“We Do This To Educate The People”

I can’t report on all of the wonderful public ceremonies during Confederate Heritage and History Month, but this one seems to capture the spirit behind the commemorations.  On Friday a small group of local SCV and UDC memories took part in a 21-gun salute in front of the Nathan Bedford Forrest monument in downtown Hattiesburg, Mississippi:

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy attended.   A half-dozen men dressed in period costumes and about four men rode in on Harleys, wearing leather jackets that read “Mechanized Cavalry.”   “We’re not re-enactors. We ride bikes,” said Jerry Cooley, 58.   The Mechanized Calvary has about 10 members in South Mississippi and about 1,000 nationally, all of them members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

And the purpose of it all?:

“We do this to educate the people,” Cooley said.   “We know what our ancestors fought for. Our ancestors did not fight over slavery. Both sides had slaves. The Union had slaves. Slavery was wrong,” he said.

Here’s to Education!

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

8 comments… add one
  • Ken Noe May 1, 2008 @ 8:50


    Actually, Mississippians were pretty clear about secession at the moment they seceded:



  • Bob Pollock Apr 30, 2008 @ 23:44


    The problem with the articles you quote is that they are all dated AFTER Southern states began seceding. Perhaps instead of asking why the North fought, the question should be why did the South secede?

    Here is sn editorial from a Southern newspaper.

    Kevin, I apologize if you think this is too long.

    What Is the True Issue?

    The Daily Picayune, New Orleans

    November 4, 1860

    [Text provided by Drew McMichael from Dumond, Southern Editorials on Secession.]

    We are on the eve of a most important event. The result of the election just at hand may be fraught with momentous consequences. A determination is openly proclaimed in many quarters not to abide by the decision of a majority, if it secure a sectional triumph; and a great nation, blessed beyond all others in its basket and its store, but unfortunately torn by hostile and contending factions, seems on the very verge of revolution.

    The gravity of the occasion suggests the inquiry, what is the extent of the wrongs suffered, that so arouse the fears and passions of men as to obliterate the influence of patriotism, and outweigh every consideration of public and private interest? What cause have men of the South to appeal to the god of battles for justice? On what issue is the determination made up to seek safety in a disruption of the government which has only shown an almost unlimited capacity for good?

    Those who now strive to excite a tempest of popular passion, declare the election of the chief of a sectional party sufficient cause for resistance; but, as if conscious of the weakness of such an issue before a people reverencing constitutional forms of action and taught the duty of yielding to the voice of a majority, they triumphantly ask, in the manner of the most positive assertion, has not the constitution been often violated? Has not outrage followed on the heels of outrage, and forbearance but encouraged aggression, until honor, and manliness, and safety, are only to be maintained by resistance? Aroused to jealousy by the fact that the free States, if united in sentiment, can control the majority of numbers, in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and have in their power the distribution of the spoils of office and the direction of the policy of the government — excited beyond measure by the aggressive tendency of this Northern sectional party, that even now exults in the prospect of victory, and proclaims its irreconcilable hostility to slavery, they look back on the closed issues of the past, and all the bleeding wounds, cicatrized by time, open afresh. They seem to see but one continued series of assaults and weak defenses; one perpetual chain of concessions to be followed by those still more vital to the rights of the States, and these united in one bill of complaint are presented to the people, as an irresistible argument to stir them up to immediate and concerted resistance.

    But can men of the South revive the strifes of the past to render the present issue with the North more strong? Is our cause of complaint so serious? Have the slave States been constantly suffering wrong, while possessing themselves in patience, always yielding yet never satisfying the grasping demands of the free States? Let us appeal to facts for a decision.

    From the adoption of the constitution to the election of Martin Van Buren — from 1789 to 1841 — a period of sixty-two years, a Southern man occupied the honored post of Chief Executive of the nation, with the exception of the single term of each of the two Adams’ from Massachusetts.

    During this period — that of nearly two generations — two-thirds of the foreign missions and the more important of domestic offices were enjoyed by Southern men.

    From 1841 to 1860, but two Presidents have been elected — Harrison and Fillmore — who were not emphatically the choice of the South and really nominated and elected by the South. Of the six Presidents since 1841, three were Southern men.

    It was the boast of Southern statesmen as late as ten years ago that the South had dictated the domestic policy of the nation. The purchase of Louisiana Territory was at the instigation of the South.

    The annexation of Texas was conceived by Southern minds and achieved by Southern votes.

    The war of 1812, from which the country emerged with so much glory, was voted and sustained by the South.

    The war with Mexico, which added an empire in extent to the territory of the Republic, is due to the policy of men of the South thus extending our Southern boundaries from the western limits of Texas to the Pacific Ocean. Of all this has the South reason to complain?

    But our position is scarcely less improved in these series of years in regard to the question of slavery. If, under the operation of the laws of climate and production, slavery has been extinguished in that little patch of States denominated New England, in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the purchase of the Territory of Louisiana has given us Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri as slave States — a region of country much larger than that from which State sovereignty has eradicated human bondage.

    The annexation of Texas, in 1845, devoted to slavery a territory equal to all New England, New York and New Jersey, and the acquisition of New Mexico by conquest, in which slavery has been established by territorial law, carries the institution two degrees above the line of the Missouri Compromise. Can we complain that the territorial limits of slavery have been circumscribed, or go back to this history of its extension to strengthen the catalogues of our grievances ?

    But, it is said, the perpetual agitation of this question in and out of Congress has driven the South to unjust concessions, every one of which should have been made the cause of resistance to the Federal Government; and that each as it followed the other in the order of succession increased the intolerance and aggressions of the free North. The Missouri Compromise was the first in order. If it was wrong, the South has to blame only itself; for it came from a representative of a slave State, and was supported by the almost unanimous vote of Southern delegates in both Houses of Congress. It was ratified again and again by the popular vote of the slave States, until it came to be regarded to have almost as binding a character as the constitution itself.

    The next great struggle on the question of slavery resulted in the compromise bill of 1850. Here again the South gave birth to the act, and it was sustained, not only by the Southern vote in Congress, but was ratified by the people themselves. Georgia and Mississippi and South Carolina made the issue of resistance against it, and the people, with majorities unprecedented in any political contest, sustained the work of the noble patriots of that gloomy day. The South is then precluded by its own action from reopening the issues then settled and making them living questions at this time. Right or wrong, they belong to the dead past. A golden era of peace and general accord followed, until the elements of sectional strife were again let loose from their sealed cavern by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas and Nebraska bill.

    Whether the South originated this act or not, it united in almost solid phalanx to sustain it, while the North was almost alone in opposition to the measure.

    This reopened the agitations happily set at rest, and again plunged the country into an excitement which has resulted in the birth of a party that now stands avowedly sectional, openly aggressive, and by its doctrines, insults and defies the South. But it has to make a forward step to present a tangible issue that can be met only by a revolution. Its principles are dangerous if an attempt be made to put them in practice. No man with a Southern heart will defend its fanatical fury, or excuse its menacing attitude towards those States coequal with the free commonwealths. But can we look back upon the history of the past and find serious reason to complain, except it be of our own blindness and folly? Can we hope to strengthen the issue now proposed by accumulating with it the series of acts, or any one of them, alluded to in this brief sketch?

    The very agitation of which we complain has in one respect accrued to our benefit. It has evolved the true principles on which the institution of slavery is based. It has convinced all Southern men of the moral right, the civil, social and political benefit of slavery. It has done more; it has modified the opinion of a large number of men in the free States, on this subject, and is gradually changing the opinion of the world — bringing it to regard slavery with more liberality.

    The number of slaves has increased in a remarkable ratio, and today is stronger on the whole frontier line of the free States than it was ten, nay five years ago.

    These notes of history cannot be denied, and when we meet the crisis created by the ballot of the nation about to be cast, let it be remembered that we have no cause to resist, except the unconstitutional, the weak, the untenable one of having lost our choice for the President of the Republic. The movement of demagogues and politicians to make this election, if adverse to the South, an opportunity for secession — which we have previously shown is but a word to mask the idea of revolution — is full of imminent peril to the South, not to the Union as we have been supposed to have asserted. Upon an issue so weak, to go into a contest which involves all the consequences of treason, the South must fail, for she cannot hope for accord among the citizens of anyone State. The time may come when disunion, with all its consequences, must be chosen, but a failure now precludes future confidence in leaders or hope in resistance.

    Let every Southern man feel it to be a duty he owes not simply to his country, but to his family and himself, to vote in the coming election so that he shall in no manner countenance the idea that his State or his parish is in favor of resisting the decision of the ballot. The home perils which a contrary course involve are of the most terrible character. Nations die a terrible death, just in proportion to their strength and vitality. If it be the destiny of the Union now to perish, none can estimate the throes of agony, the terrible scenes of distress, which will precede it. If the fires of civil war be kindled — and kindled they must be by any formidable movement in hostility to the Federal Government — they will burn until all is consumed that is perishable, and the land become a waste over which shall brood the silence of another and hopeless desolation.

  • border Apr 30, 2008 @ 9:01

    Oh, do “the people” need to be educated…

    Yes, Lisa, they certainly do-

    “The shrewd men of the North are fully aware…and no doubt have already made a calculation of the profit and loss which will inure to them by a dissolution of the Union. They cannot but foresee a very large dimunition, if not an entire loss, of their Southern trade.”
    Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, 28 December 1860


    “…in the event of a permanent dissolution of the Union….Our commerce, whether inland or international, will suffer an almost total eclipse….The adoption by the Southern Republic of a system of free trade, or a low rate of tariff duties, will alone suffice to consummate these ends. Upon equal terms it will be difficult if not impossible to compete with the labor of Europe in the Southern market. It is only by the very large percentage in our favor furnished by our tariff, that we so far have competed successfully. When that advantage is removed, and we are left to compete on equal terms, it requires no sagacity to perceive that we shall be driven from the Southern markets with our manufactures; and our commercial and transporting interest dependent on that trade will perish also.
    These things in themselves will deal a terrible blow to our prosperity; but they furnish not even one-half of the difficulties and disasters which await us. By the system of free trade, the Confederate States not only cut off our Southern trade and market, but they utterly derange our business relations at our own doors and with foreign nations…”
    Chicago Times, April 1861


    “The Union of the States, we fear, is permanently severed. The separation is peaceable in form, but hostile in fact. The Confederate States have adopted a nominal tariff, preparatory no doubt, to the speedy establishment of free trade. This policy is designed to overthrow the commercial and manufacturing interests of the North, and it will prove a heavy and fatal blow to their prosperity and their existence.”
    Cedar Valley Times (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), 4 April 1861


    “It is at this juncture of things that the ‘money power’ of the North interposes…not to propose compromise of any kind, but casting its weight in the scales on the side of the ‘anti-slavery’ Government at Washington, it hopes to crush the South into submission, and compelling it to resume its former relations with the North, to thus restore the Southern trade to this city.”
    New York Day Book, 22 May 1861


    “The men of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts cared as a rule very little about the ‘domestic institutions’ of the South until this war broke out. The merchants of New York were bitter partisans of slavery. But the ironmasters of Pennsylvania and the manufacturers of New England have taxed the South for their benefit so long that they cannot bear the thought of losing the power of doing so for the future. The brokers of the Empire City are furious at the prospect of seeing their lucrative trade diverted to Charleston or New Orleans, and carried on with English capital. The lust of money has had ten times more to do with the sudden patriotism of the North than their love of liberty.”
    London Morning Herald, 1861


    “To keep this Northern division of the continent as the field for millions of the white race to claim their natural birthright in, and exercise their energies and their talents for their own advantage and the general prosperity, it is essential that but one Government shall exercise authority from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. What would this country be, broken up into pieces, and divided into different confederacies, with rival interests, and rival institutions? How could the enterprise and industry of the free North develope itself with another and rival government, based on principles so entirely opposite to free labor, limiting its expansion southwardly, and holding three-fourths of the line of the sea coast of the country in its own possession?….
    To be cut off at one blow from this privilege, and to be deprived of the freedom of the coasting trade, would be ruinous to our commercial interests, and crippling to every other pursuit on which our prosperity is founded.”
    Philadelphia Public Ledger, 7 June 1861


    “…one of the principal reasons why the North is so resolved upon the continued vigorous prosecution of the war, is that her people now know by experience the inestimable value to them of the Southern trade….The mercantile marts of New England and the Middle States will be hopelessly ruined. Nothing can possibly save them except the recovery of that magnificent trade….the people of the North think their only chance of getting back Southern trade–or making our country evermore tributary to their growth and aggrandizement, is to conquer us, hold us as subject provinces, and compel us to resume the former channels of mercantile communication. They freely acknowledge that the war injures them terribly…”
    New Orleans Bee, 21 September 1861

  • border Apr 30, 2008 @ 8:50

    “Here’s an interesting discussion: http://www.myhattiesburg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28614 I’ve been dying to add my two cents but it would be useless.”

    I like ‘dollfus46’ reply to the upper mid-westerner(‘mking67’)-

    “As an ‘upper Midwesterner’ you wouldn’t [understand]. Just sit over there in the corner and look cute.
    It’s like Jazz, mking. If you can’t feel it, I can’t explain it. You have to be from here. You have to be from an older generation before they started changing the history books and indoctrinating our children.
    What you call treason, we called Constitutional rights. No point in debating this with you. I don’t really care whether you understand it or not.”

  • Kevin Levin Apr 30, 2008 @ 6:48

    Lisa, — Please don’t apologize for the length o your comments. I always appreciate the insight. Of course, I am not surprised that once again a commemoration has little to do with the actual history of the county. As you well know many of these monuments were placed 2-3 decades after the war and many can be placed squarely in the Jim Crow era which adds a very interesting political/racial component. Thanks again for correcting the story. It’s amazing that the reporter missed some of these points.

  • Lisa Apr 29, 2008 @ 23:47


    Of all the Confederate Memorial services to blog about you pick the one that hits closest to home. I think you picked it on purpose and are just trying to get me in trouble 😉 Anyhow, given that this is a public forum I have to be careful with what I say so as not to bite the hand that feeds me.

    First of all, Hattiesburg does not have a “Nathan Bedford Forrest Memorial.” This made me cringe when I read it. It’s the average Confederate monument with the soldier on top, BIG difference.

    This made me realize how little the average person really knows about Confederate history. Here’s an interesting discussion: http://www.myhattiesburg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28614 I’ve been dying to add my two cents but it would be useless.

    This is what bothers me most. Forrest County was part of Perry County in 1860, one of the few Mississippi counties that voted against secession.

    I have quite a few examples of men from the area who either deserted or joined the Union Army, including several of my own ancestors. I seriously doubt that much of the county’s population was pro-Confederacy. It’s also a pretty good bet that every man in the county knew exactly what the war was about, otherwise they may have been more eager to go. These are the men we should be remembering. These are the men who truly defended their homes/families by staying behind. Yet, they’ve been forgotten. According to the article, they “did not fight over slavery.” The beauty in this is that maybe there is some truth to that statement, just not what the author intended it to be.

    I’m beginning to think I’m just about the only person in the county who realizes this.

    Oh, do “the people” need to be educated…

    P.S. Sorry my posts are so long. I always have so much to say.

  • John Maass Apr 29, 2008 @ 12:30

    Here is a related story from the Meridian, MS area: http://www.meridianstar.com/local/local_story_120002514.html

    Note the prayer given at the memorial service, by Thomas J. Wood at the Lauderdale County Courthouse Monday, which seemed to be the consensus of the day: “Rather than to be under the slavery of the North, but to be free as Southerners.” Gee, no irony there.

    The article concludes:
    The service was sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and included prayer, speeches, poems, and a salute to the Confederate flag: “I salute the Confederate flag with affection, reverence, and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands.”

  • John Maass Apr 29, 2008 @ 9:18

    Well, at least the guy admits southrons had slaves, and he knows enough to recognize that slavery was practiced to some extent in the north. But when people make comments that the war was not over slavery, what can they be thinking?

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