St. Paul’s Church: Another Challenge for the Virginia Flaggers?

St. Paul’s Church in Richmond is just a block away from the Virginia State Capitol. It is but a short distance from where Robert E. Lee returned to Richmond after Appomattox and from the Confederate White House, where Jefferson Davis and his family lived.

Students of the Civil War and Reconstruction will recall that the church was the site of two events in 1865 that have made it into the history books. It was while attending St. Paul’s that Davis received word from Lee of the need to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg. Later that year Lee attended services. So did an African American, and someone who claimed to be there reported what happened next:

C StPauls one

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In years to come this story would undergo a transformation, to the point that Lee was presented as a tolerant fellow who set an example for welcoming a new worshipper. As Andy Hall has reminded us, the original story was far different.

Now St. Paul’s is in the crosshairs of a new controversy about Confederate heritage.  As Kevin Levin has reported (here and here and here … with useful links to other discussions), the church’s vestry, after much discussion over several months, has decided to remove some of the Confederate iconography present in the church. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which reported on these deliberations, has also endorsed the church’s decision.

Needless to say, this decision was greeted with controversy. Among those who protested were some familiar names.

In August, one notes among the commenters the following observation:

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Now, in November, guess who appears again?

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As Kevin notes, it remains to be seen whether the Virginia Flaggers will take their objections to the streets … and whether the always outspoken Susan Hathaway will be among them. There’s no evidence that the reasons that deter her from showing up once more at her old stomping groups by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are in play at St. Paul’s. And, as Kevin suggests, this is a heaven-sent opportunity to give the cause of Confederate heritage some much needed publicity.

But the recent track record of the Virginia Flaggers suggests that they are not so committed to their cause as they might once have been. The effort to protest the InLight display at the VMFA fell far short of previous efforts to draw attention to Confederate heritage, and of course Hathaway did not act on her own call to action. This time Hathaway has no excuses not to heed her own advice.

Or perhaps they’ll just put up another flag at Danville and declare victory. After all, Jefferson Davis abandoned Richmond for Danville as well.

Susan Hathaway Tells Us That She Doesn’t Pay Attention

It’s always interesting when someone tells you at great length and in great detail how they aren’t listening to you in a communication that betrays precisely the opposite. It’s even better when they do this time after time after time.

What … no red?

So it is with Susan Hathaway, the most visible member of the Virginia Flaggers (well, except outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), who took time this week to tell us all once more that she doesn’t listen to what her critics have to say. She pays them no heed and they don’t bother her.

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I am glad to see that Susan can go into so much detail about how she does not pay attention to what is said about her. I only wish she had taken the opportunity to tell her fanbase why she does not feel it is important enough to protest in person at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

We understand that her celebration of white supremacists as members of the Virginia Flaggers, her willingness to be photographed with white nationalists, her refusal to express her unhappiness that antisemitic white nationalists newsletters freely reprint her material, and so on, are not topics that she wants to address. So we can now safely assume that in light of this public statement that these things are acceptable and may even carry her tacit approval. After all, if Susan Hathaway can break her silence to chide her critics, one can assume that she’d break her silence to chide those who misuse their association with her and the Virginia Flaggers.

That is, unless they aren’t misusing it at all.

Note that Hathaway, unlike her sidekick Norwood “Tripp[y]” Lewis, doesn’t threaten to sue people. Perhaps she doesn’t want to be known as “Sue-’em” Hathaway.

But we do wish we had this statement on video. Think of the possibilities. But at least she checked her spelling this time.

So we thank Susan Hathaway for reminding us that she doesn’t mind having her reports reprinted in white supremacist antisemitic newsletters, for example, and that we should draw no adverse conclusions from her willingness to be photographed with white nationalists and to march with such folks. Otherwise, she’d say something, right? She’s just shown us that she’s selective with her silence.

And, of course, we await word as to whether Hathaway and the Flaggers are mad enough yet about the decision of Richmond’s famous St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to reconsider and in some cases to remove Confederate iconography from the church. After all, if you are going to shower Confederate flags all over the place where Jefferson Davis received word of Robert E. Lee’s surrender, you should also shower them all over the place where Davis opened a message from Lee announcing his decision to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg. It’s rather nice of the Flaggers to mark such places of Confederate defeat and humiliation in that fashion–even if it means obtaining sites from suspected racists (not that the Flaggers would have anything to do with such people, right?).

I’m so glad Susan Hathaway was thinking of me this Thanksgiving. She is to Confederate heritage what the Philadelphia Eagles were to football yesterday. While the rest of us gathered with friends to give thanks and enjoy each other’s company, it appears Susan was seething as she passed the stuffing.

As for the illustration accompanying the declarations … nice period dress. :)

Note: We are not alone in our appreciation of Susan’s message. Oh … gee … more links to white nationalists/supremacists? Oh my. Time not to pay attention again, Susan.


Trump and Carson: Failing American History Again?

UPDATE: Kevin Levin takes a nine iron to thump Trump.

It is a commonplace observation that a sound knowledge of history can be of use to a person who wants to be president of the United States. Many people also claim that a flawed understanding can do much harm.

And then there’s Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who seem intent on showing that ignorance of history is no barrier to popularity among a certain group of voters.

News comes this week that Mr. Trump is an active Civil War preservationist, although the land he preserved (by turning it into a golf course) happens to have had next to nothing to to with the war other than it oversees the Potomac River. However, Trump has proclaimed that  one can see “The River of Blood” from where he has placed a plaque celebrating his devotion to remembering America’s past (between the 14th and 15th hole).

river of blood
Courtesy New York Times.

Let’s just say that it’s a good thing he has not explored the possibilities of building a casino in the Gettysburg area (as others have). That would result in a different sort of tasteless tower dominating the skyline.

As for Ben Carson, following a lull in his litany of errors, he decided to come back strong on the Sunday news programs by declaring that Thomas Jefferson crafted the Constitution.

James Madison must be fuming. He always has to play second fiddle to the man from Monticello (although Madison did not write the Constitution, either).

It’s not the first time Carson has been charged with having erred on matters pertaining to American history, although it is reasonable to respond that in this case the word “craft” is not quite the same as “compose,” and that it refers to Jefferson’s interpretation of the document — or, according to this commentary, Jefferson’s correspondence with Madison on the document. That’s a more difficult case to make, as Jefferson’s assessment came largely after the document was composed. You can see some of the correspondence during the deliberations here: note that it includes only one letter from Jefferson to Madison during the convention.

I would tell you which Confederate heritage blogger has already come out in favor of Trump, but I’d rather have you guess. She must have forgotten that he’s a Yankee.


Confederate Heritage Advocates Duped Again

Much has been made in recent weeks of protests on university campuses concerning the reputation of various prominent Americans. Even as the University of Maryland unveiled a statue of Frederick Douglass


not without protest … students at Princeton University questioned that university’s commemoration of Woodrow Wilson, who was once president of that institution.

It was left to a certain Confederate heritage blog to post this Facebook image as a warning about the logical consequences of the so-called war against Confederate heritage:


That report was immediately picked up by a loyal follower of said blog, who declared:

Will Mackey Report This???

Not shy about taking up this challenge, fellow blogger Al Mackey did just that, as this post demonstrates.

The problem, of course, is that the original blogger had been duped by a fake website mocking Fox News into believing it was indeed the Fox News website, So had three of her followers: the second blogger and one Eddie Inman, who fights the good fight for Confederate [><] heritage across cyberspace, and one David Tatum, another infrequent blogger.

The original blogger, who had previously responded to comments as if they were related to an actual news report, subsequently used her own knowledge of how photoshopping images distorts reality to claim that she knew it was satire all along. Yeah, right.

Remember how this …

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… became this?

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Of course you do.

Funny how people who complain about erasing history (1) have problems when it comes to verifying facts (2) have no problem “revising” what they’ve said in an effort to erase their own history of being fooled.

The Virginia Flaggers, their webmaster, and their supporters remain an endless source of amusement … together they are the gift that keeps on giving.

News From Stone Mountain

It now looks as if the plan to erect a bell tower atop Stone Mountain to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been shelved. Given the opposition offered by several groups who honor King to the idea, that does not come as a surprise.

What remains of the original proposal, however, is also sure to spark some controversy. Plans remain to tell the story of African Americans who saw military service during the American Civil War. And, as you might expect, to some people that means the story of black Confederates.

Here we go again. I can’t wait for those historians who proclaim that any discussion of this issue is regrettable because responsible scholars dismiss it out of hand discover that not everyone agrees (and that their strategy of ignoring the controversy has backfired yet again). After all, advocates of the black Confederate tale are sure to cite Harvard professor John Stauffer in support of their position … and perhaps Skip Gates and Jim Downs will jump on this bandwagon as well once more.

Let’s see whether scholars abdicate their responsibility to educate the public responsibly once more because they simply dismiss what some people say out of hand … until they see the result at Stone Mountain. Then we’ll see who’s “freaking out.” And we’ll also see who falls silent.

Confederate Heritage and Terrorism

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday Americans have again engaged in a discussion about terrorism, including a lively debate over the wisdom and the humanity of admitting refugee populations seeking sanctuary in the United States. It’s a revealing conversation, betraying barely-hidden assumptions about peoples and religious faiths.

At the same time, there is an ongoing debate on college campuses concerning whether the icons celebrated on those campuses deserve their place of honor and remembrance. Today media coverage focuses on whether Princeton University should continue to honor Woodrow Wilson, who served as president of that institution before he became first governor of New Jersey and the the 28th president of the United States. After all, Wilson promoted segregation and endorsed Birth of a Nation. “It is like writing history with lightning,” Wilson asserted after viewing the film, “and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” That the movie freely quoted from Wilson’s own scholarship must have pleased the president greatly.

These are troubling times for advocates of Confederate heritage, because a discussion of the horrors and evil of terrorism reminds us that such terrorist activity was an essential element of how white southerners defeated Reconstruction. Moreover, it stands to reason that many of these white supremacist terrorists were Confederate veterans. If we accept estimates that the Confederacy mobilized some 80% of its white male adult population to serve in the Confederate military, and that a healthy percentage of those who were not mobilized actively opposed the Confederacy, it stand to reason that white supremacist terrorist organizations drew a significant proportion of its membership from the ranks of Confederate veterans. Indeed, it was logical for such people to view their service in such organizations as an extension of their service in the ranks of the Confederate military, because both Confederate independence and the overthrow of Republican regimes and the suppression of black freedom shared the same goals of preserving white supremacy and protecting one’s way of life by making sure that white southerners would be in control of their own lives as well as of the lives of black southerners. One may be able to distinguish between the fight for Confederate independence and the redemption of white supremacist rule, but one is hard-pressed to separate them altogether.

One need not remind Americans that some defenders of Confederate heritage imitate white supremacist terrorists in their behavior. Indeed, some, such as the League of the South‘s Pat Hines, advocate terrorist acts. Other defenders of Confederate heritage honor Confederate leaders who after the war were associated with terrorist organizations, including Nathan Bedford Forrest, Wade Hampton, and John B. Gordon. Indeed, some defenders of Confederate heritage have no problem with their work appearing in antisemitic white supremacist newslettersbut you already knew that.

So, how do we address the call to honor Confederate leaders and soldiers, given these circumstances? Do we ignore what these leaders and soldiers did after the war? Do we recognize that their actions after the war were of a piece with their actions during the war? And what do we make of the warm embrace of these people (including some outright justifications of post-Appomattox white supremacist terrorism) by individuals who sometimes look as if they wished to emulate those whom they celebrate?

You tell me.


The Grant Memorial Restoration


You see it frequently, although you don’t always know it, and sometimes you don’t recognize it. It’s the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, DC. Located just west of the Capitol, at the eastern edge of the Mall, the general today looks out across a reflecting pool toward the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Often one sees the monument in the foreground of a shot of the west face of the Capitol building.

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