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Apr 8, 2019 - Carnage, Costs of War, Memorials to the Past, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The Absolute Edge of No Return

The Absolute Edge of No Return

Though referred to as a defeat below, the end of the third day at Gettysburg left 3155 Northern men and 3903 Southern men dead – the latter higher due to massed assaults. On the fourth day, the Northern commander remained behind his entrenchments, made no effort to attack, and ordered only his cavalry out to ascertain his adversary’s movements.

During his foray into Pennsylvania, Lee had drawn Northern troops away from Richmond, sent fear into the North with his invasion, resupplied his troops in a fertile region, and allowed the Shenandoah a peaceful respite.

The Absolute Edge of No Return

“Toward the end of his long life, the Confederate General James Longstreet is supposed to have visited the town of Oxford, Mississippi, where his sister lived and where his uncle, the Judge Longstreet of the “Georgia Scenes,” had once resided. It was after Longstreet’s extended dispute with other former Confederate leaders over the responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg, and so when a small boy came up to the old man and asked him: “General, what happened to you at Gettysburg?” Longstreet almost suffered a stroke then and there. The name of the small boy, the story goes, was William Faulkner.

The episode almost certainly never took place. Longstreet’s biographer places it in 1898, when Faulkner was one year old, and not even William Faulkner would have displayed such precocity as that. It probably happened in Chicago, not Oxford, and if anyone asked such a question of Longstreet, it was Faulkner’s longtime friend, Phil Stone. The anecdote recalls a passage from Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust.” Lawyer Gavin Stevens is talking to his young nephew, Chick Mallison:

“It’s all now you see. Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago. For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that afternoon in July, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out, and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably, and his sword in the other looking up the hill looking for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance . . . And that moment doesn’t even need a fourteen year-old boy to think — This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble . . . This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world’s roaring rim.”

(Regionalism and the Southern Literary Renascence, Louis D. Rubin, Jr.; The South and the Sectional Image: The Sectional Theme Since Reconstruction, Dewey W. Grantham, Jr., editor, Harper & Row, 1967, excerpts pp. 146-147)

Tolerating the Past

Historian Charles P. Roland wrote in the forward to Francis Butler Simkins “The Everlasting South” that “probably the great majority of historians today disagree with Professor Simkins’ logic, but probably the great majority of the common folk, wittingly or unwittingly, agree with the gist of it.” As a historian, Simkins was aware that by the late 1950s and early 1960s, major publishing houses in the US were forcing authors to modify their manuscripts to suit liberal values. Speaking honestly about American history was unwanted.

In a letter to a Northerner offended by his writing, he wrote: “You may not understand that I am attempting to give what actually the ordinary Southerner thinks [and] our press – liberal and reactionary – and our politicians will not give publicly to what is actually happening; they want to be overly tactful so as to attract Northern industry . . .” His students reverently referred to Dr. Simkins as “Doc”– and he warned them that they might be making a mistake in following his example.

Tolerating the Past

“What distinguished Doc from so many of his contemporaries was that he refused to truckle to current historical fads, indeed, to use his phrase, he believed that historians ought to “tolerate the South’s past.”

Simkin’s was unashamed of being a Southerner; he was proud of his origins and ancestry. This alone, he knew, was reason enough for most Yankees and Yankeefied Southerners to object to his views.

“I do not attempt to emphasize here the contributions of the South to the history of the United States,” Doc explained in his Southern history textbook. “I propose instead to stress those political and social traits that make the region between the Potomac and Rio Grande a cultural province conscious of its identity.” To him the changes that occurred over time in the South were not nearly as significant as the presence of cultural continuity in the region.

“The militant nationalism of the Southern people supplemented rather than diminished their provincialism; devotion to State and region went along with devotion to the United States,” Doc observed. “Gloating pride in growing cities and imported industries went along with retention of growing habits. The interest of the youth of the region in rifles, dogs and wildlife, like that of the Virginia gentlemen of the eighteenth century, was often greater than their interest in classroom studies.”

Doc often provoked conventional historians by saying or writing things that they did not want to hear. Invited to become a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, he willingly admitted to the administrators that he was something probably no Canadian university had ever had on its faculty – the grandson of a Confederate field officer. Doc even delighted in revealing the full name and regiment of his ancestor – Lieutenant-Colonel John Calhoun Simkins of the 3rd South Carolina Artillery.

In the Southern Historical Association presidential address, “Tolerating the South’s Past,” he denounced the tendency of modern historians to judge the South and its people by today rather than those of the past.

“Chroniclers of Southern history,” he charged, “often do not grasp the most elementary concept of sound historiography: the ability to appraise the past by standards other than those of the present. They accept a fanatical nationalism which leaves little room for static contentment, and a faith in the American dream of human equality which leaves little room for one person to get ahead of another except in making money.”

(The Legacy of Francis Butler Simkins, Grady McWhiney, Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1995, excerpts pg. 23-24)

Capitalism Instigated by the Devil

The writer below asks the question: “Should the South become a replica of the industrialized North, with all the advantages and disadvantages that go with that way of life? Or does the South have something essential and unique which is worth preserving? Does Birmingham want to be another Pittsburgh, Richmond another Chicago, Raleigh another Newark, or Charleston another Detroit?” Calhoun biographer Margaret Coit pondered “Whether the South of today [1950], in the throes of warborn prosperity, will sacrifice the remaining values of its way of life by accepting the industrial democracy against which Calhoun fought . . .?”

Capitalism Instigated by the Devil

“The not quite immoveable object is, of course, the Southern way of life. It arises more from instinct than philosophy; back of it are the ancient traits and ingrained habits of a people who are notoriously set in their ways.

Suspicion of the Calvinistic-Puritanical-Yankee notion of “work for work’s sake” is one of those traits. A Calhounistic “wise and masterly inactivity” is more to the Southern taste as a general rule. When Southerners read the tributes of Northern poets to work, such as James Russell Lowell’s “and blessed are the horny hands of toil,” they doubt whether either writer had enough callouses on his hands to know what he was talking about.

Such pep talk makes Southerners tired; they have to go somewhere and lie down to digest it. One reason the South loves cotton farming so much is that it gives them about six months of each year to loaf and invite their souls. If the soul refuses the invitation, they just loaf.

The South has had a long and deep-seated suspicion of industrialization. It wants the fruits of industry, but not the tree. This attitude goes back to Thomas Jefferson, if not further. Southerners have always been convinced that the planter is the nobler work of God than the manufacturer, the farmer than the mill hand. While the Southerner may not remember the exact words which Jefferson used in the Notes on Virginia in 1785, the sentiment is bred in his bone:

“Those who labor the earth are the chosen people of God . . . while we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths are wanting in husbandry, but, for the general operation of manufacture, let our workshops remain in Europe . . . The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body.”

In the 1850s Southerners talked about the evils of capitalism with its “wage slaves” as bitterly as if they had been Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, though to be sure it was not the capitalism of the Southern planter, but the capitalism of the Northern manufacturer to which they objected.

This is the South which not only likes the Negro “in his place” but likes every man in his place and thinks there is a certain place providentially provided for him. To this South, industrialism, with its shift from status to contract and its creation of a new-rich, rootless and pushing class of people, is plainly instigated by the devil.”

(Southern Accent: From Uncle Remus to Oak Ridge, William T. Polk, William Morrow and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 243-245)

Robert E. Lee, Emancipator

With the death Mary Custis Lee’s father Washington Custis, the last of George Washington’s family, in October 1857, Robert E. Lee was named executor of his will. It left Lee with the care of three hundred black people to “be fed and clothed and sheltered and kept warm; the sick, aged and infirm looked after.”

In compliance with his father-in-law’s will, Lee freed the 300 black people under his care with manumission papers on December 29, 1862. In stark contrast, it is reported that over time, Harriet Tubman spirited 70 slaves away from their home plantations toward a North hostile toward black people.

Robert E. Lee, Emancipator

“Mr. Custis, my grandfather, had made [my father] executor of his will, wherein it was directed that all the slaves belonging to his estate should be set free after the expiration of so many years. The time had now arrived, and, notwithstanding the exacting duties of his position, the care of his suffering soldiers, and his anxiety about their future, immediate and distant, he proceeded according to the law of the land to carry out the provisions of the will, and had delivered every one of the servants, where it was possible, their manumission papers.

From his letters written at this time I give a few extracts bearing on this subject:

“. . . As regards the liberation of the people, I wish to progress in this as far as I can. Those hired in Richmond can still find employment there if they choose. Those in the country can do the same or remain on the farms. I hope they will all do well and behave themselves. I should like, if I could, attend their wants and see them placed to the best advantage. But that is impossible. All that choose can leave the State before the War closes . . .

“I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and returned to it to him. I perceived that [slaves] John Sawyer and James’s names had been omitted, and inserted them. If all the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled to their freedom and I wish to give it to them.

Those that have been carried away, I hope are free and happy; I cannot get their papers to them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit them . . .”

(Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee: by His Son Captain Robert E. Lee, Garden City Publishing, 1904, excerpts pp. 89-90)

The Education of a Remarkable Statesman

“From 1811 to 1850,” writes Dr. Clyde Wilson, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun served “as representative from that State, secretary of war, vice-president, twice presidential contender, secretary of state, and senator for fifteen years – Calhoun was a central figure in the American experience.

This simply-educated American “had a major if not always decisive influence on every issue of the period – in regard to not only State-federal conflict and slavery . . . but also to free trade and tariff, banking and currency, taxation and expenditures, war and peace, foreign relations, Indian policy, and public lands, internal improvements, the two-party system, and the struggle between congressional and presidential power” – all of which were causations of the fratricidal war he could see on the horizon, but did not live to see.

The Education of a Remarkable Statesman

“Calhoun’s education was wholly remarkable. “There was not an academy within fifty miles,” says one account. “At the age of thirteen he was placed under the charge of his brother-in-law, Moses Waddel, a Presbyterian clergyman in Columbus County, Georgia.”

In fourteen weeks, it is said, he had read Rollins Ancient History, Robertson’s Charles V, and South America, and Voltaire’s Charles XII. Cook’s Voyages (small vol.) Essays by Brown and Locke’s Essay as far as the chapter on Infinity.

“Sawney” [a young African boy], we learn, was his constant companion and playmate in these days. No more is heard of books until five years later, when there seems to have developed a unanimous consensus that this young man should have the benefit of higher education. Thus young Calhoun entered upon the higher education when many are about to leave it. “In [nature’s] school, remarks Calhoun’s most discrimination eulogist, “he learned to think, which is a vast achievement.”

The academy, which had now been established by this same Dr. Waddel, near Calhoun’s home, was selected for the first stage. “The boys boarded at farmhouses in the woods near the academy, furnishing their own supplies. At sunrise, Dr. Waddel was wont to wind his horn . . . At an early hour, the pupils made their appearance at the log cabin schoolhouse.

After prayers, the pupils, each with a chair bearing their name sculpted in the back of it, retired to the woods for study, the classes being divided into squads according to individual preference.

At the same time Calhoun launched for the first time into “amo” and “penna,” a batch of timorous freshmen were tapping at the doors of Yale. In two years’ time, Calhoun joined those freshmen at the junior class, and two years later graduated with them, in 1804. None of the accounts fail to mention that the subject of his graduation essay was “The qualifications necessary to constitute a perfect statesman.” It was an appropriate text for the life that followed.

Eighteen months now at a law school in Connecticut, and eighteen more in lawyers’ offices in Charleston and Abbeville, and seed time is past, the harvest begins. Two years later he was sent to the State Legislature, whence, in turn . . . he was transferred to the House of Representatives in Washington.

Looking back, Calhoun at thirteen starts at books, but is choked off; five years’ hunting, fishing and farming, at eighteen to Waddel’s Academy; at twenty to Yale; twenty-two graduates; twenty-five lawyer; twenty-seven State Legislature; twenty-nine, Congress.”

(Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell Co., 1903, excerpts pp. 14-18)

To Lift the Minds of Those Who Come After Us

The many monuments to Americans across the South represent a lasting tribute to the patriots who fought in 1861 for the very same reasons patriots of 1776 fought: independence, political liberty, and in self-defense. They were symbols of bereavement for those lost in battle, as well as symbols to guide future generations toward emulating their patriotic example.

To Lift the Minds of Those Who Come After Us

“In April 1878, former President Jefferson Davis prepared a letter to be read at the laying of the cornerstone of the Confederate monument at Macon, Georgia: “Should it be asked why, then, build this monument? The answer is, they [the veterans] do not need it, but posterity may. It is not their reward, but our debt . . . Let the monument, rising from earth toward heaven, lift the minds of those who come after us to a higher standard than the common test of success.

Let it teach than man is born for duty, not for expediency; that when an attack in made on the community to which he belongs, by which he is protected, and to which his allegiance is due, his first obligation is to defend that community; and that under such conditions it is better to have “fought and lost than never to have fought at all”. . . Let this monument teach that heroism derives its lustre from the justice of the cause in which it was displayed, and let it mark the difference between a war waged for the robber-like purpose of conquest and one to repel invasions – to defend a people’s hearth’s and altars, and to maintain their laws and liberties . . .”

The next year, an editorial in the Southern Historical Society Papers perpetuated the concept of memorializing the Southern soldier by stating: “But let us see to it that we build them a monument more enduring than marble, “more lasting than bronze,” as we put on record the true story of their heroic deeds, and enshrine them forever in the hearts of generations yet unborn.”

(A Guide to Confederate Monuments in South Carolina: “Passing the Silent Cup,” Robert S. Seigler, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1997, excerpts pg. 14)

A Part of the Southern Family

The fidelity of black people is attested by many reports during the war, such as when Northern soldiers seized plantation hands to help them locate buried valuables. In front of Hopewell Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church in Chester, South Carolina, is a memorial stone to Robert Hemphill, the slave of Robert Hemphill — both were church members. The stone commemorates the fact that Burwell was hung by Northern soldiers who wanted the location of buried valuables on the plantation. They hung him briefly several times before killing him for refusing to answer, and died rather than be unfaithful to those he loved and served.

Part of the Southern Family

“As the tension between the two races who live side by side in our land seems to be increasing, I am glad to remember my colored friends with sincere appreciation of their merits, their keen sense of humor, and their loyalty. Should these words ever reach the rising generation, I hope it will give them a pleasant picture of the friendly relations between those who served and those who expected service.

The present-day movies and comics present our Negroes as “step-and-fetch-it” or a caricature of a would-be heavy sport. Gone is the real affection that made a white child cling with both arms around his nurse’s neck, or that prompted a gentleman to sit in open court beside an ex-slave being tried for his life.

In a friend’s house stands a gun, an old muzzle-loading gun long enough to reach from here to yonder. During the Civil War a raiding party from the Northern Army carried off a young Negro and the long gun. The boy patiently followed his captors, and then escaped one night to come safely back home to tell his master where the gun had been sold for $1.00. It was quickly rescued and is today a priceless antique in [a residence in] Brevard, North Carolina.

There was little black Liza . . . who sang me to sleep in my infancy, and lived to launder my wedding lingerie and to welcome my son when he entered the University of North Carolina. She and her husband, John Evans, were respected and useful citizens of Chapel Hill all their lives.

My children’s “Mammy” was “Aunt” Rilla McDonald. As a nurse of babies and sick people, her patience and fidelity were beyond praise; the touch of her hands brought comfort and peace. Only a few moments did she need to subdue the most rebellious infant; the very sound of her voice was soothing, and her presence in a sick room brought comfort and security.

Sixty years ago Southern people had not forgotten to call elderly Negroes “Aunt” or “Uncle” and to treat them with the courtesy their innate dignity demanded.

I do not know how many years “Aunt” Bina Ledbetter served Mr. Thomas Leak’s family, but I do know she was as much a part of the family as the mistress she served with unswerving fidelity. “Aunt” Bina was a large, black woman with a mien of commanding dignity and always extremely neat in her dress. “Aunt” Bina once got into a controversy with a tan-colored member of her church, being taunted with the words: “Ef I was as black as you I would keep my mouth shet.” She replied: “Tain’t so much the color that makes the difference between people – it’s the blood!”

(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, excerpts pp. 165-167)

Good ‘Ol Boys & Southern Beer Joints

Good ‘Ol Boys and Southern Beer Joints

“Automatically assuming anybody from the South, in general, and any straight Southern white male has a sheet hanging in his closet, is just as prejudiced as thinking all black people will steal whatever isn’t nailed down. And as long as we’re on the subject, I’ve got some problems with the term “good ‘ol boy” as well.

I’ll tell you where G.O.B. originally came from. That term was used in the South to indicate that a male might have a few weaknesses, but he was basically a nice person who would come over to help you plant corn if you really needed him.

“Ol’ boy” refers to a white male, who has ascended to some position of power, like president or senator, or secretary of defense. “Good ‘ol boy,” however, again connotes ignorance, pick-up trucks, beer-drinking, football-watching, gay and race-baiting ad nauseum.

Frankly, I don’t know how that happened.

“Good ‘ol boy” originally connoted an individual with bad points and good points both. Sort of like all of us. I’ve even heard, “good ‘ol girl,” as in “Nadine is uglier than a speckled-heart butter bean, but she is a good ‘ol girl.”

What I hope I am is a person of diverse interests who certainly has his faults, but just because he writes about his native South, it doesn’t necessarily mean he wants for the white race to take the country back and throw out every vestige of multiculturalism.

Hell, if anybody ought to take the country back, it’s the Indians. But if they want to be called something besides “Indians,” I don’t think “Native Americans” is the ticket. “America” was named after an Italian. I sort of like “the people who were here first” . . .

Most black people and white people get along. And most black people don’t want to go to the Grand Ole Opry with whites; and most whites don’t want to go to a Black History Week Music Festival with blacks. Nothing wrong with that. If we truly are multicultural, then vive la difference. I don’t particularly like fajitas, but that doesn’t mean I hate Hispanics.

Southern beer joints are a favorite of mine. To qualify as a true “beer-joint,” a place must meet the following requirements: It must have an all-country jukebox. Even a jukebox with Elvis on it is suspect. If it has “In the Garden” by the Statler Brothers, “Six Days on the Road” by Dave Dudley, “Hello Darling” by Conway Twitty, “Waltz Across Texas” by Ernest Tubb, you’re in a top-of-the-line Southern beer joint.”

(I Haven’t Understood Anything Since 1962; And Other Nekkid Truths, Lewis Grizzard, Villard Books, 1992, excerpts pp. 157-159; 162; 171-172)

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

In truth, New England led the secession movement from Britain with its revolt against British Navigation Acts. In contrast, the Southern colonies were exporters and did well as British Americans, though they had formed a provincial identity of independence, or, “States’ Rights.” This of course preceded the Articles of Confederation and 1787 Constitution.

Regarding the counterrevolution of the 1860’s and its result, the author quoted below writes: “the revolution of the 1860’s ended up devastating New England almost as much as it did the South. What emerged in the late 19th century, as John Quincy’s grandson Henry described it, was a country ruled by speculators, stockjobbers and imperialists. Boston rule would have been infinitely preferable to rule by the set of gangsters who engineered the election of Grant, Arthur, McKinley, and Harding and their spiritual descendants who control both parties today.”

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

“Lincoln did not initiate the political revolution that destroyed the American republic. The bandwagon was hurtling along in its course long before he leaped aboard and seized the reins. The effect of his presidency and of the war he either brought on deliberately or blundered into was to annul the American Revolution, which might be more accurately described as a counterrevolution. But if we are going to stick to conventional language, we can say that Mr. Lincoln’s project in national democracy as the counterrevolution to the revolution of 1776.

To understand why some Americans – and not just in the South – opposed the Lincolnian counterrevolution, we have to first understand why so many Americans had been willing to go to war in the 1770’s.

In Massachusetts, of course, one can find sound economic reasons. The British government was eager to find ways to make the colonies pay for the wars that had been undertaken on their behalf, and taxation and regulation of industry and commerce seemed to be – and indeed was – a solution that was both reasonable and just. New Englanders, feeling the pinch of mercantilist policies, were understandably annoyed, and when the insult of constitutional innovation (the suspension of charters and the so-called Intolerable Acts) was added to the injury inflicted on their economic life, they were ripe for revolution.

The planters and merchants of Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, by contrast, were making out rather well within the [British] empire. In the 1770’s, Charelston was one of the wealthiest and by far the most civilized city in North America. By the outbreak of the Revolution, Charleston merchants and Lowcountry planters formed an American aristocracy.

While most historians and political ideologues have claimed, over and over, that the American rebels were devotees of John Locke’s theory of natural rights and the social contract, there is very little evidence of this. Every important statement and virtually all the little manifestos of church parishes and small townships stake their claim on the Common Law rights of Englishmen.

A key word was equality, not of all human beings, but the equality of Americans in possessing the rights of the English. Patrick Henry put it succinctly: The colonists are entitled “to all the liberties, privileges, franchises that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.” Provincials resented the fact that Parliament denied them the benefits of several significant statutes, such as the Habeas Corpus Act, the Act of Settlement, and the Bill of Rights.”

(Why They Fought, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 8-9) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

Dec 21, 2018 - American Military Genius, Patriotism, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Falling on the Altar of His Country

Falling on the Altar of His Country

General JEB Stuart recommended Major John Pelham of Alabama for promotion in early 1863 after his exemplary initiative, coolness under fire and bravery at Fredericksburg. Stuart viewed Pelham as “one who possessed a heart intrepid, a spirit invincible, a patriotism too lofty to admit selfish thought and a conscience that scorned to do a mean act. His legacy would be to leave a shining example of his patriotism to those who survive.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Falling on the Altar of His Country

“You know how much his death distressed me. How much he was beloved, appreciated and admired . . . the tears of agony we had shed, and the gloom of mourning throughout my command [bore] witness.”

He fell mortally wounded in the Battle of Kellysville, March 17, with the battle cry on his lips, and the light of victory beaming from his eye. Though young in years, a mere stippling in appearance, remarkable for his general modesty of deportment, he yet disclosed on the battlefield the conduct of a veteran, and displayed in his handsome person the most imperturbable coolness to danger.

His eye glanced over every battlefield of his army from the first Manassas to the moment of his death, and he was, without a single exception, a brilliant actor in all. The memory of “the gallant Pelham,” his manly virtues, his noble nature and purity of character, are enshrined as a sacred legacy in hearts of all who knew him.

His record was bright and successful. He fell the noblest of sacrifices on the altar of his country, to whose glorious service he had dedicated his life from the beginning of the war.”

(JEB Stuart Speaks: An Interview with Lee’s Cavalryman, Bernice-Marie Yates, White Mane Publishing, Inc., 1997, excerpts pp. 58-59)

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