Was There Anything Good About the Confederacy?

In a recent discussion, a defender of Confederate heritage issued the following challenge. After listing a series of events where she found the behavior of the United States to be abhorrent, she asked:

Do you (a) totally support your country, including all these horrors in its history, or (b) totally condemn it? Or (c) are you able to distinguish what’s good about the country from what’s bad, and condemn only the bad?

And if you can and do, why should I not do the same for my region and its people?

That’s a reasonable question.

However, when I asked her to list the positive features of the Confederacy, this Confederate romantic, so quick to comment on so many other things, was silent. Despite repeated reminders, she failed to list a single positive thing about the Confederacy. Since she’s never at a loss to say other things, one must conclude that she can’t find anything positive about the very experience she embraces (and, of course, she can’t explain why she remains a citizen of a nation she despises).

Can you find anything positive to say about the Confederacy? Was there anything good about it?

80 thoughts on “Was There Anything Good About the Confederacy?

  1. Talmadge Walker June 7, 2013 / 7:10 pm

    Well, it did end the political career of Jefferson Davis, at least indirectly. That was a good thing.

  2. Mark June 7, 2013 / 7:16 pm

    Yes, but I’m not sure the positives are now politically correct, or maybe a better way to say it is they aren’t really understandable now. Which is most of the problem the Confederate Romantics have. They aren’t really that confident of the positives. To say them is to admit the otherness of the Confederacy, which isn’t bad but doesn’t fit the narrative they wish to present. That’s why they’re so conflicted. I could make a full strong defense of the positives of the Confederacy, but they’d attack me for it. So I won’t.

  3. cc2001 June 7, 2013 / 7:36 pm

    Well, I can’t think of anything good to say about the Confederacy, but as a transplant to VA who frequently makes road trips throughout the South I have plenty of good things to say about this region of our country. In general, people are much more warm, polite and friendly here. This includes store clerks and restaurant help, including fast food places. Natural raconteurs seem to abound, and people take the time to listen to each other. If you need directions, folks are likely to say “Just follow me,” and lead you to where you need to go. There seems to be more intermingling of social classes and less snobbery. In my town I run into people at the market whose names many would recognize. Many of the doctors drive pickup trucks. I see folks who live in plantations that have been in their families for centuries, hanging out in town and going to local events. (When I lived in the Detroit area I never saw people from Grosse Pointe). Blacks and whites seem to get along well. Plus, much of the terrain is staggeringly beautiful. The Blue Ridge and Smokies take my breath away. So I don’t understand why some Southern Heritage types need to wax all poetic over the Confederacy. There is so much charm and graciousness here that has nothing to do with that five-year episode of southern history.

  4. ian duncanson June 7, 2013 / 7:57 pm


  5. wgdavis June 7, 2013 / 7:59 pm

    Nothing. It was a great con job foist upon the people by the elites, much the same as what we have in the US today. It was as dishonest and dishonorable as they come.

    • wgdavis June 7, 2013 / 8:01 pm

      Indeed, they weren’t even honorable in the peace that followed the Civil War…though not without some provocation. Even that can be laid at the feet of J. W. Booth.

  6. SF Walker June 7, 2013 / 9:01 pm

    The Confederacy had a financially self-sustaining postal service, but Postmaster John H. Reagan only achieved this through cuts to wages, personnel, and mail routes–and by raising postal rates. Apart from that, the Confederacy was a train wreck.

  7. Steve Witmer June 7, 2013 / 10:16 pm

    It ended.

  8. Rob Baker June 8, 2013 / 4:43 am

    I liked the concept of presidential elections being one, six year term. I also liked that Cabinet members had to be picked from the congress.

  9. Brad June 8, 2013 / 5:38 am

    Yes, it hastened the end of slavery. Other than that, no, nada, nicht, nein.

  10. Chuck June 8, 2013 / 6:29 am

    There is nothing I can think of that was intrinsically good about the Confederacy in and of itself. While its rise did lead to the destruction of slavery, it did not lead to the end of white supremacy. The former Confederate states reentered the Union and continued to enslave African Americans, albeit it under the guise of freedom.

  11. John Foskett June 8, 2013 / 7:41 am

    Yes. It gave my great great uncle a chance to visit a part of the country for three years that he otherwise would likely never have seen. Except that during those three years it didn’t know that it was part of the country. It also helped the US Army prune itself of the likes of Braxton Bragg. Other than that, crickets.

  12. Charles Lovejoy June 8, 2013 / 7:52 am

    “Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule.”
    Jefferson Davis

    • Charles Lovejoy June 10, 2013 / 8:58 pm

      Meaning , I’m cynical of all politicians including the Confederacy

  13. Michael Lynch June 8, 2013 / 7:56 am

    Sure, I think one can admire the bravery of Confederate soldiers or admire individual acts of heroism by Confederate soldiers without endorsing secession or slavery.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 8, 2013 / 11:21 am

      But that’s more about Confederates than about the Confederacy, and of course it brings us to the question of whether we would extend that sort of reasoning to other combat forces that performed in ways that reflected bravery or heroism for causes we find unacceptable.

      • John Foskett June 8, 2013 / 12:18 pm

        There was a lot of bravey and courage shown by the Japanese troops assaulting Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal, for example.

        • wgdavis June 8, 2013 / 10:37 pm

          I think there is a difference between religious or semi-religious fanaticism and heroism.

          • John Foskett June 9, 2013 / 7:57 am

            Clint Eastwood takes a more nuanced view, apparently.

      • Nancy Winkler June 9, 2013 / 7:00 pm

        Hey, the Red Baron has a pizza named for him!

      • Charles Lovejoy June 11, 2013 / 11:41 am

        Problem I find, slavery had been going on and was accepted from the start of European colonization. In 1860 the Confederacy was one of the hold outs on the issue, I fully understand. Post western hemisphere colonization and slavery the European powers went to Africa and exploited the Africans in Africa and no longer needed to bring them to the hemisphere as slaves to exploit them. Not a lot of clean hands on the issue of slavery and exploiting of Africans.

        • Brooks D. Simpson June 11, 2013 / 12:01 pm

          I don’t think we’re arguing about clean hands here, Charles. But I will note that it has been white southerners who in my experience play the “you, too” card as a way to wash their hands. It’s part of a familiar pattern.

          My experience is that most white northerners are blind to a lot of what happened in the North, but that some white southerners are more active in seeking to whitewash, excuse, or even defend what happened in the South, and that they tend to confuse discussions about the past with discussions about the present. They see the finger pointed at the past as pointed at them, and they rush to point fingers in return (see Michael Lucas’s recent comments here as an example).

          Such logic backfires badly if taken to its logical conclusion.

          • Charles Lovejoy June 12, 2013 / 9:29 am

            I guess I tend to look at the history of slavery as a whole, I look at the slavery in the southern United States as just one part of a much larger picture. There is no white washing any of it IMVHO, the middle passage, the African nobility’s part, slavery in the US ect ect. I don’t try to sanitize the slavery my ancestors engaged in here in the US or those in the Caribbean. It was slavery and was wrong .I may try to get a deeper understanding of why, and I can understand why and not have to agree with what happened or try to justify it. IMVHO African Slavery in the western hemisphere is an example of imperialism and capitalism when not restricted or regulated. When aristocracy is allowed to use humans for their self gain without regards to human rights. Not sure but I think I’m the only Orisha practitioner on most of these CW list and blogs I read and post on, that’s why I at times have a different view of African slavery,

          • Charles Lovejoy June 12, 2013 / 9:39 am

            And I’ still of the belief that the Fire-eaters of South Carolina used Lincolns election to work up a frenzy that caused secession. South Carolina hasted secession even before Lincoln took office.

          • Andy Hall June 12, 2013 / 10:20 am

            The Confederate heritage folks really don’t like to have it pointed out that the institution of slavery, by 1860, was a distinctly Southern institution. The enslave population of the Confederate States was about 3.5M; the border states of Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland — which Confederate heritage advocates explicitly claim as part of their “South”, too — encompassed another 420K, while all the other Northern states and territories held, in aggregate, about 1,800 enslaved persons, less than the student body of many high schools today, and smaller than the membership of SHPG.

            For all the heritage folks’ insistence that secession was about abstract principles like “states’ rights” and “tyranny,” it remains a fact that the large majority (11 out of 15) of slave-holding states seceded, and not one free state joined them. Not one.

          • Michael C. Lucas June 13, 2013 / 3:09 pm

            Andy, Slavery (African Slavery) was not a distinctly Southern institution, it was a globally accepted trade until the British Abolitionists movement. Particularly in Africa, where Africans enslaved not only their neighboring tribes, but kinsmen too. I love how you like to down play the institution in the Northern States, but the fact remains slavery had existed in most of the Northern States at one time. Just because it was slowly abolished by these States, the citizens therein still profited from slavery, still supported it overall for the raw materials they needed. Even though Northerners had abandoned slavery, they were no less racists and hostile to equal rights for African Americans, if not more so than Southerners. Northerners were none too eager to have African Americans move North to join them in sharing their freedoms and miscegenation. For the record thousands of Northerners volunteered for the Confederacy even if Northern States did not secede, many Northerners (Copperheads) advocated peace and letting the South secede.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 13, 2013 / 5:39 pm

            And your point is? If you really want to believe that white southerners were less racist and more in favor of equal rights than white northerners, I have one word for you: Reconstruction.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 12, 2013 / 10:28 am

            It’s useful to recall that what was once American slavery became by the middle of the 19th century southern slavery, with the institution abolished or in a terminal status (New Jersey) elsewhere. That did not mean that racism was southern: it was American. But I know of no one who denies this, and thus I wonder why some people feel the need to construct a strawman argument. Same goes for the construct of “the North.” People love to talk about “the North” and impose an ahistorical rigid sectionalism that overlooks diversity within both North and South.

          • Lyle Smith June 12, 2013 / 5:09 pm

            I think the “you, too” card is fair play if there is an accusatory or personal tone seemingly based on ignorance. I think some people in fact use an accusatory or personal tone. I think people that use an accusatory or personal tone often don’t know the complex history of wherever it is they come from.

            It all depends on where people are coming from and the context of the conversation.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 12, 2013 / 5:18 pm

            There are times when the card is appropriate as a reminder about glass houses and stones, to mix metaphors. But saying “you, too” does not absolve the person who plays it, and I find that that’s the problem … as well as the constant demand that one go back and repeat what one has said before. So when Michael Lucas, for example, asks me why I haven’t said something about northern racism, he shows that he has not read this blog or my other work … but that he’s more interested in casting a few stones of his own, resulting in much shattered glass in his own residence.

            Besides, a lot of this is confusing past and present. We are’t responsible for what out ancestors did, but neither are we obligated to cover for them or to take an observation made about them as an attack upon us. But that doesn’t stop some people from doing precisely that, and that tells me more about them than about their targets.

          • Lyle Smith June 12, 2013 / 8:05 pm

            Fair and true.

          • Michael C. Lucas June 13, 2013 / 12:34 pm

            Brooks D. Simpson

            “I don’t think we’re arguing about clean hands here”…… But I will note that it has been white southerners who in my experience play the “you, too” card as a way to wash their hands. It’s part of a familiar pattern.

            My experience is that most white northerners(like Brooks Simpson) are blind to a lot of what happened in the North, but that some white southerners are more active in seeking to whitewash, excuse, or even defend what happened in the South, and that they tend to confuse discussions about the past with discussions about the present. They see the finger pointed at the past as pointed at them, and they rush to point fingers in return (see Michael Lucas’s recent comments here as an example).” Can we say cop out…..

            Such logic backfires badly if taken to its logical conclusion.” Show Me!!!

            @Brooks, Well tit for tat, there has been no greater white washing than that of white Northerners, Northers are not just blind they have closed eyes and minds. I can’t totally blame you for all of your past ignorance, but i can sure as hell blame you for your bigotry today. It’s not about me though,hell its not about you either, its about method and there are inherent flaws in historical method which have been used to overtly dictate and distort understanding of our past let alone our present. The most pronounced issues of fallacy are the moral & political bias which drives a great proportion of historians in their perspectives. That is the logic which backfires. The Civil War is the most prominent subject in United States history that suffers from this, followed by the Civil Rights movement. Slavery has been overtly presented as the central catalyst of the Civil War because of the immoral and racial implications associated with it, slavery has been cherry picked to ignorance, in fact the subject has enslaved our social conscience. The anti-slavery cause, hypocrisy of white supremacy bias, is rarely confronted by any support for discussing the moral, sociopolitical and economic factors which slavery had inherently secured, because objective analysis is confronted by a wall of self-righteous ignorance and zealotry to wash the sin of it from human hands and the United States. Got news for you it hasn’t gone anywhere it is ever present and remains an inherent part of humanity, in fact it will never be purged. Because domination is inherent in the nature of survival either with or over others, each generation finds itself confronted by this dilemma. Slavery was not the cause of the war, it is certainly a factor it was certainly ubiquitous within the conflict, but it was not the cause. We have been so blinded by the slavery and racial arguments we have ignored other factors for self determination, for everyone’s’ freedom. The conflict was not a war to free just the slaves, it was not a war just about black people. It was certainly a war over freedom, sociopolitical freedom, religious freedom, economic freedom, freedom from monopolization, freedom of expansion, idealistic utopian freedom, free will. States Rights v. domination by mob rule of a centralized government by one section over another, but not solely over slavery of African Americans, but all Americans. There is an ancient saying that whomever the victors may be it will be the same same regardless.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 13, 2013 / 5:51 pm

            As I said before, Michael, you simply haven’t read the blog or my work. You just continue to offer a self-serving rant while saying that people who don’t agree with you are racist (even though you don’t really know what other people say). For example, I highlighted northern racism as an obstacle to Republicans during Reconstruction and pointed out the problems with the sort of simplistic analysis you present. But it’s clear that you don’t do much reading of any kind. That’s what happens when you’re blinded by hatred.

            At some point your ignorance and anger render you unable to participate in discussion, and so I invite you to establish your own blog. I see no reason to continue to give you a forum for your hatred and ignorance. Take care.

          • Michael C. Lucas June 13, 2013 / 7:04 pm

            Brooks, I have no anger or hatred, but I challenge you to evolve your method and open your mind to perspectives you have ignored and those your are apparently ignorant of. Lets have a beer summit sometime.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 13, 2013 / 9:02 pm

            I don’t hoist beers with people who say I’m a racist and a bigot. Apparently you do hoist beers with people you identify as such.

            Coming from someone who’s simply unaware of what I have written here and elsewhere, your concern about ignored perspectives and ignorance is amusing.

            As I suggested before, take your rants elsewhere. Thank you for your participation, but this little show is over.

          • Michael C. Lucas June 14, 2013 / 4:59 am

            Well that’s on you. Those who seek knowledge find it, those who seek only what they want to see are blinded by their narrow vision.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 14, 2013 / 7:58 am

            And how’s that narrow vision working for you, Michael? Take care.

          • Jimmy Dick June 13, 2013 / 9:26 pm

            I’m sure that’s what you believe, but the people in 1861 saw things a lot differently. They wrote about their feelings and why there was a Civil War. When you take what the people in the South wrote from 1860 to 1861 and do a word search you end up with slavery as the number one subject. It then becomes the number one theme. Everything else is a far, far distant second place.

            States Rights? About slavery.

            Freedom? About slavery.

            Economics? About slavery.

            The only bias here is your complete inability to accept the facts as they are. You’re clinging to the shreds of the Lost Cause lie and making up straw men arguments that fail when scrutinized.

  14. Nick Fry June 8, 2013 / 10:09 am

    I was pretty impressed with its ability to create a military-industrial complex out of a few foundries and arsenal facilities. Also, being without any maritime power, built up a relatively impressive naval force in a short period of time with very limited material and financial resources.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 8, 2013 / 11:18 am

      Those are interesting achievements, but I’m not sure that there’s anything inherently “good” about them.

      • Nick Fry June 8, 2013 / 5:12 pm

        Perhaps not “good” as in benevolent toward the United States, but notworthy examples of ingenuity and realization of untapped industrial potential. Something that doesn’t really start to be developed until the fabric mills open up after the war, the steel industry starts to appear in Birmingham and industrial scale coal production explodes in Appalachia to support the national steel industry. One wonders what could have been if Southern capital hadn’t been tied up in slavery.

        • Brooks D. Simpson June 8, 2013 / 5:19 pm

          It may well be that the inventiveness of many white southerners was not allowed the full field of innovation that would have been available in a more diverse economy … and that would be true, for different reasons, for black southerners.

          • Nick Fry June 8, 2013 / 5:31 pm

            Very true. But that diverse economy after the war did help to start the 20th Century Civil Rights movement and the massive changes in the economy and society of the south that follow.

        • SF Walker June 9, 2013 / 5:32 am

          “One wonders what could have been if Southern capital hadn’t been tied up in slavery.”

          I often think the very same thing. We in the South would have had much more in common with the industrial Northeast and the agricultural Midwest than was the case. Early industrialization would also have opened our region to the immigration that the North was benefitting from. A viable public education system might have taken root here, too.

          The industry set up by men like Josiah Gorgas during the war was impressive; it’s just a shame that it couldn’t have begun, say, in the 1830s with the production of consumer goods instead of weapons and munitions to use against other Americans.

          • Xavier June 19, 2013 / 1:35 pm

            I believe hearing one time that a sizable chunk of the antebellum Southern populace did want the factory jobs of the North, but in Southern government halls the Southern aristocracy contiually vetoed any initiatives.

  15. Joshism June 8, 2013 / 10:48 am

    How you look at “good” here depends on your perspective. If you are racist or classist then there was plenty of “good” in the Confederacy, and both views are alive and well today. Independent farmers that made up the majority of the Confederate population are probably viewed with alot of idealism since they lived lived “free” of the urban wage slavery most people are “shackled” to today.

    I think the patriotism displayed by Southerners (and the perception that Southerners were more patriotic and that greater percentage volunteered than Northerners – I don’t know if statistics actually back those up) and their willingness to fight tyranny (even if only perceived) is very positively viewed by many people today, especially in our modern debates about things like liberalism, atheism, socialism, and anti-Americanism. If you think we should all be conservative, religious, America-hell-yeah, fight and die for my country with no hesitation, Don’t-Tread-On-Me types then you probably look fondly on a society of people fighting and dying to defend that kind of lifestyle, real or perceived.

    (FWIW not my idea of good.)

  16. Lyle Smith June 8, 2013 / 1:31 pm

    Judah P. Benjamin was apparently the first Jewish appointee to a cabinet level position in a North American government.

  17. Michael C. Lucas June 8, 2013 / 3:13 pm

    A lot of good Americans, who fought for the Confederacy, the United States and their descendants who serve to this day because of a tradition to defend the Constitution and ideals of freedom born of Southern Honor, in Duty, and that the Institute shall be heard from today. Statistically more Southerners have served in the military than any other region in the United States.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 8, 2013 / 4:04 pm

      Let me ask you a simple question: do those statistics of enlistment by region discriminate according to race? Or do they count African Americans as southerners? Do you? Connie Chastain doesn’t.

      • Michael C. Lucas June 8, 2013 / 6:59 pm

        Wow leave it to you to make everything about race… Your comment seems a little hasty, could you clarify what your asking? There’s no discrimination in those statistics I’m aware of. There may be certain disparities in those statistics, certainly before integration. Most African Americans may not have white Southerners as their inspiration, but if they believe in defending the Constitution then they have no choice but admit their inspiration was written and perfected primarily by white slave holding Southerners, with a little help from slave holding profiteering white Northerners. If you cherry pick statistics you will find what you seek, but recruiters have quotas to meet. I sure as hell don’t discriminate. I notice however that’s a key part of your perspective when it comes to white Southerners, and black Confederates, you have a habit of using racial red herrings, which is a typical self righteous, politically correct perspective and tactic, but also racist nonetheless.

        • Brooks D. Simpson June 8, 2013 / 8:06 pm

          It’s a simple question. It’s your fellow white southerner Connie Chastain who says that “southerner” means “white southerner” only. Are you telling me that asking a simple question is racist while excluding blacks from the term “southerner” is not? What exactly do you mean by “racist”? Why are you so quick to employ the term?

          Many black southerners saw military service in the American Civil War … in the service of the United States. Yet you did not mention them. Given your own logic, are you not confessing that you are a racist? Why did you overlook them?

          • Michael C. Lucas June 9, 2013 / 2:11 pm

            Nothing either historical or blogginly with you is ever a simple question… Maybe we should analyze how often you use the terms white Southerner v. white Northerner? You really have little grasp of the demographics of regionalism at least of the Southern aspect, black or white. Most Southern blacks do not openly identify themselves solely as Southerners. hopefully that is changing as Southerners realize how much commonality we share even in the diversity of Southern society. As far as U.S.C.T.’s I am sorry I didn’t segregate them for you, if you can’t interpret my response representing the whole, that is your fallacy not mine. You’re a proverbial pot calling the kettle black, if anyone needs to ask why they are racist it is you, using racial red herrings, and flashing racist, white supremacy in nearly every discussion or essay you have regarding the Confederacy, Confederate Heritage, with African Americans etc… That’s not only poor historiography on your part, its disseminating distortion, propaganda, not to mention bigotry.

            Brooks says. “Many black southerners saw military service in the American Civil War … in the service of the United States.” Yes, and as we have noted also as well in the service of the Confederate States. Yet, in Brooks mind you have made it personal based on your moral bias that the Confederacy was evil and bad, that white Southerners are or were stereotypically racists apart from anyone else. Everyone is racist! they need only be placed in the context of circumstances for that to be revealed, its called natural selection, the inclination to have bias for those who are closer to ones similarities as opposed to others who are not. In that same sense sectionalism occurs even within families and societies abroad, with or without slavery, or race as a factor. Not every Northerner is evil or a bad person, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

            The defining questions in my opinion is who was the initiating aggressor? How can you not validate Southern justification from the evidence of Northern aggression? What other events besides slavery, escalated sectionalism, and how that have they been interpreted fairly or not. Each side made choices, and some made choices to proactively seek conflict, where others sought to prepare for that contingency, and other reasons, which ratcheted everything escalating the conflict that need to be fully examined in all.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 9, 2013 / 6:37 pm

            I’m sure you believe what you say. Thanks for sharing your opinions.

          • Jimmy Dick June 8, 2013 / 9:14 pm

            Did you look at the high quality recruit scores. All but two states below 60% were Southern states. Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia. Any wonder why the low level of education in the South equals the low amount of money they spend on education? Of course, the funding probably isn’t the single biggest reason why the South has some of the poorest education in the US. It has a lot more to do with what is taught than anything else. Fortunately for the South, there are a lot of intelligent people who escape the clutches of the failing educational system and are working to change it for the better in the South.

          • Michael C. Lucas June 8, 2013 / 9:18 pm

            Corey needs to do more research…… try actually reading what you intend to post before you post it, rather than skimming it. You link does not account for the overall recruitment percentages over the past 150 years.

          • Brooks D. Simpson June 8, 2013 / 9:29 pm

            Seems Michael wants to duck the questions I asked of him.

          • Corey Meyer June 9, 2013 / 8:37 am


            I never said it did. I was only providing some context for your claim.

  18. Jimmy Dick June 8, 2013 / 5:25 pm

    Southern honor is pretty much the same hypocritical thing it’s always been. The Constitution was not born from Southern honor. And the Confederacy definitely didn’t defend the American Constitution or the ideals and precepts of freedom. Just read the Confederate constitution and you will find freedom was lacking in it.
    What institute are you referring from?

  19. Buck Buchanan June 8, 2013 / 7:41 pm

    Well they do make good biscuits.

  20. Mark June 10, 2013 / 9:07 am

    Ok, well I if we’re only talking about the Confederacy and not things about Confederates themselves, then I can’t find many positives. But I think people are thinking a bit too narrowly and not including unintended consequences (both positive and negative), of which there are always many in conflicts and wars. Sometimes certain good things happen in spite of even bad intentions.

    I assume that when Michael said “Statistically more Southerners have served in the military than any other region in the United States” he was referring to modern military service after black soldiers would have been counted, not overall historical statistics since the Founding. The latter would be an interesting statistic to know, but I’ve never heard that one dealt with. The phenomenon Michael referred to is one of the benefits that I would say results from Confederates, if not the Confederacy. The problems with fairness of treatment of WWII and Korean war black soldiers is well known, so I don’t think this denies problems but simply treats post Civil War war service as a new era, which surely seems reasonable.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 10, 2013 / 9:20 am

      Many people would say that for quite some time the armed services (especially non-National Guard units) drew disproportionately from certain racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Generally speaking, when people tell me that southerners are disproportionately represented in the armed services (usually accompanied by a mention of a military tradition or patriotism), they are referring to white southerners. The aggregate numbers may conceal some interesting variations that would call into question the implications of the second statement, especially when people like Connie Chastain deliberately and consciously exclude African Americans from the term “southerner.”

      To me, southern identity is very much dependent on the South’s predominantly triracial past (black/red/white), while the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states feature ethnic diversity as an important factor in shaping regional identity. Religious demography is a bit more complex. But “the South” is not “the South” unless we account for the major role played by African Americans in shaping southern culture and identity.

      • Mark June 10, 2013 / 12:02 pm

        >> Generally speaking, when people tell me that southerners are disproportionately represented in the armed services (usually accompanied by a mention of a military tradition or patriotism), they are referring to white southerners.

        I understand the background you’re dealing with and your concerns, and I understand that they are referring to white southerners. But if white southerners have been disproportionately represented during the modern time period in question I don’t see a problem in just stating a statistical fact if that is the case. If it isn’t the case then it should be corrected of course.

        I think it is well-known that even blacks that served in the world wars and Korea will ill-treated upon return, and that that was a huge impact on them since apparently even honorable service didn’t get them anything on return. I think it is hard to underestimate the natural shock of this. I’ve never heard anyone deny this or impute any disparity between the rates of service to the willingness of black soldiers to serve to anything else. Because of the sad history of race relations in the country generally, I don’t see what is the problem with comparing white rates of service in the sections to each other as a measure of the respect for military service and tradition, and I don’t think anything other than that is generally inferred by the statement that Michael made. Seems to me that it is a purely statistical measure that is either true or not, and that limited and reasonable inferences can be drawn from it. Given the sad history of race relations, from a statistical perspective it would destroy any control grouping to include blacks so that no inferences could be made. In statistics it is entirely legitimate to exclude groups, and necessary to make sense of them.

        • Brooks D. Simpson June 10, 2013 / 12:36 pm

          I simply asked a factual question. No one’s been able to answer it.

          MY own assumption is that the basic question concerns region alone, and includes all people from that region, regardless of race. I’ve seen nothing that shows that white southerners are disproportionately seeking military service. Let’s take two hypotheticals:

          1. Given the greater proportion of African Americans in “the South”‘s population, as well as the percentage of African Americans in the armed services, one might reasonably inquire if the higher percentage of southerners is due to the enlistment of African Americans. That would call into question the notion of white southerners being more patriotic, because perhaps the higher percentage is due to African American enlistment.

          2. There’s also the issue of economic status. Enlistment in the armed forces is a way to get a job that may or may not reflect patriotic commitment. Given all we hear about southern poverty, enlistment in the armed services is a reasonable way to escape poverty. Perhaps the higher enlistment rates in the South reflect higher rates of poverty and issues of economic advancement due to education, etc. That would suggest that one would be mistaken to draw a clear and simple correlation between enlistment rates and patriotism.

          We might also want to know whether the South harbors a disproportionate number of people who advocate secession. What would advocating secession say about one’s patriotism in therms of the United States?

          I don’t think there’s any harm in asking questions that call in question certain implicit assumptions. Moreover, when we talk of statistical facts, let’s be sure that we know what’s being measured and what is not being measured. There is just as much support for the explanation that enlistment rates are higher in the South due to economic and educational circumstances as for the notion that the rates are due to patriotic fervor. In both cases we need to explore a little more to test these hypotheses.

  21. Mark June 10, 2013 / 6:44 pm

    Well I have no problem with any of this. But I would never define patriotism in those terms. Many join the military more for non-economic personal reasons, not that there is any conflict with other-directed ones felt at the same time. I’m not sure that “just as much support” for enlistment for economic reasons amounts to anything, since it may well be an unsupported assumption as well. This commonplace has been hotly debated for nearly 40 years and the truth of it is uncertain.

    I think that it is likely that the honor culture of the South preserved personal standards of honor that men appreciate and could well generate higher rates of enlistment. But it wouldn’t necessarily mean that it has to do with “patriotic ferver”, but if not it also wouldn’t mean it wasn’t a good thing or even a very good thing. But many would call it a bad thing. It all depends on your point of view. None of this implies an endorsement of the particular honor culture of the antebellum South, and I certainly would not. We can be glad it is gone in the form took at the time. But as has often been said, all cultures are honor cultures to some degree and people do have personal standards of honor no matter what they say, the only question is whether they are healthy/balanced or not.

    None of this is provable of course, because people don’t even understand the terms of the debate let alone conduct studies on it. But some of the best minds of the Western world did think about it deeply, and it is part of the ancients vs. modern debate that has been raging since long before the American founding. See John Alvis’ “Shakespeare’s Understanding of Honor”. It wasn’t just something he thought and wrote about, it was probably the most central question that all his plays dealt with.

    The late Bertram Wyatt-Brown from the University of Florida won a Pulitzer Prize with “Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South”, and those who are really serious about their interest in the war should have read it or plan to. Also there is the excellent “Honor: A History” by James Bowman. Much of human behavior is a mystery without grasping this. I have no more attraction to the Confederate Romantic position than anyone else here, but I happen to think that even in human vices we see the basis for virtues and in being entirely charitable to those we disagree with I don’t see the harm in pointing out something about what they feel and can’t articulate in their support, any more than many of us can in our disparagement of what was clearly an unhealthy honor culture in the South. That’s probably too nuanced an view for an up or down vote for things “positive to say about the Confederacy”. But that is what I would say about it.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 10, 2013 / 10:09 pm

      I’m not sure that “just as much support” for enlistment for economic reasons amounts to anything, since it may well be an unsupported assumption as well.


  22. Daniel June 11, 2013 / 11:58 pm

    The one positive thing about the Confederacy was its death. When the Confederacy was dissolved, it not only served as a step toward making American society more egalitarian, but it also put the secession idiocy to rest.

    Michael C. Lucas, the notion that “everyone is racist” is a poor apology for the indignities inflicted on African Americans (or anyone for that matter). As for the assertion that racial bias is a biological matter, I have to disagree and say it is a sociological construct. Race is an artificial and arbitrary distinction that has been used to legitimize disparities in human lives.

    Finally, I fail to see how natural selection has anything to do with our racial biases, and in fact, I am convinced that you have no idea how natural selection truly works. Perhaps a remedial course in biology 101 is in order?

  23. Ethan S. Rafuse June 12, 2013 / 9:03 am

    Not sure this fits, but John C. Calhoun and the other proslavery apologists made some pretty good points about the naturally exploitative character of labor relations in the capitalist North.

    • Adriana Pena July 22, 2019 / 4:53 pm

      Funny how people write about exploitative character of labor relations in the North. They overlook some things:

      People do not deal in absolutes, but make relative calculus. As the bear parable teaches us, it is not necessary to outrun the bear, only the other guy. Exploitation of labor in the North was bad, but slavery in the South was worse. Not only for the slaves but for the free laborers whose slaves were undercut by slave labor – many in the North did not want slavery for that same reason. They looked at blacks the way many look upon illegal aliens – they steal jobs and drive wages down.

      Also, as soon as slavery was abolished, there began the push to unionize and get a better deal for the workers. That was part of what Progressivism was. It was not “this was as bad as the other” but “get rid of the worst one first, then attack the next”

  24. Jeff Fiddler June 14, 2013 / 8:30 am

    Brooks: I thought you banned Michael. In any case, how can you compare freedom to slavery? Currently lots of Russians are saying the old Soviet Union was great; nobody starved. (Forget about the stuff in the 30’s, they are talking about life in the 60’s). I have met Czechs who said the Communist gov’t was good.
    You can compare the murders/war at the Homested strike or any of the other bloody labor/management fights up to the killings at Republic Steel in the Memorial Day Massacre.
    But freedom?
    There is quote from my English common law class I half remember – that when I am in my house no one can break down my door and take my body. Not w/o a warrant. But slave cabins didn’t have doors.
    So what good thing did the Confederacy do? Well by the end of the war almost all Union Army men were against slavery. Is that a good thing?

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 14, 2013 / 8:53 am

      I have advised Michael to set up his own blog. But I thought the comment in question was worth highlighting apart from his behavior here. After all, abolition bad/northerners racist/slavery not nearly so bad/white southerners good (no input from blacks) is a familiar meme.

  25. Jeff Fiddler June 14, 2013 / 8:35 am

    By the way, regarding Southern Honor; poor Black people have internalized Southern Honor. It is called disrespect as in “don’t dis me,” and frequently ends in bloodshed. Is this a good thing?

  26. Xavier June 19, 2013 / 1:40 pm

    The Confederate governments didn’t often care to feed their soliders regularly as often as the Union did, and thus in turn, turned thousands of poor Southern whites against the Confederacy!

  27. Xavier June 19, 2013 / 1:42 pm

    And weren’t all the governments of the Confederacy endowed with far more rampant corruption than all the states of the Union?

  28. Gregory Ledford September 3, 2017 / 4:21 pm

    Our heritage has been stained with lies due to the “victor” writing the history. The lie we were taught in school about Lincoln being “the great emancipator” gives everyone the warm fuzzies. The TRUTH is, he was a tyrannical dictator. Slavery flew under the American flag for almost 100 years before the C.S.A .’s inception so as bad as it is/was, slavery was NOT started by the Confederacy. Yes they wanted to keep , what was AT THAT TIME, their property. Honest Abe has been quoted in several speeches that he believes whites to be Superior to Black folks and that he NEVER intended to “free the slaves”, until the NORTH WAS LOSING and it dawned on him he could use emancipation as a tool to win the war. The war was fought over states rights, money and greed of power. He got that power by illegally suspending habeas corpus, bypassing congress..firing and jailing whoever opposed him. He could have purchased every slave cheaper than the cost of the war. Lincoln had to emancipate the slaves otherwise the loss of 623,000 lives, not to mention the total destruction of Atlanta, all the way down to Savannah, causing the death of 50,000 civilian southern men, women and children was/is on his hands.

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 5, 2017 / 12:10 am

      So if Lincoln could have purchased all those slaves, why didn’t southern slaveowners sell their slaves? After all, for every buyer there must be a seller.

      You do know that the US government prior to 1860 was dominated by southerners, right? Or do you confuse the United States with northerners? George Washington would have been amused at such foolishness.

      I think southerners had something to do with the creation of the Confederacy. But at least you admit slavery was bad — but then you say it was okay for white southerners to have slaves because the right of slaveholding was recognized in the United Sates. Who might have been behind that? White southerners?

      • William Cook April 12, 2019 / 6:29 pm

        I am from Alabama and grew up in Virginia. To me ‘African’ Americans in the south are southerners, many provided great service to the Southern war effect, just like many drafted white men did. I do not care what someone else thinks about this, that is their view and I have stated mine.

        You should read the book Complicity by Anne Farrow (Author), Joel Lang (Author), Jenifer Frank (Author) to get a better view of how the Northern states are largely responsible for the slave trade and how this benefited if not created their industrialization. Southerners purchased slaves (they saw as property) with money financed by Northern banking (who also must have seen slaves as property.) So when the southerners saw the North infringing on their property rights, then yes they wanted to separate themselves from the North. So yes in a sense the war was about slavery but also the constitutional protection of property rights. Which came first the chicken or the egg? As unpleasant as it may seem, it was about both. The crises of 1860 wasn’t the first time secession was raise by both north and south. South Carolina threated secession less than 30years earlier over tariffs.

        Would the industrial North had been willing to boycott cotton, sugar, rice, etc. produced by slave labor? Would they have been willing to purchase the slaves at double or triple their value, to free them? After all much of the wealth of the North came from the institution of slavery in the South. Read about why New York City was initially Anti-war, until they noted that the Confederacy would have had much reduced tariffs at southern ports, there by harming NY shipping trade.

        An interesting side note was that Lincoln instituted a slave purchase plan in Washington during the War and I believe made the same offer in Delaware, West Virginia and I think N. Jersey, only DC took him up on it. A plan like this was never offered to the South before the war. However Lincoln and the North did start a movement to add an amendment to the constitution to protect slavery it the South renounced secession; the South would not do so.

        Wasn’t W. Virginia accepted into the Union during the war as a slave state? When it was accepted into the Union after the Emancipation proclamation it held around 18,000 slaves, with a commitment to a very gradual Emancipation progress, those over 21 would remain slaves until death. Brazil was one of the last countries in the W. Hemisphere to abolish slavery and 1880, this would mean that after the last country in the WH abolished slavery, West Virginia, an Union state would still have had slaves according to the agreement made with West Virginia by Lincoln.

        Another interesting question is why did the new freed slaves not immediately head North. I have heard the argument made that their lack of resources prevent this, but to me this sound way to simplistic, after all they were able to follow Sherman’s army during the war with aid from said army and often in the fact of attempt by said army to prevent them from following.

        The Civil war offers many fascinating questions if we keep an open mind and take the time to question our own views.

        Optimally, war could have been avoided if Lincoln had not have considered the “Union” more important than the states and the lives of its citizens. Any yes the South fired the first shots but only because they rightly or wrongly saw that Lincoln had no intention of letting them so peacefully.
        So in this sense if no other, the war was about “states rights.” Did the states have the right to leave the “Union.”

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