It didn’t take long for Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, to respond to Gov. Robert McDonnell’s announcement that he would discontinue the practice of designating April as Confederate History Month. Instead, the governor has decided to create a new designation that he calls, Civil War in Virginia Month. Unfortunately, Bowling’s response does little more than render his organization even more irrelevant on the eve of the Civil War Sesquicentennial:
“Our organization is terribly disappointed by this action,” Bowling told TPMmuckraker. “He succumbed to his critics, people who don’t support him anyway. And the vast majority of citizens of Virginia support Confederate History Month.” He said he had spoken with the governor’s office and told them the same thing. He said “Civil War In Virginia Month” is a poor substitute.
“Nobody’s ever been able to reason with me and tell me why we’re honoring Yankees in Virginia,” Bowling said. “The only northerners in Virginia were the ones that came to Virginia and killed thousands of Virginia citizens when they invaded.” He also defended against the charges of racism. “There was nothing racist about Confederate History Month. It was honoring Confederate soldiers who fought and died for their state,” he said, adding that the Sons will continue celebrating the month privately.
The problem with the criticism that the governor succumbed to his critics is that while it may apply to his initial retraction it doesn’t explain Friday’s announcement. And the charge that the governor is honoring “Yankees in Virginia” suggests that Bowling doesn’t understand an important aspect of Virginia Unionism. Bowling also fails to deal with the substance of McDonnell’s announcement. As I stated the other day, it was an incredibly thoughtful speech. The governor has decided that Virginia should make room for multiple narratives of its Civil War experience. The truth is that the change will not prevent the SCV or anyone from remembering the service and sacrifice of their Confederate ancestors. What the governor has put forward is a proclamation that acknowledges the rich Civil War history of this state and which has placed him in line with the work of the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission – a committee funded by Virginia taxpayers.
What I don’t understand is why the SCV doesn’t endorse McDonnell’s decision. What harm could come of it?
If the SCV really wants to be taken seriously during the upcoming Civil War Sesquicentennial than they are going to have to do better than what Walter L. Adams Jr. offers as a critique of North Carolina’s sesquicentennial website. Adams is the heritage defense officer for Pettigrew’s Partisans, Camp 2110 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. That’s right, he is the heritage defense officer. First, check out the website, which I think is an incredible resource and reflects a strong commitment on the part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to commemorate the war in an inclusive and educational manner. What’s he upset about?
- The views of conservative columnist such as Walter Williams, economist Thomas J. DiLorenzo, and Professor Ludwell H. Johnson have been left out.
- “The National Park Service deliberately ignores other factors such as high tariffs, adherence to constitutional principles, or fears of political and economic domination by the North that make for a considerably more complex situation.”
- “No mention is made of the fact that before the war, Abraham Lincoln supported the original 13th Amendment that would have barred the federal government from ever interfering with that institution.” — Not sure what this has to do with North Carolina.
- “No mention was made of so-called Black Codes that Northern and Midwestern states adopted to discriminate against blacks before such codes were adopted in the South.” — Not sure what this has to do with North Carolina.
- “The role of black North Carolinians and other black Southerners who wore the gray was completely ignored.” And, of course they are upset that no mention is made of the “estimated 19,000 African-Americans…who bore arms in the Confederate armed forces.”
How can I become a heritage defense minister?
The outrageous claims made by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others about so-called “black Confederates” would hold up just fine if it weren’t for that little thing called evidence. Thanks to David Woodbury for bringing this story to my attention. He suggests that once we have finished counting we may find 7 or 8 black Confederate soldiers. I think that is much too generous. My guess is that at the end of the day we may find 4 or 5 legitimate black Confederate soldiers and their stories will tell us much more about how they managed to evade identification rather than as examples of some ludicrous notion of Confederate civil rights. In this case a little bit of digging into the available primary sources revealed that Scott Brown was, in fact, a soldier in 137th Colored Infantry and not, as previously indicated on his head stone, in the “Confederate States Army.”
[See Dead Confederates for a follow-up post.]