Confederate Flag Flap at Beauvoir

All is not well at Jefferson Davis’s postwar home of Beauvoir. [The website is downright ugly.] The news article linked to here is poorly written so it is difficult to piece together the nature of the dispute, but there seems to be a rift between Bertram Hayes-Davis (the former president’s great-great-grandson) and the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, which owns the site.

The dispute is, in part, over the display of the Confederate flag on the grounds at Beauvoir. Beauvoir has undergone extensive renovation since Hurricane Katrina. A new presidential library was built along with exhibit space. From what I can tell the disagreement over the display of the flag has everything to do with lagging visitation and revenue. At the center is Hayes-Davis.

Bertram Hayes-Davis and his wife, Carol, came to work at Beauvoir in July 2012. She volunteered as the head of programs and events at Beauvoir. He left his job as the head of oil and gas assets management at JP Morgan Bank in Dallas after he got a call from a board member asking for his assistance. He oversaw the opening of the library and the completion of Varina’s Garden, which recreates the garden of Davis’ wife, and with his resemblance to his grandfather and extensive knowledge of the family history, became the spokesman for Beauvoir.

Hayes-Davis said he said he got support to create interactive displays at the Davis library from the Smithsonian, the Senate Archives, the Department of Archives and the Capitol Architect, and began creating a partnership with the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior. “With all these efforts, and the highest regard to the future and successes of Beauvoir, there has been from the first day an air of resistance from the board and the chairman,” he said. He now is no longer on the board of directors he served on for years and all mention of Davis’ direct descendent is removed from the Beauvoir website.

Andi Oustalet, who was named “Volunteer of the Year” at Beauvoir is also concerned about the future of the site.

Last year, she also organized a three-day celebration for the opening of the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library. She quit when she arrived for the ribbon-cutting and saw a Confederate battle flag hanging on the Beauvoir mansion, so large that it covered from the edge of the roof to below the porch. Outstalet said she asked Forte to remove the flag that could be seen from U.S. 90. “This attitude has got to go so that property can survive and be a part of our history,” she said. She later agreed to return and produce the second year of her three-year commitment to Christmas at Beauvoir. Unless the board reverses its decision, she won’t be there for the third year.

Apparently, management is consulting with the Virginia Flaggers on how to respectfully and tastefully display the Confederate flag. I visited Beauvoir once years ago. It’s a beautiful site and one that deserves to be preserved and professionally interpreted. It looks like the Mississippi SCV is capable to doing neither.

52 thoughts on “Confederate Flag Flap at Beauvoir

  1. Al Mackey

    Considering the confederacy didn’t exist when Jefferson Davis lived there, and also considering the battle flag is supposedly “the soldiers’ flag,” according to the SCV, and not the CS government flag, a battle flag is inappropriate on two levels.

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  2. Connie Chastain

    Flagging attendance (pardon the pun) at Beauvoir is all because of the battle flag, huh. It couldn’t POSSIBLY have any thing to do with anything else — like the fact that OVERALL TOURISM TO THE MISSISSIPPI COAST IS DOWN. http://www.wlox.com/story/24637172/alabama-tourism-booming-while-mississippi-struggles

    But why pass up an opportunity to trash the flag and attribute all kinds of evil effects to it, huh, Kev — even if it’s not true. Why, the flag is probably responsible for ALL the lowered tourism on the Mississippi coast, not just at Beauvoir. And it probably killed more seafood than the oil spill… Huh, Kevin…

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Go back and read the post again. I did say that the news article lacks clarity regarding the exact nature of the problem at Beauvoir. I also cited attendance in the post. Looks like you can’t pass up an opportunity to characterize my post as something that it is not. Seems like you are the one who can’t acknowledge that the flag is an issue at all.

      Good job, Connie. This was a much better use of your quota of one comment per week.

      Reply
  3. Johnny_Reb_1865

    Well im going to have to agree on this one even though it is going to be removed but “This attitude has got to go so that property can survive and be a part of our history,” The flag is part of our history too rether she likes it or not and it’s here to stay and I ain’t going to let someone tarnish and distort American history as long as I live.
    But I do agree that it is inappropriate to display the flag there but ANYONE has a right to display it where ever they wish.

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  4. Andy Hall

    For a long time now, “Confederate heritage” has amounted to little more that the display of more and bigger battle flags. It really is that shallow.

    Jefferson Davis is best known as president of the Confederacy, of course, but there’s a whole lot more to his life and public career than the four years between 1861 and 1865. It’s not really surprising that the SCV would try to make Beauvoir a top-to-bottom Confederate shrine, but that misses a lot of the potential there.

    My guess is that Bertram Hayes-Davis, who is undoubtedly committed to the legacy of his ancestor, but is also someone who came to Beauvoir from the corporate world, understands instinctively that you can carry the unreconstructed rebel shtick just so far before it becomes a liability in the effort to garner wider public support for an organization or business. We’ve seen it over and over again, from the Confederate Air Force to Maurice’s Piggy Pork Barbecue, where organizations recognize that loudly banging the Confederate heritage drum is tangential, or even detrimental, to the organization’s core purpose and the need to win as wide support as possible.

    Beauvoir can’t be disengaged from the Confederacy in the same way, of course, but its future as a viable museum and research institution is certainly threatened if visitors to Biloxi expect they’re going to get a haranguing about states’ rights and black Confederates and other heritage talking points. I really do believe that at some subconscious level, the heritage crowd would rather see institutions like Beauvoir and the Museum of the Confederacy implode, rather than adapt to the changing reality of the United States (and the South) in the early 21st century. They would gladly sacrifice those institutions and their collections for the sake of being able to commiserate about “cultural genocide” on Facebook. A continually-and mutually-reinforced sense of resentful victimhood has been both their defining purpose and long-term goal for a long time now.

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  5. George Purvis

    Beauvoir has nothing to offer to compete with other tourist attractions here on the Gulf Coast. They offer Confederate Memorial Day, Spring and Fall muster, and Christmas lights with buggy rides. Tours of the grounds are mostly year round. That is it. There are only so many times a person wants to visit a museum.
    The rest of the Gulf Coast offers excellent fishing inshore and around the islands. Beautiful beaches on coast and most of the islands and we all know that a beautiful beach translates to —- water sports of course. We have the casinos, with their excellent buffets and free shows and sometimes even a winner or two. We are 75 miles from New Orleans or Mobile, we have pro hockey and in the process of getting pro baseball. We have excellent golf facilities and for the most part beautiful weather 10 months out of the year. Our coliseum offers boxing; MMA, car, gun and boat shows, basketball, concerts, and festivals are offered in many of the venues along the coast. A don’t forget about the weeklong “Crusin’ The Coast.” So what would you pick?
    Pretty much the same problems can be said for Fort Massa chutes on Ship Island. People go for the fishing or the water and beach seldom does a person go just to visit the fort. In fact so few go the NPS used a volunteer last year to give tours.

    Connie is right attendance on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is down. Despite what you here, Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast. All the beautiful historic houses are gone from Beach Boulevard; most of these former sites are now just empty lots. Our harbors are coming back but not fully up and running at this time. We are growing but at a slower pace. Now the reason this is a Confederate monument, there is a Confederate cemetery behind the main buildings. So the CBF has a place on the property, it is still a soldiers flag. If any flag does not have a place on the Beauvoir property it is the United States flag. Perhaps that is why attendance is down???

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Yes, the article stated that attendance is down, which no doubt has contributed to the dispute over the display of the Confederate flag at Beauvoir. I personally have no problem with displaying Confederate flags at the soldiers graves, but I can certainly understand the impact it can have on public relations.

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    2. M.D. Blough

      Why would a U.S. flag have no place at Beauvoir? Jefferson Davis spent the bulk of his professional career under that flag, including as West Point cadet, US Army officer, U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of War. His subsequent leadership of the rebellion does not change that any more than one should try to cut out George Washington’s service under the British flag in the French and Indian War. James Longstreet’s grave monument acknowledges his service in the U.S. Army as well as his service to the Confederacy.

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  6. Chris Evans

    Following this story locally it seems to be one big mess. I am stunned. Beauvoir was always in such great shape when Keith Hardison was running it. Him leaving and the storm did not help matters.

    I’m still mad at Beauvoir for not doing enough to save very important Civil War artifacts when Katrina hit. (Actual) battle flags were lost, paintings (a huge one of Nathan Bedford Forrest at Brice’s Cross Roads that I’ve yet to see anywhere else), Jefferson Davis’s Mexican war saddle, etc. etc. I believe they managed to lose my ancestor’s unit flag from the 3rd Mississippi.

    Beauvoir is Jefferson Davis and Confederate history. Confederate veterans (and their widows) lived there (and are buried there) well after Jefferson Davis when Varina gave it as a Confederate Veterans home instead of another hotel development (which the Coast didn’t need more of even then). I guess sometimes its hard to separate the history of the two there.

    This really seems to be a battle of ideology. New South vs Old South. I think Hayes-Davis wanted to expand in different areas and respect the history but not be stuck to it. I respect that. Then there was heavy resistance to it by the Old Guard.

    Chris

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  7. George Purvis

    Kevin,

    I would think anyone who has a bit of knowledge about the WBTS would expect to see a CBF at Beauvoir. I see the latest squabble as nothing more than a power grap by one or more parties.

    Chris I aggree with your Katrina statements. Anyone should have know the water was gonna get over Hwy. 90

    George Purvis

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I see the latest squabble as nothing more than a power grap by one or more parties.

      I don’t really know what that means beyond the obvious fact that various individuals have different opinions.

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  8. Chris Evans

    Some more information about the whole mess is located at:

    http://www.sunherald.com/2014/03/17/5422061/sons-of-confederate-veterans-respond.html

    Also, a interview were the new Sons of Confederate veteran commander talks about Beauvoir (among other things): http://media.sunherald.com/smedia/2014/03/17/14/17/1jKZfB.So.77.pdf#storylink=relast

    His letter to the Sun Herald about the controversy: http://media.sunherald.com/smedia/2014/03/17/11/26/1rPIrl.So.77.pdf#storylink=relast

    Chris

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  9. George Purvis

    M. D.

    The US flag doesn’t belong at Beauvoir because under this flag Mississippi and the Confederacy was destoryed. Just think of the abuses the Confederate POWs had to endure and that should be reason enough. Also if you are a member of the SCV and believe in the cause in which the Confederacy was formed you would not want the US flag flying there

    George Purvis

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    1. Jimmy Dick

      So you are saying you believe that slavery should be reinstated? Really, George. I thought by now you would have moved past the idea of forced labor. Of course, if you do want slavery back we can do that. Let’s just take all the SCV members who fly the CBF and put them in chains, then send them out to work for no pay. We’ll toss in a whipping, sell some off at the auction block, abuse their wives and kids, and hang some when they run their mouths.
      I don’t think you would like being a slave.

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    2. M.D. Blough

      George-The war is over. Even most former Confederates accepted that. Some even once again held federal office as Congressmen and Senators and a few, like Fitzhugh Lee (who had been U.S. Consul-General in Havana at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War) and Joe Wheeler (who already had been in the U.S. Congress post-war) served in the U.S. Army. As for abuses suffered by POWs, the rebels did not have an exclusive on that. As for the destruction in the South, perhaps the secessionists should have taken that possibility into account and opposed Lincoln in Congress and in the next presidential election instead.

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      1. Jimmy Dick

        M.D.,
        You know very well that doesn’t fit into the victimization theory espoused by the Lost Causers. What are you trying to do…use facts to deny their fiction? :)

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  10. Sinclair Barton

    That description of slavery sounded awful, just awful. Of course, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison imposed those brutalities on their slaves too. Oh, and so did the slave-owners in the Union slave states of Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and West Virginia during the War. Sorry, but there is no moral grandstanding on this issue, as there is guilt all-around.

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    1. Jimmy Dick

      For once you are absolutely correct. I teach that those individual owned slaves. The paradox of liberty is defined well by Jefferson. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Civil War was about slavery. Really, the moral issue isn’t part of the equation. The people of the US had reached a point where they wanted to cease the expansion of slavery as was their right under the Constitution. That’s what happens when people live in a democracy.

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    2. M.D. Blough

      The difference is (and Washington, at least, freed his slaves upon his death and refused to buy or sell any well before that) that none of those gentlemen and none of the states that you mentioned put the protection of slaveholding above preserving the Union. Secessionists betrayed the most basic principle of representative government: that, no matter how much grumbling goes on, the loser of a constitutionally held election accepts the result and moves on to other elections.

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      1. Jimmy Dick

        Actually, M.D. he didn’t free them on his death. He freed them on Martha’s death which was a few years later. It drove her crazy because she began to think they were trying to kill her to gain freedom. About forty of the slaves were not his or hers, but leased so he could not free them. Many others were dowage? slaves, dower? (Martha’s and not his) so he could not free them either.
        You are correct in that these men put the country over slave owning. Jefferson just wanted to free them, but could never do that. This was a great topic that Peter Onuf covered very, very well in his Age of Jefferson Coursera course which is currently underway.

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        1. M.D. Blough

          Jimmy-Thank you. I was imprecise. I was thinking of the will. Of course, these 123 slaves were the slaves who were owned by Washington. They constituted less than 1/2 of the Mt. Vernon slaves. Martha Washington had a life interest in the rest as her dower right under the division of her first husband’s estate (he died without a will). Upon her death, title to those slaves revered to the Daniel Parke Custis estate and they were distributed among her grandchildren. In 1799, 153 slaves at Mt. Vernon were dower property. You are right. Neither Washington nor Martha had any say in what happened to those slaves after her death.

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  11. Sinclair Barton

    Actually Washington did not free his slaves upon his death, but rather, upon the death of Martha. And is that the guiding principle of slavery then, that it is OK to own, hold, beat, sell, and abuse slaves, just so long as you free them upon the death of your spouse? And insofar as secession is concerned, Washington himself led the traitorous secession of the American Colonies from the British Empire. Not much ‘Union saving” going on by George between 1775 and 1783.

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      1. Jimmy Dick

        Another major difference is that the colonists had a legitimate complaint about their mistreatment by the British government whereas the South of 1860/61 had none whatsoever. Another difference is that the colonists made repeated attempts to resolve the problem and stay in the British Empire peacefully with Britain right into 1776 whereas the South of 1860/61 made no attempts to remain part of the United States and rejected every attempt the federal government made to resolve the situation.
        Washington and the delegates to the Second Continental Congress stated the reasons why they were in rebellion against the King, admitted that they were rebels, and were subject to be hung. They expressed these reasons in a well articulated framework we know as the Declaration of Independence. We celebrate the ideas expressed in that document to this day.
        The South also expressed why they were seceding from the Union in 1860/61 in many secession declarations. They gave their reasons as protecting the institution of slavery. They made it crystal clear as to why they were seceding. No one today celebrates the reason why the South seceded. Some try to deny that reason, but no one celebrates it.

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      2. Michael Rodgers

        It’s gotta be that Austin, Thad, whatever; I recognize the nonsense, the disdain, and the smug superiority.

        Reply
  12. Sinclair Barton

    The Americans colonies withdrew from the British Empire and became an independent nation. In point of fact, the colonies perpetrated a textbook act of secession. Below is the definition of the verb “to secede”:

    ” to separate from a nation or state and become independent”

    And that is precisely what the American colonies did.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secede

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  13. Sinclair Barton

    Mr. Levin, I note that you made no effort to refute the definition of secession. Or are you, in fact, asserting that the colonies did not separate from the British Empire and become an independent nation?

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      1. M.D. Blough

        Brooks’ explanation is excellent, of course. The Americans were not under the slightest illusions that what they were doing was legal under British law and the (unwritten) British Constitution and they certainly made no pretense otherwise. They appealed to the natural rights of individuals (leading to Samuel Johnson’s famous jeer about the American rebels, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”) to justify revolution. When the Founding Fathers ended the Declaration of Independence with “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” they were not indulging in bombast. They meant that sentence quite literally. They knew, a few were even old enough to remember, the fate of supporters, actual and suspected, of the second failed Jacobite Rising in 1745

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      2. George Purvis

        Kevin,

        Why should we believe Brooks Simpson? he is biased in his historical fact. Like Al Mackey, Jimmy Dick, Rod Baker, all educators none of then have an unbiased view of the war. That fact can be proven just by reading their blog pages.

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          I don’t expect you to necessarily believe any specific source. I cited Simpson’s post because it clearly articulates the point that needed to be made. In contrast, nothing you have written on this blog or anywhere else deserves to be taken seriously. Brooks Simpson is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on the Civil War. You have demonstrated time and time again that your understanding of Civil War history is problematic. That is why your little rants (comments) are rarely approved. I suggest that you stick to your own website to share your understanding of the “truth” of history with your loyal readers. That is all.

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  14. Sinclair Barton

    Except that the definition of the verb “secede” places no conditions, absolutely none whatsoever, on the seceding entities “place within the British Empire”. The only condition that must be met in order for a secession to take place is that the seceding entity “separate from a nation or state and become an independent nation”. And again, that is precisely what the colonies did. And that sir, is basic knowledge.

    PS-If you can find a definition of “secede” which stipulates that the seceding entities must occupy some particular place within the nation or organization from which they are seceding, I would truly love to see it.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I will let you worry about definitions and I will let Jefferson and the rest of the gang speak for themselves. They are very clear as to the political nature of their actions.

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      1. Rob Baker

        Very true. In fact, Jefferson speaks on the topics of secession and revolution in the same breadth in his concerning the 2nd Continental Congress. He never suggests that the actions of the colonies constituted secession from the British Empire. He does, however, refer to the plausibility of one of the colonies leaving the Continental Congress as an act of secession.

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    2. Michael Rodgers

      Google defines secession as “the action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, esp. a political state.” The colonies were not “members” because membership implies some sort of equal-ish standing, and the colonies had none.

      The larger issue is that you wish to use one word and make it apply when another word is better and more commonly used. If students are faced with a multiple choice test in which they are required to find the best answer to “What type of separation from the British did the American colonies attempt and achieve?”, revolution is the best answer and secession is therefore one of the wrong answers, regardless of how much effort you wish to apply in arguing for it to be right.

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  15. Sinclair Barton

    Well, the Monticello website, and its chief historian, when discussing the legacy of the Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration, says this:

    “America did not secede from the British Empire to be alone in the world…”

    I could go on and on with a plethora of sources that matter-of-factly refer to the colonial “secession” from Great Britain, and the list would include Pulitzer Prize winning historians. In fact, the list would also include one Mr. Jimmy Dick. Trying to deny that the colonies seceded from the British Empire is just silly nonsense.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I could go on and on…

      I am sure you could, but I am certain that none of those sources would be from the individuals who took part in the American REVOLUTION.

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    2. Jimmy Dick

      You will have a bad day trying to quote me since I’ve already stated a rebuttal of that quote which I will be more than happy to restate. I’ve had ample time to study this issue at length and do not equate secession with the Declaration of Independence. While the event has some similarities, it also has many dissimilar qualities which does not equate to secession. The key lies in the nature of the governments involved and in the way those governments were formed. It can be subtle I admit, but it is definitive in creating a major difference between what happened in the Revolution and the American Civil War.

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  16. Sinclair Barton

    But Kevin, you did not take part in the secession from the British Empire either, nor did Brooks. As for “Trampled Ground”, no argument. As I said above, a multitude of eminently qualified historians and public officials routinely refer to the separation from Great Britain as a secession. And I too have another link, one that says the following:

    “In the summer of 1776, the most dramatic months in the story of America’s founding, the 13 colonies agreed to secede from the British Empire. ”

    Below is the link, and includes audio from a lecture by Pulitzer Historian Joseph Ellis.

    http://www.townhallseattle.org/joseph-j-ellis-the-revolutionary-summer-of-1776/

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    1. Rob Baker

      So because Joseph Ellis says it, it must be true. This is despite the fact that he does not reference a single Revolutionary War figure as calling the revolution “secession.” As Kevin said, I’ll let those that took part in the revolution talk as opposed to Ellis’s offhand statement.

      BTW, hello Austin, Caldwell, Clarissa, Reed, Edward, etc. etc. etc.

      I thought this might be you but I was not 100 % sure until you started rehashing these same arguments. How’s life on Connie’s blog?

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  17. Sinclair Barton

    Mr. Jimmy Dick writes:
    “You will have a bad day trying to quote me…”

    Actually Mr. Dick, it is you who is going to have a bad day, and I do not have to “try” to quote you. In fact, directly quoting you on this matter is easy and effortless. In the fall 2012 edition of “Saber and Scroll” you wrote:

    “The United States was created through the Declaration of Independence in 1776 during the American Revolution. THE REVOLUTION WAS IN ITSELF AN ACT OF SECESSION FROM GREAT BRITAIN…”

    There it stands. Now, if in order to push the party line and fall in lock-step here, you wish to engage in the spectacle of “rebutting” yourself on something that you had published a mere 17 months ago, be my guest.

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  18. Jimmy Dick

    So you think I am like you and am incapable of learning? That’s pretty bad. I really feel sorry for you. It must be hell living such a pathetic existence where everything is locked into a rigid form unable to be altered from anything new. People like you are disgusting. You are the bane of education in this country. You lock yourselves into a state of mind and refuse to learn anything that challenges what you believe in even when you are proven wrong repeatedly.
    In case you are wondering, I can say when I made a mistake and learn from it. That is because I am capable of learning while you just repeat yourself over and over again. You Lost Cause types are just idiots incapable of learning or for that matter of knowing you are wrong because you can’t comprehend facts that conflict with your fiction.

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  19. Jimmy Dick

    I love how he tries to hold something I actually wrote three years ago against me. It’s like I have to stick with something forever because I wrote it. Unlike him, I don’t have to do that. I can say when I did something wrong and explain why in order to use it as a teaching moment. The best education you will ever get is by learning from your mistakes. Unfortunately for this individual, he will never be able to do that because he seems to think that once he says something he is bound by it forever. That seems to be a common problem with the Lost Cause crowd.

    The funny part? I wrote that in my first semester at grad school. I think it would be fair to say I was still learning then just like I am still learning today as I work on my doctorate. It just shows that these types are cherry pickers who are incapable of actually studying history beyond just pulling out some quotes to lend themselves legitimacy which is a massive failure.

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