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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: January 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015


By James W. King 
The Americus camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) organization hosted an annual Memorial Service for Civil War Andersonville Prison Commandant Capt. Henry Wirz on Sunday Nov. 9. The musical group, "A Joyful Noise," from Leesburg, played and sang Southern Confederate songs and Gospel Hymns from 2 to 3 PM followed by a formal memorial service. The public was invited to join SCV and pay tribute to a Southern hero and martyr.
The guest speaker was James W. King, camp commander of the Albany Georgia SCV Camp 141 Lt. Col. Thomas M. Nelson-Nelson’s Rangers. Confederate Reenactors "The Muckalee Guards" provided Honor Guard duties during the Service.
When the War Between the States (Civil War) ended in 1865, Capt. Wirz was paroled.  However, shortly thereafter, he was arrested and carried to Washington, D.C. where he was placed in the Old Capitol Prison.  His trial before a military tribunal lasted several months, and included the perjured testimony of a Yankee soldier, Felix Oeser, who was a deserter from the 7th NY. Regiment, who falsely claimed to be Felix de la Baume, a great nephew of Marquis Lafayette of American Revolutionary war fame.  For his false testimony against Capt. Wirz, he was given a position with the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.  It was later learned that this key witness whose perjured testimony contributed considerably to the conviction had never been at Andersonville. The vast Majority of defense witnesses for Capt. Wirz were not permitted to testify.  Many historians call his trial a farce and travesty of justice.  After the war in 1908, James Madison Page, a Michigan cavalryman, who had been a POW at Andersonville, wrote a book completely exonerating Wirz.
Capt. Wirz was falsely convicted of murdering 13 Union prisoners at Andersonville, although not a single body, nor even the name of any of the 13 was ever produced.  He was also falsely convicted on a second charge of conspiracy with high ranking members of the Confederate government to create the conditions that caused the high death rate. Wirz was made a scapegoat for the South.  On Nov. 10, 1865, Capt. Wirz was hanged in the yard of the Old Capitol Prison.  He declared his innocence to the end. The night before the hanging he was offered a commuted sentence if he would implicate Confederate President Jefferson Davis as a conspirator for Andersonville deaths. Wirz was an honorable man and would not lie to save his life.
After the hanging, the barbaric Yankees cut off his head and arms and other body parts, and exhibited them about the country. It took Capt. Wirz's attorney, Louis Schade, four years to collect enough body parts to have a Christian burial in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington.
The highly biased Northern version of Andersonville Civil War Prison (POW) Camp is well known however the true facts concerning Andersonville are not well known. The government of The Confederate States of America issued an order that a large POW prison should be constructed in early 1864 to alleviate crowding in existing camps in the South. The requirements were that it be constructed at a location further South away from the battle front and should be a healthy location with plenty of pure water, a running stream, close to grist and saw mills and if possible have shade trees. The location selected was in South Georgia in Sumter County and was officially named Camp Sumter although it became known as Andersonville. It was constructed to house 10,000 Union POW's however numbers increased to as high as 45,000 due to a policy by the Lincoln administration to discontinue exchanges.
The average death rate at other POW camps in the South was about 9% as compared to 12% for POW camps in the North where Confederate POW's were incarcerated.  In contrast the death rate at Andersonville was approximately 29% due to causes beyond the control of Confederate authorities and was unintentional. Also in contrast were the similar death rates at several Northern POW camps notably Elmira New York and Camp Douglas Chicago where the high death rates have been proven to be intentional. The U.S. Senate and House passed a joint resolution, SR97, stating the intent to kill Confederate POW’s by starvation, disease, and exposure to inclement weather.
It is a well-known fact that the victor of a war writes the history from a biased perspective. Immediately after the end of the war absurd war crimes claims were made by Northern politicians, military authorities, newspapers, periodicals, and citizens that the decisions and conditions that caused the human disaster at Andersonville were intentional on the part of Confederate authorities. Demands for War Crimes Trials were made and the Commandant of Andersonville POW camp, Capt. Henry Wirz, was arrested, tried, and convicted in a farce trial by a military tribunal who had predetermined that a conviction would result. No War Crimes Charges against Northern POW commandants were ever made and no Northern POW camp has ever been enshrined by the U.S. Government as a memorial to Confederate POW's. Only Andersonville in the South has been enshrined and it has become a memorial to American POW's of all wars that have involved American veterans.
In defense of the Confederate government and Confederate prison officials in regards to Andersonville, a response was made in 1876, by the Southern Historical Society, consisting of 9 points that place the blame for deaths and suffering at Andersonville totally on Northern politicians and military authorities. Specifically President Lincoln, Sec. of War Stanton, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Gen. Grant shoulder the blame as noted in the following 9 points.

1. It is not denied that great suffering and mortality occurred but it was due to circumstances and conditions beyond CSA control.

2. If the death rate be adduced as "circumstantial evidence of barbarity" the rate of Confederate deaths was higher in Northern POW camps where there was an abundance of food, medicine, and shelter.

3. The Union POW's were given the same rations as Confederate guards and soldiers and equal treatment in hospitals as required by the CSA government and the death rate of CSA guards was the same as POW's.  The Northern Federal government did not have this humane policy.

4. The exchange of prisoners was refused by the North before the issue of black Union POW's became an issue.

5. The CSA government requested that Northern doctors and medicine be sent to treat Northern POW's and the request was denied.

6. The CSA tried to buy supplies including bowls and other utensils to use in feeding the POW's. They offered to pay with cotton and gold but the offer was refused by the Lincoln administration.

7. The Federal Government under President Lincoln made medicine contraband causing suffering and death of Union POW's and all Southerners military and civilian.

8. Prior to the period of greatest mortality the CSA authorities offered to release the Andersonville POW's without exchange but the offer was not accepted by the Lincoln Administration who was told by CSA authorities "we cannot feed or care for them-just come get them". Sherman's barbaric war crimes in Georgia consisting of stealing, destroying, and burning made food and supplies even scarcer and increased suffering and mortality.

9. The Northern press was furnished lies and propaganda by Union Sec. and Assistant Sec. of war Stanton and Dana claiming deliberate cruelties and war crimes by the South. The control of Northern POW camps was transferred by Stanton and Dana to vindictive partisan criminal elements and deliberate war crimes of cruelty, torture, and murder were committed against Confederate POW's as proven by a joint resolution of the U.S. Senate and House SR97.
Final proof that the human disaster at Andersonville was virtually 100% the fault of the Lincoln Administration comes from statements by Confederate Col. Ould who was in charge of arranging prisoner exchanges and Union Assistant Secretary of War in the Lincoln Administration Charles A. Dana. Col. Ould is quoted as saying “My government instructs me to waive all formalities in this matter of exchange. I need not try to conceal from you that we cannot feed and provide for the prisoners in our hands. We cannot half feed or clothe them. You have closed our ports till we cannot get medical stores for them. You will not send us quinine and other medicines, even for their exclusive use. They are suffering greatly and the mortality is excessive. I tell you all this plainly, and still you refuse to exchange. What does your government demand? Name your own conditions and I have authority to accept them. YOU ARE SILENT!  GREAT GOD, CAN IT BE THAT YOU PEOPLE ARE MONSTERS? If you will not exchange, I will give you your men for nothing. I will deliver ten thousand Union POW’s at Wilmington. I will deliver five thousand here. Come and get them. If your government is so damnably dishonest to want them for nothing, you shall have them. You can at least feed them and we cannot.”

Post-War in the New York Sun Newspaper Dana wrote “CSA authorities and especially Jefferson Davis ought not to be held responsible for Andersonville. We were responsible ourselves for the continued detention of our captives in misery, starvation and sickness in the South”.
In 1906 former Confederate General Stephen D. Lee charged the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) organization with the duty to defend the honor of the South and the Confederate Soldier:

“To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the Cause for which we fought.  To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier's good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Remember, it is your duty to see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations.”

James W. King is commander of Albany Camp 141 Lt. Col. Thomas M. Nelson-Nelson's Rangers of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans organization and assists the Americus SCV camp in promoting the annual Wirz memorial service at Andersonville Georgia.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Southern Project: Restoring the Old or Ushering in the New?

By Red Phillips

For those unaware of what the title is referring to, 1.5 to 2 years ago the League of the South underwent a change in direction. For reasons many and varied, some of us objected to this new direction. There is more to this situation than I can cover in a brief article, so I will include a link here to a discussion I have been having recently with two of the leaders of the new direction caucus, Michael Cushman and Hunter Wallace. Reading our back and forth will give you the gist of what part of the debate is all about.

It was this discussion that prompted me to write this article because I think a lot of the debate has taken place between a somewhat pointy headed set of antagonists, who know what they are debating, but it may not be readily apparent to the casual observer what is at issue. So I present this overview.

Historically speaking, folks who self-identify as specifically Southern conservatives or pro-South activists generally believe that the traditional Southern understanding of the nature of the Union is the correct understanding, that Lincoln's and the Unionists' understanding was incorrect, and that forcefully suppressing the secession of the Southern states was inconsistent with the nature of the Union as intended and unjustified. These identifiably Southern voices have not always called anew for independence for the South, but they overwhelmingly are people who believe the original polity of the US was subverted and altered by Lincoln and the War and those who followed and want to see the old order restored to a greater or lesser degree.
As an aside, there has been an element of this pro-South contingent that doesn't exactly fit this description. They believe that contrary to the traditional Southern understanding, the Constitution really was a radically centralizing document as its Unionist defenders claim, but this element believes the Constitution was essentially a trick, a bait and switch, so to speak, and that the South got snookered. This group tends to venerate the Articles of Confederation and are big fans of Patrick Henry. They, like Henry, "smell a rat" with regard to the Constitutional Convention which they maintain acted well beyond its authority to modify the Articles and instead accomplished what amounted to a coup. Important for this discussion, however, they look to the Articles, which were substantially more decentralized than the Southern understanding of the Constitution, as the political model they want to restore.

My own belief is an amalgam of these two. I believe we should have stuck with the Articles. Hindsight illustrates this abundantly. I believe the Constitutional Convention did act beyond its authority, but since we did go through the process of ratifying its product at State Ratifying Conventions, I think it is difficult and not particularly useful rhetorically to maintain that the Constitution is completely illegitimate. But I do not concede that it actually was the radically centralizing document as those in the above group maintain, and even if I was, I don't think it would be useful to admit it. Why make my opponent’s argument for him? The fact, however, remains that actually following the Constitution, even the most radically centrist vision of it propounded by people like Gouverneur Morris, would be much preferable to the lawless monstrosity we have today. Once we are actually following the Constitution, then we can start discussing the virtues of returning to the Articles.

This desire to restore a subverted and fallen polity, whether the traditional Southern understanding of the Constitution or the Articles, does not characterize the brain trusts of the new guard, however, although this fact is not made entirely clear by them in my opinion. The new guard proclaims that it is future oriented and while it honors our ancestors it does not look to the past but towards securing a future. The League website puts it like this:

The League of the South is not a “neo-Confederate” or “Southern heritage” organization, although we certainly do honor our ancestors and our largely Christian historic inheritance as Southerners. The League is a present- and future-oriented Southern Nationalist organization that seeks the survival, well-being, and independence of the Southern people.

There is more to this sentiment than meets the eye. The “Southern heritage” issue is largely a straw man. Southern heritage organizations place plaques, maintain monuments, put flowers on Confederate graves, participate in reenactments, etc. This has never been the primary purpose of the League as anyone who is at all familiar with it knows. What is being done here, I suspect sometimes deliberately and sometimes not, is conflating the historical argument I describe above, which is clearly politically oriented, with heritage preservation activities which generally aren’t. If the League is declaring itself to be an activist organization, which I believe it is, making historical arguments about the true nature of the Constitution and the Union is not at all inconsistent with this and does not transform it into a heritage organization. Some linguistic sleight of hand appears to be at work here.

In addition, the leaders of the new guard are obviously influenced by the various European Identitarian movements. As with the Identitarians, there is a certain aesthetic sensibility at play here. The new guard does not want to be associated with or confused with the Confederate Battle Flag (CBF) flyin’, truck drivin,’ PBR drinkin’ redneck set. This is evidenced by their adoption of a “new” (i.e. made up) flag, the banning of the CBF and the institution of a dress code at certain League sponsored protests. (The League battle over the Battle Flag deserves its own article.) This aesthetic sensibility has been a frequent part of the internet and Facebook flame wars that have gone on between the sides. So much so, that at some points I have wanted to scream “What the heck do y’all have against PBR!” It strikes me that the main problem with PBR is that by drinking it you might be mistaken for a hipster. Heaven forbid anyone be mistaken for a redneck. How would anyone ever live down that shame?

There is an intellectual sensibility at play here as well that coincides with the aesthetic sensibility and is characteristic of the European New Right. In one of our many exchanges, I once goaded Michael Cushman about how many times he had watched Alex Kurtagic’s “Masters of the Universe” speech on YouTube. Kurtagic is a European New Right figure, and his speech was quite the sensation in certain corners of the alternative right when he delivered it in 2011. Kurtagic makes some important points including the necessity to appeal to emotions and not just intellect, but, a main thrust of his speech is that New Rightists should askew conservatism, which is inherently negative and pessimistic and not attractive to people, and offer people a positive and future oriented vision. I highly recommend that anyone interested in “getting” what the new guard is about should watch this video because much of it is in there.

All that said, the main reason the new guard is “future oriented” and does not want to look backwards is because they don’t, unlike the typical pro-South activist described above, support restoring our lost system of government. They don’t much care for our lost system of government. What system they actually do support is less clear, and I suspect varies some between them. This is the subject of the debate I linked to in the first paragraph. Suffice it to say that they are, at a minimum, anti-republican (small r).

They believe that the United States, as actually founded, was a thoroughly liberal Enlightenment project that needs to be rejected. Note that they are not just claiming that the Union between North and South was unwise. In hindsight I think that is true, but I also know that the people at the time did not have the benefit of hindsight, and that the South in general felt like it emerged from the Convention with a pretty good deal.
Like the left and many elements of the pseudo-right, they claim that the US is a proposition nation founded on an idea rather than a blood and soil European style nation. Note, they are not arguing that the US has become, for all intents and purposes, a proposition nation. They are arguing that it fundamentally is a proposition nation.

The future oriented language certainly tweaked my conservative sensibilities, but it was the “US is a proposition nation” nonsense that really launched me into open opposition to the new guard. Fairly early in my conservative activist journey I picked a side when I supported Pat Buchanan’s 1992 primary challenge of George H. W. Bush. Ever since then I have identified with the paleoconservative sphere and opposed the neoconservatives and mainstream conservatives. The proposition nation issue has from the beginning been one of the main differences that separates us paleo and paleoish conservatives from the neo and mainstream conservatives, and it has been the subject of many heated debates I have engaged in. To hear people who are ostensibly on my side make the same argument that my opponents have been making for years really grates. The new guard often seems like they are trying to out Jaffa the Jaffaites.

The problem for the new guard is that their argument is no more historically accurate when they make it than it is when Dinesh D'Souza makes it in a neocon propaganda film. (Great company you’re keeping there boys.) To paraphrase Samuel Francis, who I presume the new guard respects, the idea that the US is a proposition nation would have been news to the vast majority of Americans in 1950. The argument that the US is a proposition nation is a relatively novel idea and came to prominence in certain (phony) conservative circles because it was a convenient way to paper over very politically incorrect facts. Yes the US was imperfect at its founding they concede – limiting the franchise to male property owners, limiting citizenship to whites only, slavery, counting slaves as 3/5 of a person, etc. – but it “perfected” itself over time, especially with Lincoln’s little invasion, to become the pristine proposition nation that it is today without a trace of that nasty old blood and soil, or so the story goes. They also obsess over a couple of lines in the Declaration of Independence that don’t mean what they say they mean anyway, and make the Constitution an afterthought in service of the Declaration. Again, why the new guard wants to associate itself with such poppycock that is obviously contrived in the service of a greater ideology is baffling.

Whether the new guard actually believes their own proposition nation rhetoric is a question I waffle over. But what they are up to with this strategy is clear. They believe that the average Southerner, even or especially conservative Southerners, identifies too closely with the US and our form of government, and they want to shift that allegiance away from the US and toward the South. So their strategy is to tear away at that allegiance by essentially burning down the rhetorical house and demonizing the US.

I actually agree that the average Southerner identifies too closely with the US, and this does not serve him well, especially when he is sending his sons off to fight in some stupid and unnecessary war Uncle Sam has gotten us into. This emotional allegiance also allows him to fool himself into believing that the current regime is not actually implacably hostile to his interests, because campaign commercials and FOX NEWS tell him otherwise. This applies to Southerners and the whole Red coalition in the rest of Flyover Country as well. But the way to deal with this problem is not to tell historical lies that actually prop up the opposition’s narrative.

Since the new guard is not about restoring our lost political heritage, I believe it is fundamentally dishonest for them to identify themselves as Southern Nationalists because Southern in the minds of most implies a certain political orientation. (Southern Nationalist is the name they chose for themselves, but I have never liked it. Southern Devolutionalist or the Southern Independence Movement, for example, would better reflect the nature of the movement as most people imagine it.) They are basically gravy training off the good feelings many Southerners have for The Lost Cause for the purpose of ushering in a new political order that most Southerners would likely find highly objectionable. They should instead, in the interest of full disclosure, call themselves the Southeastern United States Independence Monarchist Movement or whatever.

Rational adults can have a reasonable conversation about whether republicanism in general or Southern style republicanism in particular is the best or most stable form of government. But if something other than the political form that is historically identified with the South is what they seek, and it is, they should be honest and up front about that, and it would really be best for them to reach a consensus on what form it is they hope to establish rather than just saying they will cross that bridge when they get there. Most people kinda want to know what they are signing up for.

So, to answer the question I asked in the title, I simply reject entirely the idea that the Southern Independence project is a future oriented one. Our project is an entirely conservative/reactionary one, but one we obviously believe will bring about a much better future. Now some people want to play word games and say conservatives want to conserve the status quo, and we should have no interest in maintaining the status quo, but this is semantic game playing. People who identify with Southern independence or even Constitutionalism are not moderate RINO Republicans seeking to preserve the status quo, and they know it. But if conservative is confusing, I’ll call the impulse restorationist.

A useful analogy I have used before is the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement in Christianity. Whatever one may think of that movement on theological grounds, it would be silly not to recognize it as a fundamentally past oriented attempt to restore the Church, that they felt had been compromised, to the order portrayed in the New Testament as they understand it. Of course, this would in their minds have highly desirable future results, but it’s not a future oriented project. This distinction is important because it is an essential part of how we conceive of ourselves and our thing. Marxism, for example, was always future oriented because it was about something that had not yet been and they were attempting to bring about. On the contrary, pining away to restore the Austro-Hungarian Empire is past oriented. Likewise, our project is past oriented.

I have on a couple of occasions accused new direction ringleader Michael Cushman of trying to pound his square peg of anti-republicanism into the round hole that is the American and Southern political milieu. Outside his core group that he has convinced to get on board, I sense that he is increasingly frustrated with the resistance he is meeting. He can’t say I didn’t warn him.

In closing, I would like to make clear that I have always liked League President Dr. Michael Hill. He has always been kind to me. One of my first internet publications was an essay on Lincoln that I wrote for He sent me an unsolicited email complimenting me on the article. I thought I had hit the big time. But his role in this new direction has been genuinely puzzling to me and others. Dr. Hill has generally been viewed as on board with the new direction. He supported the use of the new Black Cross flag, for example, although there has been a recent move to reintegrate the CBF. One can’t help but wonder if this is in response to negative fallout from its removal. He also repeats the “future-oriented” line. In fact, the words from the website I excerpted are his.

I can only speculate what is going on here. Perhaps years of talk with few results made the influx of a mostly young activist contingent hard to resist. I do not, however, believe that Dr. Hill believes that the US as intended was a proposition nation, because I have heard him say otherwise. I also believe he subscribes to one of the two Southern theories I describe in paragraphs 2 and 3 above, perhaps trending toward the latter in recent years based on some things I have heard and read. I do not believe that he accepts that the US is a fundamentally Enlightenment liberal project, because I have heard him argue otherwise. Nor do I believe that he has OD’ed on Alex Kurtagic videos. Reasonable men can disagree, and no offense toward Dr. Hill or Michael Cushman or Hunter Wallace for that matter is intended with this essay. These are important issues that need to be discussed openly and calmly and not met with cries of “Get on board or get out of the way.” Hopefully this article can be part of that dialogue.

Red Phillips is a paleoconservative writer from Georgia who blogs at He has an article archive at He can be reached at

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Rebel Flag: History –v- Hysteria

By Steve Quick
For the average non-Southerner the continued affection residents of Dixie display toward the controversial Battle Flag can be baffling. If African-Americans are so incensed by the banner, why not just fold it up and put it away? Greta Van Susteren of Fox News called for just that and defined the issue a “no-brainer”. Why indeed? The war has been over for 143 years. Certain unsavory groups of a racist stripe seem unduly attached to the symbol as well. No one in the print or electronic media seems willing to come forward and offer a counterpoint. Is there another point of view after all?
Newspapers however, have developed the habit of concluding all flag related stories the same way. The throwaway line for the other point of view is usually something like “flag defenders say the banner stands for heritage”. But what does that mean? If such an understanding can be developed is it still not overshadowed by prevailing negative opinions? Can a symbol so emotionally charged ever be mutually understood?
Therein lies the problem. The very same symbol means completely different things to different people. Perhaps the best place to start is there. Many hate groups have gravitated toward the historical flag. But it is also true these very same groups also use other symbols that are loved and cherished by millions of people. The pinnacle of the Ku Klux Klan was in the 1920s. They boasted over a million members with national leadership in Ohio and Illinois. Yet the most careful photographic scrutiny of the era will fail to reveal a single Confederate flag. One will however find the American flag and the Christian cross in profusion. These symbols are mainstays even today for hate groups. The difference is that patriotic Americans and Christians already have a context for these symbols. The icons cannot be co-opted because they already mean something else. This is also precisely why Southerners continue to love the Battle flag in the face of so much bad publicity. The flag already has meaning and context.
In fact, what the shamrock is to the Irish or the Star of David is to Jews, the Battle Flag is to most Southerners. There is enough historical baggage to encumber any of these symbols, but there is more to admire. The Confederate flag embodies religion, ethnic heritage, early-American revolutionary ideology and ultimately familial sacrifice on the battlefield. The circumstances that gave it birth are the touchstone of the regions identity, no different than the potato famine for the Irish or the holocaust for the Jew. To examine the flag, in historical and ethnic context should permit all but the most rabid flag-haters an opportunity to understand what is behind the vague explanation of “heritage”.
While the Battle flag did not make its appearance in its recognizable form until 1862, some of the design elements date to antiquity. The “X” is the cross of St. Andrew. It was the fisherman Andrew who introduced his brother Simon Peter to Jesus in Galilee 2000 years ago. When the disciple Andrew was himself martyred years later he asked not to be crucified on the same type of cross Christ died upon. His last request was honored and he was put to death on a cross on the shape of the “X”. Andrew later became the patron saint of Scotland and the Scottish flag today is the white St. Andrews cross on a blue field. When Scottish immigrants settled in Northern Ireland in the 1600s the cross was retained on their new flag, albeit a red St. Andrews cross on a white field. When the New World opened up landless Scots and Ulster-Scots lefts their homes and most of them settled in the South, preserving their old culture in the isolated rural and frontier environment
Grady McWhiney explains in his book Cracker Culture, that fully 75% of the early South was populated by these Celts. Most sold themselves into indentured servitude (the earliest form of American slavery) because they could not afford the cost of passage. This explains why only 6% of the African slaves brought to the New World ended up in the American colonies. The lowland English of Saxon descent by contrast settled the Northeastern colonies. This imbued those colonies with such an English character they are still known as New England. Urban, commercial and materialistic by nature these Yankee descendants could not have been more different than their Southern countrymen. Many historians believe the longstanding historical animosities between Saxon and Celt did not bode well for the new country. With this historical perspective the St. Andrews cross seems almost destined to be raised again as ancient rivals clashed on new battlefields.
From this Celtic stock, the ingredients that made the unique Southern stew were gradually introduced. The American Revolution unleashed Celtic hatred of the redcoat. Southerners penned the Declaration of Independence, chased the British through the Carolina’s and defeated them at Yorktown. But they were dismayed when New England immediately sought renewed trade with England and failed to support the French in their own revolution. Another Virginian later crafted the Constitution, a document as sacred to Southerners as their Bibles. Tyranny, they believed, had finally been checkmated by law. The red, white and blue 13-starred banner was their new cherished flag. These same features would later become a permanent part of the Battle flag.
But all was not well with the new republic. Mistrust between the regions manifested even before the revolution was over. The unwieldy Articles of Confederation preceded the constitution. Two of the former colonies (N.C and R.I.) had to be coerced into approving the latter document after wrangling that included northern insistence they be allowed to continue the slave trade another 20 years. Virginia and Kentucky passed resolutions in 1796 asserting their belief that political divorce was an explicit right. Massachusetts threatened on three separate occasions to secede, a right affirmed by all the New England states at the 1818 Hartford convention. The abolitionists were champions of secession and would burn copies of the constitution at their rallies. Their vicious attacks upon all things Southern occurring as it did in the midst of Northern political and economic ascendancy animated Southern secessionists years before the average Southerner could consider such a possibility.
Meanwhile Low Church Protestantism had taken root in the South in the early 1800’s and like kudzu has flourished until the present day. Sociological studies conducted by John Shelton Reed of the University of North Carolina scientifically prove that the South is still the nations most religious region. Southerners are more likely to belong, attend and contribute to their churches than Americans from any other section. Calvinism is the main strain of religious thought and this connection to Scotland and the St. Andrews cross is no coincidence. The religious revivals that swept the Confederate armies during the war further ingrained faith as a fixture of Southern character. During the same era north of the Mason-Dixon transcendentalism, as expounded by Thoreau and Emerson, the taproot of modern secular humanism, was displacing puritanical religion as the dominant philosophical belief. The nation was also fracturing along spiritual lines.
By 1860 the United States was in reality two countries living miserably under one flag. When war broke out, Dixie's' original banner so resembled the old American forebear that a new flag was needed to prevent confusion on the field of battle. The blue St. Andrews cross, trimmed in white on a red field appeared above the defending Confederate army. Thirteen stars appeared on those bars representing the eleven seceding states and revolutionary precedent. These fighting units were all recruited from the same communities, with lifelong friends and close relatives among the casualties of every battle. As they buried their dead friends and relatives the names of those battles were painted or stitched on their flags. At Appomattox a Union observer wrote, they were stoic as they stacked their arms but wept bitterly when they had to furl their flags.
Then, as now the flag symbolizes for Southerners not hate but love, love of heritage, love of faith, love of constitutional protections, love of family and community. If the 1860 census is to be believed 95% of the slaves were owned by just 5% of the population. The modern insistence that the conflict was to resolve the issue of slavery is at best overstated and at worst revisionist. But the current argument does deserve one more look.
The vitriolic, almost irrational antipathy toward the flag is a recent phenomenon. Credible research reveals its origins to be in the 1980's revived by a financially strained and scandal plagued NAACP. Past President, Kwaise Mfume turned the issue into a fundraising juggernaut. Egged on by a liberal media irritated at the lingering conservatism in the South, the flag fight has generated much heat but little light. South Carolina relocated the flag from its capital dome to a place of historical significance after they decided it flew in a position of false sovereignty. Former Governor Barnes of Georgia finessed a backroom flag deal that changed the flag but derailed his own reelection bid. Sonny Perdue became the first Republican since Reconstruction elected to the governor’s mansion by voter outrage over the flag change and the promise of a referendum, a promise that turned out to be a lie. But in Mississippi the thing was put to an old fashioned democratic vote. By a 2 to 1 margin and outspent 10 to 1 they voted to keep the state flag, which features the Battle flag. In fact, three times more African-Americans voted to keep the flag than voted for President Bush. Mississippians speak for all Southerners when they say "It's our symbol, its our heritage and therefore our choice".
In the end what people choose to believe about the flag is just that, a choice. One can accept the interpretation of entire states, Southern rock and country bands, NASCAR fans, Kappa Alpha fraternities, thousands of reenactors and a century of thoughtful historians. People can also embrace the interpretation of a few pathetic racists and the opportunistic civil rights lobby, well amplified by a sympathetic media. Like all choices its says less about the object than it does about the person Perhaps only the Irishman can define the shamrock, or a Jew explain the Star of David. Are not Southerners entitled to the same latitude?
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