Dav Wants A Response

David Tatum, who runs the blog A True Confederate, wants my attention. It appears that Gary Adams wrote a lengthy rant/questionnaire on the Southern Heritage Preservation Group’s Facebook Page. Since then, Dav posted Gary’s statement on his blog and asked for comments from Corey Meyer, Kevin Levin, Andy Hall and myself. Well Dav, I’ll take a crack at it.

I am going to break this down paragraph by paragraph. You will see a quote from Gary, that Dav has put on his blog here, and after that you will see my answer. If you’d like to see the original post, click here. Here we go.

Today we are going to discuss shortcomings, we all have the[sic], if you don’t believe I have them just ask my ex-wife. Though over the years I think I have gotten much more understanding, in fact if I may be so bold, I have gotten much better at listening to the other side, understanding it and sometimes even accepting it. Yesterday I mentioned Corey and his propensity to monitor us; I don’t know if we are that interesting or if he is so bored or if it is combination of both.

It appears Gary is discussing shortcomings with Corey Meyer. Keep  in mind that Gary originally posted this rant for Corey. Since then, Tatum posted it on his blog asking for comments. It is to Dav that I am replying.

I do have this to say about Corey and his friends they call us neo-Confederates and revisionist, I take the first adjective as a compliment, as first and foremost I am a Southron. However, I contend that he and his friends are the revisionist. They preach they love the South and are only interested in revealing the truth, not necessarily about the South, but us. Their argument is basically there were no black Confederates; the war was over slavery and / or racism and the South was made up of 90% slave owners. The argument over black Confederates is that we claim that blacks fought for the South therefore the war could not have been over slavery. Like their compatriot Ed Sebesta, they would like to see our monuments down, that we be branded racist and school books be rewritten to reflect what they feel should be taught. Keep in mind they call us revisionist.

Ok here we go. I tend to shy away from calling everyone on the SHPG a “neo-confederate.” Why? Because ‘neo-confederate’ is a legitimate term and not just a casual insult to throw around. I would probably apply it to someone that is legitimately advocating a new Southern secession movement in the spirit of the old rebellion. But even that seems like an over simplification. Calling certain members of the SHPG “revisionists” is accurate. Mainly because they are revisionists. They buck modern history in an attempt to maintain “heritage” which is not always interchangeable. If history conflicts with their heritage, they claim that the heritage is right and history is wrong. Then certain heritage advocates throw out terms like, “Yankee Revisionism” and “victors always write the history.” The former is funny because I am from Georgia and the latter is hilarious to anyone that studies the historiography of the Civil War. As far as “Black Confederates” there are none aside from the few companies recruited at the very end of the war. I do contend that it is plausible that a slave picked up a rifle and shot it in a time of passion, but that is not to say that armed black regiments fought for the Confederacy. I’ve never seen anyone claim that 90% of the South owned slaves. That’s just stupid. Usually the statement is that 25% of southern families owned slaves. The part about agreeing with Ed Sebastia is totally over blown. I have seen several posts that reject Ed Sebastia. To my knowledge, Kevin Levin argues against tearing down monuments. I do as well. I don’t brand all Southerners as racists….because I am a Southerner. The school books are already written in the appropriate manner. However, some southern school boards attempted to change this (Texas and Virgina).

I do accept that after the war many stories were embellished, truths twisted and justifications made to account for us losing the war, bolster our heroes and romanticize the war and the era. Many of the myths are starting to be uncovered and we ourselves have addressed several. But when “they” learn the truth, say about Fort pillow; or the facts about Forrest and the Klan, rather than ensure a correct revision is issued, they themselves continue to propagate the myth. At the same time they publish papers with themes like Shermans’ March was a lie; that the Union Army never fired on civilians; no atrocities were committed against Southron citizens and / or the Roswell mill workers went home and just quit working and were never shipped North. Again, I ask who are the revisionist?

The thing about the ‘myths’ being mentioned, is that they have been addressed since the 1960’s. If Gary wants to claim a victory by stating that the myths are just now being uncovered, then I am glad he is just now recognizing the fact. I mean, there is fifty years of scholarship for him to read. Stating that “we” are addressing those myths themselves is an overstatement. The South Was Right  hardly addresses “myths;” it creates them. It is hard to address what the “truth” is about Fort Pillow or Forrest and the Klan when the “truth” is presented with such vagueness. I am not sure what exactly he is talking about. It’s also hard to address the statement that “Sherman’s march” was a lie.” It happened. Sherman split his army into three flanks and swept across Georgia. Are there overblown statements and “heritage” stories? Absolutely. John Doe states his granddaddy’s barn was burned by Sherman’s troops. Then a trip to the library demonstrates that granddaddy’s barn was hit by lightning in 1901. Are those stories given as fact by every southerner? Not always. The stories are simply passed around and spread like wildfire. There has never been a denial that Union soldiers shot into civilians; what is argued is the context and the reasons why. The Roswell mill workers situation is a beast in its own right and better left for another post. All I will say on it is that Gary is seriously oversimplifying the event. “Who are the Revisionists?” Well until you prove otherwise Gary, you still are. No one is denying anything. You are basically creating a straw man argument.

Here is my issue with the revisionist works up until lately, where I would read and comment on it, treating the author no differently than any of the rest of you. However you can only be ridiculed and insulted so many times before you treat them the way they treat us. Like any of us, I would point out the errors in a professional, polite and dignified manner only to find myself attacked, ridiculed and or insulted.

I’ve yet to see an example of this “treatment.” For some reason, the admin blocked me from seeing the SHPG Facebook page. Is that the “treatment?” I think the real issue here is that the “errors” turned out to be those aforementioned “myths.” Usually when those are presented as counter arguments, Historians treat the arguments like a Scientist would a Creationist. I’ll let readers figure out that last bit on their own.

A good example would be the paper and a soon to be published book, about the Battle of the Crater, in which we are told that Confederate soldiers killed the negro soldier out of racism but mainly as a warning for the blacks still held in slavery to stay in line or else? I questioned it in a polite and logical manner the thesis of the story back in its infancy and was brushed aside with the comments I did not understand what he had written (meant?).

If the book is “soon to be published,” how does Gary know what the thesis or argument is. I haven’t read the book personally, but from the cover it appears that Kevin Levin is presenting an argument based on the involvement of the USCT at the Battle of the Crater as well as how that particular engagement is remembered through history. I also don’t have a clue what exactly Gary “questioned” so I can’t really assess whether or not he does understand what was written.

In the copy I had access to I don’t remember seeing the USCT described as attacking shouting “remembering Fort Pillow and No quarter”. If I missed it there is the explanation of why the USCT were shot down, without quarter; if missing it should end the discussion and also the argument over who is the revisionist. As I don’t know many other authors who would try to put a spin on casualities that occurred 148 years ago. I know I did not see recounts of USCT killing Confederate prisoners, but they did! I am unsure if this would have been a proper situation to explain the Fort Pillow incident or that the officers for the USCT embellished Fort Pillow to ensure their troops would have an incentive to fight. I know it would have been awkward to explain the incentive worked too well as USCT massacred Confederate prisoners on several occasions, their officers complaining they were becoming unruly and hard to control.

What copy and how did you get it before me? Did you get a review copy? What spin on casualties? Also, how does Gary know the USCT attacked shouting “remembering[sic] Fort Pillow and no quarter?” It seems to me that Gary is creating a straw man argument in order to provide justification for the massacre at the crater. However, I think it’s premature to assert that argument since I haven’t read Kevin’s book nor Gary’s published review of it.

The argument was made Confederate troops shot down the negro because of his race and to teach the slaves at home they had better stay in line. I would have thought the researcher would have explored other avenues especially if they were interested in a “fair and balanced” viewpoint. For example “Confederate Veteran August 1903, P. 355 — “BATTLE OF THE CRATER.” BY W. A. DAY, SHERRILL’S FORD, N. C. “… By that time it was light enough to see a considerable distance, and our men could be seen running rapidly to the rear, and the whole field in front full of Yankees and negroes charging up to the crater. The great burly negroes in their ill fitting uniforms, half drunk it was said, were shouting at the top of their voices, “No quarter to the Rebels! No quarter to the Rebels!” and butchering every man they found alive in the works. The soldiers who fought in that battle will never forget it. That dreadful shout, “No quarter!” from the negro troops rang in our ears for days afterwards. We plainly saw the position we were in. To be captured by the negro troops meant death not only to ourselves but, it appeared, to the helpless women and children in Petersburg…”

Again, since I have not read Kevin’s book, I cannot argue against Gary’s accusation here. I can argue against Gary’s concept of a “fair and balanced” view point. “The great burly negroes in their ill fitting uniforms, half drunk it was said, were shouting at the top of their voices, ‘No quarter to the Rebels! No quarter to the Rebels!’ and butchering every man they found alive in the works. Half drunk it was said….Does anyone see the issue here. “It was said.” So did the author of this actually witness the event, or did he hear the “negroes” were drunk from another source? This could be an example of the racist viewpoint of the late 19th and early 20th century. It also needs to be taken into account that this article was published in the “Confederate Veteran.” Is it unlikely to portray Union soldiers in a positive light? Fair and balanced indeed. A good historian would not dismiss this account though. Unless, it were proven absolutely wrong by numerous other accounts.

At the same time one would have thought the author would have researched any areas that could prove contentious, questionable or most importantly address his hypothesis that Confederates did not take blacks as prisoners and usually shot them. “Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1905-”Graphic Account Of Battle Of Crater, STORY OF A PARTICIPANT. Charge of Wilcox’s Old Brigade Under General Saunders, of Mahone’s Division.” From the Times-Dispatch, October 22, 1905 “… In the fort the enemy were crowded, but; undaunted by numbers, our boys commenced scaling the sides of the fort. The enemy kept up such a fire that it seemed like a second Vesuvius belching forth its fire. Then came the “tug of war” The enemy have shouted: “No quarters!” We then gave them what they justly deserved. There we were on one side of the walls of the fort and the Yankees on the other. The fight was the bloodiest of the war considering the numbers engaged. We fought with muskets, with bayonets, with rocks, and even with clods of dirt. The fight lasted in this manner for near half an hour, when they called for quarters, and we being sickened by the slaughter as well as awfully tired of the fight, granted them quarters. All that we had not killed surrendered, and I must say we took some of the Negroes prisoners.”

My first comment here is that Gary should learn the definition of the word ‘hypothesis.’ As for the account mentioned, I am not certain if it is in Kevin’s book or not as I have not read it. To reply to the quote Gary submitted, or cherry picked, I simply ask him to read this. It comes from the same volume Gary submitted.

What was missed was that the Southroner being upset for the ungentlemanly method of conducting warfare (having 1500 of his friends and messmates vaporized) did shoot and kill negro POWs however they also shot white POW’s. Facts which were mysteriously missing.

What Gary misses is that this same account states the cruelty bestowed upon the negro soldiers simply because they were fighting, and fighting with whites.

“Many historians remember April 9, 1865 as the day that Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia it was also the last major battle of the war, Fort Blakeley, Alabama.

Confederate General Maury was hoping his 3500 veterans of Vicksburg and Nashville could hold off the 45,000 Union offensive designed to capture the last remaining Confederate stronghold at Mobile.

The sheer number of yankee troops overwhelmed the Confederates defending Fort Blakeley. The 35th Mississippi Infantry was overrun by the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). The Confederates surrendered and laid down their weapons only to be bayoneted, shot and butchered by the USCT..

“Private Ben H. Bounds of the 4th Mississippi raised his hands as did 50 of his comrades, only to be fired upon by the U.S.C.T. “It looked as though we were to be butchered in cold blood”, said Lt. Ed Tarrant. Lt. Walter Chapman of the 51st U.S.C.T. said, “the [colored troops] did not take a prisoner, they killed all they took to a man.” Trying to stop the slaughter, two Union officers of the 68th U.S.C.T. were fired on by their own men. Captain Fred W. Norwood was wounded in the knee and Lt. Clark Gleason died several days later from his wounds. It was stated that more Confederates were killed after the surrender than died during the entire battle. The slaughter stopped only as additional Union officers were able to halt the carnage. [Source: Mobile, 1865 Last Stand of the Confederacy; (2001) Sean Michael O’Brien] Civil War Talk

As far as Fort Blakely, I simply ask that Gary read this post. The racial implications of that battle are an interesting study in their own right.

One of the biggest issues that should have been addressed was the fact that white union troop who had not wanted to serve with USCT, now blamed them for the situation they found themselves in, and these are the men they took action against; shooting dozens of their own men.

Question….Kevin’s book is about the Crater. Specifically the Crater. Why would he focus on Ft. Blakely unless it were directly connected. If Kevin were writing a book on Ft. Blakely, then Gary might have a legitimate argument. Since the book is obviously about the Crater, the point is moot. This sort of reinforces my earlier accusation that this is a rant.

The authors’ argument was and remains an error, that being he feels the acts performed by Confederate troops at the Crater were to teach slaves still under Confederate control they better not run away; that they had better obey their masters. This is ludicrous in many ways one of which can be seen in the original Juneteenth.1 By this I argue how could anyone expect the events of Petersburg to be transmitted to slaves back in the back woods and fields, while maintaining its message when with the full weight of the military we could not notify the citizens or slaves in Texas that the war was over?

I haven’t read the book so I don’t know Kevin’s argument. I will take a guess and say that Gary has not read the book either. Therefore, how does he know the argument is in error? Of course I will wait on Gary to clarify this. As far as the Juneteenth argument, again I cannot actually comment on this from Kevin’s book since I have not read the book yet. I will of course comment on the concept. For starters Kevin argues in an earlier post that the battle of the crater can be viewed as servile insurrection. Emphasis on the word “can.” I suggest you read Kevin’s post for better understanding and example of the argument. Gary is also using an interesting argument. He is saying that it took a long time for folks in Galveston to know the war was over, therefore how could the slaughter of negro soldiers at the Crater serve as a message to slaves in the South. My counter argument is that Confederates didn’t know the war was going to end shortly thereafter. The event does however demonstrate what Southerners feared, blacks taking up arms against the South.

Corey since we never fail to hear from you whenever we have made a mistake we hope you will spend the same effort, energy in correcting a problem with one of yourown. Gary.

Last I heard, Corey is painting a house during the month of July. Since Dav posed the same questions to me, I answered. I did the best I could given the vagueness of certain statements. I look forward to the responses.

Update: Gary responded with some IM messages on Facebook. 

  • Gary Adams

    6 hours ago

    Gary Adams

    • October 2010 issue of “Civil War Times” and the article by a Kevin Levine titled “Until Every Negro has been Slaughtered”

  • Gary Adams

    6 hours ago

    Gary Adams

  • Gary Adams

    6 hours ago

    Gary Adams

    • I have a very knowledgeable friend who said that during the assault on Confederate lines at the battle of the Crater, colored troops where yelling that they intended to murder any whites that they captured and that when they reached the city with its civilian population, their intentions were even less honorable. According to Bill, this was the reason that those troops were killed when they were captured, not because they were black but because their intentions were made known to the men they were fighting when they thought that they had the upper hand.

      Yes, black soldiers at the Crater charged shouting, “No Quarter” but I have never seen a source that suggests that they planned on murdering civilians in Petersburg. Perhaps Bill can cite a source. KL

  • Rob Baker

    6 hours ago

    Rob Baker

    • That book you just cited states that both sides were crying no quarter and that the battle ended in I quote….”In a final horror, the battle ended with the massacre of wounded or surrendering Black troops by the Rebels–and by some of their White comrades in arms. ”

      In fact, here is Levin’s review.
      http://cwmemory.com/2009/11/04/richard-slotkins-crater/

    • cwmemory.com

      The following review of Richard Slotkin’s new book, No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 is now available in the latest edition of Civil War Book Review. With the publication of three books on the battle of the Crater
  • Rob Baker

    6 hours ago

    Rob Baker

    • “Slotkin’s commitment to explaining northern racism in all of its forms is invaluable given our tendency to see the Civil War as a moral contest between freedom and slavery. As Slotkin demonstrates, the free blacks and fugitive slaves who fought with the Fourth Division were not only threatened by a Confederate government that promised to execute them in the event of their capture; they also faced innumerable challenges stemming from very strong feelings of racism among their fellow soldiers and high command.” – Kevin Levin.

  • Rob Baker

    6 hours ago

    Rob Baker

    • I am assuming what you wrote secondly is the comment that you provided to Kevin. In that case, the reply was adequate.

  • Gary Adams

    6 hours ago

    Gary Adams

    • In a final horror, the battle ended with the massacre of wounded or surrendering Black troops by the Rebels–and by some of THEIR White comrades in arms

  • Rob Baker

    6 hours ago

    Rob Baker

    • And oh my goodness….Levin looks at that aspect. Where exactly are you going with this?

To be clear, I’m not playing public defender for Kevin Levin. His research stands on its own. David Tatum made a post directed at me and I responded in kind but I digress. Gary either didn’t read my response, or chose to ignore the part about him cherry picking sources. Instead he cited more sources, which as I pointed out, is counter to his own argument. 

Happy Two Days After Independence Day!!!!

It’s that time of year. Fireworks are erupting overhead as Americans celebrate Independence Day. I must confess it is rather special to be spending this years July 4th in one of the thirteen original colonies (Georgia). Two days ago, on July 2nd, I walked past the Savannah Court House where the first “Liberty Pole” in Georgia was erected on June 5, 1775. I just remember thinking at the time….not many people know that independence from Britain was declared this day.

It is true that most Americans do not realize that the Continental Congress declared independence from the British Empire on July 2nd, rather than July 4th. Why is that important? The action and not the formality took place on the 2nd. This is when the founders cast their vote for independence. John Adams knew the importance of the 2nd, writing his wife Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Americans however, do not celebrate on the 2nd. Turns out, Adams was off by two days. Fireworks, cookouts, and gratuitous amounts of beer are displayed on the the 4th rather than the 2nd. Why is this? Well, it just so happens that Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on the 4th, two days after declaring independence. Today, interestingly enough, we celebrate the paperwork of the founders. It is odd how formalities took precedent over actions. Granted, if you are going to celebrate a document…..the DOI is a reasonable choice.

For your viewing pleasure:

The scene below is from the HBO mini-series John Adams. It depicts both the congressional declaration and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Note the power of the vote, and the power of the words.

And Just for kicks, check out Ubisoft’s interpretation of American Independence in their new Assassins Creed III Trailer.

The War of 1812: What is an American? Part 1

This is going to be a couple of posts long in order to achieve the dialogue I am longing for. I’m hoping that over the course of the next couple of days, we can explore the lasting effects of the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 is so often overlooked in American history that it leaves numerous open ended questions. One of those being: why is the war important at all? To answer that, consider a more recent event. On September 11, 2001, middle eastern radicals attacked the United States by flying planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a failed hijacking that crashed in Pennsylvania. After this event, Americans came together and resolved to bring those attackers to justice. Most houses flew the American flag out front, even though it wasn’t July 4th, and rhetoric from the government and prominent figures enticed the American spirit. One word comes to mind that describes this nearly dramatic support of one’s country; patriotism. So why is the War of 1812 important? Perhaps the War of 1812 created the American patriotism that exists even today.

Enjoy.

 

The War of 1812: A Forgotten War

I started a class recently on the War of 1812. The professor posed the question on opening night, “Why is the War of 1812 a forgotten war?” It was such an interesting question with numerous possibilities. The war ended in a stale mate with neither the British or the United States winning. The largest significant victory the U.S. had came after the peace treaty. British troops burned down the White House. These are just a couple of things we hit on as to why this war is so often overlooked. I am very excited about learning, over the next month and a half, the significant impact the War of 1812 had on America. I plan on updating the blog from time to time about some of the interpretations I have dealing with the war, the administration, and American society at that time period. Until then, check out the below content to get into the War of 1812 mindset. I am including some open ended questions to think about with each one. Enjoy.

A College Humor Classic. What is 1812 even about?

How does the United States and it’s citizens remember the war?

How does Canada and its citizens remember the war?