Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Standing for a Different Flag

Interesting controversy swirling around Virginia Senator Jim Webb, alleged to be a Confederate sympathizer:
Senator Jim Webb, touted by many as a vice presidential candidate who would help shore up Barack Obama with Southerners and those uncomfortable with his lack of national security experience, has an “affinity” for the Confederacy...
Slavery was the key issue absent which the Civil War wouldn’t have been fought and the resurgence of the Confederate battle flag in the 1960s was mostly about segregationist defiance. It’s easy to understand, therefore, why expressing pro-Confederate sympathies is politically problematic. But Webb’s admiration for the against-all-odds fighting spirit of his ancestors, most of whom fought for reasons having nothing to do with slavery or, frankly, political considerations of any sort, is understandable, too. In a complex world, one can simultaneously admire Robert E. Lee’s character, J.E.B. Stuart’s generalship, and the courage of those who charged up Little Round Top while damning the institution of slavery.
What can I say? I abhor racism in all it multiple forms, stood against racism in the South when it meant something to stand, but my Scot/Cherokee ancestors marched under St. Andrew's Cross — not the square Confederate battle flag, but the rectangular star-and-bars of the Army of Tennessee.

And as I've told even my most politically correct relatives, it's hard to read any account of, say, the 4 1/2 hours of Franklin, November 30, 1864, without being moved...with the war already lost a vainglorious Confederate general repeatedly threw the already shattered Army of Tennessee against the fortified Union positions south of Nashville. The Army of Tennessee were mostly dirt farmers, not slaveholders, not too much better off than slaves themselves. Shattered from fighting the butcher Sherman in Georgia, they had virtually no artillery, little ammunition and many without even shoes in the unseasonable cold. The troopers and their commanders knew the frontal assaults ordered by John Bell Hood were suicide, and suicide to no point, but they responded again and again...until there was no Army of Tennesse.

To not acknowlegdge their honor and their sacrifice would only serve to make us small.


Anonymous said...

It will take years of education and reading history for those who bought into the history written by the victors to understand that the civil war and the secession of states from the union resulted from the perception of what "states rights" actually meant.

I would never want to see any human "owned" or considered legal property by another. But in the rush to drum up northern support for the war, slavery became the defining issue. It was smart, practical politics by the Lincoln administration, but I'll submit that every woe America faces today can be traced by to that administration and every succeeding administration.

Anonymous said...

I disagree cybscryb. The war was totally and completely about slavery. West Virgina was created as a state (illegally, most likely) out of Va becuase the hill folk of Virgina didn't have a hell of a lot in common with the slave owning culture in the rest of the state. Same is true in Ky. Altho Ky remained loyal to the Union, confederate sympathies were strongest in the slave owning areas. Eastern Ky mountain people had no dog in the slavery fight and few became confederates. I believe, IIRC, Eastern Tn was the same. As to the dirt farmers who fought for the confederacy, hells bells, they fought to uphold slavery in the hopes that they too would one day join the slave owning class. And remember, there were a large number of slave holders who "owned" only one, two, or three people. Slavery was the cause of the war, pure and simple. "States Righhts" didn't have a damn thing to do with it. The great shame of our Civil War is the failure to give each freed male slave "40 acres and a mule". The nation's history would have been much different if the victors had not left blacks to become virtual slaves thru sharecropping and denial of basic civil rights.

Anonymous said...

I disagree clayflingythingy. Slavery was an issue, and an important one, but it was not the proximate cause.

Petey said...

clayflingythingy-I must humbly disagree with your point.

The secession of the Southern States was based on States rights. Lincoln had not even taken his oath of office when South Carolina seceded.

If you were to ask a majority of the confederate soldiers why they were fighting, they would have responded "Because, you're down here."

Even Lincoln, an abolitionist, did not believe the war was about slavery. He was quoted as saying, "If I could free all of the slaves and preserve the Union, I would do that. If I could free some of the slaves and preserve the Union, I would do that. If I could free none of the slaves and preserve the Union, I would do that."

Yes, Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery, but he wanted more to keep us united as one country.

The war did end up with slavery as one of the two main reasons to fight, but not until the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, a basically useless document. The E.P. freed slaves in rebelling areas, who claimed the U.S. Government had no control over them and that they were not part of U.S. anymore. It did nothing for slaves in areas already captured by the Union Army.

Also, Kentucky was a neutral state in the Civil War, neither seceding nor directly participating as a part of the Union.

And finally, EVERY state produced AT LEAST ONE military unit for each side. Maine had Confederate units, and South Carolina had Union units.

Anonymous said...

Every side of losers whines about how brave they fought. How heroic their cause. Otherwise they would have to admit the bold face lose. Personally I ain't worried about some bunch of folks that died for something not worth dieing for a hundred and fifty years ago. There are a lot more folks alive TODAY that are fighting for their lives in honorable causes to worry about.

Anonymous said...

To deny the war was fought over slavery probably tells more about where you were born and/or your current political philosphy than it does your grasp of history.

Petey said...

No one has said the Civil War wasn't about slavery. We are simply saying it wasn't the main reason or the original reason the war started.

And for the record, I was born, raised, and still live in North West Central Illinois. I can trace family lineage to both sides of the war. Politically, I am a Conservative.

Anonymous said...

Well, nj_Larry, you've sure found a way to insult the memory of both Confederate and Federal armies.

As for "something not worth dieing for", most historians agree that, right or wrong, the Civil War was second only to the American Revolution in signifigance to this Country. It had an immeasurable impact on the future of this land.

That "bunch of folks that died"?.

They didn't die in some jungle, on a foreign beachhead, or in a desert or on a frozen mountain top.

They died in the United States of America, brother-against-brother on farms, in cities, and in the wilderness where the streams ran red with their blood.

1,100,000 casualties including 620,000 lost lives in five years of anguish and suffering.

The bloodiest one day battle in this Country's history left 3,650 dead and 17,300 wounded. That wasn't in a faraway land, it was along the banks of a small creek in Maryland called Antietam. You can visit and see the thousands of markers anytime you like.

I submit that's a lot of honorable deaths of our ancestors on both sides for something you consider less than honorable.

States Rights vs. Slavery? Has been debated for 150 years and will never be resolved, just argued. Pick whichever side you like, but please be more considerate of those who died for what they thought was right, or wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hell a whole county in Alabama remained neutral, forming the "Free State of Winston" upon succession.

Anonymous said...

To say that slavery was just an issue among many is to short-change the issue itself. Not only does this approach ignore the formation of these United States, and the massive arguments and revisions to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution over the slavery issue, the laws that forced every slave state to join the union in concert with a free state, The Dred Scott SCOTUS case, John Brown's insurrection in Kansas and then Virginia, and a great many other events and cases.

States rights was also a carry-over from the Revolution because of the unresolved issues between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists.

And now we understand just how much Lincoln violated the Constitution to "preserve" the Union - I'm sure a historian far better than I could make a compelling case that a lot of the problems we have today originate with Lincoln's abusive treatment of the Constitution.

As with most things in life, this is both simple on one level, and complex on others. Focusing on one violates the other. A few pithy sayings and emotional diatribes cannot and will not change that fact.

Anonymous said...

Clay, you are always insulting people. I don't know why I comment on your comments.

Born and raised in Georgia. Lived my first 30 years in the south. Been in Ohio the last 28. A conservative and life long Republican.

I like these articles on the cause(es) of the War of Northern Agression (as my wife would say, she also thinks it ain't over yet).

Causes of the Civil War-a North Georgia perspective

Causes of the Civil War - A Northern Perspective

Anonymous said...

To hell with slavery. The Confederate soldier fought for his "country", plain and simple. What the politicians fought for was slavery. I honestly think that if the South would have won, we would have abolished slavery anyway. Not one of the states would have signed the Constitution if they had thought they could not leave it when they wanted.

Anonymous said...

I take your comments to heart. I apologize if it sounded like I was insulting. Without belaboring it here is a clarification.

First I was responding to MB and his saying that Sherman was a butcher and how brave were the Southerners at Franklin. Every side in a conflict believes its warriors are brave and noble and the other side less than that. Sherman was a war fighter in the best sense of it. Total and absolute. Give no quarter. He cut his way across the south as a war fighter should. He did it later in the West with the Indians. If you are in the way you die. He won. We pussy foot around in Iraq now when we could use a Sherman. Is Norman Schwarzkopf a butcher for authorizing the burying alive of thousands of Iraqi soliders in their fortifications? I don’t think so. So terms like butcher are just emotional tags to hang on military personnel doing the dirty work of war.

As for the individuals involved, all warriors are noble. Since the beginning of time it has been that way. I can’t think of a worse human experience than having to perform in the theater of death. Whether in a darkened house at night against intruders or a mass attack on the battlefield.

Second, the core of MBs post was the living nature of the war. The current emotional investment. I don’t buy into it. I live in the now. When do you drop the emotion about the War? A thousand years from now? I live in a predominately black neighborhood. Some white idiot down the street decided one day to fly the stars and bars. Do you think he was celebrating the glory of the South? It was done to stick it to his black neighbors. I have very similar feelings when I go to gunshows and see all the Nazi gear and flags on display. I am not going to be an enabler to dysfunctional cultures stewing in past grievances and racism.

I used to work with a Greek fella. He made no bones about it that the Greeks held grudges based on events 3000 years ago. They are talked about as if it happened yesterday. Sorry but that is freaking nuts.

Finally I would like to see as much enthusiasm when the rubber meets the road right now. No part of the world lacks for injustice or slaughter. Ruanda, Sudan, Cambodia, Timor, Kashmir etc. The list is endless. The numbers are in the 10s of millions. And that is just in the last 10 to 20 years. Go back only 50 or 60 years and the numbers go up to 100’s of millions.

Anonymous said...


I am just all broken hearted that you are insulted to find out the root cause of the civil war was slavery. A grown up man just now finding that out and it must be a real shock to your system.

"The civil war was fought over states rights". That's right, the southern states wanted to continue the "right" to practice the moral abomination that was human bondage slavery.

"The southern states were fighting to protect their way of life." That's right, the southern states wanted to continue to view blacks as subhuman, which justified human bondage slavery. But it was OK, because Massa gave them Jesus so they wouldn't suffer eternity in damnation.

I had a great great grandparent on each side of the conflict. Big freaking deal. The grandparent who fought for the south was fighting for a "cause" that was morally bankrupt.

Try to sugarcoat it with whatever bullshit you want but the civil war was over slavery. Thankfully, the side with morality on their side won.

Anonymous said...

The average soldier rarely has a good comprehension of the causes he fights for. He fights for his buddies, his family and his community. Most German soldiers in WW2 had no animus towards the Jews or other Untermensch, they fought because they were Germans and their country was at war.

I was born raised in Noo Yawk, but attended the U of Georgia. I had to fight the Civil War on a daily basis there in the late 60's. When confronted with the "States Rights" argument I agreed with my Southern Friends. The Civil War was about States Rights....States Rights to maintain Slavery! The slavery issue is still a major part of the Southern Heritage, it defines what the south is. It's legacy will remain for many more generations.

And that supposed "Confederate" flag, it was not carried by southern troops, it is actually the confederate navy jack.

Anmd the Southern Soldier was no more or less courageous than his Union Brothers. Many of whom spoke foreign languages and were treated as second class citizens by native northerners.

Harmony Hermit

Anonymous said...

One comment on a comment...the German soldiers did have a grudge against the's a revision of history to say otherwise. I've German friends and you can believe a lie or not...that's your business...but if you don't learn from history you won't be the first.

The War Between the States (no real civil disobedience here, actual governmental armed conflict between governments) was about money. There was a great sucking sound to the south sucking up money. At the time of the war, Lousisiana was 2nd only to New York in wealth... gaining steadily ... and poised to overtake New York soon. Since the war Louisiana has never approached such stature and has remained at and near the bottom in poverty levels.

So the war was about slavery? Why is it the black family was not aided and pulled out of poverty by the north after the war? There was a lot of glorious rhetoric during the war, surely the good that was spoken was put in place? Gee, the altuisity of the North after the war makes me all weak in the knees. Well hell, everyone knows the carpetbaggers came down in service to the black man to help them in order to fulfill all of the rhetoric, right?

You can believe that the war was about slavery, you can believe Sherman the Butcher of women of children was a great man, you can even believe German soldiers loved Jews. You can believe the U.S. Government is just as honest today as it was before, during and after the War Between The States. I know some of you believe without question everything that comes out of Washington as written on paper, whether newspaper, history book or press release, unless of course it gores your ox then you recognize it for what it is. Out one side of your mouth you call reporters and politicians liars, out the other side you fall in goosestep with the "party line" never questioning for truth...perhaps because you would have to think? Thinking about those black "slave camps" in the inner city should make you feel much better about what was accomplished in the war...oh I making you feel bad?

Because you cling to the flawed belief that slavery was "the big" reason for the war when it was the emotion to stir up the support of a populace you are a specially enlighted person. Surely you are not a racist. The worst racists I know are displaced Northerners who moved south or who moved in/near inner cites and "have to live and work" among my friends of African descent; more destructive in their thinking and actions then their racists beliefs about the white poor...the trailer born Redneck. bet it was about slavery, that's why the injustice got fixed by the North after the war...right?

Anonymous said...

Lincoln was an abolitionist. The Southern slaveholders hated him and drummed up support for secession after he was elected (but he didn't take office until March). They saw the writing on the wall. If Lincoln took office, their slavery-expansionist policies would be halted.

The South fought to preserve slavery*. The North fought to preserve the Union, and ended slavery in doing so. There were certainly other pressure points, such as growing sectionalism and economic divisiveness, but slavery was that "peculiar institution".

*They also produced 75% of the world's cotton. That is a hell of an economic incentive.

Anonymous said...

From the previous post: "They also produced 75% of the world's cotton. That is a hell of an economic incentive."

Yes it was. After the war the cotton kept being produced and picked. And after the war the money flowed to the NORTH with the SAME PEOPLE BEING EXPLOITED.

The "freed slaves" continued with their pre-war lives (enslavement) under new northern masters....just an "inconvenient truth" that has lasted over a century. Instead of gobbling fantasy from conformist history try....thinking.