A Response to Gary Gallagher

Having raised questions about other people’s scholarship in The Union War and about the place of military history in Civil War history, Gary Gallagher (in the April 2015 edition of Civil War Times) now turns his inquiring mind to asking why anyone (read: me [and a few other folks]) would pay any attention to the Virginia Flaggers.

He asserts that the Flaggers’ absurd “claims have provoked reactions from scholars and others who, in my view, bring a good deal of unwarranted attention to something that otherwise would be consigned to the irrelevant fringe of Civil War interests.” He does this, of course, by writing an article that will bring what he believes is “unwarranted attention” to the very people he would like me (among others) to ignore, although apparently he can’t quite ignore them.

Anyone who reads the article knows that Gallagher does not hold the Flaggers in high regard: “As with those who embrace the fantasy that thousands of black men ‘served’ in the Confederate army, flaggers seek, among other things, to get the Confederacy right on the topics of race and slavery.” I wonder what John Stauffer and Jim Downs will make of that. Although Gallagher agrees with the Flaggers that efforts to equate Confederates and Nazis are unfair, he is also quite clear when it comes to dismissing the Flagger interpretation of the Confederate cause: “The effort to play down slavery in the flaggers’ portrait of the Confederacy runs aground on the solid rock of historical evidence.” Indeed, “To talk about the Confederate flag’s historical meaning without linking it to the slavery-based society that created it is tantamount to discussing the great natural wonders of Arizona without mentioning the Grand Canyon.”

So far, so good … although there are other wonders to visit in Arizona. 🙂

Gallagher offers a few more well-known quotes from Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee that confirm the centrality of slavery to the Confederacy, just to remind us that on the history of the matter the Flaggers are in the wrong. Terrific. But it is what comes next that I find interesting … and misguided:

Long experience has convinced me that offering testimony such as Stephens’, Davis’ and Lee’s–or language from the Confederate Constitution–has no impact on those who argue that states’ rights or economic interests or something else, anything but slavery, fueled secession and the Confederate founding. The futility of trying to engage such people in a discussion about evidence prompts my inability to understand why any historians take flaggers seriously. This is not a debate that can be won on on the merits, as historians who write and speak about the Civil War era know very well; indeed, because evidence means nothing to individuals who prefer their Confederacy cleansed of the taint of slavery, it cannot be won at all.

Gee, Gary, all you had to do was ask … or read the blog.

Do I take the Virginia Flaggers seriously? No. I’ve already suggested that they are best suited for a television reality show, and, as someone once called the Paris Hilton of Civil War historians should know, that doesn’t mean taking them seriously. Others have taken them more seriously or have at least dealt with them in the media, and that has absolutely nothing to do with this or other blogs. This blog has demonstrated and documented the nature of their associations (and there’s plenty more where that came from). But if one thinks I take the Flaggers seriously, well, then one hasn’t read the blog, and you can’t tell me what the blog says without reading it.

Do I think that engaging the Flaggers will persuade them of anything? No. In fact, I agree with him that to engage them is to satisfy their desire to feel denigrated and evilized, etc. Why they need that inspiration is another question altogether. Perhaps Peter Carmichael’s suggestion that some people seek therapy should apply to them.

So I agree with Gary Gallagher on these points. I don’t understand his “inability to understand,” especially because no one takes them seriously. I can’t quite figure out why he believes otherwise. We’ve been over this before.

Nor do I believe that it makes any sense to “engage such people in a discussion about evidence.” We’ve already documented that they aren’t interested in such a discussion, and that they wisely decline the opportunity because they know they’ll lose … much like John Stauffer and Jim Downs fell very, very quiet after they offered their initial salvoes.

But Gallagher is not finished.

Just as logic and unimpeachable historical testimony will not sway flaggers, it is crucial to recognize that flaggers have almost no impact on anyone who knows anything about the Civil War.

Perhaps. But they seem to have some impact on those people who do not know very much about the Civil War, or those people seeking to learn something about it. Am I to conclude that Gary Gallagher doesn’t care what those people think? After all, more people see those flags flying along the interstate every day than read one of Gary’s books in a year.

Flaggers revel in a sense of confronting powerful opponents in support of their forebears who resisted Union power. “We are Southern Flaggers,” declares one of their Internet sites, “Made from steel of Southron blood. As our ancestors stood against overwhelming odds, we too stand, defending our heroes, flags and heritage.” Flaggers need critics to heighten their sense of purpose. Why any historians would oblige them escapes me.

Perhaps it’s because there are other folks to consider: namely, those people who will decide that since Flagger claims are uncontested, one cannot contest them.

See, Gary, there’s this thing called the internet. You might not realize this, but many students (even your own undergraduates) have taken to using search engines at their primary means of accessing information. But the internet’s a rather free-flowing place, thwarting the efforts of professional historians who would like to play gatekeeper (this link also sheds interesting light of the current kerfuffle about military history in which Gary’s a key player).  Moreover, the internet magnifies the impact of whoever decides to use it to spread information, correct or otherwise. So it is up to historians to decide if they want to engage such heritage movements, or whether they believe that ignoring them will bring bliss.

You would think that a generation of Civil War scholars nurtured on the notion of the importance of historical memory would understand that they have a role to play in shaping how this and subsequent generations will understand the state of Civil War memory at the sesquicentennial, instead of standing above the fray and shaking their finger in reproving those who decide to engage in discussion. Otherwise, they demean the very significance of what they study. After all, wasn’t Jubal Early the original Virginia Flagger? Or is this another case of someone “freaking out”? I hope not.

All I know is that a good number of highly qualified Civil War scholars from all walks of life who engage a broader public on a regular basis thank me for what I do in this blog.

It’s not clear to me whether Gary reads this blog in the first place. I’ve been told yes … no … he used to until he believed I could tell he was reading it … and so on. Of course, you can’t say anything about the blog unless you read it. I know he’s never asked me directly why I do what I do, and it isn’t as if our paths don’t cross enough. He’s just offered a nice foreword to the reissue of the first volume of my Grant biography. He was instrumental in assisting in the publication of several of my books and essays and paved the way for a rather fruitful collaboration with another university press. I consider him a friend, and he’s been very helpful in my career, which makes his essay all the more puzzling.

However, anyone who reads the blog knows I’ve answered these questions before. I answered them when Gary was frustrated with conversations about black Confederates and I’ve answered them when he’s commented on blogging. For Gary to fail to acknowledge this leads me to think that to reason with him is a waste of my time, because, like the Virginia Flaggers, nothing will convince him that there might be a reason to do what I do. That would be unfortunate, given how much I respect Gary.

The Flaggers would garner media attention regardless of whether bloggers criticized them. Blogs don’t bring their exploits to the attention of the media. This is akin to saying that Kevin Levin or I am wrong because we dared criticized John Stauffer or Jim Downs, because we were bringing attention to them. Are we to assume by the same logic that Gary shouldn’t bring attention to groups or interpretations with which he disagrees by criticizing them? That would have made The Union War a much shorter book, and we would not have had debates on what Gary thinks about the scholarship about the Gettysburg campaign (in which he complained that we didn’t need certain studies, thus offending those folks who compose such studies) or about the place of military history in Civil War studies.

Maybe Civil War Times craves a little more attention, and knows that controversy will achieve that end.

I admit that I am puzzled by one thing: why does any of this worry Gary Gallagher? Why should he choose to bring more attention to something he thinks we should ignore? Was this the most important topic to choose to examine in the pages of a popular magazine on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War?

Look, folks, we’ve been through this before. We’ve been through this for years, in fact, in 2012 Peter Carmichael and I exchanged views on blogging at the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. Indeed, it was Peter’s insistence to discuss debates over black Confederates that brought forth my sharpest comments. One might listen to John Hennessy’s comments at the end of the session.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the implication in such observations that this blog (and others) wield a great deal of influence (otherwise, why fret?). Indeed, I’m honored. But I think it would be a good idea if the talented scholars who offer their opinions about such activities chose to devote their energy to doing scholarship rather than telling other scholars what to do and what not to do.


35 thoughts on “A Response to Gary Gallagher

  1. rortensie January 30, 2015 / 1:50 pm

    I believe this is the real reason why the Flaggers should be taken seriously: “Perhaps. But they seem to have some impact on those people who do not know very much about the Civil War, or those people seeking to learn something about it. Am I to conclude that Gary Gallagher doesn’t care what those people think? After all, more people see those flags flying along the interstate every day than read one of Gary’s books in a year.” Its those individuals that have no or limited knowledge of the events surrounding the Civil War, who may NEVER pick up a book but will turn to these individuals (or wikipedia) for their knowledge. Is being fed this version of history correct? No.

    The big question is, how do you reach these individuals thirsting for Civil War knowledge without highlighting/bringing attention to those providing misinformation/distorted/biased history? Refer them to the History Channel, which lately is nothing more than reality shows – one can learn rather quickly how to drive a big rig on the ice of Alaska…

  2. John Foskett January 30, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    And that is the key point, very well and thoroughly analyzed. One can remain ensconced in the proverbial Tower, deigning not to “lend credence” to the bogus claims of the Flaggers, et al. or “dignifying” their junk history by responding to it. It’s a free country, after all. But Gallagher ought to understand that others can see the Tower approach as a “cop out”. Junk ACW history is indeed prolific in the Internet Age. He really ought not criticize those who choose to try to keep the general public informed and from being misled about American history. I suspect this is just another aspect of his apparent disdain for popular electronic communication about the ACW in general.

  3. Brian Hampton January 30, 2015 / 2:29 pm

    “[Flaggers] seem to have some impact on those people who do not know very much about the Civil War, or those people seeking to learn something about it.”

    I want to address this. Despite the length, this is a heavily summarized anecdote on a tangential subject, but I think it is illustrative.

    A few years ago I took a seminar course in which the subject of historical memory was a centerpiece. We were engaged in discussion one day, but it was one of those discussions that happen sometimes that do very little but serve as a sleep aid, and I frankly had tuned out for the most part. Then I heard a name that made my ears (and left eye) twitch, H.K. Edgerton. The name had been surrounded by phrases like “proves it wasn’t about” and “means it shouldn’t insult.” Since I hadn’t actually heard what all led to this, I avoided comment and listened. I almost wish I hadn’t.

    Every student in this class was at least a junior working toward a BA in history or teaching with a history concentration. Most were graduate students, and most of those were already teachers, one an adjunct at a 2-year college. The school isn’t a major university, but the history faculty all publish. (The recognized Civil War expert in the department has a recently released book.) All of the students in this class should have known better, in other words, because I *know* their professors didn’t teach them Mr. Edgerton was anything close to a voice of reason, much less that his existence proved anything except that there’s a lot of variation of opinion among humans that sometimes doesn’t seem to make much sense.

    What I soon realized, however, was that the professor leading this class didn’t know who he was. He was/is one of those historians who likely would agree (or would have agreed, I should say) with Dr. Gallagher’s … observations. Edgerton’s a nut. Why pay attention to him.

    Well, he got his answer. There was one student in that seminar who had heard of Mr. Edgerton and who eventually decided to bother and attempt to educate the class. A couple people argued vehemently with him. A few more clearly thought he was an idiot. Most listened and added comments when appropriate, and it ended up as a good discussion about how memory is constantly being shaped. The professor thanked him later. The students who thought he was an idiot still think that.

    I am sympathetic to the idea that hearing anything about these idiots is just mental pollution. I will admit freely I do not always read the latest accounting of their shenanigans, and I won’t start doing that now. But I read them occasionally, and more importantly, I know where to send people I encounter who have been or might be influenced by them.

    That’s the reason someone needs to do this, and I do not understand why Gallagher and others who hold this opinion about subjects we don’t take seriously refuse to acknowledge this.

  4. Ben Allen January 30, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    Gallagher has a point. In the world of public relations, in many ways any press is good press. Now, I don’t have a problem with the simple coverage of the Virginia Flaggers. I take issue with the methods used to accomplish that end. I thoroughly enjoy Kevin Levine’s Civil War Memory. However, he does not wage his own private war with the flaggers, unlike you. On your blog, it seems every other post or successive ones are dedicated to Flagger bashing. Mr. Levine spaces his coverage is not as frequent, is more space out among other topics. Also, he is more polite than you in dealing with them (and, it seems, people in general). Don’t get me wrong, I personally enjoy your postings on them. It is just you should space them out more, and make your coverage of the Flaggers not so disproportionate. Use Kevin Levine as a role model, essentially.

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 30, 2015 / 3:45 pm

      Thank you for sharing your opinion. I admit that I’m not polite about certain aspects of the Flaggers, including their associations with white supremacist groups. I think being polite would be out of place under such circumstances. But you’ll notice that there’s been a string of posts on other subjects, and I would not be commenting on the Flaggers now had it not been for this piece (oh, there will be another “This Week in Confederate Heritage” post soon, although I think there’s little interesting to report … and I think we all know that now that the January events at Lexington have passed, there will be even less).

      The media would cover the Flaggers with or without blogs. The idea that this blog draws media attention to the Flaggers is amusing.

      Some people like Kevin’s style more than mine; some people like my style more than Kevin’s; some people don’t like either of us, and some like both of us. Diversity is the spice of life.

      • Ben Allen January 31, 2015 / 8:51 pm

        Being polite always should be in place. What if one of these supremacists ends up being a job interviewer when you apply for a job? That scenario is highly unlikely in your case, but on the off chance, being polite might delay and slow bridge burning at least. There are many ways of pointing out their irrationality than just calling them names or saying they are stupid, like citing facts and asking a multitude of questions. Some them might have fine souls and become a firm friend, even if they never change their minds. Why would you try to make yourself more disliked? Call me a man who is named after his great-great-great grandfather, a member of the 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles, and whose father and father’s father and his father before him (all of whom lived through Jim Crow without being the oppressed party) had to get along with bigots, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

        Yes, the media would cover the Flaggers with or without blogs. It is just they hardly do it disproportionately. If you want find a lot of Flagger coverage, you have to type in a search on Google, a newspaper’s website, or one of those online news cites like the Daily Beast, not delve into an actual newspaper. Even then, the dates of the various reports would mostly be very spread out.

        • Brooks D. Simpson February 1, 2015 / 12:55 am

          Thanks again for your advice. I will give it the attention it deserves … especially the part about white supremacist job interviewers. I must admit that I never thought about making white supremacists like me, but apparently you have given some thought to the matter.

          I appreciate that you believe you have the right to tell me what to write about, how often to write about it, and how to write about it. Perhaps you have forgotten that it’s my blog … and that no one forces you to read it. Maybe you should ask yourself why you submit yourself to an experience you find so distasteful … especially as you once offered Eric Wittenberg advice on how to be subtly snarky.

          You might find it educational to blog yourself. That will give you the opportunity to practice what you preach, which I find a useful learning tool. After all, you once advised me, “Be the change that you desire.” You might consider taking your own advice.

          By the way, it’s Kevin Levin, not Levine.

          Take care.

          • Mousy Tongue February 1, 2015 / 12:10 pm

            Being polite always should be in place.

            I think that is a very interesting and even important topic, and for me brought this to mind:

            An anonymous poster to another forum writes,

            I’d add that telling members of marginalized groups that they should be nicer or more polite to people perpetuating oppressive discourses in their midst ignores the fact that the privileged person is *not* being nice or polite, and is in fact responsible for perpetrating a subtle form of violence which dehumanizes marginalized individuals and then chastises them for speaking out against it. Articles like this further the deeply weird assumption that getting upset at someone for saying something racist is ruder and less socially acceptable than saying something racist. In the words of Andrew Ti, from yoisthisracist: “Any situation where someone has decided racism is appropriate is a situation where swearing is also appropriate.”

            (and no, decorum & best practices aside, I’m not especially keen to argue that our host is marginalized. I don’t really think that’s a prerequisite however. I’d extend the sentiment.)

          • Ben Allen February 7, 2015 / 11:07 pm

            I am not ordering you. It is just advice. If I gave you the impression I was ordering you, I think you’d probably give that impression to me if the roles were reversed. If you want to entertain the possibility of exaggerating the Flaggers’ presence and getting people worried (there might be a few such panicky persons among your followers), by all means.

            Flagger bashing is not so distasteful when it is balanced by other things and spread out… in my humble opinion, of course. I enjoy the postings’ content. Thus, I have somewhat converted from Gallagherism. (Is it not permitted for somebody to change or modify their opinion?)

            I have tried my hand at blogging before. I might get back into some day. But for now, I have Facebook. You’ll see what I mean when you look at my public content. Moreover, Levin is the change that I desire.

          • Brooks D. Simpson February 18, 2015 / 12:49 am

            Sigh. Given how much Kevin has written about Confederate heritage lately, I guess you see more of the same as change. So be it. And thanks for admitting that you don’t want to take the very advice you give me. I guess it’s easier to criticize others than to do your own work.

            Take care. You’ve had your say. If you want to say more, you have Facebook. 🙂

          • Brooks D. Simpson February 19, 2015 / 10:27 pm

            “Moreover, Levin is the change that I desire.”

            Kevin’s been writing a lot lately about the Flaggers and Confederate heritage issues. Maybe you haven’t been reading. So your “change” really has nothing to do with topic selection. Just sayin’.

          • Brooks D. Simpson March 10, 2015 / 3:29 pm

            “Levin is the change that I desire.”

            As we can see from Ben’s decision to post a comment on Kevin’s post on … wait for it … the Virginia Flaggers.

            So we know that in Ben’s world change = more of the same.

            As Ben would say, “Why would you try to make yourself more disliked?” 🙂

  5. Leo January 30, 2015 / 2:51 pm

    The vast majority of Americans have a rudimentary knowledge of the Civil War that does not go beyond the high school level, so groups like the falggers can some damage by attracting people on the margins.

    What is worse is the damage these groups do by going into communities and inflating racial tensions. As an example, I give you the resent protest by the Midsouth flaggers in Memphis on Martin Luther King Day.

  6. Mark January 30, 2015 / 3:31 pm

    >> All I know is that a good number of highly qualified Civil War scholars from all walks of life who engage a broader public on a regular basis thank me for what I do in this blog.

    I’m glad you’re doing it. And I think there isn’t much worth doing that isn’t controversial. So there’s that.

    >> Nor do I believe that it makes any sense to “engage such people in a discussion about evidence.”

    I think what Gallagher is missing is that in a public discussion, you’re never engaging one person. Engaging one ideologue such as they are would be pointless. But that isn’t what is happening since the issue isn’t about exchanging private correspondence with them. Engaging someone in a public, which is what we have now with “social media”, is a whole different kettle of fish. I don’t care how foolish the person in question is, at least a few of their arguments often sound persuasive to the uninitiated. That is just a social reality. It isn’t because people are stupid, it is because we all take more on authority than we realize and many people have or take only so much time to see if there are opposing arguments that sound just as plausible, and if they don’t they tend to accept what it said with an air of authority. The same as it ever was. Public debates are always over the undecided folks. It is an important public function no matter what anyone thinks. If we can’t even appear to outthink and outflank the charlatans why would anyone believe us?

    The bottom line is that we shouldn’t conflate taking a person’s view seriously with taking the public matter of a person’s view seriously. The former often is pointless and counterproductive, but the latter seldom is in my opinion. To think the latter is pointless and counterproductive would be a skeptical view I’d frown on. If one were to be that skeptical of the value of discussion and debate, why would someone like Gallagher be a professor in the first place?

  7. Stefan Jovanovich January 30, 2015 / 3:37 pm

    People want to believe in a history that will vindicate their ancestors. I share Professor Gallagher’s belief that there is nothing to be done about this; the study of what actually happened in the past has always been a minority pursuit. “Proper education” has never overcome people’s inclination to invent happy stories and “lessons” about the past; if anything, it has been likely to do the opposite. Hitler’s prize winning essay from his mandatory schooling was a celebration of Sulla’s civic virtue.

  8. Jarret Ruminski January 30, 2015 / 4:08 pm

    The Flaggers’ nuttery may not hold much sway among educated historians, but among the general public, their influence is much wider, albeit indirectly. All you have to do is check out the comments section of ANY news article discussing ANY aspect if the Civil War and you’ll find an astounding preponderance of Flagger-style delusion, especially regarding the never-ending canard that the Confederacy seceeded out of “states’ rights.” So any time you can offer a counter to Flagger craziness, it might be worth it, if for no other reason than to dampen the influence their ideas have among the wider public.

    In addition, I detect an air of dismissal in Gallagher’s article when it comes to blogging. Granted, blogging should never replace peer-reviewed scholarship (nor is it intended to do so), but the whole “gatekeeper” thing is a bit condescending. More people have read my humble blog than will ever read my published article, and that’s kind of cool. Of course, I’d be happy if they read the article too – assuming they can get past the gatekeeping payall.

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 30, 2015 / 4:18 pm

      Gary offered an assessment of Civil War blogging in the June 2012 number of Civil War Times. There was a rather lively discussion about it on several blogs, and it helped make the June 2012 Civil War Institute’s session on blogging a little more exciting.

      • Jarret Ruminski January 30, 2015 / 4:25 pm

        Yeah, I remember that article. I guess he’s held firm since then 😉

        • Brooks D. Simpson January 30, 2015 / 5:08 pm

          I’m just puzzled. Gary’s done a great deal for Civil, War scholarship. I don’t know why he’d want to say what he said, because all it does is to bring more attention to it. Maybe the real problem is that by answering, I’m giving Gary more attention. That’s clever marketing.

          • Mark January 30, 2015 / 8:41 pm

            Well let’s not think too far ahead. After all most of us know the quote “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by …”. Okay let me explain. The final word in this context doesn’t need to be ‘incompetence’. Certainly Gallagher is anything but incompetent. Still, in the larger scheme, anything we don’t fully know or understand, at whatever level, is nothing other than our own um … well ok … incompetence. Some people are conflicted. Take RE Lee … Oh bad subject. But really, aren’t most of us fighting previous battles? Gallagher has done some great work. He’s a subject matter specialist and to be judged accordingly. An expert on how to pursue the truth on any given matter? Not so much. No shame that. No one is competent on such matters. It’s a free country for a many good reasons …

          • Brooks D. Simpson January 30, 2015 / 9:09 pm

            Well, Mark, I think Gary’s a good guy and a fine scholar. Nothing he said in that piece changes my opinion of him.

  9. Patrick Young January 30, 2015 / 4:50 pm

    If Gary G would stop writing about your blogging, then no one would read you.

    At least that seems to be the logic he employs.

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 30, 2015 / 5:06 pm

      Indeed, he should have posted links in his piece and named names so people could read what they shouldn’t read.

  10. OhioGuy January 30, 2015 / 5:00 pm

    Please indulge this repetitiveness, but I’m cutting and pasting a response I made to another recent Simpson blog. I believe that what I said in that response shows exactly why it’s important to confront neo-Confederate nonsense in all it’s various forms, and particularly as it pertains to the notion of black Confederate soldiers.

    Here’s what I said earlier: “I think most southerners who believe the Black Confederate Myth aren’t racists, in any meaningful definition of the word. They want desperately to believe that their ancestors weren’t racists, so this myth helps them cope with that bit of cognitive dissonance between their own beliefs on race and what their good senses tell them that their ancestors believed. These same folks tend to emphasize that their ancestors didn’t own slaves, but they don’t like to dwell on the fact that the whole society that their ancestors were part of was based on the ‘great truth,’ as CSA VP Stephens once put it, that the white man is superior to the black man and that slavery was the backbone of the economy of the South. What, frankly, worries me more is the northerners who I’ve encountered who have bought into this myth. I had a less than cordial encounter a few years ago at a local Civil War Round Table when a woman — who was presenting information that she had carefully researched on forgotten United States Colored Infantry graves in some local rural cemeteries — made an off-handed remark that there were also a lot of blacks who fought on the other side in war. This woman was not a southern and was a trained archaeologist. I interrupted her presentation and told her that she didn’t know what she was talking about. I mentioned the very few confirmed cases that had been outlined in a magazine article in North and South magazine that I had read not too long before the meeting. I told her that you were — at most — talking about several hundred [black Confederate soldiers], versus about 180,000 [African men in the United States Colored Troops]. She acted totally shocked at this news. This [is] not the only time I’ve run into this type of ignorance in the contemporary Yankee population.”

    I’m not saying that it’s not important to try to educate the Confederate Heritage crowd, as impossible a task as that might seem. But, I think in answer to Gary Gallagher your blogging — and others who do similar work (Andy Hall comes quickly to mind) — makes two important contributions: 1. Inform those who are just beginning to study the late insurrection with information that they can weigh against what they will find when they start to do internet searches on relevant topics. 2. To give further ammunition to those who have a general idea of historical reality but are lacking specific detail and need “talking points” to use in conversations, both personal and electronic, with others interested in this time period, including Lost Cause types. If any minds are going to be changed to a more accurate historical perspective, it will most likely happen in one-on-one exchanges than over the internet. Without delving too deeply into communication theory, there is a good deal of research showing that most people learn new information via a multistep process. Often it is a personal discussion with an opinion leader that convinces a person to view a particular subject in a new and different light. I would like to think that most of us who participate in these blogs are opinion leaders in one form or another.

  11. neukomment January 31, 2015 / 3:18 pm

    I did not have the privilege of an academic study of history beyond what I had in high school. My undergrad degree was elsewhere. As such my study of history, and Civil War history specifically, has been some what hit and miss. When I look back at my perceptions of the CW at different times over the years, I can testify to the impact of the romantic “lost cause” mythology, and specifically the black Confederate story line.

    Yet I could not help but sense there might be another side to the story that the revisionists found convenient to ignore. There was also the innuendo and implied assault against the integrity and intellectual honesty of my ancestors and family members who enlisted and fought for the Union, and one case in particular of possible activity in the Underground Railroad. What was instrumental in clearing away the fog and smoke screens of that revisionism was access via the Internet to copies and transcriptions of original documents such as the Acts of Secession as well as speeches by those on both sides of the conflict, and blogs such as this one as well as others. For these blogs I am personally thankful.

    What is at issue is the preservation of historical accuracy in the popular mind and memory. It would nice to be able to just ignore the flaggers and all the others, but the nature of today’s communication and information network via the Internet unfortunately does not give us that option.

    • OhioGuy February 3, 2015 / 10:27 pm

      What a bunch of BS! Truth is that there were very few “black Confederates.” To imply otherwise is the heighth of dishonesty.

  12. Bob Huddleston February 4, 2015 / 11:40 am

    Lee’s autobiography is online at:


    Some idle Googling revealed the following:

    {This was done a while ago so some of the links may be bad

    Lee claims that after his 1881 ordination, he built the Third Baptist Church in Washington, DC for $3,000, pastored two years, and increased the membership from 20 to 500. But the church’s website says it was built in 1885 under Rev. William B. Jefferson, with Patrick Umbles as interim. The next pastor was a Rev. Lee – James H. Lee, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, who formerly served as church clerk:


    Cromwell’s history states that the church was completed in 1893, and cost $26,000, and that under James Lee around 200 members were added:

    http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/cromwell/cromwell.html (p.88)

    Two years after building another unnamed D.C. church (and increasing *its* membership from 8 to 200), our Rev. Lee says he then built a church at “Cantorsville, Maryland”, where in four years he increased membership from 12 to 365. I couldn’t find a “CaNTORsville,” although there is a CaTONsville (perhaps this is a printing or scanning transcription error).

    Then, he says, in 1912 he built a brick-and-stone church at Churchland (now part of Portsmouth), where his autobiography suggests he is still pastor in 1918. While Churchland Baptist (www.churchland.org) has historically been mostly African-American since its founding, none of its pastors over the last two centuries seems to have been named Lee. An offshoot, all-black church called Grove Baptist (www.grovebaptistchurch.com/history.html) was founded in 1840. It did have a brick and stone front, but none of its pastors were named Lee either. I confess I haven’t done any digging, but I couldn’t find any other churches in the area that fit Rev. Lee’s description.

    Rev. Lee seems to have had remarkable fortune in being at the right place at the right time. He’s not only at the surrender, but overhears Lee’s snarky comments to Grant; it is to his bodyguard the General reveals that Stonewall Jackson was killed by friendly fire.

    Recalling July 3, 1863 “like it was yesterday”, he says that they were “down in de Wilderness – Seven Pines – near Richmond,” when the General invited “a crowd of generals” to eat. Not content to feed them tea (!?) and flannelcakes, bodyguard Lee amends the menu by sacrificing their only laying hen -with which he miraculously feeds eight men in the “commissary” including Jackson, Pickett, and Longstreet. Equally remarkably, bodyguard Lee somehow has on hand not only bread and butter for stuffing but lemons for lemonade.

    Less than ten days later, while bringing Traveler to Lee’s tent, bodyguard Lee is wounded by an exploding shell which miraculously doesn’t even scratch the General or his horse. The General laughs uncontrollably at his beloved bodyguard lying on the ground screaming with wounds that left a “hole” in his head and a permanent limp, then tries to “cheer him up” and calls for an “ambulance” to take him to the hospital.

    Later the General bequeaths him the unusual sum of $360.

    Obviously my research here could only generously be called superficial, and it’s quite possible I’ve got the churches confused. But Rev. Lee would certainly an interesting subject for further investigation.

    • Stefan Jovanovich February 5, 2015 / 6:11 am

      Thank you very much for this. It is wonderful research and beautifully written.

    • John Foskett February 5, 2015 / 3:13 pm

      I’d question his memory about “July 3, 1863” (which obviously should be “1862”). Lee’s HQ on that date was north of Harrison’s Landing, following Malvern Hill on July 1 and McClellan’s “change of base” to the Landing. So far as I can tell, he would have been nowhere near “Seven Pines – near Richmond”.

  13. Tripp Fields August 30, 2015 / 10:25 pm

    But I have just one question? Why didn’t the southern slaveholders just move to South America? Slavery was still legal there for the next 27 years?

  14. Tripp Fields August 30, 2015 / 10:38 pm

    But I have a question? Why didn’t the southern slaveholders just move to South America? Slavery was still legal there for the next 27 years?

  15. Tripp Fields August 31, 2015 / 5:36 pm

    Let’s see, the entire southeastern United States declared their independence, formed a new country, and fought a four year long war that killed off 1/3 of their male population all to hang on to an economic resource that was readily available to them a few thousand miles south of the border?

    I guess no absurdity is off limits when it’s about relieving one’s white guilt and proving to the leftist PC crowd that you’re not racist.

  16. rcolton3 February 22, 2016 / 5:43 pm

    Mr. Simpson is criticizing Gary Gallagher for having opinions which Gallagher is entitled to have.
    The endless neo-Confederate continuance of the Myth of the Lost Cause does not accept criticism and engagement to discuss their views.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 22, 2016 / 7:16 pm

      I don’t think I’m criticizing Gary for having opinions … I’m criticizing the viewpoint he expressed.

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