Tiresome Challenges, Curious Assertions

You see it all the time: Confederate heritage advocates recycling the same old assertions and charges, many of which are carefully worded so as to lead to the answer they want (regardless of the relation of that answer to historical understanding). Here’s one from a George Purvis, who heads something called SHAPE, which is not Eisenhower’s command in World War II, but “Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education,” although it does nothing of the sort. Anyway, here’s George’s declaration, found in the comments section of yet another Confederate heritage blog:

In my honest opinion other students can and should protest the US flag being flown — if it is. After all, under the United States flag, slavery did start in this country.

Anyone want to challenge that statement here in an open debate? Brooks, Baker, Mackey, Hall????? Any of you willing to step to the plate????

Well, as it’s now MLB’s All Star Week, here I come.

Slavery did not start in what we now call the United States under the flag of the United Sates. Rather, African slavery began in British North America in the seventeenth century, and was present in each of the thirteen colonies at the time of the composition of the Declaration of Independence.

See ya, George.

Slavery also ended in this country under the United States flag. We are coming upon the 149th anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery. The Confederacy, during its entire existence, endorsed the enslavement of human beings, and its vice president called slavery the cornerstone of the Confederate experiment.

We also hear, for example, that there was no international slave trade permitted by the Confederacy. This is not true: the Confederate Constitution specifically sanctioned buying slaves from the United States. However, it is also true that the original seven Confederate states did not want to discourage Virginia from joining the Confederacy, and, as Virginia had opposed the efforts of several Deep South politicians to reopen the transAtlantic slave trade in the 1850s in order to preserve its own position as a seller of slaves (George seems to have overlooked this), the original seven thought that they would do what they could to secure Virginia’s membership by promising the prospect of continuing that trade with Virginia and not subjecting it to competition from across the ocean.

This sets me to thinking: what other traditional Confederate heritage assertions that defy historical fact can you recall? It may be time to assemble a primer for easy reference.

The comments section is open.


28 thoughts on “Tiresome Challenges, Curious Assertions

  1. jfepperson July 14, 2014 / 4:35 am

    Well, there is the oft-repeated assertion that Grant said he would change sides if he thought the war was about slavery.

    • centerforhistorystudies July 14, 2014 / 12:22 pm

      Yeah, that originated in 1868 campaign propaganda. Didn’t they notice that when the war became a war of emancipation, Grant didn’t even slow down?

  2. jfepperson July 14, 2014 / 4:38 am

    Here’s another video 😉

  3. Buck Buchanan July 14, 2014 / 6:49 am

    DR Simpson,

    I have nothing to add regarding your question…but I was just wondering why you didn’t post a video of Dave Roberts stealing second in 2004?



    • Brooks D. Simpson July 14, 2014 / 8:46 am

      George and his friends would have made a comment about those people always stealing things.

      • Buck Buchanan July 15, 2014 / 9:05 am

        So Spoons Roberts….I like that!

  4. Roger E Watson July 14, 2014 / 7:45 am

    Why is it these people never properly identify their organizations. I would think it should be

    WSHAPE, “White Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education,”

    As to traditional assertions that defy historical fact, how about: The preservation & expansion of slavery was NOT the cause of secession. That would be good for starters.

  5. Lee Elder July 14, 2014 / 8:19 am

    I guess I’m qualified to leave a comment here. My father was born in the South and two of my ancestors on his side of the family fought for the Confederacy and were severely wounded during the war. Both survived the war. I value my Southern heritage, have many, many relatives still living in the South and, in fact, am a land owner in a state that joined the Confederacy. I was raised in the West and live in the Midwest, but I remain a fan of SEC sports to this day.

    As we speak, I am 40,000-plus words into an attempt at writing a book about a Confederate Army unit.

    So much for credentials.

    Having said all of that, even I know that the Confederacy was founded on the principle that the enslavement of human beings was an acceptable practice. Dig up every statistic you can and argue all you want but that is still a fact.

    It is also a fact that slavery remained legal in two states that remained loyal to the Union during the war. There is nothing to be done about that, other than to agree that slavery was a terrible thing regardless of where it was practiced.

    America did not start slavery. That started a few thousand years ago. America did not start the practice of taking African Americans as slaves. That predates our nation, too. Our nation allowed slavery, yes. We imported African Americans as slaves, yes. We were wrong to do those things and we fought a war that killed more than half a million people in order to get rid of slavery.

    Now we have to move on. I recommend that everyone be proud of their heritage but that we all leave room for the other guy to be proud of his, too. For that reason, I will not complain about images of the New York Yankees on this blog, even though they are offensive to me. I would rather see images of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I can post such images on my own blog, right?

    Lee Elder

  6. seanmunger July 14, 2014 / 9:12 am

    The one that continually galls me is when neo-Confederates claim that secession was really about taxes and reducing the size of the federal government. Aside from import duties (which I presume the Confederate States had no intention of abolishing) the federal government didn’t collect many taxes in the 1860s, and the whole “small government” thing, at least insofar as neo-Confederates iterate it, is a 20th century idea. Yet they’re still out there claiming it’s about taxes and small government, evidently because they want to color modern 21st century conservative ideas with some sort of historical legacy (as well as diminishing the slavery issue). Gives me a headache.

    • centerforhistorystudies July 14, 2014 / 12:29 pm

      So true. Some whites in the South were Unionists for several reasons, including that the U.S. federal government had never made the demands on them that the nascent Confederate government did. Impressment, conscription, taxes . . . this was all new, and brought to them by their friendly Confederate government.

      • Paul Taylor July 14, 2014 / 7:13 pm

        I have a copy of the “Journal of the Proceedings” of the Florida secession convention. Suffice to say that the words “taxes,” “tariffs, etc. are nowhere to be found, however it is riddled with commentary and speeches talking about slavery and “rights of property.”

  7. E.A. Mayer July 14, 2014 / 12:10 pm

    I’ve went toe to toe with more than a couple of them on UTube videos and I think I’ve seen about everything they have to offer. A complete list would be quite long and a lot of it somewhat ridicules (Like the claim that Lincoln owned slaves).

    That secession wasn’t all about slavery is of course the first one along with its various offshoots such as blaming the tariff, often just amorphously stated as ‘taxes’, states’ rights, the call for troops.. ect.

    In rather general categories here are some of my other… umm… favorites, I guess

    The “black Confederate” thing.
    That slavery was just going to end soon on its own.
    The claim that federal treatment of Native Americans was fundamentally different than that of the South due to the Dakota war and that this in turn shows somehow that the South was more tolerant. It’s worded differently by each of them and often is used in conjunction with the second claim about ‘black confederates’.
    That Lee freed his slaves before the war and was ‘against slavery’, usually connected to the actual fact that Grant did own a slave while not stating the details of Grants very short ownership to give a false impression.
    That the Federal prosecution of the war was overly brutal, criminal, or out of the ordinary and all proportion, and various attendant claims of this sort.
    The basic slavery ownership demographics, thereby trying to lessen or ignore the institution’s socio-economic impact on the community. It’s usually associated with claims of soldier motivation.

    I’ve seen that sort of post about the flag of course also. They’ll state it different ways but it really comes down to the same thing; support for the CSA battle flag. I’ve had them make some really silly claims in that regard also, like: “symbols can mean whatever you want them to mean.” Which would make language kind of difficult, not to mention what it would do to traffic.
    Usually I’ll respond something like this:

    Flags represent the stated principles of the entity that created them, and American flag represents its stated principles, freedom and equality as set forth in its founding documents like the Declaration of Independence. And as imperfect as that promise was in the mid 19th Century, the promise was still there to grow upon. The CSA flag on the other hand represents its stated principles, which were slavery and white supremacy, and the CSA itself made this distinction clear.

    “The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races…. This was an error…. Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” – Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the CSA.

    So yes, CSA flags, (battle or otherwise) represent racism and slavery, as those were the founding principles (and really Raison d’être) of the entity that they were created to represent, and in the case of the battle flag, also protect.

    Flying the CSA flag to honor ones Southern Heritage is like honoring ones German Heritage by flying a Nazi flag.

    They seem to really like that last line. 🙂

    • centerforhistorystudies July 14, 2014 / 12:41 pm

      But they can’t make the distinction between being Southern and being Confederate. Too bad. I like the South! As for the other . . .

    • Joshism July 14, 2014 / 4:33 pm

      “It’s usually associated with claims of soldier motivation.”

      It’s not just NeoConfederates who have trouble understanding the reason states seceded is not necessarily the reason why all (or even necessarily most) of the soldiers fought.

      • E.A. Mayer July 14, 2014 / 7:49 pm

        Yes, even those who aren’t Neo-confederates sometimes cannot grasp that even the Southern soldier who did not come from one of the approximately 1/3 of Southern families that were slave owners, was also most likely fighting for slavery, white supremacy, and the socio-economic system surrounding it that they also benefited from.

        “The most powerful motivator remained Confederate troops’ certainty that they must fight to prevent the abolition of slavery, the worst of all possible disasters that could befall southern white men and their families. Over and over soldiers repeated the same refrains about the necessity of fighting for slavery that they had been sounding since the beginning of the war.” Chandra Manning “What this Cruel War Was Over” p138

        • The other Susan July 14, 2014 / 10:17 pm

          Was just talking about this in another blog. Mr Toombs of Georgia specifically pointed out to the senate in his farewell address that the non slave owners of Georgia were equally desirous of secession as were the slave owners. He reported, saying of the non slave owners…
          “They say, and well say, this is our question; we want no negro equality, no negro citizenship we want no mongrel race to degrade our own; and as one man they would meet you upon the border, with the sword in one hand and the torch in the other. ”

        • Al Mackey July 15, 2014 / 7:44 am

          Even the saintly Robert E. Lee admitted that the confederates were fighting for slavery and white supremacy. Soon after Lincoln issued the Final Emancipation Proclamation, Lee wrote in a letter to Secretary of War James Seddon, “In view of the vast increase of the forces of the enemy, of the savage and brutal policy he has proclaimed, which leaves us no alternative but success or degradation worse than death, if we would save the honor of our families from pollution, our social system from destruction, let every effort be made, every means be employed, to fill and maintain the ranks of our armies, until God, in His mercy, shall bless us with the establishment of our independence.” [R. E. Lee to James Seddon, 10 Jan 1863]

          Here is Robert E. Lee saying that he and the other confederates are fighting to maintain the institution of slavery [“our social systems”] and to maintain white supremacy [“degradation worse than death” and “honor of our families from pollution”].

          • Andy Hall July 15, 2014 / 9:08 am

            Yes, but it also seems to me that the postwar Lee — which is to say, President Lee of Washington College — took the position of (as someone said elsewhere recently) that that’s over, done, and threw himself entirely into his new role building (by his lights) a better Virginia. His old racial attitudes remained, to be sure, but he very deliberately closed the door on the Confederacy and put that behind him. Lee is buried at the chapel at W&L and not in Richmond because of his legacy to that institution, and W&L should remember him that way.

          • Al Mackey July 15, 2014 / 10:54 am

            I agree, Andy. Regarding Lee and the confederate flags, there were no confederate flags when Lee was placed in the Lee Chapel. They were only added 60 years after the fact. And as far as I have been able to determine, there were no confederate flags at Washington College while Lee was the President of the College. Lee was even quoted as saying the biggest mistake of his life was taking a military education. So Lee did close the door on the confederacy after the war. In many respects making the decision to do that was probably his finest hour [I’m once again disagreeing with Shelby Foote]. Unfortunately, people reacting to what happened at W&L recently are outraged in inverse proportion to their knowledge of Lee.

          • Jimmy Dick July 15, 2014 / 11:15 am

            The report I found indicates exactly what you’ve both said. Lee took off the uniform and left the military world and Civil War behind him. He went to W&L to educate young men. In the process he built that university into a top notch educational institution. I cannot find any mention of any flags at that school, nothing about the Confederacy, and nothing about him doing anything other than running a school.

            Lee’s death resulted in others seeking to create an image of him that he refused to let them make while he was living. It is really an embarrassment to Lee in the way the Causers treat him. It is disrespectful because Lee himself rejected it.

          • Andy Hall July 15, 2014 / 11:24 am

            Part of it was timing. The completion of the “Recumbent Lee” figure in 1883, depicting him in his C.S. General’s uniform, came a few years before construction began on monument in Richmond. There were few, if any, memorials to Lee at that time. That was certainly not true almost 50 years later when the UDC Confeder-ized the mausoleum to a degree that no one in 1883 intended.

  8. Jerry Sudduth Jr July 14, 2014 / 3:58 pm

    Another brilliant post with some excellent baseball history. These people either deep down know their grasp of history is wrong or are terribly delusional. More is the pity.

    As usual this is quite thorough, but you forgot Johnny Bench’s two home runs in one game against the Yankees during the 1976 World Series, so I thought I’d share!

    By the way, in my readings on the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings it’s been said the team met President Grant at the White House after a game in Washington. Have you read anything about this to attest to its veracity? I hope this doesn’t veer too far off the main topic.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 14, 2014 / 5:26 pm

      Oh, I didn’t forget Bench’s heroics. But you must admit that featuring Yankee heroics frustrates Confederate heritage advocates no end.

      I have also heard this, but I have not investigated it.

      • Jerry Sudduth July 14, 2014 / 6:21 pm

        That’s a good point! It’s appropriate that the most successful team in American sports history is named Yankees while teams named Rebels haven’t had much success (Archie Manning’s Mississippi teams and the UNLV Running Rebels basketball teams excluded).

  9. hankc9174 July 14, 2014 / 4:10 pm

    the comment that alwasy leaves me scratching my head is that the southern states ‘voluntarily’ joined the union.

    most history books mention that the united states purchased the territory that became Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, that Florida was ceded to the US via treaty from Spain and that Britain ceded what became Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky to the USA as well…

  10. Joshism July 14, 2014 / 4:20 pm

    “Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education”

    I can see how you would preserve heritage and how you would educate others about it, but I’m not sure how one advances heritage. I would be inclined that if you advance heritage (regardless of whether that heritage is good or bad) then it ceases to be heritage.

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