prefer Lincoln as our “greatest” president.

He had less than two-fifths of the popular vote, but he had an aggressive rent-seeking and office-seeking coalition behind him, and he did not hesitate to make war, though he had egregiously miscalculated, expecting an easy victory.

That there was much intelligent and respectable opposition to him in the North is perhaps the biggest untold story of American history. Ex-president [Millard] Fillmore said that Lincoln’s election justified secession. Horatio Seymour, the governor of New York, asked pointedly why Lincoln was killing fellow Americans who, indeed, had always been exemplary citizens and patriots ready to defend the North against foreign attack.

A New York editor wanted to know exactly where Lincoln got the right to steal the possessions and burn the houses of Southern noncombatants. On July 4, 1863, while the battle raged at Gettysburg, Buchanan’s predecessor, former President Franklin Pierce, denounced Lincoln’s war in plain words in an extended oration in the capitol at Concord, New Hampshire.

The predominant American historical perspective among American historians today is that imported by communist refugees from Europe in the 1930s. American history is now Ellis Island, the African diaspora and Greater Mexico, and Old America has almost disappeared from attention except as an object of hatred.

For today’s historians, unlike James Buchanan, Southerners are not fellow countrymen and real people, but class enemies who should have been destroyed.”

(Updike’s Grandfather. A Review of “Buchanan Dying: A Play”; Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, January 2014, excerpts pg. 24)

A “Forbidden Journey”

New Hampshire native President Franklin Pierce was well-aware of the increasing sectionalism pushing the South toward secession, and Northern States erecting laws in conflict with federal law. He would not countenance State obstruction of constitutional obligations while they remained within the Union. He also understood, as Lincoln seemed not to, that the comity of the States was the glue binding the Union together. Without this, the Union was at an end and brute force could not save it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A “Forbidden Journey”

“President Pierce’s affinity for the rule OF law in contrast to the rule BY law explains why such scorn has been heaped upon his presidency.

President Lincoln, had he complied with the rule of law and deferred to the U.S. Constitution on the issues of secession, the writ of habeas corpus, the blockade of Southern ports, etc., may have presided over the realignment of the Union, but he also would have placed the rule of law on a constitutional pedestal that would have constrained subsequent presidents from disregarding constitutional constraints in the quest for power.

But Lincoln’s claim to fame is not that he adhered to the rule of law, but that he had the audacity to disregard it.

Lincoln’s unfortunate legacy is that he destroyed American federalism by creating a coercive indissoluble Union. Consequently, the policy prerogatives of imposition, nullification, and secession are now placed beyond the grasp of the States. Nevertheless, the ever-expanding national government’s powers continued to occupy the efforts of the courts in post-bellum America.

A case in point is Justice [George A.] Sutherland’s opinion in Carter v. Carter Coal Company (1936) a case which stemmed from FDR’s expansion of national powers vis-à-vis the States Tenth Amendment police powers. Justice Sutherland articulates the anti-Lincoln premise that “The States were before the Constitution; and consequently, their legislative powers antedated the Constitution.”

To concede otherwise is to begin a “forbidden journey” through which the national government takes over the “powers of the States” and the States “are so despoiled of their powers” that they are reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions of the national domain. It is safe to say that when the Constitution was under consideration, it had been thought that any such danger lurked behind its plain words, it never would have been ratified.”

Justice Sutherland’s logic is just as applicable today, with the qualification that the “forbidden journey” has progressed to where the national government may be so “despoiled of its powers” that it will be reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions” of the international domain.

In conclusion, America is in trouble. With unmanageable public debt . . . and fiscal obligations in excess of one hundred trillion dollars, not to mention the cultural and political state of the Union, Americans continue to pay homage to the villains that laid the tracks to our present sorry state of affairs.”

(President Franklin Pierce and the War for Southern Independence, Marshall DeRosa; Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 38-40)

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of people, and the enslavement of the vanquished. Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible.

Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

America’s Crisis of Nationalism

John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902) was an English historian, politician and writer who was sympathetic toward the American Confederacy as he saw its constituent States defending themselves against an oppressive centralized government under Lincoln. He noted that though the United States had begun as a federated republic of sovereign States, it was fast becoming a centralized democracy operating on simple majority rule – “the tyrannical principle of the French Revolution.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

America’s Crisis of Nationalism

“The French Revolution constitutes a dividing line in history, before which the concept of nationality did not exist. “In the old European system, the rights of nationalities were neither recognized by governments not asserted by the people.” Frontiers were determined by the interests of ruling families. Absolutists cared only for the state and liberals only for the individual. The idea of nationality in Europe was awakened by the partition of Poland.

This event left, for the first time, a nation desiring to be united as a state – a soul wandering in search of a body, as [Lord] Acton put it. The absolutist governments which had divided up Poland – Russia, Prussia, and Austria – were to encounter two hostile forces, the English spirit of liberty and the doctrines of the French Revolution. These two forces supported the nascent idea of nationality, but they did so along different paths.

When the absolutist government of France was overthrown, the people needed a new principle of unity. Without this, the theory of popular will could have broken the country into as many republics as there were communes.

At this point the theory of the sovereignty of the people was used to create an idea of nationality independent of the course of history. France became a Republic One and Indivisible. This signified that no part could speak for whole. The central power simply obeyed the whole. There was a power supreme over the state, distinct from and independent of its members. Hence there developed a concept of nationality free from all influence of history.

The revolution of 1848, though unsuccessful, promoted the idea of nationality in two ways.

[Lord] Acton brought [the theory of nationality versus the right of nationality] to bear upon the American crisis of 1861. He . . . took the story of the American sectional conflict and [placed] it in the wider frame of the French revolutionary nationalism and the ensuing movements toward unification.

For Acton therefore the great debate over the nature of the American union and the Civil War was not a unique event, but part of that political spasm . . . which was then affecting Europe and erupting in military struggles.

Acton addressed himself to the problem in a long essay on “The Political Causes of the American Revolution” [in May 1861] . . . By “American Revolution” Acton meant the Civil War, then on the verge of breaking out. His essay was a causal exposition of the forces which had made this a crisis of nationalism.

His approval of [John C.] Calhoun centers really on one point: Calhoun had seen that the real essence of a constitution lies in its negative aspect, not in its positive one. It is more important for a constitution in a democracy to prohibit than to provide.

The will of the majority would always be reaching out for more power, unless this could be checked by some organic law, the end of liberty would come when the federal authority became the institute of the popular will instead of its barrier.”

(Lord Acton: The Historian as Thinker; In Defense of Tradition, Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929-1963, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts pp. 624-628)

 

 

The Importance of a Good Death

Southern historian Shelby Foote explained that “the best historical reading is the source material . . . written by people who saw it.” And he recognized that the people who made up the Confederacy, especially the yeoman farmers, were fiercely independent. “He was not only convinced that he was as good as you were, but if you questioned it, he would shoot you off your horse.” Men like these made for a fearless army few wanted to contend with.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Importance of a Good Death

“You don’t want to overlook something that the [South] did have and that was tremendous courage. I’ve studied and studied hard the charge at Gettysburg, the charge at Franklin, the charge at Gaines Mill, or the Northern charge at Fredericksburg, wave after wave, and I do not know of any force on God’s earth that would have got me in any one of those charges.

It absolutely called for you to go out there and face certain death, practically. Now, I will do any kind of thing like that under the influence of elation and the adrenalin popping; it’s just inconceivable to us nowadays that men would try tactics that were fifty years behind the weapons.

They thought that to mass your fire, you had to mass your men, so they suffered casualties. Some battles ran as high as 30 percent. Now that’s just unbelievable, because 4 or 5 percent is very heavy casualties nowadays. You go into a battle and suffer 30 percent . . . at Pickett’s charge, they suffered 60 percent and it’s inconceivable to us . . . the stupidity of it, again.

Originally, the South had a big advantage. They were used to the castes of society and did not take it as an affront that a man had certain privileges. They didn’t think it made him any better than they were. But those privileges came his way, and they were perfectly willing for him to have them as long he didn’t think he was any better than they were.

But the Northern soldiers, they weren’t putting up with any privileges. A Massachusetts outfit spent its first night in the field and damn near had a revolution because the officers wanted to put their bedrolls out of the line. Well, the Southerners never had that problem. It seemed to them sensible that the officers should be over here, and the men there.

Of course, 99.9 percent of that war was fought by home folks. The fighting men were of very high quality, too. You see, those units were together for four years, many of them, and they became superb fighting machines.

You take an outfit like the Twenty-third Virginia: after four years and large numbers of casualties great battles, it becomes a very skillful military instrument. They never went home. Very few furloughs were given – some during the winter months to a few people.

The Civil War was an interesting time. It was very important to make what was called a “good death.” When you are dying, the doctor says you are dying, he [says] you will die about 9 o’clock tonight. You assemble your family around you and sing hymns, and you are brave and stalwart and tell the little woman that she has been good to you and not to cry. And you tell your children to be good and mind their mother. Daddy’s fixing to go away.

That was called a good death, and it was important. It was of tremendous importance.”

(Conversations with Shelby Foote, William C. Carter, editor, University Press of Mississippi, 1989, excerpts pp. 29-31)

Wilful Ignorance and Contempt for History

The last people to raise a furor over the American South’s evil slaveholding past would be New Englanders, who after the British, were most responsible for populating North America with African slaves. For example, the Puritans enslaved the Pequot Indians; General Nathaniel Greene was a Rhode Islander, a colony which had wrested prominence in the transatlantic slave trade from England by 1750; cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney was a Massachusetts man. Had the latter not perfected his machine, cotton production would have remained a time-consuming enterprise and the New Englander mills would not have perpetuated African slavery in the United States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Willful Ignorance and Contempt for History

“You may have missed the teapot tempest of PC hysteria that inaugurated the campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. The nine announced candidates gather today (May 3) in Columbia, South Carolina, to unveil their charms in a public forum. The show was scheduled to take place at the Longstreet Theater on the campus of the University of South Carolina.

Then someone discovered that the building is named for Rev. Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, one time president of the University’s predecessor institution, South Carolina College. And, Horrors! Mr. Longstreet in the period before the War for Southern Independence defended slavery and advocated secession! Of course, the august aspirants for World Emperor could not be expected to meet on such unhallowed ground, so the gathering was shifted to another building . . .

Let’s set aside that the Longstreet Theater has been the scene previously of numerous public occasions in which at least two Presidents of the United States, the current Pope, and numerous other world dignitaries have appeared. No one ever complained about the name before.

What strikes most is the astounding ignorance of, and contempt for American history that the political leaders and the press exhibit on this and similar occasions. They act as if some dark and terrible secret had been discovered.

But it gets funnier. The carnival has been moved to the theater in a nearby campus building, Drayton Hall. I do not know which member of the Drayton family Drayton Hall is named. I do know the Draytons, who produced prominent leaders from the Revolution to the Southern War, including a Confederate general, were for generations among the largest slaveholders of South Carolina.

Drayton Hall is bordered by College Street, Main Street, Greene Street, and Sumter Street. Greene Street is named for General Nathaniel Greene of the American Revolution, who was awarded a large Georgia plantation for his services (the plantation on which, by the way, Eli Whitney perfected the cotton gin.

Sumter is named for General Thomas Sumter, one of the heroic South Carolina partisan leaders of the Revolution. He was also a large slaveholder and as an old man in the late 1820s advocated the secession of South Carolina from the Union.

In fact, it is not easy to find a building built on the campus before the 20th century, or a street in the central area of the capital city of South Carolina that is not named for a slaveholder or secessionist!”

(Defending Dixie, Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 321-322)

 

Pages:«1234567»