The Confederacy and the Union: “How the South Lost the War but Won the Narrative”

Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond, VA

Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond, VA

By Elaine Magliaro

The Boston Globe has been running a “Divided Nation” series. The series has already touched upon a number of issues—including the wealth gap in Colorado, religious and gay rights in Arkansas, and Marco Rubio’s silence on immigration. Today’s series topic is the split in Richmond, Virginia, over Confederate history. Evidently, there have been calls in the capital of the Confederacy to “properly memorialize the slave trade.”

Michael Kranish, the author of the article, opened his piece talking about Ana Edwards, an African-American and longtime community activist. He told of how Edwards “stood on Monument Avenue, one of America’s most elegant boulevards, and stared with disbelief at the inscription on the 67-foot-tall memorial to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate government that was based here during the Civil War.” The inscription read, “Exponent of Constitutional Principles. Defender of the Rights of States.”

Kranish said, “There were no words explaining Davis’s role in the enslavement of hundreds of thousands, no hint that much of the nation’s slave trade was conducted here in Richmond, at a time when black lives plainly didn’t matter to many, except as human chattel to be exploited or sold.” Kranish added, “Instead, emblazoned in stone, was Davis’s assertion that he acted ‘not in hostility to others.’”

Edwards had reportedly “driven by the Romanesque colonnade that surrounds the Davis memorial and wondered why it hadn’t been moved to some museum.” Kranish said that Edwards had never bothered to stop “to read the inscription until this day, shortly after a white man who viewed himself as a descendant of the Confederacy allegedly killed nine black members of a Charleston, S.C., church.”

Edwards said, “Right now, truly, these monuments are just literally the grandest things the city shows off, and therefore it represents us. This is hard. It makes you feel like you live in two different places.”

Kranish said that what angers Edwards is the city’s history of inequality—and “its continuing unequal treatment of history, which still highlights the Confederacy more than slavery.” According to Kranish, efforts to build “a National Museum of Slavery in Virginia have failed for years because of lack of funding. He noted that a Richmond slave trail, which includes a statue called “Reconciliation” that was unveiled in 2009, “is a modest effort far from the prestige of Monument Avenue.” He added that there have even been fights “about adding a statue of black tennis star Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native, to Monument Avenue in 1996 and to erecting an Abraham Lincoln statue alongside the former Confederate ironworks in 2003.”

Kranish said that not far from “the majesty of Monument Avenue, evidence has gradually emerged of another side of the Richmond story that was little-chronicled until recently.” He said that a local historian who had been studying an 1810 map of an area called Shockoe Bottom “found a revealing notation. Next to a gallows, the marking said ‘Burial Ground for Negroes.’”


Separate research showed that this part of Richmond was home to a far greater domestic slave market than had been realized. Leading historians estimate that 350,000 slaves were sent downriver from Richmond over a 35-year period before the end of the Civil War. Some suggest that perhaps half of all African-Americans can trace some ancestry to the Richmond slave trade, making Shockoe Bottom one of the nation’s most important places for those seeking a grasp on black history.

But the burial ground had been covered by a parking lot, and developers eyed adjacent parcels, envisioning hotels, shops, and a baseball stadium. Thus began a new battle of Richmond, for the other side of history, one that has taken on even greater meaning as controversy escalates about Confederate flags and statues all over the South.

Only July 1st, James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont and the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader, had an interesting article in The Washington Post titled Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong.

Loewen noted at the beginning of his article that the late William F. Buckley had once said that history is the polemics of the victor. Loewen hastened to add that that was not true “in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War.”


As soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done and why. The resulting mythology took hold of the nation a generation later and persists — which is why a presidential candidate can suggest, as Michele Bachmann did in 2011, that slavery was somehow pro-family and why the public, per the Pew Research Center, believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.

Loewen said that the Confederates were able to win “with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about.” He added, “ We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation they spread, which has manifested in our public monuments and our history books.”


Take Kentucky, where the legislature voted not to secede. Early in the war, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm, as we imagined and hoped, but hostility.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones.

Neo-Confederates also won parts of Maryland. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) put a soldier on a pedestal at the Rockville courthouse. Maryland, which did not secede, sent 24,000 men to the Confederate armed forces, but it also sent 63,000 to the U.S. Army and Navy. Still, the UDC’s monument tells visitors to take the other side: “To our heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland: That we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”

In fact, the thin gray line came through Montgomery and adjoining Frederick counties at least three times, en route to Antietam, Gettysburg and Washington. Robert E. Lee’s army expected to find recruits and help with food, clothing and information. It didn’t. Instead, Maryland residents greeted Union soldiers as liberators when they came through on the way to Antietam. Recognizing the residents of Frederick as hostile, Confederate cavalry leader Jubal Early ransomed $200,000 from them lest he burn their town, a sum equal to about $3 million today. But Frederick now boasts a Confederate memorial, and the manager of the town’s cemetery — filled with Union and Confederate dead — told me, “Very little is done on the Union side” around Memorial Day. “It’s mostly Confederate.”

In his TPM article titled How The South Lost The War But Won The Narrative, Tony Horowtiz wrote:

In the 20th century, mass culture and commerce spread the Lost Cause nationwide, most notably in movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. The moonlight-and-magnolia virus grew so strong that the U.S. Senate approved the construction of a Mammy monument in Washington in the 1920s, and after World War II the rebel flag became a faddish adornment on vehicles, beach towels and other products, a generalized emblem of independence, Southernness or good ol’ boyism.

With the Civil Rights struggle, scholars of the Civil War era gave new emphasis to race and slavery, and this trend has continued ever since. The evidence is overwhelming that Southern states seceded and fought to maintain slavery. Don’t believe me; believe the words of secessionists and Confederate leaders. Among the most often cited is Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens who in 1861 declared the Founders “fundamentally wrong” in judging all humans equal. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—the subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”

The same view was expressed by the secessionist conventions in Southern states that published their reasons for leaving the Union. The authors sometimes couched their declarations in Constitutional arguments about sovereignty, but left no doubt about the state right at issue. Mississippians bluntly declared, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” Texans cited a Northern “crusade” against the “beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery,” and Texans’ conviction that bondage “should exist in all future time.”

There are countless such statements, scores of scholarly works documenting the cruelties of the slave economy and how much it was bound up with Southern life and politics…Yet the prevailing popular view of the Civil War still reflects a strong Southern bias: that the Confederacy fought for vaguely defined “states’ rights,” and its battle flag isn’t intrinsically racist, it’s an anodyne emblem of Southern “heritage.”


H/T to bigfatmike for posting a link to Loewen’s WaPo article on Mike Spindell’s post
The Rebel Flag Controversy and the Mythology of the Heroic South.



Richmond split over Confederate history: In the capital of the Confederacy, calls are rising to properly memorialize the slave trade (Boston Globe)

Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong. (Washington Post)

How The South Lost The War But Won The Narrative (TPM)



This entry was posted in Abraham Lincoln, American History, Civil War, Government, History, Maryland, Mythology, Political Science, Propaganda, Racism, Society, Treason, United States and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to The Confederacy and the Union: “How the South Lost the War but Won the Narrative”

  1. Mike Spindell says:


    A brilliant piece, that is exactly on point, but that some would critique as besmirching “Southern Heritage”. Watch for the attacks on you and almost nothing refuting the post.

  2. mespo727272 says:

    “As soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done and why. The resulting mythology took hold of the nation a generation later and persists — which is why a presidential candidate can suggest, as Michele Bachmann did in 2011, that slavery was somehow pro-family and why the public, per the Pew Research Center, believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.”


    Here’s an excerpt from the pen of Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Richmonder of the Jewish faith whose family has fled the Spanish Inquisition, and who overcame poverty to fight at teh Battle of New Market with his fellow cadets from the Virginia Military Institute and later in defense of the City of Richmond at the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-65. After the war, he would move to the North and then to Europe and become one of the most celebrated sculptors of his time winning many honors from the nobility of Europe. He would live in Rome in the 40 years preceding his death. There is no evidence he was enlisted into the “Lost Cause” movement of some of Lee’s Lieutenants.

    Here is what he wrote about his motivations in his memoirs:

    “We were not fighting for the perpetuation of slavery, but for the principle of States Rights and Free Trade, and in defense of our homes which were being ruthlessly invaded.”

    That was a pretty typical attitude of most of the cadets at VMI. After the fact romanticizing? Maybe but there is as much evidence of Ezekias’s position as that of Loewen’s. It’s funny that the world doesn’t form into neat ideological compartments.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “We were not fighting for the perpetuation of slavery, but for the principle of States Rights and Free Trade, and in defense of our homes which were being ruthlessly invaded.”


      Why was it important to mention that he was Jewish? At one time the Vice President of the CSA under Jeff Davis was a Jew and there were more than a few Jewish Slave Traders and Slave Holders. Throughout history some Jews could be equally as vicious and hurtful as any other human being. Also oppression never bestows nobility. What you just can’t seem to grasp is that the Civil War was a war to perpetuate slavery and there was no honor to be had in that cause.

      As the German officers said at Nuremburg “I was only following orders.” I imagine though that some Germans today only want to honor the German dead and their ancestors who were only party members. Swastika flags and monuments to let’s say Herman Goering, that Ace fighter pilot from World War I.

  3. mespo727272 says:

    Mike S:

    I’d say a contemporaneous, verified passage from a person actually present at and participating in the historical event that directly contradicts the views of the modern-day author is a refutation.

  4. swarthmoremom says: Senate approved the removal measure 37 -3. House will vote tomorrow.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “Senate approved the removal measure 37 -3. House will vote tomorrow.”


      I guess they caved in under the pressure of the “Mob” and those rotten liberals. 🙂

      Then again it could have been the tourist industry, defense contractors and major corporations doing business there.

  5. swarthmoremom says: “In 1865, at the end of the civil war, the Confederate poet Abram Ryan addressed the battle flag. He wrote:

    Furl that banner, softly, slowly!

    Treat it gently – it is holy –

    For it droops above the dead.

    Touch it not – unfold it never,

    Let it droop there, furled forever.

    In this little verse Ryan declared the Confederate battle flag finished, in 1865, and that to “touch it” – to unfurl it on bumper stickers, or above statehouses – would be ruinous.

    People here never furled the flag. The University of Mississippi owns the largest Confederate battle flag in the world and for years would unroll it on the field at halftime during football games. It became so familiar that, like the name “Ole Miss”, or Colonel Reb, many people here divorced the emblem from its original meaning.

    Now a new generation in Oxford – throughout the American south – is embracing what a weeping black mother grasped in an instant, with the Klan at her back and a baby in her lap: The truth can be painful. But it’s better to look and see.”

  6. swarthmoremom says:

  7. swarthmoremom says:

    Mike S, One of the dissenters freaked out about gay marriage.

  8. Elaine M. says:

    The South still lies about the Civil War
    In an ongoing revisionist history effort, Southern schools and churches still pretend the war wasn’t about slavery
    Tracy Thompson
    Excerpted from “The New Mind of the South”

    One reason boils down to simple convenience—for white people, that is. In his 2002 book “Race and Reunion,” Yale historian David Blight describes a national fervor for “reconciliation” that began in the 1880s and lasted through the end of World War I, fueled in large part by the South’s desire to attract industry, Northern investors’ desire to make money, and the desire of white people everywhere to push “the Negro question” aside. In the process, the real causes of the war were swept under the rug, the better to facilitate economic partnerships and sentimental reunions of Civil War veterans.

    But an equally important reason was a vigorous, sustained effort by Southerners to literally rewrite history—and among the most ardent revisionists were a group of respectable white Southern matrons known as the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

    The UDC sounds like one of those genteel ladies’ organizations that would have quietly passed into oblivion about the time women ditched their girdles and entered the labor market, but they are still around—a group of about twenty thousand ladies dedicated to various educational and historical preservation causes. Since 1955, the UDC has recruited next-generation members through a young persons’ auxiliary called the Children of the Confederacy, which does similar kinds of work. Blight was surprised when I told him in an e-mail that as part of my research I planned to visit the 2008 C of C convention in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “I knew there used to be such an [auxiliary] organization decades ago but did not know that it still exists,” he replied. “Amazing. How I would like to be a fly on the wall there.”

    The significance of the UDC lies not in its present-day clout, which is negligible, but in its lasting contributions to history— both for good and for ill. From its inception in 1894 up through the 1960s, the UDC was the South’s premier social and philanthropic organization, an exclusive social club where the wives, sisters, and daughters of the South’s ruling white elite gathered to “revere the memory of those heroes in gray and to honor that unswerving devotion to principle which has made the confederate soldier the most majestic in history,” as cofounder Caroline Meriwether Goodlett grandly put it. At first, the UDC provided financial assistance and housing to veterans and their widows, offering a vital public service at a time when for all practical purposes most local and state governments in the South were nonfunctional and/or broke. Later, as the veteran population aged, the UDC built homes that allowed indigent veterans and their widows to live out their days with some measure of dignity. Long before there was such a thing as the National Park Service, the UDC played a crucial role in preserving priceless historic sites, war cemeteries, and battlefields across the South. At the same time, it embarked on a spree of monument building: most of those confederate monuments you can still find in hundreds of courthouse squares in small towns across the South were put there by the local UDC chapter during the early 1900s. In its way, the UDC groomed a generation of Southern women for participation in the political process: presidents attended its national convocations, and its voice was heard in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol.

    But the UDC’s most important and lasting contribution was in shaping the public perceptions of the war, an effort that was begun shortly after the war by a Confederate veterans’ group called the United Confederate Veterans (which later became the Sons of Confederate Veterans—also still around, and thirty thousand members strong). The central article of faith in this effort was that the South had not fought to preserve slavery, and that this false accusation was an effort to smear the reputation of the South’s gallant leaders. In the early years of the twentieth century the main spokesperson for this point of view was a formidable Athens, Georgia, school principal named Mildred Lewis Rutherford (or Miss Milly, as she is known to UDC members), who traveled the South speaking, organizing essay contests, and soliciting oral histories of the war from veterans, seeking the vindication of the lost cause “with a political fervor that would rival the ministry of propaganda in any 20th century dictatorship,” Blight writes.

    Miss Milly’s burning passion was ensuring that Southern youngsters learned the “correct” version of what the war was all about and why it had happened—a version carefully vetted to exclude “lies” and “distortions” perpetrated by anti-Southern textbook authors. To that end, in 1920 she wrote a book entitled “The Truths of History”—a compendium of cherry-picked facts, friendly opinions, and quotes taken out of context, sprinkled with nuggets of information history books have often found convenient to ignore. Among other things, “The Truths of History” asserts that Abraham Lincoln was a mediocre intellect, that the South’s interest in expanding slavery to Western states was its benevolent desire to acquire territory for the slaves it planned to free, and that the Ku Klux Klan was a peaceful group whose only goal was maintaining public order. One of Rutherford’s “authorities” on slavery was British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, who visited Richmond on a tour of the Southern states during the 1850s and sent home a buoyant description of the slaves who attended him: “So free, so happy! I saw them dressed on Sunday in their Sunday best—far better dressed than English tenants of the working class are in their holiday attire.”

    But presenting the “correct” version of history was only half the battle; the other half was preventing “incorrect” versions from ever infiltrating Southern schools. Before the Civil War, education was strictly a private and/or local affair. After the Civil War, it became a subject of federal interest. The first federal agency devoted to education was authorized by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1867, and Congress passed several laws in the 1870s aimed at establishing a national education system. White Southerners reacted to all this with a renewed determination to prevent outsiders from maligning the reputation of their gallant fighting men by writing textbooks especially for Southern students. One postwar author was none other than Alexander Stephens, former vice president of the Confederacy, whose portrayal of the war sounds remarkably like the version you hear from many Southerners and political conservatives today: it was a noble but doomed effort on the part of the South to preserve self-government against federal intrusion, and it had little to do with slavery. (This was the same Alexander Stephens who had proclaimed in 1861 that slavery was the “cornerstone” of Southern society and “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”)

  9. Elaine M. says:

    Confronting Slavery and Revealing the “Lost Cause”
    While slavery was not the only cause for which the South fought during the Civil War, the testimony of Confederate leaders and their supporters makes it clear that slavery was central to the motivation for secession and war.
    By James Oliver Horton, Professor Emeritus, George Washington University

    One of the most sensitive and controversial issues that any Civil War site interpreter will confront is the role of slavery in the South’s decision to secede from and take up arms against the United States. Although an argument that slavery played an important role in the coming of the Civil War would raise few eyebrows among academic scholars, for public historians faced with a popular audience unfamiliar with the latest scholarship on the subject such an assertion can be very controversial. Whenever I speak to groups about the Civil War, I am reminded that slavery and the war are often separated in the public mind.

    As historian James McPherson explained in a recent article, it is especially difficult for southern whites “to admit – that the noble Cause for which their ancestors fought might have included the defense of slavery.” Yet, the best historical scholars over the last generation or more have argued convincingly for the centrality of slavery among the causes of the Civil War. The evidence for such arguments provided in the letters, speeches, and articles written by those who established and supported the Confederacy is overwhelming and difficult to deny. While slavery was not the only cause for which the South fought during the Civil War, the testimony of Confederate leaders and their supporters makes it clear that slavery was central to the motivation for secession and war. When southern whites in the 19th century spoke of the “southern way of life,” they referred to a way of life founded on white supremacy and supported by the institution of slavery.

    South Carolina led the way when its Charleston convention, held just before Christmas in 1860, declared that the “Union heretofore existing between the State of South Carolina and the other States of North America is dissolved … ” The reason for the drastic action, South Carolina delegates explained in their “Declaration of the Causes which Induced the Secession of South Carolina,” was what they termed a broken compact between the federal government and “the slaveholding states.” It was the actions of what delegates referred to as “the non-slaveholding states” who refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that was the specific example used as evidence for this argument. “In many of these States the fugitive [slave] is discharged from the service of labor claimed,…. [and] in the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied …. ” The delegation made clear that the election of Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1860 as “President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to Slavery” was the final straw. In the South Carolinian mind the coming of Republican political power signaled, in the words of the convention, “that a war [would] be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.”

    The editors at the Charleston Mercury agreed. They had anticipated the threat that a Republican victory would pose when in early November they warned South Carolinians and the entire South that “[t]he issue before the country is the extinction of slavery.” “No man of common sense, who has observed the progress of events, and is not prepared to surrender the institution,” they charged, “can doubt that the time for action has come-now or never.” The newspaper editors, like most southerners, saw Lincoln’s election as lifting abolitionists to power, and like most southerners they understood, as they plainly stated, that “[t]he existence of slavery is at stake.” They called for a convention to consider secession because they saw such action as the only way to protect slavery. When the South Carolina convention did meet little more than a month later, it dealt almost entirely with issues related directly to slavery. It did not complain about tariff rates, competing economic systems or mistreatment at the hands of northern industrialists. The South was not leaving the United States because of the power of northern economic elites who in reality, as historian Bruce Levine observed, “feared alienating the slave owners more than they disliked slavery.” The secession of South Carolina, approved by the convention 169 votes to none, was about the preservation of slavery.

  10. Elaine M. says:

    Time to dispel longstanding myths of the Civil War

    One hundred and fifty years ago this week, General Ulysses Grant and General Robert E. Lee met at a small courthouse in the Virginia town of Appomattox to end the bloodiest conflict in American history.

    Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was bloodied and battered under the near-constant torrent of attacks from the Army of the Potomac, under Grant’s command. Lee’s surrender represented the ignominious end of the Confederate rebellion and a “cause” that Grant would later call “one of the worst for which a people ever fought.”

    Yet in the decades that followed, the reputations of both men, as well as the “lost cause” of the Confederacy traveled in very different directions. First, came the myth that the war about state’s rights – a myth so pervasive that in 2011, a Pew Research poll found that 48 percent of Americans believe it was the chief reason for the war. The reality, of course, is that the war was about the Southern desire to keep black people in bondage. Period.

    Other myths would follow, and few more wrong-headed than the ones surrounding Lee and Grant.

    Lee came to be seen as brilliant tactician and gentleman soldier who had fought for the South out of loyalty to his beloved home state of Virginia. Grant was the gruff, heavy drinking “butcher” who had thrown away countless Union lives in bloody frontal assaults against Confederate muskets. It fed the notion that the North’s victory was the result of overwhelming resources rather than strategic acumen.

    The reality is, however, quite different. Not only was Grant a brilliant military strategist, but Lee, while a superb battlefield tactician, was a general whose flaws were as great as his talents and whose decisions helped ensure a Confederate defeat.

    For most Americans, the Civil War’s most famous battle came at Gettysburg. But the capture of Vicksburg by Grant, which happened at virtually the same moment, was in some ways more important. Vicksburg was the last Southern holdout overlooking the Mississippi River. When its force surrendered on July 4, 1863, it split the Confederacy in half and gave the Union control of the nation’s most vital waterway. Its capture was due largely to the brilliance of Grant who surreptitiously ferried his forces across the river — and a series of feints — was able to attack the Southern redoubt from the rear.

    Vicksburg demonstrated Grant’s guile, his use of movement and speed and his willingness to confront the enemy (an attribute lacking in many Union generals).

  11. bron98 says:


    I don’t know many conservatives to think the Civil War was about states rights.

  12. I. Annie says:

    SWM, that state senator sounds like a fundamentalist preacher. What is he doing in the statehouse? He’s in the wrong field.

  13. Elaine M. says:

    Why the Confederacy Lives
    One hundred-fifty years after Appomattox, many Southerners still won’t give up.
    April 08, 2015

    So what makes this Confederate politics so attractive? To adherents, today’s Confederate ideology exposes falsehoods in mainstream accounts of U.S. history and offers to reveal “the truth,” which has supposedly been suppressed by “East Coast elites” and “liberal academics” pandering to ethnic minority pressure. According to this narrative, the Civil War was not fought over slavery but rather because the Union and President Abraham Lincoln acted without regard for the Constitution to accumulate power. Confederate sympathy offers an ideology that explains why life in America is not what one expected it to be, why Spanish is increasingly heard in towns across the country, why despite working hard one never seems to get ahead, why African Americans have recently occupied highly visible leadership positions as attorney general, secretary of state and, of course, president. It is a politics of victimization, a sentiment that political correctness and anti-discrimination laws constrain right-thinking and hard-working people, and that for 150 years America has strayed from its preordained and righteous path.

    Beginning in the 1890s, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the United Confederate Veterans and, since the start of the 20th century, the SCV have sought to keep the Confederate flame burning and flag flying. These organizations and others have promoted pro-Confederate histories, influenced school textbooks, hosted lectures and acted as tour guides, staffed and funded both public and private museums that celebrate the Confederacy, installed statues and Confederate flags along interstates, and overseen numerous other public displays of homage to the slave-holding Confederacy.

    Nor is such veneration confined to the former Confederate states.

    In April 2008, the SCV opened Jefferson Davis Park in Ridgefield, Washington, between Seattle and Portland, flying Confederate flags within sight of Interstate-5. Central to these efforts is a mission to recast the meaning of the Confederacy as a rebellion to save the United States, not to save slavery. This enables the Confederacy to be characterized as remaining true to America’s origins (unlike the United States since 1865, which has allegedly strayed from its foundational principles) and Confederate supporters, therefore, to be the most authentically American members of the population.

  14. mespo727272 says:

    Mike S:

    “Why was it important to mention that he was Jewish?”

    It was important to show that Ezekiel was not a part of the affluent, Episcopalian gentry that dominated the “Lost Cause” movement. Ezekiel was no member of the ruling class, growing up poor in the worst section on antebellum Richmond. Obviously, neither he nor his family owned slaves. He’s as good a sample as we have of a truly thoughtful man’s perspective on how he fought and why.

    Many Jews fought for the Confederacy (over 10,000) and few had slaves. Would would motivate a perpetually oppressed population to support oppression of others. Answer: Nothing would. It was done from a sense of patriotism for many people.

    There is no doubt slavery was a precipitating cause for the war, but supported by every passage Elaine cuts and pastes it was not the only reason for a lot of soldiers like Moses Ezekial.

  15. mespo727272 says:

    Mike S:

    “Why was it important to mention that he was Jewish? ”

    I pointed out Ezkiel’s affiliation to show he was not part of the landed, Episcopalian gentry that dominated the “Lost Cause” movement. He’s as pristine an example as we have of a learned thoughtful person who felt compelled to fight for the South from a sense of duty rather than ruthless economics. Born poor and raised in Richmond’s poorest antebellum neighborhood, he felt direct discrimination as many others ethnics did. What could compel him to support another oppressive system? Answer: nothing could. He supported his state. What many northern folks completely miss about the Southern psyche is the role duty and pride and honor play in their collective consciousness. In every story Elaine cuts and pastes, the point is made that slavery was not the only reason men took up arms against their nation. What they fail to say is the other reason. A sense of pride in their state which pushed many honorable people like Lee (who was offered command of the US Army by Abraham Lincoln) to refuse to turn their back on family and neighbors.

  16. mespo727272 says:

    Btw, Elaine the Cohen article is pure claptrap. To suggest Lee was not a brilliant tactician (whose maneuvers are still studied today) is to place oneself so far out of the mainstream as to be on the river bank. Most military historians regard the Battle of Chancellorsville as the “perfect battle.”

  17. Elaine M. says:

    “What many northern folks completely miss about the Southern psyche is the role duty and pride and honor play in their collective consciousness.”

    We northern folk know nothing of duty and honor. We’re just a bunch of arrogant liberals. Fortunately, we aren’t too proud to acknowledge the truth of our history.

  18. mespo727272 says:

    Northerners tend to know about duty and honor, they just think they have a monopoly on the virtues. Southerners acknowledge their history, they just won’t acknowledge folks telling them they can read their minds. To tell someone they know more about their motivation than they do is the very definition of arrogance. That’s not a liberal-conservative thing; that’s a bad manners thing.

  19. Elaine M. says:

    Dispelling the myth of Robert E. Lee

    It has taken a while, but it’s about time Robert E. Lee lost the Civil War. The South, of course, was defeated on the battlefield in 1865, yet the Lee legend — swaddled in myth, kitsch and racism — has endured even past the civil rights era when it became both urgent and right to finally tell the “Lost Cause” to get lost. Now it should be Lee’s turn. He was loyal to slavery and disloyal to his country — not worthy, even he might now admit, of the honors accorded him.

    I confess to always being puzzled by the cult of Lee. Whatever his personal or military virtues, he offered himself and his sword to the cause of slavery. He owned slaves himself and fought tenaciously in the courts to keep them. He commanded a vast army that, had it won, would have secured the independence of a nation dedicated to the proposition that white people could own black people and sell them off, husband from wife, child from parent, as the owner saw fit. Such a man cannot be admired.

    But he is. All over the South, particularly in his native Virginia, the cult of Lee is manifested in streets, highways and schools named for him. When I first moved to the Washington area, I used to marvel at these homages to the man. What was being honored? Slavery? Treason? Or maybe, for this is how I perceive him, no sense of humor? (Often, that is mistaken for wisdom.) I also wondered what a black person was supposed to think or, maybe more to the point, feel. Chagrin or rage would be perfectly appropriate.

    Still, even I was not immune to the cult of Lee. I kept thinking I must be missing something. I imagined all sorts of virtues in his face. He is always dignified in all those photos of him, dour, a perfect pill of a man yet somehow adored by his men. They cheered him when he left Appomattox Court House, having just surrendered to the far more admirable U.S. Grant. They shouted, Hooray for Lee! Hooray for what?

    Now comes Elizabeth Brown Pryor, author of “Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters” who in an essay for the New York Times gives us a Lee who is at odds with the one of gauzy myth. He was not, as I once thought, the creature of crushing social and political pressure who had little choice but to pick his state over his country. In fact, various members of his own family stuck with the Union.

    “When Lee consulted his brothers, sister and local clergymen, he found that most leaned toward the Union,” Pryor wrote. “At a grim dinner with two close cousins, Lee was told that they also intended to uphold their military oaths. . . . Sister Anne Lee Marshall unhesitatingly chose the Northern side, and her son outfitted himself in blue uniform.” Pryor says that about 40 percent of Virginia officers “would remain with the Union forces.”

    After the war, the South embraced a mythology of victimhood. An important feature was the assertion that the war had been not about slavery at all but about state’s rights. The secessionists themselves were not so shy. In their various declarations, they announced they were leaving the Union to preserve slavery. Lee not only accepted the Lost Cause myth, he propagated it and came to embody it.

  20. Elaine M. says:

    Robert E. Lee owned slaves, and other facts on the Civil War general

    The facts are muddled, but the sentiment is one that’s been around for a while. Information about Lee’s life was edited to cast him in a favorable light, beginning immediately after his death — even in the North.

    In an article about Lee and his legacy, Smithsonian Magazine cited Frederick Douglass, the runaway slave turned writer and abolitionist.

    “We can scarcely take up a newspaper … that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem … that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven,” Douglass said.

    The facts show Lee to have been a complex man, but a man of his time nonetheless and certainly not one above self interest.

    In a famous letter to his wife, Lee wrote that “slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any country.”

    Viewed in isolation, that seems like a pretty firm condemnation. However, in the same letter, he said that slavery was worse for white people than it was for black people and that it was necessary for black people to endure slavery, for now anyways, so that they might be civilized.

    “The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race… How long their subjugation may be necessary is known and ordered by a wise Merciful Providence,” Lee wrote.

  21. Elaine M. says:

    mespo727272 says:
    July 6, 2015 at 7:21 pm
    Northerners tend to know about duty and honor, they just think they have a monopoly on the virtues. Southerners acknowledge their history, they just won’t acknowledge folks telling them they can read their minds. To tell someone they know more about their motivation than they do is the very definition of arrogance. That’s not a liberal-conservative thing; that’s a bad manners thing.



    All Northerners are not alike. We do not all think alike. I assume that the same is true of Southerners. I don’t think that someone like Dylan Roof is representative of the residents of South Carolina. I also don’t presume to think that I can read the minds of Southerners. You say that we Northerners think we have a monopoly on virtue. That’s quite a generalization. I guess you can read the minds of us arrogant northern liberals, huh?

  22. Elaine M. says:

    The Unlikely Paths of Grant and Lee
    The two men met at Appomattox. The loser would become a role model, the victor an embarrassment.

    To millions of Americans, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, Lee is a role model and Grant is—despite his gifted generalship and consequential presidency—an embarrassment. What happened? How did the hero of the war become a quasi-ignominious figure, and how did the champion of Southern slavery become, if not the war’s hero, its most popular figure?

    The answer begins with Reconstruction. As best as possible, President Grant was a firm leader of Reconstruction America. Faced with the titanic challenge of integrating freedmen into American politics, he attacked the problem with characteristic clarity and flexibility. He proposed civil rights legislation (and would be the last president to do so until Dwight D. Eisenhower, nearly a century later) and deployed troops to hot spots across the South, to defend black Americans from white supremacist violence.* And while there were failures—at times he was too passive in the face of white violence, too paralyzed by petty politics—there were real victories too. After Congress passed the Enforcement Acts—criminal codes that protected blacks’ 14th and 15th Amendment rights to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and receive equal protection of laws—Grant authorized federal troops to confront the Ku Klux Klan and other groups of anti-black terrorists. Declaring them “insurgents … in rebellion against the authority of the United States,” Grant and his subordinates—most notably Attorney General Amos Ackerman and the newly formed Department of Justice—broke the Klan and restored some peace to the Republican South.

    In using federal power to prosecute white supremacists and support Reconstruction governments, Grant had tied his fortunes to those of freedmen and their allies. They were grateful. Grant won re-election in 1872 with the vast backing of black voters in the South, as well as former Union soldiers in the North. Appalled by his use of force in the South, his enemies dogged him as an enemy of liberty. Indeed, for as much as scandal plagued his administration, it’s also true that many cries of corruption came from angry and aggrieved Democrats, who attacked military intervention in the South as “corrupt” and “unjust.” Opponents in the North and South reviled Grant as a “tyrant” who imposed so-called “black domination” on an innocent South.

    Grant wasn’t blind to his critics, and he devoted his presidency and post-presidency to defending both his record as general and the aims of the war he won. “While I would do nothing to revive unhappy memories in the South,” he once declared, “I do not like to see our soldiers apologize for the war.”

    Facing him was a phalanx of Southern sympathizers and former Confederates, from ex-president Jefferson Davis to polemical writers like Edward Pollard, who would give the name “Lost Cause” to the movement to redeem and defend the former Confederacy. Born out of grief and furthered by a generation of organizations (like United Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy), proponents of the Lost Cause would wage a battle for the nation’s memory of the war. To them it was not a rebellion or a fight for slavery; it was a noble battle for constitutional ideals. As Davis put it in his two-volume memoir and defense of the Southern cause, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, slavery “was in no wise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident,” and the South was fighting against “unlimited, despotic power” of the federal government and its “tremendous and sweeping usurpation” of states’ rights.

    Which brings us to Lee, who—in his surrender at Appomattox—gave raw materials to the Lost Cause. “After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources,” wrote Lee in his farewell address. “You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection.”

    Not only would this order help cement Lee as a Southern icon—as historian David Blight writes in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, Lost Cause advocates would canonize Lee as a “blameless Christian soldier, a paragon of manly virtue and duty who soared above politics”—but it would fuel other narratives: that the nation should honor Southern bravery, that the Union’s victory was one of numerical superiority and not tactical skill (it’s in this that we see the claim that Grant was a “butcher” of men, despite all evidence to the contrary), that Reconstruction was a disaster of federal overreach, and that white supremacy was the proper order of things in the United States. And in at least the case of Southern bravery, Lost Causers would find help from Grant, who admired Lee and the soldiers he led. “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse,” Grant wrote in an oft-quoted passage of his memoirs. “I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

  23. mespo727272 says:

    I appreciate a good two step, Elaine. Thanks for disavowing the generalizations and the one-sided (in some cases unlettered) articles you’ve shared thus far. Thankfully most Northerners don’t think like you as most polling has shown.

  24. mespo727272 says:

    Here’s that traitor, Robert E. Lee, explaining what it means to be an American:

    “Madam, don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.”

    ~ Robert E. Lee, Advice to a Confederate widow who expressed animosity towards the northern U.S. after the end of the American Civil War, as quoted in The Life and Campaigns of General Lee (1875) by Edward Lee Childe, p. 331.

    Obviously, nothing to admire there, Mr. Cohen.

  25. Elaine M. says:


    “Thankfully most Northerners don’t think like you as most polling has shown.”

    I see you have changed your mind about Northerners. So…you no longer believe that the following comment–which you wrote in earlier on this thread–is true of most Northerners???

    “Northerners tend to know about duty and honor, they just think they have a monopoly on the virtues. Southerners acknowledge their history, they just won’t acknowledge folks telling them they can read their minds. To tell someone they know more about their motivation than they do is the very definition of arrogance. That’s not a liberal-conservative thing; that’s a bad manners thing.”

    Am I one of the only Northerner that you now think that that comment applies to?

  26. mespo727272 says:

    No, I haven’t changed my mind about northern arrogance, and I think many northerners consider the typical southerner as some dull-witted, yokel driving some jacked-up pickup truck. And they are right about a minority but just a minority. However, most northerners are enlightened enough to see that the world has more shades than just black and white.

    There is one at least one northerner who suffers no silly criticisms about Lee’s place in history and he knew a thing or two about military tactics: “Robert E. Lee is the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.” That man was President Theodore Roosevelt.

  27. If this keeps up, I’m going to start hearing banjo music. 😛 :mrgreen:

  28. Elaine M. says:

    No, I haven’t changed my mind about northern arrogance, and I think many northerners consider the typical southerner as some dull-witted, yokel driving some jacked-up pickup truck. And they are right about a minority but just a minority. However, most northerners are enlightened enough to see that the world has more shades than just black and white.


    I guess there are Southerners like you who assume that most Northerners are arrogant–just as there are some Northerners who consider the “typical southerner” to be some dull-witted, yokel driving some jacked-up pickup truck.” I guess there are people on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line who have preconceived ideas about the folks who live on the “other” side.

  29. swarthmoremom says: “Five million public school students in Texas will begin using new social studies textbooks this fall based on state academic standards that barely address racial segregation. The state’s guidelines for teaching American history also do not mention the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws.

    And when it comes to the Civil War, children are supposed to learn that the conflict was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” — written deliberately in that order to telegraph slavery’s secondary role in driving the conflict, according to some members of the state board of education.

    Slavery was a “side issue to the Civil War,” said Pat Hardy, a Republican board member, when the board adopted the standards in 2010. “There would be those who would say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was over states’ rights.” “

  30. Ok Gene you asked for it:

  31. From the album White Mansions. Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter.

  32. po says:

    Fantastic piece, Elaine! Very comprehensive.

    I do think that the disconnect between the two sides, as evidenced by Mespo’s reaction is that the southerners speak individually when they say that the war was not about slavery. They may mean that their own lineage, their own ancestors did not fight for slavery, just as most US military people did not go to Iraq in order to do the conscious bidding of the military industrial complex. They were actors fighting to implement a narrative that was sold to them, but rather than saying that their own ancestors did not fight to hold on to slavery (which is an impossible claim to support), they must make the whole of the war a worthy cause in order to redeem the individual.

    However, those who are not emotionally engaged in this issue see it for what it is, that the South fought to keep owning slaves, just as we know that the Iraq war was not to export democracy.
    Even now, most Us soldiers refuse to acknowledge that the Iraq war was a wrong war, and will remain entrenched in the state of mind that was justificative of their choice to kill and be killed (just as Jeb Bush refuses to acknowledge same.)

    Now if we see how important slavery was to the economy of the US, and especially to the South, and how ending slavery would impact that economy and therefore the pockets of the main political and social personalities of the South, to think that they would just lay down and take it would seem to counter the most natural human reaction.
    Obviously, the moment they decided to counter the aim to end slavery, they had to come up with a cause that would ensure that those doing the fighting would range at their sides. Since most of the foot soldiers did not own slaves, the cause had to be else and greater than slavery, and what is greater than patriotism?

    At the end of the day, the Iraq war was about gaining profits, and the civil war was about protecting profits.

  33. swarthmoremom says:

  34. po says:

    I must say, Smom, that feud about the south has given us two of the best rock songs I have heard, yep, Southern Man and …. yes

  35. Elaine M. says:

    How the South Rewrote History
    The Civil War is the only conflict in history after which the losers were allowed to write the history.

    Editor’s Note: In Chuck Thompson’s book, “Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession,” he examined the idea that the South really was different from the rest of the country, with lagging social indicators and more conservative values. Much of that is tied to its historical self-image as a “country within a country,” and fueled by the “Lost Cause” idea after its loss in the Civil War. Still, for many Southerners, the Confederacy is a source of pride, even if they don’t quite twig to the racist undergirding of the that idea. In this excerpt from his book, Thompson argues that not only is it impossible to support the idea of the Confederacy without supporting the idea of armed insurrection and the enslavement of an entire people, but it will be impossible for the United States to truly reconcile the two sides until Southerners come to grips with what their belief implies. Unlike the growing recognition of the genocide against Native Americans and the full-on admission of guilt in the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the third great racial shame of America has yet to be fully faced up to. Maybe Dylann Roof’s racist-fueled massacre in Charleston, S.C., last week will finally force that reckoning.

    Civil War markers and various other monuments to white supremacists litter the South. Excepting Stone Mountain, Georgia, the most pompously defiant of these is located 75 miles northwest of Columbia in Abbeville, South Carolina. Walking past the granite obelisk dedicated to Confederate soldiery in Abbeville’s historic town square, the casual visitor would likely not notice anything special. The gray monument looks like any of countless similar statuary in the centers of cities and towns throughout the South.

    Take the trouble to read the carved inscriptions, however, and along with the usual odes to the bravery and valor of the Confederacy’s battle dead, you’ll find this blatantly treasonous declaration: “The world shall yet decide, in truth’s clear far-off light, that the soldiers who wore the gray and died with Lee were right.”

    Unbelievable. Imagine statues of SS soldiers inscribed with quotes from Mein Kampf in every little town in Germany. The Civil War is the only conflict in history after which the losers were allowed to write the history.

    I read the astonishing assertion for a second time, noting that the monument was erected not in the emotional aftermath of war in 1865, but in 1906 and then, in a ceremony replacing the original with a new one in 1996. Two nicely dressed women in their sixties wander by and nod hello.

    “The world shall yet decide in truth’s clear far off light, that the soldiers who wore the gray and died with Lee were right.” Not that the soldiers were patriotic. Or courageous. Or true to some ill-begotten sense of duty. They were right. The only possible interpretation of this statement is that the cause for which the South fought—dissolution of the United States in order that the South might preserve slavery and, thus, the economic underpinnings and political clout of its privileged business class—was a morally righteous mission.

    And, by the way, if you don’t already know that slavery was the fundamental issue over which the South ripped the nation asunder, spend an hour with a slim volume by native southerner Charles B. Dew called Apostles of Disunion. Reviewing in 103 pages the major speeches and documents used by southern commissioners to argue the case for secession, Dew presents all the proof a sixth-grader would need to conclude that to southern whites states’ rights were a lot less important than the rights of southern states’ whites.

    Go ahead, read that again. It makes sense.

    It wasn’t until several months after my discovery of the Abbeville monument that I came to fully appreciate how completely its inscription distills the straightjacket of southern political orthodoxy that binds progress in the “country within a country.”

  36. Elaine M. says:

    The Civil War did not end at Appomattox

    Yet the brutality aimed at black Americans did not stop. In 1877, with conservative Northern politicians renouncing the military occupation, the last federal troops finally were brought home. White Southerners had already been busy stripping black citizens of the rights that had been won in bloody battle. With the soldiers gone, blacks were disenfranchised, segregated, violently intimidated, murdered with impunity and, through the sharecropper system, pushed down into an economic servitude that was only marginally better than slavery.

    In the post-Reconstruction period, Southern historians got hold of the Civil War narrative. It became the War Between the States, a noble battle among brothers with a moral equivalence between the two sides of the dispute. It was about states’ rights, not slavery. It was Northern economic power bearing down on the genteel Southern way of life. Reconstruction was portrayed as a villainous usurpation of rights and property. President Grant, who actively defended black citizens by using the military to suppress the KKK, was grossly maligned as an ineffectual drunk. By the time “Gone With the Wind” was released in 1939 with its sympathetic portrayal of the old South, reactionary Southerners had not only won the narrative, they could rightly claim to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

    Not until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s and the return of federal troops to protect black children entering integrated schools, freedom riders traveling between bus stations and marchers heading from Selma to Montgomery did the tide of battle turn. It was the victories of the nonviolent activists of that era, backed by federal power, that finally brought down the entrenched institutions erected by the heirs of the Confederacy. When King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, it truly was a last evil gasp of a defeated cause.

    If we take anything away from the 150-year anniversary commemorations of the Civil War that have just concluded, it is that history is not set in stone. History is molded and distorted by politics. To now get the record straight, we should move forward to commemorate the events of Reconstruction, an era when racist forces maintained a rebellion against the federal government and the Constitution, finally regaining an oppressive monopoly on power in the South that lasted for an additional 100 years.

  37. mespo727272 says:

    Elaine M:

    Anxiously awaiting all of your excerpts detailing racial and ethnic discrimination in the northern states during the era in question. Discrimination that was every bit as widespread and pernicious. You wouldn’t want to be perceived as prejudiced in your views would you?

  38. mespo727272 says:

    Here, Elaine, I’lll get you started:

    Slavery and racism were not southern phenomena but national ones; incorporating free blacks into the national story thus complicates considerably popular narratives of American history predicated on the triumphalism of Northern free market values.
    How do we contend with the paradox of a North that provided for the destruction of slavery after the American Revolution, but continued to deny blacks the basic rights of citizenship and in fact pioneered forms of segregation later used in the South after Reconstruction? How does our view of the coming of the Civil War change when we consider a long tradition of Northern black activists arguing as much against Northern prejudice as against Southern slavery?

    ~ Professor Patrick Rael, Bowdoin College

    If true, that would make northern white populations as guilty as southerners and thus cement them as racists with a heritage of discrimination every bit as bad as the South’s. Thus symbols of that heritage are inherently offensive to some and shouldn’t be displayed on government buildings. Where will we hide all those “Old Glorys” now?

    “When you point the accusing finger remember three others are pointing right back at you.”
    ~ Gerry Spence.

  39. Elaine M. says:


    I never denied that there was racism in the north, did I? In fact, I responded to AY about it on another thread:

    Elaine M. says:
    July 2, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    No one has claimed that racism doesn’t exist in the North. I remember well what happened in the 1970s during the days of forced busing in Boston. The thing is that we are ashamed and not proud of those days. While it is important to remember what happened, we choose not to celebrate/commemorate that time in the history of the “Athens of America.” It is not a heritage to be proud of.

  40. mespo727272 says:

    You never denied it, you just never mentioned it. Shall we start striking the Stars & Stripes, too?

  41. Elaine M. says:


    The subject of this post is about how the South lost the war but won the the narrative. If you are unhappy with my post and feel that the issue of racism in the North needs to be addressed, why not write your own post on the subject instead of trying to derail the discussion on the topic of this one? You are a contributor to this blog. You are free to write a post on any subject of your choosing.

  42. Mike Spindell says:

    “You never denied it, you just never mentioned it. Shall we start striking the Stars & Stripes, too?”


    Simply enter “racism”, or “Black Americans” into or search function and you can find a plethora of posts by both Elaine and me on the subject. You will find me stating categorically for instance, that America is a racist country, always has been and providing ample support for that belief. Are you maintaining that one is unable to write a post about Southern history without the qualification that the rest of the country was just as bad? Well in one respect it wasn’t, slavery, Jim Crow enforced under color of law and denial of the right to vote, give a uniquely grisly flavor to Southern Heritage. Sadly, until the “South” honestly comes to terms with that truth, not assertion, this country as a whole will never move beyond the issue of race. “Heritage”, no matter how nostalgically viewed is a euphemism for the terrible reality of depravity and ultimately treason in the name of that depravity.

  43. mespo727272 says:

    Mike S:
    I’m simply maintaining that if you want to decry the battle flag as a symbol of racism you have decry the Stars & Stripes, too. I then go back to my premise that this is a slippery slope whose bottom is censorship of all symbols — exactly AY’s point.

    • Thus again illustrating the inherent problems with communications in the mode of abstract symbolism.

      • Mike Spindell says:

        Just for the record I’m not in favor of the fetishizing flags anywhere and I think the pledge of allegiance is un-American. Yet I don’t want to censor that either.

        • Symbolism is tricky. It’s an unstable way to communicate compared to even symbolic written language. I remember long ago reading a short SF story in some illustrated magazine where symbols were used to effect mind control on large groups of people. I think the title of the story was “Kults” but it was so long ago, I can’t be sure.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      Specifically where have I called for any censorship? Another straw man due to your inabilty to respond to what my position is and my position didn’t call for sensoring anything. Perhaps though you think I don’t have a right to express my opinion.

  44. mespo727272 says:

    Elaine M:

    Not unhappy with it, just drawing the logical conclusion that attacks on history are circular firing squads.

  45. Elaine M. says:


    This post isn’t about the battle flag…or censorship.

    So…we should never question the history that we have been taught? Never delve deeper into the past? When I was in parochial school, I didn’t get a full accounting of everything that had happened under the auspices of the Catholic church. I guess I should have stopped reading critical accounts of what the Catholic church has done…what our country has done. Let’s just sugarcoat history and ignore the injustices and atrocities that have been committed in the past. Move along. Nothing to see here.

    Looks as if Texas teachers are going to be teaching American history that will be politically correct in the Lone Star State. Might as well teach the past the way people would have liked it to be.

  46. swarthmoremom says:

    The House has voted to ban the display of Confederate flags at historic federal cemeteries in the deep South.

    The low-profile move came late Tuesday after a brief debate on a measure funding the National Park Service, which maintains 14 national cemeteries, most of which contain graves of Civil War soldiers.

    The proposal by California Democrat Jared Huffman would block the Park Service from allowing private groups from decorating the graves of southern soldiers with Confederate flags in states that commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. The cemeteries affected are the Andersonville and Vicksburg cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi.

    Pressure has mounted to ban display of the flag on state and federal property in the wake of last month’s tragic murders at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.”

  47. Bob Kauten says:

    Any adult, if informed that a flag he/she is flying, offends and intimidates millions of fellow citizens, and is being used by hate groups to accomplish that end, would just immediately take the damned thing down.
    There are no mitigating circumstances. What’s there to argue about?
    You’re not adults? You don’t accept responsibility for your actions? Sympathy for the hate groups?
    Don’t give me weasly shit about that’s not what it means. You know exactly what it means.
    That this even needs to be mentioned is symptomatic of the deep mental illness pervasive in the former slave states.

  48. mespo727272 says:

    Bob Kauten:

    “Any adult, if informed that a flag he/she is flying, offends and intimidates millions of fellow citizens, and is being used by hate groups to accomplish that end, would just immediately take the damned thing down.”
    Hezbollah and Isis hate the Star & Stripes and think it intimidates them. They also think we hate them. We’re all citizens of the world, no? When do we take that flag down?

    Your rights don’t depend on a popularity poll.

  49. mespo727272 says:

    Mike S:

    I never said you called for censorship. I said attacking symbols of history is a slippery slope leading to censorship.

  50. mespo727272 says:


    “The proposal by California Democrat Jared Huffman would block the Park Service from allowing private groups from decorating the graves of southern soldiers with Confederate flags in states that commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. The cemeteries affected are the Andersonville and Vicksburg cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi.”


    And we’d call that … drum roll … Government censorship of the speech of private groups. That’s what happens when you vilify any group of people based not on their conduct but the conduct of their ancestors. Attacking history always results in attacking those who commemorate it.

  51. By the way, mespo, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the actions of your ancestors in Britain, but since mine did force Hadrian to build a wall, I guess we’ll call it even. :mrgreen:

  52. Bob Kauten says:

    Go ahead, take the flag down.
    And, by the way, this is a discussion of the confederate treason flag, not the U.S. flag. If you’d like to discuss taking down the U.S. flag, start another thread.
    Nice try, though. Well, not really.
    Try to focus on the topic, follow the conversation, OK?
    Are African American citizens in the U.S. actually ISIS and Hezbollah? See how stupid that is? I don’t actually give a shit what ISIS and Hezbollah are doing. I’m dealing with matters in this country.
    Don’t insult our intelligence by thinking that you can divert the topic.
    We’re a bit beyond second-grade, here.
    I didn’t mention anything about rights, I mentioned considerations of what an actual adult would do. You have the right to lie on your back and scream and kick the floor. You have the right, in some benighted jurisdictions, to open-carry. An adult wouldn’t do either.
    Did you have something intelligent to say about displaying the treason flag of the confederacy, or are you just treading water?
    So which reason do you have for not taking down that obscene, hateful flag?

  53. mespo727272 says:

    Lest we ever think the decision to remove the battle flag was a rational one, here’s the emotional speech by SC rep Jenny Horne demanding removal. Heritage, smeritage, reason has nothing to do with her vote:

    His truth is marching on! Oh, brother.

  54. mespo727272 says:


    “You have the right to lie on your back and scream and kick the floor.”


    Judging by some of your over-the-top comments that’s a right you relish.

  55. Elaine M. says:—-and-a-traitor_b_7640654.html

    In America today, the most prominent, prevalent and pernicious of these revisionist movements is the Lost Cause narrative: the idea that the Civil War was a romantic struggle for freedom against an oppressive government trying to enforce cultural change. There are scores of books on this topic, and you should check those out at your local library. But probably the most famous popular culture Lost Cause text is Gone With The Wind (both book and movie).

    I hate Gone With the Wind. I hate everything about it. I hate its portrayal of the Civil War. I hate its portrayal of Southern aristocrats. I hate its popularity. I hate that it’s become an iconic movie. I hate that it was ever made in the first place.

    Gone With the Wind is Birth of a Nation with less horses. The movie, and its position among the American cinematic pantheon, has done more to further the ahistoric Lost Cause bullshit than any other single production. Because that’s the fundamental problem with the Lost Cause narrative: it’s not true.

    Let’s go one-by-one through some typical Lost Cause-tinged revisionist talking points:

    The Civil War was about economics, not slavery!

    Yes, the Civil War was about the economics of slavery.

    The Civil War was about states’ rights, not slavery!

    Yes, the Civil War was about the states’ right to maintain slavery.

    That’s not the Confederate flag!

    True, it’s the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which actually makes your usage even worse. It’s the banner under which men fought and died to enact secession.
    Heritage not hate!

    Funny story: The heritage is hate. This is my favorite talking point because it sets up a false dichotomy and then tries to pretend “heritage” is a signifier for some romantic, noble culture just waiting to be recaptured. When Lindsay Graham says things like, “The flag represents to some people a civil war, and that was the symbol of one side. To others it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people, it’s been used in a racist way,” he makes a mockery of the history. Yes, Senator, it does represent one side of the Civil War: the side that advocated slavery and secession. It’s the flag of treason.

    The savagery of slavery is offensive enough to justify any level of outrage. The disgusting post-war history of the Ku Klux Klan is offensive enough to justify any level of outrage. But what might be the most absurd part of this neo-Confederate “heritage” romanticism is that its advocates are simply glorifying treason.

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