Monthly Archives: January 2020

Washington Post Maligns My Lee-Jackson Speech: Part II

(January 31, 2020) As explained yesterday, Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy maligned my “Defending Confederate Monuments” speech presented on Lee-Jackson Day in Lexington, Virginia. He asked that I send him a copy while we were sitting together in the front audience row during the preliminaries. I emailed it before I took the podium. After my speech he thanked me and said, “I will be in touch.” But he never contacted me. In a post here, yesterday I responded to his remarks about an incident I don’t recall ever happening. Today I reply to his comments about African-American allusions in the speech.

Why My Confederate Statue Speech Included References to Blacks

Post reporter Milloy begins his article:

At the Robert E. Lee-Stonewall Jackson Day luncheon in Lexington, Va., this past weekend, I was surprised by the level of attention that was paid to racial issues. . . There was no apparent reason to bring up the subject of race. 

“No apparent reason?” . . . My “Defending Confederate Monuments” speech included remarks about slavery and Southern blacks because statue opponents consider both factors to be good reasons for tearing down statues. Thus, any speech defending them must necessarily address slavery and racism.  I felt compelled, for example, to debunk the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) false claim that the 1911-1915 surge in statue erections reflected racism by explaining the period coincided with the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of the war when the old soldiers were fading away. Statues for Northern veterans also surged during those same years.

A “heartfelt” 1890 speech by black Mississippi legislator John Harris supporting a $10,000 appropriation for a Confederate monument apparently annoyed Milloy.* Harris and all five other black legislators voted “yea” thereby helping the bill pass by a vote of 57-to-41 in the lower chamber. This was too much for Milloy.

First he wrote that I gave a “verified” account of the speech as though he expected me to fabricate the source. Once he realized it was genuine he wrote, “There’s always more to the story” when a statue defender speaks. He continued:

It [Harris’ speech] was a compromise effort to get more white legislators to oppose a newly drafted Mississippi constitution, [which disfranchised black voters with a poll tax and other requirements.] And when the Confederate statue that Harris had voted for was erected, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind what it symbolized.

It is true that Harris opposed the formation of a constitutional convention to replace the 1868 Carpetbag Mississippi constitution but there was no “newly drafted constitution” at the time. Moreover, the statue bill was a carveout of larger funding from a relief bill for disabled Confederates and the destitute families of deceased veterans. His speech was a moving explanation of why he wanted $10,000 from the gross funding to be applied to a statue. While nobody can rule out the possibility that Harris was trying to influence legislators to vote against a constitutional convention, the argument is speculative. Since Harris was merely showing a preference between two applications of money appropriated specifically for Confederate veterans and their families, it seems more logical to take his words at face value.

Finally, Milloy mentioned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling that legitimized the “separate but equal” race doctrine as another stain on the South. Although the case involved a 1892 Louisiana incident, Justice Henry Brown of Michigan cited a Boston precedent upholding segregated schools. Six of the other justices that joined him in the 7–1 decision were from states that were Union-loyal during the Civil War. The lone dissenter was from Kentucky.

The Washington ‘Democracy dies in darkness’ Post declined to publish my response, which I provided in an Op-Ed submission.

*Harris’s speech is excerpted in “Defending Confederate Monuments”

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Sample my books at my Amazon Author Page.

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Washington Post Criticizes My Lee-Jackson Speech: Part I

(January 30, 2020) On January 21st Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy wrote an article about my “Defending Confederate Monuments” speech at the January18th Lee-Jackson Day event in Lexington, Virginia. His “Lee-Jackson Day with a bit of history and context” article portrays me unfairly. Today’s post responds to one Milloy comment excerpted below:

Before giving his keynote speech, Civil War book author Phil Leigh made an offhand remark discounting the role of slavery in the war. Another man overheard him and pointed out that nearly all the states that seceded from the Union had cited the preservation of slavery as a main reason.

That was it. End of the exchange. 

I do not recall this exchange. Mr. Milloy could have contacted me before writing the above to see if I had any response. He had my email address since he asked me to send him a copy of my speech, which I did before even taking the podium. (We were sitting next to one another during the preliminaries.) Before he left the lecture hall after my speech he told me, “I will be in touch.” But he never contacted me. If he had, I would have responded with the remarks below, which I asked the Washington Post to print as an Op-Ed. The Post declined yesterday. 

Why Did the North Fight the Civil War?

Even though most secession declarations provided by the first seven states to join the eleven-state Confederacy cited protecting slavery as a prime motive, the reasons for Southern secession cannot be equated with the reasons for the Civil War. There would have been no war, for example, if the North had permitted the seven cotton states to depart peacefully. Everyone knew there was no danger that the South would invade the North to overthrow the Washington government. Confederate President Jefferson Davis put it succinctly: “All we ask is to be left alone.” To identify the cause of war it is as necessary to understand why the North chose to fight as it is to recognize why the cotton states seceded.

Contrary to popular belief Northerners did not decide to fight in order to end slavery. Before the shooting started, the legislatures of at least ten Northern states adopted resolutions explaining their objections to Southern secession. None stated they wanted to end slavery. Most specified a desire to “preserve the Union,” which was a euphemistic way of saying that they wanted to avoid the economic consequences of disunion.  They realized that a truncated Union separated from its Southern states would face two major economic problems.

First, it could not hope to maintain a favorable balance of payments. The slave states accounted for two-thirds of America’s exports. Without the South’s export economy America might become a perpetual debtor nation forever at the mercy of its stronger trading partners that would deplete her gold supply in order to settle persistent trade deficits.

Second, since the Confederate constitution outlawed protective tariffs her lower tariffs would confront the remaining states of the Union with two consequences. First, since ninety percent of Federal taxes came from tariffs the government would lose a significant proportion of its revenue. Articles imported into the Confederacy from Europe would divert tariff revenue from the USA to the CSA. Second, and more importantly, a low Confederate tariff would cause Southerners to buy manufactured goods from Europe as opposed to the Northern states where prices were artificially inflated by protective tariffs. Consequently, the market for Northern manufactured goods in the South might nearly vanish. That market was estimated at $200 to $400 million, which was much more than America’s $54 million in tariffs collected in 1860.

Finally, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas did not join the Confederacy until after President Lincoln required that they provide soldiers to militarily force the seven cotton states back into the Union, which they believed to be unconstitutional. Although each had previously refused to secede, they doubled the Confederacy’s white population and military capacity when they rejected Lincoln’s coercion demand.

Even Eric Foner admits that most historians don’t understand why the North chose to fight. In reality, they don’t want to concede selfish motives among our Northern ancestors because that would contradict the zeitgeist vouchsafed by the cultural elite.

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Sample my books at my Amazon Author Page.

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

 

Surprising Discovery Revealed Civil War Turning Point

(January 26, 2020) When victorious federal soldiers scavenged the Gettysburg battlefield they made a shocking discovery. Specifically, after picking-up a total of 24,000 loaded muskets and rifles they learned that half of the guns had two loads and an additional one-quarter had from three to ten. One even had 23 loads rammed down the barrel. Thus, fully three-fourths of the loaded weapons found on the battlefield were unusable. The situation resulted from the complexities of loading the standard muzzleloading firearms, which are demonstrated in this YouTube video. As a result, the Union armies would make an armaments change that would ultimately insure victory.

An experienced man with steady nerves could at most fire three rounds per minute with a muzzleloader. Choked by fear and battle smoke, unnerved by shrieking shells and whining bullets and the screams of dying men, not many soldiers did so well. And a lot could go wrong if a man got overexcited. He might ram the bullet into the barrel before he poured in the powder. He might leave the ramrod in the barrel and then fire it off,  past retrieving. He might load the cartridge, paper and all, without breaking it open. Mistakes were common because loading a muzzleloader correctly required  ten steps.

  1. Lower musket to ground.
  2. Handle cartridge.
  3. Tear cartridge.
  4. Charge cartridge.
  5. Draw rammer.
  6. Ram cartridge.
  7. Return rammer.
  8. Half cock.
  9. Position percussion cap.
  10. Shoulder the arm.

In contrast, almost all of the Union cavalry at Gettysburg were armed with breechloaders. Nearly all the guns loaded one cartridge at a time as demonstrated in this YouTube video but some units, including selected companies in General George Armstrong Custer’s command, had repeating rifles.* A single-shot breechloader like the Sharps could fire up to ten times a minute, while the Spencer repeater could shoot fourteen rounds a minute with “no trouble at all.”**

As a result, about a month after word got out that thousands of abandoned muzzleloaders had been found with multiple loads on the Gettysburg battlefield, Christopher Spencer arranged to demonstrate his repeating rifle for President Lincoln on August 19, 1863. That afternoon, in a field located near where the Washington Monument stands today, Spencer and Lincoln took turns firing the rifle, using a marked piece of wood as a target. The President was favorably impressed. A month later he replaced Brigadier General James Ripley as Ordnance Chief. Although he gave no official explanation, Lincoln was aware that Ripley had consistently opposed infantry use of repeaters, and even single-shot breechloaders. In fact, he had twice intervened to force Ripley to place modest orders for such weapons.***

Although Ripley’s official replacement, Colonel George Ramsey, was also a breechloader fan, War Secretary Edwin Stanton disliked him because of a minor dispute earlier the war. Consequently, Ramsey had accomplished far less than he hoped when he was replaced a year later by Alexander Dyer in September 1864. Only two months later Dyer recommended that the Army organize a panel to settle upon a single design for a breechloading firearm to become standard issue. On March 1, 1865 War Secretary Stanton directed that all new shoulder arms produced for soldiers be breechloaders.

The war ended less than two months later. Had it continued, the Confederates would have had no hope of winning against such weapons. They were unable to get breechloaders in quantity and they had no way of making metallic cartridges, which were fast becoming the standard for such guns.

The Sharps single-shot breechloader had demonstrated its firepower superiority on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg when two brigades of Union General John Buford’s cavalry held up an entire Confederate division advancing on the town. The Spencer repeaters first demonstrated their superiority in June 1863 at the battle of Hoover’s Gap in Tennessee and again in September at Chickamauga. Spencer repeaters and single-shot breechloaders also contributed to Union General Phil Sheridan’s 1864 victories in the Shenandoah Valley. 

By the time Union General James H. Wilson led his cavalry on a raid in the Deep South, the overwhelming superiority of repeater-equipped soldiers was undeniable. Each trooper in his 12,000-man force had a Spencer repeating carbine. They won easy victories in Alabama and Georgia against heavily outnumbered Confederate regulars and inexperienced militia during March and April of 1865. Should the Union infantry increasingly be armed with single-shot breechloaders and repeaters, the Confederacy could not have survived even if it had successfully enlisted 300,000 blacks as it was attempting to do when Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. After the Civil War, breechloaders became the standard US Army shoulder arm.

*The YouTube video is actually of a Spencer carbine, which is a short barrel version of the Spencer rifle.
**Robert Bruce, Lincoln and the Tools of War (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 111, 114. (Fourteen rounds per minute would required access to preloaded magazines.)
***Ibid., 116

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Sample my books at my My Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Speaking Tomorrow: Southern Reconstruction

(January 22, 2020) Tomorrow I will be speaking to the United Daughters of the Confederacy of Bradenton, Florida about Southern Reconstruction.

Presentation Subject: Southern Reconstruction
Speaker: Philip Leigh
Date: January 23, 2020 (a Thursday)
Time: 11:30 AM
Location: Peridia Golf and Country Club
4950 Peridia Boulevard East
Bradenton, Florida 34203

The picture below is of a Confederate Monument erected in Bradenton in 1924. Manatee County removed it in the middle of the night last year and broke it into two pieces with carless handling.

Bradenton’s Confederate Monument was erected in 1924 and torn down in 2019.

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Sample my books at my My Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

 

Big Media Lies About Virginians

(January 21, 2020) During my recent Defending Confederate Statues speech in Lexington at the Lee-Jackson Annual Memorial, I met a number of Virginians respectful of Confederate Heritage. Many also defend the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Despite the cold, some attended yesterday’s gun rights rally in Richmond. I was, therefore, appalled—but not surprised—that the mainstream media falsely portrayed them as “white nationalists,” “white extremists” and “militia groups,” among other insulting terms.

Despite Big Media’s warnings that the “white male” demonstrators might resort to violence, the rally was peaceful. The media reprehensibly tried to stir-up apprehension about the rally beforehand and during its early stages, and yet ignored it after it ended without incident. After dominating the front pages of their websites yesterday, neither The New York Times or The Washington Post had articles on about the rally on their front pages this morning. The ninety-second video montage below shows just how disreputable Big Media’s pre-rally coverage was.

The pious conduct of our media and cultural elites is utter madness. But America has sometimes been dominated by the madness of crowds possessed of a sense of moral superiority. One hundred and one years ago, for example, we amended the constitution in order to prohibit the recreational use of alcoholic beverages. The amendment’s adoption required a two-thirds majority vote in Congress plus the ratification of three-fourths of the states. Despite temporarily being a popular movement it was repealed less than fifteen years later by the same supermajorities in Congress and among the states.

Today’s political correctness and identity politics is another version of mass hysteria. It is no more logical than Tulip-mania and far more damaging to our  freedoms and traditions. No doubt anyone objecting to Prohibition in 1919 was shouted down as morally defective just as are the defenders of Confederate statues and Southern Heritage today. It is long past the time for us to challenge the media and cultural elites for abusing their power with self serving lies.

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Sample my books at my My Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

My Visit to Washington & Lee University

(January 20, 2020) A month prior to my Saturday presentation in Lexington, Virginia about Defending Confederate Monuments at the Lee-Jackson Day Annual Memorial, I asked Washington & Lee and the Virginia Military Academy (VMI) if I could also address their students. Notwithstanding the aid of an alumnus at each school, both turned me down although W&L allowed me to meet with one of their Civil War and Reconstruction Era history professors.

The day before the meeting I went to the W&L bookstore in order to examine the materials used in various classes, especially those chosen by the professor I would visit. Some choices were encouraging and thought provoking. A journalism class, for example, included William Zinsser’s On Writing Well (one of my favorite guides) and a history course of the Gilded Age included an Horatio Alger novel.

But the salient impression was my freedom to walk among the textbooks while carrying a briefcase. In order to minimize theft, most campuses do not permit anyone to enter the textbook stacks with a backpack or briefcase. In contrast, W&L has an honor system that is presently credited to Robert E. Lee. Alumnus and former TV news anchor, Roger Mudd, recalls that students were allowed to take exams in their own residences, unsupervised as long as they affixed an honor-pledge that they had neither given nor received aid on the exam. “The professors loved it because they could pass out their final exams and then leave,” Mudd said. “They didn’t have to monitor what was going on in the classroom as the students wrote their finals.”

While meeting with the professor the next day he confirmed that the honor system remains intact. When I later toured the Lee Chapel, I spent most of my time talking with a black security officer who also endorsed the code. He added that  the students themselves were often more strict than the professors and administrators might have been. He also remarked that family wealth and status did not enable a guilty student to evade penalties. Prior to joining W&L he had worked thirty years as a security officer at a Virginia correctional institution for adolescents. His remarks suggested that some of the inmates might have ended up with better lives if they had been given a prior opportunity to experience a protracted honor code environment.

Unfortunately, W&L’s current administration seeks to reduce Lee’s memory in the school’s history as his critics misleadingly revise that history and assassinate his character. Presently, W&L’s website includes a vague claim that “the earliest evidence of an academic Honor System dates back to the 1840s,” which was about twenty years before Lee arrived. (No doubt many colleges have a no cheating rule, but still won’t let shoppers into the textbook area with a briefcase or backpack.) Nonetheless, Freshmen still sign the Honor Code (White) Book in a ceremony traditionally held in Lee Chapel. His legacy is undoubtedly what made the code an enduring and nonnegotiable standard. Unfortunately, the cherished code may not survive. Instead students may copy the examples of Lee critics within W&L who compromise honesty in order to create a corrupted narrative that conforms to a politically correct zeitgeist.

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Sample my books at my My Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh