Bowling’s Civil War

Charles Bowery commented earlier today that he was curious re: Brag Bowling’s reference to “the good general Confederate community.”  Who does he have in mind?  More importantly, we might ask what Bowling’s vision for the Museum of the Confederacy involves.  Thanks to Brooks Simpson who sent along the following link we have a clear statement from Bowling himself that goes back a few years to the Lincoln-Tad statue at Tredegar.  This passage appeared in The Weekly Standard:

“Ten years ago I started to learn about my family. I read intensively, everything I could–not just politically correct history but also other history that’s been suppressed. That’s the way this learning process often starts. My great grandfather served in the Army of Northern Virginia as private under General Robert E. Lee. He was at Sharpsburg–Yankees call it Antietam–at Chancellorsville, other places. And like 90 percent of the soldiers who fought for and served the South, he never owned a slave.

“So–just to show you how the thought process works, for people who are still capable of thinking for themselves–so I thought, well, why is that? If the war is all about slavery, why’s he fighting so hard? It didn’t fit, you see, with everything I’d been taught about the Civil War. Like all his comrades, my great-grandfather gave everything he had. Why? He did it for his country. The South had bad everything–bad munitions, bad clothing, bad food. But they had the best men. They gave everything they had. And they did not do that to defend slavery.”

The war wasn’t about slavery for Lincoln, either, Bowling explained. He ticked off the particulars of his indictment of Lincoln. With his generals he invented the concept of Total War, and waged campaigns of unprecedented savagery against noncombatants and private property in the Shenandoah Valley, the March through Georgia, and elsewhere. He was the father of Big Government, vastly expanding the reach of Imperial Washington in ways unthinkable to the country’s founders. The Northern victory was a triumph for a commercial culture, controlled by Big Business, over a Southern culture of farms and small towns that asked only to be let alone.

“It was all about power,” he said. “Six hundred thousand dead. All so Lincoln and his friends could consolidate their power to tell other people how to live their lives.”

I can just picture the special exhibit on slavery.  Thanks again Brooks.

6 comments… add one

  • Charles Bowery Mar 23, 2007

    Wow, that is truly shocking. But what I really can’t fathom is the appearance of such a passage in The Weekly Standard, otherwise a paragon of balanced and responsible journalism. :) I love how the Right can work its asinine talking points about “Big Government” and “Imperial Washington” into a discussion of events 100+ years ago.

  • John Maass Mar 23, 2007

    I’ll leave the sanctimonious comments about “the Right” alone in that they are so typical of discussion killers, but will point out one of Bowling’s key phrases: “a Southern culture of farms and small towns that asked only to be let alone.” Sure, let alone to enslave 4,000,000 people and expand the institution indefinitely!

  • Charles Bowery Mar 26, 2007

    John,
    Point well taken. My rant was exactly what the Weekly Standard does all the time, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Should have used my indoor / blogger / academic voice. My apologies to Kevin and all. It looks like I unintentionally reinforced the central message of this whole blog, which is that the past matters to people, often in bad ways.
    Charles

  • Jim Apr 2, 2007

    We all know, or at least should know, that the war was a power struggle between a region whose Congressional power was ebbing (the South) and one that was growing (the North). The Confederacy was created in order to secure profits and political power for a region.

    Lincoln had to try and restore the Union otherwise become the biggest presidential failure of all American history from losing a major portion of the existing country. Nevertheless, the struggle of the South against centralization, the championing of state’s rights, the experimentation with the 10th Amendment, and the heroic efforts involved cannot be summarily discounted by the double-standard North pointing to the existing legal and profitable institution of slavery.

    Remember that we rebelled against the English after being secured by them during the French and Indian Wars, and we celebrate that outcome today. The CW was another rebellion of similar caliber that failed and therefore gets labelled as treasonous by the victor.

    Slavery is a stain on human kind as it has been in existence since time beginning, and it points out that mankind can be his own worst enemy. So is it any wonder that the South is rightly defensive against singularly bearing the burden of slavery?

    Bad-mouthing and distorting the historical role of 13 United States is no way to move forward together for a better society. Maybe some people cannot enjoy their own successes without knowing that others are less fortunate?

  • Kevin Levin Apr 2, 2007

    Jim, — You said: “Lincoln had to try and restore the Union otherwise become the biggest presidential failure of all American history from losing a major portion of the existing country. Nevertheless, the struggle of the South against centralization, the championing of state’s rights, the experimentation with the 10th Amendment, and the heroic efforts involved cannot be summarily discounted by the double-standard North pointing to the existing legal and profitable institution of slavery.”

    I am not going to spend much time on this, but I would suggest that you go back and reread the political history of the 1850s. A cursory glance suggests that Southern politicians were advocates of centralization whenever it helped secure slave rights. The Fugitive Slave Act is the best example, which gave the federal government the power to hunt down escaped slaves. Northern politicians pushed the states rights argument in the form of “Personal Liberty Laws”. States rights was always an argument used for instrumental purposes in the South and was utilized following Lincoln’s election.

  • Jim Apr 4, 2007

    Kevin, thanks for giving me info from another perspective. It comes as no surprise to me that people compete through whatever means are available to secure their interests. Still, you cannot deny that states rights were an issue long before the 1850s, exemplified by the Articles of Confederation, Jefferson, etc., and still are. Lastly, I sincerely believe that economics and technological innovation rather than moral issues mainly drove the CW and subsequent social change, but there seems to be a dearth of that information available, at least on the surface.

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