Sam Dickson, American Renaissance, 2006
Across our path stands the South with a flaming sword. —W. E. B. Dubois
Seven weeks after the election of 1856, in which the Republican Party offered its first candidate for the U.S. presidency, Robert E. Lee expressed his views on the slavery issue in a letter to his wife:
In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. [Emphasis added.]
Lee’s views are the most sensible opinion on the slavery issue for a number of reasons. His statement recognizes that what is morally and politically acceptable in one age changes over time and that slavery had become an undesirable institution. Lee thus refrains from joining in the shrill, self-righteous, judgmental denunciation of the past, which is the stock in trade of modern political correctness. He is sympathetic, to some degree even “strongly,” with an alien race.
What makes Lee’s statement most noteworthy in our own era, however, is that, while he sympathizes with the black race, he quite sensibly states that his first and foremost concern in weighing the merits of slavery is whether it is good for white people.
Today, the media would annihilate anyone making such a remark. Such is the strength of the liberal/Marxist grip on our society, so narrow are the parameters of permissible public discussion in modern, “free” America, that no matter of public policy may be evaluated on the basis of whether it is good for or harmful to white people.
Surely, thoughtful people must concede that it is a remarkable state of affairs when it is impermissible and even immoral to consider the interests of the founding stock, the central core of the nation, which even now constitutes a huge majority of the population, in formulating public policy. Nor does this extraordinary achievement of the left in fettering public debate on racial issues stop at the Mason-Dixon line. It is present throughout the South. Even more amazing, it is found—and to a huge degree—among the very elements of the South who claim to be conscious, unreconstructed Southerners.
If Lee were to return today and make his remarks in a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or similar organizations, he would meet with, at best, a very chilly reception. It is almost certain that his views would be publicly repudiated by persons in leadership positions. Indeed, it is quite conceivable that someone holding the racial views of Lee, Jefferson Davis, or Alexander H. Stephens would be requested to leave or even be formally expelled from most Southern heritage organizations. Such is the extent to which public discussion of the race issue has been suppressed in our country and even in our region.
The desperate desire to avoid dealing openly, honestly, and frankly with racial issues has given rise to a virtual cottage industry of rewriting and inventing a fictitious history of the South and race relations. Neo-Confederates are determined to sanitize the history of the Confederacy and of the South in general by depicting their forebears as conforming to modern liberal standards of racial equality. In books, in periodicals, in speeches, on the Internet, and elsewhere a bowdlerized, censored, and distorted history of race and race relations in the South is peddled, and peddled, alas, to an eager audience. Wild statements are made about the role of blacks in the Confederacy, for example the claim of neo-Confederate J. H. Segars that by the “the most conservative estimates. . . 50,000 to 60,000” blacks served in Confederate units.
Many Southerners in the heritage movement itself appear to be so psychologically whipped by the incessant barrage of racial hate propaganda aimed at them and at whites in the nation as a whole that they believe, in stark contrast to Lee’s primary focus on his own people, that the Confederacy can only be justified by showing that it was somehow beneficial to or supported by blacks, Jews, Indians, or Hispanics. It is irrelevant or even morally repugnant to such people to consider what role whites played in the Confederacy or whether the Confederacy was good for white people.
As will be shown later in this essay, the arguments and authorities advanced by the neo-Confederates are contrary to historical fact and are easily refuted. As unpleasant for them as it may be to accept, the truth is that the history of the South has been significantly dominated and shaped by the struggle between the two principal races virtually from the time that a Dutch ship of unknown name landed the first African slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, to the present hour.
That this has been warp and woof of Southern history is not deplorable. As Southern historian U. B. Phillips wrote in 1928, the South:
is a land with a unity despite its diversity, with a people having common joys and common sorrows, and above all, as to the white folk a people with a common resolve indomitably maintained—that it shall be and remain a white man’s country. The consciousness of a function in these premises, whether expressed with the frenzy of a demagogue or maintained with a patrician’s quietude, is the cardinal test of a Southerner and the central theme of Southern history.
That this is so is not proof, as Marxist and liberal egalitarians would claim, of the “burden” of Southern history or the wickedness and immorality of the white South. It is simply the normal state of human affairs. History shows that wherever two distinct and dissimilar people with different interests and destinies occupy the same turf, they contend with each other and vie with each other for control of it. This was true of Spain during the Middle Ages, when Christian Europeans and Moslem Moors fought each other to determine whether Spain would be European and Christian or Moorish and Mohammedan. The same is still true today. Wherever one looks, whether in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, South Africa, or elsewhere, diversity, rather than producing human happiness and peace, is almost invariably the cause of antagonism, struggle, upheaval, and violence. Only in the silly “let’s pretend” and “make-believe” world of the liberal/Marxist is this not so.
Like Lee, I am primarily interested in the well-being of my own race. This does not necessarily mean that I hate other racial groups. However, it does mean that I wish my own race to be preeminent, for the society in which I live to be organized and operated primarily for my own race’s best interests. Such an attitude is permitted, tolerated, and even encouraged and fomented today in America. . . for blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Asians, Indians, and others. In short, for every single group. . . except whites.
It is not remarkable that the favored groups, “the support groups of the regime” as one person has characterized them, should like this state of affairs and seek to maintain it with all the means at their disposal. It follows that they eagerly cooperate in the psychological war waged upon European whites in America in order to demoralize and defeat their racial competitors for mastery. What is remarkable, however, is that whites in general and white Southerners in particular should accept the idea that it is immoral for their ancestors to have sought—or for them to seek now—the interests of their own group.
If there is an afterlife for pioneer Northern racial egalitarians such as William Lloyd Garrison, Charles Sumner, and Thaddeus Stevens, they must be looking down with astonishment and delight to see the descendants of Lee’s soldiers vying with each other to try to prove that the antebellum and wartime South held the racial views of the most extreme New England abolitionists. Could there be any victory more complete than to have the descendants of one’s own defeated foes embrace the victor’s principles and repudiate those of their ancestors?
This must astonish (and secretly delight and gratify) the most determined enemies of the South. As Dr. Brooks D. Simpson of Arizona State University gloated on the website of Morris Dees’ Southern Poverty Law Center:
There is a strange paradox here. These people deride what they call political correctness, and yet one of their first missions is to whitewash the Confederacy of any connection with slavery. They actually seem sensitive to any possibility that the Confederacy is linked with race, and want to absolve the Confederacy of any charges of racism at all.
The Southerners of the Confederacy (and afterward, from the resistance to Reconstruction and the institution of “Jim Crow” through the “massive resistance” to the race-mixing initiatives of the federal government in the 1950s and 1960s) were not like that, as Lee’s remarks quoted at the beginning of this essay suggest (and that quote is comparatively moderate compared to other statements by this most revered Southern leader, e.g., Lee’s postwar statement in testimony before a Radical Republican congressional committee that the freed blacks should be expelled from Virginia).
As Lee indicated, slavery was bad. The clearest reason it was bad, from the standpoint of white interests, is that it imported into the midst of a white, European people a large, alien, non-white race that, as we see today, constitutes a threat to the survival of our race and its civilization and may yet contribute to our downfall.
As Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia said in his speech in favor of Georgia’s secession from the Union, “In 1790 we had less than 800,000 slaves. Under our mild and humane administration of the system, they have increased above 4,000,000.”
Slavery thus incubated the South’s problems. Had there existed a sufficient level of racial cohesion among whites, the emergence of a large, alien race in our midst would never have been tolerated. Part of this lack of racial cohesion may be found in class conflict within our own racial community, from antebellum times down to the present day. Slavery was of course to the material benefit of wealthy slave owners, but it was disadvantageous for middle class and working class whites, for the small, independent yeoman farmer.
Like most Southerners, I have ancestors who owned slaves and others who did not. During my childhood, my relatives took great pride in those branches of the family tree that were the wealthy, slaveholding ones. Now, from the perspective of late middle age, I have come to entertain reservations about these slaveholding ancestors. I see them in many respects as precursors of the corporate interests in our society that are colonizing our nation with Third World aliens: quite willing to burden America and its white posterity with rival, sullen, and hostile racial aliens so that these interests can obtain cheap labor at the expense of white Americans.
Little has been written about the burdens borne by non-slave-holding whites in the antebellum South. Those burdens were not light. The non-slaveholders were required to spend their weekends drilling in militia groups and slave patrols to protect their communities from slave uprisings. Such uprisings were a real menace, as the example of Haiti abroad and the experiences of the Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner rebellions in the South itself demonstrated.
Non-slaveholders were forced to compete against slave labor, cheapening the quality of production in the South and degrading the white working classes, just as today native-born white workers are expected to allow themselves to be degraded financially and otherwise in competition with cheap Latin American or Asian labor. White farm owners had to shoulder taxes to protect the slave property of wealthy plantation-owning whites and to protect the slave owner and white society from those slaves. Ultimately, they had to die in a war largely occasioned by the problem of African slavery. During that war, owners of large numbers of slaves were exempt from service in the Confederate army, while independent farmers had to go off to the front.
The abolitionist program would have increased (and ultimately did increase) the burdens and dangers to working and middle class whites posed by the presence of racial aliens. Governor Joseph E. Brown, who came from the mountainous area of north Georgia, which was virtually slave-free, but who nevertheless supported secession, recognized this fact in speaking of the problems that would ensue if the blacks were freed:
The Negro therefore, comes into competition with the poor White man, when he seeks to rent land on which to make his bread, or a shelter to protect his wife and his little ones, from the cold and from the rain; and when he seeks employment as a day laborer. In every such case if the Negro will do the work the cheapest, he must be preferred. It is sickening to contemplate the miseries of our poor White people under these circumstances.
In such facts we dimly foresee the same problematical class divisions among white people as to the racial issues of today.
This split in white racial solidarity occurred again after the defeat of the Confederacy, during Reconstruction. The rich “Bourbons,” on the one hand, and the yeoman white working and middle classes, on the other, were in significant disagreement about the necessity of formally or informally suppressing black political participation.
The factor of economic class rears its divisive head all through Southern history, from the willingness of the rich planters to import racial aliens to do their manual labor for them down to the struggle against desegregation (in which the greatest enemy to the South was the Chamber of Commerce) to the selfish yuppie of today, only too happy to burden future generations with yet another alien group so long as he can get an illegal Mexican to rake his lawn for a couple of dollars less than he would have to pay a white neighbor’s teenage son.
Contrary to the contentions of the neo-Confederates, race, that is, slavery, was the primary cause of both secession and the ensuing war. States’ rights played a very secondary role at all in secession itself. A moment’s reflection should reveal the foolishness of the idea that the issue of a state’s right to secede led to secession. If our ancestors seceded just to prove a point, that states’ rights gave them the right to secede, they would certainly have been foolish, trivial, self-destructive, and petty in the extreme.
Indeed, history reveals the uncomfortable fact that the South was quite happy with a strong central government and prepared to use that government’s powers so long as the government was the protector and defender of the institution of slavery. Right down to the collapse of the Union, Southerners, who had dominated the federal government until Lincoln’s election, had availed themselves of federal power to protect slavery.
Northern states, invoking doctrines of interposition and states’ rights, passed “personal liberty laws” to thwart the federal Fugitive Slave Law. These laws erected legal barriers to Southern slave owners trying to recover their runaway slaves, and to federal agents, employees, and officials who tried to implement the Fugitive Slave Law.
Southerners were rightly enraged at this Northern experiment in resisting federal power. Indeed, Southern anger at the refusal of the Northern states to comply with federal law figures prominently in the debates on secession in the crisis following Lincoln’s victory.
Thomas R. R. Cobb, younger brother of the famous Howell Cobb who was to serve in the Confederate Congress, gave his secessionist speech to the Georgia legislature on November 12, 1860. He condemned the personal liberty laws, the effort of Northern states, invoking states’ rights, to thwart the federal government’s Fugitive Slave Law.
Cobb went so far as to say, “so long as the ‘Personal Liberty Bills’ disgrace the Statute Books of these [the Northern] States, their electoral votes should not be counted in the Electoral College.”
States’ rights and interposition were not to Southerners’ tastes when such doctrines were invoked to interfere with federal law supporting slavery. The Georgia act of secession noted disapprovingly the action of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, which had rendered a decision upholding the idea that the Wisconsin legislature could nullify the Fugitive Slave Act.
Nor were ideas of limited government and personal liberties any bar to the use of government power to support slavery and keep blacks down. In 1835 President Andrew Jackson proposed a federal ban prohibiting the mailing of abolitionist propaganda in the mails. Many Southern leaders embraced this idea. While the proposed law did not pass, in part because of Senator John C. Calhoun’s opposition on correct constitutional grounds, an understanding was reached that effectively accomplished the goal. Southern postmasters were allowed to refuse to deliver abolitionist materials to the addressees.
Likewise, when the Confederate Constitutional Convention met, the resulting Confederate Constitution subordinated the rights of the states to issues involving slavery.
As Professor Don E. Fehrenbacher of Stanford University commented, “With Lincoln’s election the national government shifted from one which had enforced the rights of slave owners to one which would oppose those rights. Southerners came to the conclusion that they needed another national government.”
While the new national government that Southerners created enshrined many principles of states’ rights, the issue of race (slavery) trumped philosophies of decentralized government. Thus, the Confederate Constitution guaranteed rights of slaveholders in the territories and effectively made it illegal for a state to abolish slavery by guaranteeing it “in any of the States or Territories” and prohibited the Confederate Congress from ever passing legislation “denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves.”
Nor were the framers of the Confederate Constitution as squeamish in talking about slavery and the Negro as the Founding Fathers had been in Philadelphia in 1789, the term “negro slavery” being used repeatedly in contrast with the euphemisms employed in the U. S. Constitution. As Fehrenbacher (quoting historian Arthur Bestor) observed:
[T]he new Constitution was hardly dedicated to states rights. Instead, at least as far as the institution of slavery was concerned, “the Confederacy was a unitary, consolidated, national state, denying to each one of its allegedly sovereign members any sort of local autonomy with respect to this particular one among its domestic institutions.”
All of this was, of course, completely in keeping with the sentiments and beliefs of white Southerners during and after the secession crisis, as exemplified in the famous speech of Vice President Alexander H. Stephens in Savannah shortly after the founding of the new Confederate government. Stephens praised the new constitution for having clarified “the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization” and stated that in contrast with the mistaken assertion of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid. Its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”
Stephens’ “corner-stone” speech is but the tip of a deadly iceberg for neo-Confederate Southerners that sinks their myth of an egalitarian, multicultural Confederacy. The most cursory research into the statements of Southern secessionists uncovers a plethora of “racist” remarks and positions that decisively confirms that the great motivating issue behind the decision to leave the Union was race.
Race was also a major consideration for the president of the Confederacy and one of its major theoreticians, Jefferson Davis. In May 1860, well before the secession crisis began, Davis introduced in the U.S. Senate a series of seven resolutions expressing principles he regarded as essential for the preservation of the Union. While the first cited the vital importance of states’ rights, the second insisted:
That negro slavery, as it exists in fifteen states of this Union, composes an important portion of their domestic institutions, inherited from their ancestors, and existing at the adoption of the Constitution, by which it is recognized as constituting an important element in the apportionment of power among the states, and that no change of opinion or feeling on the part of the non-slaveholding states of the Union, in relation to this institution, can justify them, or their citizens, in open or covert attacks thereon, with a view to its overthrow; and that all such attacks are in manifest violation of the mutual and solemn pledge to protect and defend each other given by the states respectively on entering into the constitutional compact which formed the Union, and are a manifest breach of faith, and a violation of the most solemn obligations.
When Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863, Davis issued his own response to it, which he later reprinted in his defense of the Confederacy:
We may well leave it to the instinct of that common humanity, which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellow-men of all countries, to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race—peaceful, contented laborers in their sphere—are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insidious recommendation “to abstain from violence, unless in necessary self-defense.”
Davis expanded on his views of Negroes as “an inferior race” in discussing Lincoln’s policy of arming black soldiers in the Union army:
Let the reader pause for a moment and look calmly at the facts presented in this statement. The forefathers of these negro soldiers were gathered from the torrid plains and malarial swamps of inhospitable Africa. Generally they were born the slaves of barbarian masters, untaught in all the useful arts and occupations, reared in heathen darkness, they were transferred to shores enlightened by the rays of Christianity. There, put to servitude, they were trained in the gentle arts of peace and order and civilization; they increased from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian laborers. Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot, and their patient toil blessed the land of their abode with unmeasured riches.
The views of the major leaders of the Confederacy—Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Alexander H. Stephens—on race and slavery are therefore perfectly clear.
Shall we glance at a sampling of additional passages from the acts and ordinances of secession themselves, a small sampling, but more than sufficient to lay to rest any credibility of the neo-Confederate “multiracialism and magnolias” myth of Southern history?
South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession focuses its attention on the failure of the Northern states to adhere to their constitutional obligation to protect property in slaves, quoting Article IV of the U. S. Constitution, which required non-slaveholding states to return slaves to their owners.
Georgia, the fourth state to secede, imitated the framers of the Declaration of Independence in enumerating the grievances that had impelled the delegates to vote for secession. The very first grievance is stated as follows: “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.” The statement continues in the next paragraph to explicitly condemn “Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. . .” because “they have enacted laws which either nullify the acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them” [emphasis added]. This is about as clear a repudiation of the states’ rights doctrine of nullification as one could imagine. Surely it tells us all we need to know to judge the relative weight of racial concerns as opposed to sentiments of decentralized government motivating the state of Georgia to leave the Union.
The Act of Secession of Texas starts out: “Whereas, the recent developments in Federal affairs make it evident that the power of the Federal Government is sought to be made a weapon with which to strike down the interests and property of the people of Texas, and her sister slave-holding States. . .” It goes on to condemn the North for (among many other things): “proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color—a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.”
The Secession Act concludes on the following note: “in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator. . . while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.”
After the formation of the new Confederate government, the Deep South states sent spokesmen to Virginia and other Middle and Upper South states to urge them to follow their example and leave the Union. In the speeches and statements made by these spokesmen (called “commissioners” by the states that dispatched them) the issues of race and slavery appear over and over again; there is scarcely a peep about tariffs or other issues.
Commissioners from Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina spoke to an immense crowd gathered at Mechanics’ Institute Hall in Richmond, Virginia, to speak on behalf of their respective states and to induce Virginia to secede.
What did they say?
Speaking for Mississippi, Fulton Anderson warned the Virginians that the Republican Party was “founded upon the idea of unrelenting and eternal hostility to the institution of slavery.” The Lincoln government sought “the ultimate extinction of slavery, and the degradation of the Southern people.” Northerners were committed to “a holy crusade for our benefit in seeking the destruction of that institution [slavery] which. . . lies at the very foundation of our social and political fabric.”
Henry L. Benning, for Georgia: “By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand that?” Benning warned that the abolitionists and their program of freeing the slaves and granting them rights would lead to a result in which “We will be completely exterminated, and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become another Africa or St. Domingo.”
Finally, John Smith Preston for South Carolina implored Virginians to secede by telling them, “For fully thirty years or more, the people of the Northern States have assailed the institution of African slavery.” He cited the example of John Brown to show correctly enough that the abolitionist fanatics were working to abolish slavery by killing the slave-holders. “There could be no doubt that the conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death.” Lincoln’s election he considered to be a decree of annihilation for the white people of the South.
Surely it would appear to any reasonable mind that the quotations and facts set out above conclusively refute the improbable notion that the Confederacy was not supportive of explicit racial consciousness and solidarity in the sense that it believed in and was deeply committed to the preservation of the white race, its dominance, and its civilization in the South.
What then do the neo-Confederates cite as evidence for their case?
Their arguments against race and slavery as primary motivations for Southern secession rely on a potpourri of quotes from various Southern leaders that blacks should be enrolled as soldiers, that the South should even consider freeing the slaves if that would induce Britain to intervene.
The neo-Confederates ignore two apparent, and (for them) most unpleasant facts about their little arsenal of quotations. First, the statements are almost exclusively drawn from the very last months of the war, when defeat was staring the South in the face and any straw for survival had to be seized.
On August 21, 1862, President Davis denounced Union Generals David Hunter and John Phelps for stating their intentions to enlist blacks into the Union Army. Davis characterized Hunter and Phelps as “outlaws” and stated they were to be held “for execution as felons at such time and place as the President shall order.” It is hard to believe that Davis favored enrollment of blacks in the Confederate Army if he was willing to execute federal officers who enlisted blacks as soldiers.
It was not until September 12, 1864 (40 months after Fort Sumter and less than seven months before the surrender at Appomattox), that Lee wrote to Davis advising that due to the extremities of the situation blacks should be used in support services in the Confederate Army so as to free whites for combat.
It was not until November 7, 1864, that Davis endorsed the purchase of blacks for employment in the Confederate Army, but not as soldiers unless in the last extremity.
It was not until March 13, 1865, less than a month before Appomattox, that the Confederate Congress in secret session, over vehement opposition and by a one-vote margin, approved the recruitment of blacks as soldiers.
Second, even in those dire circumstances, as late as 1865, there are many statements from Southern leaders that black soldiers should not be permitted. For example, Howell Cobb of Georgia in the Confederate Congress, in the debate in 1865 on allowing blacks to serve as soldiers, characterized the proposal as the “beginning of the end of our revolution.”
Despite the historical record that the South only reluctantly and at a very late date made tentative efforts to enroll black soldiers, the neo-Confederates, undeterred, claim that large numbers of blacks served as soldiers in the Confederate Army. Their sources of evidence are few. They frequently excuse the lack of evidence by citing National Park Service historian Edward Bearrs, who said, “I don’t want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks, both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910.”
What Bearrs probably meant was that the role of minorities has been excised from history, presumably by “racist” whites bent on stealing their history from them—a fairly typical leftist claim. The neo-Confederates have twisted this into an explanation for the paucity of evidence to support their claims of large-scale black participation in the Confederacy. They fail, however, to address the fact that Bearrs has expressed an opinion that only a few dozen, or at most, a few hundred blacks ever served in the Confederate Armed forces.
In contrast, 200,000 blacks are known to have served in the Union forces. An interesting subject of study would be the behavior of these black troops toward Southern white people. Such an investigation would not interest neo-Confederates because they are not interested in anything that might be considered “racist” research. One suspects, however, that research into the behavior of these troops would probably demonstrate the perspicacity of President Davis and other Southerners who were outraged by the use of these slave volunteers for the Union.
One example is what has been characterized as “the famous Marianna” incident in Florida—which is no longer famous at all. I have met Southerners who were born and reared in Marianna, Florida, who had never heard of it. On September 25, 1864, federal forces attacked the little village of Marianna. They were resisted by a home guard militia unit consisting of very young teenaged boys and a few elderly men, whom they easily defeated. The federal forces consisted of a battalion of Maine cavalry, the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, and two companies of what the Southerners termed “ferocious Louisiana negroes.”
The black Union volunteers followed up their victory by throwing the wounded Confederate teenage boys into a church and burning them alive. The white federal soldiers from Massachusetts intervened to try to stop the massacre of surrendered Confederates. The behavior of these black Unionist troops shows that many Southern blacks did not have the same love for their masters and the South that neo-Confederates such as Charles Kelley Barrow, James Ronald Kennedy, and Walter Donald Kennedy like to relate to their avid fans.
The evidence advanced by the neo-Confederates to support the contention that significant numbers of blacks served in the Confederate forces consists of a handful of bits and pieces of quotations that are improbable and suspect. Their trump card is a quotation from a Dr. Lewis Steiner, chief of the Union Sanitary Commission, who was in Frederick, Maryland, during its occupation by Stonewall Jackson.
Over 3,000 negroes must be included in this number [Confederate troops]. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc. . . and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army.
Steiner’s comments about 3,000 black soldiers he claims to have observed in Stonewall Jackson’s forces are remarkable in many ways. Most remarkable is the fact that he alone observed this astonishing matter. No one else is recorded as having shared his discovery. Thousands and tens of thousands of people in Maryland observed the Confederate forces. No one else saw the black soldiers. There were foreign observers with the Confederate forces. None of them observed the black Confederate soldiers either. No pictures of the black Confederates in Jackson’s forces seem to have survived.
They are unmentioned in the letters of Confederate soldiers.
None of them ever seems to have been captured by the federal forces. Indeed, after the defeat at Appomattox, the North paroled 28,231 Confederate soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia.
The records noted the soldiers’ race. According to the Appomattox parole records maintained by the National Parks Service, exactly 35 blacks are identified as soldiers in the Confederate Army; not one is in a combat position.
Also unexplained is how Jackson came to enroll so many black soldiers when the policies of the civilian administration did not permit it. Do the neo-Confederates believe Stonewall Jackson secretly defied and violated his orders?
Georgia’s Congressman Howell Cobb was serving with Jackson’s forces when they were in Frederick, Maryland. Over two years later, in February 1865, Cobb was vehemently opposing the proposal to allow the enrollment of black soldiers, characterizing the proposal as “the end of our revolution.” One has to ask why Howell Cobb failed to notice the thousands of blacks serving with Jackson’s corps, or to address Stonewall Jackson’s defiance of his superiors’ policies.
Despite all these improbabilities, the neo-Confederates have clutched Steiner to their bosoms as their star witness. They characterize him as a witness of the utmost credibility. When one reads the report of Lewis H. Steiner, however, other serious problems arise as to his credibility, problems that must surely discomfit the neo-Confederates.
Steiner relates numerous far-fetched stories about the Southern soldiers. He accuses an officer in Jackson’s corps of grossly insulting young Unionist ladies in Frederick by handing them a gift of a ring that he told them he had carved from the bone of a dead Yankee. Only the quick and gallant action of a Yankee gentleman who snatched away this barbaric relic saved the young women from the alleged brutality and rudeness of this Southern officer. Steiner accuses Southern soldiers of not bearing themselves with fortitude (i.e., of unmanliness). He recounts with relish a story of a stalwart, clever Union lad who tricks a stupid, gullible Southerner into buying a broken-down horse near death. He characterizes the behavior of Jackson’s troops in Frederick as a “reign of terror,” although he concedes that no personal violence was done to civilians.
Steiner seems also to have been the source of the false information given to the abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier about the alleged Barbara Frietchie incident (“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag!”). Whittier, who was embarrassed when the tear-jerking story was exposed as humbug, defended himself by saying he had written the poem in good faith based upon what he had been told by a doctor in Frederick, Maryland. Steiner wrote of two women in his report, one elderly, the other the wife of a Unionist, who confronted the Rebels with “their country’s flag.” The Frietchie falsehood borders on being a pastiche of these two stories.
Steiner was also a staunch abolitionist. He had a purpose in making the claim that blacks were serving as soldiers in the Confederate Army. That purpose is suggested by the concluding sentence in the paragraph about the 3,000 black soldiers: “The fact was patent, and rather interesting when considered in connection with the horror rebels express at the suggestion of black soldiers being employed for the National defense.”
Steiner and escaped slave Frederick Douglass were both supporters of enrolling black soldiers into the Union ranks. Suggesting, as both Steiner and Douglass did, that the South was using blacks as soldiers was a means of inducing reluctant conservative Northerners to go along with the proposal.
Enough has been said to deflate the myth of Confederate political correctness and multiculturalism. What are we to make of neo-Confederate Southerners who so frantically adhere to these myths?
I believe they must be viewed as nothing less than wounded victims of the incessant psychological warfare waged not merely against Southerners, but against white Americans in general. Like Patty Hearst and other kidnapping victims, the neo-Confederates have come to identify with their abusers. They beg, “Please don’t hurt me anymore.” They desperately seek forgiveness and inclusion.
Alas, their enemies, no matter how gratified they may be to see the descendants of Confederate veterans debasing themselves by embracing the ideology of the most extreme New England abolitionists, have no intention of sitting down at the table of brotherhood with white Southerners who seek to preserve their heritage.
They intend to diabolize the South and ultimately to destroy it, all in the name of “love.”
Neo-Confederates are not the only casualties of the psychological hate war against whites in America. Huge numbers of other victims are found in all areas of our country. This is so because the liberal/Marxist coalition and its minority racist allies, while they have a special hate for the South as the last region of the country populated by the founding British stock and as the embodiment of all that they despise and detest, hate the rest of white America with only slightly less intensity. The 500th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus demonstrated this as the media and universities erupted into a frenzy of denunciation of the European colonization of the New World. Their view in essence, is that white America was a mistake, a mistake that needs urgently to be corrected.
Race, therefore, is no longer a peculiar Southern problem. It is a national problem. As Jared Taylor has written, paraphrasing Gunnar Myrdal, it is the “real American dilemma.”
The South has a wealth of experience and wisdom to offer the beleaguered whites of America. The white community in the South is still more of a cohesive whole than those of the North and West of the United States. The South needs the help of sympathetic whites throughout the nation, but it also has much help to offer white Americans in other regions.
Contrary to the fantastic conceptions of neo-Confederates, white Southerners have more in common with white Northerners than they do with black Southerners. This is not to minimize the importance of the fact that the South is still a separate cultural, linguistic, and to some extent ethnic community with values and concerns distinct from the rest of the white community in America.
Nor can Northern whites remain indifferent to the psychological “hate” campaign being waged against Southern whites. As shown by the vilification of Columbus, minority hatred is not focused exclusively on Southern whites. In resisting this minority aggression a Southerner who has been indoctrinated with hatred and guilt for his own heritage will not be a reliable ally to Northern whites.
There can be no geographic solution to an ethnic problem. A demographic tsunami is bearing down upon the South, and the nation as a whole. Thanks to the current policy of colonizing America with nonwhite Third World immigrants, the prospect of our becoming a minority in our own lands is no longer that distant. The hugely disproportionate birthrate of whites and blacks in the South, by itself, would reduce whites to a minority in many Southern states in only two or three generations. And if blacks and other non-whites become the majority, the Confederate Battle Flag, Confederate monuments, and all the symbols and shrines revered by true Southerners will come down. No amount of truckling by wild exaggerations of black soldiers in the Confederate Army, no amount of flattery, no amount of pleading “we just want to be friends” could change that.
The last half of the twentieth century was a discouraging time for those who desire to see the preservation and survival of our race. At times it seems as if resistance is futile. There is nothing more demoralizing to our race than the spectacle of those who, like the neo-Confederates, are ashamed to fight for its survival and who, indeed, accept the enemy propaganda that anyone who desires the survival of the white race is immoral.
However dark the present situation may be, I cannot believe that 100 million British Americans and their cousins from other European countries are simply going to walk off the stage of history. I believe, as Rhett Butler said of the retreating Confederates from Atlanta, that they will still turn and make a stand. And when they do, Southerners who still hold the faith and beliefs of Lee and Davis will be there with them in establishing a nation on this continent where the white European race may safely abide.
Editor’s Note: This is one of many essays from the collection, Race and the American Prospect. Though out of print for over a decade, American Renaissance has a small number of copies available for purchase. Readers interested in a copy of their own should send a check or money order for $17.95 to the AmRen headquarters: PO Box 527, Oakton, VA 22124.