What Would Victory Look Like For Confederate Heritage?

Several weeks ago a well-known Confederate apologist blogger posted one of her many efforts at communication through graphics:


To be sure, it wasn’t quite as effective as this commentary on recent debates over Confederate heritage, but still, it’s worth considering on what we will generously term its own merits.

First, I think it is worth observing that the statement makes a valid point. While many people dislike the Confederate Battle Flag, that dislike rarely rises to the point of hatred. Disgust, yes; but whatever hatred there is is reserved for (a) the self-confessed cornerstone of the Confederacy, slavery, and (b) the effort by white supremacists to battle civil rights while waving that very flag nearly a century after that failed effort for Confederate independence. So it’s what the flag represents to them, not the flag itself, that is at the center of this discussion.

I accept that a rather significant number of advocates of Confederate heritage are in denial about the fundamental role that slavery played in the formation of the Confederacy, or the fundamental nature of slavery, period. A good many of them also seem uncomfortable about the civil rights movement, to the point that they continue to do business with people who don’t want black folks around. Sometimes, in fact, they march with white supremacists or take selfies with them.

It’s gotta take a lotta passion to do that. Such actions remind me of the importance of the need for commitment.

So I will stipulate that Confederate heritage apologist extremists love the Confederate Battle Flag far more than many more Americans hate it. It’s worth remembering that Confederate heritage apologist extremists often project their propensity to hate on others … maybe it makes them feel better. That’s why they can never quite celebrate the raising of a flag without speculating that someone else might be hating that moment. So much for honoring the sacrifice of the Confederate soldier.

That said, what do we make of “win this battle”?

First, we would have to define what one means by “battle.” Is it the battle over Confederate heritage? Over how we understand the Confederacy in American history? Over the simple display of the Confederate Battle Flag (or other Confederate flags)? Or does someone just like to use the word “battle” without context? After all, the Virginia Flaggers like to fly flags without context, so don’t go dismissing that last option too quickly.

Second, we would have to define what victory looks like in order to determine when one could fairly declare to have won this battle.

I don’t think Confederate heritage is winning much of anything lately. Oh, people are debating over taking down a flag here or moving/removing a monument there, but it is safe to say that the best Confederate heritage advocates can hope for right now is to hold the line, because I don’t see much of a movement in favor of increased memorialization or commemoration of the Confederate cause. Even several battles to preserve the status quo did not turn out well.

Nor is the Confederacy doing too well in the history books. Sure, there are a few “activist historians” who try to defend the Confederate experiment in human inequality as a form of “Confederate correctness” in line with their own political views (and sometimes as a way to promote said views), but those folks don’t have an impact on mainstream scholarship.  When I hear one of these folks cry about “political correctness” while toeing their own party line, I know that it’s not about history, but heritage, and more likely about personal political philosophy.

It’s not going too well for the display of the Confederate Battle Flag (or other Confederate flags), either. Fewer public places fly the Confederate flag today than did two years ago, and even several loudly-celebrated victories (Danville, Virginia, and Pensacola, Florida) are no longer triumphs. By now we all know about the big failures in Richmond, Appomattox, and Lexington, Virginia, as well at the lowering of the battle flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina. Efforts to counter such decisions through protests and erecting flagpoles on private property no longer attract much attention: the biggest publicity given the Virginia Flaggers in the past several months was in connection with the arrest of one Flagger in connection with the kidnapping of a little girl, and on that issue the Flaggers were quiet … very quiet. In fact, one might conclude that the Flaggers think their own silence rooted in fear and humiliation is just another successful battle tactic. Or maybe they’ve learned from the experiences of their screeching mouthpiece that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

None of that looks like victory to me.

Besides, one does have reason to doubt whether such folks as the Flaggers and their supporters really are willing to do what must be done to prevail. Susan Hathaway gave up her day job outside the VMFA to save her day job with a company which contracts with the VMFA. A South Carolina-based flagger who repeatedly declared his determination to confront Klansmen over the use of his precious battle flag was nowhere to be seen when Klansmen descended upon Columbia, South Carolina, to embrace that very flag. Neither is evidence to support the idea that there is really all that much love for that flag, because these latter day wannabe Rebs are simply unwilling to make anywhere near the same sort of sacrifices their ancestors who actually followed that flag did.

In such circumstances, it’s hard to achieve victory.

In the end, of course, it’s not who wins the battles. Ask Robert E. Lee. It’s who wins the campaigns … and the war.

Some people never learn.


31 thoughts on “What Would Victory Look Like For Confederate Heritage?

  1. agapeio August 16, 2015 / 4:04 am

    Flag or no flag…hate is in the heart…no law or symbol can change that…sad but true…what does it benefit a person to hold such a heavy burden…yet it is what it is,,,”We hold these truths to be self evident that ALL men are created equal”…just another thought as with everything else.

  2. Sandi Saunders August 16, 2015 / 7:40 am

    I do not think that most of the people flying that flag lately “know enough” about the Confederacy or the Civil War “to pour piss out of a boot” as we say in the South. This is about rebellion against government, proclaiming your “southerness” and defying any “rule” over you (always with some racial undertones). They desecrate the flag just as surely as the pure white supremacists do, and do not have the sense to know it. They will not “win” because their love is almost as twisted as the KKK, LOS and racists everywhere. I despise seeing a “parade of rednecks” whooping it up over that flag just as I despise seeing admitted white supremacists, separatists, segregationists, and secessionists parade with it.

    I respect the actual Civil War remembrance that includes the Confederate Battle Flag. I have yet to encounter a flagger that was worthy of respect and the SCV needs to learn the difference before all respect for the actual Civil War remembrance is lost. These bedfellows need to separate as surely as they need disdain for and distance from the admitted white supremacists or they are doomed to small numbers and crazed supporters. Who would want that?

  3. Jimmy Dick August 16, 2015 / 9:35 am

    I had a little discussion with a FaceBook group yesterday. In between trotting out the old lost cause myths and ignoring all the primary sources I linked showing their mistakes, they were busy with the modern political rhetoric. Andy Hall is correct: This is all about them using confederate heritage to validate their modern political ideology. They have pushed the two together and fail to understand the two are separate and totally different.

    I see KKKonnie won’t address Dr. Ty Seidule’s video or allow comments about it on her site. She also won’t allow comments about Lilly Baumann there either. I asked her when she plans to admit she lied about the Virginia Flaggers being involved in the kidnapping. So far only crickets.

    • John Foskett August 17, 2015 / 10:03 am

      An excellent point. It’s remarkable in all of these mid-late 20th/21st century dust ups how many people claiming an interest in Confederate Heritage are just leavening their own political issues with a Marvels Comics Civil War knowledge base. In reality, a significant number know next nothing about the actual war.

  4. OhioGuy August 16, 2015 / 9:49 am

    Don’t disagree with much that you say here, Brooks. I might have written a line or two a little different if I was to express my own feelings, but you captured my beliefs on this issue with about 95 percent accuracy. I’m not sure if you should be proud of that fact, or worried about it! 😉

    In terms of battles lost by the flaggers, I recently had the opportunity to visit Harper’s Ferry (a few weeks before the recent fire) and noticed the complete lack of the CBF in the park area, including on High Street where there are a number of privately owned shops. On my last visit to Harpers Ferry, about a decade ago, there were probably about a dozen or so CBFs on high street — often accompanied by a U.S. Flag. There were a few of the latter but none of the former there today. I’m wondering if anyone knows how recently those CBFs had come down. Was it in reaction to the Charleston Massacre? Or, was it an evolution over the last decade?

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 16, 2015 / 11:43 am

      I was in Harper’s Ferry last year, and it looked a lot less Confederate to me.

      • OhioGuy August 16, 2015 / 5:48 pm

        Thanks. Do you remember if High Street was totally devoid of CBFs at that time?

  5. OhioGuy August 16, 2015 / 11:07 am

    Speaking of the CBF, I had the opportunity last week to take my 12-year-old granddaughter to the Athens (Ohio) County Fair. When I asked her afterwards if she liked our time together at the fair she said yes, but added, “I didn’t like all of those Confederate flags.” Two vendors (I know not where they came from) had CBFs in their booths. One guy had two very large CBFs in the back of his booth — making sort of a backdrop. The other was selling t-shirts, some of which had CBFs on them with slogans like “These Colors Don’t Run.” I should point out that my granddaughter is of mixed racial heritage.

    A few days later I had the opportunity to return to the fair to help man the GOP booth. I was happy to discover that the county chairman of our party had spoken up about his displeasure at the CBF displays. A real irony is that the main pathway from the entrance of the fair grounds to the midway area goes right past an historical marker, erected two years ago, dedicate to Milton Holland, who raised what became Company C of the 5th United States Colored Infantry on that very fairgrounds in 1863. You can read more about this marker here: http://tinyurl.com/pd548j7

  6. Chunk August 16, 2015 / 2:00 pm

    “Because we love it a whole lot more than they hate it.”

    Islamists adopted the axiom that says, “We love death more than you love life,” which is one reason why they believe they will prevail in their jihad.

  7. OhioGuy August 16, 2015 / 6:27 pm

    I just took a look at backsass for the first time in over a month, I think, and it’s clear that these folks have no plan. Connie just seems to be lashing out and bashing anyone who doesn’t accept her version of Confederate heritage. See devotes some space to lambasting “Destroy Blogger.” I think that’s you, Brooks, but I’m not totally sure. She praises some nut who walks from somewhere in Dixie to the national capital carrying a Confederate Flag. She’s surprised that some African Americans get angry when they see that flag and that this walking flagger dude got a hostile reception. She doesn’t seem to understand its association not only with slavery but with the racial violence of the KKK might lead some to righteous indignation. She gets all up in arms about some black man who went into a woman’s house and ripped down her CBF. Admittedly that’s not a good thing to do and the perp can be arrested for that kind of trespassing, but that’s not the point. The point is that Connie doesn’t recognize where the emotion that led to this crime comes from or why an African American would want to do that. I believe that henceforth she should be known as “Clueless Connie.”

    IMHO, what the Confederate Heritage movement needs now is a clear thinking leader. Someone who can reject the Lost Cause and embrace the true history of the late war. One of his or hers first orders of business should be to start a Dixie-wide movement to replace the CBF with another Confederate symbol like the First National or the Bonnie Blue Flag. While these two symbols also stand for a would-be nation whose cornerstone was to be slavery, they do not carry the excess baggage that the CBF does in a modern context. It would require a lot of work and a good PR campaign, but I think that with the right leadership a new symbol could be accepted by most Americans north and south as standing for the best of southern history, heritage and culture and not for slavery and white supremacy. Who that leader should be I have no idea, but I don’t think Clueless Connie is up to the task.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 16, 2015 / 7:35 pm

      I think “Destroy” is “Restoring the Honor.” Meanwhile, Chastain, who had lots to say when she insisted that Lilly Baumann’s kidnapping had nothing to do with the Virginia Flaggers, is now really quiet about that in the wake of the news that a Virginia Flagger was arrested in connection with the case. Nor did she give a damn that the child was safe, which one would think all normal human beings could unite in celebrating. Just shows you how deep her hatred is.

      • OhioGuy August 16, 2015 / 8:33 pm

        I think you are right about who Destroy is, Brooks. I have to admit that I didn’t know what “Restoring the Honor” was, except a slogan. Just now I visited the website: http://tinyurl.com/po9hc2o and boy was it shocking. Some have said that drawing a link between neo-Confederate loonies and Nazi’s was a stretch. However, if you read crap that this site has copy and pasted from Toby Hatfield’s Facebook page, you might think otherwise. This guy wraps himself in the CBF (literally on occasion) and spouts the meanest racist rhetoric I’ve heard in a long, long time. He quotes Adolph Hitler approvingly, and sometimes ends posts with “Heil Hitler.” I wonder why Clueless Connie doesn’t spend more time taking down the likes of Toby rather than ranting against “Restore the Honor” who is exposing, among other things, Toby’s racism. Apparently, Toby tried his own walk to DC, like the one Connie highlighted, carrying his CBF, but unlike the other dude, he didn’t make it all the way. I guess we can be thankful for that.

          • Al Mackey August 17, 2015 / 2:40 pm

            Overlooked or approved of it and thus didn’t feel compelled to complain about it?

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 17, 2015 / 2:53 pm

            One can never tell. 🙂 I’m still amused she remains silent over the kidnapping story and Lesters’s arrest, which exposes here as a flat-out liar. Amused … not surprised. Apparently Lilly Baumann’s life didn’t matter to her. Same for Susan and co.

        • Rblee22468 August 17, 2015 / 4:03 pm

          Brooks is definitely not Destroy.

          Destroy is Connie Chastain’s man crush. She’s sweet on me. 😍

  8. bob carey August 16, 2015 / 7:09 pm

    In order for these “Heritage” types to win any battle over the CBF or any other symbol of the bygone Confederacy they should focus their attention on the bravery and courage of the Confederate soldier, someone like Richard Kirkland of Maryre’s Heights, if they focus on cause they lose, if they focus on outcome they lose.
    The CSA ceased to exist in 1865, therefore any use of it’s symbols, except in a historical context, is just plain wrong. Since those symbols cannot represent a non existent entity then they must represent something else, I wonder what that could be.
    The vendor at the Ohio State Fair was correct, those colors did not run, they surrendered.

    • OhioGuy August 16, 2015 / 8:38 pm

      It was the Athens County Fair in Ohio, not the state fair, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these same vendors were there. What made it even more ludicrous was that the second time I was at the fair (last Friday) there was an African American working at the t-shirt booth that had some of the Confederate-themed t-shirts. Perhaps, he was the descendant of a black Confederate! 😉

      • bob carey August 17, 2015 / 3:43 am

        Last week I was driving by the Saratoga National Battlefield and I saw a house with the Union Jack and the CBF flying side by side. My wife thought it odd that this residence had no US flag on display, afterall this is upstate NY. I said maybe the people who lived there liked losers, I expected to see a Red Sox banner on the side of the house LOL.

        • OhioGuy August 17, 2015 / 8:09 am

          This reminds me of a person a number of years ago in my wife’s hometown of Bexley, Ohio, who wore a Union Jack outfit in the 4th of July parade. This was a head-to-toe outfit with a big Union Jack on it. Kind of like a walking British flag. Some people are just clueless. I remember yelling out as this parade entry approached my viewing spot, “Death to the Tories!”

  9. Leo August 17, 2015 / 6:57 am

    There is no making these people happy because they live in a fantasy world of confederate mythology and modern far-right politics. Anyone who does not march in lock step with their worldview is attacked or publically ridiculed without evidence or regard to fact.

    Case in point:

    The Clarion Ledger ran a full-page letter/ad signed by 60 prominent Mississippians calling for a new state flag. You can see the ad at this link. https://www.facebook.com/127390727443614/photos/a.428981060617911.1073741830.127390727443614/451932461656104/?type=1

    Many in this heritage/far-right/tea-party crowd took to social media claiming the people who signed this letter are billionaire celebrities who either do not live in Mississippi or have no connection to the state.

    As expected, the various groups promoting the state flag have also attacked the letter and the right of these people to express an opposing view.

    There is no victory because these people will always find a reason to be angry.

  10. Leo August 17, 2015 / 7:01 am

    It looks like some of the links I included in my first post did not take for some reason, so I will post them separately.

    There is no victory because these people will always find a reason to be angry.

  11. Leo August 17, 2015 / 7:04 am

    As expected, the various groups promoting the state flag have also attacked the letter and the right of these people to express an opposing view.

  12. Leo August 17, 2015 / 7:38 am

  13. Leo August 17, 2015 / 7:45 am

    Sorry for all the posts. It looks to be an issue with either my browser or my phone. I borrowed a laptop and can see everything now.

    Apologies to Brooks.

    • Rosieo August 17, 2015 / 2:02 pm

      Leo — I am happy for you that activists are working on the flag! It will be a struggle and when the CBF is gone from the state flag the struggle will continue because some people thrive on conflict.. Hope the change comes soon! It is a matter time… let’s hope.

  14. OhioGuy August 17, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    In Lancaster, Ohio, taking a friend to get radiation therapy, spotted a CBF in front of a nice looking home. This is General Cump Sherman’s hometown. Shame, shame, shame!

  15. Rosieo August 17, 2015 / 1:54 pm

    Ah but it was on private property … Interesting,. dont really see many sesech in Ohio.

  16. Joshism August 17, 2015 / 8:44 pm

    Victory for the Southern Heritage crowd seems pretty straightforward to me: widespread acceptance of the Lost Cause narrative and free-flying CBFs.

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