Monthly Archives: April 2020

Letter to Marine Commandant

April 28, 2020

General David Berger
Marine Corps Commandant
3000 Marine Corps, Pentagon
Washington, D. C. 20350-3000

Dear General Berger:

I regret your banishment of Confederate icons in the Corps.

They have been inspiring symbols for generations of many American warriors. Southerners have long contributed more than their share of soldiers. Presently, about 44% of military recruits are from the South whereas the region has only 36% of the nation’s population.  

The first American flag to fly over the conquered Japanese Shuri Castle fortress on Okinawa was a Confederate Battle Flag. It was put there by a company of Marines when they found it in the abandoned helmet of their commander after the South Carolina Captain had been evacuated with a paralyzing wound.  

I ask that you reverse your ban.

Sincerely yours,

Philip Leigh

YouTube Presentation on Southern Reconstruction

(April 24, 2020) Provided below is a thirty-five minute YouTube video of my Southern Reconstruction presentation last summer at the Abbeville Institute.

 

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To support this blog, buy 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
The Devil’s Town: Hot Springs During the Gangster Era by Philip Leigh

 

One Benefit of Confederate Heritage

(April 22, 2020) Texas novelist William Humphrey wrote in 1965 that the Southerner “is conscious of his [Confederate veteran] great-grandfather as a constant companion throughout life. He will seek his counsel in moments of moral perplexity and will borrow his courage when going into battle.”

One example has been a tendency for Confederate descendants to take courage from their ancestors as evidenced by those who carried Confederate symbols into America’s wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Presently, for example, 44% of American military personnel are from the South notwithstanding that it represents just 36% of the nation’s population.

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, Arkansas sniper 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 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 company of marines to honor their commander— a guy that happened to be from South Carolina and who suffered a paralyzing wound in the mopping-up process. The company found the flag in his abandoned helmet after he was evacuated. Some of the tank crews that freed prisoners from German concentration camps also flew the Confederate Battle Flag.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, author of the Owen Parry Civil War novels, Confederate solders merit such inspiration.

The myth of Johnny Reb as the greatest infantryman happens to be true. Not only the courage and combat skill, but the sheer endurance of the Confederate foot soldier may have been equaled in a few other armies over the millennia, but none could claim the least superiority. . . [T]he physical toughness, fighting ability and raw determination of those men remains astonishing.​

The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of bravery, not slavery. I’m a Yankee, born and bred, and my personal sympathies lie with the Northern cause . . . To me, though, that red flag with the blue St. Andrews cross strewn with white stars does not symbolize slavery—that’s nonsense—but the stunning bravery of those who fought beneath it.”​

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To support this blog, buy 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
The Devil’s Town: Hot Springs During the Gangster Era by Philip Leigh

Texas Novelist Explains Confederate Heritage

(April 21, 2020)

In 1965 Texas novelist William Humphrey wrote:

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.​
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake,” my Northern friends would say, “us Yankee boys had great-grandads in that war. But all of our clocks didn’t stop on that day at, where was it, Appomattox? What’s that got to do with me anyway?”​
“Now that’s a question,” I replied, “that a Southerner could never ask. He is conscious of his great-grandfather as a constant companion throughout life. He will seek his counsel in moments of moral perplexity and will borrow his courage when going into battle. No, Southern clocks did not stop in 1865; they have gone on ticking; but they are all grandfather clocks.​

Author William Humprey

Humphrey was revealing feelings carried forward from his Texas childhood during the 1930s. Back then a few veterans were still alive to pass along their memories to youngsters like Bill. He later used those recollections to portray an incident in his best-known novel, Home from the Hill, which Vincente Minelli made into a movie.

About twenty years after the war a foppish stranger stepped off the Dallas-bound train when it stopped at Clarksville. Even though he spoke English none of the whittlers at the station could understand him, which they later learned was due to his Italian accent. But eventually the stranger—who identified himself as a professor—was granted an audience with the aldermen during which he explained that he could build a marble monument to the Confederate infantryman for $1,000. For $5,000 he could erect one depicting a mounted cavalryman, or an officer.​
The town chose the $1,000 option. After the professor labored creatively and submitted a finished design the aldermen gave him a $500 deposit. A year later he returned with the sculpted components and erected the statue. The unveiling was a celebration that attracted nearly everyone in town, white and black.​
A good many years elapsed before anyone from Clarksville traveled far along the railroad from whence the sculptor arrived. But when one resident eventually travelled to Georgia he noticed that there was “hardly a town of monument-aspiration size along the railway line all the way to Atlanta without a copy of our soldier.”​

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Buy and 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
The Devil’s Town: Hot Springs During the Gangster Era by Philip Leigh

Best Single Book on Civil War and Reconstruction

(April 18, 2020)

The Civil War and Reconstruction
J. G. Randall and David Donald
D. C. Heath & Company, Boston, 1961
808 pages

Randall and Donald’s Civil War and Reconstruction is the best single volume account I’ve found. Even though it is about 800 pages, nearly every sentence is packed with information. It is also largely free of the biases that infected earlier eras of interpretation as well as today’s prejudices. Although my copy has been a handy reference for the past decade, I had never read it through until the quarantine when I discovered that top-quality physical copies are only available for about $950 in the used marketplace. Fortunately, Amazon offers a Kindle for $6.49 and the Internet Archive even has a free version of the 1969 edition.

While the original version was published in 1937, my copy is a revised edition prepared by David Donald in 1961, as is the Kindle. Donald explains that his revision is “less pro-Southern than was Mr. Randall’s original manuscript.” In part this reflects “the fact that Mr. Randall, as a Northerner, tried very hard to be fair to a section to which he did not belong, while I, as a Mississippian, feel proud of my Southern heritage and aware of its deficiencies. The most striking changes in my edition occur in the section on Reconstruction. . . where I have tried to show Negroes, carpetbaggers, and scalawags in a fuller, and I hope fairer, light. . . I have also continued to adhere to the belief that . . . military history is only one important aspect of the Civil War, deserving no fuller attention than, say, wartime finance or diplomacy.”

Although the volume focuses on the 1850 to 1877 period, it also includes developments from earlier eras to provide important context. While slavery is a frequent topic until the 13th​ Amendment is ratified, a special chapter on “Slavery” provides a discussion of the applicable laws and practices as well as the evolution of Atlantic trade and Southern attitudes toward manumission. Perhaps the reader can see how the excerpt below would be omitted from most modern texts:

The prewar South, especially before 1830, was far from unanimous in supporting slavery. . . There were Southerners who deplored the institution, such as Jefferson, Lee, Washington, George Mason, and John Tyler; and even active Southern abolitionists, such as J. G. Birney and Cassius Clay. On the other hand, slavery supporters were numerous in the North. . . The practice of indentured servitude was recognized in the 1818 Illinois constitution and was made effective by statutes passed in 1819. It is probable that out-and-out recognition of slavery would have been included in the 1818 constitution had not Illinois feared that recognition would defeat the admission of the state into the Union.​

In Indiana much the same situation existed. [When preparing for admission, Indiana petitioned Congress to suspend] that article of the Northwest Ordinance that forbade slavery [in its borders]. . . This . . . was not approved by the [full] Congress, but it is significant that such a recommendation could be made by a congressional committee in 1806. . . Sectional differences concerning the right and wrong of Negro bondage is not as clear-cut as has been supposed.​


Many of the chapters, such as those treating border state problems, non-military developments, intellectual tendencies, anti-war efforts, religious and educational movements, propaganda methods, literature, cultural changes, home front challenges, women, War Department organization, recruitment, blockade running, inter-belligerent trade, Buchanan’s secession dilemma, and others are strikingly original.
As a result, the bibliography is a gold mine because it includes sources on a wide variety of topics. If included in the Kindle version, it alone is well worth the price.

The chapter that included French adventurism in Mexico is both brief and authoritative enough to save those unfamiliar with the topic considerable reading time. The one on West Virginia secession was an eye opener. The scandalous methods of preventing Maryland’s secession are succinctly explained as are prisoner exchange protocols and controversies. Even an attempt by stock speculators to make a killing in the market by sending a phony Associated Press release to two New York newspapers is mentioned in a discussion of newspaper censorship. The release falsely reported that Lincoln was making another 400,000-man draft call, which would likely have caused the stock market to drop.

Finally, when additional context is needed the authors use abundant footnotes for elaboration, not merely for citation but to explain additional points.

In terms of fairness, originality, and reliability, a better book there never was.

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Buy and 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
The Devil’s Town: Hot Springs During the Gangster Era by Philip Leigh

 

A Virginia Vietnam Vet Defends Confederate Statues

(April 17, 2020) Provided below is a copy of a letter written by Bo Traywick to the Richmond Free Press in defense of Confederate statues. Bo is a VMI grad, Vietnam vet and author Empire of the Owls and other writing pertaining the to Civil War and Reconstruction. He is an example of some of the modern American soldiers who have been inspired to fight for our country based partly upon respect for his Confederate Heritage. He has been a persistent defender of that heritage although the Richmond newspapers too often decline to publish his letters.

Bo Traywick

To the Editor:

The Editorial Page doth protest too much, methinks. Once again we have it – the “Holy Trinity” against the Confederate monuments: Treason, Slavery, and Racism.

To accuse the Confederacy of treason, one must first wipe one’s feet on the Declaration of Independence, signed by the thirteen slave-holding Colonies that seceded from the British Empire in 1776.

To claim that the U. S. invaded the Confederacy to free the slaves, one must ignore the fact that at the time of Lincoln’s election, New York and Boston were the largest African Slave-trading ports in the world, and that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued two years later, stated plainly that slavery was alright as long as one was loyal to his government – proven the following summer when West Virginia, a so-called “slave State,” was admitted into the Union.

As for racism, please note that the North’s strong opposition to slavery in the Territories was due to their strong opposition to black people in the Territories. The first “Jim Crow” laws originated in the North, and the largest lynching of black people in the history of the United State occurred during the New York draft riots in the summer of 1863. Lincoln himself was a white supremacist. Frederick Douglass called him the product of a Kentucky redneck education. For more on that, I suggest Lerone Bennett’s “Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream.”

But white people – North or South – don’t hold a monopoly on the oppression of blacks. Remember, it was Africans who captured and sold Africans into slavery in the first place. Suggested reading here might be Joseph Conrad’s “An Outpost of Progress”; Zora Neale Hurston’s “Barracoon”; or V. S. Naipaul’s “A Bend in the River.”

But we are not having a history debate. This is “presentism”: history twisted to conform to today’s politics.   

H. V. Traywick, Jr

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Buy and 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
The Devil’s Town: Hot Springs During the Gangster Era by Philip Leigh