Mississippi Embraces Grant

aleqm5hyycivpxkwzzz89tv1wmodbj7q-wAfew months ago I reported that Mississippi State University is slated to become the new home to the Ulysses S. Grant Papers after 50 years at Southern Illinois University under the direction of John Y. Simon.  Simon’s recent death raised the question of who would continue the massive project of publishing Grant’s papers until historian John Marszalek agreed to take on the responsibility.  This is good news for all Americans interested in Civil War history regardless of where you live.  The most recent AP article covers old ground, but at some point stories such as this need to begin to move away from the obligatory Sons of Confederate Veterans quote.  In this particular piece it comes at the very end:

Still, Grant’s return to the South doesn’t thrill Cecil Fayard Jr., the Mississippi-based leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  “U.S. Grant is not beloved in the state of Mississippi. Southern folks remember well his brutal and bloody tactics of war, and the South will never forget the siege of Vicksburg,” he said.

Why should we care what Cecil Fayard thinks of one of the most important academic projects in the field of Civil War history?  How many members of the SCV are there in Mississippi anyway?  Do they speak for Mississippians?  I seriously doubt it.  There is nothing offensive about an institution of higher learning taking on such a project; in fact, this is exactly why they exist.

It is becoming clearer that the SCV thrives on sensationalism – the only trick left in their book.   One need look no further than their silly little antics in Tampa, Florida where the local SCV chapter has managed to raise another one of their “big ass” flags outside of the city just in time for the Super Bowl. [This is the same group that cut up the first one for profit, and I believe both flags were made in China.]  Marion Lambert says that they are educating the public, but as the Tipsy Historian points out you will be hard pressed to find anything educational on SCV websites concerning the complex history of the flag:

Basically, there is absolutely no thought, content, consideration, or insight behind what they are doing with this ridiculous flag. The SCV Florida chapter is behaving like a screaming child looking for attention by pressing the buttons it knows will get a response. Moreover, the glaring lack of discussion on these sites makes this organization look absolutely foolish.

I know plenty of elementary school teachers and they tell me that the best way to handle children who are acting out and looking for attention is to ignore them.  Good advice.

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32 thoughts on “Mississippi Embraces Grant

  1. Sherree

    I agree, Kevin.

    Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply ignore this.

    I finally got a chance to listen to your radio show. I enjoyed your interview with Michaela very much. Perhaps we do need someone who is outside of our history altogether to help us gain perspective. Michaela has accomplished this in very few words.

    I would call in, but I honestly do not have a clue as to how to do it, lol!

    Thanks, as always, for all of the work you do.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I have yet to schedule another show, but I plan on interviewing the legislative assistant who is in charge of Virginia’s Sesquicentennial Commission. There will be plenty of advance warning and it is very easy to call in.

      Reply
  2. Sherree

    Thank you. I will stay tuned. Instructions for dialing in for those who are cyber challenged would be appreciated.

    Reply
  3. James F. Epperson

    “I know plenty of elementary school teachers and they tell me that the best way to handle children who are acting out and looking for attention is to ignore them. Good advice.” — I understand the logic and somewhat even agree, BUT (there is always a “but”):

    My wife and I are both science-types (me math, she bio); we both are veterans of the “creationism wars.” Time was when biologists ignored creationists, even refused to debate them. What happened? The creationists became political and made their gains there. Now we have disclaimers attached to our basic science books and annual fights over science curricula. I fear that if we completely ignore the “Confederati,” similar things will happen to the teaching of history.

    Reply
  4. Kevin Levin Post author

    James,

    Of course, I need to qualify my position. I don’t mean to suggest that their actions and statements ought not to be countered, just that it isn’t necessary to ask for their opinion in all cases concerning “the South”, the Civil War, or for that matter, anything to do with history. The SCV is not in the business of trying to understand history, but in commemorating their preferred version of it.

    That said, I doubt the SCV can be compared with the creationists. They’ve had a bit more success with their whacky view of science, but these kinds of things come in waves and have taken place throughout this country’s history. Go back to the 1920s and you find the same concerns. I sometimes think the best way to handle these people is to deny them any type of drug or medical advancement that stems from the basic assumptions of evolution.

    Reply
  5. Robert Moore

    Great post Kevin.

    While someone in Mississippi might bellyache about his “reinvented” bitterness, resentment, or whatever, I prefer to side with the voice of those who knew better and expressed an appreciation for Grant… the Confederate veterans themselves. I defer to their voice and actions as I “revived” them in a post that I wrote in December… http://cenantua.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/civil-war-forgetfulness-ummm-sure-so-where-did-the-love-go/

    It seems that in the act of “remembering the Confederate veterans,” some seem to be forgetting or ignoring the voice of the very Confederate veterans they claim to be “honoring.”

    Reply
  6. Kevin Levin Post author

    Robert,

    Thanks for linking to your post. Your comment reinforces the point that such statements betray a complete lack of understanding of the very subject which the SCV claims to defend.

    Reply
  7. James F. Epperson

    “The SCV is not in the business of trying to understand history, but in commemorating their preferred version of it.” — Amen to that! Sometimes I think their version of “history” is more of a fantasy than anything else :-(

    “That said, I doubt the SCV can be compared with the creationists.” — On this point, I must (politely and respectfully) disagree. I hope you are right; I fear you are not. I’ve had too many run-ins with SCV types whose point of view can only be called a fantasy :-(

    Reply
  8. Bob Pollock

    Notice the obligatory reference to Grant’s supposed drinking problem.

    And once again these people claim to speak for all who live in the south (“Southern folks remember” “the South will never forget”).

    Grant wrote in his Memoirs:
    I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the the Federal and the Confederate. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last seemed to me the beginning of the answer to “Let us have peace.”
    The expressions of these kindly feelings were not restricted to a section of the country, nor to a division of the people. They came from individual citizens of all nationalities: from all denominations – the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jew: and from the various societies of the land – scientific, educational, religious, or otherwise. Politics did not enter into the matter at all.
    I am not egotist enough to suppose all this significance should be given because I was the object of it. But the war between the States was a very bloody and a very costly war. One side or the other had to yield prinicples they deemed dearer than life before it could be brought to an end. I commanded the whole of the mighty host engaged on the victorious side. I was, no matter whether deservedly so or not, a representative of that side of the controversy. It is a significant and gratifying fact that Confederates should have joined heartily in this spontaneous move. I hope the good feeling inaugurated may continue to the end.

    Reply
  9. Kevin Levin Post author

    My Civil War Memory class has prompted me to go back and re-read Grant’s memoirs. The problem is that it is impossible to put it down. Thanks Bob.

    Reply
  10. JosephineSouthern- not a member of the SVC

    Oh how trashy you are. You have no sense of decency or honor. If you did you would know in your heart of hearts that what Grant did to VICKSBURG was atrocious evil. Shame on them and Shame on the USA. War on women and children, Grant and Butler the Beast I would spit on today! It is obvious your people didn’t suffer and die through Lincoln’s War and afterwards. So what do you care. We tried getting along with you people, but you just won’t let us.

    Who is this kevin anyway? I believe he is a communist activist, who has invaded the Great State of Mississippi and this professor is a liberal leaning communist. We Southernors know what you are up to, because black people like Manning Johnson have told us.

    Mr. Manning Johnson, a black man, wrote his book, “Color, Communism and Common Sense” after being part of the Communist Party for TEN years. It was published in 1958.
    He was one of the Party’s Highest-Ranking black members.
    (He was killed in 1958 by a hit and run while riding his bicycle. google it)

    The book was written AFTER he REALIZED what the Communists were up to and recurred to his Christian up-bringing……or, as he said, “How the Left hijacked Negro aspirations to bring about Social & Political revolution.”

    The following was written by Mr. Manning Johnson:

    Ten years I labored in the cause of Communism. I was a dedicated ‘comrade.’
    All my talents & efforts were zealously used to bring about triumph of Communism in America. To me, the end of capitalism would mark the beginning of an interminable period of plenty, peace & prosperity & UNIVERSAL comradeship. All racial & class differences & conflicts would end forever after the liquidation of the capitalists, their government & their supporters. A WORLD UNION OF SOVIET STATES under the hegemony of Russia would free & lead mankind on to Utopia.

    Little did I realize until I was deeply enmeshed in the Red Conspiracy, that just & seeming grievances are exploited to transform idealism into a cold & ruthless weapon against the capitalist system- that is the end toward which ALL the Communist efforts among Negroes are DIRECTED.
    Indeed, I had entered the Red Conspiracy in the vain belief that it was the way to a “new, better & superior” WORLD SYSTEM of society.

    Ten years later I abandoned communism.
    I saw Communism in all its naked cruelty, ruthlessness & utter contempt of CHRISTIAN attributes & passions. I saw the the low value placed upon human life, the lack of respect for dignity of man, the terror of Secret Police & the bloody hand of the Assassin.

    Thus, as a participant on the Highest level of the Communist Conspiracy in AMERICA, I OBSERVED THE COLD, CALCULATING, RUTHLESS NATURE OF RED POLITICS & WARFARE.

    The Reds have deliberately twisted & warped the thinking of those INTELLECTUAL PYGMIES who lead the “Freedom by ’63″ campaign by sending them after quick solutions of a centuries old problem that has never been solved anywhere in the world.
    Obvious to even the most ignorant is the fact that ALL people are prejudiced. NO one is free of it. Prejudice, in one form or another, has existed as long as the ‘human family’.
    They arise out of the Complex differences of race, nationality, religion, economic, social & cultural standing.

    The TOP WHITE Communists leaders KNOW that racial, as well as other differences between peoples, have Existed over a long span of years & will continue to exist even after centuries of re-education under Communist rule.
    They also know these differences can be used to play race against race, nationality against nationality, class against class, etc. to advance their cause.
    The red propagandists distort the facts concerning racial differences for ulterior motives. All the right is NOT on the negro side. Neither is all wrong.
    The same holds true with regard to the white man’s side.

    It is obvious that placing the blame for ALL the negroes’ ills at the door of the white leaders in America is to remove ALL RESPONSIBILITY from the Negro.

    Stirring up race & class conflict is the basis of all discussion of the Communist Party’s work in the SOUTH!
    Stalin & the other megalomaniacal leaders in Moscow ORDERED the use of ALL Racial, economic & social differences, no matter how small or insignificant, to start “Local Fires of Discontent, Conflict & Revolt.
    “Who could tell which of THESE issues could start a general conflagration” that would sweep across the former
    Confederate States from Maryland to Texas!”

    Black rebellion was what MOSCOW wanted! Bloody racial conflict would split America.
    This plot to use the Negroes as the spearhead, or as expendables, was concocted by Stalin in 1928, ten years after the World Organization of Communism!

    The American Communist Party has conducted many campaigns & formed & infiltrated a large number of organizations among Negros. From the bloody gun battles at Camp Hill, Alabama in 1931, to the present integration madness, the heavy hand of Communism has moved, stirred up racial strife, creating confusion, hate & bitterness so essential to their advancement.

    The vociferous Negro intellectuals, along with the Reds, through impractical, unrealistic, alien behavior, have turned race relations into SHAMBLES.
    Every Negro who opposes integration & the NAACP becomes a TRAITOR or an “Uncle Tom.”.
    Every white person taking a similar stand is branded a “criminal” & “outside of the law.”

    Reply
  11. Kevin Levin Post author

    Hi Josephine,

    Sorry to read that you are upset with this little post. Thanks for taking the time to comment on the American Communist Party, though I am not quite sure what this has to do with anything I write about. If you expect future comments to be approved you will need to refrain from personal insults and stay on topic. Your poor taste in words reflect negatively on “your people.” Thanks for your understanding.

    Reply
  12. Sherree

    Well, Good Morning Kevin,

    I see that we have all once again been reminded why we can’t ignore this, except when necessary to catch our breaths, which is what I meant by my comment yesterday. In garnering the reserves and support of the good people, let’s say, presuming to call ourselves “good” only for the sake of completing this thought and drawing the desired comparison to the past so that we don’t repeat that past by being appallingly silent; it is necessary for the good people to a fight a guerilla war, and thus, you have to choose your battles. Once you go into battle, however, shoot with both barrels in a nonviolent way. Josephine, you sound like you might need some prozac.

    Here is the reason I originally decided to write into your blog today, Kevin:

    Yesterday Robert noted that the sentiments of the actual veterans of the Civil War have been forgotten, and most times don’t even seem to be relevant to discussion to many–in fact, may even get in the way. Then Bob added the eloquent piece about General Grant, which I truly enjoyed. I would like to add a small, but significant, detail concerning language as used by an actual Confederate veteran, my great great grandfather. This is from a letter that he wrote in 1926 to a judge who lived in Oklahoma–a judge who was a relative:

    Question: What was the name of your father; Answer: (Not to be revealed here because of this type of nonsense)

    Question: When did your father die? Answer: He was killed in Civil War; October 1863

    Question: Did you ever serve in any army? Answer: Yes, 2 years; 9 months, Civil War

    “Civil War” he says, Civil War Civil War Civil War. Nowhere do I see him referring to the war as the “War for Independence” or the “War Between the States”? Is there some possible connection between that fact and the fact that Josephine and I live on different planets?

    This was going to be a simple comment. Apparently that is not possible.

    Have a good day, Kevin. I am truly sorry that there are people like Josephine who feel compelled to attack you in this manner. You are a true gentleman in every way.

    Sherree

    Reply
  13. Kevin Levin Post author

    Sherree,

    Thanks for passing along the letter excerpt. Don’t worry about Josephine as she seems to be pleasant enough. I actually get a kick out of comments such as hers so once in a while I feel a need to pass them along to my readers. Obviously there is no need to respond to her directly.

    Reply
  14. Sherree

    Hi Kevin,

    This is Sherree again.

    Now I remember my question, and it may be a question you can’t answer.

    Why does General Grant refer to the war as the War between the States? When did it become an issue–(as it obviously did become an issue, and an issue in a significant way)–for the war to be referred to as either the “Civil War” or the “War Between the States”? Why would a Confederate veteran call the war the Civil War? Any thoughts or information that you or your readers might be able to pass along, at your convenience, would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Reply
  15. Robert Moore

    Kevin,

    Just a quick thought in the wake of the “hated Grant of Vicksburg” comment…

    Vicksburg was subject to a military siege and civilians were in the middle of it… o.k., sure. But consider this… Grant specifically ordered some very heavy orders in which he specified his intent to see the Shenandoah Valley laid to waste (“Eat out Virginia… clear and clean… so that crows flying over it… will have to carry their provender with them”). I think it is a much greater (not to mention obvious) presentation of the “heavy hand” than seen at Vicksburg and it would seem that Virginians, especially those in the Valley, might have a little “memory” of hostility toward Grant because of this. Some still do, and more times than I care to count, when I ask someone exactly what their family lost to the destruction of the “Burning,” they can’t give me an example. Nevertheless, and as I have pointed out (and obviously some remain incapable of understanding), in years after the war, Confederate Veterans from the Shenandoah Valley (some of them, I might add, actually bore witness to Sheridan’s burnings and could do little more than watch while Early was unable to do anything about it) looked upon Grant with affection and admiration, and honored him with passionate oratory immediately following his death. Doesn’t that just seem to be amazing that people who had lived through it were able to do that and yet people from today assume a hatred and bitterness that reflects little more than their ignorance of the facts of history? How strange it is that some in modern times “assume” hostilities against people of the past, and ignore the voice of those who people today claim that they “honor” in remembrance. In fact, considering the way that Southerners speak of honor with such high regard, I find the manner of language used by some rather lacking in anything honorable whatsoever.

    I have to say that I have always admired Grant from “afar,” never really taking the time to read about the man at length (I need to remedy that sooner than later). I have read before the quote that Bob cited the other day, but everytime I read it, I can’t help but be drawn to the man who was Grant… and I am a direct descendant of many Confederate soldiers who were men of the Valley. Strange as it might seem to some, instead of assuming to know better, I actually learned something about Grant from the example set by the Confederate Veterans of my home county.

    Reply
  16. Kevin Levin Post author

    Robert,

    I think this is one of the aspects that I find so fascinating about our memory of the war. Your comment about “the Burning” reminds me of an interview John Marszalek gave re: Sherman’s March. When his biography of Sherman came out a number of people were eager to tell him stories about the suffering experienced by their families. More often than not, when Marszalek got around to asking them where they lived in 1864 it turns out the weren’s within 100 miles of Sherman’s army.

    I sometimes think that the appropriation of how someone supposedly felt during the war as one’s own is more interesting as psychology than history. Grant is absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend his memoir if you haven’t already read it.

    Reply
  17. Robert Moore

    Kevin,

    Oh, that reminds me, when people talk about how horrible the burning was, I like to point out all of the barns (thrashing floors intact by the way) in the area that are still standing and were here when Sheridan went through. I really love to hear people talk about Sheridan burning houses and always enjoy hearing them stumble when I ask how many houses were burned.

    It is very fascinating and I have to say that it reinforces my belief that an historian armed with both a masters in history and a masters in pschology would have a field day with this stuff.

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Excellent discussion about Civil War memory and the “read-write environment of the blog « Cenantua’s Blog

  19. Pingback: Excellent discussion about Civil War memory and some issues pertaining to the “read-write” nature of blogging « Cenantua’s Blog

  20. Sherree Tannen

    Kevin and Robert,

    Speaking of psychology…..In trying to put the pieces of this history together, there truly are layers to be considered, as you have suggested, Robert–layers upon layers–and all of those layers are built upon a shifting foundation that was in danger of vanishing from the start, it seems. It is difficult to locate the facts because so many untruths have been told in the fight to control memory–a fight that obviously continues to this day.

    I read a book by a Japanese author, in which the author catalogued the horrors endured by British and Australian soldiers in Japanese POW camps in World War II. This book was most likely a very difficult book for this author to write, yet he did a superb job, and he did not flinch in revealing the facts. One of the things that struck me most about the book, however, was that an Australian soldier who survived one of the camps wrote the inscription to the book. In the inscription, this man said: “there’s no progress in hate. ” Suffering doesn’t always ennoble a man or woman’s character, but often it does. Living off someone else’s suffering seems to do nothing but produce more suffering.

    Reply
  21. Marc Ferguson

    Kevin, you wrote: “When his biography of Sherman came out a number of people were eager to tell him stories about the suffering experienced by their families. More often than not, when Marszalek got around to asking them where they lived in 1864 it turns out the weren’s within 100 miles of Sherman’s army.”

    My grandmother wrote a family memoir in the 1970s. She wrote about my grandfather’s family who were from Alabama. She reports in that memoir that my grandfather refused to ever see “Gone With the Wind” because he didn’t want to be reminded of all the suffering experienced by the family, as told to him by his grandmother, during Sherman’s march through the South. Of course, Sherman was never anywhere near where they lived in Alabama, but I suspect that this is a typical meme in the white Southern “memory” of the war.

    Oops, does writing this make me a Scalawag?

    Marc

    Reply
  22. Robert Moore

    Uh oh Marc, now you’ve “done gone and did it.” Cat’s out of the bag. Alabama roots + denying Confederate memory = scalawag! Now, as to what degree of scalawag, we cannot accurately determine without finding out more information. Did you grow up in Alabama?

    Reply
  23. Marc Ferguson

    Robert,
    On some days if you poll my family the consensus would be that I never grew up anywhere. But no, my connection to Alabama is now a distant family one. My great grandfather moved from Alabama to Texas after the Civil War. By the way, they were slaveholders there before and during the war, as were my ancestors on my paternal grandmother’s side in Missouri. Should I be decrying the Yankee outrages against my noble ancestors? I’m actually from California, which makes me a Carpetbagger in Massachusetts.

    ;^)

    Reply
  24. Woodrowfan

    I’ve noticed in my readings of Confederate Veteran magazine that there seemed to be more lingering anger at Sherman than with Grant. Not a scientific measurement, just an impression.

    I also noticed they tended to forget how many blacks were seized in Pennsylvania during Lee’s 1863 invasion to be sold into slavery in the South. Despite Lee’s orders, I doubt that a sustained Southern invasion of the North would have been any kinder than Sherman’s or Sheridan’s. Lack of opportunity does not equal morality.

    Reply
  25. Kevin Levin Post author

    Marc, — I’m not sure what it makes you. What I do know is that you don’t fit in anywhere in poor Josephine’s historical view. “Good luck with all of that.” (Seinfeld)

    Woodrow, — I noticed the same thing in my reading of Confederate Veteran. Excellent second point. It seems to me that black Pennsylvanians have every reason to feel nothing but contempt at the way Lee conducted affairs as the army moved into Pennsylvania in June 1863.

    Reply
  26. Mark

    Hi Kevin,
    Sorry for the late comment, thanks for linking to my blog regarding the SCV’s flag. I’m in the middle of reading “The Confederate Battle Flag” by John Coski. Not sure if you’ve read it, but it’s a very well-done exploration of the historiography and memory around the various Confederate flags. Coski takes a very balanced approach, which I was happy to find, given that he’s the director of the Museum of the Confederacy.

    Reply

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