Monthly Archives: April 2019

Ridiculing Confederates as “Losers”

(April 30, 2019) Increasingly critics of Confederate symbols ridicule the Southern soldiers as “losers,” thereby implying that the men—unlike their modern critics—lacked the qualities for success. The most recent example is South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn who is also the Democrat Party’s Whip in the House of Representatives. Thus, in terms of Party leadership he ranks only two steps below Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the chamber and one step below the Majority Leader.

Would South Carolina Congressman & Democrat Party Whip James Clyburn call these boys “losers.?”

A number of factors explain why the Confederates lost the Civil War including the fact that the available pool of whites for Northern soldiers outnumbered those in the South four-to-one. Beyond that, the losses endured by the Rebel soldiers document that their sheer fighting spirit was never exceeded by American soldiers in any war. If the USA were to fight a war today and suffer the same loss ratio as the Confederacy, military deaths alone would total over eleven million. That’s twenty-six times our losses in World War II.

But such points are secondary to the implication that it’s okay to ridicule soldiers for being on the losing side. If Democrat Party media organs such as The New York TimesSlate Magazineand the BBC are taken at their word, for example, America lost the Vietnam War. Mr. Clyburn undoubtedly witnessed the unwelcome reception Vietnam vets received during that period when he worked first as a public school teacher and later as a political appointee. In time, nearly all Americans came to regret the shameful ridiculing of Vietnam vets. Perhaps Representative Clyburn is an exception.

Finally, the tendency of critics to label Confederates as “losers” may chiefly reflect a long-concealed jealousy over the cachet of the rebel persona. Traditionally Americans have been attracted to the rebels in literature, art, motion pictures, history and politics. Rebels are cool.

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Nat Turner’s Massacre Apologists

(April 28, 2019) The Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Commission of the Virginia General Assembly announced that it will spend taxpayer money to erect a statue honoring Nat Turner who was the leader of a drunken slave rebellion that massacred fifty-five whites in the Southeastern part of the state in 1831. Most of the victims were women and children hacked to death with hatches and axes. Thirty-one year old Turner was the slave of a white family headed by Joseph Travis whom Turner considered “a kind master.” Nonetheless, on Sunday 21 August Turner gathered six other male slaves in the woods near the Travis household where they feasted on roast pig and apple brandy. By mid afternoon he announced that the group would “rise that night to kill all the white people.”

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About two o’clock Monday morning they sneaked into the Travis household and chopped all the family members to death, including an infant in its cradle. More murders continued throughout that night as the rebels took farm after farm by surprise. By sunrise the insurgents totaled fifteen when they made their first daylight attack, killing two women at their home. Soon thereafter they attacked the Caty Whitehead place where they dragged Mrs. Whitehead screaming into the yard to be beheaded. Her daughter tried to escape into the woods but Turner caught and killed the girl.

Next they assaulted the Nathaniel Francis home despite his reputation as a kindly white, as evidenced by the several free blacks that chose to live on his property. Turner’s gang killed every white in the household including two boys. At the John Barrow farm, however, the patriarch fought back well enough to enable the females to escape.

By noon Turner had assembled about twenty black men, but several were put under guard as reluctant participants. Next, he sent a detachment to massacre the Parker family. When the men failed to return he took the rest of the gang to the Parker home where he found the detached group celebrating in the brandy cellar. Afterward Turner raided a few more farms, only to find them deserted. One owned by the Thomas family included a fifteen-year-old boy named George. Since he, his mother and sisters hid in the woods, Turner’s gang did not find them. Thirty-two years later as a major general George would win the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga” for his role in saving the Union army during that Civil War battle.

By Monday afternoon a number of white families had banded together in organized resistance. They drove the blacks away at a skirmish near the Parker farm.

Tuesday morning Turner took his men toward a farm owned by Dr. Simon Blunt where he hoped to gain recruits. But the band marched into an ambush. Instead of joining Turner’s revolt, several of Blunt’s slaves helped defend the Blunt homestead and even captured a few of Turner’s rebels. By Tuesday evening Turner’s band was completely dispersed and a full scale manhunt for him was underway. He evaded the law until the end of October, when finally captured. Although some whites wanted to lynch him, he was given legal counsel and a trial that resulted in conviction.

Turner never expressed remorse for his actions and instead considered himself a martyr. (He had a multi-year history of bizarre religious delusions.) Turner was hanged on 11 November. Twenty-eight other blacks were also convicted. Eighteen were hanged and ten were “transported,” presumably out of the country.

Although Turner’s rebellion was suppressed within two days (by 24 August), false rumors of other uprising spread throughout the region for several more days. Consequently, a number of panicked whites hunted imaginary insurgents, which resulted in the arrest and even execution of some innocent blacks.

Honoring Nat Turner’s Rebellion is sheer madness, every bit as outrageous as that encapsulated in the forty-second video below.

 

Joe Biden’s Reprehensible Lie

(April 27, 2019) Two days ago former Vice President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election. During his brief announcement he falsely accused President Trump of characterizing some of the white supremacists that marched in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017 as “very fine people” during a Q & A session with the press. The video below showing the applicable press conference proves that Biden told a deliberate lie about Trump in order to gain political supporters.

Anyone who watched the video can see that Trump explicitly condemned the white supremacists who appropriated the General’s statue as a rallying point in Robert E. Lee Park. He further specified that his “very fine people” remark applied to a sub-group of participants who were not there to promote white supremacy but to demonstrate against a movement that sought to tear down the statue and rename the park.

President Trump is correct when stating that many people who are not white supremacists, some being fine people, desire to keep Confederate statues in place. Anyone honestly believing that any major presidential candidate considers the vanishingly small number of Americans who are white supremacists include “very fine people” is deluded. In contrast, fifty-four years ago Texas novelist William Humphrey explained why the typical Southerner wants to honor his Confederate ancestors.

If the Civil War is more alive to the Southerner than the Northerner it is because all of the past is, and this is so because the Southerner has a sense of having been present there himself in the person of one or more of his ancestors. The war filled merely a chapter in his . . . [family history] . . .  transmitted orally from father to son [as] the proverbs, prophecies, legends, laws, traditions-of-origin and tales-of-wanderings of his own tribe. . . It is this feeling of identity with the dead (who are past) which characterizes and explains the Southerner.

It is with kin, not causes, that the Southerner is linked. Confederate Great-grandfather . . . is not remembered for his (probably undistinguished) part in the Battle of Bull Run; rather Bull Run is remembered because Great-grandfather was there. For the Southerner the Civil War is in the family.

Clannishness was, and is, the key to his temperament, and he went off to war to protect not Alabama but only those thirty or forty acres of its sandy hillside, or stiff red clay, which he broke his back tilling, and which was as big a country as his mind could hold.

Statue critics say he fought for slavery. But fewer than 30% of Southern families owned slaves. In truth, according to historian William C. Davis, “The widespread Northern myth that Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens of thousands, reveal again and again that they fought because their Southern homeland was invaded. . .”

Few today appreciate magnitude of their sacrifice. About 300,000 Confederate soldiers died when the region’s population was only nine million. If the United States were to suffer proportional casualties in a war today our losses would total 11 million, which would be twenty-six times greater than our dead of World War II.

Given such oblations, the Confederate soldier’s surviving family members wanted to memorialize him. Memorial Day evolved after Federal occupation troops observed Southern women spreading flowers upon the graves of their husbands, sons and brothers during the war. A year after the war the ladies of Columbus, Mississippi strewed flowers on the graves of both the Confederate and Union dead in the town’s Friendship Cemetery. Their gesture started a movement that spread and in the North May 30th became selected as National Memorial Day in 1868.

Since the war had impoverished the South, the Southern ladies could do little more than lay down flowers. There was no money for statues and Union veterans opposed permanent Confederate memorials. But when the sons of Confederate veterans eagerly joined the U.S. Army thirty years later to help win the Spanish-American War, the aging Union Civil War soldiers concluded that their former rivals were also Americans, deserving of memorial recognition.

Thus, the twenty years from 1898 to 1918 witnessed the installation of 80% of the signature courthouse square Confederate statues still standing in many Southern towns. During that period the typical surviving Confederate soldier aged from 58 years to 78 years. Memorial placements—North and South—surged between 1911 and 1915 because it was the War’s semi-centennial and the old soldiers were fading away.

Today a vocal minority holds Confederate soldiers in contempt, much like the many Americans who sneered at returning Vietnam veterans in the 1960s and 70s. Amid chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today?” some civilians mocked the soldiers. Today most Americans old enough to remember cringe with shame when recalling such incidents.

As reported in The New York Times, for example, in 1968 a one-armed vet was accosted at a Colorado college.

Pointing to the missing limb another student asked, “Did you get that in Vietnam?”

The veteran said yes.

“Serves you right,” said the student.

It took years, but eventually the public abandoned the ridiculers and gave Vietnam vets their due credit thereby underscoring the maxim: “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

Thus, we should be aware that decisions to tear down century-old monuments put us at risk for unassuageable remorse in the future. Dishonoring such monuments demeans later generations of American warriors who were inspired by the courage of the Confederate soldier.

Consider, for example, that post-Civil-War Southerners consistently came to our nation’s defense more readily than did other Americans. Presently, 44% of American military are from the South even though it represents just 36% of the nation’s population.

Tennessee’s Alvin York was America’s most famous infantryman in World War I. Although his grandfather was a Union deserter, two of his grand-uncles sided with the Confederacy.  Texan Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. In Vietnam, an Arkansas sniper named Carlos Hathcock killed more enemy than anyone and even put a bullet in the eye of an opposing sniper through the foe’s telescopic sight. (Steven Spielberg theatrically copied this in his Saving Private Ryan movie.) Each man was born into the grinding poverty that typified much of the South for a century after the Civil War. As boys they hunted game for food, not sport.

During World War II, the first American flag to fly over the captured Japanese fortress at Okinawa was a Confederate Battle Flag. It was put there by a respectful marine company to honor of their leader—a South Carolina captain who suffered a paralyzing wound in the victorious assault. Some of the tank crews that freed prisoners from German concentration camps also flew the Confederate Battle Flag.

The academic community is at the forefront of those wanting to remove Confederate statues, which they characterize as racist. In doing so they violate the American Historical Society’s warning against “presentism,” which is defined as an uncritical tendency to interpret the past in terms of modern values. It fails to recognize that racial attitudes throughout America 150 years ago were different than they are today. That is why Abraham Lincoln said during an 1858 debate, “. . . I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. . .”

Finally, toppling Confederate statues has evolved into a mob sport, with impunity for the vandals. Since such conduct requires no more bravery than kicking a puppy, we may wonder what comes next when the social justice warriors gather more courage. Arcata, California has already removed a statue of President McKinley. Notre Dame University has covered a mural that celebrates Christopher Columbus’s discovery voyages. Anti-statue activists are behaving much like the leaders of the former Soviet Union where censorship and rewritten history was part of the state’s effort to ensure that the correct political spin was put on their history. In response, George Orwell warned:

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

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The Other Irrepressible Conflict

(April 26, 2019) Before he became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward was a Republican Senator from New York. While campaigning for other Republican candidates in 1858 he made a speech in Rochester where he said that the differences between the North and the South over slavery would eventually lead to an irrepressible conflict. (He overlooked the possibility that the two sections could have peaceably split into two separate countries as the Confederacy proposed.)

There was, however, a second irrepressible contest that started at the end of 1861, which was the first calendar year of the Civil War. In December the U. S. Treasury triggered a seventeen-year conflict between the value of gold and paper dollars. Specifically, it declined to any longer redeem for specie (gold or silver coins) its dominant issue of paper money. The paper currency, termed U. S. Demand Notes, had been issued only six months earlier in the total amount of $50 million. But, rapidly growing wartime federal spending had nearly emptied the Treasury of gold.

Consequently, less than two months after specie suspension, the Treasury issued a new fiat currency that was explicitly not redeemable in specie. Termed Greenbacks, the bills were made legal tender by the 1862 Legal Tender Act. The initial authorization  of $150 million was promptly used to pay soldiers and other domestic obligations. As legal tender, Americans were required to accept the bills at face value for all domestic transactions. All states complied except for California and Oregon. Since gold still circulated in those states they defied the Legal Tender Act, much like South Carolina attempted to defy the Tariff of Abominations almost thirty years earlier. California and Oregon basically nullified a federal law with impunity, but that’s another story and a good one.

Overseas suppliers of goods imported into the United States, however, could not be compelled to accept Greenbacks at face value. They only accepted specie. That generally meant gold because the market value of silver was greater than its monetary value, which caused silver coins to be melted down for their bullion value thereby driving silver coins out of circulation. The U. S. Treasury also required that import duties be paid in specie, because tariffs were its primary source of gold.

As a result, Manhattan brokers formed the New York Gold Exchange shortly after the Legal Tender Act became law. Importers needing gold to pay overseas suppliers or tariff duties could buy the metal with Greenbacks on the exchange. Since Greenbacks were not redeemable in gold at the Treasury, the the value of a gold dollar was always greater than that of a Greenback dollar. The “gold premium” fluctuated inversely to the public’s confidence in future of the federal government. If they did not feel the United States would survive they’d sell Greenbacks for gold.

Thus, the gold premium tended to increase following Union setbacks. The premium topped-out in early July 1864 when Grant’s massive losses seemed futile and Sherman appeared to be making only slow progress toward Atlanta. At that point it took almost 2.8 Greenback dollars to buy a gold dollar. Conversely, the Greenback dollar was then worth only about thirty-six cents in gold.

Gold Premium Relative to the Greenback Dollar (1862-1879)

The gold premium, albeit a fluctuating generally shrinking differential, remained in place until January 1879 when the Treasury stood ready to redeem for gold any Greenbacks presented at their offices. Few were presented, however, because the public was confident that the Treasury would make good on the bargain and paper money was more convenient to use than were bulky coins. The conflict between the gold and paper dollar was over until the Great Depression when hard times once again threatened the Treasury with redemptions that would exceed its gold reserves.   

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Southerners Love America

(April 25, 2018) Even though the post two days ago shows that Johnny Cash revered Confederate General Robert E. Lee, today’s “Ragged Old Flag” video proves that he also venerated a reunited America. In that context, he was typical of Southerners who have traditionally been among the most patriotic Americans. As documented in an earlier article, they came to her defense in wartime more readily than did men from other regions.

In the video above Cash explains that his love of country stems from the freedoms we have. It did not result from unearned rewards linked to “white male privilege” as politically correct cynics might argue. His dad was a sharecropper. As a boy Johnny worked in the fields with his family at a time when the average sharecropper—black or white—earned about twenty cents a day. Unlike in the Northern cities, rural Arkansas had no soup kitchens during the Great Depression.

Even though many Southerners who fought in American wars of the 20th and 21st centuries were inspired by the examples of the Confederate forebears, today’s dominant zeitgeist insists that they must be ashamed of their ancestors. It is a mistake that Americans may come to regret just as most of us now cringe in shame when we recall the insulting treatment that many Vietnam veterans endured when they returned to the United States. Even if we were not perpetrators, too many of us watched in silence.

 

Comparing Words and Deeds

(April 24, 2019) Critics of the Confederacy often point to the Declaration of Causes for secession among selected Rebel states as evidence that the Civil War was “all about” slavery. The Civil War Trust, for example, notes that four of the original seven Confederate states cited slavery as a prime reason for secession.* Critics often attack anyone who disputes the slavery-was-everything interpretation with remarks such as, “The Declaration of Causes plainly say that the primary concern among contemporary Southern leaders was the preservation of slavery. You’re a racist bigot to deny it.”

Aside from the routine ad hominem, that argument has two flaws.

First, secession need not have led to war. Northerners could have let the Southern states depart peaceably. Many Yankee leaders advocated, or were satisfied with, a peaceable separation. Among them were Horace Greeley, Lincoln’s future War Secretary Edwin Stanton and future President Rutherford B. Hayes, as well as many others. There was no danger that the South would start a war by invading the North. The war came only after Northerners resolved to coerce the seven cotton states back into the Union. That solitary decision caused Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas to join the seven-state Confederacy and double the number of whites in the new nation. All four had remained Union-loyal during the secession crisis.

Second, the slavery-was-everything argument ignores the fact that people reveal their motives more by their actions than their words. We all learned that in kindergarten, or earlier. The sectional differences over tariffs provide an example of true North-vs.-South motivation.

Prior to the Civil War in 1860 the average tariff on dutiable items was 19%. During the war, and for forty-five years thereafter, the figure was 45%. Thus, once Northerners gained control of the federal government they increased dutiable item tariffs by 130% and kept them there for half a century.

Therefore, high protective tariffs were undeniably a primary war aim for the North. While modern historians will dispute the point, their arguments ignore the compelling and protracted post-war evidence. I have read a number of such essays and have yet to find a solitary one that even hints that the author was aware that the winning side imposed high protective tariffs long after the war was over.

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*The CWT also cites Virginia’s single and oblique reference to slavery in its Declaration of Causes, but ignores the fact that Virginia remained Union-loyal during the secession crises. She only decided to join the Confederacy after Lincoln resolved to militarily coerce the original seven cotton states back into the Union.