Confederate History, Heritage and Jefferson, Texas

The history of the Confederate States of America is augmentabley  one of the most complicated histories of a nation in the world.  The nation sprung up on the basis of a rebellion, lived through an entire lifespan of war, and died at the end of the war.  The story is as old as the ages.  A group of people become disillusioned with taxes or overreach of the government.  That group of people decide it’s time to stand up to the leaders because they do not feel their voices are being heard, and that stand takes the form of armed rebellion.  The Jewish nation did it against Rome, African nations did it against England, the Americans did it against England and more recently Texas for example did it against Mexico.  When the rebellion is successful, the leaders become heroes and the stories spread of the great victory.  You hear names like Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Travis, Bowie and Crockett once a rebellion has been successful.  But what happens when a rebellion fails?  Who for example remembers the names of those who rebelled against Rome in Israel?  For the most part the winners write the history and the rebellion is soon regulated to a few pages of history and only by luck does a few of the rebellion’s leaders get mentioned. 

In truth, the Confederate States of America should have suffered the same outcome as almost all other rebellions.  They should have gone down as a footnote in American history with a few references to the battles, the problems, and the outcome.  Regardless of all the politics that surround the Civil War, those on the losing side knew that history would not likely be kind to them.  They knew that there was a very good chance that their deeds, their battles, and the fact that most of them fought only to defend their homes would be lost as the United States wrote the history.  The fact is, forgotten may well have happened to the Confederate soldiers if it was not for their decedents.  In the late 1800’s sons and daughters of those who fought for the south worked diligently to ensure the names, history, and battles of the Civil War did not become a one-sided footnote in American history.  They wrote books, presented information to classes, toured battlefields, raised money for monuments and had celebrations of the Confederate States of America.  Despite current critics, there is little to no proof or evidence that any of these acts were done to put down people or elevate white supremacy.   Some myths that are going around today seem to be more glorified by the media than anything the sons or daughters could have ever done in the late 1800’s and early 1900s.  In fact, many of the myths simply do not hold up to history.   We will look clearly and directly at some of these myths:

Myth – The Confederate States of America and everyone associated with it was all traitors to the government. 

Truth – in the mid-1800s we were still very close to the time of Washington, Jefferson and other founding fathers.  The original concept of the United States was for the government to deal with foreign powers and for the states to take care of their own business.  In other words, a spirit of “States Rights” and “State Loyalty” was the norm for the time period.  Everyone knew this and respected this on both sides of the war.  Lincoln for example, asked Robert E. Lee to lead the Union forces at the outbreak of the war.  Lee waited to see where his home state of Virginia would stand.  When Virginia voted to join the Confederacy, Lincoln was informed by Lee that he would be going home to Virginia and could not lead the Union forces against his home state.  Lincoln, though he was not happy about the decision, respected it and allowed Lee to leave.  Many other people chose to fight on the side of their states because at the time loyalty to the state was more important than loyalty to the nation.  Today, society sees this as a problem since we have been conditioned and expected to have loyalty now to the United States first.  In fact, state loyalty is discussed very little since the end of the Civil War.

Myth – Those fighting for the Confederacy were fighting only to keep slavery. 

Truth- certainly slavery was a part of the reason for the war.  Lincoln was, after all, elected as a Republican and the Republican Party’s main mission was always to abolish and end slavery in the United States.  Only a handful of states issued declarations as to why the left the Union.  Texas for example was one of them and it did include slavery as the reason.  But it must be remembered that the majority of the men fighting the war did not own slaves.  A review of many of their diaries not only indicates a disdain for slavery, they outright stated in many cases that they were not fighting so that the rich could keep his slaves.  They were fighting for their homes.  Most did not have the money required to purchase slaves and most had never owned slaves in their lives.  To further complicate this myth, if the Confederacy was fighting to keep slavery, then no one in history has been able to explain why five slave-holding states remained loyal to the Union.  They have also been unable to explain why Lincoln’s famous proclamation to free slaves only freed them in the states in rebellion.  The fact is, the United States at Lincoln’s direction, freed slaves in the south and did not free them in states in the north. 

Myth-The Confederate States of America’s soldiers were racist. 

Truth – maybe.  Maybe some of the men fighting, people leading, and others in the south were racist.  Not only is it possible, but it’s also very likely that some were.  We know from some Union diaries that when slavery was finally made an issue of the war in 1863 by Lincoln’s proclamation that many of them indicated a dislike for the idea that they were fighting for African-Americans.  Union soldiers overwhelming disliked the idea of serving with African-Americans or fighting beside anyone other than a white man.  The Confederate States, on the other hand, was highly outnumbered by the Union army from the start until the end of the war.  The Confederate States and the soldiers fighting for it had a different opinion on race relationships.  The Native American Indians, for example, fresh off the Trail of Tears and other atrocities, came out of Oklahoma in large numbers and joined the Confederate Army.  Hispanic people living throughout Texas at the time signed up to defend their home and joined the ranks alongside their Caucasian counterparts.  Some slaves were forced into conscription, but there was also free African American men who joined the ranks and fought for the Confederacy.   Certainly, no government or nation is perfect, but to state that all Confederate soldiers were racist is a gross overstatement and an outright false one.  In many cases, the Caucasian solder fighting for the Confederacy welcomed all the help he could get when facing armies of the Union twice the size of his own army.   The claim that all the south was racist fails to hold up to post-war pictures of Native American, African American, and even Hispanic Americans at their Confederate Reunions throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The fact is the Confederate States of America was not a perfect nation.  It had flaws and yes it had slavery.  At the time, the north had slavery as well.  Nations around the world were just coming to terms with the end of slavery and the push toward freer and new frontiers.  Slavery became an issue of the war at the very end.  Racism and hate would be an issue in the United States that still burns to this day.  It is not the Confederate States fault.  If anything, it is our entire nation’s fault for our short comings and problems along the way.  But it becomes a much bigger problem when we attempt to apply our standards today to the people who lived in our past.  We simply cannot justify calling them all racist or traitors without understanding the times they lived in, and the feelings and emotions of the people. 

This all brings us to the recent event in Jefferson, Texas.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans Mechanized Cavalry, essentially decedents of Confederate Veterans who happen to ride motorcycle, met in Jefferson, Texas.  The group travels around, promotes history and heritage, and accepts anyone who is a Son of a Confederate Veteran and decides to join.  The group came into Jefferson and flew Confederate flags and banners around the hotel where they are staying. 

Needless to say, the sight of a Confederate flag flying on the flagpole of the local hotel on Highway 59 did likely upset some people.  You must keep in mind that despite the flag being a battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the 1800s, it was used by racist and hate groups in the 1960’s against African Americans.  Those memories of the misuse of the flag still linger in a lot of people’s minds and as a result the flag often is associated with hate groups.  It’s sad, but it’s a fact of society.  Nonetheless, the flag caused some controversy and the group ended up getting a refund and moving to a different hotel. 

In the end, the group studied history, shared stories, and celebrated their history.  They did not burn any buildings down, trash any business establishments, or march in an racist or hate filled parades.  They were polite, good natured, and a positive addition to the city of Jefferson for the weekend.  They also spent a good deal of money in Jefferson, something that helps the local economy.  

The actions of the Sons of Confederate Veterans rings out a truth that myths would attempt to distort.  These groups are not hate groups.  They are not racist and they are not promoting an anti-government agenda.   The fact is many of them are U.S. veterans themselves and proud of their service to the United States.  They have public meetings where they say the pledge of allegiance, pray, and discuss charity projects for their local communities.  They do study the history of the Confederate States and they do require members to be able to trace their ancestry back to a Confederate, but they do not limit membership based on race, religion or any or any other discrimination. 

With so much positive that comes out of their charity, so much community involvement, and the preservation of a part of our national history, it is hard to believe the myths so often wrongly promoted by our modern media regarding these groups.    However, with all that said, I’m sure there will be people who look at this article and think I’m wrong.  With that thought, of how wrong I must be, and the thought that this is a racist organization that should not be around today sharing a history and heritage, I direct your attention and final thoughts to a picture of a group of Sons of Confederate Veterans, descendants of the Confederacy,  and their spouses below:

SCV gathering in New Orleans

About Thomas, Th.D. Clinton S.
Thomas, Th.D. Clinton S.

A published writer of  poetry, fiction and non-fiction in both the digital age and the pre-digital age of publishing.  Currently serving as editor and writer for the Four States News all while living life across the four states region from Texarkana, USA.

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