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Neo-Confederates Offer Creative Take on ‘War Between the States’

By Leah Nelson on October 4, 2011 - 1:41 pm, Posted in Neo-Confederate

In February 1961, more than 50,000 people – including three state governors – showed up in Montgomery, Ala., to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as the first (and only) president of the Confederate States of America. It was one of many massive events that would mark the controversial, racially charged centennial of the Civil War. The same year in April, officials in Charleston, S.C., hoisted a Confederate battle flag above the Capitol in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter that started the war. It flew until July 2000. By contrast, the war’s sesquicentennial, which kicked off toward the end of last year, has been marked primarily by the sound of crickets chirping. A December 2010 “secession ball” sponsored in Charleston by the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a Southern heritage group, was modestly attended and roundly condemned by the media. Last February, fewer than 1,000 stalwarts rallied in Montgomery for the SCV-sponsored sesquicentennial of Davis’ inauguration, and April’s commemoration of Fort Sumter wrapped up after just a few days.

America, it seems, has moved on.

For the most part, that is. But in the alternative reality inhabited by the League of the South (LOS), a neo-Confederate hate group, the war – and its outcome – are still very much unsettled. In an essay on the League’s “official” “North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission” website Clyde Wilson, an professor emeritus of history at the University of South Carolina and founding member of LOS, bemoans the loss of the Lost Cause:

“America in 2011 is a very different country than America in 1961. The long march of cultural Marxism (political correctness) through American institutions, which began in the 1930’s, has achieved most of its objectives,” he complains. “It is now established with Soviet party-line rigour that The War was ‘caused by’ and ‘about’ slavery and nothing but slavery.”

“‘Slavery’ cannot begin to account for the experience of Americans in what is still the central, bloodiest, and most revolutionary event in our history,” he continues. “It is our opinion that history is far too important to be left to official ‘experts.’… We owe it to North Carolinians of the past to ensure that the North Carolinians of the present and future understand the experience of those days.”

Thank goodness for small blessings! Were North Carolinians of the past, present, and future to rely on the official official sesquicentennial website put together by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, they might be tricked into believing all manner of absurd notions. Fortunately, free thought still has a home at the LOS’ “official” site, whose “academic board” – which includes Wilson, Holocaust-denying ex-priest Boyd Cathey, and other prominent hard-line Confederate apologists – has cobbled together quotes from Confederate heroes to create a complete alternative history of the war, its causes and outcome.

An excerpt from the 1901 autobiography of former Confederate Gen. Samuel French tells us that the Ku Klux Klan was the only postwar protection from marauding ex-slaves whose “immorality [was] taught by men from the slums of Northern cities.” According to the timeless wisdom of Zebulon Vance, a Confederate veteran and the 37th and 43rd governor of North Carolina, “The carpetbag rulers were infinitely worse than the Negroes.”

The LOS commission has also created events to commemorate the war. For the most part, they’ve consisted of reenactments and rededications, often co-hosted with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. One August event featured “the world’s only full-sized replica of a 158’ gunboat designed to defend North Carolina.” Another proffered an “Authentic WBTS [War Between the States]-Era Recruiting Table” and a presentation on “WBTS-era Farming Methods, Produce and Accoutrements.” For most events, period dress was encouraged.

All’s quiet on the Northern Front this weekend, but between Oct. 14 and 16, LOS will commemorate the battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, which is described by the National Park Service as “not a major battle in terms of its effect on the outcome of the war.”

Should be a blast from the past.

  • Graham Krueger

    Tancred, both of the slave states you cite as having more freemen than slaves were UNION states. The only other slave state in the Union was my native Missouri, and to be fair, we had been fighting our own very bloody Civil War which was also about slavery for nearly a decade prior to the outbreak of war on the national scale. Not exactly apples-to-apples with the tranquil lands below the MC line where slavery was the everyday way of life. And our Civil War legacy sticks with us-our capital, Jefferson city, which was a confederate bastion, still refuses to grant predominately Black St. Louis (my city and a unionist bastion even before the emergence of the present diversity) control over our own police department. For the record, I am a male WASfP (White anglo Saxon former Protestant) who was raised in a largely Black neighborhood, and I have now opted to head for… the Industrial north! I presently live in Beloit, Wisconsin’s second most diverse city, with a beautiful college, a beautiful river, a powerful history, and the nation’s only lesbian member of Congress (soon to be Senator). Only thing that could make me happier would be for my fiance not to live quite so far away, but, you know… Can’t have everything. My point is, what some racists apparently call “the black undertow”-large, cold cities swarming with people of other nationalities, are what I generally think of as a dream home. Are there problems? Yes, largely due to the lack of a societal devotion to economic justice, and a lack of candor in addressing our past. If we want to get serious about addressing crime rates, we need to address poverty first, as well as racism in the machinery of the state.

    As to putting a stars-and-bars on a vehicle, I find it somewhat offensive but more than that it is historically inaccurate! If you want to revel in the fact that the state of Texas controls all the textbooks published in the nation, and glorify a system of racial oppression and state-sponsored brutality, that’s your prerogative I suppose, but for your evil racist God’s sake use the correct flag! The stars and bars was NOT the official flag of the confederacy-it was a battle standard developed after the confederate military learned that the official flag that their government, in a predictably conservative lack of artistic creativity, had designed was practically indistinguishable from the American Flag on a smoky battlefield. Use your actual flag, unless you’re afraid that your racist friends won’t be able to recognize it any easier now than they could in the 1860s:)

  • Tancred

    It’s always interesting to hear the justifications of both sides for positions taken by their forefathers and — on both sides — in need of moral justification which can never be ample to the crimes committed.

    Lincoln declared his aim was to preserve the Union, and not to end slavery. That’s a fact. He later said that, in the end, the War was about slavery. Also a fact. And when he signed the Emancipation Decree, it applied only to slaves in the Confederate states. Slavery remained lawful in all slave states remaining within the Union until the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, after the War ended. The Emancipation Proclamation was no more than an admitted attempt to disrupt the Southern economy. Nothing to do with moral scruples about slavery. Obviously.

    As to racism providing the fundamental basis for slavery, it’s difficult to carry that argument to perfection, given numerous black slave-holders (notably in South Carolina, the first state to leave the Union down in the true Deep South). Blacks in the South were not inevitably slaves, and in some slave states like Maryland and Delaware, more blacks were freemen than slave.

    If Southerners object to entirely “letting it go”, this is in no small part because those who claim they don’t “get it” continue to recite their favoured (and often mythical) historical narrative which swaddles them in latter-day comfort with their own ignorant prejudices.

    If there is anything most Southerners — black and white — uniformly despise, it is hypocrisy. And there can be no greater hypocrisy than touting the principle of consent of the governed as the foundation of legitimate government while moving heaven and earth to deny it in practice.

    And for those Americans who cheer the 4th of July with no mental reservation, they would do well to remember slavery continued in North America after 1833 ONLY because we were no longer subject to British rule. Else there would have never been any basis (we are now told) for the bloodiest war in our history that ended in destruction of half the nation to “save” it. Only a sociopath could regard that outcome with pride rather than shame.

  • CM

    Yes, Dick, we get it, but apparently you don’t.

    The slaves “were freed” despite the strenuous efforts of your Southern forebears to prevent that from happening. And what they “were freed” into was a life of oppression and poverty, courtesy of the same Southerners who fought to keep them enslaved, along with those descendants of theirs who apparently were/are incapable of real self-examination or learning from mistakes. That’s “the Southern heritage” that the League of the South represents.

  • Dick Lancaster

    “The Civil War has been over for a very long time, the south lost, it is time to get over it,” says one of our commentators consolidating the views of the others here that cannot understand the Southern heritage.

    So try this:

    Slavery has been over for a very long time, the slaves were freed. It is time to get over it.

    Now do you get it?

  • Phila

    Isn’t it funny how the same people who are constantly telling black Americans to “get over” the injustice of segregation etc. are weeping over the Civil War as though it happened yesterday?

    I’d call it a double standard, but that’s redundant when you’re talking about racists.