It's Confederate Heritage Month!
April 21, 2016 5:37 AM   Subscribe

 
Related: Adam Serwer: The Secret History Of The Photo At The Center Of The Black Confederate Myth
In 1863, Confederate Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne developed a secret plan for training and arming slaves against the Union. As Levine writes in Confederate Emancipation, the proposal was so controversial that Davis ordered it suppressed. When soldiers in Confederate units were even suspected of having mixed blood, Levine writes, they were immediately purged. In the Confederate Army, one drop of Negro blood was one too many.

The war ended before the any of the recruited slaves saw battle. The CSA was sharply divided by the notion of recruiting black soldiers. As Confederate Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb proclaimed, “If slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Black soldiers put the lie to racial inferiority, the entire basis of Confederate society and the Confederacy’s secession from the United States.

Only on the verge of annihilation, and with the intention of granting slaves emancipation in name only, did the Confederacy once again consider fielding black soldiers. Confederate leaders carefully sketched out a state of near-bondage that would offer nominal freedom to former slaves but keep them in a state of omega-class citizenship as a captive workforce. After the war, Frederick Douglass would bitterly note that, despite the Confederacy’s defeat, that state of near-bondage was precisely what awaited the freedmen and freedwomen, a condition that lasted well into the 20th century.

When Confederate imagery re-emerged in the 1950s and ’60s in defiance of the civil rights movement, there was little dispute that these emblems were meant to signal devotion to the enduring principle of white supremacy. But just as the Confederacy fell before Union guns, the civil rights movement sparked an unfinished cultural shift that discredited white supremacy in its overt forms.

“You might think of the Black Confederate narrative as the modern version of the loyal slave narrative,” said Kevin M. Levin. “The first references to black Confederate soldiers really don’t appear until roughly the late 1970s, and it’s in response to a changing memory of the Civil War.”
posted by zombieflanders at 5:42 AM on April 21, 2016 [23 favorites]


For this thread at least, could we refer to the conflict by its more accurate name, "The Slavers' Rebellion"?
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:45 AM on April 21, 2016 [41 favorites]


Neiwert's probably the blogger on these issues, and it's been great to watch him savage Confederate apologism.

The articles on Reconstruction are horrifying- I don't know what could have been done about it- burn Atlanta again?- but it seems like the feds didn't fully understand what they were up against. They thought the war was over.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:50 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


For better or worse, Doktor Zed, you have over 150 years of people writing , including men on both sides of the war, working against you, not to mention the National Park Service. So, no.
posted by timdiggerm at 5:52 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been following Neiwert's posts in this series with a combination of fascination and horror. He's an excellent writer, humane and evocative and eschewing sensationalism, but the subject is quite frankly horrific. I am separated from this history by thousands of kilometres (and my own country's ongoing crimes against its own people of colour) but it fills me with shame that these grotesque crimes are regarded by anyone as a point of historical pride. There was no justification for the slaughter and misery of slavery then, and there is even less now.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:53 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


For this thread at least, could we refer to the conflict by its more accurate name, "The Slavers' Rebellion"?

Slaver's Treason, more like.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:55 AM on April 21, 2016 [35 favorites]


Slightly off-topic, nothing grinds my gears more than seeing folks, here in Indiana, flying confederate flags. We were a union state, you morons! Your ancestors got killed by folks flying that flag! And, given that we were a union state, what exactly are you trying to represent with that flag? Because it ain't your goddamn heritage. You're just basically saying you're pro-slavery.

Idiots.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:00 AM on April 21, 2016 [100 favorites]


It's usually the same morons who think rolling coal is somehow clever. You're just inefficiently burning your diesel, dumbass ...and now you can't use the full truck bed because of your stupid pipe.

Oh, and your bro country music is just bad 70's rock with a slide guitar. It's basically the blueshammer of country music, which you don't know a goddamn thing about. Unplug your stupid amp, pick up an acoustic guitar, and learn that banjos and fiddles aren't just for background flavor.

Assholes.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:07 AM on April 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


Slightly off-topic, nothing grinds my gears more than seeing folks, here in Indiana, flying confederate flags. We were a union state, you morons!

If you examine the actual history the Union States were not 100% pro union and there was large support for the confederacy in the north. Look for things like "copperheads"
posted by srboisvert at 6:09 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I often figure Indiana would cheerfully be a Southern state if not for the accident of our physical location.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:11 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Related: Adam Serwer: The Secret History Of The Photo At The Center Of The Black Confederate Myth

Yes, there is a lot of mythologizing about the Confederacy that goes on to this day. Although this interview traces the conservative aversion to facts back to the tobacco industries attempts to obfuscate the health effects of their products, I think much of that phenomenon also comes straight from the southern strategy and the need to attract "lost-cause" neo-confederates to the Republican party.

That last post was really close to home for me. Hamburg was across the river from my hometown of Augusta, Georgia (not Savannah as stated at one point in the article) and the name lives on in a few places, but almost no one here has any idea what went on there.
posted by TedW at 6:12 AM on April 21, 2016


timdiggerm, Doktor Zed isn't asking for the 150 years of people writing or for the NPS to use his suggested term, he's asking people today, in this thread, to use it. If you don't want to, you can just say so.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:13 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was thinking about it, and I really don't want to. "The Slavers' Rebellion", to me, sounds like a bunch of sea captains who earned money by kidnapping, capturing or buying Africans and selling them in the Americas, rebelling against a government. It doesn't carry the weight of a large portion of our nation's local governments conspiring together to form a new nation explicitly and primarily based on white supremacy. "The Slavers' Rebellion" is too small.
posted by timdiggerm at 6:20 AM on April 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


For this thread at least, could we refer to the conflict by its more accurate name, "The Slavers' Rebellion"?

I've always been partial to "The War of Southern Treason."
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:25 AM on April 21, 2016 [38 favorites]


There would not have been slavery for so many years in the American South had it not been for the North. After all, who bankrolled the Southern economy and its cotton production? Northern banks.
posted by Postroad at 6:26 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


This Orcinus guy is doing important work. Thank you for the post. Confederate Heritage Month ... I can't even ... Grrrrrr Arrrgghhhh
posted by pjsky at 6:27 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


leotrotsky, I'm not getting your meaning; are you for or against?

Great post, TedW, thank you
posted by petebest at 6:29 AM on April 21, 2016


I expect supporters of Confederate Heritage Month have some words for Mr. Neiwert. Fourteen words, in fact.
posted by JohnFromGR at 6:29 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


That the North was complicit in Southern slavery does not change in the slightest that the South seceded to preserve slavery.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:32 AM on April 21, 2016 [33 favorites]


Yeah, I often figure Indiana would cheerfully be a Southern state if not for the accident of our physical location.

Eh. Southern Indiana along the Ohio Valley, maybe, right along with Southern Ohio, and the tip of Illinois.

Indiana's really three states, Industrial North, Farmland Central, & Kentuckiana
posted by leotrotsky at 6:35 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


That the North was complicit in Southern slavery does not change in the slightest that the South seceded to preserve slavery.

The South committed treason because of the prospect of there not being enough slavery in the future. Lincoln wasn't an abolitionist, he just didn't want to admit any more slave states, and a bunch of assholes didn't want him to get away with even that much.
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 AM on April 21, 2016 [23 favorites]


There would not have been slavery for so many years in the American South had it not been for the North. After all, who bankrolled the Southern economy and its cotton production?

Had the North financially embargoed the South's "King Cotton" industry, Great Britain would have immediately stepped in, since their economy was no less entangled. (There's also a tu quoque element of this argument.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:39 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Was slavery an issue for the North from the start? I got the "This rebellion was Assholes fighting Assholes by sacrificing half a million people who weren't entirely assholes" version in high school.

Basically, that while it was all about slavery in the south, in the north it was more an issue of maintaining the union (despite the presence of non-assholes trying to abolish slavery). Two years in, assholes abroad started getting interested in keeping the assholes of the south in power. So not-entirely-asshole people in the north made it about slavery for the north explicitly. Then actual assholes in the north walked a whole bunch of non-assholish promises back after the war and were OK with many of the same assholes in the south doing the same asshole things as before but with some fig leaves tacked on. Because assholes wanted money from cheap labor.

Then after decades of slow, slow progress against assholes continuing slavery in everything but name we finally get to the civil rights movement where good people got to struggle against the assholes in charge in the north and the south.

He probably should have named the course, "The United States of Assholes" but this was high school, sadly.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:43 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, tu quoque abounds in this topic. My favorite: "Black Africans THEMSELVES sold slaves!"
posted by Chitownfats at 6:44 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've been promoting the term Slavers' Rebellion ever since I heard it on James Nicoll's blog. And if it sounds a bit too diminutive, well then fine. It's more accurate, and the people who glorify the lost cause of slavers could use to be taken down a peg.
posted by happyroach at 6:53 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


My favorite confederate flag story: so my (black) wife and I are driving out to my parents' house, and there's a house with that cursed flag out in front of it. My wife (who was in the Army and in OIF, so she actually has been shot at in the name of this country, unlike most folks in our generation), looks at it and says

"Look at that flag! It's in tatters. That's ridiculous. If you're going to fly the damn thing, at least make sure it's in good shape and take care of it. Idiots."

I blinked and said "Wouldn't you rather them not fly it?"

"Nah, man, at least this way, I know where not to go."

I allowed as to how that was fair enough. A few months later, we're driving back out to my parents' house, and they've got a nice new shiny flag up. Next to the tattered one. I got treated to another round of "look at that flag, it's a mess, why in the world would you leave the old one up instead of taking it down".

This story has no neat ending, other than my amusement.
posted by joycehealy at 6:56 AM on April 21, 2016 [24 favorites]


I expect supporters of Confederate Heritage Month have some words for Mr. Neiwert. Fourteen words, in fact.

If anyone can explain what this is supposed to mean I'd appreciate it
posted by thelonius at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite stories about Tennessee history is when it tried to rejoin the Union following the Civil War. Tennessee was always a little conflicted about the war and didn't want to leave the Union initially, but once the War started the General Assembly finally got their majority to secede. Following the end of the War, Tennessee was on the path to rejoining, however they were required to pass the 14th Amendment to be allowed to rejoin.

Several Members opposed the Amendment and therefore kept avoiding the Capitol so it took several days to finally get a quorum. The Senate got quorum first and passed it. The Governor then issued warrants and had the Sergeant at Arms arrest several Members of the House and hold them there to maintain quorum. As the votes were being cast, several members of the opposition realized that the amendment would soon pass so they fled the Chambers. Under the direction of the Speaker, the Sergeant at Arms went outside the Chambers, stood at the top of the staircase, drew his pistol, and fired down at the fleeing members and shattering one of the banisters. The Members then returned to the Chambers and the Amendment was passed and TN rejoined the Union. The General Assembly specifically did not repair the banister and you can still see the damage from the shot.
posted by Deflagro at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2016 [45 favorites]


I expect supporters of Confederate Heritage Month have some words for Mr. Neiwert. Fourteen words, in fact.

If anyone can explain what this is supposed to mean I'd appreciate it


Fourteen words

(I had to google it)
posted by TedW at 7:01 AM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


> "... in the north it was more an issue of maintaining the union ..."

That was definitely an issue, but so was abolishing slavery. Abolitionism vs. Slavery was THE political issue of the day. The whole "two years in" thing is completely false -- Lincoln took an anti-slavery stance from basically his first moment in office, for example.
posted by kyrademon at 7:03 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Lincoln took an anti-slavery stance from basically his first moment in office, for example.

You mean besides endorsing (albeit begrudgingly) the Corwin Amendment in his inaugural address?

Also, let us not forget that seven states had seceded before Lincoln's first moment in office. Jefferson Davis was President of the Confederate States before Lincoln was President of the United States.
posted by Etrigan at 7:09 AM on April 21, 2016 [9 favorites]




Was slavery an issue for the North from the start?

That's a bit of a complicated question. There were many who thought slavery was a poison from day one. However, all 13 of the original states began with legalized slavery, including those in the North. Maryland and Delaware continued to be a slave state at the time of the Civil War. New Jersey was still in the process of phasing it out. Kentucky and Missouri, slave states, did not join the Confederacy.

Preserving the Union was a big part of the North's motivation, probably the default motivation among the politicians, but anti-slavery was raging. And, in case you need more evidence that the KKK was a terrorist group, I ran across this promotion of the KKK "fraternity" in an old University of Michigan bulletin (1869).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:15 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's also Texas Confederate History and Heritage Month. “Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.”
It would be a shame to let April slip by without a mention of Texas State Senate Resolution No. 526, which designates this month as Texas Confederate History and Heritage Month. The resolution uses a lot of boilerplate language (including an obligatory mention of “politically correct revisionists”), and also makes the assertion that “ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.” This is a common argument among Confederate apologists, part of a larger effort to minimize or eliminate the institution of slavery as a factor in secession and the coming of the war, and thus make it possible to maintain the notion that Southern soldiers, like the Confederacy itself, were driven by the purest and noblest values to defend home and hearth. Slavery played no role it the coming of the war, they say; how could it, when less than two percent (four percent, five percent) actually owned slaves? In fact, they’d say, their ancestors had nothing at all to do with slavery.

But it’s wrong.
"Slavery is literally the only thing in American society that would have inspired people to murder each other by the hundreds of thousands."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:17 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


The sad desire to go back to a time when it was legal for one human being to own another makes me ashamed to be an American.
posted by tommasz at 7:21 AM on April 21, 2016


"Yeah, I often figure Indiana would cheerfully be a Southern state if not for the accident of our physical location."

Despite its cultural ties to the South, Indiana was one of the fastest states to declare for the North, the fastest to call up its quota of troops (actually, it called up triple its quota before other states even got going), and one of the largest contributors to the war effort in manpower and material. 15% of the state served in the Union army -- more than 200,000 men -- mostly as volunteers, the second-highest of any state, and Indiana had a notably low desertion rate, only around 10,000 over the course of the war.

All of that with Indiana having a larger population of Southerners (migrated to Indiana from the South) than any other Union state, which did, in fact, prevent the state from being QUITE as pro-union as its leadership wanted to be. So Indiana: Full Throttle for the Union, Even With the Breaks On. Indiana was balls to the wall for the Union.

It's totally offensive to fly Confederate flags in Indiana, above and beyond the normal level of being totally offensive in general. Indianans fought and died at a rate higher than almost any other state to preserve the Union and end slavery. It's spitting on their graves.

"Basically, that while it was all about slavery in the south, in the north it was more an issue of maintaining the union (despite the presence of non-assholes trying to abolish slavery)."

It was the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 that made secession happen, and the reason for that is that the nascent Republican Party, of which he was a founding member, was explicitly anti-slavery. He wasn't exactly running around with a mandate (he won with 40% of the vote ... 80% turnout!), but the writing was very clearly on the wall that the anti-slavery faction was in control of the United States and they had enough allies in the "well, just not slavery in the North, I don't care what you do in the South" parties to push their nationwide anti-slavery agenda. The Repbulican Party platform did promise not to mess with slavery in the South, but were clear they were going to ban it in newly-organizing territories, and everyone suspected (rightly, as it turned out) that they were lying about not wanting to abolish it in the South. Maybe they would have left it alone until 1864 had the South not seceded, but the South was scared enough of the Republican Party to pre-emptively bail.

Incidentally and to tie it to the current election, Republican abolitionists were FURIOUS that the party chose Lincoln, considered a moderate, in an attempt to gain more votes by not being too abolitionist. As it turned out they won with nothing but the free states anyway because of a split slave-state vote, the South seceded anyway even with a "moderate," and Lincoln turned out to be the man for the hour anyway. Which is to say political prediction is a bit of a mug's game. (But it was a contested convention on the GOP side, and we love contested conventions!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 AM on April 21, 2016 [59 favorites]


The South committed treason because of the prospect of there not being enough slavery in the future. Lincoln wasn't an abolitionist, he just didn't want to admit any more slave states, and a bunch of assholes didn't want him to get away with even that much.

Not admitting more slave states meant that the value of slaves was less, since the demand would be lower, and these guys didn't want to lose any money.
posted by thelonius at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2016


“Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.”

That may well be, but they fought and died on behalf of the wealthy men who did. So were they complicit evildoers, ignorant dupes, or hapless victims? Please select the identity you wish to ascribe to the non-slaveowning Confederate soldiers of Texas, because these are your only three options.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


“Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.”

Anything to defend...what? What exactly does one get out of praising Confederate soldiers? The thrill of sticking it the federal government in some way?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


That whole "a small percentage of the populous (or soldiers) owned slaves" is bogus. In a household where slaves were owned, it would typically be the head of the house who owned them, not the 18 year old scion who headed off to war.

In Georgia, for example, over 70% of households had slaves. To determine the percent of slave owners, you would have to divide by the average number of people in the households (accounting for the rarer instances of households with more than one slave and divided up their ownership). The average household size in 1850 was seven, so voila, you have only 10% slave owners.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:36 AM on April 21, 2016 [24 favorites]


Related, The Project Gutenberg EBook of Lord Lyons: A Record of British Diplomacy a biography and collection of letters of the English ambassador to the United Stated during the Civil War who got the thankless job of maintaining English neutrality in the face of American idiocy. It's loaded with contempt of both parties in the war, putting lie to the myth that England was going to white knight slavery for King Cotton.

6 December 1859:
Another source of trouble between us and the Southern States may[21] arise from the measures which they are taking to drive out all persons suspected of unorthodox notions on slavery, and the orthodox notion seems to be that slavery is a divine institution. In many parts of the South, Vigilance Committees are formed who turn people out at a moment's notice, without any pretext even of law. If any attempt is made to treat British subjects in this manner, I trust you will approve of my encouraging the Consuls to insist upon the law being observed in their case, and to resist any endeavour to inflict banishment or any other penalty upon an Englishman, except in due form of law. But it will require a great deal of prudence and discretion to act in each case, for a fair trial is a thing impossible in this country of election judges and partisan juries when party feeling is excited, and any redress we may exact for the wrong to England, will be too late for the individual in the hands of Lynch Law Assassins.


Charleston, 19 April 1861:
I arrived here the night before last viâ Baltimore, Norfolk and Wilmington. North Carolina was in revolt—that is, there was no particular form of authority to rebel against, but the shadowy abstractions in lieu of it were treated with deserved contempt by the 'citizens,' who with flint muskets and quaint uniforms were ready at the various stations to seize on anything, particularly whisky, which it occurred to them to fancy. At Wilmington I sent a message to the electric telegraph office for transmission to New York, but the 'citizens' of the Vigilance Committee refused to permit the message to be transmitted and were preparing to wait upon me with a view of asking me what were my general views on the state of the world, when I informed them peremptorily that I must decline to hold any intercourse with them which I the more objected to do in that they were highly elated and excited by the news from Sumter. I went over the works with General Beauregard: the military injury done to Sumter is very trifling, but Anderson's defence, negative as it was, must be regarded as exceedingly creditable to him.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:37 AM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I often figure Indiana would cheerfully be a Southern state if not for the accident of our physical location.

I had a boss who regularly referred to Indiana as "...the northernmost of the southern states."
posted by hwyengr at 7:37 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois is great, but my favorite part of it is the room of political cartoons that ran across the country when Lincoln won the election. The writers of those cartoons sure thought Lincoln was going to end slavery, I tell you what.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:38 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


What exactly does one get out of praising Confederate soldiers?

Don't underestimate the thrill of being a white supremacist who thinks they can pretend to not be a white supremacist.
posted by aramaic at 7:39 AM on April 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


In conclusion, Indiana is a land of contrasts.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:40 AM on April 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


I had a boss who regularly referred to Indiana as "...the northernmost of the southern states."

Based on reliable anecdata, I'm starting to wonder if there are really any northern states at all, or if it's just the Confederacy all the way up.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:40 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


“Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.”

What percentage of Wehrmacht soldiers participated directly in the Holocaust?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:42 AM on April 21, 2016 [22 favorites]


Southern Illinois had a nascent secessionist movement at the beginning of the Civil War, and had that happened, we'd be referring to Little Egypt as its own state, or it could have become a western extension of Kentucky (or even Indiana).
posted by stannate at 7:45 AM on April 21, 2016


I have no real dog in this fight (CO wasn't even a territory until 1861, although its territory status def. related to the war back east), but trying to change the name bugs me, whether "War of Northern Aggression" or "Slaver's Treason."

The damn thing is incredibly complex, the war was certainly both about slavery and about a whole lot of other things, and it really doesn't seem like it's going to change a lot of people's thinking to approach it with "your great grands were evil traitors."
posted by aspersioncast at 7:49 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


The CSA was sharply divided by the notion of recruiting black soldiers. As Confederate Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb proclaimed, “If slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Black soldiers put the lie to racial inferiority, the entire basis of Confederate society and the Confederacy’s secession from the United States.
In a way it's remarkable that southerners felt compelled to resort to the delusion of black inferiority to justify slavery; why couldn't they just say 'yes, they are much like us, with abilities equal to if not greater than ours -- but they're property, we own them, and that's that'?

There's something about empathy in there somewhere.
posted by jamjam at 7:49 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here is my favorite Civil War fact: News of Lincoln's 1860 election was delivered to California in a record-breaking, unheard-of 7 days and 17 hours, by Pony Express. (It took 110 days for California to get the news Benjamin Harrison had died in 1841.) News of his re-election in 1864 was delivered to California instantaneously, by transcontinental telegraph.

Oh, sorry it took us a while to crush you, Confederacy, we were busy constructing a milestone transcontinental railroad and telegraph system on the side.*

It just blows my mind how much infrastructure and modernization went on during the Civil War, even with the country's resources so focused on the war itself. Like, the modern postal service, too, comes out of the war (partly to keep morale up for soldiers). The railroad, the telegraph -- the railroad and telegraph as strategic war resources -- it's all just pretty amazing. My other great Civil War telegraph fact is that when Congress voted to send the 13th Amendment to the states for ratification, the Illinois legislature was huddled in the statehouse in special session waiting for the news, with a runner at the telegraph machine, so they could vote instantly and we could be the VERY FIRST state to ratify the abolition of slavery, because Lincoln was OUR BOY and we were the ABOLITIONIEST STATE.

(And we did, Illinois ratified it first of all the states, within hours. Rhode Island was second and took until the next day.)

*Well, also, we had a lot of shitty generals for a while there. Details!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:51 AM on April 21, 2016 [67 favorites]


The damn thing is incredibly complex, the war was certainly both about slavery and about a whole lot of other things

It really wasn't about other things. The other things were tacked on by the lost cause writers.
posted by drezdn at 7:55 AM on April 21, 2016 [25 favorites]


it really doesn't seem like it's going to change a lot of people's thinking to approach it with "your great grands were evil traitors."

Approaching it with "your great grands were noble warriors fighting for a variety of incredibly complex causes and let's just put it all behind us" hasn't changed a lot of people's thinking either.
posted by Etrigan at 7:57 AM on April 21, 2016 [26 favorites]


You can make arguments about how "incredibly complex" the war was, but if you apply the simple test of but-for causation, all that complexity boils down to one thing: slavery. States' rights? The only right the South cared about was slavery. Southern states were perfectly happy to use the federal government to collect fugitive slaves from the North. The secession statement of each state clearly says why they seceded: to preserve slavery. Etc, etc, etc.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:59 AM on April 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


I live in a part of Michigan where many white southerners settled to work in automotive factories during and after the Great Depression, so the fake-and-dumb Confederate flag shows its stupid face on the beTruckNutzed vehicles of some of my neighbors. Michigan: a Union state - love it or leave it, folks!

My great-great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy. That is a thing he did, and it is not a point of pride for me or my family. I dislike the idea that Confederate Pride folks want to separate the 'nobility of the fight' or whatever from the disgraceful cause. Ironically, I feel like a lot of these people decry the trophies for effort that kids get, but oh, great-great-grandpa worked really hard to LOSE in the attempt to expand slavery, LET'S GIVE HIM AN A FOR EFFORT. Except no, he was a loser, who picked a losing side, for probably terrible reasons. I see nothing here to celebrate, so take that damn sticker off your car.

now my grandpa who played in one of the first integrated bands in the Army - that is some dope-ass shit worthy of a sweet flag
posted by palindromic at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2016 [27 favorites]


98 percent of the people who vote Republican will never be billionaires in need of places to offshore their cash, but that doesn't stop them voting for those things either. Believing in slavery never required one to actually own a slave, just to think that doing so was just, right and something to aspire to.
posted by emjaybee at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2016 [20 favorites]


It just blows my mind how much infrastructure and modernization went on during the Civil War, even with the country's resources so focused on the war itself. Like, the modern postal service, too, comes out of the war (partly to keep morale up for soldiers). The railroad, the telegraph -- the railroad and telegraph as strategic war resources -- it's all just pretty amazing.

Well, in some ways not so amazing. One of the major reasons why there had been no transcontinental railroad or telegraph BEFORE the Civil War is because legislators from the North and South were constantly feuding about which part of the country these infrastructure projects would run through - particularly the Railroad. When the Southern delegation quit the Congress, Northern and Western legislators could ramrod through a host of issues that had been simmering: Homestead Act, Telegraphy, Railroads, etc.
posted by absalom at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


Approaching it with "your great grands were noble warriors fighting for a variety of incredibly complex causes and let's just put it all behind us" hasn't changed a lot of people's thinking either.

My point was just that when you say the "American Civil War," everybody knows what you're referring to, and changing the name doesn't get us any closer to ending all this Confederate LARPing.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:03 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Heck I imagine a lot of the people flying confederate flags had a number of great great grandads still farming potatoes in Europe somewhere and only got their asses over here because of things like the homestead acts.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


My point was just that when you say the "American Civil War," everybody knows what you're referring to, and changing the name doesn't get us any closer to ending all this Confederate LARPing.

They spend a lot of time and effort changing the name as well. Might as well fight fire with fire.
posted by Etrigan at 8:08 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Apostles of Disunion is a good, short text about how the political movement for secession spread, and the arguments the proponents of slavery used to convince other states to secede. (The argument is slavery).
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:09 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


spend a lot of time and effort changing the name as well

I mentioned that exact thing in my original comment.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:12 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just thought I'd point out that the question of whether the war was fought over slavery is specifically addressed in Neiwert's second blog post; the question of why poor (non-slaveowning) whites supported the secessionists is addressed in his fourth post.
posted by TedW at 8:13 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


“The past is never dead. It's not even past.”
william faulkner
posted by Postroad at 8:28 AM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Indianans fought and died at a rate higher than almost any other state to preserve the Union and end slavery

I wonder how much of this though, was more about economic self-interest rather than abolitionist sentiment. In other words, how much of that Union support was about making sure Indiana farmers didn't see their labor undercut by competition from slavery. I mean, this is a state that, in the 1920s, was literally run by the Klan, so I'm not quick to ascribe Indianan opposition to Southern slavery to moral sentiment.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:36 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


My great-great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy. That is a thing he did, and it is not a point of pride for me or my family.

My great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy; in fact, he still drew a pension for it in 1917. I don't find it to be a point of pride either, although when I want to irritate Mr. Freedom, who spent several years working at Old Fort Jackson in Savannah and cannot stand Confederate pride, I tell him that I'm going to join a Fancy Southern Lady society on the strength of my Confederate ties.

I had a friend once who said that learning about the Civil War was like a really weird sandwich. You start out when you know little to nothing about it only knowing that "it was about slavery". Then, as you study it more, you find out about a whole host of other economic and political factors that influenced the lead-up to the war, and you start to think that the Civil War was about a bunch of different things. Then, when you have learned a critical mass of information about it, you realize that . . . yeah, the Civil War was completely about slavery.
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2016 [35 favorites]


Slightly off-topic, nothing grinds my gears more than seeing folks, here in Indiana, flying confederate flags.

Don't feel bad. A lot of Canadian rednecks fly it. Canadians!
posted by klanawa at 8:42 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much of this though, was more about economic self-interest rather than abolitionist sentiment.

I'm not quick to ascribe Indianan opposition to Southern slavery to moral sentiment.

I mean, couldn't the same be said of the north in general? (totally open to being history wizzed on this)
posted by avalonian at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2016


learning about the Civil War was like a really weird sandwich

Second option bias at work!
posted by Panjandrum at 8:45 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Indianans fought and died at a rate higher than almost any other state to preserve the Union and end slavery. It's spitting on their graves.

Eyebrows, I love you to death, I truly do ...but it's Hoosiers.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:47 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


I tell him that I'm going to join a Fancy Southern Lady society on the strength of my Confederate ties.
I don't recall how, but my mother is eligible for the Daughters of the Confederacy. I was very happy when she told me, years ago, that she had no intention of ever taking action on it, because it wasn't something she wanted passed on to my niece.

I dunno about renaming it, but I *do* enjoy the idea that insisting on calling it "the Slavers' Rebellion" annoys apologists. I do the same thing by always calling the flag "the Treason flag", because there's literally no way to argue the point. "Wow, it's weird to have that Treason Flag on your truck next to your Lee Greenwood sticker, isn't it?"
posted by uberchet at 8:47 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Many years previously on MetaFilter, a line-by-line comparison of the US Constitution and the CSA Constitution. No significant expansion of "states' rights" in the latter, aside from the "right" to allow slavery.

Oh, wait, under the CSA Constitution states could tax seagoing vessels (subject to a bunch of restrictions) and make compacts with each other regarding bodies of water on state borders. Yes, that must be it. Those were the states' rights that hundreds of thousands of people died for.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2016 [27 favorites]


Among some of my family and acquaintances, the Civil War is generally named the "War of Northern Aggression". When that one comes out, I usually just smile and nod and pour more whisky so that my mouth will have something to do other than get myself in trouble.
posted by theorique at 8:49 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


changing the name doesn't get us any closer to ending all this Confederate LARPing.

For that, we need more Key and Peele sketches about Confederate reenactors.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:50 AM on April 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


Of course an artificially low percentage of Confederate soldiers owned slaves. The Confederacy in fact had a law exempting one white man from their draft for every 20 blacks on a plantation (to prevent slave uprisings). Of course rich men who didn't want to fight (and who weren't stupid) were going to take advantage of that. You could get out of either side's draft by paying a substitute (at least in some circumstances). People who owned slaves were more likely to be able to pay a substitute than poor non-slaveowners were, so of course they were going to be underrepresented in the armies. I don't think there were a lot of wealthy non-slaveowners in the Confederacy. Wealth buys influence, and options to get out of a military draft if you want to, then and in more recent history. If you're old enough to remember when Bill Clinton was elected President the first time, there was talk then about political figures using wealth and influence to get out of the draft for Vietnam.

Illinois still has "Land of Lincoln" on its license plates, or did the last time I was there.

I have to laugh (hey, I likes me some black comedy) when I see Confederate flags in West Virginia.
posted by Anne Neville at 8:51 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Don't feel bad. A lot of Canadian rednecks fly it. Canadians!

Well Canadians, like the Confederates, did fight a war with the USA.

What gets me is people who insist on displaying the Confederate and United States flags together, like the young man we had in the OR last week who had one on each breast. Don't they realize that the people flying those flags tried to kill each other? And in the pushback to South Carolina's decision to take down the Confederate flag last summer there was a profusion of Confederate flag flying from pickup trucks across the south. I particularly remember a truck outside a convenience store in Brevard, North Carolina with a big Confederate flag hoisted over its bed and a US flag unceremoniously wadded up on his dashboard. At least I could see where his sentiments really were.
posted by TedW at 8:53 AM on April 21, 2016


Avalonian, I would say that the North (or really the Northeast/New England) had industries which were not in direct competition with the agrarian slave system of the South.* Agricultural Indiana though, would have continued to be in competition with a slave-holding South, but also now an unfettered (heh) slave-holding Confederacy.


* Though there is some interesting things to be said about the use of slaves in factories.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:54 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, couldn't the same be said of the north in general? (totally open to being history wizzed on this)

Essentially, yeah. Especially with regard to what sort of labor system would become dominant in new western states.

See: Free Soilers, Bleeding Kansas, Free Labor v. Slave Power
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:04 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Somebody should manufacture stickers that say "history wizzed on this"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:08 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here is my favorite Civil War fact: News of Lincoln's 1860 election was delivered to California in a record-breaking, unheard-of 7 days and 17 hours, by Pony Express.

Let me accompany that with MY favorite Civil War fact: There were efforts among wealthy, Confederate sympathizing landowners in Southern California to secede and create the slave-owning Territory of Colorado. And the California Legislature approved the plan, via the Pico Act. The secession act was sent to Washington for ratification, but then the war happened and Congress was understandably reluctant to create another slave-holding territory.

Thanks for this post, TedW. I'm really looking forward to reading all of the Neiwert links.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:10 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you feel like you would like to bone up on your Civil War history, I cannot highly enough recommend this excellent Yale Open Course, "HIST 119: THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERA, 1845-1877", taught by Bancroft Prize and Frederick Douglass Prize-winning historian David Blight.
posted by AceRock at 9:15 AM on April 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


I had a friend once who said that learning about the Civil War was like a really weird sandwich. You start out when you know little to nothing about it only knowing that "it was about slavery". Then, as you study it more, you find out about a whole host of other economic and political factors that influenced the lead-up to the war, and you start to think that the Civil War was about a bunch of different things. Then, when you have learned a critical mass of information about it, you realize that . . . yeah, the Civil War was completely about slavery.

I want to interject here to say that when someone puts forward the assertion that the Civil War wasn't just about slavery, they're not necessarily being Confederate apologists. Every US history class I ever took in school -- in a Southern state -- taught us that "the Civil War wasn't just about slavery." I'm not saying it's true -- just that it's what a lot of us were taught. There's a lot of bad and easy information to unlearn about the war, and there's a lot of good and difficult information to re-learn. Couple that with the fact that the US is still so bad at examining race and our awful history with racism and....

I don't actually know what the 'and' is. Just that ignorance doesn't necessarily equate to apologism. (And yeah, the war was totally about slavery and the South's desperate desire to keep it.)
posted by mudpuppie at 9:20 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Opposition to slavery really doesn't say much about racism as a whole. Segregation and sundown towns are living memories across the entire country. De facto segregation is reality across the entire rust belt. One of our homegrown right-wing terrorist movements grew up in Chicago suburbia before it petered out.

The klan may have been birthed in the South, but it capitalized on white flight and labour fears of the African American industrial migration in the north.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:22 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, in some ways not so amazing. One of the major reasons why there had been no transcontinental railroad or telegraph BEFORE the Civil War is because legislators from the North and South were constantly feuding about which part of the country these infrastructure projects would run through - particularly the Railroad. When the Southern delegation quit the Congress, Northern and Western legislators could ramrod through a host of issues that had been simmering: Homestead Act, Telegraphy, Railroads, etc.

Thanks for this, absalom (and for your earlier remark opening up this line of discussion, Eyebrows McGee). It's such a treat to come into a thread like this a learn something fascinating from the comments.

It's similar to my experience yesterday in the Harriet Tubman thread, which actually led me via a link in the comments to a piece of historical writing that would benefit any Southerner who is really serious about studying the history of the Confederacy genuinely, rather than finding a plausible excuse for a continued celebration of white supremacy.

According to W. Caleb McDaniel, a historian at Rice University, in their attempts to use state action in the service of slavery, Confederates’ embrace of state activism to support manufacturing and internal improvements placed them within a broad mainstream of nineteenth-century state-building projects.

Indeed, as Ryan Quintana has recently argued in an article on internal improvements in early national South Carolina, Southern states partially exemplified the broader rise of what he calls “liberal governmentality.” Slave states not only invested in infrastructural improvements; they also developed bureaucratic systems to oversee these projects, founded public reformatory institutions (like schools, penitentiaries, and asylums), and, in James Scott’s influential formulation, created modern tools for “seeing like a state”: maps, surveys, censuses, administrative boilerplate, and the like. In Quintana’s words, Southern states were “ardently committed to the project of modern state governance,” not despite but because of their commitments to slavery.


Histories ironies are so much more interesting than a tired whitewashing of "Confederate heritage." I love the fact that the kind of liberal government action that's the bane of tea-party talking heads turns out to be a distinguishing feature of the C.S.A.
posted by layceepee at 9:23 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The south did not wish to overthrow the Federal Government, nor did they declare war.

Of course, besieging and then firing on Fort Sumter was never intended as an act of war, just defending the "dignity" of South Carolina.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:23 AM on April 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


It just blows my mind how much infrastructure and modernization went on during the Civil War, even with the country's resources so focused on the war itself.
I seem to recall 18th century hypothesizing that the nascent United States was simply too large to govern forever as a single entity, and 20th century hypothesizing that the inventions of the railroad and telegraph were responsible for changing that fact. Even if you don't buy that just-so sociology, it's hard to ignore the importance of railroads for war logistics and telegraphs for war strategy.

In that light, the level of infrastructure modernization during the Civil War should be no more surprising than the level of engineering and physics research during World War II.

(For other parallels with World War II, don't skip "The First American War Criminals" above. Maybe use a text-based web browser so you don't have to look at the photos.)
posted by roystgnr at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm extremely tired of the particular historical revisionism that leaps from "attitudes towards slavery in the Union were complex and sometimes contradictory" to "the Union didn't care about slavery at all".
posted by kyrademon at 9:26 AM on April 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


but it's Hoosiers.

whatever THAT means
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 AM on April 21, 2016


This obsession with the union has always struck me as strangely maniacal.

You think the president of the United States's devotion to preserving the United States was maniacal? It's literally the first duty in the Oath of Office.

I mean, it may seem like I'm nit-picking here, but can you imagine the United States, the exceptionalist, Manifest Destiny-fueled United States, giving UP territory? We could barely stand to do it when it was Cuba and the Phillippines and NO ONE really wanted to get those territories in the first place.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:27 AM on April 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


The Lost Cause, the American Civil War, and the Greatest Material Interest of the World, aka IT WAS ABOUT SLAVERY! [EFFORTPOST]
It is a canard of Confederate apologia that war aims must be perfectly opposite. It is simply a fact that in his public statements, President Lincoln made clear that he was not out to abolish slavery, and that the Union undertook its campaign to prevent southern secession, since, in his words, the Union was perpetual, that "Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments". So, their logic goes however, that if the Union did not launch its war to end slavery, then slavery was not the cause of the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. This work will attack this position from multiple angles, demonstrating not only that the protection of slavery was a principal aim of southern secession, but that the mere right to secede was never a clearly established legal one, at best subject to major debate, and indeed, only entering the national discussion as slavery became a more and more divisive issue for the young nation, and further, that aside from legal/Constitutional concerns, secession as performed by the South was an immoral and illiberal act.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:42 AM on April 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Diarrhea soup- glad to see some really authentic reenactments. At least as many soldiers on both sides died from disease as died from wounds.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:44 AM on April 21, 2016


[Derail deleted; if you don't know the history, you could read the articles before offering sweepingly uninformed opinions.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:52 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Barring secession, Lincoln wasn't in a position to abolish slavery in defiance of Congress and Supreme Court.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:55 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The level of brainwashing in the South about the Civil War is hard to imagine if you've haven't been raised in it. It's hard to let go (if you're a white person). The lives and narratives of people's ancestors who fought for the Confederacy are things people in my high school class were still thinking about in the 90s.* Part of what makes it so hard to grapple with is that a lot of Southern families are still keeping alive the memory of their families role in it; it's not abstract, it's personal. I know the names of people in my family back two generations, then there's a big gap, and then there's our ancestor who fought in the Army of Northern Virginia and was captured at Chancellorsville and taken to a POW camp and I barely know this many details about my grandfather's life. Letting go of that personal history, putting in the proper historical context, and ending the Lost Cause myth is all necessary work of being a non-racist person in 2016, but it's hard. I hope we're getting some traction in educating white Southerners about reality, but the existence of Confederate Heritage Month (not this blog series, which is excellent) doesn't make me sanguine.

I had good history teachers who were familiar with the facts and I still got the "Slavery and" version of the war. The war was about slavery, and tariffs, and sectionalism, and westward expansion, and the powers of the national government, and it was never really pointed out that all of that collapses down to "slavery."

*Ask my poor friend who is descended from General Pickett.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:58 AM on April 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


The War Nerd - Why Sherman Was Right to Burn Atlanta:
"Sherman burned Atlanta for two reasons, both perfectly sound:

1. Because no sane general, planning to send an army of more than 60,000 men across the enemy’s heartland with no supply line or hope of reinforcement, would leave a major rail/supply center like Atlanta intact in his rear. Burning Atlanta was a no-brainer. Any commander would have done the same, but very few would have dared undertake the march from Atlanta to the Sea at all. It was so radical a plan that British military historian B. H. Liddell Hart claimed it marked Sherman as “the first modern general” and placed him alongside Napoleon and Belisarius as one of the greatest commanders of all time.

2. Because every column of smoke rising from a burning mansion, barn, or granary was intended by Sherman as a signal to a psychotically stubborn, deluded Confederate (white, landowning) population that they had lost, and that every additional life lost was, as he kept trying to tell them, an atrocity, a crime far greater than property destruction."
posted by palindromic at 9:58 AM on April 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


By all means, yes, my Southern brothers and sisters, let us celebrate the capstone to our ancestors' greatest disgrace! The war and its after affects traumatized the South in a way that rarely any other region of the United States has ever experienced, and so we get this ridiculous Lost Cause coping mechanism to assure ourselves that being truly the only Americans to every suffer crushing defeat in war is actually, surprisingly, a prime example of noble sacrifice and valiant courage.

It's tragic it's taken 150 years since the war to simply start the process of healing. In a better world, our future Confederate History months should be solely dedicated to the topics addressed in the post. Every April, we should sit down and consider the truths and ramifications of how owning one person, itself an immoral and terrible thing, resulted in a national tragedy eclipsed only by the slavery it ultimately ended. The blooded banners should be delegated to museums to sit preserved in a state of eternal reflection. Even if our ancestors could not remove the blinders from their eyes at the time of the war, to appreciate that the defense of their commonwealth or state was more than simply a matter of territorial integrity or misplaced existential crisis, there's no sufferable excuse as to why this blindness should continue on in every generation that has followed since.
posted by Atreides at 10:13 AM on April 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


it really doesn't seem like it's going to change a lot of people's thinking to approach it with "your great grands were evil traitors."

Hi, my great (great) grands* were evil traitors. When I was very young (the 1970s), I did hear a lot of that "noble fighting for their homeland" rot -- and it is still said but now I am not compelled to listen-- but as I grew up, having it framed as "these people were traitors against their government and country on behalf a single morally bankrupt cause" was good for me to hear and obviously ultimately compelling. I'm grateful for it.
*most of them. A few fought for the American side.
posted by pointystick at 10:14 AM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]




Let's get to Telling the Untold History as part of out Southern Education. Just be careful you contextualize the statues appropriately.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


My dad still uses the name "War Between The States". Which is not as bad as "War of Northern Aggression" or something I guess, but still weird. Oklahoma wasn't even around back then, so I don't know what he's thinking. And he's not that racist (just the casual "I don't understand the problem" racism to be expected from a 65 year old white Republican who's never moved away from his hometown). I guess that's how it was taught in public schools back then. At this point I just act confused and pretend I don't understand what he's talking about until he can bring himself to say "Civil War".
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2016


This seems like a good thread to ask - I'm enjoying reading the blog posts so far, but what books on the civil war should I pick up? I never got a lot of education about it beyond sort of glazing over it in high school history, most of which I don't really remember.
posted by skycrashesdown at 11:00 AM on April 21, 2016


whatever THAT means

It means we suck.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:02 AM on April 21, 2016


I had a boss who regularly referred to Indiana as "...the northernmost of the southern states."

Or, as my father prefers to call it, "The Upper Peninsula of Alabama."*

It just blows my mind how much infrastructure and modernization went on during the Civil War, even with the country's resources so focused on the war itself.

The Civil War and WWII are both major milestones in the centralization and modernization of the American federal state, and that's probably not accidental. Wars are always great times to push for major changes (good or bad, in the case of the Civil War, mostly good) because you can smash down the opposition with the heavy stick of Patriotism. Any initiative can be tied, in some way or another, to protecting "our boys" or the interests of national security.

In other words, how much of that Union support was about making sure Indiana farmers didn't see their labor undercut by competition from slavery. I mean, this is a state that, in the 1920s, was literally run by the Klan, so I'm not quick to ascribe Indianan opposition to Southern slavery to moral sentiment.

Anti-slavery co-existed with various levels of racism even among abolitionists, much less the average northern citizen quite handily before, during and after the war. Lincoln himself summarized this view quite effectively during the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

"I can only say that just because I do not want a colored woman for a slave I do not necessarily want her for a wife."

To note a parallel case, moral revulsion against slavery which emerged in Great Britain in the 1800s and led to the outlawing of the slave trade and finally Empire-wide emancipation (1807 and 1843 respectively) did not prevent the continued existence and expansion of racist ideas and ideologies within British society.

I seem to recall 18th century hypothesizing that the nascent United States was simply too large to govern forever as a single entity, and 20th century hypothesizing that the inventions of the railroad and telegraph were responsible for changing that fact. Even if you don't buy that just-so sociology

Not sure I do, really. Tsarist Russia was larger geographically, and Great Britain already controlled vast non-contiguous territories outside of Europe (India, South Africa, Canada, Australia). I do think that you could modify the thesis - that America was too big to be run as a culturally and economically homogeneous unit, that might well be true (neither the British or Russian imperial authorities were interested in integrating their vast territories in this manner), and the spread of the railroad and the telegraph helped eliminate or prevent the establishment of strong regional differentiation. But just governing, in the (relative to 20th century habits) light manner of the day could be done over remarkably vast stretches of territory. Look at how long the Spanish and Portugese Empires, both of them basically pre-modern and centered on arguable the weakest states in Europe after the mid-1700s, held together.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I'm enjoying reading the blog posts so far, but what books on the civil war should I pick up?"

If you like biographically-driven history, "Team of Rivals" is simply fantastic. It's a biography of Lincoln and his cabinet -- Lincoln and William Seward (state), Edward Bates (AG), and Salmon Chase (treasury), who all ran against Lincoln for the nomination for president, who mostly didn't like him much to start with, and who became among his closest friends and staunchest supporters. (Well, Chase less so, he gets replaced with Stanton.) It's about the amazing brilliance of these men who somehow all appeared in that moment, as well as Lincoln's special gift for reconciling people and checking his own ego that allowed him to bring them onto his cabinet. It's just an astonishing story. I am personally very fascinated by "what's going on in the heads of the 'great men' in charge?" during these moments of vast historic import, so this book -- with its heavy reliance on diaries and letters by the principals -- was great for me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:07 AM on April 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


To note a parallel case, moral revulsion against slavery which emerged in Great Britain in the 1800s

Abolitionism as a cause was well underway in the late 18th century - e.g. Josiah Wedgwood's popular "Am I Not a Man And a Brother?" medal - having begun among Quakers in the 17th.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.

Fuck you, Texas. The only state to fight two wars defending slavery.
In Section 9 of the General Provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, it is stated how the new republic would resolve their greatest problem under Mexican rule:
All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude ... Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from bringing their slaves into the republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall congress have power to emancipate slaves.
At least two of the Six Flags Over Texas are the flags of slavery.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


"I'm enjoying reading the blog posts so far, but what books on the civil war should I pick up?"

Two of my favorites are David W. Blight's Race and Reunion, which does a great job of mapping the deliberate erasure of African American centrality to the Civil War in order to hasten reconciliation, and Drew Faust's This Republic of Suffering, which looks at how the massive death toll reshaped American culture.

If you're looking for more general overviews of the war or on the experiences of the soldiers, James McPherson's work is engaging and well written. Eric Foner is one of the leading authorities on Reconstruction, in particular, and how "freedom" was variously conceived during and after the war. Ira Berlin's work on freedom is essential, too.
posted by TwoStride at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also! The memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and William T Sherman are both excellent reads (though, of course, very invested in creating/defending their legacies).
posted by TwoStride at 11:14 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


At least two of the Six Flags Over Texas are the flags of slavery.

By my count its all six.
posted by ridgerunner at 11:28 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's also Texas Confederate History and Heritage Month. “Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.”

I find this especially funny because, as far as I can tell, Texas is the only state in that seceded from two different countries in order to protect its slaveholder status.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:49 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm at least somehow related to Benedict Arnold (don't know if I'm actually a direct descendant or not). I manage to deal with this.

My parents are kinda racist. I deal with this by not bringing up topics of conversation that are likely to provoke racist spew. If your racist ancestors are dead, that wouldn't be difficult, now would it?

If I can deal with those things, then most descendants of Confederates probably can, too.

Come to think of it, we're all descended from people who believed and did some terrible things. Some of those people were otherwise good people. Humans are complex that way. If you live in the US, Australia, Europe, Russia, China, or Japan, you probably live in a country that has done terrible things at some point in its history. (This is probably true of other countries, too, but I know less about their histories.) This is something we all have to find a way to live with.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:53 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


With regard to reading recommendations, Eric Foner's very first book, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Freee Men," is a highly readable and insightful exploration of the ideology of the Republican Party in the era before the civil war, and shows how millions of Northern whites could be anti-slavery without believing in Black equality.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:55 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Seconding McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom," which manages to balance deep historical analysis with plenty of detail on the actual fighting (not very popular among Confederate LARPers).

Ditto on Eric Foner. His "Reconstruction" is a great, damning, heart-wrenching read gives a lot of insight into what happened in the aftermath of the war, and how race/class relations in the US ended up where they are.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:06 PM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also these Neiwert links are great!
posted by aspersioncast at 12:07 PM on April 21, 2016


"I can only say that just because I do not want a colored woman for a slave I do not necessarily want her for a wife."

I'm amused at the choice of words. Not necessarily. That's besides the point. Let's move on.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:15 PM on April 21, 2016


I sometimes want to buy a Confederate flag so I can burn it on Memorial Day, but I don't want anyone to think I'm a secesh.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:21 PM on April 21, 2016


Another recommendation:

The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist. I don't think I ever fully realized how self-serving and hypocritical the 'state's rights' mantra was until I read this book, where it is so clear that the secessionist states actually wished to override the right of northern states to not serve as unwilling fugitive slave patrols.
posted by palindromic at 12:22 PM on April 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Not necessarily the best place to start, but as I just finished reading it it's been on my mind, so: I'd definitely recommend Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South by Stephanie McCurry -- it's a political/social history that focuses on the groups excluded from power in the Confederacy (particularly white women slaves, though obviously not each in equal measure) which makes it a nice complement to more traditional leadership-focused narrative histories. It's less focused on the war-as-a-war and more on the wars impact on everyday lives within the South.
posted by cjelli at 12:25 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, in terms of 'dry but useful references,' I'd recommend The Civil War Day By Day: An Almanac, 1861-1865. It's just a straight chronology of events, day by day. Not something you want to read through, exactly, but handy to reference when reading other books to get a sense of what was happening at around the same time as any given event.
posted by cjelli at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Now I have a gigantic reading list that I'm very excited for. Thanks, all!
posted by skycrashesdown at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2016


The 1st Kansas Infantry Colored totally busted the Confederate meme that Blacks couldn't fight very early in the war. Late summer of '62 Jim Lane began organizing the Regiment (the only thing that marauding pirate got 100% right). Around Halloween about 200 of them outgunned and outnumbered 2 to 1 kicked ass against rebel cavalry at Island Mound.

It took awhile to be Federalized because of the Feds policy of no Black officers, so they were the 4th Black unit in the U. S. Army, beating the 54th Mass by 2 weeks.

In July '63, at Cabin Creek the Army had their first win against the Confederates by Black and White units. A couple of weeks later at Honey Creek, the 1st not only kicked ass but took names, which ended the Confederate's attempt to control the Indian Territories.

The only time they got beat was at Poison Creek, Ark. They were all strung out, guarding an Army wagon train of loot when they were hit. And yeah, Gen. N. B. Forrest wasn't the only one to allow an atrocity.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


“Ninety-eight percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave.” and yet 100% fought for the rights to one day own them. It's a lot like aspirational poor Republicans who vote for tax cuts foe the top 1%, because one day they might need that money too!
posted by cell divide at 1:10 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're in shape for a moral marathon, read Leon Litwack's two-volume history Trouble In Mind and Been in the Storm So Long. As I recall, it is a very well written but exhausting compendium of anecdotes, with intermittent analysis and commentary. The effect is devastating. I believe there is only one instance of a contemporary diarist saying "but what if we are wrong about inferiority? it would be unbearable."

For anyone who wants to get beyond more-than-justified outrage - imagine if your great-grandmother, in your very close and insular family, your favorite person in the world who had been loving and generous to you, proved to be a delusional psychopath guilty of high crimes, because of circumstances in her own childhood. If you are highly enough evolved, you would not be able to shed your emotional tie to her, or to join the chorus of those who despise her, but would look back grieving for her sins, and hoping to atone.
posted by mmiddle at 1:32 PM on April 21, 2016


David Neiwert previously: Eliminationism in America
posted by homunculus at 1:41 PM on April 21, 2016


Nthing the recommendation of Battle Cry of Freedom. It's a wonderfully-written one-volume history of the Civil War, and covers the leadup to the war, the realities of slavery, and the political context of the times, in addition to the actual battles. I read it every 4 or 5 years just because it's such a pleasure. It's absolutely the place to start if you're looking for a general overview of the war.
posted by burden at 2:14 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you want to celebrate anything southern, then I'll mention that "soul food" means tasty dishes invented by slaves for feeding other slaves.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:17 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am currently reading The American Slave Coast and one tl;dr hypothesis for the civil war is that the economy of the entire slave-holding side of the economy was a bubble economy, relying on constant new markets for slaves. Any delay in the creation of new slave states, let alone a prohibition on new territories, would cause everything to implode.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 2:44 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's a great collection of letters and diaries of Southern women before the rebellion, but I can't find it easily. I think the title is Southern Ladies, which is not unique.

They're all over the ideological map, from blaming enslaved women for being raped to proto-feminism feeling out the idea that all the legal and violent dominances were related.
posted by clew at 2:50 PM on April 21, 2016


By my count its all six.

Well, let's see:

1) French Louisiana: check!

2) Spanish Texas: maybe? "Both the civil and religious authorities in Spanish Texas officially encouraged freeing slaves, but the laws were often ignored...When the United States purchased Louisiana in 1803, Spain declared that any slave who crossed the Sabine River into Texas would be automatically freed."

3) Mexican Texas: kind of? Mexico became independent in 1821. "In 1823, Mexico forbade the sale or purchase of slaves, and required that the children of slaves be freed when they reached age fourteen." Mexico abolished slavery in 1829. Most slaves were brought to Texas by Anglo immigrants.

4) Republic of Texas: Don't mess with Texas slavery. Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836), General Provisions, section 9:
All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude, provide the said slave shall be the bona fide property of the person so holding said slave as aforesaid. Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from the United States of America from bringing their slaves into the Republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall Congress have power to emancipate slaves; nor shall any slave-holder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave or slaves, without the consent of Congress, unless he or she shall send his or her slave or slaves without the limits of the Republic. No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently in the Republic, without the consent of Congress, and the importation or admission of Africans or negroes into this Republic, excepting from the United States of America, is forever prohibited, and declared to be piracy.
5) United States, Take 1 (1845-1861): check! "Although no formal census was taken in Texas until 1850, it’s estimated that in 1845 the new state had a population of about 125,000 people. Some 30,000 lived as slaves." Take 2 (1865-present): Nope.

6) Confederate States of America: Don't mess with Texas slavery! A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union:
[Texas] was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery--the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits--a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:01 PM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


How very apropos – I'm just about through the first volume of Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative. A highly enjoyable, if massive, work and a no less fascinating conflict. Such a hot mess of a war — I can see why people would continue to be captivated by it (compared to the last proper war, we Danes fought (and lost, decisively at that, back in 1864), the Slavers’ Rebellion seems to be much more alive in the States – I have never heard of anyone noting that their grandsires fought the Prussians, though I am related to (Danish) people who were conscripted into the German army during WWI).

As for the life in the South later on, I cannot recommend Allan & Lewis’ Without Sanctuary enough. Easily one of the most chilling volumes I own.
posted by bouvin at 4:12 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


> At least two of the Six Flags Over Texas are the flags of slavery.

> By my count its all six.

Perhaps clarity is in order, then. Exactly two of those flags are ones that exist only because of a deliberate effort to preserve slavery!
posted by mystyk at 4:23 PM on April 21, 2016


98 percent of the people who vote Republican will never be billionaires in need of places to offshore their cash, but that doesn't stop them voting for those things either. Believing in slavery never required one to actually own a slave, just to think that doing so was just, right and something to aspire to.

Pretty sure off shore cash for billionaires is not high up on the agenda of the average Republican voter, if indeed it crosses their minds at all.

For a more nuanced view of why confederate (and union) soldiers fought, check out Volunteers in Blue and Gray: Why They Fought which lets them speak for themselves. It's a short read.

"Sherman burned Atlanta for two reasons, both perfectly sound"

A war crime is a war crime whatever the reason. Phillip ("the only good Indian I ever saw was dead") Sheridan, observing the Prussian siege of Paris in 1871, shocked the German generals by suggesting that they should shell the crap out of the place so that "the people must be left with nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war".

posted by IndigoJones at 4:43 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, lets see:

I'll stand pat at 6. I have one GGGGranduncle that on one census, listed 18 slaves. I don't know if he was a slave owning SOB for 1 year or 19, but it makes me the son of a slaveholding family. If your gonna be proud of your history you gotta take the shit with the good.
posted by ridgerunner at 7:07 PM on April 21, 2016


Now I have a gigantic reading list that I'm very excited for. Thanks, all!

This thread has cost me ~$80.00 on Amazon thus far.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:46 AM on April 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


For a more nuanced view of why confederate (and union) soldiers fought, check out Volunteers in Blue and Gray: Why They Fought which lets them speak for themselves. It's a short read.

So the three major themes that seem to come out of that link are: fighting to protect a way of life, fighting against an invading force, and fighting for liberty in the style of the Revolutionary War. The first one is fairly simple: it was a way of life that depended on slavery. Some of the quotes from your article make this crystal-clear, and it is no less morally repugnant and indefensible as the accusation that the favorite rallying cry of Lost Cause libertarians, "it was an attack on the South's society/economy." If you're going to accuse someone of attacking your way of life, but that way of life is built on slavery, you've already lost. And let's note here that the South's economy wasn't just built on slavery, their economy was slavery. With the official end of the slave trade decades ago, that meant that creating new slaves and building a slave society was of utmost importance to most of the slave states. The cruelty, the attempted destruction of humanity and society of millions of people, that so many attempt to make into a footnote of history rather than an entire chapter was in many ways the raison d'etre of the southern states. That this is often "forgotten," or (in the case of Lost Causers and other Confederate apologists), ignored completely should be considered as great a moral failing as defending slavery itself. It must be remembered as perhaps the greatest crime of the Confederacy, and surely the worst reason for their succession.

Second: fighting against an invading force. This one's also easy, because it was the Confederates who seceded, it was the Confederates who fired first, and they did it all in the name of slavery. That the soldiers blamed the Union rather than the Confederate politicians--almost entirely rich slaveowners who had largely ignored the plight of less well-off citizens before--somehow supports the idea that the Union was the aggressor as historical fact doesn't hold up.

Finally: fighting for liberty in the style of the Revolutionary War. No, just...no. As the article notes, several letters said this immediately before or after pointing out that they were fighting to preserve slavery. That the massive hypocrisy in this line of thinking didn't occur to them is their failure of imagination and no one else's. This was also not a war over taxes or representation. Indeed, the national income tax was introduced only during the war, and (as might come a shock to many) it was the Confederates who instituted it first. And if anything, the Confederacy was basing their entire argument that much (or possibly most) of their population deserved representation only to make the states more powerful, with no rights accorded to that population whatsoever. The whole "state's rights" argument continues to be as stupid and racist as it has been since before the conflict began, for the same reason I mentioned above, namely that it was fighting for a state's right to enslave others. That many people place emphasis on the "state's rights" portion of that than the "enslave others" portion is both ignorant and vile. Furthermore, this was a time when most of the world's military powers had either abolished slavery or were in the process of doing so. The Confederate politicians knew their way of life was several decades behind the times, but still they chose to throw the country into war over it.

A war crime is a war crime whatever the reason. Phillip ("the only good Indian I ever saw was dead") Sheridan, observing the Prussian siege of Paris in 1871, shocked the German generals by suggesting that they should shell the crap out of the place so that "the people must be left with nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war".

It's noteworthy, then, that Sherman never ordered anything like that. It's also noteworthy that Atlanta was (1) a highly-fortified industrial center, and (2) the end-point of a nasty military campaign. It was the Confederates who blew up the railcars and depots full of ammunition and supplies in their retreat from the city, contributing further to the destruction already wrought. After Sherman occupied the city, he asked only that military and industrial targets be destroyed, and also that soldiers were not to be lodged in private homes. The most controversial aspect, the expulsion of the civilians (of whom roughly 1600 still remained), wasn't a case of kicking them out with naught but the clothes on their backs. They were allowed possessions (yes, including slaves) and Sherman even offered transportation to waiting Confederate forces that he had parleyed with.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:02 AM on April 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's noteworthy, then, that Sherman never ordered anything like that.

Sherman to Schofield August 1, 1864: "You may fire from 10 to 15 shots from every gun you have in position into Atlanta that will reach any of its houses.”

To his wife he wrote: "Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of it's roads, houses, and PEOPLE will cripple their military resources...."

To Halleck: "We are not only fighting armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect.

Clearly a lot of people are okay with this and other such comments.

They were allowed possessions

What they could carry. The rest was booty, or destroyed. Where should they go? Not Sherman's problem. He was off to Charleston where Halleck in his jokey way suggested he would not grieve if some "accident" were to befall that city.

Tempers were clearly running high, then as in this post. Five years after the unpleasantness, however, we read the following:

"If you bring these leaders to trial, it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution, secession is not a rebellion. His [Jefferson Davis] capture was a mistake. His trial will be a greater one. We cannot convict him of treason."

Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, 1867

I'd reply at greater length but an earlier long comment that ran counter to general opinion here was deleted yesterday, and I'm not getting paid for this. One last piece of interest which will not go down well here, check out Barbara Marthal.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:44 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe if we focus hard enough on the burning of Atlanta and the March to the Sea, which were terrible, we can ignore the centuries of black slavery which preceded them, which were thousands of times more terrible.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:09 AM on April 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


I would kind of like to peek into the timeline where all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil actually was sunk, and where every drop of blood drawn with the lash really was repaid with one drawn by the sword.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:14 AM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


In these days of wars that are not wars, it might be worthwhile to consider Bleeding Kansas as part of a conflict that started with paramilitary groups and terrorism.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:35 AM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


And if we look at Bleeding Kansas, it's clear that yes, people were willing fight and die over slavery.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:44 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The ancestor of my great-uncle's wife was shot dead by Union cavalry men after he refused to hand over flour/other mill stuff when they came to raid his mill. I, and anyone with connections to Smyth County, Virginia, lost complete access to records of the past that might have shined insight into our ancestors because Union cavalry burned the county's records near the end of the war. These injustices don't spring up when I think about the war, nor provide any personal sense of anger against the Union, my government today.

In the end, the South started the conflict, we began the war by enslaving men, women, and children, and then building an economy that made it a critical pillar. We would rather stop being Americans than give up human bondage. We started the war, and with war, there always comes tragedy, destruction and ruin.

Every so many years, I dig deeper into my genealogy and discover more Confederates (and maybe one or two Yankees), and for the first time, earlier this year, I found evidence that an ancestor owned one slave (a woman in her 60s), the first evidence of any slave ownership in my family. That same side also appears to have African-American DNA in it, as well, which I discovered about the same time, and only makes things more complex. But, regardless of the ancestor who was wounded and sent home, then called a deserter for refusing to return to the lines, or the ancestor who died at Gettysburg, or even the irritation I actually felt when I discovered that Sheridan is buried in Virginia soil (literally in Robert E. Lee's front yard), it's a bunch of history that we like to pull along with our Southern identities, but at no point does any of the suffering that was endured establish any type of right to try and leverage it against the foundation it was built upon.

For the most part, my people lived in the mountains of Virginia and Kentucky, out of dozens of families, one man, owned one slave, and they were generally simply small self-sufficient farmers. You don't have to spit far to hit the parts of Virginia which refused to secede and became West Virginia. Out of most of the people in the South, they had some of the least reasons to go off and fight the rich man's war, but they did so anyway, and eventually, the war they went to fight returned to their mountain homes and lit it all on fire, and fire doesn't care who it burns once set.

And I don't know where I'm going with this, but in a time when some want to highlight the Confederacy, it's exactly not the time to worry about the suffering the white people of the South endured. That's better saved for another time and venue.
posted by Atreides at 7:54 AM on April 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


One last piece of interest which will not go down well here, check out Barbara Marthal

Given that Marthal is a "black Confederates" truther, it would seem you missed the link in the very first comment in this thread that thoroughly buried this new version of the "loyal slave" narrative.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:08 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


check out Barbara Marthal.

Giving a speech at the Abbeville Institute, named for the birthplace of John C. Calhoun, who was as vigorous a champion of the good of slavery as you'll find even in the Antebellum South.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:16 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Found the book I was thinking of: The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930.
posted by clew at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


And let's note here that the South's economy wasn't just built on slavery, their economy was slavery.
...in 1860 American slaves, as a financial asset, were worth approximately three and a half billion dollars--that's just as property. Three and a half billion dollars was the net worth, roughly, of slaves in 1860. In today's dollars that would be approximately seventy-five billion dollars. In 1860 slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America's manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together. Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy. The only thing worth more than the slaves in the American economy of the 1850s was the land itself, and no one can really put a dollar value on all of the land of North America. If you're looking to begin to understand why the South will begin to defend this system, and defend this society, and worry about it shrinking, and worry about a political culture from the North that is really beginning to criticize them, think three and a half billion dollars and the largest financial asset in American society, and what you might even try to compare that to today.
Yale History Professor David Blight, from his excellent course The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:00 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]




The only state to fight two wars defending slavery.

As a native and proud Texan, I used to always comfort myself that Texas wasn't as bad as the rest of the south because we didn't really have that many slaves and they were mostly limited geographically to east Texas, which is closer culturally to the deep south anyways. But, I learned sometime last few years that although Texans didn't have that many slaves themselves as compared to the rest of the south, because the war didn't really go that far west the south shipped alot of their slaves to Texas for safe keeping during the war, which of course Texas was happy to oblige.

Texas was willing to secede from Mexico over slavery, and there were only 5,000 slaves in the territory at the time. That jumped to over 250,000 in 1865.


It sucks that a place I love so much can have such a horrible history, but when it comes to race, no where is safe, I think. People are the wooooorst.

(I received the "slavery and..." in learning about the civil war in school. Interestingly, in elementary, the teacher emphasized that whatever came after the "and" tied back to slavery. However, in high school, not so much. I don't think that was due to the coach's opinion on it though, that class never really got into depth in anything and really just went over the broad points. Probably because it was a coach and not a teacher.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Rod Dreher: Remembering Slavery At Whitney - "It’s time we talked openly about this, and did right by history. Going to Whitney Plantation on Wednesday made me feel even more strongly that the way to confront history is not by tearing down statues or razing plantations that stand as monuments to those things, but rather to erect memorials and museums like Whitney Plantation, to broaden and deepen awareness of the moral and historical record, and the commemoration of the world the slaves made."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:44 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


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