Virginia Flagger Overreach Revisited

It did not take long for several bloggers who have followed the Virginia Flaggers to respond to my post discussing whether the Flaggers may have overreached with their newest project. Kevin Levin answers the question I posed in the affirmative. Andy Hall suggested that, far from overreach, the I-95 flag project is a de facto admission of defeat, and that by embracing this project, the Flaggers shed any claim to being different than any other heritage group that chooses the well-worn alternative of having a Confederate flag flying along an interstate.

These positions are easily reconciled. Continue reading

The Stupidity of Russell Simmons

Sometimes you read something that really makes you wonder how people think. Such was the case when I heard that Russell Simmons thought it would be a clever idea to put up a video featuring Harriet Tubman … in a sex tape. It did not take long for Simmons to understand that people viewed this as outrageous, and he pulled the video. A public apology followed.

No word yet on whether Carl Roden will follow in Simmoons’s footsteps with his adult fan fiction involving characters from Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold. Cheer up, Carl: Connie Chastain supports your endeavors. Perhaps she’ll even write a book portraying Arnold as the victim of a false accusation.

Have the Virginia Flaggers Overreached?

It’s been a little over two weeks since the Virginia Flaggers announced their intention to erect a flagpole south of Richmond along Interstate 95 for the purpose of displaying the Confederate navy jack. A petition opposing the proposal is nearing 10,000 signatures. There’s been ample news coverage and editorial commentary, and the Flaggers have not fared all that well. That said, there is nothing to suggest that these protests have had any impact on the Flaggers’ determination to forge ahead, and opponents of the proposal concede that the Flaggers are well within their rights to proceed (although Flaggers whine about free speech, people are not contesting their right to do as they plan; rather, the Flaggers and their supporters simply want to forbid criticism … suggesting they want free speech, but only for themselves).

Nevertheless, even if the Flaggers prevail, this may be a pyrrhic victory.

Continue reading

Tripp Lewis Fulfills His Community Service Obligations

Well, today, upon completing his community service, Tripp Lewis went to court, where the trespassing charges filed against him for this incident were dismissed. As Flagger Grayson Jennings reported some time ago, Lewis will also have to keep his distance from some folks (one wonders why that was necessary …):

There is no admission of guilt and no new restrictions placed on TriPp going forward, other than an order that prevents him from going within 300 ft. of the residences of certain board members and officers of the VMFA.

There is a token amount of community service required. TriPp had hoped to fulfill this requirement by volunteering at the Confederate Memorial Chapel, but his offer was refused by the Lee-Jackson Camp. Instead, he will spend his time helping with Confederate grave locating and marker restoration. 

Some people celebrated this as “Great News!” and the like … but the fact is that what happened was the result of what one might call an old-fashioned de facto plea bargain, the details of which appear to have escaped people who denounce what they claim is lying by omission. Seems they’ve gone ahead and done just that. Let’s call it what it is: a negotiated settlement reached some time ago.

Once more, Tripp had no comment about his role in the Rob Walker story. But we’re glad to see he’s a free man. Otherwise he could not provide us with more entertainment.

Lee, Davis, Oaths, and Pardons

Lee amnesty oathOne of the favorite topics discussed by people who are fascinated by Robert E. Lee is whether he committed treason against the United States. After all, Lee in 1861 had reaffirmed his oath of allegiance to the United States when he accepted his commission as colonel, and when he wavered as to what to do in April 1861, it was Winfield Scott who reminded him that under the circumstances he needed to resign his commission … and Lee did not wait to learn that the resignation had been accepted before embarking on his career as a Confederate.

Lee paroleFour years later, when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, he signed a parole, recognizing his status as a prisoner of war. Soon after his return to Richmond, and days after President Andrew Johnson issued his May 29,1865, proclamation setting forth his policy of pardon and amnesty, Lee sought clarification of his status. He had learned that he had been among a group of Confederate leaders indicted for treason by a grand jury meeting in Norfolk, Virginia, under Judge John C. Underwood.

On June 13, 1865, Lee wrote to Grant, outlining the situation. He had sought to comply with Johnson’s proclamation, but he had also learned about the indictment. What was his status? Was he still protected by the terms he signed at Appomattox? After all, he was still a prisoner of war (Johnson had not declared the war at an end). He was willing to stand trial, but if he was protected under the terms of the surrender agreement, then he wanted to file for pardon under the new proclamation … which included signing a loyalty oath (called an amnesty oath).

Grant endorsed the pardon application. He also told Lee that in his opinion the terms of the surrender remained intact. To Stanton he asked that the grand jury indictment be quashed. It would be bad policy, he claimed, to prosecute for treason those people who had complied with the terms of the surrender.

Andrew Johnson was not willing to grant the general his wish. The two men discussed the matter, and the president gave in after Grant threatened to resign his commission.

Eventually Lee signed an amnesty oath dated October 2, 1865, that served as a loyalty oath. It was not acted upon. Only when Johnson issued another proclamation on Christmas Day, 1868, was Lee included in an amnesty, although President Gerald R. Ford pardoned him in 1975.

Jefferson Davis never sought a presidential pardon, and he was excluded from presidential amnesty proclamations. He did not sign a loyalty oath. Johnson wanted to prosecute him for treason: what saved Davis was not any belief that secession was constitutional, but that the process to obtain a conviction for treason in a civil trial was fraught with problems. President Jimmy Carter eventually pardoned Davis.

It’s Lee’s oath that interests me the most. He was still determined to honor Confederate sacrifice and fighting spirit: thus his interest in writing a history of the Army of Northern Virginia. Nor do I think that he convinced himself that the Confederacy was wrong. But he did consider it as dead, and he chose to reestablish his United States citizenship.

Davis chose a different path. He believed he’d done nothing wrong, so he had no need to seek a pardon or sign an amnesty oath. Nor did he benefit from Grant’s intervention (and he never accepted the terms offered at Appomattox).

It remains a nice question as to which path was more admirable in the eyes of those who celebrate these two men. But it is clearly Davis and not Lee who should be honored by southern nationalists/separatists, because Lee accepted defeat (however much it hurt him) and reaffirmed his desire to be a member of the citizenry of the United States.

A New Idea for Certain Minds

So, you tell me, the Civil War’s been done to death, that there’s nothing new to say, and no new way to say it or see it.

Really? Well, here’s what someone’s done with the founding fathers … rendered them as pin-ups.

That’s right.


I recall that someone once said that Hamilton had a well-turned leg or something like that.

However, this is my winner:


I wonder whether George G. Meade, a man of similar temperament, ever posed like this.

Today’s History Lesson: August 14, 2013

Today we learn (twice) from the gift that keeps on giving the following:

JD treason 1 SHPGJD treason 2 SHPG

This news flash excited much informed commentary:

JD treason 3 SHPG

Now for a course in basic research practices:

Whenever you come across a statement offered by Gary Adams (from the gift that keeps on giving, also known as the Southern Heritage Preservation Group), you should first Google the statement, because there’s a very good chance that he lifted it from somewhere without attribution and perhaps without context.

Sure enough, that’s just what he did. You can find the paragraph in question here.

So much for southern honor and integrity … just more cheap and lazy plagiarism by Gary. But there’s nothing new about that.

Indeed, however, in this case, when you Google the passage, what shows up first (at least for me) is this at a blog entitled Alexandria. Indeed, it’s a link in that piece that directs you to the source cited above.

What’s more, the first reference simply takes apart the passage and demonstrates just how wrong-headed it is. As the blogger remarks:

… about the only things the aforementioned account gets right are the fact that 1) Davis was imprisoned; 2) the Johnson administration did attempt to try him for treason; and 3) Davis was eventually released. 

After that statement the blogger simply dismantles the claims made in the statement in question.

Neither of the people who posted this statement in the SHPG did any research on it. Nor did the commenters. How sad. How typical.

But then it’s heritage (however ignorant), not history.

For those interested in history, I direct you to the entry in Alexandria.

UPDATE: And the fun continues. Seems Adams and his buddies are reading the blog, and the self-styled chaplain of the group posts as follows:

aaa chase


So we run that through Google, and what do we find? This.

aaa chase 2


Now turn to page 765 in volume three of Foote’s book, and you’ll find that the quote doesn’t appear there (Foote’s discussing Davis’s options in early 1865). So we have an unattributed quote stolen from an incorrect website wrongly citing a quote found in an unfootnoted book offered as unassailable truth by someone pretending to be a group chaplain.

No wonder his name is Stones.

By the way, the website in question collapsed a series of quotes found on page 1035 of Foote’s third volume, presented it as a unified quote, and who used Texas v. White in 1869 to argue that secession was indeed unconstitutional. All Chase was saying is that secession and rebellion were two different things. He didn’t say anything about the constitutionality of secession at that time: his concern was that in a jury of his peers under a civil trial in Richmond, Davis, like Aaron Burr a few decades before in a somewhat similar circumstance, might go free. Ever hear of jury nullification?

But I’m sure actual history is a lost cause when it comes to certain heritage advocates.