Monthly Archives: December 2015

Flagging Racism?

In the video below four-year-old Hunter Hayes sings Jambalaya for a country music crowd. The song was composed by Hank Williams, Sr. who died at age 29 in 1953. His son, Hank Williams, Jr., is the man introducing Hayes at the concert.

Williams, Sr. learned how to play the guitar as a boy from Rufus Payne who was a black street performer in Georgiana, Alabama during the The Great Depression. The white boy paid for the lessons, sometimes with food and sometimes with cash. Payne was a major influence on Williams’s style.

Young Hunter Hayes’s performance is greeted enthusiastically. Camera shots of the crowd occasionally reveal  Confederate battle flags waving in celebration of the performance, the song, and the Southern heritage they represent.

 

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Christmas Cheer

Since Christmas is less than a week away, I take this opportunity to share some Christmas Cheer. The window below provides forty-five minutes of Xmas music from the Boston Pops Orchestra.

The carols bring back memories of all the excitement associated with the holiday. Recollections of Santa Claus are especially memorable. They remind me of the time someone explained the four stages of a boys life:

First you believe in Santa Claus. Then you don’t believe in Santa Claus. Next you are Santa Claus and finally you look like Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas

 

Milwaukee Civil War Roundtable

During November I made book presentations about Trading With the Enemy in the Midwest and Northeast. It was fun to meet members of each group and learn how they got interested in the Civil War. Presently, however, I wish to share thoughts prompted by the Milwaukee visit.

The Milwaukee Civil War Roundtable meets downtown at the prestigious Wisconsin Club pictured below. It was founded as the German Club in 1891 for the purpose of promoting “German-American understanding and fellowship” in response to the large German immigration into the city toward the end of the nineteenth century. Even today the number of Milwaukee families with names of “Schmitt” or “Schmidt” far outnumber those with “Smith,” which is the Anglicized transformation.

German Club

When our country entered World War I most Americans were suspicious of citizens with German roots. Therefore, the German Club changed its name to the Wisconsin Club. But the tyranny of the domestic majority demanded even greater suppression of German-American culture. Former President Theodore Roosevelt openly voiced his disdain for what he called “hyphenated-Americans.”

Even our language changed to erase German-American influence. Nearly 100 years ahead of today’s college students,  Americans apparently demanded that the country become a “safe space” where no offensive words could be expressed. Sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage.” The frankfurter became a “hot dog,” the hamburger a “liberty sandwich,” and Salisbury steak was changed to “meatloaf.” Dachshunds were called “liberty pups.” Many families named Mueller felt impelled to change it to “Miller,” while Schmidt and Schmitt became “Smith,” as noted.

Fortunately the suppression eventually relaxed. Nobody today gets angry when hearing nouns like hamburger, frankfurter, or Dachshund. Consequently, President Obama correctly cautions us to avoid hostility toward those of Muslim faith merely because of the actions of “a tiny minority” of violent jihadists.

Simultaneously, however, our country is presently on a rampage to eradicate much of Southern heritage. While the Confederate flag signifies racism and slavery to some, to others it symbolizes the fight of our ancestors to protect their homes from invasion. Both groups of us are Americans and entitled to differing viewpoints. As Will Rogers put it, “If I don’t see things your way, well, why should I?” It was only a small minority of Southerners who waved the Confederate flag in direct confrontation with those enforcing court-ordered school integration. The great majority of white Southerners stayed at home, away from the protests, and let history run its course.

But the present hostility does not stop with the flag. Instead statues are being removed, school and street names changed, and legacies exterminated. For example, at Princeton University it is “demanded” that Woodrow Wilson be dishonored because his racial attitudes were consistent with the majority of Americans of his time but repugnant to ours. Yet even though Theodore Roosevelt’s contempt for “hyphenated-Americans” – also common in his time – is repulsive in ours, there are no “demands” that schools or streets named in his honor be changed because Roosevelt was a New Yorker…that’s different, see?

In short, I enjoyed learning about Milwaukee’s German heritage, which would have been more evident had the Wisconsin Club never changed its name.

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My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Catalog Page for The Confederacy at Flood Tide

Provided below is a copy of the catalog page for my fourth Civil War book, which will be released next spring (2016).

Flood Tite Catalogue Page===========================

My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated