For Every Southern Boy…

It’s been interesting to watch the comments section at The Atlantic evolve in response to my most recent post.  I have no moderating power so it is just a matter of sitting back and watching individuals talk past one another in their typical self-absorbed fashion.  That said, some of the comments are worth a bit of reflection.  Here is one in response to the work of the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission, which has gone furthest in promoting the sesquicentennial:

I believe I speak for many Virginians when I say that we are very  disappointed in the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and its blatant exclusion of any recognition of the 32,000+ Virginians who answered the State’s call to take up arms in her defense and never returned home, or the thousands more who survived the war and returned to help rebuild the ruins of the State.

While no one denies that slavery was one of the main issues that led to the conflict and deserves a place in any discussion of the War Between the States, this commission has taken its original focus of inclusion, which we applaud,  and twisted it so far as to make slavery/emancipation its main focus, in effect excluding any remembrance of the men and women who so valiantly defended Virginia.

Now, we could jump in and detail for this individual the extent to which Virginia’s Confederates fit into the many projects sponsored by the commission, but that would be a waste of time.  Even a cursory glance at their website should be sufficient to satisfy most people that the memory of the Confederate soldier is secure.

If we take one step back, however, it is clear that it is not the lack of coverage of the Confederate soldier that is of concern to this individual, but the way in which the narrative itself is framed.  First, notice the nod to the importance of slavery as “one of the main issues” that led to secession and war, but once the war begins it’s about the soldiers and apparently there is no more need to bring it up.  What this individual wants is a narrative that celebrates the Confederate soldier along with his goal of an independent nation.  The coming year is going to be a good one for those Virginians who find themselves imagining the possibilities of a Confederate victory.  It’s going to be Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust” on a grand scale.

I guess it comes down to the question of whether the state of Virginia should commemorate the Civil War as if it hoped to become part of an independent Confederate nation or in recognition that the past 150 years – even with all its setbacks – was a better outcome not only for the generation that fought the war, but for us as well.

61 comments… add one
  • M. Fox Dec 15, 2011 @ 10:23

    I am not surprised that W. L. Yancey is still a secessionist.

    Who can forget his famous defense of the whipping of Negro slaves: “You are allowed to whip your children; we are allowed to whip our negroes. There is no cruelty in the practice. … Our negroes are but children. … The negro that will not work is made to work. Society tolerates no drones.”

    What surprises me is that he is still alive. Most people believe that Mr. Yancey died in 1863.

    • John Buchanan Dec 16, 2011 @ 10:29

      Maybe he is one of those vampires Abe
      Lincoln was trying to kill?

  • Chrisitne Smith Dec 14, 2011 @ 19:33

    I’m wondering why any one is even giving credence to anyone who still( in 2011 almost 2012) uses the term Yankee to refer to the Federal government

    • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2011 @ 2:32

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • John Buchanan Dec 16, 2011 @ 10:27

      Especially when we know that in 2011, almost 2012,’the name Yankee means the Evil Empire in NYC

      • Ray O'Hara Dec 16, 2011 @ 12:24

        the worst thing about the TEE is you have to be from New England to be an actual Yankee, the poseurs from NYC are stealing our heritage. grrrrrr.

        • John Buchanan Dec 19, 2011 @ 10:53

          And as we also know, to a New Engalnder a Yankee is from Vermont….and to a Vermonter, a Yankee still uses an outhouse!

          • Ray O'Hara Dec 19, 2011 @ 11:32

            The term Yankee originated in Ct
            but when you refine it down there must be a few dozen true Yankees left.

  • Pat Young Dec 14, 2011 @ 19:29

    Just a quick point-Modern commemoration is much more likely to honor the suffering of Southern white Confederate soldiers and their families than was the case in 1961. The Centennial presented a Disneyfied version of the war in which the horrible wounds of soldiers and the starvation of civilians were glossed over by the romance of battle and glory. The agenda of the 1961 commemorators could not allow a realistic appraisal of the widespread suffering because it called into question the humanity of Confederate political leaders who insisted on prolonging the war after Lincoln’s election. Today’s Southern historical organizations have largely abandoned that agenda, allowing a more realistic portrait of the South.

  • Allen Dec 14, 2011 @ 6:36

    All you have to do, Kevin, to understand that Atlantic commenter’s point is spend just a very few minutes on the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau sesquicentennial web site, which can be found at ontorichmond dot com. It is unbelievable, starting with the very address, which uses a Union rallying cry. Once there, you are invited to join in the “Civil War and Emancipation 150th”, and to go on to links in heading of the page which lead to “Lincoln’s Last Journey” and “Forging Freedom”. A photo of the Lincoln and Tad statue at the Tredegar Iron Works site is prominently featured. A promotional poster showing the city in flames captioned with “On to Richmond!” is available. Run a site search and you’ll get 33 results for “Abraham Lincoln” and only 19 for “Robert E. Lee”. Holy cow! And before you point it out, yes, I understand that the Richmond tourism bureau and the state sesquicentennial commission are two different things. But if such tourism promotion is also typical across the state then it’s hardly any wonder that some people are disturbed, and/or disgusted.

    Finally, I would, as “W. L. Yancey” did above, take issue with your opinion that the result of the war was a “better outcome”. If the war had resulted in a Confederate victory, the eventualities are unknowable. Any speculation that they would have been better is counterfactual, although in my personal opinion they could hardly have been worse in some areas and for some people. Grounded in 2011 sensibilities or not, the only correct answer to that question is “I don’t know.”

    • Bob Huddleston Dec 14, 2011 @ 8:49

      Obviously the one responsible for all those Southern boys — and Northern ones as well, not growing old is Lincoln. If he had not snuck down to Charleston and pulled the lanyard on the Confederate cannon there would have been no war.

      “The firing on that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world yet seen and I do not feel competent to advise you. Mr. President, at this time it is suicide, murder, and will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet’s nest which extends from mountain to ocean, and legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal.”
      Robert Toombs, April 11, 1861

      • Corey Meyer Dec 14, 2011 @ 11:24

        The Storm Cometh-we hope the infatuated rebels like the
        appearance of the northern horizon. The storm of patriotism may shortly become the hurricane of vengeance, and they have only themselves to thank…

        Those who sow the wind must reap the whirlwind.

        Milwaukee Sentinel Editorial Saturday, April 20, 1861

    • Ray O'Hara Dec 14, 2011 @ 12:24

      A Southern victory would have isolated the South,
      Slavery would have made it a pariah state, it was slavery after all they kept Europe from overtly helping and the blockade had already steered Europe towards other suppliers of cotton, India and Egypt being the beneficiaries. So the South lost the the English market as it was. That leaves the CSA having to deal with the USA but now those dealings would be across a national border, CSA buying of European hardware would find retaliation of the USA buying foreign cotton. The plantations depended on Northern banks for loans, again the fact those banks being in another country would come into play and by being in a foreign country the South would find it had no say in the banking laws and practices.

      And then there is the growing Black population, this would cause all kinds of social problems and the release valve of Blacks being able to move to Northern and Western states would be gone. Any attempts by the CSA to prey on Carribean, and Central and South America countries wouldn’t go over well with the European colonial powers, Spain certainly had enough of a navy to hold Cuba from a navyless CSA and the UK having done great work ending the slave trade with the Royal Navy wouldn’t now sit back and let a predatory slave empire run rampant internationally.

      Nor would one expect the poor White Southerner to join up or accept being drafted into an army whose purpose was to take over other lands.

      So you are left with a hemmed in isolated nation feeling the pressure of a growing slave population, and who is going to tell the planters they have to stop allowing slaves to breed when slaves were their wealth and who would enforce it?

      A CSA victory would have been a disaster for the South and the whole secession thing wasn’t even half thought through.

      • Margaret D. Blough Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:17

        Ray-Excellent points. One thing the secessionists never comprehended was how much the tide had turned against slavery in the UK and Europe.

        Another issue would have been border disputes between the CSA and USA. Several states and territories were contested throughout the war. Within the contested states, geography often determined which side one favored. What would happen if a portion of a contested state attempted to split off and join the other side post-war?

        A final issue is runaway slaves. An independent CSA would lose the protection of the Fugitive Slave clause of the Constitution and any statutes implementing it. Crossing the border in pursuit of runaways could be considered an act of war by the US, particularly if the CSA made no effort to stop such incursions. The only way that the CSA could have a legally enforceable right to regain possession of slaves would have been with an extradition treaty with the US. Under the circumstances, that would be very unlikely. Even during the antebellum period, many northerners may well have been racist but they didn’t want to be forced to be slavecatchers. If there was no risk of being returned, the rate of flow of runaways would have increased to a flood.

        As for the Indians, I think any support of the Confederacy probably was pursuant to the maxim of “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

      • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:54

        (1) A Southern victory would immediately have had the effect of Southern independence. Instead of losing our wealth with the collapse of the Confederate currency and banking system, we would have retained our financial and political independence.

        (2) The South would have been spared a century of poverty and underdevelopment within the United States. There is no telling how many other foreign wars we could have avoided. It is highly unlikely that Southerners would have ended up dying in far away places like France, Guadalcanal, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq for the Yankee.

        (3) Far from being a “pariah state,” both France and Britain desired a Confederate victory in the conflict, especially the French who intervened in Mexico and had interests to protect in the Caribbean like the Panama Canal. Before the war, the South had no problem exporting its slave produced cotton to Britain and Europe.

        (4) Egypt was annexed by Britain in 1882.

        (5) The South could have conducted an independent trade policy with Europe to its own advantage instead of subsidizing the North through Union Army pensions and its purchase of its overpriced manufactures.

        (6) The North didn’t have any laws against the settlement of free blacks in the United States. Four states had such laws and would have been repealed anyway under the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

        (7) During the War Between the States, several states in Northern Mexico expressed interest in joining the Confederacy. The Confederates had no interest in annexing Northern Mexico and less interest in expanding into the Caribbean to remain parity with the free states.

        (8) The UK had close economic ties to the Confederacy. The slave trade was outlawed under the Confederate constitution.

        (9) The death of the CSA was a disaster from the South: the loss of political independence, the loss of economic independence, financial exploitation, the obliteration of the Southern economy, Northern military dictatorships, 100 years of poverty, etc.

        (10) The creation of an international border within the United States would have accelerated the demise of slavery in the Upper South. Blacks would have fled to the North. Perhaps even Kentucky and Missouri would have joined the Confederacy at some later point.


        • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 18:21

          Sorry, but it’s hard to take you seriously when you frame your comments in terms of “…our wealth…” and “…we would have retained…” Exactly what year are we in?

          • Rob Baker Dec 15, 2011 @ 4:22

            That rhetoric is familiar Kevin. When I was little I remember hearing older people talk about how Sherman burned down “our” courthouse in Ringgold, GA. When I got older, I found out from the County Historian that lightning burned down “the” courthouse. Come to find out, Sherman actually spared the building due to Mason symbols on it. But saying “our” and “we’re helps to apply some ownership and personal association with the past not lived. I guess it’s like Foote said, The civil war is the great adventure in the adolescence of the country that everyone wishes they were in on. (paraphrase of course)

            • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2011 @ 4:23

              What is often left out is the work that Sherman’s army did to rebuild miles of destroyed railroad, including lines destroyed by Confederate cavalry.

              • Rob Baker Dec 15, 2011 @ 4:35

                Or his efforts to reign in his troops in Columbia and the south’s avocation of the 19th century mode of total war.


                • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2011 @ 4:41

                  Royster’s book is a must read.

                  I refuse to get into emotional slug fests with people over Sherman. It’s rarely about history.

                  • Rob Baker Dec 15, 2011 @ 4:46

                    it’s amusing how one can have a personal vendetta with someone they were not alive to encounter.

                    • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2011 @ 5:35

                      Yeah, it’s an attachment or identification with the past that I can’t even begin to understand. I guess the closest I can come to such a perspective is through my ability to empathize, but the extent that I can do so is severely hampered by distance.

          • Brooks Simpson Dec 15, 2011 @ 7:41

            Apparently he’d like to have slavery back … because emancipation is why so much “wealth” disappeared for slaveholders. Guess that upset him. Next we’ll hear about the good slavery did.

            • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2011 @ 7:46

              Next we’ll hear about the good slavery did.

              No, I don’t think we will.

              • Ray O'Hara Dec 15, 2011 @ 8:16

                Don’t be so sure about that Kevin. Remember Shelby Foote saying the War was between men who hired workers temporarily and those who hired them for life.

        • Andy Hall Dec 15, 2011 @ 6:57

          “The slave trade was outlawed under the Confederate constitution.”

          And yet your namesake publicly advocated for a reopening of the international slave trade even under the U.S. flag, saying, “if slavery is right per se, if it is right to raise slaves for sale, does it not appear that it is right to import them?”

          That’s interesting.

          • Brooks Simpson Dec 15, 2011 @ 7:39

            I think the name choice is deliberate and that the poster should be understood as embracing Yancey’s views.

    • Pat Young Dec 14, 2011 @ 19:39

      Since the fire that destroyed so much of Richmond was set by Confederates, wasn’t putting a picture of the fire on a poster a homage to the troops whose action is depicted?

  • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 5:31

    If you were among of the 1 out 4 Southern white males of military age that either lost your life or were maimed in that war, how was it the “better outcome” for your generation? Was it the “better outcome” for the widows and the orphans?

    • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 5:34

      Thanks for the question. I would say that for the hundreds of thousands of maimed soldiers, widows, and orphans the war was nothing less than a disaster. I am speaking from a perspective firmly grounded in 2011. Like I said, I think the question at issue here is how the war as a whole ought to be remembered and commemorated. Thanks again.

      • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 6:35

        I guess some people in the South might look at it this way:

        (1) 1 out 4 Southern white men of military age were either dead or maimed for life by that war.

        (2) The war left behind a generation of destitute widows and orphans in the South. It also created a gender imbalance by leaving behind a generation of women whose mates were dead.

        (3) It is important for us to remember that 1 out 4 white males didn’t come back from that war or came back from it unable to work. How many women and children do you suppose starved to death as a consequence?

        (4) The war obliterated both credit and currency in the South which had the effect of wiping out the life savings of millions.

        (5) The physical infrastructure of the South – levees, railroads, bridges, roads, farms, factories, etc. – was systematically destroyed by the Union Army. This includes cities like Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia, and Richmond.

        (6) The war obliterated the foundation of the Southern economy and impoverished all social classes including the yeomanry.

        (7) The war empowered the Republican Party which dominated America as a sectional party until the Great Depression. The Republican high tariff agenda subsidized Northern industries at the expense of Southern agriculture. Union Army pensions systematically redistributed wealth within the Union for decades.

        (8) The war devastated vast swathes of the South like North Alabama, North Georgia, and Virginia which were not rebuilt by the federal government.

        (9) The war permanently changed the relationship between the states and the federal government. Before the war, Americans could live their entire lives while having little interaction with the federal government outside of the Post Office, something inconceivable today.

        (10) The war led to the consolidation of Northern industry into the corporations and trusts of the Gilded Age. “Big Business” has been a corrupting force in American politics ever since.

        (11) The most important consequence of the war was the reunion of the states and the subordination of the South to the North under a consolidated federal government in Washington – something which would have far reaching geopolitical consequences, as the Plains Indians, Spain, France, China, Germany, Japan, and other countries would later find out.

        (12) The war would lead to mass looting in the South by federal soldiers and financial exploitation in the Reconstruction era by unscrupulous Northern carpetbaggers.

        (13) The war sentenced the South to minority status within the Union. There wouldn’t be another Southern president until Woodrow Wilson. The loss of Confederate independence and parity within the Union meant the loss of self government for white Southerners.

        (14) The war destroyed one of richest countries in the world and created poverty where there had once been wealth and abundance. The South was still struggling to overcome that poverty a hundred years later.

        (15) The war sowed the seeds of racial conflict empowering the Republicans who passed the 14th Amendment which disenfranchised Whites while enfranchising African-Americans. Blacks were enfranchised as a partisan tool to be used by the Republican Party to dominate and plunder the South of its remaining wealth.

        So, we can remember the war for the death and the destitution it brought upon the South, but also for the way in which Lincoln and his successors created the institutions of Big Government and Big Business which now stand like the Great Wall of China between citizens and their government.

        Wall Street, for sure, emerged from the war as one of the biggest victors, presiding over a consolidated national capital market. In light of the radical transformation of the American political system and economy, which seemed to benefit the North at the expense of the South and West for decades, one might suspect that something other than philanthropic sympathy for the Southern negro had something to do with bringing on the “irrepressible conflict.”

        • Andy Hall Dec 14, 2011 @ 6:54

          You continue to interpret Kevin’s original statement, “the generation that fought the war,” as referring specifically to white, Southern Confederates. Even in the Old Dominion, things were far more complicated than that.

          • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 7:12

            I think that is simply a deeply engrained/gut reaction for many. I don’t even think they realize the implications of such a claim in its tendency to exclude.

          • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 7:19

            I’m sorry.

            I had forgotten that White Southern Confederates (i.e., the majority of the White population of the South) were not synonymous with “the generation that fought the war.”

            3 out 4 White Southern males of military age fought for the Confederacy. I assumed those people were somehow at the center of the conflict. I must have missed the part where they were grateful for being shot and killed by righteous Yankees.

            I don’t recall reading anyone claim they were grateful to be looted by an occupying army or have their homes burned down or how they enjoyed the experience of starvation or losing all their wealth.

            • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 7:23

              They were indeed at the center of the conflict. No one denies this and no one denies that soldiers and civilians on both sides suffered as a result of war. There are some excellent new studies on the difficulties that Virginian veterans and their faced in the immediate aftermath of war, including Jeffrey McClurken’s Take Care of the Living: Reconstructing Confederate Families in Virgina.

            • Ray O'Hara Dec 14, 2011 @ 8:39

              Quite a few , over 100,000 White Southerners fought for the USA and not the CSA, the idea that the CSA was universally popular among the people of the South is a modern myth and you as a Southerner are as likely to have had an ancestor who fought for America as you to have one who fought against it.

              Tennessee sent more White troops to the Union that did 7 Northern States.

              this link gives a list of all military units that fought in the CW by State. you’ll see every state, North and South listed in the Union section as having provided units. Only SC failed to produce any White troops for the Union but it did produce some USCT units, I gather they don’t count in your definition of ‘Southerner”?


              • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 15:54

                I don’t remember saying anywhere that the Confederacy was universally popular in the South.

                The American Revolution wasn’t universally popular in the South either. This is especially true of the Southern backcountry. Many of the people who lived there were loyalists who fought for Britain.

                Abraham Lincoln wasn’t universally popular in the North. I doubt he was that popular among the Irish who were shot dead in the streets of New York City by troops from Gettysburg.

                • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 15:57

                  I doubt he was that popular among the Irish who were shot dead in the streets of New York City by troops from Gettysburg.

                  I seem to remember more going on in the streets of New York City in the summer of 1863 than just Irish being shot by Union soldiers. 🙂

                • Ray O'Hara Dec 14, 2011 @ 17:39

                  The attitudes in the Revolution are irrelevant to the CW.
                  and you do imply everybody in the South was a loyal Confederate

                • Michael Douglas Dec 15, 2011 @ 6:28

                  Are you referring to the 1863 Draft Riots? You characterize these criminals as Irish. Their ethnicity had nothing to do with the response by the military. Perhaps the people who caused the largest race riot in U.S. history *needed* to be shot dead in the streets. Burning orphanages and beating a 7-year old child to death, among other atrocities, would seem to dictate you need to be put down like a rabid animal.

            • Margaret D. Blough Dec 14, 2011 @ 10:22

              Perhaps you would do well to direct your ire to the secessionists who started this whole thing, including the first acts of aggression. They did so solely over the fact that a Republican had been elected in a incontrovertibly constitutional and legal election (a victory that Southern Democrats had a great deal to do with in splitting the Democratic Party over Northern Democrats refusal to support their demands about slavery). Read secessionist pamphlets from the secession winter, and they overwhelmingly promised that the US government and free states were so weak that they either could not mount a resistance or the resistance would be futile.

              I am stunned, and more than a little appalled, that you would include Germany and Japan with the Plains Indians in your list of geopolitical consequences as if they belonged in list of victims. Do you wish that the Axis Powers had prevailed in WW II?

              As for the “minority’ Southern status, for decades in modern times, until the revision of the committee appointment system that, IIRR, occurred under Republicans (after most white Southern Democratic politicians turned Republican under Nixon’s Southern strategy) white Southern Democrats dominated the House committee chairmanships. In the Senate, white Southern Democrats used the filibuster to block any meaningful civil rights legislation for almost a century until, by a very narrow vote, enabled by a President from Texas, Democrats breaking the shackles of the past, and some Republicans, a successful cloture vote enabled the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pass the Senate.

              Racial conflict always existed in the US. All the CW did in the short run was to end the auction block. It left the sleeping giants, the 13th-15th Amendments and the post-Civil War civil rights acts that lay dormant for nearly a century. What the end of Reconstruction did was enable a system of terrorism and oppression committed or sanctioned by Southern state and local governments to trample on the rights of citizens because of their race.

              The Framers meant for tariffs to include protective tariffs to protect domestic industry developing, as James Madison affirmed during the secession crisis.

              The post-CW Republican Party did not bring about “Big Government”. Most of the governmental entities needed during the CW vanished in the post-war years. The excesses and destruction committed by business and industry during the Gilded Age and ignored by the federal government based on a belief in laissez-faire government inaction went unchecked until Teddy Roosevelt became president.

              • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:16

                (1) I don’t blame North Vietnam for attacking the Yankee in the Gulf of Tonkin incident. I don’t blame Spain for causing the Spanish-American War. In both cases, the refusal of the Yankee to mind his own business and respect the sovereignty of other nations was the cause of the conflict.

                (2) The Republican Party was a sectional party based upon hostility to the South. In 1859, John Brown fired the first shots in the War Between the States with his raid on Harper’s Ferry.

                (3) If the Confederacy had won its independence, I find it highly unlikely that America would have intervened in WW1 and WW2. Clearly, the War Between the States was the best chance to thwart the Yankee on his quest for world domination.

                (4) Yankees demonstrated their moral superiority over the South by massacring the Plains Indians and shooting the buffalo to starve them to death. The Union had perfected its starvation technique in the War Between the States and would use it against Germany in the Great War.

                (5) It is understandable why Yankees would solicit the black vote. In fact, that is why the black vote was created in the first place by the Radical Republicans in Reconstruction: as a partisan tool to create a Northern-dominated party in the South that would assist them in their attempt to dominate and control the federal government.

                (6) Texas and Florida joined the Union in 1845. How long was slavery legal in Massachusetts?

                One must wonder why the “conscience” of the North, which was ostensibly so opposed to slavery, was willing to pass the Fugitive Slave Act and sell their own slaves to the South for profit and then make vast fortunes off slave produced Southern cotton and finance internal improvements in the North with Southern taxes.

                (7) As historians noted for generations, there was no terrorism in the South before the war. The terrorism was a consequence of (1) the Union occupation, (2) the exploitation of Southern poverty by Yankee carpetbaggers, (3) putting the freedman in control of entire states like South Carolina and Louisiana and using the state legislatures to raise taxes to exorbitant levels, (4) the partisan warfare that resulting in the cleansing of Confederates in places like Missouri and East Tennessee, (5) the social revolution that was unleashed in the South by the Union occupation, (6) in particular the disenfranchisement of White Confederates.

                (8) The Framers created the Constitution to secure their rights to life, liberty, and property – clearly, the Lincoln administration had reduced the Constitution to a dead letter by waging war on all three pillars of the Constitution.

                (9) The federal government was transformed under Lincoln from a small unobtrusive force to the domineering central state controlled by corporate lobbyists that it has remained ever since.

                (10) The Union soldiers at Gettysburg won the Gilded Age: it was a victory for bankers, for corporations, for Wall Street speculators who thrived off the war and made vast fortunes for themselves which they would later use to corrupt the political process.

                • Margaret D. Blough Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:29

                  Since you clearly don’t believe in doing the most minimal research, I won’t do it for you except to inform you of one thing that shows how ridiculous your reasoning is. The reason the Fugitive Slave laws were passed was that the Constitution required it, until rendered a dead letter by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution The reason that the provisions protecting slavery were in the Constitution was that, in the Constitutional Convention, delegates from Georgia and South Carolina explicitly stated that, without such provisions, neither state would ratify the Constitution. Most of the rest of the delegates, even some from slave states, were not happy about it but were not, at a convention whose major purpose was to prevent disunion, prepared to see if either or both states were bluffing. A constant theme in rebel states’ statements of causes regarding their joining the rebellion was to rail against Northern states for resistance to returning fugitive slaves and failing to suppress abolitionist speech and organizations.

                • Brooks Simpson Dec 15, 2011 @ 7:33

                  Well, this is the first time I’ve seen Lyndon Johnson called a Yankee.

                  • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2011 @ 7:36

                    I thought he was from Texas. Just another day in the whacky world of Civil War memory. 🙂

        • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 7:02

          For a minute there I thought I was engaging Yancey. 🙂 In all seriousness, I simply disagree with most of the points you’ve made. They’ve all been addressed at one point or another on this blog. The Confederacy was just as much if not more centralized than the Union. Finally, I believe that the United States has done a great deal of good both here at home and around the world. I am a proud American and as I mentioned the other day I believe the right side won the war. I honestly don’t believe that to be a controversial statement for most proud Americans. Thanks again for the comment.

          • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 7:34

            The destruction of the Confederacy is consistent with Yankee foreign policy. It has to be seen in the larger context.

            Several years later, Ulysses S. Grant attempted to acquire the Dominican Republic. The Plains Indians, who were standing in the way of the progress of the transcontinental railroad, would soon meet the same fate.

            It is important to keep in mind that the Union claimed its sovereignty extended over the entire Western hemisphere at the time. The Yankee would later annex Hawaii and attack Spain and acquire Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. The Platt Amendment would give the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuba anytime it saw fit.

            The French clearly saw it coming. That is why Napoleon III supported the Confederacy.

            Panama would be separated from Columbia. Troops would be sent into Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The Yankee Commodore Perry had “opened” Japan and the Yankee put down the Chinese in the Boxer Rebellion.

            By the time of the Wilson presidency, Yankees would be attempting to micromanage Europe. It was but a step from there to proclaiming the “American Century” and aspiring to world domination after the Second World War.

            There is now even an “AFRICOM.”

            • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 7:44

              I appreciate the history lesson on American foreign policy, but its expansionists tendencies preceded the war and included a strong push to expand the slaveholding region into Cuba as well as Mexico and Central America. Once again, I have to agree with you that the United States did not always engage the rest of the world in a way that reflected its founding ideals. That is clear.

              The other point that I want to stress is that most people, including Virginians, do not reflect on the war as if they were somehow a member of the Confederacy. I would go so far as to suggest that most descendants of families that can trace their histories to the war do not identify in this way either. Which again raises the question of how as a community we should approach the commemoration of the past.

              • Brooks Simpson Dec 14, 2011 @ 9:30

                Of course, white southerners had cast covetous eyes at the Caribbean themselves in the 1850s. They opposed the annexation of the Dominican Republic only after its became clear that (a) it would add people of color to the population of the United States (b) it would give southern blacks an opportunity to gain some economic leverage (by moving) that would allow them to demand their rights at home upon pain of taking their labor elsewhere. Recall that none other than Frederick Douglass supported the project.

                Of course, in 1898 Fitz Lee and Joe Wheeler were among those who participated in the Spanish-American War. So let’s understand that white southerners were no strangers to empire, before or after the Civil War.

                • Corey Meyer Dec 14, 2011 @ 9:46

                  Let us also not forget the role of southerners in the removal of American Indians like the Cherokee from their lands in 1838-39 due to the whites demand for land. The Supreme Court sided three times with the Indians over the land rights and Andrew Jackson, a southerner, ignored the ruling in favor of the whites and taking the land.

                  Ironically, it would be the south that many of the indian tribes out in Oklahoma sided with during the war. However, the indian tribes loyalty was quite mixed as discussed in the current edition of Blue & Grey Magazine.

                • W.L. Yancey Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:27

                  Of course, the North had cast covetous eyes at the Caribbean after the War Between the States, and quickly moved (as the French had predicted) to expand their commercial empire into Mexico and the Caribbean.

                  The French believed that the conquest of the Confederacy was part of a larger Yankee scheme to dominate the Western hemisphere. In less than half a century, the Yankee would be coordinating the rape of China under the Open Door Notes and oppressing the indigenous population of the Philippines.

                  Grant defended his scheme to annex the Dominican Republic by describing it as a divine plan to unite the world as “one nation, speaking one language, [with] armies and navies … no longer required.”

                  • Margaret D. Blough Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:41

                    You do realize, don’t you, that while the Civil War was in progress, Napoleon III had installed a puppet government in Mexico. A major reason, perhaps the only reason that Napoleon III flirted with supporting the Confederacy was that, while the US government was preoccupied with the war or if the Union did sunder, the two nations would be too impotent to interfere with Napoleon’s plans. Once the Civil War ended, the US gave support to Mexicans seeking to restore the government deposed by the France and Napoleon III’s plans quickly collapsed.

                    • Rob Baker Dec 15, 2011 @ 4:17

                      I don’t think he took that into consideration. Or the issue of the KGC setting up pseudo governments in Central America for Southern goals.

            • Londn John Dec 15, 2011 @ 7:12

              “It is important to keep in mind that the Union claimed its sovereignty extended over the entire Western hemisphere at the time.”
              I suppose you mean the Monroe Doctrine? Please remind us what state President Monroe was from?
              “Battle Cry of Freedom” has a chapter on pre-CW Southern expansionism called “An empire for slavery”. But most importantly, the cause of secession was for the right to expand slave cultivation westward. The slave economy depended on the area of cultivation expanding as fast as the slave population.

        • Tom Dec 14, 2011 @ 17:56


          You left out that 4 million southerners gained their freedom and liberty as a result of the war. More than half of the people of South Carolina and Mississippi gained their freedom. And half of the people in Florida gained their freedom. The civil war resulted in more Americans becoming free than our Revolutionary war.

          A lot of bad happened. But a lot of good happened also.

          • Bob Huddleston Dec 14, 2011 @ 18:47

            Of course to Yancy, freeing those 4 million is what caused *his* South to become poor.

        • Bob Huddleston Dec 14, 2011 @ 18:53

          “(5) The physical infrastructure of the South … was systematically destroyed by the Union Army. This includes cities like Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia, and Richmond.”

          I am always interested in people who start a war and then cry when they lose and their cities, etc. are destroyed.

          I would mention in passing that it was not the Evil Yankees who burned Richmond: *they* put out the fires that were started by order of Robert E. Lee.

    • Ray O'Hara Dec 14, 2011 @ 8:31

      How would a CSA victory have changed the outcome for the dead, mained,widowed and orphaned? After all they still would have been so. A CSA victory wouldn’t reanimate or unmaim anybody.

      In Laidislas Farago’s Patton he recounts young George’s mother telling him, your father and comrades fought bravely but it’s good they lost. She was right, a victory for the CSA would have been a social and economic disaster for the South.

      • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2011 @ 8:36

        Good point, Ray. 🙂

      • Ryan A Dec 14, 2011 @ 10:45

        While Mr. Yancey might have a different spin, I would contend that the war as a whole was devastating to the country, regardless of the outcome of victory on either side. Aside from the obvious positive – the abolition of slavery – there were more negatives simply because of the immense destruction of the war, not just to the South but to Northern society as well. I don’t think it has to be “the South was picked on by the big bully North” to acknowledge that the sheer scale of death affected the American psyche on both sides but perhaps for different reasons.

        A Confederate victory would still have left the South in shambles for years, and left thousands upon thousands of widows and orphans to fend for themselves. Just because the Allies won World War II doesn’t mean that the families of over 400,000 Americans greived any less or suddenly weren’t upset over their loss anymore. Britain may have been ultimately victorious, but those thousands of citizens were still dead from German bombs and large swaths of destruction still cut through London from the blitz.

        As to the original question of the post, I think Virginians can remember the specific battles and events of the 1862 campaigns in the state by themselves without the cause of the war being the overriding factor. As a descendant of a Massachusetts colonel who was killed at Gettysburg, I can admit that when visiting Spangler’s Spring, I tend not to focus on the implications of the Dred Scott case or the motivations behind the Emancipation Proclamation. Rather, I am too caught up in trying to understand where my ancestor stood, looking out over that field, and wondering if he realized that he would more than likely fall from a Virginian’s well-aimed rifle shot while leading his men forward.

        I think its possible to escape that. And I don’t necessarily think that it has to be done in the sense of “imagining a Confederate victory.” Just my opinion.

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