Will the Sons of Confederate Veterans Have Any Impact on the Sesquicentennial?

I may be speaking too soon, but it looks like the influence of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on how we remember the Civil War will be minimal as we make our way through the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Today we learn that plans to place a monument to South Carolina’s decision to leave the Union in December 1860 at the Riverfront Park in Charleston have been scrapped.  There is now talk about placing the monument at a site related to the Hunley.  The monument celebrates this event by completely ignoring the issue that propelled South Carolina out of the Union: slavery.  This weekend the SCV will finally unveil their Davis-Limber statue at Beauvoir.  The decision to locate the statue at Davis’s home came after their decision to pull out of an agreement with the American Civil War Center at Tredegar in Richmond.  Following this move the organization unsuccessfully petitioned the state of Mississippi to accept the statue.  Finally, as we all know the recent decision here in Virginia to set aside April as Confederate History Month was a public relations disaster for the SCV.

Where does this leave the SCV?  As I said up front it may be too early to tell, but their Lost Cause inspired view of the past is clearly on the defensive and bound to be minimized even further.  I guess the only question is how will the organization respond?  The SCV has a role to play in the next few years, but if they hope to have an impact they are going to have to acknowledge that the general public’s understanding of the Civil War has evolved to one that is much more inclusive and open to addressing some of the tough issues at the center of our civil war experience.

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75 comments… add one
  • Mike R. Apr 29, 2010 @ 9:53

    “The SCV has a role to play in the next few years, but if they hope to have an impact they are going to have to acknowledge that the general public’s understanding of the Civil War”
    I’m loathe to paint all members of the SCV with a broad brush based merely on the tenor of the comments posted herein, but if these comment truly reflect the desire of the SCV to hang on to the “slavery was not the cause” mantra, I believe it is destined to become a caricature of the organization it once was, and sadly, its members dismissed as yokels. The general public will, and judging by the events you’ve outlined above, already may have, turned away from the SCV’s shrill complaints of “yankee propaganda” , “political correctness” “reverse racism”, etc., issuing from the SCV leaders unable, or unwilling, to see their organiztions future while they staunchly protect their internalized view of the past. Perhaps a new organization will emerge from this struggle, one which will understand the disconnect most of the public feels between their innate abhorrence of an institution that would have remained intact should the Confederacy have suceeded, and the desire of a descendant to respectfully recognize and remember the incredible fear, courage, complex motivations and life lessons of the individual Confederate soldier during the most violent time in our nation’s history.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 29, 2010 @ 10:07


      I never thought of the possibility of a new organization forming in response to the continued propaganda and distortion machine that is the SCV. Perhaps some in the SCV would recommend as a viable alternative. As for the SCV you hit the nail on the head. If they continue down this road they will be completely irrelevant to anything having to do with history and the commemoration of the past.

    • Glenn Beck's Chalkboard Apr 29, 2010 @ 19:06


      I’d be really interested to know what the trends have been over the last decade in active SCV membership — not just members carried on the books, but actual attendance and participation in regular meetings and at events.

      My understanding is that the leadership of the organization effectively purged anyone insufficiently neoconfederate a decade ago, but I have no idea what, if anything, that’s done to the active membership. Enforcing ideological purity in an organization generally results in a smaller, more partisan organization, and I’d sure like to know if that’s what’s happened with the SCV.

      I have experience with only the local SCV camp, one that had existed in the early 1900s, dissolved, and was reactivated in mid-1990s. (I was a guest speaker for them on an ACW shipwreck project on two or three occasions in the late ’90s.) They were a pleasant enough bunch — hardly fire-eaters, to use a relevant term — but also not well read and, on account of that, probably easily taken in by academic- or official-sounding interpretations that seemed to validate their beliefs about their ancestors and the Lost Cause. This was about the time that the “Black Confederates” meme started to get some traction, and I recall one member, and old friend of mine, throw that at me in a sort of “well, whaddaya think of that?” way. At the time I really didn’t know how to respond, except to say that it just didn’t ring right to me. These folks are, I’m sure, entirely bought into the notion that the war was entirely about states’ rights/tariffs/whatever, but certainly not over the preservation and expansion of slavery.

      This local camp did, at least, get that they had a serious image problem with the Confederate Battle Flag, but they still didn’t really understand why, and one proposal I heard discussed at length — each meeting I attended as a guest began with a business meeting — was to set up a food bank over the Christmas holidays, to give out foodstuffs to poor African American families in the community. The temporary food bank would be festooned with Confederate Battle Flags, which would show the recipients that Confederates were nice people after all. Or something. Fortunately, as a guest I was able to keep well out of that particular discussion, and I think I got through my talk later without snickering. I really do think they were well-intentioned, but “tone deaf” doesn’t begin to describe the situation.

      (One of the things that made them realize that they had a serious image problem was that they’d put up a metal SCV symbol on the “welcome” sign coming into town, alongside the Lions Club, Rotary, etc., and the damn thing kept getting stolen.)

      This is my only firsthand experience with the SCV, though I’ve followed them online for a long time. I don’t know if my local camp is typical of the whole organization, but if so, then there’s a handful of really rabid and rancid folks at the top of the organization, and a lot of enthusiastic but easily-mislead followers at the local level — folks who believe the federals started the shooting war, that the war was about tariffs, that Lincoln really didn’t believe in emancipation, that there were 90,000 Black Confederate soldiers, that the Confederacy was never really defeated militarily, and that slavery wasn’t really that bad. It’s these folks who will have an impact during the sesquicentennial, because they’re the ones going to get asked to speak at local civic clubs, schools, and public gatherings, because (as SCV members), they’ll be assumed to have the knowledge and understanding. So while major events and commemorations likely won’t have much input from the SCV, there will be hundreds of classrooms, Rotary club luncheons and local historical societies who hear about Jim Limber, Weary Clyburn and all sorts of other plausible-sounding half-truths, breathlessly presented as the truth the Northern history books don’t want you to know.

      Yeah. Can’t effing wait.

  • Al Sheppard Apr 26, 2010 @ 8:22

    You need to report the “facts”, not hearsay. I was a history major & political science student. I’ll give you just one fact, but there are several other’s, I can state. When the War for Southern Independence started the largest “slave” owner in South Carolina was a freed BLACK man. Also there were numerous Blacks, who held slaves. Do your homework carefully.

    Det. Al Sheppard (Ret)
    NYPD-Major Case Squad

  • stephen burns Apr 24, 2010 @ 1:22

    you are a high school history teacher and you are this ignorant about history?No wonder so many people ,like you ,spout off about that war in completely manufactured historical terms.You will need to go back the the books,and do your profession and your students a favor,and learn what that conflict was really about.Teach your students about unfair taxes on the southern economy and states rights.These were pivitol issues to our county then and continue to be relevant today.Slavery was one issue of contention between the union and the secessionist states,but not even close to being the underlying cause of that conflict.If I was your school administrator I would suspend you teaching credentials until you proved to me you had become educated enough on this subject to speak more intelligently and with an understanding of what really happened when abraham lincoln attacked,rape and pillaged a sovereign nation called the confederate states of america.It is important to get this right for future generations to live and help this floundering nation survive as it was intended by our constitutional framework we use to guide us.Misinformed people,like yourself, are no asset to constructive discourse and can hinder the evolution of a great nation.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 24, 2010 @ 1:51

      Thanks for taking the time to respond as well as for your concerns about the students I teach. Once again, no response to the content of the post itself.

    • Glenn Beck's Chalkboard Apr 25, 2010 @ 7:28

      Mr. Burns,

      The Confederate States were established explicitly to preserve and expand the institution of slavery. Alexander Stephens himself said so in 1861, in unambiguous terms:

      [The Confederacy] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.

      You caution Kevin to “go back the the books, and do your profession.” I would encourage you to follow the first principle of the historian: go back to the primary sources, to the actual words written and spoken at the time. Read the speeches made throughout the South in 1860 and early 1861. Read the editorials in the South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana newspapers of the day. Read the articles of secession adopted by the states. Read the Confederate States Constitution — a document which lays out the fundamental principles on which that nation stood — and make note how many different provisions in it exist explicitly to protect and expand the institution of slavery and the property holdings of slave owners. Make particular note of Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 1, which prohibits any law that would hinders the trade in human chattel.

      Do those things, and still assert that the Civil War was fought over “unfair taxes on the southern economy and states rights.” The United States did not go to war to free the slaves, but the Confederacy most certainly did go to war to keep them. Lincoln had it exactly right in his Second Inaugural Address when he said, that “both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. . . .”

      But I am pleased to know that at least you believe in Evolution. That’s a good start.

  • Al Mackey Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:34

    Wow. I men, just, wow. Nearly complete proof that you can’t get accurate history from the SCV.

  • John Apr 23, 2010 @ 6:23

    Dear Sir;
    Just how educated are you in American History and American Govt.? I suspect that you did not know about the below speach Abe Lincoln wrote to the U. S. Congress during which time he was a Senator just like Jeff Davis was at the time. Read on.

    “Any people,” “anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable and most sacred right – a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so many of the territory as they inhabit.”

    Abraham Lincoln
    January 12, 1848.
    Speach before the U. S. Senate

    • Kevin Levin Apr 23, 2010 @ 6:55


      Thanks so much for taking the time to educate me. Unfortunately, Lincoln gave this speech on the floor of the House rather than the Senate.

      • Brooks D. Simpson Apr 23, 2010 @ 8:12

        The unintended comedy of these attempts to educate you suggests that Jon Stewart needs to visit this blog. 🙂

        • Kevin Levin Apr 23, 2010 @ 9:22


          I’ve tried to approve as much as possible, but you can imagine that there are a number of comments that had to be deleted. If these comments reflect the state of the SCV and their understanding of history than they are in serious trouble. That no one actually responded to the post is even more telling.

    • Margaret D. Blough Apr 26, 2010 @ 13:58

      John-You are referring to the natural right of revolution, to which Lincoln and others specifically refer (as Kevin notes on the floor of the House, not the Senate; Lincoln lost his only campaign for the US Senate to Stephen Douglas in 1858). That is not even remotely close to being the same as there being a constitutionally protected unilateral right for a stateto secede. Furthermore, in addition to the natural right of revolution as set forth by Mr. Lincoln nations have a natural right to defend themselves. The Father of the Constitution, James Madison explained this to his protege (and President Jackson’s personal secretary) Nicholas Trist, during the Nullification Crisis:

      >>To Nicholas P. Trist

      Montpellier, Decr 23, 1832.

      Dr. Sir

      I have received yours of the 19th, inclosing some of the South Carolina papers. There are in one of them some interesting views of the doctrine of secession; one that had occurred to me, and which for the first time I have seen in print; namely that if one State can at will withdraw from the others, the others can at will withdraw from her, and turn her, nolentem, volentem, out of the union. Until of late, there is not a State that would have abhorred such a doctrine more than South Carolina, or more dreaded an application of it to herself. The same may be said of the doctrine of nullification, which she now preaches as the only faith by which the Union can be saved.

      I partake of the wonder that the men you name should view secession in the light mentioned. The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater right to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of — 98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created. In the Virginia Resolutions and Report the plural number, States, is in every instance used where reference is made to the authority which presided over the Government. As I am now known to have drawn those documents, I may say as I do with a distinct recollection, that the distinction was intentional. It was in fact required by the course of reasoning employed on the occasion. The Kentucky resolutions being less guarded have been more easily perverted. The pretext for the liberty taken with those of Virginia is the word respective, prefixed to the “rights” &c to be secured within the States. Could the abuse of the expression have been foreseen or suspected, the form of it would doubtless have been varied. But what can be more consistent with common sense, than that all having the same rights &c. should unite in contending for the security of them to each.

      It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, vol 2, with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force, and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion, and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject.<<

  • Kermit Albritton Apr 22, 2010 @ 5:43

    American history is taught to appear to be the truth. You seem to have the brainwashed version still stuck in you head. The South fought for independence for the same reasons that the 13 colonies originally vied for the same; independence from a tyrannical, central government that, like a tick on the back of a hound, purposed to bleed its host dry. Do some research, think for yourself and then write your opinion,… education is a terrible tool, terribly miss-used and in the wrong hands. Try: Morrel Tarif, January 29th, 1861; that should provide some in sight.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2010 @ 5:50

      Thanks Kermit. I appreciate the advice and I love the “tick on the back of a hound” reference. By the way I think you mean to refer to the Morrill Tariff of 1862. Once again I have no idea what this has to do with the post.

      • Bob Pollock Apr 22, 2010 @ 7:19

        Isn’t it interesting that it’s always the other guy, the guy that has a different opinion than you, that is “brainwashed”? This goes part and parcel with “the victor gets to write the history” mantra. Maybe Kermit should read Karen Cox’s “Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture.” But then that would be research wouldn’t it?

      • Margaret D. Blough Apr 22, 2010 @ 9:16

        Kevin-There was a Morrill Tariff that was signed into law by James Buchanan on March 2, 1861, one of the last acts of his administration although DiLorenzo and his followers tend to blame Lincoln, who wouldn’t be president for another 2 days, for it. In the first place, though, it is extremely doubtful that it could have passed if the most of the Senators and Congressmen from states that had already joined the rebellion had not already resigned. Congress also was looking to raise revenues for a war that was virtually certain to begin to fill virtually empty federal coffers. Its predecessor, the Tariff of 1857 had reduced rates & coverage to the lowest level since 1816 & was widely blamed in the North for the ensuing Panic of 1857 and the depression that followed it. As for relevance, I see it as an example of SCV attempts to have influence on the sesquicentennial by perpetuating post-war Lost Cause efforts, all too successful, to totally rewrite the history of events leading up to the Civil War while tying them into current right wing paranoia about the federal government (I’m sure that sooner or later they’ll come up with “evidence” that Lincoln commissioned the prototype of the black helicopter. 🙂

        Mr. Albritton, unlike the colonies, all states in the Union had representation in the raising of taxes a fact that even some Fireeaters recognized. The Southern states had no problem with the federal government while they controlled it and the issue that split the 1860 Democratic Convention was the slave state demand for a FEDERAL slave code in the territories.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2010 @ 9:20

          Thanks. I wrote 1862 instead of 1861. That’s what happens when you try to respond to a comment between classes.

  • W. E. Ashe Apr 22, 2010 @ 4:10

    I didn’t read all of every comment, but has anyone heard of the Corwin Amendment?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2010 @ 4:22

      Of course we can identify the Corwin Amendment, but what does that have to do with this post? NOTHING!

  • David Rhoads Apr 21, 2010 @ 16:42

    There’s a lot to chew on in the comments to this blog post, Kevin:

    “… there were more slaveholders in the Union Army (315,000) than the Confederate Army (200,000) … Of the members of my [SCV] Camp, I know very few of their ancestors who ever owned a slave … except for the political class, slavery was rarely a motivation, either North or South … And we will never believe that the Confederate Soldier enlisted to save an institution which was practiced by a mere 6% of the very soldiers that enlisted …”

    I never realized it before, but the actions of my own two Confederate soldier ancestors–both from the deep South, one a slaveholder himself and the other the son of a slaveholding family, and both of whom volunteered in the early days of secession–apparently constituted something of an aberration. Why, it may even be the case that my ancestors were so confused about their own motivations that they enlisted on the wrong side of the conflict!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 16:49


      What I find so strange is that none of these comments has anything at all to do with the post. The point of the post was to suggest that the results of the final location of the Davis-Limber statue, the response to the recent Confederate History Month proclamation, and the canceling of plans to put up a secession monument in Charleston do not bode well for the SCV’s preferred view of the past. Not one member of the SCV has responded to this. That’s not a good sign.

  • Carl T Miller Apr 21, 2010 @ 15:29

    Kevin, speaking of books to read, you should read Walter Brian Cisco’s book “War Crimes Against Southern Civilians” then you could see where the SCV and the UDC and so many other Southerns are coming from and why they care so much about our history. Most SCV Members that I know read a lot . Most SCV meetings have a very historical and educational theme. You should also try R. L. Dabneys book . Maybe you could understand us just a little. You seem to recommend a lot of new books, that have revisionary works. Long Live Dixie! God Save the South!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 15:33

      Thanks for the books suggestions, Carl. I am quite familiar with Dabney’s writings, but given my specific interests I tend to see it as a book that needs to be analyzed rather than a serious scholarly study of the war. Cisco’s book was pretty juvenile compared with what is available on the destruction of the South. I believe that one was put out by Pelican, which is not a very serious publisher. I don’t know what you mean by “revisionary works” other than that you either disagree with the content or haven’t read much of them. As far as I am concerned all good history is revisionist unless history is simply a matter of repeating the same old stories and analysis. Sorry, but that’s not the kind of history that I am interested in. Thanks again for the comment.

  • Owens,H.B. Apr 21, 2010 @ 15:28

    It’s interesting that as a high school teacher you have reduced the War Between the states to such a simplified happening.Do you teach your youngsters that slavery began in the North and was abandoned due to its expense? Poor whites from Northern Europe worked for a fraction of what it cost to keep slaves.
    Continual twisting of the past will have a gross affect on actual happenings and “Lincolnize” history for future generations. How can you live with that distortion?

    35 year military Veteran
    And Life Member SCV
    Sul Ross Camp 1457

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 15:36


      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s funny to have to continuously deal with these charges of reductionism but so be it. I have no idea what any of this has to do with the content of the post, but I’ll play along. Yes, I talk extensively in my survey classes about the difficulties that workers faced in the North at various times. Does that make you feel better? By the way, I love that phrase “Lincolnize history”. I am going to have to remember that one.

    • Margaret D. Blough Apr 21, 2010 @ 16:08

      Slavery BEGAN in the North? Since when was Virginia, where the first African slaves were purchased in 1619, in the North? Also, where in the world did you get your information about how and why slavery ended in the North? The move to end slavery began in the natural rights philosophy of the Enlightenment which shaped the Declaration of Independence. Years before the Constitutional Convention met, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts declared slavery in that state unconstitutional under the state’s 1780 Constitution (primarily authored by John Adams and still in affect, although much amended). Even before that Pennsylvania had passed its first VERY gradual emancipation law. Pennsylvania had a strong anti-slavery element in its population both due to the natural rights philosophies and the significant number of Quakers, Mennonites, Brethren and other anabaptists/pietist adherents in that state. Those denominations had first gone on record as being religiously opposed to slavery as early as the Germantown Declaration in 1688. Many opposed Pennsylvania ratifying the Constitution precisely because of the extent to which the Constitution tolerated slavery. The anti-slavery movement was international, with it developing in the UK around the same time as well even though the slave trade was a major economic force in Britain along with British sugar plantations in the West Indies.

      • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 16:15


        Honestly, I would rather not turn this post into a debate about these issues. We’ve been through all of this before. Keep in mind that they are not posting this stuff because they are interested in a serious discussion. They believe that I am engaged in a personal assault against their ancestors and all things Southern and that I defend all things Northern/Union as good. That’s what this is about.

        • Margaret D. Blough Apr 21, 2010 @ 19:38

          Kevin-I see your point. However, my feelings on this are mixed. I have no illusions that facts will have any impact on those whose minds are already made up. However, people do read this blog and other sources who are new to the subject. I hate seeing the Big Lie in any form perpetuated without an attempt to make accurate information available, i.e. speech answering speech.

          As for what they believe, you may well be right, at least about some. On the other hand, I think it’s also an attempt by some to bully people into silence through personal attacks for having the gall to say the Emperor/Lost Cause has no clothes.

          • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2010 @ 0:41

            I agree Margaret, but it also has the effect of turning multiple posts into the same tired threads.

  • Derwin "Deke" Cox Apr 21, 2010 @ 13:53

    I am Camp Commander, Ogeechee Rifles #941, Statesboro, GA. Our organization does not, and will not, accept the subject of slavery as an integral part of our honoring the upcoming Sesquicentenial and the brave sacrafices of the Confederate Soldier. We are honoring an event and a cause…And we will never believe that the Confederate Soldier enlisted to save an institution which was practiced by a mere 6% of the very soldiers that enlisted. Quit revising history. Go back and read the newspapers of the day. Furthermore, read Lincoln’s first innaugural address.

  • Dr. Arnold M. Huskins Apr 21, 2010 @ 11:35

    How you misjudge the SCV! Just because some politically correct politicians are too spineless, does not mean the SCV is not a force to be reckoned with. The hearts of most people are on their side.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 11:41

      Thanks for the comment Dr. Huskins. I have no doubt that the hearts of many are indeed with the SCV. Unfortunately, that’s not really the issue here.

    • Sherree Apr 26, 2010 @ 12:17

      “The hearts of most people are on their (the SCV’s) side”.

      Well no, Dr. Huskins. That is not quite true.

      I am a white southerner whose heart never has been, and never will be on the side of men and women who claim that slavery was a benign institution, and that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War.

      It is still Confederate History Month. Do not malign my Confederate ancestor’s memory with this nonsense.

  • C. L. Hammond Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:35

    Isn’t it rather interesting that for 150 years Northerners have continually tried to brain wash the American people into believing their version of history and yet, through it all, they just can’t seem to extinguish the truth. Even when some scalawag people from the South (they are not Southerners) fall for their rhetoric and agree with their view the truth just keeps coming out. You must truly hate the internet, it is such a wonderful tool to allow more and more of the truth to surface. You can keep shoveling the “it was all about slavery” foolishness, but you never seem to be able to back it up with hard facts. While the sea of truth keeps bubbling up one fact after another substantiating the war was actually no different than any other, it was about money and power. One can only wonder how those like you can be so blinded.

    The SCV, while being attacked by the great northern media machine, keeps right on doing what we’re doing, educating those who have an open mind and will listen to reason. Just as our ancestors were outnumbered 3-1, so are we. The difference is, once again, TRUTH. That is the one thing we have in over abundance. Unlike our ancestors you can’t defeat us as long as we hold to the same principles our ancestors held to. You just keep smearing your half truths and prejudice toward the South and eventually the odor will show you for what you are.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:42


      Thanks for the comment. So, your response boils down to the following:

      1. Northerners brainwash
      2. Lingering Scalawags
      3. Strawman argument of “it was all about slavery”
      4. Evil media
      5. Modern Lost Cause argument of overwhelming numbers
      6. Claim to a monopoly on the truth

      OK…I got it.

  • Randy Lucas Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:50

    I found your perspective interesting. I grew up in the North but now live in the South and am an SCV member. I’m curious as to why wanting to keep your ancestors from being demonized in an increasingly politically correct world is such a bad thing. I am fully in favor of the “truth” about the war being told, but if that “truth” does not include the courage and sacrifice of those who put their lives, liberty and property on the line because of something they believed in, then I’m sorry, but it’s nothing more than propaganda. Today, the climate has, indeed, changed. It has changed, however, not toward any objective truth, but rather toward a new accepted “truth” which has no relationship to real truth. Attempting to make the war solely about slavery is, frankly, as intellectually dishonest as to ignore slavery as a cause. Of the members of my Camp, I know very few of their ancestors who ever owned a slave. Their war wasn’t about slavery and attempting to make it so does them, and history, a serious disservice.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:57


      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. I agree with you that reducing the war as a whole to slavery would be “intellectually dishonest” since it involved a broad range of issues at one point or another. As a historian who focuses on the South, the Confederate war effort, as well as issues related to historical memory I tend to think that my interest in the South reflects the extent to which Americans on both sides discussed the issue. It was a crucial factor in bringing about the war as well as its evolution and outcome. I don’t have any Civil War ancestors so I will refrain from giving you an answer to your question. I do believe, however, that many people interpret the world view of their ancestors in ways that tell us much more about contemporary values than anything having to do with history.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      • Randy Lucas Apr 21, 2010 @ 11:02

        My pleasure, Kevin. I was taken by your last sentence, as I have long preached against demonizing people based upon modern morality rather than judging them against their contemporary standard. It is impossible to assess real motivation of those who fought, except by review of the primary sources. If those are reviewed, except for the political class, slavery was rarely a motivation, either North or South. Both sides had racial views that are completely out of step with our standards. I’m sure you are familiar with James McPherson’s work’s related to the attitudes of common soldiers on both sides. McPherson is hardly a shill for anything Southern, but I think in any discussion on the war, those works should be required reading, especially for the slavery was the sole cause crowd. People, then, were no more monolithic than they are now and we do them a serious disservice to suggest that they might have been ambivalent with every aspect of their respective societies.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 13:13

          My reading of McPherson, Mitchell, Hess, Manning and others suggests that slavery was indeed a central factor that functioned as a reason to join the army at the beginning of the war and one that continued to shape the way the men in ranks viewed the progress and possible outcome of the war. I think these historians have demonstrated that it is impossible to ignore issues of race and slavery when discussing Confederate soldiers because they spent much time reflecting on it along with a broad range of other issues. Thanks again for the comment.

  • Jason Bullard Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:50

    Sir, it is abundantly clear you have no idea of our mission as the SCV. We also didnt have a public relations disaster as you described because last time I checked they are still celebrating the history and heritage of our Confederate brave as we are here in Georgia. Try as you may you will not marginalize or discredit our organization because no matter if you like it or not we will always defend the Honor of the Confederate soldiers good name. You asked if the SCV will have any impact on the sesquicentennial, well seems to me if your complaining about it then we are already having an impact. I find it ironic that after all these years now more and more people are wanting to fight for states rights because of a govt hell bent on forcing its policies on its people. Seems I ve heard this one before, oh yeah, it happended in 1860. And when people take time to learn the true history of our South the more and more your gonna be upset because our impact will be undeniable. In loving memory of all the Confederates who went before me. Deo Vindice!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:57

      Thanks for the comment, Mr. Bullard. I do hope you feel better now.

      • Jason Bullard Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:07

        Sure I always feel fine. I appreciate your concern. If you dont have any Confederate ancestors then you have no idea of how we feel about celebrating and honoring their sacrifices and even less credibility to speak on what we should do or if we have an impact.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:10

          You are definitely entitled to your opinion and there are plenty of others who no doubt agree with you. I guess that is also a reason not to worry much about what I am doing on this site. Thanks for stopping by.

        • Greg Rowe Apr 26, 2010 @ 15:29

          Mr. Bullard:

          Mr. Levin may not have Confederate ancestors, but I do have Confederate ancestors. I also have Unionist ancestors as well. Both groups were Southern, just as the slaves were; however the SCV attempts to paint all Southerners of the period with a very broad brush. I would argue that is a far more simplistic approach than anything Mr. Levin has ever posted on this site. Mr. King’s attempt to add complexity to the “Lost Cause” and your defense of his comments might lend itself to the view that the SCV has a more sophisticated view of the war than previously thought, the fact remains that Mr. Levin and other credible historians and histroy/heritage groups calling a spade a spade is exactly the point that you and your brothers have a problem with. I don’t necessarily think celebrating an ancestor’s service in a war that was ill-advised is a bad thing, but to totally ignore the Confederacy’s own constitution and most of the Southern states’ orders of secession is not the place one should start to honor the memory of their ancestors. I believe truth is now, as it was then, a virtue of the Southern gentleman.

        • Greg Rowe Apr 26, 2010 @ 15:33

          I will also grant there are more than one issue that was the cause of the Civil War, but I don’t believe Mr. Levin or any other serious historian has ever levelled that accusation. A major issue has been pointed out, but it is supported by the documents.

        • Glenn Beck's Chalkboard Apr 26, 2010 @ 16:43

          Mr. Bullard, I have several Confederate ancestors as well, both by blood and by marriage, scattered among different branches of my family, scattered from Virginia to Missouri. They were a varied lot. I recently discovered that one of them — the one most often cited as the most gentlemanly and refined according to family lore, was even in the Klan.

          There is no question that these men, like others throughout the South, went to war for different reasons, just as men and women do today. From what I know of them, they were interesting and complex individuals, and had many likeable, honorable characteristics.

          But the fact remains — the Confederacy was formed explicitly for the preservation and expansion of the institution of slavery. The evidence is right there for anyone who cares to look in the words spoken and written at the time. It is in the articles of secession of the Southern states; it is in the Confederate constitution; it is in the editorials of a hundred newspapers in towns large and small across the South. That the Confederacy was built upon the foundation of white supremacy and African slavery is not some notion invented by Northern propagandists; it is explicit in the words of the men themselves:

          The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically….Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

          Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

          Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, 1861

          Whatever their personal beliefs and individual motivations in donning the gray uniform, this is the larger cause our ancestors — yours and mine — fought for, this is the cause that the Confederacy began a war over, that killed over 600,000 of their fellow countrymen, North and South. It is a horrific thing. I have no doubt that our ancestors, yours and mine, had many laudable qualities, but you cannot ignore either their shortcomings or the inherent, fundamental evil that lay at the core of the Confederacy. To willingly ignore those things, as the SCV insists on doing, for the sake of creating a pure, noble (and false) image of the past, does a disservice both to history and those same men. You can only honor those men — your ancestors and mine — by showing them as they were, not as you or I mine imagine we’d want them to be.

  • James W. King Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:17

    The 10 Causes of the War Between the States
    or The One Cause of the Civil War-Northern Aggression

    By James W. King

    Historians have long debated the causes of the Civil War and the Southern perspective differs greatly from the Northern perspective. Based upon the study of original documents of the War Between The States (Civil War) era and facts and information published by Confederate Veterans, Confederate Chaplains, Southern writers and Southern Historians before, during, and after the war, I present the facts, opinions, and conclusions stated in the following article.

    Technically the 10 causes listed are reasons for Southern secession. The only cause of the war was that the South was invaded and responded to Northern aggression.

    I respectfully disagree with those who claim that the War Between the States was fought over slavery or that the abolition of slavery in the Revolutionary Era or early Federal period would have prevented war. It is my opinion that war was inevitable between the North and South due to complex political and cultural differences. The famous Englishman Winston Churchill stated that the war between the North and South was one of the most unpreventable wars in history. The Cause that the Confederate States of America fought for (1861-1865) was Southern Independence from the United States of America. Many parallels exist between the War for American Independence (1775-1783) and the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865).

    There were 10 political causes of the war (causes of Southern Secession) —one of which was slavery— which was a scapegoat for all the differences that existed between the North and South. The Northern industrialists had wanted a war since about 1830 to get the South’s resources (land-cotton-coal-timber-minerals) for pennies on the dollar. All wars are economic and are always between centralists and decentralists. The North would have found an excuse to invade the South even if slavery had never existed.

    A war almost occurred during 1828-1832 over the tariff when South Carolina passed nullification laws. The U.S. congress had increased the tariff rate on imported products to 40% (known as the tariff of abominations in Southern States). This crisis had nothing to do with slavery. If slavery had never existed –period–or had been eliminated at the time the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 or anytime prior to 1860 it is my opinion that there would still have been a war sooner or later.

    On a human level there were 5 causes of the war–New England Greed-New England Radicals–New England Fanatics–New England Zealots–and New England Hypocrites. During “So Called Reconstruction” ( 1865-1877 ) the New England Industrialists got what they had really wanted for 40 years–THE SOUTH’S RESOURCES FOR PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR.
    It was a political coalition between the New England economic interests and the New England fanatics and zealots that caused Southern secession to be necessary for economic survival and safety of the population.

    1. TARIFF

    Prior to the war about 75% of the money to operate the Federal Government was derived from the Southern States via an unfair sectional tariff on imported goods and 50% of the total 75% was from just 4 Southern states–Virginia-North Carolina–South Carolina and Georgia. Only 10%–20% of this tax money was being returned to the South. The Southern states were being treated as an agricultural colony of the North and bled dry. John Randolph of Virginia’s remarks in opposition to the tariff of 1820 demonstrates that fact. The North claimed that they fought the war to preserve the Union but the New England Industrialists who were in control of the North were actually supporting preservation of the Union to maintain and increase revenue from the tariff. The industrialists wanted the South to pay for the industrialization of America at no expense to them. Revenue bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to the War Between the States were biased, unfair and inflammatory to the South. Abraham Lincoln had promised the Northern industrialists that he would increase the tariff rate if he was elected president of the United States. Lincoln increased the rate to a level that exceeded even the “Tariff of Abominations” 40% rate that had so infuriated the South during the 1828-1832 eras (between 50 and 51% on iron goods). The election of a president that was Anti-Southern on all issues and politically associated with the New England industrialists, fanatics, and zealots brought about the Southern secession movement.


    The United States of America was founded as a Constitutional Federal Republic in 1789 composed of a Limited Federal Government and Sovereign States. The North wanted to and did alter the form of Government this nation was founded upon. The Confederate States of America fought to preserve Constitutional Limited Federal Government as established by America’s founding fathers who were primarily Southern Gentlemen from Virginia. Thus Confederate soldiers were fighting for rights that had been paid for in blood by their forefathers upon the battlefields of the American Revolution. Abraham Lincoln had a blatant disregard for The Constitution of the United States of America. His War of aggression Against the South changed America from a Constitutional Federal Republic to a Democracy ( with Socialist leanings ) and broke the original Constitution. The infamous Socialist Karl Marx sent Lincoln a letter of congratulations after his reelection in 1864. A considerable number of European Socialists came to America and fought for the Union (North).


    The South believed in basic Christianity as presented in the Holy Bible. The North had many Secular Humanists (atheists, transcendentalists and non-Christians). Southerners were afraid of what kind of country America might become if the North had its way. Secular Humanism is the belief that there is no God and that man, science and government can solve all problems. This philosophy advocates human rather than religious values. Reference: Frank Conner’s book “The South under Siege 1830-2000.”


    Southerners and Northerners were of different Genetic Lineage’s. Southerners were primarily of Western English (original Britons), Scottish, and Irish lineage (Celtic) whereas Northerners tended to be of Anglo-Saxon and Danish (Viking) extraction. The two cultures had been at war and at odds for over 1000 years before they arrived in America. Our ancient ancestors in Western England under King Arthur humbled the Saxon princes at the battle of Baden Hill (circa 497 AD –516 AD). The cultural differences that contributed to the War Between the States (1861-1865) had existed for 1500 years or more.


    The North wanted to control Western States and Territories such as Kansas and Nebraska. New England formed Immigrant Aid Societies and sent settlers to these areas that were politically attached to the North. They passed laws against slavery that Southerners considered punitive. These political actions told Southerners they were not welcome in the new states and territories. It was all about control–slavery was a scapegoat.


    The Northern Industrialists wanted a war to use as an excuse to get the South’s resources for pennies on the dollar. They began a campaign about 1830 that would influence the common people of the North and create enmity that would allow them to go to war against the South. These Northern Industrialists brought up a morality claim against the South alleging the evils of slavery. The Northern Hypocrites conveniently neglected to publicize the fact that 5 New England States (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York ) were primarily responsible for the importation of most of the slaves from Africa to America. These states had both private and state owned fleets of ships.


    This political cause ties in to the above listed efforts by New England Industrialists. Beginning about 1830 the Northern Newspapers began to slander the South. The Industrialists used this tool to indoctrinate the common people of the North. They used slavery as a scapegoat and brought the morality claim up to a feverish pitch. Southerners became tired of reading in the Northern Newspapers about what bad and evil people they were just because their neighbor down the road had a few slaves. This propaganda campaign created hostility between the ordinary citizens of the two regions and created the animosity necessary for war. The Northern Industrialists worked poor whites in the factories of the North under terrible conditions for 18 hours a day (including children). When the workers became old and infirm they were fired. It is a historical fact that during this era there were thousands of old people living homeless on the streets in the cities of the North. In the South a slave was cared for from birth to death. Also the diet and living conditions of Southern slaves was superior to that of most white Northern factory workers. Southerners deeply resented this New England hypocrisy and slander.


    Abolitionists were a small but vocal and militant group in New England who demanded instant abolition of slavery in the South. These fanatics and zealots were calling for massive slave uprisings that would result in the murder of Southern men, women and children. Southerners were aware that such an uprising had occurred in Santa Domingo in the 1791-1804 era and that the French (white) population had been massacred. The abolitionists published a terrorist manifesto and tried to smuggle 100,000 copies into the South showing slaves how to murder their masters at night. Then when John Brown raided Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859 the political situation became inflammatory. Prior to this event there had been more abolition societies in the South than in the North. Lincoln and most of the Republican Party (68 members of congress) had adopted a political platform in support of terrorist acts against the South. Some (allegedly including Lincoln) had contributed monetarily as supporters of John Brown’s terrorist activities. Again slavery was used as a scapegoat for all differences that existed between the North and South.

    9. SLAVERY

    Indirectly slavery was a cause of the war. Most Southerners did not own slaves and would not have fought for the protection of slavery. However they believed that the North had no Constitutional right to free slaves held by citizens of Sovereign Southern States. Prior to the war there were five times as many abolition societies in the South as in the North. Virtually all educated Southerners were in favor of gradual emancipation of slaves. Gradual emancipation would have allowed the economy and labor system of the South to gradually adjust to a free paid labor system without economic collapse. Furthermore, since the New England States were responsible for the development of slavery in America, Southerners saw the morality claims by the North as blatant hypocrisy. The first state to legalize slavery had been Massachusetts in 1641 and this law was directed primarily at Indians. In colonial times the economic infrastructure of the port cities of the North was dependent upon the slave trade. The first slave ship in America, “THE DESIRE”, was fitted out in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Further proof that Southerners were not fighting to preserve slavery is found in the diary of an officer in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. He stated that “he had never met a man in the Army of Northern Virginia that claimed he was fighting to preserve slavery”. If the war had been over slavery, the composition of the politicians, officers, enlisted men, and even African Americans would have been different. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had freed his slaves (Custis Washington estate) prior to 1863 whereas Union General Grant’s wife Julia did not free her slaves until after the war when forced to do so by the 13th amendment to the constitution. Grant even stated that if the abolitionists claimed he was fighting to free slaves that he would offer his services to the South. Mildred Lewis Rutherford (1852-1928) was for many years the historian for the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). In her book Truths of History she stated that there were more slaveholders in the Union Army (315,000) than the Confederate Army (200,000). Statistics and estimates also show that about 300,000 blacks supported the Confederacy versus about 200,000 for the Union. Clearly the war would have been fought along different lines if it had been fought over slavery.
    The famous English author Charles Dickens stated “the Northern onslaught upon Southern slavery is a specious piece of humbug designed to mask their desire for the economic control of the Southern states.”


    Proof that Abraham Lincoln wanted war may be found in the manner he handled the Fort Sumter incident. Original correspondence between Lincoln and Naval Captain G.V.Fox shows proof that Lincoln acted with deceit and willfully provoked South Carolina into firing on the fort (A TARIFF COLLECTION FACILITY). It was politically important that the South be provoked into firing the first shot so that Lincoln could claim the Confederacy started the war. Additional proof that Lincoln wanted war is the fact that Lincoln refused to meet with a Confederate peace delegation. They remained in Washington for 30 days and returned to Richmond only after it became apparent that Lincoln wanted war and refused to meet and discuss a peace agreement. After setting up the Fort Sumter incident for the purpose of starting a war, Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to put down what he called a rebellion. He intended to march Union troops across Virginia and North Carolina to attack South Carolina. Virginia and North Carolina were not going to allow such an unconstitutional and criminal act of aggression against a sovereign sister Southern State. Lincoln’s act of aggression caused the secession of the upper Southern States.

    On April 17th 1861, Governor Letcher of Virginia sent this message to Washington DC: “I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers of Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern states and the requisition made upon me for such a object-an object in my judgement not within the purview of the constitution or the act of 1795, will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war; having done so we will meet you in a spirit as determined as the administration has exhibited toward the South.”

    The WAR BETWEEN THE STATES 1861-1865 occurred due to many complex causes and factors as enumerated above. Those who make claims that “the war was over slavery” or that if slavery had been abolished in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed or in 1789 when The Constitution of the United States of America was signed, that war would not have occurred between North and South are being very simplistic in their views and opinions.

    The following conversation between English ship Captain Hillyar and Capt. Raphael Semmes-Confederate Ship CSS Sumter (and after 1862 CSS Alabama) occurred during the war on August 5th, 1861. It is a summary from a well-educated Southerner who is stating his reasons for fighting. Captain Hillyar expressed surprised at Captain Semme’s contention that the people of the South were “defending ourselves against robbers with knives at our throats”, and asked for further clarification as to how this was so, the exchange below occurred. I especially was impressed with Semmes’ assessment of Yankee motives – the creation of “Empire”!

    Semmes: “Simply that the machinery of the Federal Government, under which we have lived, and which was designed for the common benefit, has been made the means of despoiling the South, to enrich the North”, and I explained to him the workings of the iniquitous tariffs, under the operation of which the South had, in effect, been reduced to a dependent colonial condition, almost as abject as that of the Roman provinces, under their proconsuls; the only difference being, that smooth-faced hypocrisy had been added to robbery, inasmuch as we had been plundered under the forms of law”

    Captain Hillyar: “All this is new to me”, replied the captain. “I thought that your war had arisen out of the slavery question”.

    Semmes: “That is the common mistake of foreigners. The enemy has taken pains to impress foreign nations with this false view of the case. With the exception of a few honest zealots, the canting hypocritical Yankee cares as little for our slaves as he does for our draught animals. The war which he has been making upon slavery for the last 40 years is only an interlude, or by-play, to help on the main action of the drama, which is Empire; and it is a curious coincidence that it was commenced about the time the North began to rob the South by means of its tariffs. When a burglar designs to enter a dwelling for the purpose of robbery, he provides himself with the necessary implements. The slavery question was one of the implements employed to help on the robbery of the South. It strengthened the Northern party, and enabled them to get their tariffs through Congress; and when at length, the South, driven to the wall, turned, as even the crushed worm will turn, it was cunningly perceived by the Northern men that ‘No slavery’ would be a popular war-cry, and hence, they used it”.
    “It is true that we are defending our slave property, but we are defending it no more than any other species of our property – it is all endangered, under a general system of robbery. We are in fact, fighting for independence”.

    The Union victory in 1865 destroyed the right of secession in America, which had been so cherished by America’s founding fathers as the principle of their revolution. British historian and political philosopher Lord Acton, one of the most intellectual figures in Victorian England, understood the deeper meaning of Southern defeat. In a letter to former Confederate General Robert E. Lee dated November 4, 1866, Lord Acton wrote “I saw in States Rights the only available check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. I deemed you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization and I mourn for that which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo (defeat of Napoleon).

    As Illinois Governor Richard Yates stated in a message to his state assembly on January 2, 1865, the war had “tended, more than any other event in the history of the country, to militate against the Jeffersonian Ideal ( Thomas Jefferson ) that the best government is that which governs least.

    Years after the war former Confederate president Jefferson Davis stated “I Am saddened to Hear Southerners Apologize For Fighting To Preserve Our Inheritance”. Some years later former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt stated “Those Who Will Not Fight For The Graves Of Their Ancestors Are Beyond Redemption”.

    James W. King
    Past Commander Camp 141
    Lt. Col. Thomas M. Nelson
    Sons of Confederate Veterans
    PO Box 70577 Albany, Georgia 31708

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:46

      Mr. King,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your Top 10 list goes far in revealing just how out of touch your organization is in terms of the latest research on the cause of secession and the war itself. Actually, the nice thing about trying to understand the cause of secession is that the principle actors made it very clear as to what they were doing. They left the Union in response to the election of a Republican president and a party that they viewed as a direct threat to slavery. That is where any discussion of the war must begin. This list gets floated around all the time. It made for a wonderful lesson plan in my own class on how far certain organizations such as the SCV will go to distort the past.

      • Jason Bullard Apr 21, 2010 @ 9:58

        Mr Levin did you tell your class the things Lincoln said as well. You know things like if I could restore the union without freeing a single slave I would. Or it has never been my belief that the black and white races were equal. Or did you let them know about the Corwin amendment to the Constitution? Just wondering how distorted you are making history and if you are giving both sides of the argument. Probaly not in light of your other post.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:01

          Mr. Bullard,

          Absolutely. In fact, I taught an entire class two years ago on Lincoln and we spent quite a bit of time on the evolution of Lincoln’s views on race and slavery. It’s easy to pick out choice quotes from Lincoln to support a given claim, but the correct way to approach it is by carefully analyzing the context of the speech/document as well as the extent to which Lincoln’s views changed. I assume most Americans at the time North/South held what we would interpret to be racist views.

          • Jason Bullard Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:15

            How about Robert E Lee ? Im trying to figure out your reasoning here for your article. Not nitpick back and forth so please understand that. Are you saying that we are racist? Are you saying that your view is correct and our views are distorted and we have no grasp on the history of the South? Your basis for your article seems already tilted towards the fact that the answer on both questions is yes. If Im wrong then I apologize. Now Im not gonna change your mind and your not gonna change mine but i think its important to put our intentions on the table.

            • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:24

              I would recommend reading Emory Thomas’s biography of Lee as well as Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s recent study on the subject of Lee and slavery/race. If you are interested in where I stand on the Governor’s proclamation I suggest that you go back and read the last two weeks worth of posts, much of which focuses on just this issue. I’ve also written on the South Carolina secession monument and extensively on the Davis-Limber statue. Click on the links in the post as well as the tags at the end of the post. Please understand that I am not interested in changing your mind about anything. This is my blog site and I write mainly about issues of historical memory as well as my own ongoing research projects. If you would like to know a bit more about me please click on my cv which you can find along the navigation menu at the top.

              • Jason Bullard Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:53

                No offense but I learned all I needed to know when I read your assessment of our organization and if we had any impact. You commented that it was a waste of money what the Camp from Virginia did in response to the proclamation so I figured out your stance on that as well. Truth is you use this blog to convince others as to why your version of the South is the gospel and we as the Sons Of this South cant possibly be right and you be wrong. You demonize the Confederates as racist brutal bigots but then ignore the Immortal 600 or the rape of women by Sherman and his men or the burning of every home encountered by these men whether they were involved in the war or not. This your blog and by all means you can write whatever you want but when you attempt to discredit us you will receive a response because you cant and dont speak for us and how we feel. Your an educated man obviously but your not educated enough to decipher or understand how we feel about Honoring those men that you and so many others want to write off as traitors so rest assured that we will until our last breath and then our next generation will take the lead because you will never understand the ties that bind and have bound us together as Sons of Confederate Veterans for almost 150 years. Maybe you should stick to Yankee history since most of your blogs are attempting to discredit any and all things Southern. Just a thought.

                • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 11:39

                  Mr. Bullard,

                  I am pleased to hear that you were successful in your attempt to infer my ultimate goal and purpose behind this blog. First, I highly recommend Mark Grimsley’s _Hard Hand of War_ (Cambridge University Press) on Sherman’s March. I’ve never “demonized Confederates as racist bigots”. I have no interest in demonizing anyone, though I am very interested in how race and slavery shaped the way white Southerners/Confederates viewed the war. You may have noticed that I’ve written quite a bit about how Confederates at the Crater interpreted the presence of black Union soldiers and I recently accepted an invitation from a publisher to write a book-length study of how black Southerners were used during the war and how their presence later morphed into stories of loyal black Confederate soldiers.

                  I would also suggest that you and your organization do not hold a monopoly on how Confederate soldiers ought to be remembered. There is plenty of room for disagreement. If I am discrediting the SCV it extends no further than their public statements and other practices whose historical legitimacy can be questioned.

                • Bob Huddleston Apr 21, 2010 @ 13:52

                  Jason Ballard claimed Kevin ignores, among other items, “the Immortal 600.”
                  For those not recognizing Confederate “Immortal 600,” they were Rebel POWs placed on Morris Island in retaliation for the Confederacy placing US prisoners in Charleston under fire. Of the Immortal 600, only forty-four died in prisoner of war camps. Seven percent.
                  Compare that with some estimated figures for non-battle and POW death rates of both Yankee and Rebel soldiers:

                  Death rate for Federal prisoners in CS camps: 15.5%
                  Death rate for CS prisoners in Federal camps: 12.1%
                  Non-battle death rate for Federal troops: 11.0%
                  Non-battle death rate for Confederates 21.9%

                  I think I would have preferred to take my chances with the 600 rather than be in either Elmira OR Andersonville! To say nothing of continuing to serve in the Confederate army!
                  It does not appear that the Immortal 600 were unduly starved or mistreated if their casualty rate was so significantly less than either POW rates or the normal attrition rates of soldiers in the field, blue or gray.
                  Keep in mind that the National Geographic calculated the death rate of mostly white emigrants crossing the plains to Oregon and California in the 1840s and 1850s was about 7%, less than that of the average Civil War soldier, but still quite high.

        • Margaret D. Blough Apr 21, 2010 @ 15:55

          Mr. Bullard: Are you aware that when Lincoln included that phrase (which also included being willing to free all or some of the slaves) in his public letter replying to Greeley, he had already drafted the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and presented it to his Cabinet for comment only. He made it clear that he had already decided to issue it. He accepted Secretary of State Seward’s advice to wait until after a Union military victory to do so. The preliminary EP was issued just as the critical 1862 Congressional and gubernatorial elections were beginning and played a role in Republican losses. Are you also aware that, as president-elect, he urged Republican members of Congress to defeat any legislation/Congressional amendments that would restrict or forbid banning or limiting the expansion of slavery where it currently existed, even if that meant war? Are you aware that Lincoln first proposed what became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in early 1864, before the presidential election? Are you also aware that, according to the testimony of one of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators, Booth announced his decision to murder Lincoln upon hearing Lincoln declare in remarks to a crowd that gathered at the White House on April 11 that Lincoln was favorably inclined to allowing limited Black male suffrage?

          • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2010 @ 15:56


            Do you really want to do this? 😀

            • Margaret D. Blough Apr 21, 2010 @ 16:15

              Yes. I came from a dissenting denomination on one side and I’m Scots on the other; it’s hereditary for me to be contrary. 🙂 However, I did refrain from quoting what Booth said on April 11, though. 🙂 I do miss the editing function from Disqus, though. One sentence isn’t clear. I meant to say Lincoln argued against legislation/Constitutional amendments limiting or forbidding efforts to restrict the expansion of slavery BEYOND where it currently existed.

              • Bob Pollock Apr 21, 2010 @ 17:18


                I, for one, enjoy your comments. 🙂 I have a lot of Scots blood, too (and German).

      • Robert Apr 26, 2010 @ 7:08

        Mr Levin – J W King has provided an excellent, brief overview of the many causes that drove Southern secession (although I think his #4 is just romantic fiction) Your peremptory dismissal of him as being “out of touch” without even addressing the many factors he cites, just reveals you for what you are: an anti-Southern ideologue. If King’s summary doesn’t cause you to re-think your position, then you are apparently ideologically married to a court-historian view of history that doesn’t allow any viewpoint contrary to the template.

        Your statement, “They left the Union in response to the election of a Republican president…That is where any discussion of the war must begin” is particularly absurd. I suppose by that standard an analysis of the causes for WWII must begin with the Fall of France or Pearl Harbor rather than 19th century imperial rivalries, industrialization, the Treaty of Versailles, Japanese economic imperialism, US trade embargoes, etc. ? The conflict between north and south had it genesis in times of colonial settlement; the War for American Independence temporarily subsumed it beneath the need to unite against the British, but it immediately flared up after and nearly sank the Constitutional convention and then tore Gen. Washington’s administration apart between Jefferson and Hamilton.

        Nevertheless, lets just agree to disagree on the causes of secession for the moment. The real issue is, do you think the North had the right to invade, subjugate, rape, pillage, plunder and murder a nation of 9 millions who had lawfully and peacably withdrawn their consent to remain in the union, sent a peace delegation to negotiate a settlement for federal properties, and only wanted to be left alone? Who bears the moral guilt here? The party waging an offensive war of invasion or the party defending their own homes?

        King said above we would have had the war, even if slavery had been abolished earlier, because of the myriad ideologicaly, theological, cultural and economic clashes between North and South. The ultimate proof of this thesis is that today, nearly 150 years after slavery was killed, we are still at each others throats. We do not want to be part of a union with the yankees any more than we want to keep a gangrenous leg attached; we want to amputate before the toxins from the diseased limb kill the whole body. The north is toxic to our culture and way of life in the South. We desire to be free from them in 21st century just as our ancestors did in the 19th century. You apparently don’t understand true Southern sentiment today, so it is impossible for you to understand it ca. 1860.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 26, 2010 @ 8:52


          Thanks for taking the time to air your emotions on my blog. Unfortunately, your little rant has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the post.

        • Brooks D. Simpson Apr 26, 2010 @ 9:53

          “The real issue is, do you think the North had the right to invade, subjugate, rape, pillage, plunder and murder a nation of 9 millions who had lawfully and peacably withdrawn their consent to remain in the union, sent a peace delegation to negotiate a settlement for federal properties, and only wanted to be left alone?”

          That nine million would include nearly four million enslaved people, right? Could you show me where the enslaved sent delegates to the secession conventions? Were they later black Confederates? And, since you are so much into the language of violence and exploitation, were subjugation, rape, and murder a part of slavery?


          • Kevin Levin Apr 26, 2010 @ 10:05

            Hi Brooks,

            Thanks for weighing in on this. I’ve had enough trying to engage these people. I figured it was an ideal post with which to include some of these silly comments. These people actually believe that they are responding to the content of the post.

          • Robert Apr 26, 2010 @ 11:47

            “were subjugation, rape, and murder a part of slavery?”

            No, they were not characteristic of slavery as practised in the antebellum South, although they were certainly staples of rabid abolitionist propaganda. That’s one reason Southerners were so antagonized towards the NE; nobody likes to be slandered and portrayed as a monster. Maybe that’s why later historians had to shuffle the ex-slave interviews collected by the WPA Writers Project in the 1930’s off to oblivion when someone realized that 80 – 90% of the respondents were commenting favorably on their treatment as slaves and on the character of their masters. Also, I’m sure you’re familiar with Time of the Cross which documents that the average slave enjoyed a better diet and living conditions than a NY tenement dweller or NE mill worker of the era.

            But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back this very brief tome I’m reading on the biographies of all the black delegates that the NE states sent to represent their slaves at the Constitutional Convention and the Hartford Convention.

            You all don’t still beat your wives, do you?

            • Kevin Levin Apr 26, 2010 @ 11:58

              You said: “No, they were not characteristic of slavery as practised in the antebellum South, although they were certainly staples of rabid abolitionist propaganda.”

              I think you’ve clearly demonstrated your ignorance of the history and inability to engage in serious discussion. Thanks for stopping by but your comments are better left elsewhere. Good luck.

    • SF Walker Feb 9, 2011 @ 0:58

      This is a gross and deliberate misinterpretation of history, but that’s never stopped the SCV before. This post contains too many outright lies to address, but I’ll cover some of the most glaring ones here. I noticed that you’ve completely omitted the four declarations of causes of secession issued in 1860-61 by the leaders of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas, in which the secessionist leaders clearly made it understood that Northern hostility toward slavery led them to take their states out of the Union. The Confederacy’s own leaders told us why they made the decision; why does the SCV not listen to them?

      As for greedy Northern industrialists seeking the natural resources of the South, that hasn’t a speck of truth. Do you not realize that the North had MOST of the coal in the U.S. at the time, including nearly all of the superior hotter-burning anthracite coal? Northern textile mills already had access to all the Southern and foreign cotton they needed. As to land, there was no shortage of that either, with westward expansion in full swing. Likewise, timber and minerals such as nitre, iron ore, lead, and salt were abundant in the North–Minnesota was full of timber. The Confederates actually had to collect urine during the war from which to distill nitre for gunpowder.

      On westward expansion, you fail to note that the South was likewise seeking control of western territories such as Kansas. Indeed both sections sent settlers into Kansas to influence the vote by both legal and illegal means to win her over for their side.

      What you say about working conditions in factories is indeed true, but it does not explain why, if they were SO bad, that there was no “underground railroad” in the North to allow these workers to escape so they could become slaves on Southern plantations, where you claim the conditions were so much better. Why did the Southern leaders demand a Fugitive Slave Law if their slaves were so well-treated and content?

      Another issue I must address is the recurring neo-Confederate lie that Ft. Sumter was a “tariff collection point.” The U.S. Army and Navy have NEVER been in the business of collecting tariffs; there is NO documentation whatever to suggest they were ever used by the Treasury Department. I wonder if you can tell me how much revenue Major Anderson collected in tariffs between secession and the Confederate attack on the fort, if this was true? In any case, Anderson’s garrison was undermanned, under-armed, and undersupplied–he had only enough men to operate several guns at a time at the fort and gunsights had yet to be installed when the Rebels attacked. Ringed by Confederate defenses as he was, Anderson would have been foolish to attempt to interfere with shipping in Charleston Harbor. By April of 1861, his garrison were little more than POWs in the middle of the harbor. Have you ever seen the fort? How on earth is it well-situated to dock ships so that their masters could pay the tariff? Why did they not do this at the custom house instead, like at every other port?

      Your claim of 300,000 blacks supporting the Confederacy is quite misleading. Almost all of these were employed as laborers, cooks, teamsters, blacksmiths, and the like—and it would be difficult indeed to prove that the majority were serving willingly. A handful at most served the CSA as soldiers, as the Confederate War Department expressly forbade the arming of blacks (even severely censuring General Pat Cleburne for suggesting it in 1864) until about three weeks before the war ended. Compared to the 200,000 blacks who volunteered to fight for the Union, and actually carried arms, the notion of a multi-racial Confederate fighting force in the field is little more than a fantasy. If blacks were treated as equals in the defense of the South, how can the postwar use of terrorism to keep them away from the polls, along with Jim Crow laws, be explained away?

      If the SCV wishes to be taken seriously by anyone outside its membership (apart from the League of the South), it’s going to have to change dramatically. It will need to promote real scholarship within its ranks and adopt a more honest and realistic stance on the war and the issues surrounding it. The SCV’s current extremist policy at the national level, along with its propogation of lies, is going to do nothing but hurt its cause until then. The SCV’s policy of insulating itself from any historical facts which make its members uncomfortable has got to go if this organization wants credibility, respect, and influence with the general public.

  • Nat Turners Son Apr 20, 2010 @ 9:00

    I see them having more impact on a local level where the camps are well respected and called upon to do CW days at schools and such. But on the State and National level they will be just one of many voices clamoring for attention.

    • Robert Moore Apr 20, 2010 @ 16:23

      I agree. There are some good folks in some good camps who do good things at the local level and keep their interests at the local level. Many don’t get caught up in all that you see at the State and National levels, but you can be sure that the national organization touts the total number as in solid support of those things coming from national.

      • Kevin Levin Apr 20, 2010 @ 16:36


        You are absolutely right. I’ve spoken at SCV camps in the past and had a chance to meet and talk with some very interesting people who are genuinely interested in the Civil War. It’s unfortunate that they are not more vocal, but I do understand.

        • Jeffry Burden Apr 20, 2010 @ 18:23

          I was a guest speaker recently at a meeing of a “moderate” Camp, and a traveling field rep for the SCV national office was also there and gave a short pep talk/sales stalk before I spoke. He was full of the usual half-baked history, but the response he got was polite, at best. It must have been very frustrating for him.

          There are lots of those moderate members out there, trying to do their thing while avoiding (as much as possible) the incendiary/nutty leadership.

      • Margaret D. Blough Apr 20, 2010 @ 20:06

        I have friends who were SCV members in North Carolina and also formed the Longstreet Memorial Fund, which is how I got to know them. The North Carolina SCV led the bitter but ultimately unsuccessful fight to keep Kirk Lyons and his League of the South ilk from taking over the SCV. I don’t think any of them currently belong. They were either purged or resigned. Many joined the Robert E. Lee Society as an alternative.

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