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.

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 …

Can You Handle the Truth?

Simple question: Is Colonel Jessup right?

And then a not-so-simple question? Why?


October 9, 1864: William T. Sherman Makes a Promise

Allatoona 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9th 1864
Lt. Gen. Grant
City Point

It will be a physical impossibility to protect this road now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler and the whole batch of Devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think Hoods movements indicate a direction to the end of the Selma and Talladega road to Blue Mountain about sixty miles south west of Rome from which he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport and Decatur and I propose we break up the road from Chattanooga and strike out with wagons for Milledgeville Millen and Savannah.

Until we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it, but utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads we will lose a thousand men monthly and will gain no result. I can make the march and make Georgia howl. We have over 8,000 cattle and 3,000,000 pounds of bread but no corn, but we can forage the interior of the state.

W.T. Sherman

M. Genl.

A Note on Duck Dynasty

Remember those folks who stood tall and proud for “Duck Dynasty” … even in the face of this report … at least until they found out that the central character didn’t care for the Confederate flag?

A certain quacker quacked: “We need to keep the ability to differentiate between a Phil Robertson and a Brooks Simpson.”

This has just become more difficult in light of this revelation. More like Duck Head than Duck Dynasty (and I owned my share of Duck Head khakis in the 1980s when I lived in South Carolina … I see they’ve become more expensive).

Oh, my.

A Mixed Message? Or a Muddled One?

10687166_984356634924184_7682380790675437760_nYou tell me.

Seems to me that in this case the confusion’s by design as a way to “spark discussion.” That means people are free to make of it what they will … just as they will make what they will of other displays of the Confederate Battle Flag along highways.

Sometimes if you want to send a message you first have to figure out how to communicate your intent. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if other people can’t figure out what you want to say … or offer different meanings.