This week’s installment takes us to the end of Part I in Crocker’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. With Fort Sumter fired upon and Lincoln’s call for troops issued, Crocker leaves us with this little gem about the South and a looming war:
It was its martial prowess–its men born to the saddle and to arms, the military tradition of its aristocrats, and the raw-boned rebel yell of its small farmers, workingmen, and frontiersmen in which the South trusted. It had never claimed to be an industrial power like the North. It had disdained Northern efficiency in favor of manners and charm. Yet when Lincoln’s armies crossed the Potomac, the South was ready with serried ranks of armed, equipped, and uniformed men led by more than competent generals. The Federals would find that Southern fighting prowess was no trifling matter. (35)
Indeed. Well, there you go. Another installment from a book written for people who have very little interest in history.
It’s a pretty miserable day here in central Virginia. On top of the rain I am strung out on the couch watching college football and dealing with a cold and sore throat. Since it looks like I will not get anything serious done today I thought I might offer you the second installment of my examination of Crocker’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. The following is titled “We’re All Confederates Now” and asks the reader to imagine the following:
Put yourself in Robert E. Lee’s shoes. If the South seceded today, how many of us would think the proper response would be for the federal government to send tanks over the bridges spanning the Potomac into Virginia, to blockade Southern ports and carpet bomb Southern cities? If we don’t, it’s because we see the United States as the Confederacy saw it, as a voluntary union. The idea that we have to keep California, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Maine together by force would probably strike us as ridiculous. And if it came to that, it would probably strike us as horrendous and wrong. (p. 33)
First, why do we need to put ourselves in the shoes of Lee? Does he have some kind of privileged position that would steer us to the correct answer as to what would be considered a proper response by the federal government in case of a modern day secession? To show how absurd this little thought experiment is, why not put ourselves in the shoes of Winfield Scott, George Thomas or any other Southern graduate of West Point who took part in the invasion of their own homes. Scott himself outlined the invasion of much of the South in his Anaconda Plan. More importantly, we now know that the generation of Southern West Point cadets that graduated in the 1830s did not resign their commissions in 1861. In the end, it is irrelevant what we would countenance as a legitimate response. What we do know is that plenty of white Southerners in 1861 believed that “invasion” was the only response to the actions of most of the Southern states.
There is plenty more where this comes from.
I thought I might start a little series of posts from The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War by H.W. Crocker III. I would say that such passages are worth a good laugh, but then I step back and realize that these books sell incredibly well both here in the states and overseas. The Lost Cause lives.
Reconstruction: the bad
There had been no segregation in the antebellum South. Plantation slaves lived in cabins within feet of their owner’s house. City slaves lived in brick houses behind their owner’s house. While whites in the North often lived far away from black people, Southern whites lived and worked (and their children played) side by side and thought nothing of it. That changed after the war when the Radical Republicans sent armed regiments of black soldiers into the South as occupation troops and installed black politicians into local and state governments slots, while barring all former Confederates from holding office. (206-07)