“Fold it up and put it away.”
April 9, 2015 2:05 PM   Subscribe

The Civil War Isn't Over: [The Atlantic]
"Americans often begin conversations about equality with Thomas Jefferson’s invocation of it as one of the four first principles in the Declaration of Independence. Americans like being “first” with ideas. But as Abraham Lincoln reminded us, more than four-score years later, the nation founded in a revolution against monarchy had to fight a second revolution against itself in order to determine whether the “proposition” of “equality” had a future in any republic. And that second revolution—the Civil War—was so bloody, so devastating, a “result so fundamental and astounding,” as Lincoln put it, that ever since, Americans of all backgrounds have yearned to declare, or at least feel, its deepest issues over and resolved. Americans may love the epic story of their Civil War, but would, by and large, prefer its nightmarish causes and consequences to fall quiet, to rest in peace."
posted by Fizz (61 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
funny, I was just reading this nakedly partisan piece in the Times, and also this man-on-the-scene bit.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


funny, I was just reading this nakedly partisan piece in the Times

Why wouldn't it be partisan? New York wasn't exactly known as a Confederate stronghold.
posted by item at 2:25 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


See also New Republic's Make the Confederacy's Defeat a National Holiday.
posted by zabuni at 2:27 PM on April 9, 2015 [24 favorites]


This is a good piece. I thought the description of the violence that persisted as Reconstruction went on was striking:
The white counter-revolution and its uses of terror reversed the Clauswitzian doctrine: In America, too much of the political process of Reconstruction became war by other means. By whippings, rapes, the burning of houses, schools and churches, the violent disruption or intimidation of local Republican party meetings, and hundreds of murders and lynchings over a period of less than a decade the Klan and its minions (called variously “Red Shirts” or “white leaguers” and many other names) sought to win back as much of a status quo antebellum as they could achieve. Their victims were teachers, black students, white and black politicians, and uncounted numbers of freedmen and their families who participated in politics or gained some economic autonomy. The record of Reconstruction violence has been clinically detailed, but it is a piece of history that most Americans still prefer to avoid.

Blacks had become voters, office holders, and landowners in Colfax in the Red River district of Louisiana by April 1873 when a white mob massacred perhaps 100 freedmen, many slain execution-style. At least 10 percent of the black members of constitutional conventions in the South in 1867-68 were victims of violence, including seven who were murdered. In Greene County, Alabama in 1870, attackers killed four and wounded fifty-four; that same year in Laurens County, South Carolina, after Republicans won a local election, some 150 blacks were chased from their homes and thirteen murdered. In South Carolina alone, from the fall elections of 1870 to April 1871, formal testimony recorded some thirty-eight murders and hundreds of whippings and tortures. In Meridian, Mississippi, in 1871, local black orators were arrested for delivering “incendiary speeches.” At a court hearing, gunfire erupted, and the white Republican judge and two defendants were killed. In a day-long riot that followed in Meridian, at least thirty blacks were murdered by mobs.

This litany of horror and blood can become almost endless, and it represents the one time in American history when sustained uses of terror successfully worked to transform political regimes. In a process Southerners called “Southern Redemption,” eight of the 11 ex-Confederate states came back under white supremacist, Democratic party control by 1875. The final three—South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana—achieved that goal in the smoked-filled room political compromise of 1877 that settled the disputed presidential election of 1876 and provided the traditional chronological “end” of Reconstruction even as so many of its issues were left to later generations to face. The former slave and African American orator-intellectual, Frederick Douglass, remained a staunch supporter of the Republican Party during Reconstruction. Although he praised the party and President Ulysses S. Grant for their efforts to crush the Klan, Douglass grieved over the scale of unpunished violence in the South against blacks. Disgusted by what he saw in the impending election of 1872 as the “deceitful cry that all the questions raised by the war… are now settled,” he warned that “the slave demon still rides the southern gale, and breathes out fire and wrath.” The black leader had long interpreted the Klan, Democrats, and the survival of the southern rebellion as a continuous political force. Douglass resented what he called “this cry of peace! peace! where there is no peace.” In this sense, on the ground in the South, the war had not yet ended.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:52 PM on April 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


In Chicago, church bells rang today to commemorate Lee's surrender.
posted by dilettante at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


New York wasn't exactly known as a Confederate stronghold.

Actually, surprisingly enough it was - enough that secession was actually considered! The banking industry in New York financed and held mortgages on most of the slaves in the South. But I think New York on the whole is pretty ashamed of that history, and tries their damnedest to escape it.
posted by corb at 3:10 PM on April 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised this isn't a bigger thing. It's the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2015


Brian Beutler: Make the Confederacy's Defeat a National Holiday
Selma would be a perverse venue for celebrating the Jingo’s exceptional America, but it was the perfect backdrop for Obama’s more nuanced rendering: the convening point of the march to Montgomery, on a bridge named after Edmund Pettus—a vicious white supremacist, who committed treason against the United States as a Confederate general, and later terrorized former slaves as an Alabama Klansman and Democratic Senator.

In the self-critical America of Obama’s imagination, more people would know about the Edmund Pettus bridge and its namesake. The bridge itself wouldn’t necessarily be renamed after Martin Luther King or John Lewis or another civil rights hero; because it is synonymous with racist violence, the bridge should bear Pettus’s name eternally, with the explicit intent of linking the sins of the Confederacy to the sins of Jim Crow. But Obama’s America would also reject the romantic reimagining of the Civil War, and thus, the myriad totems to the Confederacy and its leaders that pockmark the South, most of which don't share the Pettus bridge's incidental association with the struggle for civil rights.

This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together. It’s as appropriate an occasion as the Selma anniversary to reflect on the country’s struggle to improve itself. And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:12 PM on April 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, from a reader at Talking Points Memo:
Today is the 150th anniversary of Lee's surrender at Appomattox and if you go to the NPS website for the Park you find this explanation: "On Palm Sunday (April 9), 1865, Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia signaled the end of the Southern States attempt to create a separate nation. It set the stage for the emergence of an expanded and more powerful Federal government. In a sense the struggle over how much power the central government would hold had finally been settled."

I find that disturbing and offensive. *Thats* the nutshell takeaway from the Civil War?
posted by zombieflanders at 3:13 PM on April 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have mentioned it before (and no doubt I will mention it again), the book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America talks a lot about how we're still feeling the after-effects of history. Each of the founding colonies were created at different times for very different reasons and for wholly separate agendas. This is clash of cultures shows up in the construction of Congress, the role of the federal and state governments, and populations with extremely different ideas of the social contract and the role of government. See also: every social issue under the sun.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:19 PM on April 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


The revisionist deconstruction of the Dunning School's odious lionization of the confederate redeemers is finally starting to get some traction, in no small part to the work of people like Eric Foner who have spent their careers digging out the buried evidence to refute AFI Top-100 film _Birth of a Nation_. James Loewen has been doing something similar from a historiographic angle for some time, although he's a lot more professionally and personally abrasive than a lot of his peers and isn't afraid to present "preponderance of evidence" arguments as ironclad.

Anyway, I couldn't be happier to hear people talking about this. If the Civil War was when the confederacy was crushed, late reconstruction is when it rose again.
posted by absalom at 3:41 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


funny, I was just reading this nakedly partisan piece in the Times

The era's propensity to purple prose notwithstanding, "patriotic" is the applicable term.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:42 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


No. No. No, no, no, no, no. Don't waste political energy on a war that is 150 years past. Right now, there are real and important fights in the US: gay rights, women's rights (particularly abortion), police brutality... we have so many issues that are real, and pressing, and important. If you start taking down Confederate monuments and renaming counties, what are you accomplishing? You are trading a symbolic erasure of this aspect of memory for horrible defeat on the other issues, because it will absolutely inflame the Southern conservatives.

The South is a weird place, and stupid. I have been here and my people have been here for generations. I had people on both sides(!) of the civil war. There are branches of the family who still won't talk to each other. They are united only in deep pessimism, mainline Protestantism, and political apathy. You want to get them out to vote in the next presidential election? The next governor's race? Try to erase the history of the Confederacy.

Let's not blow political capital on a symbol when we have real fights to win.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:45 PM on April 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support

Well, good luck in getting the Confederate flag off license plates. Fox Newsies are already foaming at the mouth.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:49 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


As the shooting of Walter Scott showed the other day, the argument can be made that that war is not 150 years in the past.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:49 PM on April 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Don't waste political energy on a war that is 150 years past.

we're not - we're still trying, after 150 years, to establish the peace
posted by pyramid termite at 3:50 PM on April 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


> *Thats* the nutshell takeaway from the Civil War?

Hereabouts, where for many people it's not the Civil War, it's The War of Northern Aggression... yes.
posted by ardgedee at 3:57 PM on April 9, 2015


I find that disturbing and offensive. *Thats* the nutshell takeaway from the Civil War?

I hope he didn't think hatred of Big Government was actually about bureaucrats.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:01 PM on April 9, 2015


Guys, I don't know if you noticed, but the most recent killing is only one of many in the US over the last several years. Police brutality is a serious and wide-spread problem in the US... it isn't a "Confederate" issue. Indiana's "religious freedom act" isn't a "Confederate" issue. Kansas' ban on medical procedures isn't a "Confederate" issue. All that commemorating the Confederacy's defeat will do is energize conservatives to get to the polls and vote even more insane right-wingers into power because "government!"

And the effect won't be limited to the 11 states of the old Confederacy. Every single red state will get redder. Most border states will slide right. The effect will be less pronounced there than in NC or VA—states that are, if not blue, then at least purple now, in 2015—but it will be real, because the media machine can churn out endless diatribes about "erasing our history" and "liberal agendas" and "remembering the soldiers."

I'd trade a million army bases named after Robert E. Lee if we can protect the right of women to have abortions, if we can protect gay people from discrimination, if we can protect black people from police violence. Prioritize living people over our great-great-grandparents' war.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:07 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


To begin to tear down white supremacy, you recommend continuing to invest government resources in the symbols of white supremacy?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:53 PM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Make the Confederacy's Defeat a National Holiday

More of a Bill Maher-type applause line than an actually good idea.
posted by batfish at 4:54 PM on April 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


All that commemorating the Confederacy's defeat will do is energize conservatives to get to the polls and vote even more insane right-wingers into power because "government!"

now why would conservatives care about a "confederate issue"?

And the effect won't be limited to the 11 states of the old Confederacy.

neither was support for the rebellion - and slavery

the conservatives of today are the descendants of what used to be "the slave power" - the confederacy was defeated as a country, but the spirit of it has fully woven itself into the fabric of our society everywhere

and isn't it odd that southerners and sympathizers can commemorate the confederacy's defeat and remember their soldiers all they want but you're advising those on the union side they shouldn't commemorate the union's victory or remember THEIR soldiers?

we won that war - why should we be the ones who skulk away from it in shame?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:54 PM on April 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Tip-toing around our nation's fucked-up racial legacy has its own costs, especially when it means ceding the historical narrative to Confederate apologists who have no scruples of their own about antagonizing northerners.
posted by Iridic at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


There is no need to tip-toe around the fucked up racial legacy of the United States. Talk about the KKK, talk about the vileness of Reconstruction, emphasize the evil of slavery—but the moment that we start talking about making a "Union Victory Day" and defunding memorials to Confederate soldiers, we are conceding a really, really stupid talking point for no gain whatsoever.

I would prefer not to energize my 88 year old great-aunt to go and start voting a straight KKK ticket. I would prefer that my redneck cousins remain too apathetic to vote. I would prefer that the vast number of quiet, mind-your-own-business racist shitheads not have a "For God and Country and Robert E. Lee" cause to rally around. I like quietly working toward a more just and equitable society, and making progress on many fronts. I think there is a lot that we can do that will push that forward.

Also, please don't use "Southerners" as if the term is equivalent to "Neo-Confederates."
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:31 PM on April 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Maybe, since the dates are so close, there's a way of taking the holiday for Easter and making it into a sort of joint Easter/Vanquishment of the Slavers day. That's sure to be curative of racism.
posted by batfish at 5:38 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't defund the monuments now. Create a preservation fund for them, even. As time goes by, overall racism shows a decline, even in the South and conservative regions. For whatever reason, more and more offspring are quietly ignoring the slurs and prejudices of their forefathers, even being embarrassed by it. Someday, I hope, those monuments will become similar embarrassments, and those in power will seek to have the monuments removed. Then the preservation funds can come into play, so they can remind the future of the errors of the past, that it not repeat.
posted by Blackanvil at 5:51 PM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


At least we don't have the monument to the faithful mammies of the south in DC to worry about.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:33 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow that "Nakedly Partisan Piece," is an amazing moment of vivid history. So gracefully transacted for the benefit of all who were suffering, for the benefit of all who were waiting at home, to the benefit of all who longed for their rightful peace and freedom, and for all who would lie in wait to thwart the best of solutions, the best of intentions.

I asked him, "Why did you drink from the "Colored" fountain?" "Oh!" He laughed, wiping his mouth , "I thought it said colder."

I asked what happened to your grandparents, and Grandma said, "Well, my grandfather had pneumonia locked up in a yankee prison, and Grandmother went on up to take care of him, then they both died in that damned yankee prison."
posted by Oyéah at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2015


One of my favorite quotes from "Gettysburg" (and there are many, many, many...) is from Confederate General James Longstreet: "We should have freed the slaves, THEN fired on Fort Sumter."

Yes. Yes you should have. And I dare say if you did, then a whole lot of the factors that played into the Northern victory would not have come about and you might have actually won.

But... you didn't. You made it about slavery and you lost, so please spare me your "State's Rights" nonsense.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:19 PM on April 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


So, regarding linking this holiday with Easter, I think a more appropriate link (no pun intended, but also am including a couple web-links ) would be with this idea I've been working on. "Hitler's Suicide" Parties (hitlerdeathparty.com).

I also created an FB page that anyone is free to join to spread/share the word, post on if they have something to say contribute and want to help spread the idea. I actually first saw the OP's article linked on that FB page from someone else, then I came here and saw this!

Anyways, it's the 70th anniversary this April 30th of Hitler's death and I was proposing a global holiday celebrating that event (since almost anyone who's anyone can agree that if anyone's death should be celebrated, it'd be Hitler). Not official, but just - you know - why not an excuse for a party? Of course the Hitler's Suicide Party concept is more global in nature, but I see no reason those of us in the US couldn't link the two together.

Looking at the connections involved here -- the defeat of a racial supremacist systems; systems that have inflicted a massive amount of pain, death and suffering amongst a large number of humans in the past couple centuries; the fact they're both in April, even if at opposite ends of the month -- I would highly suggest that these two are more readily linked than the defeat of the confederacy with Easter. At least from a secular perspective. One could, of course, frame an Easter link with the end of Slavery via the themes of "Redemption" but then the context of that is very restrictive to those of a Christian orientation.
posted by symbioid at 7:19 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking of links and correlations:

I got caught up on reading about Robert E. Lee on Wikipedia, and assuming they're not trying to do some confederate whitewashing, it seems he was sympathetic to the union, but that he really did think his allegiance to his state came before the federal government.

Interestingly, he said almost some sort of... correlation of Lincoln's famous comment...

Lincoln: My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union;

Lee: Mr. Blair, I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?
posted by symbioid at 7:39 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Police brutality is a serious and wide-spread problem in the US... it isn't a "Confederate" issue. Indiana's "religious freedom act" isn't a "Confederate" issue. Kansas' ban on medical procedures isn't a "Confederate" issue.

On a case by case basis, no. But the aim of the modern conservative project, in brief, is to tear down the Federal government and all its meddling works and replace it with de facto rule by a paternalistic aristocracy, abetted by a ruthless enforcer class and served by a desperate pool of labor with no workplace protections or bargaining rights.

I simply can't believe the old dream of the unrevenged Confederacy has nothing to do with how this vision has developed over the last fifty years, ever since the Civil Rights Act spurred the South into the modern Republican party.
posted by Iridic at 8:18 PM on April 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


Well if all the states want to be treated like independent countries perhaps that should apply to the money. Any money they get back from the Federal government over and above what they pay in should be a loan. The welfare queen states (thank you Jon Stewart) should be treated as the welchers they truly are. When those loan balances get too high the other states that loaned them the money can start telling them how to spend their money, what to not spend it on. Perhaps there should be drug testing and states with too many meth heads might get cut off.... The possibilities for humiliation and perpetuation of their poverty are endless, just like many of those very same states treat their own poor residents.
posted by caddis at 9:00 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Elementary Penguin: " It's the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation"

Dude, that was 2013!

My husband's work involves a lot of Lincoln relics and we have been sesquicentennialing hardcore in this house for the last five years. Slaves were definitely emancipated two years ago! (Uh ... +150.) Would you like to know how much paperwork it takes to move an official signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (around 24) from one organization's vault to another organization's public viewing space for the 150th anniversary of it? IT TAKES ALL THE PAPERWORK. Of Lincoln-related paperwork requiring lawyers for its sesquicentennial, only the Gettysburg Address (only 5 copies) and the Thirteenth Amendment require more lawyering before you can send it somewhere to display it. I ask my husband, "Hey, how was work today?" "Oh, today we abolished slavery. I mean, they abolished it 150 years ago, we had a big program I was at, they had the Thirteenth Amendment on display."

It's actually been kind-of weird and interesting to live through the last five years, since Lincoln's election, through my husband's work with the museums that have all the various Lincoln artifacts and properties and have been setting up re-enactments, speeches, museum loans, displays, celebrations, memorials, etc. We've been sort-of reliving the Civil War, 150 years later, through its artifacts, historic event by historic event, with piece after piece of important memorabilia each coming up in turn as the narrative moves forward. In 2010 our hometown boy was elected, hooray! Four years ago, the South seceded and war began. Three years ago we were reliving the anxiety of the really bad battles -- Bull Run, Antietam . Two years ago the joy of Emancipation; the horror of Gettysburg in July, tempered with the strange but certain knowledge that in November Lincoln would deliver his famous address. Last year the tide finally rising under Grant, Sherman's March to the Sea. In January of this year -- abolition! (Illinois was the first state to ratify the Amendment, waiting by the telegraph to call a special session of the legislature so we could be the first state to endorse the abolition of slavery throughout the United States.)

And today, finally, after all of this wrenching emotion, the war is (mostly) over! It's amazing! And a little sad, because it's been so exciting and interesting to relive the war this way and local history goes back to being relatively boring when the sesquicentennial ends.

But we also have the certain knowledge that in five days, President Lincoln is going to be shot, and in six days, he is going to be dead. And it is somehow fresh and horrifying, even though it's 150 years old. (My husband recently signed off on some permissions for DNA testing of the blood on Mary Lincoln's gloves from that night.)

In early May, Illinois's native son will come home to Illinois, having saved the Union and won the war, but "fallen cold and dead." The recreated funeral train will pull in to Springfield, to the same station it did 150 years ago (the same station my family left from on an Amtrak vacation just this week!), and we will lay Lincoln to rest again, as we did 150 years ago, and while the immediate trauma of his assassination has faded with time, the knowledge of the enormity of the nation's loss when Lincoln was untimely executed has only grown.

Tolstoy, visiting a Muslim tribe in the Caucasus, was pressed to tell them stories of heroes, and after he told several, their chief objected: "But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock and as sweet as the fragrance of roses. The angels appeared to his mother and predicted that the son whom she would conceive would become the greatest the stars had ever seen. He was so great that he even forgave the crimes of his greatest enemies and shook brotherly hands with those who had plotted against his life. His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of that man."

It was been a very weird, very special journey following along with the historians and reenactors and so forth who have all worked so hard over the last five years to "tell us of that man," and of the war he won and the nation he saved, for the sesquicentennial.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:11 PM on April 9, 2015 [38 favorites]


As a non-American, this struck me:

Lincoln greatly feared recurrent guerrilla warfare and hoped to keep Reconstruction policy firmly under presidential authority.

Well, the fact is that black people living in the south were on the receiving end of this (i.e., guerilla warfare that Lincoln feared). That's what the White League was.

I grew up in a (very white) Canadian city on the US border, and in my high school we had the option of taking a US history class. I took it, and the Harper's Weekly White League editorial cartoon in the Wikipedia entry I linked to above was in the textbook we had. It was in the part the textbook that dealt with the post-Civil War racial terror that happened.

And you know, it's weird. My teacher was a self-professed Reaganite (I got an A in that class because I was so engaged - he pissed me off, and me, him). But the great thing about him (aside from the mark he gave me) was that he drove the point home that the "emancipation" of the slaves wasn't as morally pure as some would have us believe - it cut off support for the Confederacy from Europe (Wilberforce?). Moreover, once the Civil War was over, black Americans were subject to racial terror and segregation.

Anyway, my high school education about the Civil War as a non-USian introduced some of the complexities of it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:56 PM on April 9, 2015


“Dixie is Dead,” Tracy Thompson, The Bitter Southerner, March 2015
Since The Bitter Southerner began, readers have asked us to define the South. One thing’s for sure: The old definitions are now completely wrong.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:33 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]




P.S. By law since 2009, April is Confederate History Month in Georgia. Confederate Memorial Day will be observed on the 26th or 27th of April depending.

P.P.S. If you're looking to insult Southerners of a certain persuasion while leaving the rest of us be, I think the word you're looking for is unreconstructed.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:18 PM on April 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


New York wasn't exactly known as a Confederate stronghold.

Not Confederate per se, but:
The New York City Draft Riots, which would wreak havoc on the city for four days and remain the largest civilian insurrection in American history, exposed the deep racial, economic and social divides that threatened to tear the nation’s largest city apart in the midst of the American Civil War.

Just as one leg propping up the abolitionist movement was the self-interested free-soilers (farmers who feared the efficiency of slave plantation competition), so urban and port laborers (many of them recent immigrants, especially the Irish) feared an influx of liberated former slaves. A range of Democrats and so-called Copperheads (ostensibly Southern sympathizers, but many just in favor of another Great Compromise or another means of negotiated peace) provided opposition to the Republican prosecution of the war (and frequently such persons found their way into jail, providing yet another source of grievance). The "Union" was by no means wholly united. Positions were complex and shaded, and morale fluctuated with the fortunes of the Union Army. During the 1864 election, a group of Radical Republicans (ideologically opposed to slavery above all) nominated John C. Fremont, although he withdrew weeks before the election; and the Democrats, divided between war and peace factions, nominated Gen. McClellan to oppose Lincoln. Though he was crushed in the electoral college 212-21, the popular vote was only 55% for Lincoln, in the middle of a war for the survival of the republic.

In fact, if one reads the Times editorial closely, one can see how it is meant to appeal to, and persuade, those who had long wished an end to the war under any terms.
posted by dhartung at 12:49 AM on April 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hereabouts, where for many people it's not the Civil War, it's The War of Northern Aggression...

I prefer James Nicoll's term for it: "The Slave Owner's Rebellion". Nothing better than for annoying the "It was about States Rights" crowd.
posted by happyroach at 1:55 AM on April 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Maybe, since the dates are so close, there's a way of taking the holiday for Easter and making it into a sort of joint Easter/Vanquishment of the Slavers day. That's sure to be curative of racism.

One could, of course, frame an Easter link with the end of Slavery via the themes of "Redemption" but then the context of that is very restrictive to those of a Christian orientation.


You guys do realize that there's already a holiday around this time that's literally all about slaves being freed and the slavers being vanquished, right?
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 7:59 AM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


(My husband recently signed off on some permissions for DNA testing of the blood on Mary Lincoln's gloves from that night.)

Wait, can you tell more about this? Are there Mary Lincoln conspiracy theories, or Lincoln Secret Children ones?
posted by corb at 8:03 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I prefer James Nicoll's term for it: 'The Slave Owner's Rebellion'. Nothing better than for annoying the 'It was about States Rights' crowd.

"How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"
-- Samuel Johnson
posted by kirkaracha at 8:30 AM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


(My husband recently signed off on some permissions for DNA testing of the blood on Mary Lincoln's gloves from that night.)

Wait, can you tell more about this? Are there Mary Lincoln conspiracy theories, or Lincoln Secret Children ones?


Yes, please tell us. Bill O'Reilly is giving Lincoln conspiracy theories a lot more exposure than they otherwise would have.
posted by jonp72 at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2015


While I don't think there is any dispute that in the south, the issue of Secession was about slavery, I think it is a mistake tantamount to historical whitewashing to say that it was about slavery as far as the average person in the north was concerned. Sure, there were abolitionists in the north, and it's probably likely that the average northerner, on the eve of the war, found the institution and practice of slavery to be distasteful. But the people of the north didn't find it so odious that they were up for starting a war over it, and in fact there were almost a generation of political compromises aimed at appeasing the south and letting those states retain slavery in order to avoid conflict. It is not exactly a history of, and the war was not started by, people drawing a principled line in the sand against the issue of slavery.

To say or suggest that the north went to war to free the slaves is categorically false. Some individual people might have, and perhaps you could even make the argument that some volunteer regiments from particularly Republican-leaning abolitionist strongholds did in part, but that's about as far as it goes.

There is ample historical evidence -- including, perhaps most particularly, Lincoln's own statements ("What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union..."), and also the timing and limited scope of the Emancipation Proclamation -- that for the vast majority of people in the north, the war was over the issue of secession, and the survival of the Federal system in the light of competing and contradictory interests by states, and probably also a lot of basic offense that a bunch of hicks would seize Federal property largely paid for by the industrial north.

We should be as suspicious of ex post facto attempts to revise the justifications for war by the north as we should by the south. (Of course, that the south had the ability to revise history at all is sort of unique; generally the losers of wars aren't afforded that opportunity; the ability to rewrite wars to flatter oneself is a traditional benefit of, you know, winning. But that doesn't make it correct, either.)

Ironically, it seems as though various people on both sides of the issue have attempted to take the other side's stated reasons for war, after the fact: southern apologists have taken up the Federalism / "states rights" argument, while northern triumphalists have variously attempted to paint the war as a moral crusade. The only legitimacy of either position comes when it is applied to the other party: the south was very arguably on a "moral crusade", only for evil; the north was remarkably tolerant of the odiousness of slavery, and might have continued to be so for a while longer, right up until the south caused the issue of Federal supremacy to be pointedly raised in the form of cannonballs heading towards Ft Sumter.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:49 AM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


corb: "Wait, can you tell more about this? Are there Mary Lincoln conspiracy theories,"

I think basically it was a good sample of well-sourced blood on an object with an excellent chain-of-custody that they thought they could get a DNA sample off without damaging the artifact, to give them comparisons with other maybe-Lincoln artifacts. Like there's a hat that was PROBABLY Lincoln's hat, but the chain of custody is slightly unclear as it passed into private hands for a while with minimal documentation, and they think they can do a DNA test on some hairs or something without damaging the hat (I'm not totally clear what they want to test from the hat, as it is not a proven hat and therefore not that important yet), but they need comparators. Obviously the hat is worth millions and millions of dollars if they can prove it was Lincoln's via DNA (this specific hat is valued at $5 million IF it was Lincoln's), and it's just "some old hat" if they can't.

Now that DNA testing is available, there's a constant background pulse of, "Will the latest forensic DNA techniques let us get a readable sample from this artifact with this famous-person bodily detritus on it?" (And, if so, is the chain of custody unclear enough, or the person important enough, that it's worth paying for?) So among the historians, there's generally one guy who wants to DNA test ALL THE THINGS and a bunch of other guys on the conservator side who are like BITCH DO NOT TOUCH MY ARTIFACT and eventually they get up to like a 90% confidence interval that they can get a large enough sample for the newest forensic techniques without causing damage and they all agree okay, maybe we should test this, let's locate a funding stream for it and then send the paperwork up through the bureaucracy.

No conspiracy theories, just historians liking to do history to stuff.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:08 AM on April 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


To say or suggest that the north went to war to free the slaves is categorically false.

No one is saying this. People disingenously interpret "The Civil War Was About Slavery" into "The Civil War Was The North's Attempt to End Slavery." Often this is done for the express purposes of misdirection in order to muddy the motivational waters. This line of argument then goes on to focus on Copperhead sympathies in the North, the North's willingness to appease Slave Power in the South for stability, and the North's initial war aims in order to prove that the North did not enter the war to abolish slavery.

Did you see the misdirection? "The Civil War was about Slavery" just got subtly twisted into "The north's goal in the Civil War was to abolish slavery." This puts all the entire focus of the Civil War on the North's motivations. Whose historical narrative does that redirection most benefit? The neo-confederate one. Coincidentally, I'm sure.

After all, if Southern states succeeded because to protect the institution of slavery, which was the absolute and exact motivation for Southern successionism borne out by the declarations and resolutions passed by Southern legislatures. The confederate congresses were not shy about their motivations for succession, why should we be?

The Southerners started a war to protect Slavery and the North engaged in that war to maintain the Union. These two separate facts do not make the war *any* less about slavery, since that was the issue that started the whole affair.
posted by absalom at 9:19 AM on April 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


symbioid: Say what you will about Hitler, but he did kill Hitler!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:33 AM on April 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


My thanks to August Pollak for posting these articles on Twitter today:
- Sherman's response to the Atlanta leaders
- Why Sherman was right to burn Atlanta
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.
Whole lot of folks need to read this and internalize it instead of rattling their sabres once again.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:17 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]




Anyamatopoeia: "Maybe, since the dates are so close, there's a way of taking the holiday for Easter and making it into a sort of joint Easter/Vanquishment of the Slavers day. That's sure to be curative of racism.

One could, of course, frame an Easter link with the end of Slavery via the themes of "Redemption" but then the context of that is very restrictive to those of a Christian orientation.


You guys do realize that there's already a holiday around this time that's literally all about slaves being freed and the slavers being vanquished, right?
"

----------

And that's a good point... Though it requires a belief in a myth of a deity that some of us do not happen to possess. Which is sort of why I said that Easter is restrictive to those of a certain religious persuasion.

Though - yes, you are correct, and of course, the Easter mythos of Christianity certainly has a "liberation" parallel theologically and due to its synchrony in time (assuming Jesus was crucified, is the time period truly authenticated around that time (Passover-ish) or was it one of those things where they tacked it on later to make it fit with that liberation narrative?)

Anyways, I guess yeah, it'd be stupid to ignore that very pertinent point - so thank you for pointing that out. Didn't meant to be Christian centric/forgetful of Passover itself... Further to the point... There sure is a great tie in considering, secular or religious - the liberation of Jews from slavery and death camps, or African slaves from slavery on US Shores... All these themes tie in.

Does that make Abraham Lincoln the Angel of Death in this analogy for the Civil War? Cuz that's kinda fuckin' bad-ass.
posted by symbioid at 1:14 PM on April 10, 2015


You guys do realize that there's already a holiday around this time that's literally all about slaves being freed and the slavers being vanquished, right?"

Yea, but Passover is completely orthogonal to the project of culture war with the white conservative voting bloc here identified with the confederacy. Or something.

caddis: the other states that loaned them the money can start telling them how to spend their money, what to not spend it on.

The federal dollars returning to red states already are systematically allocated--it's not just a big bunch of money handed over to a state's country club republicans or something. In fact, as the article you linked to makes clear, those dollars largely return as one kind or another of benefit for poor people. In the absence of that, I agree, those states become even more miserable places, but that doesn't give you any leverage. Remember the refusals to adopt the medicaid expansion?

Perhaps there should be drug testing and states with too many meth heads might get cut off.... The possibilities for humiliation and perpetuation of their poverty are endless, just like many of those very same states treat their own poor residents

Huh? This formulation is so nonsensical it seems to know almost nothing at all about the world but that it is in battle with enemies.
posted by batfish at 5:11 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.

Maybe this is just me having experienced a war up close and personal and shit, but I am super uncomfortable with all the "war crimes don't count if the other people were REALLY bad!" type sentiments being expressed around Sherman. That shit has other implications down the line, and none of it is good, I promise.
posted by corb at 5:17 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


That War Nerd piece is one of the more obnoxious pieces of Monday-morning-quarterbacking that I've read in a while. Which maybe is just his schtick, but it grates. Of course, it's easy to identify the people who, in retrospect, should have been hanged. It always is.

The problem was that, when the war ended, it wasn't clear who was going to go back to their farm (or to regional universities), and who would lead what were essentially guerilla or insurrectionist movements aimed at undermining first the military government of occupation, and later the civilian government. When you take away that perfect hindsight, the "execute the bastards" solution actually looks like this.

More recent victories and occupations have shown that Lincoln was essentially correct when he laid the groundwork for Reconstruction. Where others faltered (tough to lay at his feet, being dead and all) was in not maintaining the sort of steady, strong pressure that would have resulted in lasting social changes. Had the KKK and similar organizations been outlawed, had membership in them been made illegal, perhaps treasonous—here's your opportunity for killing, if you really need it—then things might have turned out very differently in the south.

Shaping civil society is like moving a boat; it requires steady pressure over a long time. If you hit it hard, you'll probably just punch a hole in it, and then you'll have a sunken boat. It's very hard—as more recent, and equally failed, occupations attest. (It is perhaps unfortunate that World War II gave us an inflated idea of our own competence when it came to leveraging military victory and turning it into successful occupation and rebuilding; I think that it's something that is just very hard to do right.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:35 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


That War Nerd piece is one of the more obnoxious pieces of Monday-morning-quarterbacking that I've read in a while.

Yeah, the thing sounds like a morally pompous dungeon master holding court. But it's not just a tone issue either, because either it's not meant to be morally serious (in which case, what's the point?), or, if it is meant to be serious, there's maybe something self-defeating about the posture that you are so very clear-eyed and right-minded in your thinking about who ought to be executed, counterfactual or not, that you can carry everything so very lightly and deploy flippant euphemisms of "dangling" and unanalyzed concepts of "most-killable-ness." Eh, it's a grotesque piece of writing anyway.
posted by batfish at 7:02 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


>That War Nerd piece is one of the more obnoxious pieces of Monday-morning-quarterbacking that I've read in a while.

Yeah, the thing sounds like a morally pompous dungeon master holding court.


And he has been doing this a long, long time. He was the original Keyboard Kommando.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:34 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Had the KKK and similar organizations been outlawed, had membership in them been made illegal, perhaps treasonous—here's your opportunity for killing, if you really need it—then things might have turned out very differently in the south.

What? Again, I hate to bully-boy this thread because I'm a lurker at heart, but it's called the Enforcement Act of 1870 aka the Ku Klux Klan Act and it actually happened and it actually worked like gangbusters until, you know, the return to home rule and the withdrawal of Federal protection from Republican and black politicians in the south, who were often but not always the same.

So, that's something that should probably be taken under consideration when we start lecturing people on the benefits of hindsight. The fact is, the road was a lot harder than the people of the North had anticipated, a financial panic caused major unemployment in the industrializing north, and they just got sick of the entire endeavor and turned a blind eye to the political violence that led to a return of confederate rule in the South and the establishment of Jim Crow.

Now, one thing that I agree with in your comment above is that the key to actually fixing this problem was sustained political force backed by political will. You seem to be suggesting neither of these things was present, while I think the historical record suggests *one* of them certainly was while the other clearly was not.

To me, the obvious question is then "why was the political will not present?" The answer to that question might actually get somewhere close to the root of that problem.
posted by absalom at 9:44 PM on April 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Dangerous Myth Of Appomattox
And yet the “Appomattox myth” persisted, and continues today. By severing the war’s conflict from the Reconstruction that followed, it drains meaning from the Civil War and turns it into a family feud, a fight that ended with regional reconciliation. It also fosters a national amnesia about what wars are and how they end, a lacuna that has undermined American postwar efforts ever since.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:29 AM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


sonic meat machine:
Let's not blow political capital on a symbol when we have real fights to win.
Understanding the root causes of today's fights is not wasting time or blowing political capital. The Civil War is linked in an unbroken line to Ferguson, Missouri, via lynchings, the Klan, Democrats losing the South by signing the Civil Rights Act, and more.

This is one of the real fights.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:52 AM on April 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


“Idaho Is Not Fooled: Keep Your Sharia Money, Tyrannical Federal Government,” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 14 April 2015
[Jefferson] Davis was struck by a moment of fleeting clarity. "If the Confederacy falls," he said, "there should be written on its tombstone: died of a theory."

Which, a century and a half later, brings us to the curious doings in the state of Idaho, wherein live not a few Confederate nostalgists. In brief, the state legislature there killed a measure that would have brought Idaho into compliance with federal law regarding federal support for child care, and for the enforcement of child-support agreements, and you are not going to believe why they did it.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:59 PM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


“End Confederate Memorial Day,” Payson Schwin, Creative Loafing Atlanta, 27 April 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2015


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