David Woodbury and Dixie Dawn Talk Civil War

There is a wonderful dialog going on over at a relatively new Civil War blog, which Dimitri Rotov pointed out a few weeks ago, called Southern Girl.  The blogger goes by the name Dixie Dawn and she has posted on a number of issues revolving around Southern heritage.  The last few posts include your typical anti-Lincoln rhetoric with a touch of the secession was not about slavery argument.  Normally I wouldn’t say anything about this site since they are quite common with little to contribute to serious thinking about the Civil War.  However, fellow blogger David Woodbury has engaged Dixie Dawn in what is turning into an interesting discussion.

There are a few posts to check out, including Lincoln Tries to Fool the Danes, Telling It Like It Was…, Truth Be Known…Heritage Not Hate…Get it Staight [sic], and Oppression…It Wasn’t Dixie’s Fault.  David’s responses are incredibly thoughtful and reflect a great deal of patience.  Dixie’s responses are also respectful with both sides exchanging ideas and admitting the relevance of one another’s points.  That said, I wonder how much longer this can continue.  Dixie seems to be getting much of her history from books such as James Kennedy’s The South Was Right! and David is approaching the topics from a more scholarly perspective.  Dixie is intent on using history to indict and/or vindicate while David is more focused on the content of argument and careful reasoning.  David is at his best in the following:

Thanks. You’re obviously very intelligent and articulate, and I’m pleased to see you’re reasonable as well (must be all that time you spent in Iowa!). I have strong opinions, you can tell, but I’m not trying to sell anything more than the fact that there are still more books to read, and still more viewpoints to consider.

It’s my opinion that the more you read, the less stock you’ll put in books like the Kennedy one. But that’s not to say you won’t still have harsh commentary to offer on Lincoln, and the way in which the North waged the war. You can make a more compelling argument than the Kennedys do, and still be taken seriously by the people you’re trying to enlighten.

This is actually an important point and one that highlights the gap between the way David and Dixie approach their subjects.  David concentrates on the steps taken to prove a conclusion while Dixie seems more interested in the conclusions.  It’s the emotional hold that those conclusions have on Dixie which will ultimately determine the future of this exchange as well as David’s patience. 

23 comments… add one

  • Paul Taylor Sep 4, 2007

    Kevin,

    One of the great questions I once read about “southern heritage” and “southern pride” went something like this: With over three centuries of southern heritage to take pride in and discuss, why is it that certain modern day southerners choose to focus and drill down on only four of those 300+ years?

    Though born in the north, I grew up in the south and lived there for over 30 years. Culturally, I proudly consider myself a southerner. To paraphrase a semi-famous quote, “The south is a place; east, west, and north are merely directions.” Nevertheless, I have yet to discover a satisfying answer to this question when I’ve asked it.

    Paul

  • Kevin Levin Sep 4, 2007

    Paul, — I am fascinated by that question and have commented on it a number of times on this site. As I understand it “southern heritage” is defined by the years that make up the Civil War, but more importantly, it is white. One of the reasons why I find the history of the South to be so interesting is its very richness, and I find it so disturbing how it is so often overly simplified into black v. white or North v. South.

    Dixie Dawn does a wonderful job in expressing the basic tenets of this view. It is no doubt a felt history that give little credit to the kinds of considerations that you point out in your comment.

  • HankC Sep 5, 2007

    Paul,

    for all intents and purposes the south has 2 histories: before 1865 and after. Any attempt to connect the two reveals the massive discontinuity of the civil war – it was the death of the old south and the birth of the new south.

    The entire social, civic, political and economic fabric was shredded and rewoven.

    It’s our own american version of “regime change/new world order/wiemar republic/marshall plan/occupied japan” (choose one or more of my poor examples).

    All modern day southern history can be traced to 1865 and pretty much no farther…

    HankC

  • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2007

    Hank, — I think it is much more complicated than that. The war clearly did bring about significant change in certain respects, but to suggest such a clean break with the past is a bit too much. For example, I am reading through Frank Towers’s new study of the urban South which underwent extensive change and growth during the final two decades of the antebellum period. Young Virginians during the 1850s were also pushing for a more progressive economy, which is typically identified with the New South.

    The overall difficulty with your comment centers on the idea of a homogenous or unified South. We can break the South down into at least three broad regions, including the Border, Upper, and Lower South and discern important differences in the social, political, and economic structure of each. We see even more complexity if we take an even more localized look at the region. All of this matters in analyzing the way in which and extent to which the war altered the region as a whole.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • K.P. Marshall Apr 14, 2011

    Mr. Taylor, regardless of what you consider yourself to be, YOU ARE NOT A SOUTHERNER. As to the questions of why we look at those four years to define us? It really is quite simple. The Confederacy is what we always wanted. We are a people as different from those in the north as the Swiss are the French or the Irish from the English. One day, and I pray to Yahweh that I live to see it, we will cast off the yoke of empire and take our rightful place among the Nations of the Earth.

    • Sherree Apr 15, 2011

      Mr. Marshall, as far as I am concerned, you are not a southerner, and Mr. Taylor is–and Mr. Taylor is a gentleman, too. Also, please consider leaving Yahweh out of this conversation.

      Kevin,

      It is nice to read what you wrote in the years before extremists who think they represent the South pounded you with their rhetoric. Sherree

    • Andy Hall Apr 15, 2011

      No true Scotsman,” eh?

      • Sherree Apr 15, 2011

        Oh lol…..8)……I knew I shouldn’t have clicked “submit”.

        • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

          I come from a place where you cannot be considered a Charlestonian unless you can go back at least to the Late Unpleasantness. 30 years does not a Southerner or a Scotsman make.

          • Sherree Apr 15, 2011

            Andy, you want to take that one? (Smile)

            Mr. Marshall,

            What is interesting to me is that you so fully identify with what you perceive to be the Confederate past. Things are seldom what they seem to be. People are seldom who they seem to be. For instance, I thought that you were, perhaps, attacking Kevin’s views because you didn’t like his hair color, let’s say. It turns out that that is not the case, so I have learned something. Perhaps you will learn something, too–like all southerners do not think the same, or all southerners do not revere a Confederate past, for instance, even southerners whose ancestors go back to the late unpleasantness and further, and include Scotsmen, too.

            • Andy Hall Apr 15, 2011

              Sorry, Sherree, I can’t. Clearly the discussion is no longer about Southerners, but specifically about Charlestonians, and that rules me out. Alas, though every single branch of my family traces back to the Confederacy (apart from one family of slaveholders and Confederates in Missouri), I’m no longer qualified to participate, as none of my direct antecedents hail from South Carolina, which is too small for a republic.

              • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

                Well Andy not everyone can be doubly blessed like me. I am from BOTH sets of God’s Chosen People! Sheree I will answer your question from earlier when I have more than a few seconds.

              • Sherree Apr 15, 2011

                Laughing out loud for certain….never a dull moment in the ACW blogosphere.

                Kevin, Andy, Mr. Marshall, thank you. Until next time…Sherree

  • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

    Sheree I am no more of an extremist than Jefferson, Henry, Rutledge, or Laurens. I believe in the relationship between the federal government and the States as described in our Constitution. I am only sorry that the State Power that was used as the catalyst for the war was the indefensible peculiar institution. I said the above because I am in possession of a letter from my Confederate Ancestor dated 4 Dec 1862 and that is a verbatim quote from him. He was a Jewish Confederate and so am I!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 15, 2011

      The relationship between the states and federal government was contentious from the beginning. It must be interpreted.

  • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

    Kevin I do not believe that to be the case. I believe it is stated quite clearly. The 10th Amendment is as unambiguous as a government document can get. My view is that if is not clearly stated in the Constitution that the national government has the power to do something then it does not. It is quite amusing to me that many things that our liberal friends are in love with. Gay marriage, abortion rights, medical marijauna etc etc are only in effect where they are through State Powers and Nullification. Yet they dismiss the concept.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 15, 2011

      You have just sketched an in interpretation of the Constitution. The Founders themselves were split themselves over it.

      • John Maass Apr 15, 2011

        Not sure I’d agree that the FF were all that “split” over the 10th Amendment. The support for enumerated powers was pretty strong then. The contentiousness over the 10th is from a later period; it would be anachronistic to read that back to the 1780s.

  • Sherree Apr 15, 2011

    Mr. Marshall,

    You said the following: “As to the questions of why we look at those four years to define us? It really is quite simple. The Confederacy is what we always wanted. We are a people as different from those in the north as the Swiss are the French or the Irish from the English. One day, and I pray to Yahweh that I live to see it, we will cast off the yoke of empire and take our rightful place among the Nations of the Earth.”

    Then you said this: “I said the above because I am in possession of a letter from my Confederate Ancestor dated 4 Dec 1862 and that is a verbatim quote from him. He was a Jewish Confederate and so am I!”

    It is interesting that your ancestor said what he said, and gives context to the quote. However, your ancestor was not speaking for all southerners–not even then.

    “The Confederacy is what we always wanted”–

    Black Southerners certainly did not want the Confederacy. Neither did southerners who were Unionists.

    “We are a people as different from those in the north as the Swiss are the French or the Irish from the English.”

    Not really. Southerners and northerners shared a common history prior to the Civil War, and still share a common history–one that includes a near irreparable fracturing of the nation and the unfulfilled promise of real freedom for African American men and women after the war.

    “One day, and I pray to Yahweh that I live to see it, we will cast off the yoke of empire and take our rightful place among the Nations of the Earth.”

    Well….thankfully that did not happen.

    My question to you would be, are you a Jewish Confederate or a Jewish American, or Jewish and an American, and do these distinctions matter, or are we not all Americans trying to understand our truly complex history? Thanks.

    • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

      Sherree….the Southern Confederacy had 9 million people within her borders. 5 million were not eligible for military service due to their status as servants so that leaves 4 million. Of that 4 million we must subtract the aged, children, women, sick, and feeble minded. Lets say two million, and that leaves us with two million. The Confederacy put 750,000 men in the field and on the water in the regular service. The several States had another 100,000 or so in their Militias. I would say another 200,000 were employed by the governments of the Confederate States and the several States which gave birth to it. I would say that is a pretty darn good show of popular support. I would say, even with my shortcomings in mathematics, that the total is much higher than the 50% plus one that is required in a democratic system.

      While we did share a common history with those at the North how we viewed that history was, and is, completely different. We actually believed in the founding documents of the nation and that what they said was the basis of our association. When the national government became overbearing and “contrary to the tenets upon which it was founded” the States simply withdrew their consent from their creation. We all know that “the power of government is in the consent of the people” and the Southern States no longer consented. This is a right of “any people, anywhere” and there is no constitutional basis for the war of coercion which Mr. Lincoln launched upon the Southern Confederacy.

      You ask me my allegiances so I will give them to you. I go first for Charleston, then South Carolina, then the South, and finally for the nation. Jews were welcomed in the antebellum South which is the polar opposite to the anti-semitism which was so prevalent in the North. Genl Grant soiled his good name for all times with his General Order #11.

      Did I answer your questions to your satisfaction?

      • Sherree Apr 16, 2011

        Mr. Marshall,

        Thank you for your response.

        It is not necessary for you to answer the questions at all, and certainly not answer them to my satisfaction, but to your own, which you have done. We simply do not agree and see this history differently, even though we have some things in common. That was, and is, my point. Not all southerners (or members of any other group of people for that matter) think alike. That should be obvious, but for some reason is not obvious to some.

  • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

    Kevin they most CERTAINLY were not split on the national government being the only arbiter of how much power it had. Please don’t tell me that you are one of those who believe “the union is older than the States”.

  • K.P. Marshall Apr 15, 2011

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” How is this an interpretation?.

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