In the wake of Governor McDonnell’s amendment to his Confederate History Month Proclamation, representatives of the Sons of Confederate Veterans did their best to convince America that slavery and race have little or nothing to do with understanding the war. Actually, the SCV has no problem discussing these issues – in fact, they are obsessed with the subject – as long as they control the terms of the debate. As a result we are introduced to thousands of loyal black Confederate slaves and other distortions designed to redirect the conversation away from the central role that slavery played in the Confederate experience. A few days ago I suggested that the SCV’s preferred view of the past has been on the defensive for the past few years and is on a fast track to becoming completely irrelevant. The responses from SCV members that I received served to confirm this prediction.
Reading accounts of yesterday’s dedication ceremony of the Davis-Limber statue at Beauvoir points to the extent to which the SCV’s agenda has been minimized and forced to remain on ground that they maintain. The statue is a case study in SCV propaganda and outright bad history. The SCV has never been interested in Limber’s story; rather, he functions (as do “black Confederates”) to steer any discussion of the war and the Confederacy away from race and slavery. Here are a few choice quotes from the ceremony that make my point:
In the name of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of all the people of the south of all the people of good conscience and righteousness throughout the world, we dedicate this statue of Jefferson Davis. That it may stand as eternal testament to a duty well done. Well, in the south, we know it takes a family to raise a child, and that’s what Jefferson Davis was willing to do. — Chuck McMichael
This really humanizes Jefferson Davis, tells a story which isn’t really told very often,” said Bowling. There are two young children standing next to Davis with arms linked. One of the children was rescued by Davis’ wife during the war. Jim Limber, the black child being beaten up and pushed around by an older man, and she hopped out of the carriage and pushed him away and grabbed Jim Limber and took him home where he became a functional member of the Davis household. — Brag Bowling
As you can clearly see, this story has nothing at all to do with little Jim Limber. It’s about an act that was performed, not by Jefferson Davis, but by his wife, Varina. Why isn’t she featured in this statue? What is truly disturbing, however, is how little we know about Limber as well as the very brief period of time he spent with the Davis family. In William J. Cooper’s massive biography of Jefferson Davis we find not one reference to this boy, though the author spends a great deal of time discussing the Davis family. Joan Cashin’s recent biography of Varina Davis does include a few brief references to Limber, but it raises more questions than answers. She notes the incident in Richmond that led to Limber joining the household, but as to his place in the family Cashin suggests that he functioned as a “playmate” to the other children. In fact, it looks like it was Davis’s biological children who took a liking to the boy and pressed the issue of whether he could stay.
If the SCV wishes to be taken seriously than they should have no problem pointing us to the primary sources that support the claims that were made yesterday and at countless other times. [Oh…just in case you need to be reminded, Rickey Pittman’s book does not count as scholarship.]
I won’t hold my breadth because as I said this isn’t really about Jim Limber and, ultimately, it may not even be about the Davis family. Tell em’ Mr. Bowling:
“It wasn’t about slavery. It was about freedom, and the Jefferson Davis statue symbolizes freedom”