Browsing "Southern Culture Laid Bare"

“I’ll Bet on Dixie as Long as I’ve Got a Dollar”

Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903) was a Georgian, graduate of the State University and practiced law afterward. He mingled the occupations of the lawyer with the activities of the politician and of the farmer. Thus he had varied opportunities for careful and critical observation of Georgia life.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“I’ll Bet on Dixie as Long As I’ve Got a Dollar”

“Smith began his letters of mixed wisdom and humor, wit and sarcasm, scorn and defiance in 1861. The first publication of these in book form appeared in 1866 with the title, “Bill Arp, So-Called; A Side Show of the Southern Side of the War.” Its motto was “I’m a good Union man, so-called; but I’ll bet on Dixie as long as I’ve got a dollar.”

In the preface of his book, explaining his pen name “Bill Arp,” Smith said: “When I began writing under the signature of Bill Arp I was honestly idealizing the language and humor of an unlettered countryman who bears that name. His earnest, honest wit attracted my attention, and he declares to this day that I have faithfully expressed his sentiments.”

Smith’s first letter is addressed to Abraham Lincoln in April, 1861. In view of the latter’s proclamation calling for troops, “Bill Arp” thought “Abe Linkhorn” ought to be informed of how the Georgian regarded it. He intimated that things were getting too hot for him, and he would like “to slope out of it.”

Speaking of the boys about Rome, Georgia he says: “Most of them are so hot that they fairly siz when you pour water on them, and that’s the way they make up their military companies here now — when a man applies to join the volunteers they sprinkle him, and if he sizzes they take him, and if he dont they dont.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), George F. Mellen, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 85-86)

 

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)

Eminent and Unmatched Virginians

Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts seemed unaware of his State’s deep involvement in the transatlantic slave trade as he arraigns the South for an absence of morals. Senator John Critcher below served during the war as a lieutenant-colonel of the Fifteenth Virginia cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Eminent and Unmatched Virginians

“In the debate on Education in the House of Representatives, Mr. Hoar, of Massachusetts remarked that slavery in the South was not so observable in the degradation of the slave as in the depravity of the master.

Mr. Critcher, of Virginia replied:

“Reminding the gentleman from Massachusetts that every signer of the Declaration of Independence, except those from his State, and perhaps one or two others, were slave-owners, he would venture to make a bold assertion; he would venture to say that he could name more eminent men from the parish of his residence, than the gentleman could name from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He would proceed to name them, and yield the floor to the gentleman to match them if he could.

On one side of his estate is Wakefield, the birthplace of Washington. On the other side is Stratford, the residence of Light Horse Harry Lee, of glorious Revolutionary memory.

Adjoining Stratford is Chantilly, the residence of Richard Henry Lee, the mover of the Declaration of Independence, and the Cicero of the American Revolution. There lived Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Lee, at one time Washington’s Attorney General; and Arthur Lee, the accomplished negotiator of the treaty of commerce and alliance between the Colonies and France in 1777.

Returning, as said before, you come first to the birthplace of Washington; another hour’s drive will bring you to the birthplace of Monroe; another hour’s drive to the birthplace of Madison, and if the gentleman supposes that the present generation is unworthy of their illustrious ancestors, he has but to stand on the same estate to see the massive chimneys of the baronial mansion that witnessed the birth of Robert E. Lee.

These are some of the eminent men from the parish of his residence, and he yielded the floor that the gentleman might match them, if he could, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

(Degrading Influence of Slavery, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 12, Barefoot Publishing, pg. 59)

 

Here Lies an American Hero

The first commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, General John B. Gordon of Georgia, tried repeatedly to retire from his high office, “but his comrades would not consent.” Below, he spoke in 1890 of the necessity of maintaining unblemished the nobility, heroism, sacrifices, suffering and glorious memory of the American soldiers in grey.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Here Lies and American Hero

“[The United Confederate Veterans] was created on high lines, and its first commander was the gallant soldier, General John B. Gordon, at the time governor of Georgia, and later was United States senator. General Gordon was continued as commander-in-chief until his death.

The note . . . struck in the constitution of the United Confederate Veterans were reechoed in the opening speech of the first commander-in-chief. General Gordon, addressing the Veterans and the public, said:

“Comrades, no argument is needed to secure for those objects your enthusiastic endorsement. They have burdened your thoughts for many years. You have cherished them in sorrow, poverty and humiliation. In the face of misconstruction, you have held them in your hearts with the strength of religious convictions.

No misjudgments can defeat your peaceful purposes for the future. Your aspirations have been lifted by the mere force and urgency of surrounding conditions to a plane far above the paltry considerations of partisan triumphs.

The honor of the American Government, the just powers of the Federal Government, the equal rights of States, the integrity of the Constitutional Union, the sanctions of law, and the enforcement of order have no class of defenders more true and devoted than the ex-soldiers of the South and their worthy descendants. But you realize the great truth that a people without the memories of heroic suffering or sacrifice are a people without history.

To cherish such memories and recall such a past, whether crowned with success or consecrated in defeat, is to idealize principle and strengthen character, intensify love of country, and convert defeat and disaster into pillars of support for future manhood and noble womanhood.

Whether the Southern people, under their changed conditions, may ever hope to witness another civilization which shall equal that which began with their Washington and ended with their Lee, it is certainly true that devotion to their glorious past is not only the surest guarantee of future progress and the holiest bond of unity, but is also the strongest claim they can present to the confidence and respect of the other sections of the Union.

It is political in no sense, except so far as the word “political” is a synonym for the word “patriotic.” [It will] cherish the past glories of the dead Confederacy and transmute them into living inspirations for future service to the living Republic; of truth, because it will seek to gather and preserve, as witness to history, the unimpeachable facts which shall doom falsehood to die that truth may live; of justice, because it will cultivate . . . that broader and higher and nobler sentiment which would write on the grave of every soldier who fell on our side, “Here lies an American hero, a martyr to the right as his conscience conceived it.”

(The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 5, Robert S. Lanier, editor, Blue & Grey Press, 1987, pp. 298-299)

 

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)

Helping Those in Need

Though Southern people may have held Africans as slaves, a labor arrangement of the British colonial system and accelerated by Northern slave traders and New England cotton mills needing cheaply-produced raw material, this in no way indicated a hatred of black people by Southerners. Before and during the war black and white people attended the same churches; in the postwar interracial harmony ended as the Republican party sowed the seeds of racial hatred between black and white for political purposes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Helping Those in Need

“During the Depression my parents befriended an old Negro woman who didn’t have a husband but a house full of children. We had a smokehouse down here where we’d keep the meat, corncribs, potato bins, produce of the farm. And the woman’s family was fed out of that for several years. She was too old to do much work, but she was competent and she did what she could in gratitude and out of knowing that she’d been provided for.

Well, she brought along some little boys. There were Billy and Charlie and Lester and Matt and James. We’d play outside, ride the marsh ponies, hook up the old mule and ride him, go out and gather wood, get in fights, kill snakes, go fishing. I didn’t know that we were especially conscious of any strain.

We knew that on Sunday they went to their church and we would go to ours. We had three or four Negro servants in the house in those days – a housekeeper, a cook, a washerwoman, a gardener. Most of them were people who desperately needed food and shelter in the Depression.

When those boys I used to play with got to be teenagers, I went away to college. And we grew apart. I’ve seen then through the years, and once in a while we’ll stop and talk. I’ll ask them how they’re getting along. They don’t have any interest in talking to me. I don’t think there’s any resentment or hurt, but it’s hard to relate to them today as individuals the way we did back then. It’s part of the times.

One of them left these parts. He’s a bartender in Camp Lejeune over in Jacksonville. He makes more money than I make. I know he owns a better home than I have; he drives a new automobile. He certainly isn’t impressed. The fact is, he doesn’t need me anymore. His family does not need my family. We helped when he did need help, and I think maybe that’s appreciated. But there’s no more corn in the crib. There’s no more meat in the smokehouse.”

(William Dallas Herring: Rose Hill, Reed M. Wolcott, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1976, pp. 32-33)

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

Major Joseph A. Engelhard served in the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He was elected North Carolina Secretary of State in 1876, and in 1878 encouraged young Southern men at the University of North Carolina to be proud of their forefathers, and the country and constitution they created. Engelhard died in office in 1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

“If in any part of the United States there exists moral deformity, or outrage, or unseemly appearance of social or political evil, you can say that no portion of it can be traced to our door. It is true, we have been charged with the error and evil of Slavery, but history and the verdict of all men must be that slavery was introduced here against our will, first by the Dutch and afterwards by the Slave Merchants of the North.

Upon the garments of the South there is no stain of the “Slave Trade.” Those infamies and the profits of that traffic alike, belong to others.

Our lot has been to civilize, to humanize, to Christianize the victims of the avarice of others. Like men we fought for the institution, not, however, for its sake, but because through it all our sacred rights were assailed. The men who proclaimed victory at Mecklenburg; the men who fought seven years for it afterwards; the men who built the country’s strongest entrenchments in the Constitution; who extended most widely its area; who illustrated it with most honor in the National Councils, and who exposed and lost all to defend every approach of danger to it, never – never could be truly charged with the responsibility for human Slavery.

One thing all men must say of us, that the Southern people in two hundred years did more to elevate and render good and happy the African than all the world in all time ever did. And upon that record we stand.”

(Address of the Hon. Joseph A. Engelhard, Before the Philanthropic and Dialectic Societies of the University of North Carolina, June 1878, Edwards & Broughton & Co., 1879, pp. 11-12)

An Isolated But Self-Reliant People

Necessity being the mother of invention, the war and naval blockade thrust upon the American South forced its citizenry to rely on their ingenuity to not only survive, but fight tenaciously for independence against vast and overwhelming odds for four grueling years.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Isolated But Self-Reliant People

“One lasting a beneficial result of this situation somewhat compensates for the temporary inconveniences and sufferings. It stimulated the inventive genius of the Southern people and revealed to them a mechanical capacity which they did not know they possessed. Speaking to a New England audience in 1886 on “The Political and Social South During the War,” [former North Carolina governor and United States Senator Zebulon] Vance said:

“You can scarcely imagine the feeling which comes to a people when isolated as we were, and shut out from communication with all the world. A nation in prison we were, in the midst of civilized society, and forced to rely exclusively upon ourselves for everything. When the war began, with the exception of a few cotton and woolen mills and the crude establishments common to all plantations and villages, we were utterly without manufactures of any kind . . . But the land was full of resources, and the raw material for the manufacture of all that we needed.

And strange as it may appear to you, it was full of mechanical capacity to deal with this material . . . Cotton and woolen mills quickly sprang up and the capacity of existing ones enlarged. Foundries for casting cannon, shops for making fire arms, swords and bayonets, and mills for making powder were set up in abundance. Shoes and blankets were made by the hundred thousand, and transportation wagons and camp equipages of all kind soon supplied the demand.

The situation called into active use all the mechanical talent of our people. The village or cross-road blacksmith refurnished his shop and made tools and agricultural implements for his neighbors; the shoemaker, the cooper, the wheelwright, and the tanner, all sprang into sudden importance. Even the druggist who compounded from the wondrous flora of the country substitutes for nearly all the drugs of commerce, which if not so efficacious were at least more harmless than the genuine article.

The devices and expedients adopted in all the industries, the social and domestic departments of our daily life, were most ingenious, though sometimes ludicrous.”

((North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, Vol. II, R.D.W. Conner, American Historical Society, 1929, pp. 195-196)

The South's Invincible Bravery

The South believed the invader of their land inferior and recalled that Hannibal had destroyed more than ninety percent of a vastly superior Roman army; Frederick the Great defeated an army twice the size of his in 1757; and Zachary Taylor defeated 15,000 Mexicans at Buena Vista in 1847 with 5,000 troops. Historian Bell Wiley noted: “Indeed, it is doubtful that any people ever went to war with greater enthusiasm than did Confederates in 1861.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South’s Invincible Bravery

“General Robert E. Lee had decided to disregard the advice of a division commander [to] assault the strong Federal position [at Malvern Hill]. For the task he selected country boys and men from the Deep South . . . together with regiments from North Carolina and Virginia. These were proud soldiers, even a bit cocky now because for nearly a week they had been pushing Yankees back . . . [the enemy general] thought they came on with “a reckless disregard for life . . . with a determination to capture our army, or destroy it.”

At Sharpsburg a Federal remembered that the advance of his unit was stopped by a “long and steady line of rebel gray . . . sweeping down through the woods.”

Another Northerner recounted the “invincible bravery” of the attacking Confederates and how his regiment “opened a withering, literally withering, fire on the rebels . . . but they still advanced. A color-bearer came forward within fifteen yards of our line, and with the utmost desperation waved a rebel flag in front of him.

Our men fairly roared, “Shoot the man with the flag! And he went down in a twinkling and the flag was not raised in sight again. Several charges at Sharpsburg cost the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment sixty-two percent of its 325 men. One company lost all but five of its 30 men; two-thirds of the men and all of the officers in another company were killed or wounded.

The South lost 175,000 soldiers in the first twenty-seven months of combat. This number was more than the entire Confederate military service in the summer of 1861 and it far exceeded the strength of any army that Lee ever commanded. More than 80,000 Southerners fell in just five battles. At Gettysburg, three out of every ten Confederates present were hit; one brigade lost sixty-five percent of its men and seventy percent of its field officers in a single charge.

A North Carolina regiment started the action with some 800 men; only 216 survived unhurt. Another unit lost two-thirds of its men as well as its commander in a brief assault.”

(Attack and Die, Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage, Grady McWhiney and Perry Jamieson, University of Alabama Press, 1982, pp. 3-5)

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)