Browsing "Southern Culture Laid Bare"

The South Against a Seceding North

Though South Carolina had been threatened with invasion over nullifying federal law in the early 1830s, no such threats were made to Northern States in the 1850s as they instituted personal liberty laws which nullified federal law and obstructed federal officers. Had Lincoln not won his plurality in 1860, the secession of the North might have been the case.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Against a Seceding North

“There was strong opposition to secession, not only in the Upper South, but also in some parts of the Lower South, the very heart land of the future Confederacy. In every convention except South Carolina’s there were votes against secession, and in Alabama and Georgia the opposition was considerable. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, and Benjamin H. Hill gave up their fight for the Union only after their State had seceded and threatened to leave them behind.

In their campaign to save the nation, the [Southern] Unionists resorted both to argument and to delaying tactics. They played on national sentiments; the Revolution and its heroes . . . the Constitution, which largely Southerners had made and was sufficient for all needs if properly interpreted and enforced. Up to this time the South had generally dominated the government, either through Southern-born presidents or . . . Northern men with Southern principles. Most of the Supreme Court had been Southerners, and the court at this time was dominated by the South.

In fact, the whole idea of secession was illogical and wrong, it was argued. The process should be reversed. The North should do the seceding, for the South represented more truly the nation which the forefathers had set up in 1789. Therefore the South should not allow itself to be driven out of its own home.

Henry A. Wise of Virginia was especially vigorous in arguing this point of view. “Logically the Union belongs to those who have kept, not those who have broken, its covenants,” he declared. If he ever had to fight he hoped it would be against a seceding North, “with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 3-5)

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee's Spirit

Major-General Robert F. Hoke of Lincolnton, North Carolina was said to be Lee’s personal choice for command of the Army of Northern Virginia should he be incapacitated. A brilliant division commander, Hoke was not a West Pointer and after the war declined any reminiscences of his participation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee’s Spirit

“I once saw General Hoke eating ham and eggs and buckwheat cakes in a hotel in Greensboro. A massive man with broad smooth brow and well-trimmed gray beard, he resembled the pictures of General Lee. Later in the day when I was introduced to him at a railway station, the talk fell on the war with Spain, which had just ended and he told me President McKinley had offered him by telegraph a brigadier’s commission in the army preparing to go to Cuba.

He thanked the President but declined. “I have seen enough of war in my time,” he said. He spoke as casually as if he had said,” “I had all the buckwheat cakes for breakfast I wanted.”

We were then only four miles from the spot where he as the commander of a division in [General Joseph E.] Johnston’s army had surrendered to Sherman. I tried to draw him out on the subject, but he was politely uninterested.

General Hoke engaged in mining and railroading after 1865. He resolutely refused to enter politics, unlike many of his brother officers who were only too ready to capitalize their war records. In this General Hoke revealed a kinship of the spirit of General Lee.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 36-37)

The Graves of American Heroes

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.org

 

The Graves of American Heroes

“[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)

Helping Black People 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 this interracial harmony ended as the Republican party sowed the seeds of racial hatred between black and white for political hegemony.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Helping Black People 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)

Great and Famed American Soldiers

The text below is taken from Judge D.F. Pugh’s address at the dedication of the Camp Chase Cemetery. He was at the time Past Department Commander of the GAR of Ohio, and spoke respectfully of the valor and dedication of his brave, half-fed and barefooted adversaries from the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Great and Famed American Soldiers

“That the Confederate soldiers were gallant, that they were hard fighters, can be proved by every Union soldier who struggled against them in the fiery front of battle.

After the battle of Missionary Ridge I was attracted by the extreme youthful appearance of a dead Tennessee Confederate soldier who belonged to a regiment of Cheatham’s Division, against which we had fought the day before. He was not over fifteen years of age and very slender. He was clothed in a cotton suit and was barefooted – barefooted!—on that cold and wet 24th day of November, 1863.

I examined his haversack. For a day’s rations there were a handful of black beans, a few slices of sorghum, and a half dozen roasted acorns. That was an infinitely poor outfit for marching and fighting, but that Tennessee soldier had made it answer his purpose. The Confederates who, half fed, looked bravely into our faces for many long, agonizing weeks over the ramparts of Vicksburg; the remnants of Lee’s magnificent army, which, fed on raw corn and persimmons, fluttered their heroic rags and interposed their bodies for a year between Grant’s army and Richmond, only a few miles away – all these men were great soldiers. I pity the American who cannot be proud of their valor and endurance.

We can never challenge the fame of those men whose skill and valor made them the idols of the Confederate army. The fame of Lee, Jackson, the Johnston’s, Gordon, Longstreet, the Hills, Hood and Stuart, and many thousands of noncommissioned and private soldiers of the Confederate armies, whose names are not mentioned on historical pages, can never be tarnished by the carping criticisms of the narrow and shallow-minded.”

(Judge Pugh’s Address, Confederate Veteran, July 1902, page 295)

The Grandest Soldiers That Ever Marched

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the men who followed Lee and other Southern generals was their steadfast determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Rarely after mid-1863 were there even odds and most often Lee fought successfully against foes two or three times his own number.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Grandest Soldiers That Ever Marched

“It is quite a mistaken idea that the Yankees were poor soldiers and easily whipped. Any Confederate soldier who met them often in battle will testify that they were hard and tenacious fighters, especially those from the Great North West.

The Confederates could claim very little credit for holding at bay such a mighty host armed with the most improved weapons and devices of warfare for four long, dreary years, and defeating them so often and disastrously, with odds often greatly against them, had the Northern army been merely a disorganized mob and rabble.

Yes, the Northern army was a fine one, well equipped and well officered, with all the resources at hand that could be desired for great and aggressive warfare; but it had to meet an army of Southern troops composed of the grandest soldiers that ever marched to martial music, or fought in defense of country!

Just to think, that the Southern army of six hundred thousand men, poorly armed and equipped, ridiculously clad and meagerly fed, without tents, without medicine, without pay, checkmating, baffling, repulsing and often humiliating and disastrously defeating the Northern army of 2,778,304 men armed with the most improved engines of warfare, well paid, well fed, abundantly clothed; backed by all the resources of a great nation, for four long, dreary years, staggers the credulity of man to contemplate.

In a letter to General [Jubal] Early shortly after the close of the war, General Robert E. Lee wrote: “It will be difficult to get the world to understand the odds against which we fought.” From the number drawing pensions from the United States government today, fifty years since the close of hostilities, there might have been a million more soldiers in the Union Army than given in the figures named above.”

(Sketch of the War Record of the Edisto Rifles, William V. Izlar, The State Company, 1914, pp. 98-100)

Theodore Roosevelt's Tribute to Lee

In his Life of Thomas H. Benton (Houghton-Mifflin, 1900), Theodore Roosevelt traced the important influences which formed Benton’s character to the militant spirit found in his native South, and further mentions that important influence on the Southern army and its commander.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Theodore Roosevelt’s Tribute to Lee

“No man who is not willing to bear arms and to fight for his rights can give a good reason why he should be entitled to the privilege of living in a free community. The decline of the militant spirit in the Northeast during the first half of this century was much to be regretted.

To it is due more than to any other cause the undoubted average individual inferiority of the Northern compared with the Southern troops – at any rate, at the beginning of the [War].

The Southerners, by their whole mode of living, their habits, and their love of outdoor sports, kept up their warlike spirit, while in the North the so-called upper classes developed along the lines of a wealthy and timid bourgeoisie type, measuring everything by a mercantile standard (a peculiarly debasing one, if taken purely by itself), and submitting to be ruled in local affairs by low, foreign mobs, and in national affairs by their arrogant Southern kinsmen. The militant spirit of these last certainly stood them in good stead in the civil war.

The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee, and their leader will undoubtedly rank, without any exception, as the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth . . .”

(Roosevelt’s Tribute to Lee, Rev. J.H. McNeilly; Confederate Veteran, June 1900, page 257)

Indispensable African Slaves

In his message to Congress on 29 April 1861, President Jefferson Davis cited the Northern threat to the South’s labor system as a cause of withdrawal from political union with the North. The murderous raid of John Brown in 1859 had convinced the South of the North’s violent intentions, which were supported by influential and wealthy men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Indispensable African Slaves

“As soon . . . as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves . . .

Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was . . . to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States, by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of . . . reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority.

In the meantime, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction.

Under the supervision of a superior race, their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South . . . and the productions of cotton, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.

With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 134-135)

Airlifted Whiskey at Gettysburg, 1938

Much of the credit for arranging the 1938 Gettysburg reunion of veterans was due to the intervention of Richmond Times-Dispatch editor Virginius Dabney, whose mother was descended from Thomas Jefferson and his grandfather a Confederate veteran. It was suggested that the final airlifted load of whiskey for the pint-flasks home was confiscated by the greatly outnumbered Rebel contingent.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Airlifted Whiskey at Gettysburg, 1938

“. . . One of the greatest stories of the era occurred in July, 1938, when some 1,800 surviving Northern and Southern veterans held a reunion at Gettysburg. But everyone who followed the copious preliminary press coverage knew that arranging this reunion was almost as perilous as the conflict that took place at Gettysburg in July 1863.

Plans for the reunion began as early as 1935, but some members of the Grand Army of the Republic said they would not foregather unless the Rebels left all their Confederate flags at home. And, indeed, earthier epithets were used for “Confederate flags.”

The Rebels not only insisted on bringing their “unsullied oriflammes.” Some of the more irascible stipulated: “There’ll be no damned reunion unless the Yankee government pays for some of the property their army destroyed, and just for the hell of destroying it.”

Many of the Yankees drew the line at “playing host for the damned Rebs,” and the Rebs, frequently in graphic language, told the Yankees where they “can put their invitations.” Finally, the idea, but not the practical vehicle, of a “joint reunion” was circumvented when the State of Pennsylvania asked both sides “to attend a gathering at Gettysburg.”

Most of the Confederates were escorted by boy scouts, and those who embarked from North Carolina to Gettysburg were cheered to the local train station by huge crowds and bands, wherever bands were available.

Amazingly, the non-reunion reunion of the old foes was as tranquil as the blue July clouds that hovered over the once-bloody fields of Gettysburg. There was only one formidable problem, and this, which gained national attention, was keeping the 1,800 nonagenarians supplied with drinking whiskey. As Virginius Dabney noted, “The Southern contingent was afflicted with a notable thirst, and principally because of this fact the original consignment of five cases of liquor was exhausted almost as soon as it was opened.”

The hosts had assumed that a small cup containing a couple teaspoons of whiskey would be an adequate drink for men pushing one hundred years. But the first time the whiskey ration was doled out, one 97-year-old Rebel snorted: “That ain’t even a good sniff, much less a drink.”

An airplane was sent for more booze, and it returned with twenty-two additional cases. When this was consumed, the same airplane brought fifteen more cases. While the extra fifteen cases managed to last-out the encampment, there was none left to “see the boys back home safely.” With the third supply, the last fifteen cases gone, the “airplane of mercy,” as some dispatches called it, “brought back enough whiskey for each of the Rebels to have a pint-flask for the trip home.”

By all accounts, the Rebels, even more outnumbered at Gettysburg than they had been seventy-three years before, won the battle of the bottle, walking sticks down. A wire service reported that one veteran, 104-years-old, but never designated as to side, was picked up suffering from acute alcoholism.

Many of the North Carolina chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy denounced the wire service “for printing vile slander,” but the clear implication of these frothy demurrers was that the unidentified 104-year-old alcoholic was a Yankee. As one local UDC regent reasoned, in a letter to several [daily newspapers], “If the poor man had been one of ours, you can bet your bottom dollar the Yankee reporters would have said so.”

(The Tar Heel Press, Thad Stem, Jr., NC Press Association, 1973, pp. 263-265)

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

Author Margaret L. Coit has written that “The Old South was a school for statesmanship” and that Southern men “rode high in the saddle of the USA” from the 1776 Revolution to the 1861 Revolution. It is no exaggeration that the “Virginia Dynasty” was virtually synonymous with the founding of the American experiment, and with the exception of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, nearly every outstanding American political figure was a Southern man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

“The difference between the Southern civilization and the Northern,” says Thomas Nelson Page, “was the result of the difference between their origins and subsequent surroundings.” Then he tells the familiar story of how the Northern colonies “were the asylums of religious zealots” who came in search of freedom and became themselves “proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.”

To the Southern colonies, on the other hand, came “soldiers of fortune and gentlemen in misfortune . . . In the first ship-load of [Virginia] colonists there were “four carpenters, twelve laborers and fifty-four gentlemen.” The Southern settlers “came with the consent of the crown, the blessings of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men of high-standing in the kingdom.”

With the best blood of England in their veins and the best of the Old World traditions in their cultural equipment, they produced a civilization “as distinctive as that of Greece, Carthage, Rome or Venice”; one that “made men noble, gentle and brave, and women tender, pure and true . . . It was, I believe, the purest, sweetest life ever lived.”

Page acknowledges, as many other traditionalists do, that the Southern planters were not wholly of Cavalier blood. They represented, he says, “the strongest strains of many stocks – Saxon, Celts, and Teuton; Cavalier and Puritan.”

(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick and Arnett Alex Mathews, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 17-18)