Browsing "Lost Cultures"

Lee Instructs His Children

What Robert E. Lee advises against below has its modern counterpart in movies, television dramas and other fictitious ramblings of a writer’s active mind. Today’s soap opera in many languages feature those usually wealthy and with no visible means of support, forever seeking love and in perpetual personal crisis. Lee warned his children against sigh[ing] after that which has no reality.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lee Instructs His Children

“This was the Victorian age, when a young woman was supposed to be reading something spiritually-uplifting or domestically self-improving. In fact, most educated young women with some time on their hands were likely to be doing just what Mildred [Lee] was, although in her case she was risking her father’s strong disapproval.

Six years before, when she was thirteen, her father had written her from the stark Texas plains: “Read history and works of truth — not novels and romances. It was not a new thought with him; worrying about Rooney, he had, years before that, written Mary: “Let him never touch a novel. They print beauty more charming than nature, and describe happiness that never exists. They will teach him to sigh after that which has no reality, to despise the little good that is granted us in the world and to expect more than is given.”

(Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood, Houghton Mifflin, 1981, page 72)

 

 

Will the South Survive?

Southern States seem to be outbidding each other on how many tax dollars can be given away to big business or Hollywood and calling the extortion “economic incentives” —  thinking that somehow it is the duty and obligation of government to create employment for all. The current onslaught against the South has brought the social equality-greeting “you guys,” dinner is now called “lunch,” and supper is referred to as “dinner.” The book below can be ordered from www.dogwoodmudhole.com.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

 Will the South Survive?

“The Tullahoma local newspaper reported that the town was trying to pass liquor by the drink laws to woo “up-scale” restaurants to locate themselves at the interstate interchanges. Such new South boosterism has made heavy inroads into local culture.

New South boosterism began in the nineteenth century with Henry Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. Boosters and their legislation promised that all the South needed was to give up everything that makes us the south and become just like the North, and we would all be happy and wealthy (nobody mentions boring).

A Chamber of Commerce might conclude that we need to entice more national chains to establish prosperity, but chains and industry move elsewhere, leaving behind unemployment, a victim mentality, and no lasting prosperity. I call this kind of approach, “homo economicus” anthropology. It reduces everything – and every man – to a question of money.

One hundred and twenty years later, the promised still haven’t been fulfilled. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or puke, but I am pretty sure that passing liquor-by-the-drink laws will not bring economic nirvana to Tullahoma. When you make a bargain to sell your soul, first make sure that the devil can pay.

Will boosterism finally gobble up the South? On the surface, the homogenization of culture that come with the local economy relying on big business and chain stores means we are steadily being de-Southernized. The whole effect is to homogenize and standardize the landscape. That seems to be proceeding fast, while the people themselves seem unchanged. What’s happening to the roots of Southern culture is anybody’s guess. On the outside the country here is peaceful, pleasant, friendly, independent and helpful, but at the same time there’s that welfare mentality, some very fat people, and loads of government economic intervention.

The courthouses at the heart of each county tell this story of the South eloquently. Giles County 1910 courthouse retains the integrity of the South’s past. In Lawrenceburg sits a hideous 1960s “Modern” courthouse. In Waynesboro looms a 1970s tenement-style concrete slab. In Winchester squats a blocky 1936 “American fascist” look that would gladden the heart of any fascist or Soviet architect.

Gone are the stately courthouses, the statues of soldiers holding muskets and facing north, symbols of the community’s continuity and long life, and with them fast disappears our local history.

Nevertheless, many of these counties have attracted back-to-the-land, simple-life people, and their roots are permanent so they will recreate permanent prosperity. The land is rich, the people true, the leadership clueless. I could move elsewhere, but Tennessee is my home. Our family could do a lot worse than finding itself at home here.

Perhaps the fate of the Magic Road says it all. The State is turning Highway Sixty-four into a four-lane, bypassing exquisite little villages like McBurg and big towns alike. I know it’s faster, but God help me, I do love the old road better.”

(At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Vol. 1, Franklin Sanders, Four Rivers, Inc. pp. 37-39)

The Wise But Unschooled Uncle Remus

The antebellum plantation culture informally educated the African workers in European trades and agriculture, customs and traditions; the postwar Southern economy needed people informally schooled in the useful arts of agriculture and mechanics, and little if any use for workers with advanced university degrees and speaking Latin or Greek. Thus Booker T. Washington’s method was far more acceptable and productive than DuBois’ method of political agitation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Wise But Unschooled Uncle Remus

“Southern historians, trapped by the belief that education is a cure-all, have exaggerated the accomplishments of formal schooling. They like to prove that Sir William Berkeley was inaccurate when he said that there were no free schools in seventeenth-century Virginia. They are dazzled that today we have “a triumphant “progressive” education which progresses even faster than the North.” They gloss over the defects of our much-praised educational system.

The historians would be wise to admit the defects of Southern education as measured by the proclaimed goals of American public schools; indeed they might be skeptical of these goals. They might admit that Berkeley was not a complete fool when he inveighed against schools and presses.

In New England the Prussian-type school was loaded with antislavery sentiments and with notions of social reform repulsive to a region of Christians not dominated by hopes of earthly perfection. The leveling tendencies of the new schools ran counter to the Old South’s conception of hierarchy. Their content was more suited for those who need guidance in town life than for a people whose chief task was to subdue a wilderness and to establish farms.

Someone should tell that the South’s resistance to formal schooling did not grow out of laziness or stupidity. Their resistance was vital part of the region’s attempt to survive as a social and cultural entity. The South unconsciously fought against the idea that the school be allowed to iron out provincial differences in order to make the Southern States into undifferentiated units of the republic.

Southerners have preserved their folkways and ancestral superstitions. Thereby they have avoided the fate of the people of Hawaii, a people who have deliberately escaped their ancestral heritage in order to become Americanized through the public schools. Such a people lack creative originality.

Our chroniclers of the past should quit being ashamed of the cloud of illiteracy which once hung over their province. They should wake up to the fact that Uncle Remus was among the wisest Southerners. They have stressed to such a degree the benefits of the schools that they have neglected the triumphs of informal training outside the school.

This informal education was good because it was useful. Our colonial and frontier ancestors put the art of subduing the wilderness first; they learned to use the ax and the rifle extremely well. With some justice they regarded formal education as an adornment of the upper classes.

The dark spot on Southern civilization of denying formal education to the slaves can be wiped out by an understanding of what was accomplished in the so-called school of the plantation in which the barbarian captive of Africa was Anglicized. This was a type of training more effective than anything the South had experienced since.

The slave was so well inoculated with Anglo-American culture that almost all elements of his African background disappeared. The Negro imbibed the rich heritage of European folklore and became so skilled in English handicrafts and in the intricate practices of plantation agriculture that he was perhaps better educated in the industrial arts than those Negroes who had lived since the time of Booker T. Washington.

(Tolerating the South’s Past, Francis Butler Simkins, Address in Columbia, South Carolina, November 12, 1954, The Pursuit of Southern History, George Tindal, editor, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 319-320)

How Sundays Were Kept

The passage below describes how Sunday was kept in Wilmington, North Carolina about a century ago, when religious faith commanded better attention than today. The painting that captivated Emma at the end was of the burial of Captain William Latane, the only casualty of Stuart’s ride around McClellan’s army in the Spring of 1862. His body was seized by the enemy, who refused to allow a clergyman to pass through their lines to officiate at the burial. The lady holding the Bible described below was Mrs. Willoughby Newton, who read the funeral service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

How Sundays Were Kept

“Preparations for Sunday started on Saturday in our house; the kitchen was a-hustle with the making of cake, bread, puddings and pies. My Mother did not believe in making her servant cook anything on Sunday that could be prepared the day before. We children were made to study our Sunday School lessons and the catechism and to take a more thorough and inspected hot bath than on other days.

In our home we generally got up on Sundays an hour later than week days. We were always eager for our breakfast as we knew we would have salt mackerel and hominy. The mackerel had been soaked overnight and when cooked was served with cut up hard boiled eggs and butter poured on top.

And that was real butter — no substitute — we did not know there was such a commodity. The hominy had been cooked and stirred for an hour. There were biscuits and coffee and cambric tea for the children. And in season we had canteloupes and oranges—fruit juices were unknown.

After a leisurely meal the family dispersed until Church time, some to read the papers. We smaller children generally followed Mama to look at her garden, for my mother always had flowers in bloom, regardless of season, and Sunday morning was always the time to show them off and talk about them.

If there was time before church we would run next door to speak to Grandpa Worth, but only for a minute because we had to be at Church on time and we walked . . . as there were few pavements we had to pick the best side to walk on, for we had our Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes to keep clean.

After Sunday dinner the older members of the family had their naps and woe to any of us that played the piano or gramophone during those hours. Then we had to get ready for Sunday School at four o’clock.

By the time we reached home it was almost 5:00 p.m. But as we sat listening to our elders talking about things we were not interested in, we had one unfailing source of wonder. We sat facing a picture which has been almost a part of our lives. I have it to this day in a place of honor in my living room — “The Burial of Latane.”

It told us a story of a young Confederate officer’s burial. Weeping young women stood there. There was the grave digger leaning on his spade ready. There was no clergyman to read the service. A dignified woman dressed in black held an open book and was ready to do what she could for service. Two lovely children stood near and the faithful colored servants were in the background. We read much into the picture and have always loved it.”

(A Goodly Heritage, Emma Woodward MacMillan, Wilmington Printing Company, 1961, pp. 9- 14)

Truth, the Chief Good

Henry Lee’s Letter to Son Carter Lee, September 30, 1816

“Important as it is to understand nature in its range and bearing, it is more so to be prepared for usefulness, and to render ourselves pleasing by understanding well the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong, to investigate thoroughly the history of mankind, and to be familiar with those examples which show the loveliness of truth, and demonstrate the reasonableness of our opinions by past events.

Read therefore the best poets, the best orators, and the best historians; as from them you draw principles of moral truth, axioms of prudence and material for conversation. This was the opinion of the great Socrates. He labored in Athens to turn philosophy from the study of nature to the study of life. He justly thought man’s great business was to learn how to do good, and to avoid evil. Be a steady, ardent disciple of Socrates; and regard virtue, whose temple is built upon truth, as the chief good.

[But] virtue and wisdom are not opponents; they are friends and coalesce in a few characters such as [Washington]. A foolish notion often springs up with young men as they enter life, namely, that the opinion of the world is not to be regarded; whereas, it is the true criterion, generally speaking, of all things that terminate in human life. To despise its sentence, if possible, is not just; and if just, is not possible. H. Lee.”

(Life of General Henry Lee, Revolutionary War Memoirs, R.E. Lee, editor, DaCapo, 1998, page 60)

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

In the small plantation communities where African slaves lived and labored it was Southern men like Presbyterian Rev. Charles Colcock Jones who brought them from heathenism to Christianity.  The elder Roswell King mentioned below was a Connecticut native who came South to manage the large antebellum estates of Pierce Butler in Glynn County, Georgia. The son, also named Roswell King, later moved to northern Georgia to establish cotton and woolen mills and the town of Roswell, Georgia still bears his name.  It was Northerner Eli Whitney who made large scale cotton production profitable — which supplied slave-produced material to hungry New England mills.  Manhattan bankers provided easy credit to enable land acquisition for more cotton production.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

“My experience with these people [African slaves] was very large, having been for long years the contract physician on the river plantations where religious opportunities were very limited. In many cases, the Negro preacher or watchman (as they were called) was the only teacher and leader they had. Though on a few of the larger estates, salaried chaplains were employed.

I recollect many years ago being engaged in correspondence on the subject. The Reverend Jones spent many years of his useful life, and liberally of his private resources, in endeavoring to do good to these ignorant and dependent people by religious teaching and preaching.

To reassure him in the self-sacrifice of time and means, he addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Roswell King of Butler’s Island, where there were nearly a thousand slaves, [asking] whether those professing religion were more orderly and faithful than the others.

I commended the pious work in which he was engaged, but it being often at night and involving a long ride, and his health not being strong, I begged him to assign his labors to some lesser light in the church who was more physically able.

There were wider and more congenial fields waiting for him where his education, talents, eminent piety, and zeal in his Master’s service made him an honored and distinguished name to his life’s end.”

(Dr. Bullie’s Notes, Reminiscences of Early Georgia, James Holmes, Cherokee Publishing Company, 1976, pp. 161-163)

Inheriting Northern Problems

The South after 1865 not only became an economic colony for Northern interests, but also fell prey to the vices associated with the relentless and unbridled pursuit of profit inherent in the Northern culture.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Inheriting Northern Problems

“During the decade of the twenties, the South surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. A growing percentage of owners of Southern mills were absentee Yankees. In 1929 the region’s first serious labor revolts occurred, and Communist agitators were discovered among the rioters in Gastonia, North Carolina. There could no longer be any doubt that industrialization threatened to bring change. Some Southerners questioned the wisdom of continuing to heed the advocates of the “New South.”

If the South proceeded in remaking herself in the image of the North, would she not fall heir to those Northern problems from which she had fancied herself immune? Chief among the literary expressions of reaction was “I’ll Take My Stand,” published in 1930. A defense of agrarianism and individualism, it was the work of twelve Southern writers, most of them associated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During the 1920’s, four of their number (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson) published “The Fugitive,” a significant magazine of poetry and criticism.

Later in the decade with the nation seemingly committed to materialism and the South in ferment, they began their quest for Southern identity. They found the good life in an agrarian society where ideals meant more than money — in the South before 1880 — and they recommended it to a nation which had lost its balance. Like the Fugitives, Ball found the cherished personal virtues — the code of the upcountryman — secure only in the land. But because his arena was political, he saw the happier life also dependent upon conservative government.

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, pp. 151-152)

 

Lincoln's Indian Affairs

William P. Dole was Lincoln’s hand-picked Commissioner of Indian Affairs, appointed to office on March 8, 1861. Dole “had made the necessary bargains that swung the votes of the Pennsylvania and Indiana delegations to Lincoln,” and thus won the new president’s first federal appointment. As Republican party railroad support and homesteading policy was attracting white settlers to the West, many tribal lands and previous Indian treaties got in the way of progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Indian Affairs

“Dole began working closely with [Wisconsin Republican] Senator James R. Doolittle, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, to conclude treaties with all Indian tribes not yet covered by binding agreements. Nearly every treaty contained the Indian Bureau’s careful description of tribal lands, along with an equally careful disclaimer inserted by senators to eliminate any possibility that the treaty might be interpreted as a recognition of Indian title to the land.

When a few Southern tribes joined the Confederacy, Dole began to press for confiscation of their lands in present Oklahoma so that other tribes might be settled on them after the war. This idea had a great deal of appeal, since it seemed to solve the problem of where to put the Indians of Kansas and Nebraska whose land was coveted by white settlers and speculators.

[Episcopal] Bishop Henry B. Whipple had called for an end to whiskey smuggling on the reservation . . . [and] During the fall of 1862. Bishop Whipple visited Lincoln to plead for mercy for the 303 Indian warriors sentenced to death by [General John Pope’s] military court for their part in the Sioux uprising.

Dole interpreted Pope’s [draconian resettlement] proposal to mean that the general wanted to herd all Indians together in one vast reserve where white civilization could not intrude. He . . . wondered just how Pope proposed to bring hostile warriors onto his reservation without involving the nation in a bloody Indian war.

Something very much like Pope’s policy was being tried in New Mexico with disastrous results. During 1862 and 1863, the army moved several thousand Navajos and Mescalero Apaches onto a reservation . . . both groups rebelled at the harsh surroundings and the strict control imposed by the military. Indians fled from the reservation faster than troops could find them and return them to captivity.

[It was] a military operation that brought Dole’s tenure to an end. Colonel John M. Chivington and his volunteer militiamen massacred a sleeping camp of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, in late November 1864.   An outraged Congress immediately demanded the removal of the army officers, Indian agents and politicians who were in any way involved in the events leading up to the episode.

Lincoln tried to save the career of old his friend from Illinois, but a few weeks after Lincoln’s assassination President Andrew Johnson removed Dole without much ceremony.”

(The Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 1824-1977, Kvasnicka & Viola, editors, University of Nebraska Press, 1979, pp. 91-95)

 

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

The Union of 1787 was simply the second experiment in self-government embarked upon by the founding generation, men who who feared the pitfalls of democracy and believed votes should only be cast by property-holders. The Articles of Confederation ably restrained the federal agent from mischief; the Union of 1787 authorized more federal authority though strictly enumerated. The third experiment in self-government and a more perfect union was the Confederate Constitution of 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

“If the plan now proposed should be adopted, nothing less than ruin to some Colonies will be the consequence of it. The idea of destroying all Provincial Distinctions and making everything of the most minute kind bend to what they call the good of the whole, is in other terms to say that these Colonies must be subject to the Government of the Eastern Provinces . . . I am resolved to vest the Congress with no more Power than that is absolutely necessary, and, to use a familiar expression to keep the Staff in our own Hands; for I am confident if surrendered into the Hands of others a most pernicious use will be made of it.”     Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, letter to John Jay, June 29, 1776

Here then at the very outset is sounded the key-note of what for a hundred and sixty years — has been the immutable political philosophy of the South. It is not of course to be assumed that Southern Statesmen alone in those early days of our national upbringing took their stand firmly against any and every encroachment of the central power upon the God-given rights of the States.

What had stirred these grave fears in the breast of Edward Rutledge was an exceptional rather than prevailing sentiment. Now and then, it is true, some speaker, chiefly in the North, less frequently of the South, would permit himself to be torn loose from his customary anchorage and let fall sentiments that seemed to point toward a shriveling of State and a fattening of central power; but Northern as well as Southern statesmen, then and long afterward were wont to cling to the doctrine of State sovereignty and independence as tenaciously as grim death in the fable clung to the deceased African.

As we listen to the chatter, the bickering, the declamation behind the Congressional curtain . . . one note rises above the din: every State, whether North or South, would beware the pitfalls and the snares that might light lurk in the path of a centralized government. They would approach such a government with extreme caution. The good of the whole was a noble sentiment — and there were no lips from which it did not fall — but would that whole be merely the sum of all its parts — or something more? It were well to make sure.

[In the Winter and Spring of 1777, Thomas Burke of North Carolina] sought to draw Congress back to solid ground [on the proposed Confederation] and to first principles. Burke made several speeches in the course of these discussions . . . and much of what he said and wrote is good gospel for the cause of State’s rights even to this day.

In a letter to Governor Caswell . . . Burke wrote: “The more experience I acquire, the stronger is my Conviction, that unlimited Power can not be safely Trusted to any man or set of men on Earth”; and he went on to speak at some length of “the Delusive Intoxication which Power naturally imposes on the human Mind . . . [and noted that] the same persons who on one day endeavor to carry through some Resolutions, whose Tendency is to increase the Power of Congress, are often on another day very strenuous advocates to restrain it.”

In conclusion he declares, “Power will sometime or another be abused unless men are well watched, and checked by something which they cannot remove when they please.”

“[In Burke’s summary of the Confederation debate in April 1777 we] have agreed to three articles,” he wrote, “one containing the name; the second a declaration of the sovereignty of the States, and an express provision that they be considered as retaining every power not expressly delegated; and the third an agreement mutually to assist each other against every enemy.”

(Southern Statesmen and the Confederation, Edmund Cody Burnett, NC Historical Review, October 1937, excerpts, pp. 349-354)

 

How Sunday's Were Kept

The passage below describes how Sunday was kept in Wilmington, North Carolina about a century ago, when religious faith commanded better attention than today. The painting that captivated Emma (below) was of the burial of Captain William Latane, the only casualty of Stuart’s ride around McClellan’s army in the Spring of 1862. His body was seized by the enemy, who refused to allow a clergyman to pass through their lines to officiate at the burial. The lady holding the Bible described below was Mrs. Willoughby Newton, who read the funeral service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

How Sundays Were Kept

“Preparations for Sunday started on Saturday in our house; the kitchen was a-hustle with the making of cake, bread, puddings and pies. My Mother did not believe in making her servant cook anything on Sunday that could be prepared the day before. We children were made to study our Sunday School lessons and the catechism and to take a more thorough and inspected hot bath than on other days.

In our home we generally got up on Sundays an hour later than week days. We were always eager for our breakfast as we knew we would have salt mackerel and hominy. The mackerel had been soaked overnight and when cooked was served with cut up hard boiled eggs and butter poured on top.

And that was real butter — no substitute — we did not know there was such a commodity. The hominy had been cooked and stirred for an hour. There were biscuits and coffee and cambric tea for the children. And in season we had canteloupes and oranges—fruit juices were unknown.

After a leisurely meal the family dispersed until Church time, some to read the papers. We smaller children generally followed Mama to look at her garden, for my mother always had flowers in bloom, regardless of season, and Sunday morning was always the time to show them off and talk about them.

If there was time before church we would run next door to speak to Grandpa Worth, but only for a minute because we had to be at Church on time and we walked . . . as there were few pavements we had to pick the best side to walk on, for we had our Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes to keep clean.

After Sunday dinner the older members of the family had their naps and woe to any of us that played the piano or gramophone during those hours. Then we had to get ready for Sunday School at four o’clock.

By the time we reached home it was almost 5:00 p.m. But as we sat listening to our elders talking about things we were not interested in, we had one unfailing source of wonder. We sat facing a picture which has been almost a part of our lives. I have it to this day in a place of honor in my living room — “The Burial of Latane.”

It told us a story of a young Confederate officer’s burial. Weeping young women stood there. There was the grave digger leaning on his spade ready. There was no clergyman to read the service. A dignified woman dressed in black held an open book and was ready to do what she could for service. Two lovely children stood near and the faithful colored servants were in the background. We read much into the picture and have always loved it.”

(A Goodly Heritage, Emma Woodward MacMillan, Wilmington Printing Company, 1961, pp. 9- 14)

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