The Incredible World of Confederate Heritage

I have been doing a little thinking about the future of Confederate heritage. After all, with the advent of 2015 we will be entering upon the last year of the Civil War sesquicentennial, and one senses that by summer we will have had enough. The last four years have offered the media and others a natural opportunity to revisit the war, its meaning, and its legacy, and several Confederate heritage groups have at various times drawn attention to themselves (one might say that this is what they do best) with the usual array of acts that are now becoming time-worn (and often copied, as in the case of “flagging” and erecting flag poles on private property).

People have grown tired of such predictability. What was once interesting is now greeted with indifference seasoned with a few giggles. The media is looking elsewhere for its next fix. Moreover, some groups seem to lack the stamina to continue the level of buffoonery for which they have becomes famous. Take the Facebook group The Southern Heritage Preservation Group, known for years as “The Gift That Keeps On Giving” before the Virginia Flaggers took away that coveted title and made it their own. Now, with the antics of the Virginia Flaggers becoming old news, and with the copycat effort known as the Gulf Coast Flaggers West Florida Flaggers (sic) struggling to enlarge its membership beyond the organization’s founder, the Pensacola Pariah, one wonders what will become of these groups (oh, I know, they’ll say that they are as strong as ever, which is in some sense true, since they were never very strong).

But never count out the SHPG, which, as we can see from what’s below, is looking to finish the year strong:

SHPG Vicksburg

Some things never change: they just become even more ridiculous as they are repeated.

21 thoughts on “The Incredible World of Confederate Heritage

  1. jclark82 December 31, 2014 / 2:57 pm

    Maybe there are Monuments to US soldiers and sailors at Vicksburg because they were AMERICANS fighting on an AMERICAN battlefield.

    Last I checked Vicksburg was and is in the US.

  2. Andy Hall December 31, 2014 / 6:06 pm

    When I was a little kid, I watched way too many reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies for my own good. But even at seven or eight, I understood that Granny Clampitt’s unreconstructed Confederate shtick was a caricature, a lampoon, that was supposed to be funny because it was ridiculous.

    “damyankees,” seriously?

    • John Foskett January 2, 2015 / 7:33 am

      Clifton’s obviously a double-ought seven who’s figuring out the cee-ment pond.

  3. M.D. Blough January 1, 2015 / 6:58 am

    Apparently, neither McLendon or any of those who commented have been to Gettysburg, a Union victory on the soil of a loyal state, with many monuments erected to honor the soldiers of rebel states.

    • Andy Hall January 1, 2015 / 10:11 am

      That’s irrelevant. As we saw with the nonsense about putting up a monument to Federal troops at Olustee, the True Southrons will find a way to rationalize that Confederate monuments on the free soil of Pennsylvania are legitimate, while monuments to Federals anywhere in the South are an outrage.

      In his later years, Nathan Bedford Forrest publicly called on his fellow former Confederates to participate in Decoration Day ceremonies with Union veterans in Memphis:

      Let us all, then, join their comrades who live, in spreading flowers over the graves of these dead Federal soldiers, before the whole American people, as a peace offering to the nation, as a testimonial of our respect for their devotion to duty, and as a tribute from patriots, as we have ever been, to the great Republic, and in honor of the flag against which we fought, and under which they fell, nobly maintaining the honor of that flag. It is our duty to honor the government for which they died, and if called upon, to fight for the flag we could not conquer.

      As much as there is to abhor about Forrest and his career, the man still exhibited more integrity than McLendon and fools like him do.

  4. Leo January 1, 2015 / 3:11 pm

    I have stumbled upon a speech credited to General Forrest to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association July 5, 1875.

    Can someone here flesh this out for me?

    • Andy Hall January 1, 2015 / 5:45 pm

      The short answer is this. The Pole Bearers were a Freedmens’ support organization with chapters across several states. They are sometimes described as a “civil rights” organization, which isn’t incorrect, but they also a mutual defense organization, and had what we would call a militia or paramilitary arm. The name, Pole Bearers, comes from the fact that the men, denied the use of firearms, would drill with poles or pikes.

      Reconstruction was coming to an end, and Tennessee had had a Democratic governor since 1871. Whites were re-establishing their control of local and state politics. At the same time, there had been several instances recently of racial violence, some of which implicated members of the Pole Bearers. Forrest’s speech — which was indeed remarkable and not well accepted by many Confederate veterans — was made as a gesture of helping to settle the atmosphere and dial back the tension and potential for violence that existed in Memphis at the time. Forrest was speaking from a position of strength, in which the old establishment was reasserting itself. That’s why he included the language about being good citizens and not voting any specific way (i.e., Republican). Forrest’s Pole Bearers speech is something that needs to be understood in context of political/social/cultural event in Tennessee and Memphis at that time — it’s not because he had a great and abiding love for black folks.

      You know the saying, “only Nixon could go to China”? Well, in that time and place, only Forrest — former slave trader, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan — could go to address the Pole Bearers. It was the same sort of dramatic gesture.

      • Leo January 1, 2015 / 9:16 pm

        Thanks so much!

  5. Leo January 1, 2015 / 3:15 pm

    I honestly do not understand all the fuss at Olustee. I had to go back and read newspaper accounts since I’m new to this event. Anyway, those raising a ruckus about a union monument being erected there only look foolish and bitter.

  6. OhioGuy January 2, 2015 / 9:02 am

    When I visited Vicksburg a number of years ago, I hired a battlefield tour guide. He was a man from Michigan who had lived in the Vicksburg area for 20 years. He said that when he first moved there he was a “damyankee” (always thought it was two words, now thanks to this blog I know better). After 20 years my tour guide said he had graduated to the rank of just plain, old “yankee.” He seemed quite proud that he had gained that level acceptance into the local society. 😉

    Oh yes, they have lots and lots of Yankee monuments at Vicksburg, including two to my ancestors’ abolitionist-leaning, southeastern Ohio farm-boy regiment — the 78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Interestingly, I recently discovered that a mulatto served in one company of the regiment, and it’s likely that the other men in the company knew of his ancestry. Also, I’ve corresponded with a man who has done lots of research on the 1st Alabama Cavalry, and he has evidence that some African Americans served as soldiers in that regiment. But, before some black Confederate mythology develops over this, let me explain, this is the 1st Alabama Cavalry (USA)! This regiment, among other things, served as General Sherman’s escort during the March to the Sea.

    • Jeffry Burden January 2, 2015 / 10:23 pm

      Done! A marker, commemorating the four federal corps that fought at that battle, was dedicated in 2013.

      • OhioGuy January 13, 2015 / 7:51 am

        But there’s still no equestrian statue of WTS is there?

  7. leo January 5, 2015 / 9:23 am

    What in the Hell has happened to the SCV? I can remember when they were focused on genealogy and the preservation of historic sites. It appears to me the organization is being taken over by radicals who are more interested in emotional mythology and regionalism than anything historic. I’m not aware of anyone in the GAR demanding the removal of confederate monuments at Gettysburg.

    These neo-confederate/heritage types do much more harm than good. It’s really not very hard to honor the memory of a confederate ancestor in a respectful and historically correct way. It only takes a little understanding of the times in which they lived and the ability not to be a total prick

    • Jeffry Burden January 5, 2015 / 9:46 am

      The takeover began in earnest about twenty years ago, and has been proceeding ever since.

    • Andy Hall January 5, 2015 / 10:18 am

      The SCV leadership was replaced in the late 1990s/early 2000s by a core group of hard-liners determined to expunge the “grannies” and remake the organization into a much more activist, politically-engaged group. The current culture of the organization is one that views compromise (e.g., the relocation of the monument in Reidsville) as treason and rewards outraged chest-thumping. I know a number of SCV members who are *not* like that, but the upper levels of the SCV leadership are.

      “These neo-confederate/heritage types do much more harm than good.”

      Mostly to themselves.

  8. leo January 5, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    I will take a pass on joining the SCV until they decide History trumps nostalgia.

  9. leo January 5, 2015 / 1:51 pm

    It just occurred to me that the men who actually fought in the Civil War were much more congenial in their dealings with each other than these “heritage groups” are in their behavior. I’m no expert on “heritage groups and neo-confederates, but the difference in tone and behavior between the two groups is striking!

    What gives?

    • chancery January 5, 2015 / 5:04 pm

      The generation of white people that fought the civil war was able to put aside their wartime animosities by tacitly agreeing to forget that slavery was central to the coming of war and that African-American civil rights should have been one of the triumphs of the end of the rebellion. David Blight writes powerfully about this in “Race and Reunion.”

      By the second half of the 20th century many people began to remember again, and the renewed civil rights movement made the issue topical and urgent. It remains so today.

      • Leo January 5, 2015 / 7:36 pm

        Point taken, but I was referring to something else entirely.

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