Tag Archives: Sons of Confederate Veterans

Was It Something I Said?

Apparently a number of my recent posts about Confederate History Month are making the rounds among members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  This happens every once in a while and I end up having to deal with a sharp increase in silly comments and other personal insults.  For the most part I am receiving the standard responses that rehash the same tired points about historical revisionism and a belief that their way of life and history are under siege.  It’s impossible to respond to these claims, but I do find them instructive on a number of levels.  You can have a look through the last few posts to decide for yourself.

I do want to make a few points clear.  First and foremost, I don’t believe for a second that the members of the SCV have any kind of privileged status when it comes to commemorating and remembering the lives and service of Confederate soldiers.  The accident of lineage is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for properly and accurately reflecting on the lives of these men as well as the event that played such a prominent role in their lives.  While the SCV may wish to view the recent public backlash against Confederate History Month as a personal affront to their beliefs and on the lives of their ancestors there is no one group or individual that controls the past.  As I’ve stated already, the response to Gov. Robert McDonnell’s proclamation had little to do with attacking the SCV; rather it was an assertion that the content of that document does not represent the views of a growing segment of the population.  Nor does it represent good history.  We would do well to remember that we are all foreigners in that place called history.

Yes, I have been quite critical of the SCV over the past few weeks, and at other points in the past, as have others.  I will continue to point out dubious historical claims such as those contained in their Confederate History Month proclamations as well as other issues from the Davis-Limber controversy to the ridiculous stories of loyal Confederate slaves.  My perspective on all of this stems from my work as a historian, educator, resident of the great state of Virginia, and as an American who cares about how we as a nation remember the past.  That is my pass and that is all I need.  I don’t need to be related directly to anyone connected to the Civil War to have a right to voice my beliefs/concerns and I will continue to do so.

Virginia Delegates Commemorate Confederate History Month…

but probably not in the way that the Sons of Confederate Veterans intended.

Today members of the Virginia Assembly in Richmond wore arm bands to commemorate the sacrifices of Virginia’s slaves.  From the Virginia Politics Blog:

The move was prompted by McDonnell’s proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month. When first issued, the proclamation did not include reference to slavery. McDonnell has subsequently apologized repeatedly for what he called a “major omission” and amended the proclamation to include reference to slavery as an abomination and the cause of the Civil War.

“This is why I can celebrate Confederate History Month,” said Del. Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton). “I am celebrating the thousands of African slaves brought to this Commonwealth for forced labor and in spite of societal restrictions and countless tribulations, they became some of the most learned men of all time. Yes, they found a way out of no way.”

“I celebrate because they endured unimaginable pain and suffering… I celebrate those who escaped slavery only to return to help others escape, like Harriet Tubman and her underground railroad. She made 13 missions to help rescue other slaves. It is for her I celebrate. I celebrate them all because finally they were able to find a way out of now way. So today I and some of my colleagues wear this black ribbon as a symbol of our profound sadness for the horrors our ancestor faced and had to endure under the institution of slavery. But we also join in are celebrating with you because they finally found a way out.”

At Ward’s motion, the House of Delegates also agreed that they will adjourn today “in the honor and memory of the thousands of slaves who played an important role in the building of the wealth of the commonwealth and for those who called Virginia their home.” The House regularly adjourns in memory of prominent Americans or Virginians. The House agreed it will also today adjourn in memory of civil rights leader Dorothy Height.

SCV Camp in Harrisonburg, Virginia Issues Proclamation

Update: Robert Moore deconstructs the SCV’s proclamation in Rockingham County and Brooks Simpson offers his own response at Civil Warriors.

It looks like the Col. D.H. Lee Martz Camp #10-Sons of Confederate Veterans is not going to allow Gov. Bob McDonnell’s amendment to his Confederate History Month proclamation stop them from grossly distorting the past.  On Saturday the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record included a full-page advertisement from the SCV.  One of my readers was kind enough to mail me a clipping from the paper.  I’m just over the mountains in Albemarle County and this is the first I’ve heard of it.  I love the loyal slave reference toward the end.  What an incredible waste of money.

CONFEDERATE HISTORY AND HERITAGE MONTH PROCLAMATION
Town of DAYTON -Town of GROTTOES -Town of MT. CRAWFORD – Town of ELKTON

Whereas: April is the month in which the Confederate States of America began and ended a four year struggle for states’ rights, individual freedom, and local government control, and

Whereas: April is the month in which the Commonwealth of Virginia, after struggling politically to remain with Honor within the Union of States, but being forced by Lincoln’s call for the Militia of the States, upheld her rights as specified in her Constitution, and her ratification of the Constitution of these United States, with the overwhelming support of her citizens by vote, withdrew from the Union on 17 April 1861, and

Whereas: Rockingham County supported the War through the actions of her citizens, numbering some 23,500, both in the military and on the home front – some 3000 men served in the various military organizations raised throughout the County, out of a military aged population of only 4,163, and at least 225 men and boys paid the ultimate sacrifice in response to Duty, Home, and Country; millions of dollars of agriculture were supplied in support of the war effort in Virginia, millions more were destroyed by invading troops during the 1864 Valley Campaign; numerous civilians, both white and black, free and slave, provided support, comfort, and aid to the war effort; three battles of the 1862 Valley Campaign were fought in the County – Harrisonburg, Cross Keys and Port Republic, and

Whereas: Virginia has long cherished her Confederate History and the great leaders, such as General Robert Edward Lee, General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, and General Turner Ashby, and the people of Rockingham County have long cherished her Confederate History and the memory of the men who served in the 10th Regiment Virginia Volunteer Infantry (Bridgewater Greys, Chrisman’s Infantry, Harrisonburg Valley Guards, Mauck’s Company, Peaked Mountain Grays, Riverton Invincibles, Rockingham Rifles), Rockingham Confederates, Harrisonburg Cavalry, Rockingham Cavalry, Letcher Brock’s Gap Rifles, Valley Rangers, Chipley’s Cavalry Company, Sipe’s Cavalry Company, Patterson’s Cavalry Company, Mt. Crawford Cavalry, 58th Regiment Virginia Militia, Rockingham Reserves, and various home guard organizations, who made sacrifices on behalf of the Confederate Cause, and

Whereas: It is vital that Virginians reflect upon the Commonwealth’s past, and honor and respect the devotion of the Confederate citizens, soldiers and civilians, both white and black, free and slave, to the cause of Southern Independence, now

Therefore, we hereby proclaim the month of April 2010 as “Confederate History and Heritage Month” in Rockingham County and encourage our citizens to become more knowledgeable of the role Virginia and the Confederate States of America played in the history of our country.

Proposed and forwarded by
Col. D.H. Lee Martz Camp No. 10-Sons of Confederate Veterans
PO Box 2001, Harrisonburg, 22803

Will the Sons of Confederate Veterans Have Any Impact on the Sesquicentennial?

I may be speaking too soon, but it looks like the influence of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on how we remember the Civil War will be minimal as we make our way through the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Today we learn that plans to place a monument to South Carolina’s decision to leave the Union in December 1860 at the Riverfront Park in Charleston have been scrapped.  There is now talk about placing the monument at a site related to the Hunley.  The monument celebrates this event by completely ignoring the issue that propelled South Carolina out of the Union: slavery.  This weekend the SCV will finally unveil their Davis-Limber statue at Beauvoir.  The decision to locate the statue at Davis’s home came after their decision to pull out of an agreement with the American Civil War Center at Tredegar in Richmond.  Following this move the organization unsuccessfully petitioned the state of Mississippi to accept the statue.  Finally, as we all know the recent decision here in Virginia to set aside April as Confederate History Month was a public relations disaster for the SCV.

Where does this leave the SCV?  As I said up front it may be too early to tell, but their Lost Cause inspired view of the past is clearly on the defensive and bound to be minimized even further.  I guess the only question is how will the organization respond?  The SCV has a role to play in the next few years, but if they hope to have an impact they are going to have to acknowledge that the general public’s understanding of the Civil War has evolved to one that is much more inclusive and open to addressing some of the tough issues at the center of our civil war experience.

Sons of Confederate Veterans Respond to Governor McDonnell

Brooks Simpson came across the Virginia SCV’s response to Gov. McDonnell’s Confederate History Month proclamation today while teaching his course on research methods.  I recommend that you read the entire post, but here is the SCV’s proclamation for your consideration.  Brooks has already pointed out the false claim that Ulysses S. Grant and his wife owned slaves until the adoption of the 13th amendment.  Have fun with locating the other mistakes and the distortions.  What I find truly bizarre is why the SCV feels a need to reference Lincoln on race as well as the Emancipation Proclamation.  They have nothing to do with the governor’s proclamation or amendment to it.  The governor’s amendment pointed out that slavery was a cause of the war and that it cannot be ignored in trying to understand the scope of the conflict.  I think this reflects just how defensive the SCV has become, but it also reflects an intellectual bankruptcy that should be apparent to anyone who has reads serious Civil War history.  More importantly, it suggests to me that the SCV is not going to be a significant player in influencing Virginia’s remembrance through the sesquicentennial.  Nice try guys, but the sooner you come to term with the fact that we no longer live in 1961 the better off you will be.

The Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans statement regarding the Confederate History Month Proclamation as issued by Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, TO WIT:

WHEREAS, Governor McDonnell declared the Month of April to be Confederate History Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; and

WHEREAS, governors of Virginia have issued proclamations for diverse groups and individuals; and

WHEREAS, Members of the Democratic Party and its leadership, including former Governor Douglas Wilder, have repeatedly made statements in regards to the proclamation that the only reason that Confederate soldiers took to the field of battle was to defend the institution of slavery; and

WHEREAS, President Abraham Lincoln stated “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races” and further stated at the outset of the crisis that “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists,” and “my paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union;” and

WHEREAS, The Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the Union not in the defense of slavery, but only after President Lincoln called for troops to make war against the lower Southern States; and

WHEREAS, The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave in any slave state that had remained loyal to the Union during the War Between the States, nor did it free any slave in the District of Columbia or any part of the Confederacy which was occupied and controlled by the U.S. military; and

WHEREAS, The Commonwealth of Virginia was cleaved in two by an executive order of President Lincoln, creating the State of West Virginia which was admitted to the Union as a slave state in 1863; and

WHEREAS, General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife held slaves until forced to release them with the adoption of the 13th Amendment after the war and when questioned as to why he had done so, Grant replied because “good help is hard to find;” and

WHEREAS, Governor McDonnell altered the original Confederate History Month Proclamation to include a clause which states that the Civil War was fought solely over the existence of slavery despite numerous contrary arguments and a host of other social, moral, political, and economic factors.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

THE VIRGINIA DIVISION, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS, does hereby commend Governor Robert F. McDonnell for the issuance of the Confederate History Month proclamation; and

THE VIRGINIA DIVISION, does hereby absolutely refute the claim that Confederate soldiers went to the field of battle for the sole purpose of preserving slavery as an intellectually dishonest argument; and

THE VIRGINIA DIVISION does not endorse any statement that the Confederacy existed entirely for the defense of slavery and considers such statements to be a detriment to the memory of the many Virginians who gave their lives to defend against the illegal federal invasion of the Commonwealth of Virginia in a long and bloody war.

ADOPTED this 9th day of April, 2010.  Attest: John Sawyer, Division Commander

9th day of April, 2010.  Attest: John Sawyer, Division Commander