Category Archives: Lost Cause

Commemorating Joseph Johnston In His Final Hour

A statue of Confederate General Joseph Johnston was dedicated today on private land as part of the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville.  The Smithfield Light Infantry, a local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, asked the property owner to donate land for the memorial and launched a private fundraising effort to pay the $100,000 cost of the statue.  One of my readers was kind enough to share this photograph, which he took at the dedication.

Can someone tell me what Johnston is supposed to be pointing to?  Have some fun with it.

The statue depicts Johnston with his left arm raised. It’s a call for his troops to hold the line against Yankee forces, Booker said. “And,” he added, “to hold the line against political correctness.”  Political correctness, in Booker’s view, has recast Confederate symbols and distorted history. “These days, political correctness means a lot of things aren’t mentioned or aren’t defended in the proper way,” he said. “But that will not happen in this case, I assure you.” Booker pointed out that the plaque at the foot of the statue did not require anyone’s approval. It reads: “Defender of the Southland to the End.”John M. Booker, Lt. Commander, Smithfield Light Infantry, SCV

 

Descendants of Silas Chandler Speak Out (Part 2)

A few weeks ago I shared an email I received from a descendant of Silas Chandler, who is one of the most popular “black Confederates.”  I’ve been in contact with two descendants and am planning a telephone conversation, which I hope will lead to an announcement of some ideas I have to help bring a more complete story of this individual to the general public.  Yesterday I received an email from yet another descendant:

I am a direct descendent of Silas Chandler from California. Over the years, I have heard many versions of Silas’ story, from family, on the web, and from Confederate historical societies. Thank you to Ms. Sampson for shedding some light on the subject from a reliable, direct source.

I remember when my great, great, great grandfather Silas was awarded the Iron Cross posthumously, and some members of my family attended the ceremony. While I’ve always had mixed feelings about it, it has ultimately become [a] source of pride for me, not offense. I may never be exactly sure how it went down, but I know that I have Silas to thank for my freedom. Believe me, I have no love fort he Confederacy or its symbols… I’m just also no big fan of the Yankees, and have no illusions about why the Civil War was fought.

I also know that some of the greatest men in history end up being “honored” by their enemies. This would not be the first time that history has been rewritten to make folks look more sympathetic or benevolent (see the movie “Glory” and the mounds of misinformation that it contains).

Anyone that thinks that Silas joined the Confederate army out of some “love” for his master is naive at best, and stupid/racist at worst. That being said, there were many slaves that were dragged into the field to fight against their own self-interest. This happened in the Civil War, and in the Wars for centuries and millennia before.

Honestly, I just hope this discussion unearths as much truth as possible. Thank you again to the Chandler family for helping to set the record straight. I look forward to learning more

Andrew Foster Williams
Oakland, CA

I am featuring this comment for a couple of reasons.  Most importantly, it reflects a memory of the war that is much more complex than anything the Sons of Confederate Veterans or United Daughters of the Confederacy would have you believe about the legacy of the Civil War within the African-American community.  Both organizations reduce their narratives down to loyalty to master and cause and they do this by commemorating slaves as soldiers.  Their preferred narrative has nothing to do with understanding the story of black men in the army or helping families uncover their histories; rather, it is an attempt to dissociate the Confederate war effort from slavery as well as the Lost Cause myth that slavery was benign.  Unfortunately, both organizations have been successful in convincing black families to take part.

What I appreciate about Mr. Williams’s response is the extent to which his narrative fails to support or vindicate either a Lost Cause or Emancipationist view of the war.  It sits uncomfortably in the middle.  On the one hand Mr. Williams has little patience for stories of a loyal Silas Chandler, but he is also suspicious of the assumptions that reduce the United States to the moral cause of emancipation.

Mr. Williams’s comment may also tell us something about why African Americans have been absent from public commemorations of the Civil War and why they may stay away during the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  After all, much of our public remembrance and memory of the war is wrapped up in neat dichotomies of North v. South and Union v. Confederate.  Where does Mr. Williams’s memory of the war fit into all of this?  It’s not wonder that many African Americans are suspicious of Civil War Memory.

 

Use “War Between the States”

Today I received a letter for an essay contest sponsored by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy here in Charlottesville.  I have to say that I got a kick out of it.  The contest offers students in three different grade levels the opportunity to compete for a prize of $50.  Students in grades 4-6 must write a 1,000 word essay on Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury; students in grades 7-9 will write about the life of Judah P. Benjamin; and high school students in grades 10-12 get to explore the important contributions of Stand Waite.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why Stand Waite was chosen.

The guidelines are quite telling.  My favorite is the following:

Use “War Between the States” rather than “Civil War” unless quoting directly from a source.

The UDC also offers the following observation concerning sources:

The internet plays  such an important role in education today that books are no longer being used.  Please encourage students to use at least one book as a source for their information.

Guess what ladies, you can actually find books on this thing called the internet.

[Image: Mrs. Homer S. (Jane) Durden III, President General, 2008–2010]
 

South Carolina Rejects Secession Monument

Update: “The board of the Patriots Point Development Authority on Tuesday split 3-3 on whether to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place an 11 1/2-foot granite monument to the ordinance signers at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. The tie vote meant the idea failed.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is hoping to erect a monument commemorating the 170 South Carolinians who signed the ordnance of secession in December 1860. The South Carolina division is proposing to install an 11 1/2-foot-tall stone memorial as the centerpiece of a 40-foot by 40-foot landscaped plaza at Patriots Point. According to the news article:

The name of each of the signers and the wording of the secession document would be among the text and images engraved on each side of the monument. Albert Jackson, chairman of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ monument committee, called the secession debate and the subsequent unanimous approval of the ordinance “a significant action” for South Carolina. Most people are not aware of the history behind it, he said.

Mr. Jackson is no doubt correct that “most people are not aware of the history behind” South Carolina’s decision to secede from the Union within weeks of Abraham Lincoln’s election. Here is South Carolina’s Ordnance of Secession:

AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled “The Constitution of the United States of America.”

We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by us in convention on the twenty-third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the “United States of America,” is hereby dissolved.

Done at Charleston the twentieth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty.

Continue reading

 

Past in the Present

Many of you know that I struggle with the moderation of comments on this site.  On the one hand I hope to promote civil and intellectual discourse, which means that on occasion I have to edit or delete a comment entirely.  At the same time many of these abusive/insulting comments reflect a wide range of perspectives concerning how Americans continue to remember the Civil War.  I deleted this comment, but I thought it might be instructive to post it since it so beautifully captures the emotional aspect of the subject as well as the blurred boundary between past and present.  This comment was offered in response to another reader:

i dont like what you have said the stone moutain carvings show great men from our past. men who fought and died for this great nation. the confederate states should be allowed to break free from the tyrants in D.C. all of the men who dont like our flag are traders or just dirty yanks. its heritage i proudly fly this flag. i would die for this flag. i live in georgia and i am not ashamed of it if anything im dam proud of it. i do not like any yankee talking bad about something he knows nothing about. it was a war of northern agressition. they didnt like the fact that we were trying to leave their union but yet they found it alright to do it to england. why do they have to treat us like cattle telling us we cant leave the grazing fields. i believe we should be free from the north. D.C. has done nothing but give us trouble and i think the southern men should march on D.C. with rifle and saber in hand and show them what they did to us. We refuse to be reconstructed and we dont give a damn what those yankee fucks say.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

[Image: "Past in the Present" by Dallon August]