Am I Really A Confederate Apologist?

I can’t tell you how often I receive emails from folks who believe that my blog reflects a personal assault against the Confederacy and all things southern.  Yesterday I received the most bizarre email from a Frederick Douglass impersonator who took issue with my blog’s banner.  I should point out that the banner was part of a redesign back in 2009 by a custom theme developer.  I supplied the images of Lincoln, Lee, and Douglass.

Pray, tell me why the HELL is the great Frederick Douglass’ portrait positioned BEHIND the left shoulder of the traitor, CSA General Lee? Lee was not only a traitor but a flawed mistake prone popinjay who as a man and a military strategist and intellect would be on no par with Douglass…

I have portrayed Douglass since 197- and am now producing a series about him. I find your mural and the positioning of FD’s portrait to be distasteful and historically inaccurate! FD should be on more of a par with Lincoln. If any military commander should be there, it should be the supreme Union commander at the end of the war or a cabinet member. FD’s advice to Lincoln brought an end to the war and severed Lee’s armies in half…. Please remove one or the other. And if you keep FD, and decide not to anyone else there then place Douglass closer to Lincoln where he belongs… This was a war to end slavery and property in man… please respond…

I took the time to respond and encouraged this individual to spend some time with the content assuming that this would give him a very different perspective on what it is that I am doing here.  That apparently did not work.

Thank you for returning with a response. I have spent plenty of time on your FB site. The banner is problematic for one who is the direct descendant of those who were held as slaves here in North America and who is from two root wings of a family of black people here on the American continent since 1730. Evidently, “Civil War Memory” is really about the greater glorification of the South’s aim in that war which was property in man. All over the South and in many parts of the midwest there are memorials to Confederate veterans and none (though one is planned somewhere in VA, I imagine!) to the slave or bondmen and women. Lee in front of FD on your banner IS an insult. I am sorry to see you won’t do anything about it.

Oh well.

Were Slaves Really Loyal to the Union From the Start?

Having a great time here in Milwaukee at the OAH/NCPH.  I just finished participating in a lively roundtable discussion on the Civil War 150th.  The participants covered a wide swath of the education and public history field and the topics ranged from how to engage the general public to shaping content on the Internet.  Tomorrow morning I am giving a talk on teaching Civil War movies, which should be a lot of fun.

Between all the excitement I wanted to pass on my review of Glenn David Brasher’s new book,The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom that appeared today in the Atlantic.

Confederate War Socialism

I love it when Richard Williams links to my blog, especially when the point to be made is so trivial and reflective of his own insecurities.  Richard seems to think that I believe the Confederacy to be the “the forerunner to the Soviet Union. They loved centralization of power.”  The closest I came to suggesting such a comparison was in quoting John Majewski, who described the Confederate political experience as “Confederate War Socialism.”  My point was that the Confederate government’s wartime policies do not add up to anything approaching the limited government image that some people choose to remember.

Richard also took the opportunity to remind me (as if anyone needs to be reminded) that the Confederate government never knew anything but war.

Of course, Kevin seems to forget this was a war-time government fighting what they viewed as an invasion. The CSA never knew anything other than a war footing. The war drove every decision and there is no other time nor circumstance with which to compare. That tends to skew any discussion or comparison regarding centralization of power in the Confederate States.

No argument there.  The policies of the Confederate government reflected the needs of a modern state at war.  Unfortunately, Williams seems to be completely unaware of the move toward centralized governments across the western world.  The Confederate experience is not an aberration, but part of a much broader trend, which has been addressed in one way or another by a number of historians, including Paul Quigley, Andre Fleche, and Peter and Nicholas Onuf.  It’s safe to assume that Richard will not bother to read these books.

Finally, I love the fact that Richard makes it a point to identify me as an academic historian.  I guess he has trouble with the books I read or what I write, though I’ve never seen an actual critique of one of my publications.  Today he placed me alongside David Blight, which is quite an honor.  By the way, I recently learned that Blight is going to blurb my forthcoming book on the Crater and historical memory.  I guess I am guilty as charged.  To make matters worse, tomorrow I head to Milwaukee to take part in the annual meeting of the OAH and you can bet that I am going to get in line with my fellow historians.

Thanks for the good laugh, Richard.

Remembering Confederate Conscription

Given my last post I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that today is the 150th anniversary of the Confederate Conscription Act, which made  all white males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five eligible to be drafted into military service.  This was the first draft in American history.

It could be celebrated by those who believe that that the Confederate government was justified in instituting any measure necessary to bring about independence from such a corrupt government in Washington.  The problem is that the memory of Confederate heritage tends to avoid any challenge to a vague notion of a principled defense of states rights such as the centralization of power in Richmond that only increased as the war dragged on.

What is lost, however, is any acknowledgment of continued resistance against the Confederate government by such governors as Vance and Brown as well as countless others, who worried about the dangers associated with concentrated power.  Instead folks such as Thomas DiLorenzo rail against Lincoln for his supposedly corrupt efforts and embrace Davis and the Confederacy as counter-revolutionary.  Such a picture completely ignores the rich history of states rights advocacy that continued within the Confederacy itself.

What Would Your Confederate Ancestor Say?

SC Sen. Mike Rose tells fellow senators that if they don’t vote to let the state take over Medicare from the federal government, the ghosts of their Confederate ancestors will be very unhappy with them.  My guess is that this argument has less rhetorical appeal compared to years past.  I would love to have seen the faces of those African American state representatives.

By extension, I think we can safely assume that our Confederate ancestors would also not support voting for Obama this coming November. Here is an older post for those of you who are still convinced that the brief Confederate experiment had anything to do with the protection of states rights.