How Should One View One’s Confederate Ancestors?

In the aftermath of a discussion about the commemoration of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as provisional president of the Confederacy some 150 years ago, Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory wondered out loud about the purpose of the SCV.  As he put it, “The SCV doesn’t simply bring together descendants of Confederate soldiers, it brings them together around a set of shared beliefs that have little do with remembering individual soldiers.”  Kevin then offered a set of propositions:

If the mission of the SCV is to honor and commemorate the Confederate soldier, why does it choose to take stances on issues that detract from this mission?  Here is what I believe:

  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and not believe that secession was constitutional.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and not believe in states rights.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and believe that Lincoln was one of this nation’s greatest presidents.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor without believing that Lee and Jackson are worthy of adulation.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and be thankful that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and be a member of the Democratic Party.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and read books published by university presses.

Here’s my question: once we go through this list, while one “can honor” one’s Confederate ancestor, what would one honor and why?

This is no simple academic question, at least for me.  My wife is the direct descendant of Confederate soldiers.  So are her two children from a previous marriage, as well as our daughter, who in fact has already visited several battlefields where her ancestors fought (on both sides).  So what would one “honor”?  Are we back to “fighting for what they believed in”?

This is a distinctly different question than studying and attempting to understand the generation of Americans who fought for the Confederacy.  Kevin veers that way when he suggests that the SCV’s goal “ought to be to help one another to better understand what this generation experienced.”  To me, that avoids answering the very question he implicitly asks in setting forth his propositions.

Note that I’m not arguing whether descendants of Confederate soldiers should or should not honor their ancestors and their service.  The fact is that I’m not sure what to think.  Explaining why they served or what they fought for is not necessarily the same as honoring them.  I sense that this is what some people do when they argue that their ancestors did not own slaves (or fashion some explanation to neutralize the fact of slave ownership, such as they were kind masters or that their slaves loved their owners), and thus they were fighting to protect family and home, two reasons for service usually deemed honorable.  Indeed, I suspect that most folks today would agree that fighting to protect slavery was not honorable, which is not necessarily what their ancestors may have thought.  I’d advance the argument that many of those people who feel the need to honor their ancestors think it’s critically important to detach their ancestors from slavery as a horrible and inhuman institution because otherwise they could not honor those ancestors (which approaches the issue of “shame” some people like to emphasize).  Others might accept certain unpleasant facts, place them in context, and juggle understanding, excusing, criticizing, apologizing for, and honoring ancestors (note: I’m setting aside “ancestor worship” as a category because of how some people use the term to denigrate folks).  I’d observe that practice need not be limited to descendants of Confederate veterans, either.

Having said all that, I return to my original questions.  Given what Kevin’s said, how and why should one honor one’s Confederate ancestors?  Should one do so?  How should one view those ancestors?

The comments section is open, as always.  But in this case it would be useful if you indicated whether this question affects you personally as a descendant of a Confederate in military service or whether you are not so related.


65 thoughts on “How Should One View One’s Confederate Ancestors?

  1. Scott Manning February 22, 2011 / 1:35 pm

    I discovered this past summer that I have a Confederate veteran in my ancestry who served in the 33rd Texas Cavalry. Quite frankly, I had no idea what to do. I still don’t. I signed my dad up for the SCV, because he gets teary-eyed at the thought of Texans killing people. A certificate proving that he has Confederate blood in his veins made him proud. I did not join though. Neither did my brother. I am not sure why. So far, everyone I have met from the SCV seems like decent people. The guys I worked with to get my dad certified were extremely helpful. There is even talk of replacing my ancestor’s busted gravestone with a military one while they hold a ceremony. The SCV offered to do all this for free, which really made me appreciate their services. In fact, it made me want to join.

    Yet, there is such a negative connotation with the whole group. I could care less about celebrating secession, but I don’t mind pointing out that my great-great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. This has led to some interesting conversations, as I met some descendants of USCT in Harrisburg this past November. We theorized that my ancestor possibly surrendered to theirs. I don’t know if he owned slaves. I couldn’t find any evidence of it. I know that earlier ancestors did, but I am not sure about this one.

    With that said, I have no freaking idea how to honor him. A new headstone? Sure. A ceremony for the placing the headstone? Possibly. After that? I don’t know.

  2. Lyle Smith February 22, 2011 / 1:35 pm

    My way of honoring my Confederate ancestors is to not be ashamed of them and to recognize their humanity in toto. I’m not terribly interested in public displays of symbolic remembrances of these people. However, I’m not distraught that they wore the gray, owned slaves, or did whatever else is deemed abominable by us today. I’d have been right there with them probably if I had lived in their time, and that thought doesn’t disgust me in the slightest.

  3. Jim Powers February 22, 2011 / 1:36 pm

    I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, on the Mississippi River halfway between Belmont and Island No. 10. Last year my older brother, as age 79, decided he no longer wanted to deal with the large home my family had occupied for 105 years. In the course of going through family documents, I found, right there with the Confederate money, information about an ancester on the Henry Clay side of the family, who served in a Mississippi regiment during the Civil War. The documentation was put together for my mother’s application to the Daughters of the Confederacy.

    Even before I turned those papers up, I had received an invitation to join (even though I live in Denver, Colorado) the Paducah, Kentucky, chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. That local chapter was instrumental in preserving the Lloyd Tilghman house and museum . The museum is run by a transplanted “yankee” who took the job with the condition that it wasn’t going to be turned into a “glorification” site.

    So I learned for the first time, at age 64, that I have at least one Confederate ancester. How will I “honor” that ancester? I don’t think I’ll run up a Confederate flag, as one of my friends from high school does. I’m going to learn as much as I can about this ancester — and I know little about the Clay side of the family — and how he, and others in my family, lived their lives in that era. Confederate service was only for four years at most, but my family members spent a lifetime as part of their communities. What did they do? How did they serve? What was their impact? And, how did their experiences as Confederate soldier affect their lives and the community in which they lived.

    I’d be just as interested in a Union ancester, and I would ask the same questions, just as I would my father and uncle who served in World War II. One was drafted shortly before reaching the max age for draftee and spent the war at an air base in Florida. The other would have been in the invasion on the Japanese home islands.

    Confederate, Union, World War II veteran — I’d honor them in the context of their whole lives.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 22, 2011 / 1:44 pm

      I think you bring up an important point — that while one’s ancestor may have served, that service in itself does not totally define that person, and that one can honor an ancestor who happened to serve in the Confederate armed forces as opposed to defining that person as a Confederate ancestor.

  4. Jeffry Burden February 22, 2011 / 1:37 pm

    I have a number of close Union ancestors, whom I proudly remember. I am not closely related to a Confederate soldier, though I rather imagine there’s one or more in the woodpile somewhere who are less closely related. So far, I haven’t found them. That being the case, I’ve asked myself: how would I feel about finding a Reb? Would I embrace that memory immediately, or would I pause? Would I have new sympathy for the Cause, or would I hesitate to even mention the connection? I honestly don’t know yet.

  5. James F. Epperson February 22, 2011 / 3:47 pm

    I know of one Confederate ancestor, although I expect I have more. He was Joseph CF Epperson, who served one year (only) in Co. A, 2nd Virginia Cavalry. I’m intrigued by the “one year” thing. He was in his 40s, so it may have been too rigorous for him, or he may simply have not had his heart in it. His records list no reason—no wounds, no desertion, nothing. I honor him as I would any of my ancestors.

    • Charles Lovejoy February 22, 2011 / 5:02 pm

      Veterans pension applications and widows pension applications sometimes can at times have some interesting information on them.

  6. Commodore Perry February 22, 2011 / 4:19 pm

    These are the very questions I have been struggling with recently. Having collateral ancestry that jumped from KY to TN specifically to fight for the CSA, as well as other collateral ancestry that jumped from TN to KY specifically fight for the USA, has led to very complex thoughts. I have decided to embrace my Confederate lineage, partially because I was brought up to believe that my life is a product of the continuum of my family’s history and values, and also because I honestly feel an exciting connection to history through them; but this works the same way with my Unionist side! You ask “how” I do so; I try to understand the perspectives of the people in their time, to ponder how their legacies are a part of me, and to learn from them all. Importantly, I reserve such feelings and analysis for evaluating my ancestry and heritage, which is NOT to say that my ancestry influences my opinions of Secession or 1860’s Democrat/Republican politics or 2011 Democrat/Republican politics.

    My only direct ancestry is Confederate, and not confined to the aforementioned groups. These families, notably, were not kin to each other, so there was no brother vs. brother factor there, which poses the question- if someone had that in their ancestry, how would that change his/her answers to your questions?

    And another thing to ponder without intending to hijack the comments thread- Does it / Should it make a difference if one was already interested in his/her own genealogy? In other words, does the realization of having a Confederate ancestor hit the historian or history buff differently than it does the person who already wanted to discover outstanding items in his/her family tree?

    Sorry to be a bit jumbled in organization on this one.

  7. Gordon Rhea February 22, 2011 / 5:53 pm

    Brooks, a fascinating discussion as usual. My ancestors were Confederates — one was a captain in a Tennessee regiment — and I have been fortunate to have several of their letters, photographs, and other artifacts passed down to me. I can detach myself as a historian, put myself into their mindset, and understand how they felt about their cause and their service. I cannot, however, respect the cause that they fought for, and I cannot “honor” them for risking their lives to defend a nation dedicated to preserving human bondage and expanding the reach of slavery. I recently gave an address in Charleston, S.C., about the pitches that Southern preachers and politicians made to persuade non-slaveholding Southerners, along with their slaveholding brethern, to support secession; the address was picked up by the Civil War Preservation Trust website and is reproduced at I think it makes clear why I just can’t get warm and fuzzy about Confederate causes and the soldiers who served in the Confederacy’s military arm, even if they were my ancestors. I sincerely hope that the 150th anniversary of secession and the civil war affords a platform for a reasoned discussion of the issues that you, Kevin Levin, and others have raised on your websites.

  8. Robert Moore February 22, 2011 / 5:58 pm

    I’m descended from eight Confederate ancestors, directly (all distant 2nd and 3rd great grandfathers), and I have no reason to be ashamed of any of them (and it appears there stories vary). Some appear to have joined of their free will, some evaded after the militia was disbanded, some were conscripts. “To honor” walks a fine line. I don’t honor “cause” because I don’t have anything that tells me what anyone of them “fought for”, exclusively. To me, the best way to “honor” is to be realistic about the possibilities that exists in each of them. Conclusions are hard to make, and possibilities… that’s the best I can do. I think we have a far better chance of honoring the ability to survive in difficult times… the human experience. What did the veteran make of himself after the war? How did he bounce back from those trying days? Apart from them serving as points of reflection into history, physically, I’ve take time to visit each of their graves (I can’t find one), and have cleared old cemeteries, set new headstones, etc. I enjoy telling my children about them, just as much as I enjoy telling them about our Union relatives. Most all of them, blue or gray, were Southerners.

    Don’t even get me started on the number of distant uncles and cousins.

    • Robert Moore February 22, 2011 / 6:05 pm

      I should point out, even if I did know why one or a few were fighting, their cause was their own… the cause and the time was then, not now, and therefore not my cause… for anything.

  9. Tony Gunter February 22, 2011 / 8:37 pm

    LOL … I don’t have to worry about honoring my Confederate namesake ancestor. He was a slave-owner and a member of the 5th Mississippi Cavalry which was one of the first units over the wall at Fort Pillow. He was proud enough of his Confederate service to name his son “Robert E. Lee Gunter.”

    When I imagine why he served, I put him in the context of my dad’s family … very fatalistic, very conformist. My dad volunteered for Vietnam leaving a toddler and a baby on the way. I’m not sure he was “fighting for what he believed in,” he simply believed he should fight.

  10. Dick Stanley February 23, 2011 / 1:41 am

    I don’t have any problem with Kevin’s list (other than joining the Democrat Party, though it doesn’t bother me when other Confederate descendants do). My Confederate ancestors, several privates, one colonel, and a fire-eating Mississippi state rep (all of whom owned slaves, or their families did) did what they did for their own reasons and I know I can’t ever know for sure what those reasons were in all cases. Either for those who left explicit letters and diaries or those who left no written material.

    The fire-eater had multiple reasons but who knows what was in his heart? Some of the combatants just liked to fight.

    But I can’t imagine disowning them or being ashamed of them (though I did keep my mouth shut about them when I was a teenager living in Massachusetts) or worrying overmuch about what someone else thinks about them. The war has always fascinated me and my connection to it through them just makes it more real to me. And, yes, I am very glad that they lost.

  11. Commodore Perry February 23, 2011 / 6:55 am

    Brooks, I have learned a lot from these comments and would like to see a similar post/thread with your thoughts and our comments about Union ancestry. Do we know as much about why our individual Union ancestors fought as we do about our Confederate ones?

  12. David Rhoads February 23, 2011 / 8:06 am

    I have two Confederate ancestors that I know of–Confederate in the specific sense that they were enlisted in the armed forces of the CSA. One, my great-great grandfather Charles .B. Ames, was in 1860 a lawyer and a slaveholder (he owned 2 slaves according to the 1860 Slave census) in Macon, Mississippi. He enlisted in February 1861 and was a private for a year in the 11th Mississippi, Company F, Noxubee Rifles. The other, my great-great granduncle, was C.B. Ames’ brother-in-law, James Longstreet (Sarah Jane Longstreet, James’ youngest sister and my great-great grandmother, married C.B. Ames in 1855). Longstreet, as you’ll know, was a general officer, ultimately a Lieutenant General and commander of the First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.

    How should I view these men? I think that the most important thing is to attempt to view them honestly and dispassionately, learning what I can about them and conceding what I cannot know. I would say one can “honor” one’s ancestors best by not misrepresenting them.

    As for the SCV and the Lost Cause, being related to Longstreet has given me a different perspective than might be typical for those in the South with Confederate ancestors. I have memories, for example, of being told by a middle-school teacher (a native Virginian, incidentally) that my relation to Longstreet was certainly not one to be proud of. These days, I try to temper feelings of pride or shame in connection with long-dead members of my family tree, but I will confess to feeling some stirrings of pride recently as I’ve been able to point out that Longstreet was perhaps the only Confederate general who actually did lead black troops in battle, and he did it in support of a Republican governor and against a vigilante force of former Confederate soldiers.

  13. Charles Lovejoy February 23, 2011 / 9:58 am

    I have unconditional reverence for all my ancestors and my American Civil War era ancestors were all part of the Confederacy. I honor them as I honor my father’s WWII service in the US Army Air Corps. I put it all in its historical enclosure and I do not bring any of it in to modern day politics. Keep in mind all evolved in the ACW are dead and gone. So is honoring the dead for the living? With most people I think it is. One way I honor my Confederate ancestors is to visit their graves and make sure their graves are kept, things of that nature. I’m not a big parade or band stand type in my honor of the dead. I think honoring the dead should be a more private ritual. I have no problem with what they did. A secession took place that ended up in a war and a lot of this comes down to geographic location . As with most in south and as those in the north too, they fought on the side of their state and what they considered the side of their people. My ancestors ended up on the loosing side , surrendered and became loyal Americans again. In my world everything is not divided up into righteous and wicked and fate is a major part. Kevin stated “You can honor your Confederate ancestor and be thankful that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.” Thankful? Not thankful or angered , I believe that was what was supposed to happen in the grand plan of the earth.

  14. Bob Huddleston February 24, 2011 / 9:44 am

    I have a problem with “honoring” my ancestors – that smakes too much of “The Greatest Generation, who could do no wrong. Let me give a couple of examples from *my* ancestors.
    My mother joined the DAR, based on the short service of a Connecticut militia ensign named Tuttle. “Honoring” a sunshine patriot and fair weather soldier does not seem to me to be appropriate.
    We all have four great-grandfathers; mine happened to be the Civil War generation. One emigrated from Ulster about 1870. One was an Ohio farmer about 40 – he did volunteer when Bragg threatened Cincinnati and I have his “Squirrel Hunter’s Discharge. Still, there were a lot of 40-somthings who served through the War—he didn’t. No idea why,
    One was a Kentuckian. I have never been able to track his Civil War service, if any. Somewhere I have read that Kentucky truly wanted to be neutral – it sent, per capita, fewer of its white sons to the two armies (and more of its black sons to the USCTs) than any other state: perhaps he was one of the numerous Kentuckians who sat it out.
    The last, John Scott, immigrated from near Glasgow to Ontario with his family in the 50s and then drifted south – the 1860 census finds him near Indianapolis. A year later he was in Champagne, Illinois where he enlisted in the 25th Illinois. He evidently had some leadership abilities: in the area less than a year and his peers selected him as a corporal. He moved up, was commissioned, veteranized and ended the war as a captain and brevet major, the provost marshal of the Fourth Army Corps. In 1866, he applied for a commission in the Regulars and became the regimental quartermaster of the Fourth Infantry.
    The only relicts of Major Scott are his 1870 belt buckle – when I got it, it still had the leather belt on it, which held up my cap gun for many years, and the Allen bar hammer derringer that great grandmother allegedly carried out west, as well as a couple of pictures taken in Salt Lake in the 1870s. I pulled his service records from the Archives and shared them with my aunt, at that time the only one still alive from her generation. She remembered her feisty grandmother, John Scott’s wife, as an unreconstructed Rebel, who claimed that the only damyankee of any value had been her husband. Aunt Mary was terribly upset when the service records showed that Lt. John Scott, Fourth Regulars had become violent and was incarcerated in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in D.C., where he died in 1886. Her grandmother never talked about *that*!
    His son, also John Scott, enlisted in the Fourth Infantry in 1900 and was commissioned from the ranks, dying as a colonel in 1939 and Aunt Mary remembered his uncle as a world traveler: he was in the Philippines, Vera Cruz, with Pershing in Mexico, with the AEF in France and commanded Hickam Barracks in Hawaii in the 30s. He never married. Interestingly, my father, a corporal in World War II, disliked officers with a passion: why?
    Another issue: a year or so ago, long after Aunt Mary had died, I asked the right archivist at the Archives and he knew where to pull the St. Elizabeth’s records: John Scott died of “locomotor ataxia.” Thanks to the miracle of the World Wide Web, I was quickly able to discover what it was. Not much to honor there!
    Now the question is should I “honor” John Scott? I know almost about him, or his service. There is no regimental of the 25th Illinois and the only contemporary mention of him is in David Stanley’s memoirs, albeit a nice one. I have found only one biography or autobiography of someone in the 25th, Bobrick’s poorly edited _Testament: A Soldier’s Story of the Civil War_ and John Scott is not mentioned. USAMHI has a wartime picture and the NARA one of him playing croquet on the parade ground at Fort Bridger in 1873. Great-grandmother is also in the picture. No letters by Scott appear to have survived. When did he meet great-grandmother? She was from Crab Orchard so perhaps he met her during the war.
    I have followed his regiment’s footsteps around Chickamauga, and, to the degree possible, around Stone’s River. But was he even with the regiment or was he, as quartermaster, with the baggage train? I would like to know more about him, not to honor but to simply humanize a “typical” soldier of the Civil War. But not to “honor” him.

  15. Charles Lovejoy February 25, 2011 / 10:49 am

    It is like my brother en laws and several of my cousins being Viet Nam vets. They fought in what many believe and believed was a politically wrong and unpopular war, they returned home in defeat. My late father en law fought WWII in the Italian army he returned home from Africa broken down in defeat, I loved, honored and respected him. I leave all the politics aside and have much honor and reverence for these people just as I do my Confederate ancestors. They were caught all up in a political situations beyond their control, they were asked to go to war with a group of people they shared a nation with and they went. How could I not honor them for that?

  16. Riley February 28, 2011 / 12:31 am

    The talk about “honoring ancestors” is an emotional smokescreen for glorifying racism; no mature adult should feel one or the other about ancestors who committed immoral actions. The whole thing is a way for neo-Confederates to make a “you’re mean” response to people who rightfully object to celebrating the confederacy and it allows them to present groups and events designed to glorify slavery as little more than dull events about ancestors.

    • Charles Lovejoy February 28, 2011 / 8:48 am

      I don’t agree. I believe “honoring ancestors” and the dead is sacred and a personal ritual. It comes down to a persons belief system. I do not feel worthy to pass judgment on another person’s belief as to how they honor their dead ancestors. If a person is offended by another person honoring their ancestors maybe the offended person needs to look at themselves and not the person they feel is the offender . I would never interfere with a person’s honoring their ancestors or the dead as they see fit. Not good JuJu 🙂

  17. James Giddings November 29, 2013 / 8:55 am

    Most of you folks really need some history lessons, not the federal government versions either. A lot of folks don’t know that only 2% of the population of the south owned slaves. Some of these slave owners were black folks.Another thing the federal government chose to omit from the history books was the fact that there were 65,000 black confederate soldiers, who by the way received the same pay as their white counter parts. The black union soldiers were paid only half of what a white union soldier got.
    I could go on and on about facts of history left out of the history books.

  18. Dr. D February 6, 2014 / 1:06 pm

    More of Levin and Brooks attempts to propagandize the issue of ancestry, pride, heritage, and honor, that any reasonable person who loves their forefathers, and related men who had the guts, the determination, the love and the character to risk their very lives and to endure terrible hardship in defending their Southern States against the Yankee Invasion.

    If you are an ancestor of a Confederate soldier, yes, you have a heritage, and yes you should be proud of this and not be swayed by the Simpson-Levin Bullshit in thinking you should have doubts about the legalities, the Political correctness, the morality, and so forth of the reasons your ancestor was a Confederate soldier. If he was a Confederate soldier, he was doing a noble and moral duty to his family and to his state and region. The eleven Southern states were attacked by armed forces, they came and burned house, factories, looted, raped, robbed, shot and maimed and or killed many men women and children and cost the Southern people Millions in losses.

    If this is not reason enough to fight for, what may I as in Gods name is a reason. So do not get confused by the Liberals of the day, secession was pushed onto the Southern states, due to extreme import tariffs, and government controls, and when Lincoln took office all bets were that these taxes and controls would get even worse. So state by state left, but some, Virginia being one, left when the Governor stated that no armed federal army could enter Virginia to attack any Southern state, and so the reason for secession was not simply one single thing.

    Lincoln wanted war, he refused every effort by the South Carolina governor and their delegation to Washington to discuss Fort Sumter and such before the fighting started. They wanted to talk to the Lincoln administration, Lincoln refused to meet with them and would not allow his administration to meet with them. He wanted war, he got war.

    Yes my friends, be aware, if your ancestor fought on the side of the South, was a member of the Confederate States Army or Navy, or in the government, he or she did a noble thing, and you should honor and appreciate them, and stand up against these creeps, Brooks Simpson, Kevin Levin and all their Comrades who hate a who distort the truth about the War to Prevent Southern Independence.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 6, 2014 / 2:57 pm

      I hope you feel better now. Fabricating what others believe helps the self-righteous feel better about themselves … just not good enough to sign a post with their own name.

    • Mike Musick March 26, 2015 / 3:19 pm

      If you are an ancestor of a Confederate soldier you are very, very old.

  19. Mark Bolling February 20, 2014 / 9:15 pm

    I have about 6 ancestors in the confederacy all of them privates in the army. When I discovered them I felt bad about my heritage at first, but the more I studied the civil war and history the more I began to realize they did what was right. If someone raised a army to invade your state would you defend your home? That’s what they did. When Lincoln raised a army to invade them they fought back. These men weren’t traitors or cowards they were brave moral people fighting for what they believed in, which wasn’t slavery but the right for them to live like they wanted and protect their homes. Many minorites fought for the confederacy. The confederacy had a Cherokee unit and a black unit. They all served with equal pride, not as black people or white people but as southreners. The confederacy was also had a Jewish man named Judah P. Benjamin as Treasurer. If anything the confederacy symbolized equality. The union on the other hand had terrible and restrictive laws against native Americans and continued restrictive laws against Africans. The soldiers for the confederacy were not any less American than their union counterparts. Many had ancestors in the American revolution and Most of our founding fathers desendants stood with the confederacy. Thomas Jefferson’s grandson George Randolph served as the secretary of state until his death, and George washingtons step greatgrandaughter Mary Custis married Robert E. Lee. The whole reason the confederacy broke from the union was not to destroy America but instead preserve its most important qualitys that were being ignored at the time. The confederacy also made many innovations such as the first submarine and many differnt medicines. If anything you should feel honerd to have such great ancestors in your family tree.

    • Bob Huddleston February 20, 2014 / 10:10 pm

      Mark, You wrote ” These men weren’t traitors or cowards they were brave moral people fighting for what they believed in, which wasn’t slavery but the right for them to live like they wanted and protect their homes.” How do you know this? Do you have letters from them, explaining why they enlisted?

    • Billy B July 10, 2015 / 8:48 am

      Mark Bolling, you are wise. If someone invaded my homeland, even if I thought that my friends had caused the war, I would protect my family and way of life for sure. Remember, not everyone owned slaves in the South.

      The creator of this blog deserves kudos for allowing you to state your opinion.

  20. John Rigdon March 25, 2015 / 12:12 pm

    My perspective is somewhat different from most who have posted here. I have wealthy landowners and Confederate era governors in my ancestry as well as dirt poor families, all of whom lost everything at the hand of an imperial federal government. Regardless of your personal opinion of Lincoln, he set the federal government on a course of increasingly controlling our lives and taking power away from the states. One hundred and fifty years later we are seeing more and more intrusion into our personal lives. An argument resolved through force is not resolved, it is only deferred. The seething rage we are now seeing on a regular basis between members of the black community and law enforcement is a prime example that failing to address the issues causes it to fester until it explodes and while “historians” whistle in the dark trying to reeducate us that the war was about slavery, the time is coming when “the people will rise again,” and it won’t be manifested as a north / south thing but of true freedom from an oppressive government. I honor my Confederate Ancestors just as I do my Revolutionary War Ancestors. In my mind they fought for the same reasons. Deo Vindice!

    • Jimmy Dick March 25, 2015 / 2:13 pm

      You left out the part where the people who chose secession started the whole big government thing. Actually, you left out a lot because you just chose to use the myths to support your modern political ideology. Lincoln reacted to the actions of your ancestors who chose secession and a war in violation of the US Constitution when they didn’t get their way.

      Force was used by the CSA first to start a war because their choice was unraveling as people began to ask questions that the leaders, your ancestors, could not answer. So if you want to lie to people about the past, that is your choice. You have no evidence to support your statement. The sources support the historians interpretations, not yours.

      So until you get some facts which do not exist to support your opinion, all you are doing is lying. No surprise there.

    • Jeffry Burden March 25, 2015 / 2:18 pm

      John, that’s a fascinating conglomeration of historical musings, social observation, and platitudinising. Kudos to you: I believe you’ve distilled the modern Southron mindset into one more-or-less easily digestible paragraph. Deo Vindiesel! 🙂

  21. Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 5:27 pm

    I am proud of all of my Confederate heritage. People that have relatives that are Confederate soldiers should be proud. Lincoln and all of his generals, including Sherman did not think slavery was wrong. Lincoln and Sherman said Southern slaves were treated better than most whites. In fact, Lincoln wanted to send slaves back to Africa: To the Republic of Maryland, the Republic of Mississippi, and of course, Liberia. He tried to procure $500,000,000 from Congress to do this. So, how can anyone honestly say that the war was fought because Northerners wanted to free black slaves?

    Anyway, The Republic of Maryland was an African colony of freed blacks, that wanted to return to their ancestral homeland, the Republic of Maryland failed because local black Africans did not want these newly arrived free Christian blacks interfering with the slave trade. I threw this side note in to make a greater point that many times slaves became free and wanted to return to Africa, and not live in the Northern cities, where racism was abundant.

    I hate racism with a passion, but I dislike people who try and re-write history. If your ancestor was a sex offender or a murderer, I would be ashamed, however, most Confederate soldiers were simple poor protestants fighting for their homeland.

    I am not going to insult all Union troops, but the facts are hard to ignore. However, what separated Union soldiers from Confederates was that Union soldiers committed some really horrible war crimes against Southern children,and women. Also, they robbed Southern citizens left and right once they occupied an area. Not all Union soldiers looted and ravished what they wanted, but many did. and all of them were given orders to burn down whole cities just to terrorize and destroy the hopes of the local population.

    Educate yourselves, and don’t judge your ancestors by today’s living standards. I am sure in 200 hundred years out descendants will judge us for things we think are completely appropriate in today’s time.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 5:30 pm

      You do understand the colonization involves emancipation, right? Now show me which reputable historians say that Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves.

      Ever ask Georgians about what they thought of Joe Wheeler’s cavalry in 1864?

      • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 6:01 pm

        The African colonies were set up back in the 1820’s. Lincoln in no way wanted to free the slaves before the war.

        • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2015 / 6:43 pm

          If you are going to try to tell us what Lincoln said regarding slavery, it really helps to read everything. The heritage crowd is infamous for their cherry picking. They’re also infamous for their complete and utter lack of contextual knowledge which is why they fall short every time.

          You sure Lincoln didn’t want to free slaves before the Civil War? Let’s look at what he said in Peoria in 1854 .

          This declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world—enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites—causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty—criticising the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.

          Before proceeding, let me say I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist amongst us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses north and south. Doubtless there are individuals, on both sides, who would not hold slaves under any circumstances; and others who would gladly introduce slavery anew, if it were out of existence. We know that some southern men do free their slaves, go north, and become tip-top abolitionists; while some northern ones go south, and become most cruel slave-masters.

          When southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery, than we; I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists; and that it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself. If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land. But a moment’s reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole question, if indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded. We can not, then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the south.

          I believe you will see where Mr. Lincoln says a few times that he would free the slaves. You will also note that he says he must follow the law regarding the matter, but if it were up to him…well, it was up to him at one point was it not? I believe you can find the Emancipation Proclamation on your own.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 6:46 pm

            Waste of time, Jimmy. He’s a grad student, believe it or not.

          • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 6:56 pm

            Jimmy, you only backed up my point with your post: “My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.”

            Also, you are definitely cherry picking, there is even more evidence that shows what Lincoln wanted to do with black’s and how he felt about them.

            I think I understand why you are like you are, and why you post what you post: You basically hate racism just like me, however, you can’t handle the facts that the heroes of the Civil War were not the people that you thought they were, and you can’t seem to understand that these heroes of yours were in a totally different era.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 7:01 pm

            You do know that colonization’s predicated on the emancipation of slaves, right?

          • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2015 / 7:27 pm

            Apparently the idea of context escapes him. If he is a grad student he needs help. He needs to read The Fiery Trial of Abraham Lincoln for one. He obviously does not understand the concept of change over time.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 7:35 pm

            That’s for starters. But he’s about to find himself sent to another place … 🙂

            Some people have told me that I have too much patience with mindless trolls. That someone claiming to have a graduate degree performs so poorly here says about as much for the quality of his graduate education as it does about the quality of his mind. Maybe it’s something in the water in West Florida.

  22. Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 6:11 pm

    Read the Douglas/Lincoln debates, it is basic history.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 6:14 pm

      I have. Clearly you don’t understand Lincoln’s position. But I doubt outlining it will change your mind. Take care.

  23. Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    I know what Lincoln said, I am not re-writing history at all. The problem is, nobody wants to tell the truth. Too many Northerners today see Lincoln for something he was not. Lincoln was not against slavery, even as a lawyer, he defended slave owners.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 6:47 pm

      I’m sure you believe that. It’s all a Yankee conspiracy to make Lincoln look good. You know the truth. You told us so. Good luck in your graduate studies.

      • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 7:09 pm

        I graduated a long time ago, my profile was old. Thanks though. My degrees are not in easy things like history, I do love history, but anyone that can do research from old newspapers, and is honest with what they read and see can be a great historian, that is how I see it.

          • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 7:17 pm

            Mr Simpson, I think I have taught you something tonight, maybe you will ascend to a higher level now that you have conversed with me. Don’t think that just because Lincoln is on the penny proves he is the most important President we ever had.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 7:34 pm

            What have you taught me? Don’t get me started.

        • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2015 / 7:30 pm

          History is easy? That’s funny. My wife’s heart surgeon almost failed history in college. Very good heart doctor, lousy history student.

      • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 7:13 pm

        It is not a Yankee conspiracy to think Yankees are glorifying Lincoln, it is just a lie that has been told and repeated by people. I am sure Lincoln was a good enough man for the 1800’s, but with his beliefs, just like the beliefs of most whites back then, he would have been called a racist by today’s standards.

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 7:14 pm

          I asked you to cite examples of historians who have made the argument you target. Since history is so easy for you this should not be difficult.

          • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 7:23 pm

            Do some reading, and go read the Douglas Lincoln Debates as a start. Also, go look up as many old news paper articles as you can, there are resources on the internet that will help you. That really should solve this issue for you and Jimmy.

            I am sure we will have more conversations on the internet. Like I said, I love history, but to be a great historian you need to learn to be objective/truthful.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 7:32 pm

            Oh, I don’t think we’re going to have too many more conversations. You seem unable to support your argument. So you’re becoming a waste of time. Difficult to believe for someone who thinks history is so easy.

          • Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 7:27 pm

            i cited the Douglas Lincoln Debates, here they are on this website below:

            read through them when you have more time.

          • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2015 / 8:40 pm

            Pretty odd how I just went through the debate in Quincy, Illinois. Lincoln talks about how slavery was meant to die out which is what the Founders envisioned, but that the slave owners would not let it die that natural death that was the intent of the Founders. In multiple spots he signals how he is against slavery and its expansion, but cannot interfere with it where it was because of the laws of the country.

            That is not a man who supports slavery. That is a man who is against slavery. You are just trotting out the old lost cause stuff and it fails miserably when held up to the light. When you read through Lincoln’s writing you quickly see that he was opposed to slavery and its expansion. Like Brooks points out, to be called an abolitionist in that era was a big thing. An abolitionist wanted slavery ended right then and there as well as equality of the races. Lincoln even pointed out multiple times that he didn’t think the races could coexist because whites would not let that happen. Judging by what did occur in history, I think Lincoln saw the southern whites and their reaction to the idea of equality quite well.

            Yet in the end, Lincoln evolved on the subject. I drive this point home with my students. You cannot have equality, freedom, and liberty with citizens who are treated as second class citizens. The ideas fall short when equality is not existent. Lincoln was learning that as were many Americans in that time frame.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2015 / 8:50 pm

            I don’t think he read anything. He just came here wanting to pick a fight. I think he’s clueless about his target. He’s not worth the time or energy, because he’s not here to discuss or to learn. He can’t contribute. There’s a place for those people, and it’s a four-letter word … but not hell.

  24. Billy Best July 9, 2015 / 6:22 pm

    Okay, you take care as well.

  25. Billy Best July 10, 2015 / 4:18 am

    Mr. Simpson:

    I never tried to pick a fight with anyone, I accidentally found your website and read the headline about how a person should feel about his/her Confederate ancestor, and I answered the way i felt I should.

    I never asked you to debate me. That was your choice. I have read some of your other posts, and you are a good writer, but you really could improve on some of your Lincoln history. For what it is worth, Lincoln did keep America together, and yes, he was a racist, no doubt about it, and he did direct his generals to commit some atrocities, and he himself did some dishonorable things as President. However, that was over 150 years ago, and things were just different back then. I hope to read more of your writings in the future, I am sure we both could learn from one another.

    Take care!

    • G.Brister July 12, 2015 / 11:09 am

      What started as civil discourse has degenerated into a sort of “my dad can beat up your dad, nanny, nanny boo boo”. Thanks for the “educated” and “mature” comments. You’ve accomplished nothing except reveal how condescending minds can muddle up a serious subject.

  26. ConnieT August 4, 2015 / 6:37 pm

    Topical subject this. I’m the familysearcher and along with all the other info have found dozens of Confederate ancestors, direct and collateral, but yesterday I found the Union Veterans and Widows 1890 census for Nantahala, NC with two direct ancestors and a twin brother. I had the pleasure of posting it to the family site and generated more message traffic than we’ve had in a few years and it is very civil.
    John Finegan talks about what makes men fight in The Face of Battle, much more enlightening and interesting than hot rationalization. I can’t speak for the thoughts and purposes of any of my ancestors and I can’t be condemned or redeemed by any of their actions. I do claim them fiercely. They lead to me and the world I live in. I’m selfish, Abraham Lincoln is my hero and the reason my family and I are still Americans. I like being American. MLK is my hero. He’s a lot of the reason I didn’t grow up in a Civil War.
    So I remember all my ancestors by continuing to search for them and try not to repeat their mistakes. (Make my own) Locating “Loyal Mountain Troopers” by Charles McCammon. Reminiscences of Lt Will A McTeer, Lt, 3d Tn Cav US. is next on my list. There’s a roster. Oh, joy

  27. Nicole Dyer May 4, 2017 / 11:28 am

    Thank you for this helpful article. I found many ways to remember my confederate ancestors. I feel that remembering them is honoring them.

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