Monday, June 30, 2014

Problems with James Loewen's Confederate Reader

Another New England author attempts to prove it was good versus evil

       I recently ordered a book online not having a clue what the book was about. I have only read ninety pages, but the author lets you know what he is attempting in the introduction. The Civil War was about slavery and  slavery only. The "most holy north" invaded the "evil" south because everyone in the south are racists, etc. I quickly searched the back cover to find out what I could about the author. James W. Loewen is a retired professor from the University of Vermont. How could I have ever imagined he was another of those New England elitists. 

       Loewen does more to prove the south correct than he actually intends to. He tells us that the south seceded because the north was not obeying the constitution. According to him, the northern states had a moral right to not obey the fugitive slave law. Although, slavery was legal at the time (don't take what I'm saying as I support slavery, just bear with me), and the fugitive slave law was indeed law, Mr. Loewen insists the north was correct in disobeying the law. When the south seceded because of breach of contract (the northern states not obeying the laws of the constitution) according to Mr. Loewen, the south was wrong. Now you'd have to be a Yankee to think that way in the first place. Any good lawyer will tell you that if one party breaks a contract, the contract is worthless. 

       I then decided to learn what I could about Mr. Loewen's history classes, but wait, I was in for another surprise. Loewen was not a history professor (imagine that if you will). He was a professor of sociology. Now everything he writes begins to reveal itself. Mr. Loewen has attempted to write about a subject he is 150 years removed from, by making the same mistake as many other modern day historians. He is attempting to look at that time period through today's eyes. He has forgotten that to study a time period, one must place himself in that time period and view it through the eyes of those who lived at the time. 

       Was America the only part of the world to own slaves in 1860? Let's take a look. Various parts of Africa owned slaves up until 1900. Ethiopia had over 8 million people in slavery in 1930. China didn't outlaw slavery until 1910. Others include Korea, Thailand, Burma, and Japan. Saudi Arabia had over 300,000 slaves in 1960, that is correct, 1960. Where were all these New England elitists while all that was going on? That's a good question. 

       Could it be that there was no money to be made or power to be gained from freeing the Saudi slaves? As John C. Calhoun stated in a speech in Mr. Loewen's book, the New England states want the slaves freed, given the right to vote, to swing power into New England's favor because of course the freed slaves will vote for the people that gave them their freedom. New England had been losing power in this country ever since we began to expand. During the Mexican War, it was the New England states that threatened to secede because more territory meant less power for their section. 

       Mr. Loewen even attempts to persuade us that General Robert E. Lee was a racist. I agree with  Mr. Loewen on this point one hundred percent. As a matter of fact, 99.9% of all people during that time period were racists. All you have to do is listen to Abraham Lincoln's speeches to see what a racist he was, but Mr. Loewen chooses to ignore these. I'm not a racist, but I do have some serious questions I'd like answered. During the 1860's, Americans thought they were better than Africans, Irish, Polish, Germans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Italians. The Irish were looked down upon as the scum of the earth in 1860 (my red hair gives me away here). Yet, today, it is perfectly fine to insult any of these except those of African descent. Why? The answer lies in John Calhoun's speech. The politicians are still counting on all those votes from those of African descent to remain in power. 

       Mr. Loewen believes he has solved the argument of what the war was over, yet he refuses to believe that northern greed had anything to do with it. That would mean that his part of the nation could be just as guilty as the south. Nor does he mention the ships owned by the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago that made millions of dollars bringing African slaves to America to sell to the southern states. Do yourself a favor and skip this book. By using various documents of his choosing and ignoring others, he attempts to sell you on the fact that the war was about slavery and slavery only. Maybe he should just stick to sociology and leave the history to historians. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

May I quote you Mr. Lincoln

       Last Friday, our Sons of Confederate Veterans camp had Carl Jones speaking to us about the constitution and what it had to do with the War Between the States. For anyone who hasn't heard Carl talk, you have missed out. The man understands the U.S. Constitution better than most constitutional lawyers or supreme court justice's. During the course of the talk, we got on the topic of Ole Abe Lincoln and what he truly believed. It inspired me to write a blog using a few of his quotes to come to a conclusion of what the war was truly about. 
       We'll begin with dear Abraham speaking on the floor of congress on January 12, 1848. All italics in these quotes are mine.

       "Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which a whole people of an existing government, may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much of the territory as they inhabit."

       As far as Lincoln waging war on the South because of his love for the African slaves, let's see what he says about them on September 18, 1858, just two years before the conflict begins. 

       "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social or political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negro's, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people." 

       What does he say just before the war begins in a speech a group of northerners who opposed slavery. This was stated by Lincoln on February 27, 1860 in New York City. 

       "Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation."

       What did he mean by the necessity of is presence in the nation. Lincoln was no idiot. He understood that if he freed the slaves upon taking office, he would ruin half the nations economy and that half was the one paying eighty-five percent of the Federal taxes at the time. 
       Let's take a look at a few quotes from his first inaugural address and see what we can learn about Abe Lincoln and his views on freeing the slaves.

       "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

       So Mr. Lincoln what exactly would lead to war if your not invading the South over slavery?

       "The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government and to collect the duties and imposts (taxes); but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere."

       Now we get a better understanding. You will have 700,000 of your countrymen slain and many more disabled for the love of money. Can you tell what you your reply was when suggested by a member of your own cabinet to just allow the South to leave in peace?

       "Let the South go? Where then would we get our revenue?"

       Let us look at a speech that Mr. Lincoln gave to a group of freed blacks on August 14, 1862 so we can understand how you truly view the black race.

       "You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated."

       Eight days following this speech, what exactly did you write and say to Horace Greeley the New York newspaper editor. 

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

       This last quote I am posting is not by Mr. Lincoln, but by that newspaper editor that Lincoln was writing to above. 

       "If the Declaration of Independence justified the secession of 3,000,000 colonists in 1776, why did it not justify the secession of 5,000,000 Southerners from the Union in 1861?"

       That's a very good question. It's too bad ole Abe's not around to explain it to us. Wait, I believe he can. I refer you to the reply he gave to his cabinet member earlier in this post. "Where would we get our revenue?"




Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Ultimate Civil Wargasm Part V

Jerry and myself inspecting the entrance to the Crater mine

       Before I begin this blog, I would like to correct a mistake I made in the last one. I mentioned that Brigadier General Samuel Garland was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. In fact, we visited the grave of General Garland in Lynchburg as you will see in this part of the story. The general buried in Richmond is Brigadier General William Edwin Starke who was killed at Antietam two days after General Garland died. 
       We arrived in Petersburg with plenty of time to visit the national battlefield there. The place is neat and one of the few major battlegrounds that I had yet to visit. I have several books on the Battle of the Crater and had been looking forward to this trip for years. Confederate Brigadier General Edward Porter Alexander visited Elliott's Salient and reported to General Lee that he believed the Federal's were mining there to explode the position and break through Confederate lines. A visiting British engineer laughed at Alexander and informed him there had never been a mine dug that far in history and that it was impossible. Alexander informed the British guest that these were Pennsylvania miners and they could accomplish such a feat, and they did. 

The Crater (for scale, that is me standing on the other side)

        Colonel Pleasants, who engineered the mine requested 12,000 pounds of powder, but General Meade only allowed the use of 8,000 pounds. Out of just over 300 South Carolina troops stationed in the small fort, 278 were killed when the explosion occurred. The Federal's charged the crater, yet the walls were almost 30 feet high and there was nowhere to go. Confederate soldiers converged on the scene and gathered around the top of the crater. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. One Confederate referred to it as a turkey shoot. The Battle of the Crater was a giant failure. The only results were 3,798 Union casualties and 1,491 Confederate. On our trip, I wanted to go down into the mine, but after visiting Shy's Hill last summer and getting eaten alive by chiggers, I decided it just wasn't worth it. Maybe I'll go back some day in the winter. 
       We left the battlefield and visited Blandford Cemetery to get three more generals. One problem, we forgot about General Cullen Andrews Battle of Alabama. I'm ashamed to admit that today. How does one forget a general from his own home state. (It had been a long trip is my excuse and I'm sticking with it.) To be honest, upon arrival, I thought this is gonna be easy. Blandford is a small church built in 1735 and is very deceiving. It looks like an extremely small cemetery until you pass the church. You can look across the field for almost a mile and there seem to be thousands of graves. It appears to be three times bigger than Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. I said, "We're gonna be here a while." 

Mel in Blandford Cemetery with our Museum of the Confederacy stickers all over her back. It's a good thing she is a good sport.

       Melanie quickly located Brigadier General David Addison Weisiger which made me feel much better. We then located the grave of Major General William Mahone, the hero of the Battle of the Crater. The Confederacy could have fallen much earlier had it not been for the quick work of Mahone and his division.
       The next morning, we left Petersburg and headed toward Appomattox. We arrived and toured the new Museum of the Confederacy there and headed on over to Appomattox National Park. We got out of the car and started up the hill toward the courthouse. Melanie immediately passed us all. (According to her, she can only walk up hill if she walks at a very fast pace.) As she sped by me, Jerry said, "Look at that. Looks just like a Missouri saddle horse headed up the road."
       "Shut up," Melanie replied, "you like to ride it."
       It was the first time I saw Mel get the best of the Ole Man.
       Appomattox is a very sad place. To think of what all those brave boys went through for four long weary years and then be forced to march in and surrender is tormenting to us Southerners. Poor Jerry got choked up at Appomattox thinking of what occurred there. Jerry and I normally cut up all the time and this was one of those times when neither of us found any humor in the moment. 

The McLean House at Appomattox

       We left the sadness at Appomattox and headed to Lynchburg where we got the graves of Jubal Early, James Dearing, Robert Rodes, and of course Brigadier General Samuel Garland. We then headed home. It was the ultimate Civil Wargasm. Jerry still says he thinks about that trip daily and can't wait for the next one. I tell him I can't promise it will be that good next time. I have asked my wife several times and am asking her again just now. "What are the odds of me finding someone as interested and loves the Confederacy and its soldiers as much as I do in my own home town?" That is how I feel about my best "Civil War buddy" Jerry Smith. I truly hope you enjoyed the trip ole buddy.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Ultimate Civil Wargasm Part IV

The Monument to the Confederate Dead

       While in Hollywood Cemetery, we stopped by the monument to the Confederate dead. All those stones reminded me of my rock climbing days and I began to climb the monument. I got about fifteen feet off the ground when I thought about the caretakers. I was afraid they would toss us from the cemetery before we finished the job at hand, so I came back down. 
       We found Brigadier General Joseph Reid Anderson (Virginia), James Jay Archer (Maryland), Robert Chilton (Virginia), John Pegram (Virginia and killed at Hatcher's run), Samuel Garland (Virginia and killed at Fox's Gap), John Rogers Cooke (Virginia), and Major General Henry Heth (Virginia). We then ran into a snag. We couldn't find Brigadier General Philip St. George Cocke (Virginia). He was an early casualty, not from enemy fire, but from depression. The day after Christmas of 1861, he committed suicide. We were forced to spread out and comb the area around where he is marked on the map. It took us awhile and the temperature had really heated up at this point. Jerry finally found the hard to find grave. 

The writing is barely legible on Cocke's stone

       We then went to the graves of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Major General Fitzhugh Lee (Virginia), Brigadier General Eppa Hunton (Virginia), David Rumph "Neighbor" Jones (South Carolina), Samuel Jones (Virginia), Thomas Muldrop Logan (South Carolina), William "Extra Billy" Smith (Virginia), Henry Wise (Virginia), Reuben Lindsay Walker (Virginia), William Richard Terry (Virginia) and Isaac Munroe St. John (Maryland). We then visited the grave of Major General Jeb Stuart (Virginia), one of the most famous cavalrymen of the war next to Forrest, but I always consider Forrest as leading mounted infantry. At this point, we kept running into cemetery tours and were getting a lot of strange looks in our jackets.

Stacie and I with Jeb and Flora Stuart

       I hope I didn't leave anybody out. That should be 27 generals if anyone wants to go back and count them. We left the cemetery, found a place to eat, and then headed to the Museum of the Confederacy and the White House of the Confederacy where Davis lived throughout the war. 

Stacie and I standing with President Jeff Davis

       Outside the museum we found the drive shaft and anchor of the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Virginia. We also posed beside the anchor chain of one of the ships she sank, the U.S.S. Cumberland. We then hit the museum and toured the house. The museum was good, not near as nice as I remembered it back in 1996. The upstairs has been re-arranged to glorify the movie "Gettysburg." Another part of the museum is loaded with post war memorabilia that I could of skipped entirely. Jerry found a display that contained Bedford Forrest's field glasses and I thought I would have to pry him away from it. 
       We found one display that contained all of Lee's wartime things in a mock up of his tent. I told Jerry the cot needed a chicken underneath it. We then noticed that the museum staff had done the right thing and placed an egg beneath the cot. Lee had a pet hen during the war that slept beneath his cot and laid him an egg which he ate for breakfast each morning. 

Notice the egg just behind Lee's boots beneath his cot

       There were a lot of neat displays and some disappointing ones. A lot of things were removed for one reason or another. The trousers that Dorsey Pender was wearing at Gettysburg when he was mortally wounded in the thigh were removed. Jeb Stuart's memorabilia was neat, as was John Hunt Morgan's. The outfit that Jeff Davis was captured wearing is on display. If you remember, Davis was accused of wearing a dress by northern papers. This is not true at all and Davis had his photograph taken in the gray suit he was wearing to prove them wrong. Evidently, people didn't sue the newspapers back then when they reported false stories, but they did challenge editors to duels a lot. 

The gray suit Davis was captured wearing

Jeb Stuart's effects

       We left the Museum of the Confederacy and attempted to head to the battlefields of Gaines Mill, Cold Harbor, and Malvern Hill, but ran into another snag. We were using the GPS on Jerry's phone and it began to act as goofy as Melanie. I think Jerry has this effect on people and machines. I began to think we were stuck in Virginia's version of the Bermuda triangle. His phone kept sending us in circles and back to the toll road. We paid a toll to get on the road and then paid a toll to get off the road at least three times. I was growing frustrated. Unfortunately, Jerry thought I was aggravated at him. He would apologize to my wife at the hotel that night, but I was never upset with Jerry. Maybe I should have been, because since the trip, I've come to the conclusion that Jerry gets a percentage of toll money in Richmond. Why else would he keep sending me through the same toll road over and over?
       I finally got frustrated and decided enough was enough. We left Richmond for Petersburg and skipped the battlefields. I've always wanted to visit these three battlefields and thought I would while on this trip. My mom always said that the one thing the good Lord didn't provide me with was patience. We arrived in Petersburg with enough time to tour the battlefield before dark and visit Blandford Cemetery. I will post that blog another day.