About Brooks D. Simpson

American historian.

A “New Weapon” in the Flagger “Arsenal”

The Virginia Flaggers want you to know that they have “a new weapon in our arsenal” … a drone.

VF drone

That’s right, a drone, in white with Hathaway red striping.

With this drone, they say, they can take pictures … just like any drone can do. For those of you with Facebook access, here are some pictures that are supposed to be of Hollywood Cemetery, although they are better representations of the Richmond skyline.

From a press release:

The Virginia Flaggers are pleased to present the following photos, taken during research, development, and testing of drones that were acquired recently to assist in our heritage defense operations.

In addition to assisting in heritage defense projects, we are excited about the prospects for their use in capturing and recording unique images and video at Confederate Memorial Services, ceremonies, parades, protests, and other events, which would be available to participants and as media releases. We believe that the drones will also be helpful in scouting possible sites for additional Interstate Memorial Confederate Battle Flags, assisting with research on battle fields, and helping to record and research information from previously undiscovered or inaccessible cemeteries.

As we do with any operation, we are carefully testing the units and training operators, while researching all applicable laws and regulations to ensure we operate within the existing guidelines, and to secure the safety of our Flaggers, as well as the protection of citizens and property.

Ah, yes. Now we have the promise of aerial shots showing us how many times human Flaggers are outnumbered by the flags they bring to protests in Lexington and Richmond. It will be wonderful to have a new perspective on the paucity of participation. I’m awaiting use of the drone camera to record another Tripp Lewis arrest (complete with aerial confirmation of trespassing) or to document the location of Susan Hathaway, who will be nowhere near the VMFA.

The drone will be especially helpful in allowing us to see flag displays that are not visible from the ground. We can’t wait to see the research to be done on battlefields, especially since we’ve seen no evidence of previous research done by the Flaggers.

It’s especially reassuring to know that the Flaggers are making sure that they heed all laws, rules, and regulations. Who says Tripp Lewis can’t teach anyone anything? Note that they are interested in the safety of citizens, not all people. Then again, we know what “citizens and property” means to a fan of Confederate heritage, now, don’t we?

The Flaggers have yet to comment on a use for the drone recommended by one of their more level-headed supporters … namely, an inquiry into his private fantasy life fueled by his personal beliefs, although many Flaggers share them.

No word yet on whether the drone will assist in the preparation of endless book jackets in Florida, although rest assured that their creator will continue to drone on about her obsessions.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Virginia Flaggers are now on Twitter! I believe I’ll enjoy that.

Make no mistake about it: these are tremendous achievements, telling us just how successful the Virginia Flaggers are in changing hearts and minds as they seek to restore the honor. No word yet as to whether the VMFA, WLU, or the city of Lexington will install ground-to-drone defense systems. There’s also no word as to whether Ben Jones, Chief of Heritage Operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, will sponsor a second Flagger drone, done up on orange with black and white trim, and bearing a Confederate battle flag … the General Lee 02.

Promises, Promises

A fellow who goes by the name “Border Ruffian” loves to pop up in the comments sections of various history and heritage blogs. BR is wont to make extravagant claims about large numbers of black Confederate soldiers, and now he’s added a new twist to his tale.

BR BCFunny how we never see this oft-threatened list. But then BR has richly earned a reputation for failing to put up or shut up.

As for Border Ruffian’s true identity, well, I’ll simply quote Pensacola’s gift to Confederate heritage, who declares in regard to another poster: “You reckon this is the poster’s real name, or is it a coward-handle to hide behind?”

Funny that she never said that to Caldwell/Austin/whatever … her favorite commenter … ah, the hypocrisy of heritage advocates.  But at least she agrees that BR’s a coward. Otherwise she’d admit that she’s a hypocrite.

Weary About Weary

The passing of Mattie Clyburn Rice reignited a discussion about her father, Weary Clyburn. That story remains a point of contention for Confederate heritage advocates as well as those who contest characterizations of Weary Clyburn’s activities during the American Civil War.

Simply put, Weary Clyburn was a slave on Thomas L. Clyburn’s plantation near Kershaw, South Carolina. In 1861 he accompanied Thams L. Clyburn’s son, Thomas F. “Frank” Clyburn, when Frank enlisted in the 12th South Carolina Infantry. Weary Clyburn was with his master when Frank was wounded in the fall of 1861 and brought him home. Frank Clyburn was an officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel by the end of the conflict. As it was not unusual for officers to be accompanied by a family slave who served as a personal servant, Weary Clyburn’s presence is easily explained.

If one looks through various reports one comes across the claim that “a document also confirmed he performed personal services for Robert E. Lee.” That document appears to be his pension application, and we have no idea what services were performed, if indeed there were any.

After the war Weary Clyburn moved to North Carolina (away from his “friend” the colonel), married at least twice, and applied for a Confederate pension from North Carolina. As he was not a soldier, he received a “Class B Negro Pension.” That expired with his death in 1930.

Details concerning the exact nature of Weary Clyburn’s activities during the Civil War remain vague and contested, in large part because the evidentiary record is so sparse. One could argued that he “served” the Confederacy, but may have done so involuntarily. The extant record does not justify counting him as a black Confederate soldier as the Confederacy defined that term … and that’s the only definition that counts: that someone today might want to claim that he was nevertheless a soldier is an example of substituting one’s own values for the definitions in place at the time, a clear case of “presentism” and “bias.”

Much has been made of Mattice Rice’s efforts to find out what her father did and to seek recognition for what he did. Whatever one makes of the merits of her endeavors, there is no doubt that she was determined, persistent, and to a large degree successful in getting people to remember and to commemorate her father’s activities during the war. Beyond that we know very little, although many people assert much.

For some six years Kevin Levin’s been researching and writing about Weary Clyburn as part of his wider interest in what African Americans who accompanied Confederate forces may have done during the Civil War as well as what people subsequently claimed they did and how they interpreted that activity. You can access those posts here. A review of those posts and the comments that follow them suggest the intensity with which people debate the meaning of Weary Clyburn’s life. That in turn led to a rather loud debate over Levin’s comments in an AP piece about Mattie Rice’s death that appeared just as her remains were being buried at her father’s gravesite.

It was the funeral service that drew my attention. Apparently many white people saw treated the solemn ceremony as a chance to appear in reenactment attire. (By the way, why do so many of these heritage-advocates-as-reenactors choose the artillery as their branch of service?)

Rice Burial Group Photo

I note that Rice’s family did not choose to don Confederate farb garb.

10615374_376747029117255_920057809789003618_nThe artfully-edited video (which seems to omit several speakers, including SCV Chief of Heritage Operations Ben Jones) nevertheless suggests that Mattie Rice’s legacy may be subjected to the same sort of controversy as was her father’s.

I love that Michael Givens, the same man who stood by Matthew Heimbach, says that we are all the same. He’s a fine actor.

As you might expect, some of the usual suspects were present.

Carl Roden Rice Service 1Fallgers at Rice Service 1

Some of these folks had a pretty busy week between going to Danville and attending this service. But we’re glad to see them out and about.

 

 

I simply hope that Mattie Rice rests in peace.

 

Quote of the Week: October 19-25, 2014 … or Nikki Haley Gets It Wrong

Nikki Haley Letter

I deliberately decided to abstain from commenting about the passing of Mattie Clyburn Rice, daughter of Weary Clyburn. I saw no need to say anything. We already know the story of Weary Clyburn, and we know how that story has been distorted by people with agendas claiming that enslaved African Americans voluntarily enlisted in the ranks of the Confederate military.

Thus it is disappointing to see that the governor of South Carolina, who has recently been on a Confederate heritage kick, embraces the bogus tales about Weary Clyburn’s “service.” She thus joins the ranks of many who seek to distort history for the advancement of personal interest. It’s amusing to hear her argue that her election demonstrates that South Carolina is free of racism. Whatever.

Doubtless the governor is interested in winning reelection. Doubtless, too, she was responding to her opponent’s opinion on the display of the Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the state capitol (I can recall when it flew atop the capitol dome).  I believe she’ll win reelection, but it won’t be because she understands anything about the American Civil War or the life of Weary Clyburn. However, she may have shown a fine understanding of how some white South Carolinians understand those two subjects. This was not always the case. In the past the governor understood it was a hot button issue.

I just don’t know why Governor Haley won’t be as good as her word. If she thinks the Confederate flag is fine and that enslaved people fought willingly for their continued enslavement, why not simply tell the people of South Carolina that she so believes? Aren’t the voters in the Palmetto State entitled to know what their governor believes?

Don’t be tricky, Nikki. Let Haley’s Comet illuminate what you really believe so we can all see it.

Danville Aftermath

I must confess that I was not surprised at the end result when it came to the controversy over flying the Third National Flag of the Confederacy on the grounds of the Sutherlin Mansion in Danville, Virginia. A 1994 agreement securing the right to fly that flag at that spot as part of a memorial clearly met the requirements outlined in the Virginia state code regarding war memorials (unlike, say, the rather different grounds for the debate over the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag outside the War Memorial Chapel in Richmond as managed by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts). Readers of this blog will recall that I made a case for the continued flying of that flag on those grounds because of the specific historic context of the display.

That position prevailed, but not because of the superior logic of my argument. Nor did that position prevail because of the actions of pro-Confederate heritage activists from the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the Virginia Flaggers, although it appears that some people want to give the Flaggers credit for a victory they did not earn. Rather, the city council decided that to remove the flag would violate state law. Thankfully, since Sutherlin Mansion has not concluded an agreement with a certain Richmond architectural firm, Susan Hathaway was able to show up, although she did not speak before Danville’s city council at the second meeting.

It did not take long for supporters of the Flaggers to demonstrate their own hypocrisy, of course. The Flaggers call on other people to tolerate their own preferences, but they display a rather mean streak of intolerance themselves, as commentary on their own Facebook page reveals:

CSA intolerance

I especially like seeing a Confederate heritage advocate call for the deportation of all “un-Americans.”

 

Discussion at Danville

You can watch the proceedings at Danville’s City Council last night (October 21) and on October 9 here.

Things pick up on the October 21 meeting just after the 39:30 minute mark. The comments on the October 9 meeting start with the discussion of the display of the Third National Flag, and some of the same people speak in both places.

You’ll note some familiar faces in the crowd (what, no sunglasses?). Indeed, one of them forwarded this link to the blog. Remember that the next time they deny visiting the blog.

Someone’s already forecast how this will turn out. Check.

UPDATE: And this is how it all turned out … thanks to someone from Boston (well, kinda).

Quote of the Week: October 12-18, 2014

I guess we’ve come to expect this from a supporter of the Virginia Flaggers:

Well soon the Pagan holiday will be here and those who celebrate and don their masks and costumes will be out into the night. I will say that many, costume or regular do, are already out and already doing their anti good, anti Southern heritage, and what is none of their business, their actions and criticisms and outright lies, which is what they have done for more than 150 years. I wanted to add a few photos of a few of the rascals, who we all can see everyday and not just on Halloween, people whom we wish were in West Africa, with all those who are remiss in hygiene, and health standards, who eat things in filth and who abode with certain animals and things that they should not abode with. Some American homosexuals do these same things I might add, and the diseases are created and spread by some of these filthy men and some women. All the diseases are not physical, some are diseases of the mind, spiritual diseases, where men say things they know are not true, about about themselves as well as about others.
Some of these men also use aliases and swear they they don’t. These liars, these homosexuals, these perverts, these racists who hide behind the shields and smokescreens they falsely create as they call you and I racists to cover there ill deeds, are as filthy as the West Africans in many respects. These assholes attack the innocents just as a nasty virus does, without regard for decency, or justification, as they are no respecters of men.

I think we all know what Jerry’s costume will look like.

Civil War Cinema

From Birth of a Nation through Gone With the Wind to Glory and Lincoln, film has played a powerful role in shaping how Americans understand the American Civil War (and, in several instances, Reconstruction). Of course, every time a film appears, the critics are sure to follow, with scholars asked to pick apart a film in terms of historical accuracy, followed by complaints that those scholars are jealous, etc.

Some of these issues appear in this discussion sparked by a new film, Field of Lost Shoes. I freely admit that I’ve not seen the movie: indeed, in many cases I avoid seeing certain movies when they are released, because I find the ensuing discussion as predictable as it is discouraging.

“Did you see The Moon Also Rises?”

“Wasn’t that wonderful history?”

“What did you think about it … as a historian, I mean?”

“Well, I still liked it.”

Later … “He’s so picky. Maybe he’s jealous. So what if it wasn’t accurate? I liked it.”

So I won’t say anything about Tom Skerritt’s portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant, even if someone got the buttons on his uniform jacket wrong.

Perhaps this is what happens when you look for a maverick, only to find Franz Sigel.

At least Sigel’s buttons are correct.

Do you have a favorite Civil War movie? Or a least favorite Civil War movie? Details, please …