Slavery Was a Hot Topic Even Twenty Years Prior to the War

Here is a short video of this year’s Memorial Day ceremony at our local Confederate cemetery on the campus of the University of Virginia.  It’s a few blocks from my school and I bring students to the site every year.  There are over 1,000 soldiers buried here, who died in the Charlottesville hospitals during the war.  Up until a few years ago there were only a few headstones.  The local chapter of the SCV plans to place a headstone for every soldier.  By the looks of things in this video and a recent visit that I made with one of my classes it looks like they are making steady progress.

The video include a short interview with Kimberly Mauch, president of the Turner Ashby chapter, No. 184, United Daughters of the Confederacy of Winchester Virginia.  I find her level of understanding of the war and slavery to be appalling.  A transcript of the Q&A follows the video.

AS A YANKEE- WE GENERALLY ASSOCIATE THE CONFEDERACY WITH SLAVERY. IT’S HARD TO OVERCOME THAT. “I understand that. Yes, slavery was a very hot topic back then you could say, even twenty years prior to that, even, especially in the Kansas-Missouri border states, the abolitionists and all that went on out there. It was fought more- states’ rights started everything, I feel. The South wanted to do things their way and the North wanted to control that and that’s what fueled the fire for South Carolina to secede from the Union to begin with. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING IN THE UNION TODAY? “I love it.” THINGS WORKED OUT FOR THE BEST? “Who knows what it would be like? Nobody can say it would be better or worse but it’s still a great country.”

28 thoughts on “Slavery Was a Hot Topic Even Twenty Years Prior to the War

  1. Dan Wright

    I get the idea that Kimberly Mauch is an intelligent woman. But then you ask that slavery/Civil War question that doesn’t fit with the Lost Cause fairy tale and she begins to blather. Her line “Nobody can say it would be better or worse” – We can’t? Really?
    In a cynical way it’s funny but on another level it’s just sad and embarassing.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I have no reason to think that she is not an intelligent woman. It just goes to show you that leadership in the UDC is not correlated with anything having to do with historical knowledge.

      Reply
      1. Raffi

        In my statistics class, we learned that you cannot draw conclusions about correlations without more of a sample size than you present here. How can we conclude from this one piece here anything about a correlation?

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Thanks Raffi. Of course, I draw such a conclusion based on 5 years of blogging about this organization.

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          1. Raffi

            With all due respect, Kevin, I don’t think blogging on the UDC for 5 years is enough qualification to make your conclusion. Such a strong conclusion should be based on a more scientific process of research, analysis, and conclusion.

            In Florida, for example, the UDC is responsible for the preservation of the Judah P. Benjamin Memorial at Gamble Plantation, along with the battlefields of Natural Bridge and Olustee. The organization basically started Civil War preservation in Florida.

            Moreover, in John Coski’s book on the Confederate battleflag, one finds the UDC to be much more reasonable in its uses of the battleflag as opposed to many other groups — in fact sometimes condemning how the SCV used the flag (another group that you find much fault with, understandable so). In fact, in the case of the flag, one can easily point to many instances where the organization’s leadership seems to have a very strong correlation with historical knowledge — precisely the opposite of your point above.

            In short, I think portraying a simplistic image of the UDC can not only be inaccurate, but it can also contradict your other popular strains of thought (such as those concerning the SCV).

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              I hear you, Raffi. I regret having used the word “correlate” in the above comment, but than again, I often fail to think through my choice of words. I also should have mentioned that the local UDC chapter here in C-Ville is working with the SCV to place headstones in the cemetery. This is a worthy project and one that I support.

              You are also correct in pointing out the distinctions between the two organizations in John Coski’s book, though if I remember correctly, he was not referring to recent activity. Other than that I stand by my observations. By the way I would appreciate it if you were to confirm the following claim: “In fact, in the case of the flag, one can easily point to many instances where the organization’s leadership seems to have a very strong correlation with historical knowledge — precisely the opposite of your point above.”

              As always, thanks for the comment.

              Reply
              1. Raffi

                Definitely, Kevin, what you said makes sense.

                Sorry about my sloppy line that you quoted. What I meant is that in some of the instances of the flag use in Coski’s book, the UDC as an organization seems to have had their history accurate as far as use of the flag — hence why I thought in those cases someone can draw a correlation that the UDC leadership was in fact in line with historical knowledge… which would be the opposite of your earlier point on correlation. Does that make more sense?

                Thanks for the fun discussions :-)

                And visit Gettysburg!

                Reply
                1. Kevin Levin Post author

                  Raffi,

                  Got it. I appreciate your questions and comments because it forces me to go back and rethink and even, at times, revise my thinking. I will be in Gettysburg in July with the CWPT’s teachers workshop. Hopefully, we will have a chance to meet.

                  Reply
  2. Andy Hall

    Heh:

    She began to take a particular interest in her civil wartime heritage when she was eight years old. To be eligible to join the Daughters, she needed to muster evidence of her blood connection and of her ancestors’ service. She was able to do this partly through the narrative of one of her forbears’ slaves, collected during the 1930s by the Federal Writers Project, part of the Works Progress Administration.

    Whew. I knew those old books would be good for something eventually.

    Reply
  3. David

    Let’s see. In 1860 the Confederacy had slaves, but oh my, so did the remains of the US. So the US was a slave holding nation just as the Confederacy. And, they did little to change the situation during the war. Then we have the fact that Lincoln supported the 13th amendment. I sorry, the original amendment would have assured slavery to this day in the US. Then we have Lincoln’s address in which he clearly says he could care if slavery continued. Then we have the Emancipation which had nothing to do with free slaves in the US or anywhere but outside the US controled territory. Much like we would say that Mexicans can not drive in Mexico. And the issue in conflict before the war was not the future of slavery but not allowing private businessmen to continue their lawful activities where they desired to do so.

    Slavery is the moral issue that was dreamed up to justify the illegal slaughter of 500,000 people and the distruction of a large portion of the US. Amazing that slavery has been with us as long as prostitution and that is predominately practiced in Africa. The last 120 years of less slavery is an aberration in history which will end when we no longer have the technology currently available to us. The War of Northern Aggression fundamentally changed our freedom. We have much less of it now, hence Obamacare can be passed with little problem. The experiment of 1776 ended in 1860.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi David,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are absolutely correct in pointing out that the United States remained a slave-holding nation until 1865. You are also correct in outlining an amendment protecting the right of slavery in the states where it had existed – an alternative 13th amendment. Unfortunately, your understanding of the Emancipation Proclamation needs serious attention. I highly recommend reading Allen Guelzo’s book “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation”: http://www.amazon.com/Lincolns-Emancipation-Proclamation-Slavery-America/dp/0743299655/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275775104&sr=8-1

      I am not going to comment on your last paragraph since I am not even sure what you are getting at and I don’t make a conscious effort to interpret the Civil War through a contemporary lens on this blog. Thanks again.

      Reply
      1. Bob Pollock

        Kevin,
        David’s comment displays so little understanding of 19th century America, Abraham Lincoln, international relations, or anything else, that I’m surprised you let it through. Maybe these people claiming you’re afraid of competing viewpoints is affecting you, but this isn’t even a competing viewpoint, it’s just ignorance. What do you think the odds are that this guy will bother to read Guelzo’s book ? And, oh my, why is it these people always assume they know some dirty little secret no one else knows because the evil PC crowd keeps it hidden? Anyway, hope you’re having a great day, Kev! :)

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Hi Bob,

          I don’t mind letting it through. Like I’ve said before, the comments are themselves a reflection of various threads of Civil War Memory.

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      2. Margaret D. Blough

        One correction to add, though. David claims “In 1860 the Confederacy had slaves, but oh my, so did the remains of the US.” That simply is not true. In the 1860 census, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and the territories of Nevada reported N/A (not applicable) on the census data for the number of slaves. The state of New Jersey which had passed a gradual emancipation law had only 18 aging slaves whose enslavement predated the effective date of the law left. The territories of Kansas had 2 slaves and Nebraska only had 15. All of the original 13 colonies that declared independence from the UK in 1776 had slavery when they did so. All those states which were in the original 13 that were free states in 1860 ended slavery legally and peacefully.

        Reply
        1. Bob Pollock

          Margaret,

          My guess would be that David is including the border states in his comment. But, his assertion that “they did little to change the situation during the war” is, of course, inaccurate, but to refute this, he would first have to indentify exactly who “they” are/were.

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    2. Jonathan Dresner

      Well, Kevin may eschew comment on the second paragraph, but I can’t help myself. There are three basic ideas here, as near as I can tell: that slavery was a pretext for the Civil War, which was actually intended to cause massive destruction across the South, and which was planned by Northern interests as a route to, presumably, political and economic domination; that slavery is a natural social form which will return when the industrial age ends; that the Civil War resulted in a fundamental shift away from the enlightenment ideas of the founding generation, towards…. well, health insurance reform, mostly.

      The first is sheer conspiracy lunacy. The second is an interesting world historical thesis, but fundamentally flawed by failing to realize the extent to which unfree labor existed in all societies before the 1700s (‘African’ slavery would never have been an issue in colonial societies if Europeans weren’t familiar and comfortable with the concept, after all) and the non-materialist shifts in human consciousness over the last two centuries making a return to widespread chattel slavery highly unlikely. The third is neo-secessionist TEA Party claptrap.

      Reply
      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        Jonathan,

        If I responded to all such comments I would never get anything done. Thanks.

        Reply
      2. David

        It is often very difficult to convey ideas in a forum of this nature with limited ability to expound on a given line of thought. Certainly I do not believe in conspiracy theories as I don’t give politicians and others the credit for the intelligence that such complex actions require. My reference to the assumption of a moral cause by the Union is my answer to the Lost Cause Myth propaganda. The supporters of the Union have developed their on myth of the Great Moral Cause. This gets down to the basics of why we go to war. Having set through several, I can assure you that the post conflict accumulations have very little to do with the actual underlying reasons. Do you really think that we attacked Iraq to look for weapons of mass distruction, or to establish Democrarcy in the Middle East, or to obtain oil? The true answer is likely that we don’t really know. Surprising, WWII and WWI were fought with little idea by the common soldier as to why he was preforming these actions. With the War of Northern Aggression, we will never know the true reason, though I can assure you that if we separated again tomorrow that I would soldier my arms to repulse the Northern invaders and influence and hopefully obtain a measure of freedom.

        Now, if you can’t undertstand what has happened to you with the socialization of medical care in the US and its relationship to the distruction of the Constitution (initially by Lincoln) and our contract with the central government, then you will in the coming years.

        In reading history with T. Harry Williams, we were taught not to rely on one source for historical reference. In assessing the concept of the Emancipation, try looking at how the Europeans viewed the document. They clearly saw its flaws, but the overall concept and the “moral” content prohibited interference in the conflict. Which is what Lincoln wanted. Another source is the view of the NAACP, which is clearly not happy with the instrument.

        My point is that if you critize this woman, you may be doing so with a taint of ignorance. Also, view points can vary, particularly in various regions of the US. That is why we really would be better off a seperate governments. So please, if you desagree with what I say, point out the conflict in a scholarly manner and not on a personal basis. That only indicates that you really have little idea of the matter being discussed, even if you have read a book. Another concept would be to attend a Tea Party and find out what their concerns are. You may agree with them. After all, our country is broke and our politicians are acting very much like they did in the 1850′s. Look what happened then.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          David,

          I appreciate the comment. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure what point you are making here so I will refrain from responding. As for this woman’s understanding of the Civil War and understanding of slavery’s importance all I can say is that Virginia was the largest slave state in 1860. Why she needed to go all the way out to the Kansas/Missouri area to make such a vague point is beyond me. Finally, I have no idea how attending a Tea Party event will help anyone better understand the complex process that led to emancipation during the Civil War. Thanks, however, for the suggestion

          Reply
          1. Dan Wright

            It’s funny/sad/embarassing that the Lost Cause crowd can’t come to terms with the role of slavery.
            If George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other founders understood that slavery would tear the nation apart – decades before the fact – why can’t we figure it out a century and a half later?

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Dan,

              Don’t let a few stray comments detract you from seeing the bigger picture. I think we are in the middle of a transformation in our collective understanding of slavery’s role in American history that has been underway for the past few decades.

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            2. Richard

              But they did not have the balls to do something about it, instead they kicked the can down the road resulting in the death and destruction of 620,000+. All for a dollar.

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            3. David

              Ok, the lost cause, I love that concept. It really took some smarts to figure out the concept of the lost cause myth so that anything one said positive about the South was a myth. This is really great. I am now publishing what I call the Great Morality Myth. That means that any attempt to protray to War as anything but a repression of liberty or self determination (which is the principal foreign policy of our country outside the boundries of the US) is myth. As such, any allusion you have to a greater moral objective is a myth. Makes as much sense as the lost cause, even more as the leaders of the Confederacy gave the reasons for their seperation from the US. Remember the Confederates did not start the war, no the first shot was fired when Lincoln tried to force the harbor in Charleston. This has been well established outside high school text. Currently you can not get a paper published unless it adheres to the policy that the Confederacy was terrible. That will change, as it has in the past with our view of Washington and our present government.

              Now slavery and the division. The point was originally raised in 1766 as to the morality of slavery. The British took up the cause in the late 1700′s and Napolean era to block the slavery trade in the Indies and thus curtail French economy. They also discovered that they could enslave a whole nation (ie. India), without the personal cost of slavery. Ben Franklin raised the issue when the Constitution was drafted and it was debated. The end result of the debate was that the US would be a slavery nation. As Northern states eliminated this peculair labor form that has served mankind for eons, they instituted Black Laws to either keep blacks out of their states or significantly restrict them. Funny how they had so many standards. As to Lincoln, he clearly hated blacks. Read his speeches, he sounds just like David Duke. When his wife inherited slaves, what did he do? He sold them. So yes, the slave issue was divisive but the chance to address the problem was on the founding, not later, especially when the original 13th amendment likely would have passed. Look no further than Lincoln’s first address for the origin of the war (which he started). Now ask yourself, why it is so important to have the South in the Union? We don’t want to be here.

              Reply
              1. Kevin Levin Post author

                David,

                Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for me to respond to your comment. First, your vague references to specific events, individuals, etc. are intertwined with a great deal of emotion and I am not about to dive into that. This was a pretty straightforward post that highlighted an overly simplistic view of the history and significance of slavery before and during the Civil War.

                Reply
              2. Andy Hall

                Remember the Confederates did not start the war, no the first shot was fired when Lincoln tried to force the harbor in Charleston.

                I am so weary of this ludicrous argument that Lincoln “forced” the Southern states to fire the first shot at Charleston. It’s like the abusive husband who scolds his wife, “I didn’t want to hit you, but you made me so angry I had to.”

                Reply
                1. Kevin Levin Post author

                  Andy,

                  I refuse to respond to such claims because in the end they have nothing to do with a serious analysis of the actual history. If it wasn’t Fort Sumter it would be something else. Anything that places the blame on Lincoln would suffice. It’s not very interesting.

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                  1. Richard

                    Kevin, do you or any of your readers know of any books that speak to the war preparations by the south leading up to the shots at Fort Sumter. Dont know if its true or not but when I was a teenager in Charleston SC I was told that rich men from Charleston went over to France to purchase weapons and get financial backing in preparation for the war.

                    Reply
                    1. Kevin Levin Post author

                      I’m no expert on the subject, but I thoroughly enjoyed Maury Klein’s _Days of Defiance_. I am also interested in what others recommend.

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