Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Confederate Flag: Part 1

The Battle Flag

       Nothing in this country causes more controversy today than for someone to display the Confederate Battle Flag in public. Recently, I attended the re-enactment of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Alabama. Newspapers covering the event tried to twist the entire thing into something it wasn't. Why, you might ask? Because, controversy sells newspapers. I was recently listening to the Paul Finebaum talk radio show and he brought something to my attention I hadn't thought about before. With everyone getting the news free on the internet today, newspapers are going out of business. He made the statement that reporters must write stories that will attract attention if that means ignoring the truth. 
       I normally try and avoid discussing issues that involve controversy between two different races because no matter what you say, you end up being labeled a racist. I'm going out on a limb here and attempt a discussion without offending anyone. Hopefully, I won't end up regretting writing this blog.
       I've never understood what the Confederate flag has to do with racism. The flag was used in battle to distinguish Confederate units from Federal units. It was never an official flag that represented the Confederate government, but represented military forces. It wasn't the only flag that flew over Confederate military forces. 

The Trans-Mississippi Flag

Cleburne's Division Battle Flag

Polk's Corps Battle Flag

       All three of the flags above flew over Confederate troops in battle, yet there is no controversy surrounding either of them. I drove around with a tag on my truck that was the Bonnie Blue Flag which was the first flag of the Confederacy. It remained on my truck for over ten years and no one complained about that flag. As a matter-of-fact, I was often asked why I had a Texas flag on my truck. 
       I've often heard that people hate the Confederate Battle Flag because the Ku Klux Klan often carried the flag. That argument doesn't make any sense. The Ku Klux Klan has carried the American Flag just as often as the Confederate Flag, yet no one complains about the American Flag. 

KKK Marching in Washington in 1952

       Today, the majority of Klan members are located in the northern states, particularly the state of Ohio. I love the Confederate Flag and racism has nothing to do with the reason I love that flag. I have numerous friends who are African American. One good friend named Larry told me he knew there wasn't a racist bone in my body. He understands that I just love history, but there is more to it than just history. Allow me to discuss this further and hopefully I won't come across as unpatriotic. 
       Today we honor American troops fighting in Iraq and  we are called traitors if we don't support those troops. What are those troops doing in Iraq? It was proven that there were no weapons of mass destruction in that country. As I tell everyone who asks me what the American Civil War was fought over, all wars are fought for one reason and that reason is money. Our troops are in Iraq today for oil no matter how you try and justify them being there. We still honor the flag that sent them there, because they are dying everyday under that flag. The same can be said about the Confederate Flag. Good men died fighting under the Confederate Flag. Good men who owned no slaves and never fought to defend slavery. My Confederate ancestor in the 35th Alabama Infantry could barely afford shoes, much less another human. I'm not defending slavery here either, I think it is morally wrong and I would never attempt to own another human being. 
       Let me get back to the Davis Inauguration Re-enactment. Newspapers there interviewed local blacks about us re-enacting the event of 150 years ago. One NAACP leader stated that we were up there spreading ignorance. I'd never known until that day that every re-enactment which I consider a hobby is a means of spreading ignorance. I would like for that man to explain to me how a Civil War Re-enactment spreads ignorance. I talked to a black friend of mine before attending the re-enactment in Montgomery. I explained to him that the NAACP was discussing protesting us having the re-enactment and asked his opinion. He has strong feelings about slavery and what went on in the United States prior to the Civil War, but his reply was simple. He told me to go enjoy myself, that there was nothing wrong with a re-enactment. 
       Another woman was interviewed about the event and stated that she thought we were intentionally insulting black people by having  the event during black history month. Of course, the reporter failed to mention that we didn't have the re-enactment just because it was black history month, but because we re-enact these events on the anniversary of the actual event. The inauguration of Davis occurred 150 years ago, long before February was designated black history month. 

African American Lady who had a Confederate Ancestor

       My wife took the above picture of an African American lady who marched in the parade. She has a black Confederate ancestor and she attended the event to honor the man as a soldier. When the reporter wrote his article, many who oppose the Confederate Flag commented that blacks were forced to fight for the Confederacy against their will. They said that not one black soldier fought willingly for the Confederacy. I suppose black Confederate veterans were forced to attend Confederate soldier reunions years after the war also. 

Black Confederate Veterans at a reunion

       I will go into more detail about the misunderstood flag and the facts in the next part. Again, I hope I'm not offending anyone, just making an attempt to get to the truth. 


Monday, February 21, 2011

Dave Poole: Missouri Guerrilla

Captain Dave Poole

       Dave Poole began the Civil War as a lieutenant under William Clarke Quantrill. He was in command of his own gang of 'bushwhackers' later in the war. He managed to maintain a fairly low profile during the first couple of years, but as things got bloodier, so did Dave. By 1864, Dave Poole was among the bloodiest. 
       At one point, his gang came upon nine Federal soldiers hiding in a schoolhouse. After killing all nine, Dave had the corpses propped in chairs at the desks. He then proceeded to teach the dead Federals for an hour using the blackboard to give demonstrations. Upon finishing the lesson, he announced that his pupils were very loyal to sit and listen the way they had. 
       He was wounded at least once during the war while serving under Quantrill near Pleasant Hill. 

William Clarke Quantrill

       On September 27, 1864, Dave Poole played a key role in the ambush of Major Ave Johnston's Federal troops. Johnston had chased Poole's men into a field with a tree-line on three sides. Johnston immediately dismounted his 155 cavalrymen to face Poole's troops who had wheeled around near the trees. 
       Upon seeing the Federals dismount, one of the bushwhackers remarked, "They are dismounting to fight! My God, the Lord have mercy on them!"

Major A.V.E. Johnston

       Major Johnston had been warned by the townspeople that Bloody Bill Anderson was on the scene in command of a large guerrilla force, but he discounted the reports. He believed he only faced about 80 men. His men were at a huge disadvantage because they carried muskets and couldn't fight on horseback. After firing, his men would be forced to reload which would take almost half a minute. The Confederate guerrilla's carried a pistol in each hand with six shots each and had learned to ride with their horses reins in their teeth. 

Bloody Bill Anderson (photographed in death)

       It appeared Johnston had the enemy where he wanted him. At that moment, Confederate guerrilla's on horseback emerged from the trees from in front and on both sides of him. There were gangs present under not only Bloody Bill Anderson, but also George Todd, Dave Poole, Si Gordon, John Thrailkill, and Tom Todd. Johnston had driven his men into a trap and they didn't stand a chance. 

The trap laid by Bloody Bill Anderson

        The result was what is called today 'the Centralia Massacre.' Despite Federal prisoners begging for their lives, blood thirsty guerrilla's shot them down. Major Johnston would be killed by a shot from a young guerrilla named Jesse James. After the battle, Dave Poole was seen hopping from body to body because they all lay in a single line. Blood would fly into the air from the wounds as he landed on each corpse. Tom Todd, a Baptist preacher protested Poole's actions. Dave's reply was in the form of a question, "How else am I supposed to count how many we killed?"
       When guerrilla leader George Todd was killed, Dave Poole took over his gang as well as his own. On May 21, 1865, he led forty of his men into Lexington, Missouri and surrendered. His career as a bushwhacker was over.
       His career as an outlaw had just began, but it wouldn't last long. On October 30, 1866, Dave Poole, his brother and three other men robbed a bank in Lexington. They made off with two thousand dollars in cash which equals about $45,000 dollars today. They missed a large sum of money in the vault because they failed to find the key. 
       The governor of Missouri ordered all men of military age to join the militia in an attempt to stop crime. Anyone failing to comply would be subject to arrest. Dave Poole and twenty-five of his former gang rode into Lexington to volunteer. This was done as a joke because everyone knew that Poole had been behind the holdup. They were turned down for service and ordered to leave town at once. One of his men, Little Archie Clement refused to leave and entered a bar where he proceeded to get drunk. The military went there to arrest him, but he refused to surrender and was killed.

Dave Poole (standing) and Archie Clement (left)

       Dave Poole would soon leave Missouri and move to Texas where he ran a ranch. He eventually moved to New Mexico and then on to Arizona where he died. He was one of the few guerrilla leaders that would survive the war. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Southern Charm: The Top Confederate Generals Who Possessed It

Thomas Benton Smith

       Confederate Brigadier General Thomas Benton Smith from Tennessee was known for his southern charm.  His staff officers often begged him to share the many pretty women who were attracted to him because of his good looks and southern charm.  All that would come to an end at the Battle of Nashville when he was struck over the head by a sword after surrendering.  He would spend the next 47 years in an insane asylum.  

Matthew Calbraith Butler

       Major General Matthew C. Butler from South Carolina may have gone a little far with his southern charm.  Despite losing a leg and having a wife he always had a lady on the side.  Somehow he kept his adulterous relationships going despite serving in the United States Congress following the war.  

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

       General Beauregard was well liked by the women of the south because he was supposed to be the next Napoleon.  His first wife had died in 1853 and he had remarried in 1860.  Following his performance in capturing Fort Sumter, southern women fawned over him.  He received so many bouquets that he didn't have enough room to display them all.  His second wife died in 1864 and the man would never remarry, however the man was never without female companionship.  

Benjamin Franklin Cheatham

       Major General Ben Cheatham obviously obtained quite a bit of southern charm.  Because as my wife says, "He must have had something but it wasn't looks!"  The lifelong bachelor was well known for his hard drinking and his colorful language.  At the Battle of Murfreesboro he was so intoxicated he couldn't even mount his horse.  At the Battle of Springhill he was rumored to be seeing a local belle named Jessie Peters while the federal army escaped a carefully laid trap.  This resulted in the high casualties at Franklin the next day.  After the war he would return to Nashville, Tennessee, get married, and settle down.  

James Euell Brown Stuart

       Major General Jeb Stuart, the eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was well known for his southern charm.  He was married to Flora Cooke and there is no evidence that he ever cheated on her.  He did have a fondness for ladies though.  When in camp   he always made sure there was a ball.  Several officers under his command complained that Stuart always had to kiss all the pretty girls.  His life came to a tragic end at Yellow Tavern in 1864 where he was shot in the liver.

Earl Van Dorn

       The general most known for his southern charm was Earl Van Dorn of Mississippi.  Southern women thought he was extremely handsome and charming.  He had an extremely large ego, although he  never won a battle in command of an army.  Although he was married his wife knew of his extramarital activities.  President Davis reduced him to cavalry command and Van Dorn made Springhill, Tennessee his headquarters.  He chose the home of a local doctor.  The doctors wife was named Jessie Peters and they were known to take long carriage rides together alone.  One afternoon General Van Dorn was working at Dr. Peters desk when the doctor slipped around behind him and shot him in the back of the head.  
       You have to be careful with that southern charm because it is not always a good thing.  Some southern gentlemen can get away with these things while others of us get shot in the back of the head.