To Hell With Your Confederate Heritage

Catherine Templeton, who is running to be South Carolina’s next governor, had this to say in response to critics who took issue with her position on the display of Confederate monuments.

This is absolute nonsense. Voters in South Carolina should demand an answer to a very simple question: Does Ms. Templeton wish that the Confederacy had been successful in its bid for independence?

No one is asking her to “disavow” her family or to sweep the state’s history under the table, but if someone running for public office claims to embrace or have pride in the history of the Confederacy in 2017, you better be prepared to explain it.

So, short of wishing that they had won,exactly what does it mean to be a “proud Daughter of the Confederacy.”

47 thoughts on “To Hell With Your Confederate Heritage

  1. Andrew

    I seriously wonder how much blame for this “controversy” should go to textbook corporations and 1 or 2 generations of complicit teachers who encourage(d) a states’ rights approach to the Civil War. In the name of balance & perspective, they tried to present a neutral “everyone was a hard-working winner” face to the conflict and aftermath. Textbook companies gotta make a profit in the North and South….and some teachers just aren’t trained to know much better. (I feel like I can be critical about members of my own profession.)

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I suspect that part of this is a political calculation, similar to what we saw in Corey Stewart’s Senate run in Virginia.

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    2. John Betts

      I wouldn’t blame the teachers, at least those at the primary and secondary level. It’s only been within the last 25 years or so, thanks largely to the internet, that access to scholarly articles, primary sources and even out-of-print books was made relatively easy for the average person. I’ve said this before, but I can still recall how angry I was when I first saw Spielberg’s film “Amistad.” It had nothing to do with the movie itself, but instead that such an important case was never in any of my history textbooks. Ken Burns’s “Civil War” series helped to open my eyes as well. Yet it wasn’t until things started being digitized and put online that the full story started becoming clearer. I’d never read any of the ordinances or official causes of secession before, for example. Prior to the internet, how was the average person to know any better? Where would they have heard about good books on the subject, let alone obtain a copy of them without them being too expensive? How would they have gotten a copy of an out-of-print book, or difficult one to find? Some could be gotten through interlibrary loan, true, but others had to examined at college libraries where they were stored – and none were close to where I lived at least. Amazon helped. Finding things via Archive.org and Google did as well. I cut the teachers slack, but yeah the textbook publishers should have indeed known better. Well, at least the staff they hired to create them.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You are absolutely right. I am glad the Confederacy lost. Therefore, there is nothing to celebrate or feel proud of.

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    2. Phil R

      It’s you who don’t get it. Too many folks let the war take their entire heritage hostage. So much more to southern history than that. Proud son of Dixie myself, but I take no pride in that four year aberration, along with all right thinking Americans, no matter what my forefathers had to do during the war. My conscience is clear. God vindicated, and the confederacy was vanquished.

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  2. Sandi Saunders

    I wish I could say I was surprised. Maybe she believes herself or maybe she is pandering in safe places, but either way this is sad for anyone in America in 2017. Sorry lady, your heritage is not one of heroism, it is one of oppression and treason. She does nothing for South Carolina, but I am sure the flaggers will love her.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I suspect that she is trying to appeal to a certain demographic, but for the rest of the state she should be forced to answer my question.

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  3. David McCallister

    Kevin, “To Hell with Your Confederate Heritage” – is that a quote, or your own words? .

    .

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  4. Wade

    It is entirely possible to have pride in the fact that one’s forebears stood up for, fought for, and died for something in which they believed -despite not agreeing with that for which they stood.
    Regional culture is commonplace in America. Unless the culture you want to “own” is Dixie culture, because then you’re automatically a “rrrRRRAAAAAACCCCCIIISSSSTTTttt!” I hate to break it to some of you, but not every white person in the South is a backwoods hillbilly redneck that fucks their sister. We don’t all drink moonshine and listen to country music. We have culture, and history, and we are proud of who we are, and that includes the good and the bad.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I asked a simple question in this post. Catherine Templeton should answer it.

      It is entirely possible to have pride in the fact that one’s forebears stood up for, fought for, and died for something in which they believed -despite not agreeing with that for which they stood.

      If you answer the question posed in the negative than I assume one must also be relieved that the efforts of one’s ancestors in the army were crushed as well. After all, it was the army that brought the Confederacy close to independence on more than one occasion.

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      1. John Betts

        Let’s not also forget what’s conveniently overlooked by many of those crying about “heritage”: many white Southerners were Unionists and staunchly opposed efforts to break this country. Some of those even included slave owners. Many of today’s Southern blacks are descended from those the Confederates held in chains. Perhaps one should add that many Southerners today have ancestors from BOTH sides of the conflict in the family tree, yet strangely the “heritage” of only one side seems to be honored by them…

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  5. bob carey

    The Confederacy was a four year slave holding republic which failed in all its’ objectives. The only laudable achievement was that it hastened the demise of the very society it sought to perpetuate. I have yet to hear the present day “heritage” advocate state that they have pride in the fact that their ancestors were the “progressives” when it came to ending slavery.

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  6. Forester

    I couldn’t give your question a clear answer, honestly.

    The hardships and sufferings of the Southern people, for a cause they viewed as a fight for freedom, is inherently tragic. But the consequences of their victory, assuming they would never abolish slavery, would have been a human rights nightmare.

    I can’t ever be GLAD that family members were wounded and their neighbors killed, though. To say “I’m glad the Confederates lost” would be an immense statement of disrespect to my family. Instead, I would rather say that I’m glad a slaveholding republic was never established, but I’m heartbroken that it required hurting my family to stop it.

    I’m sorry they lost, yet glad they failed … it’s a paradox.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      To say “I’m glad the Confederates lost” would be an immense statement of disrespect to my family.

      Why should that matter if you believe success “would have been a human rights nightmare.”?

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      1. Forester

        Because they’re family? Seems obvious to me.

        It’s like Antigone and Polynices. Creon couldn’t understand why she wanted to bury her brothers equally, since “one was fighting against his country while the other in its defense.” Antigone argued that they were equal in death, and Polynices’ being a “traitor” didn’t lessen her own duty to honor him.

        For a modern example, I liken it to my father’s service in Vietnam: I’m extremely proud of him (and by extension, all Vietnam veterans). BUT … I also think the war was a massive mistake based on a pack of lies, grossly mishandled by an ignorant racist government and defined by human rights atrocities (Mai Lai, napalm, ect). Which is why heritage is a paradox.

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Thoughtful response. Thank you. I am also proud of my family members who served in the Vietnam War, but my attitude towards them extends beyond the war. In fact, they don’t talk much about their experience in the war as something that deserves praise or blame. As a result, I am not compelled to center my own assessment of them around it.

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        2. Kevin Levin Post author

          The other thing that I suspect is that your identity is not tied to your father’s service in Vietnam in the way that Templeton’s appears to be. I don’t see you declaring yourself to be a “son of Vietnam” or something along those lines. You also, I assume, have a relationship with your father. The vast majority of descendants of Americans who lived during the Civil War have no connection through letters, diaries, etc. They wouldn’t know them if they passed them on the street.

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          1. Forester

            You are right about my father. Also, living Vietnam vets don’t like it when children or grandchildren appropriate their legacy (especially reenactors). In a Facebook group, a Vet said once to me, “Stop riding on your Dad’s valor, kid.” Makes me wonder how Civil War vets would feel about the modern fetishization of their service.

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    2. John Betts

      “To say ‘I’m glad the Confederates lost” would be an immense statement of disrespect to my family.”

      Why? You do realize that if you could trace your family tree out completely, you have ancestors that were Unionists as well? All of us are descended from good and bad ancestors. Some were saints, some were most definitely not. From the ones I can identify on my family tree, I have them on both sides of the conflict – including a Marylander who was a Unionist, yet owned about 3 slaves (or at least his father did, not sure which). I’m glad he fought for the Union, but if he regretted losing his slaves don’t shed a tear about that at all. From the Confederate parts of the tree I know about, this included a dirt-poor Virginia farmer and a wealthy Georgia plantation owner, the latter of whom had many slaves. Even on the Unionist side, I have a GGG-Grandad who was the only one of the brothers in his family to fight for the Union, while the others wore grey (2 of whom died in battle, a third in a POW camp). I say all of this because while I’m interested in all of their stories, I’m ever-so-glad that my Confederate ancestors tasted the bitterness of defeat given the cause they fought for. I would have preferred a more peaceful solution (which included abolition), but they chose otherwise and reaped what they sowed.

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      1. Forester

        Nope, absolutely no Unionists. My line CAN be traced out completely. On my maternal grandmother’s side, no one was born outside Tyrell Co. NC between 1709 and my own mother in 1956. Same for Wilkes Co. on my maternal grandfather’s side (one of his ancestors came to Jamestown in 1613, his grandson settling in NC). My granddaddy’s ancestors do trace back to the Woodruffs of New Jersey, but Moses Woodruff moved to NC in 1772, making the Union Woodruffs only very distant cousins at best.

        My paternal Grandmother was a Nicholson, an old VA family that’s mostly still in the same place. The only Yankees are on my paternal grandfather’s side: the Rand letts of New Hampshire were Union, but I’m descended from their only Confederate brother who moved to Farmville, VA for unknown reasons.

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  7. Connie Chastain

    I’m proud of my Confederate ancestors for fighting to defend their homes, families and communities from invasion by barbarians wearing military unitorms.

    I wish the Confederacy had won. It couldn’t possibly have been any worse than what the USA has become and done since the war.

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    1. jclark82

      Mrs. Chastain,

      I don’t worship my ancestors, unlike you and most of the neo-confederates I see I’ve attained my own success in life that I don’t need a self-esteem boost or affirmation of my political/social beliefs by living vicariously through people long since dead. Dead people that you and the majority of your cohorts know nothing about aside from whay pension and service records detail. People whose motivations neither you or I truly know.

      That said, it gives me great pleasure to know that my family left their homes and went south to slap around the armies of your ancestors, regardless of their motivations. Mostly because the victories gained freedom for millions, and assured the survival of the Republic. But, for a far more visceral and selfish reason, it warms my heart that you and your ancestors live with that defeat on a daily basis.

      Your loss is America’s gain.

      Jerry Sudduth
      Proud descendant of “Barbarians”

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      1. John Betts

        Well my direct Betts ancestors were in Canada during our Civil War, maybe still smarting over being kicked out during the Revolution, or perhaps not. As for the rest of the direct ancestors, most were Unionists but some were Confederates. I have to agree with you though and say that I’m glad my Unionist ancestors smacked around my Confederate ones a bit, given the alternative.

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    2. Rob Baker

      “Pride” in Elijah Chastain? Defending the South against a mythical barbarous horde? Elijah defended the South alright. As a prominent slave owner he attacked the Free Soil party for waging “infuriated warfare upon my section of the country.” He also attacked the Missouri Compromise and attacked abolitionists as fanatical assemblages of Spiritualists and Millerites,… men wrapped in the apparel of women.” I mean, in one speech Chastain extolled slavery by saying that “every man, woman and child in the Southern states should own a slave.” Then he suggested opening the African trade.

      The hilarious irony in all this is that Chastain spent less time fighting the “wawar” against Yankees and more time in North Georgia fighting against other Southerners often labeled though wrongly identified as Tories.

      Dream on Connie…Dream on.

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      1. Jimmy Dick

        Rob,
        You know darn good and well KKKonnie has no interest in historical facts which don’t fit into her delusional fantasies. She simply cannot accept historical reality because it would shatter her mythistory.

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  8. Joshism

    “Our history is not always comfortable, but it made us who we are.”

    There’s a big glaring problem with this: it assumes “who we are” is a good thing.

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  9. greenneighbors

    It should not surprise us, considering where we are in most of our Southern state governments and our recent Presidential election, that a large percentage of Southerners, ante- and post-bellum, were led down a garden path to disaster.

    “‘Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty” (whoever said it) is a basic truth. When we surrender our vigilance to self-interested people whose behavior and stated values conflict with the basic truths of human society, wherever, whenever, nothing good comes out of it.

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  10. Nathan Towne

    This has shown me that maybe I owe Kevin an apology. I have been a bit hard on him for spending the amount of time that he does combating this type of rhetoric, as it can only stem from either virulent racism or from a denial of the purpose of the Confederate nation that is completely detached from reality and from any understanding of the pertinent history. I have often felt that either way it is not productive to spend much time on it. How can you convince people that refuse to analyze their beliefs at the most cursory level, or deal with those who hold African American people in such contempt that they identify with a (prospective) nation dedicated to the permanent preservation of their enslavement?

    Yet, if a gubernatorial candidate makes a comment like saying that she is a “proud daughter of the Confederacy,” that is a serious problem. That type of comment is quite disappointing.

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  11. Shoshana Bee

    I used to believe that the Confederate Heritage was synonymous Southern Heritage, which I would agree that there is a lot to celebrate. But as I move along the road of reality, it has become clear that this is not about regional heritage, rather, it is about Confederacy, which is an entity, not a location. The terms are not interchangeable. I read modern people using the pronoun “We” when referring to the Confederates losing the Civil War, which speaks volumes, but not nearly as loud as the re-naming of the war to War of Northern Aggression. It requires so much forgetting — such as the numerous insurrections against US Enclaves beginning in Dec 1860 — that It becomes a delusional mash-up of people today wishing they were back in antebellum Dixie, with nothing changed, except that it’s not about slavery.

    I was fortunate to live off and on in Europe for 5 years, as it quickly introduced me to a more mature way of interpreting history: Where there was dishonour, there was shame. Where there was honour, there was pride. One did not need to contort the facts to fit a personal narrative. It is what it was. I miss that approach at times.

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    1. Andy Hall

      Always remember that the phrase ” War of Northern Aggression” was coined by segregationists in the 1950s as a way of providing historical gravitas to their defiance of civil rights efforts by the federal government. Most people who use that term today have heard it all their lives, and have no idea that it doesn’t date to the 1860s.

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      1. Shoshana Bee

        Thank you as always, Andy. Keeping up with the white supremacist lexicon is a full time job that I have hardly begun to tackle.

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