The Future of Black Confederates in 1860

One of the texts that I recently finished reading is Edmund Ruffin’s Anticipations of the Future To Serve As Lessons For the Present Time (1860). Most of you know Ruffin as the fire-eating secessionist, who took his own life in 1865, but before the war he was a prolific author and publisher of the Farmers’ Register.

In Anticipations, Ruffin imagines a war between the free and slave states that follows the election of William H. Seward in 1864. The book is instructive on a number of fronts, but I want to briefly address his discussion of how the slave states utilized slave labor during a war, which resulted in Southern independence. First, Ruffin imagines an invasion of Kentucky – which in this story the state seceded – made up of both fugitive slaves and white soldiers and led by abolitionist general Owen Brown, the son of John Brown. The paternalism of southern slaveowners as well as the lack of military skill among the black soldiers doomed the invasion from the beginning, according to Ruffin. Many of the black soldiers deserted or were captured. Some of those who fell in the latter category volunteered to execute captured white soldiers.

In short, slaves made poor soldiers and they certainly wouldn’t turn on their former slaveholders. Southern paternalism remained intact.

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New to the Civil War Memory Library, 04/06

R. David Cox, The Religious Life of Robert E. Lee (Eerdman’s, 2017).

Thomas W. Cutrer, Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861-1865 (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Phillip Dillard, Jefferson Davis’s Final Campaign: Confederate Nationalism and the Fight to Arm Slaves (Mercer University Press, 2017)

Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Stephen Sears, Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac (Houghton Mifflin, 2017).

Mark A. Snell, My Gettysburg: Meditations on History and Place (Kent State University Press, 2016).

Confederate Heritage Month Lite

Update: A reader of this blog just pointed out that the proclamation below is dated 2016. My apologies for the mix-up. Turns out that the 2017 proclamation is word for word identical.

This week Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant signed this year’s proclamation recognizing April as Confederate Heritage Month. The proclamation fails to say anything praiseworthy about the Confederacy or the men who fought in the ranks. Yes, it says that the men who served should be “honored” but offers nothing as to why it is justified. It is ultimately an exercise in saying the least possible without offending.

There was a time when Southern states were not embarrassed when recognizing Confederate History/Heritage Month. [click to continue…]

Confederate “Saints and Sinners”

This is the latest in an ongoing public conversation at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. about what to do with its stained glass windows depicting Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I’ve made my through about half of the discussion and it is quite good. I especially enjoyed listening to Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian at Washington National Cathedral, who has her finger on both Civil War memory and its religious implications.

Check out this earlier discussion that included John Coski.

Do Confederate Monuments Need a “Fearless Girl”?

A petition is now making the rounds to keep the “Fearless Girl” monument in downtown New York City in place indefinitely. The small monument of a girl standing defiantly against the famous Wall Street charging bull has proven to be very popular. It has been interpreted in more than one way and has altered the broader meaning of the bull itself. This is something that has not sat well with the bull’s sculptor. [click to continue…]