Heritage, Not History: Distorting the Past To Satisfy Present Needs

Confederate heritage advocates always claim to be rather interested in history, although it appears their ability to ensure historical accuracy (as opposed to heritage correctness) is not always sound. Take this example:


This little item appeared on the Facebook page of our good friends the Virginia Flaggers. Of especial note is the quote attributed to William Henry Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State.

I found the quote provocative, and so I decided to do a little research. Guess what I found?

First, apparently Confederate heritage advocates are rather fond of this quote, as a look at Google suggests. But they aren’t always very good at citing the source. Fortunately, it’s also easy to find the quote in question. You will come across it in a book written by one George Edmonds, Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South, 1861-1865, published in 1904 in Memphis, Tennessee. You’ll find it on page 23:


This is a valuable clue. The Piatt in question is one Donn Piatt, a big fan of George H. Thomas and someone who had no problem writing vivid if not always accurate accounts of his interaction with famous folks. Perhaps that explains why a recent biography is subtitled “Gadfly of the Gilded Age.”

In 1887 Piatt published Memories of Men Who Saved the Union, which recounted many of these encounters. Among them, we learn, is the conversation in question.

Piatt recalled that he first met Seward while Seward was still a senator from New York. He later recounted on pages 135-38 the exchange he had with the former governor:


Piatt Seward 2.JPG


Piatt Seward 4.JPG

Oh, my. That’s not what Confederate heritage advocates claimed Seward had said. Yes, southerners used the Constitution “as a shield” … “to cover their wicked designs” to expand slavery.

I didn’t see that when the Virginia Flaggers posted the quote. I wonder why. Nor did I see them remind us that Seward said that the Constitution was “a sacred ark of covenant” to the North. Somehow that information didn’t make its way onto the Virginia Flaggers’ post, either.

Someone’s been lying for 112 years. But then distortions of the record have always been essential to Confederate heritage correctness. It’s just that in this case we can see that the practice has a long history. It’s a tradition of dishonesty.

We hear all the time from Virginia Whine Country about “political correctness” and distortions of the past, but somehow not when it comes to the distortions (and fabrications) of the historical record for which certain Confederate heritage advocates are so well known. That’s because the “political correctness” that I have styled “heritage correctness” serves their own self-serving politicized view of the American past. I guess that also runs in the blood of certain haughty Virginians (I’ve always thought the blood’s been diluted over time). Some people’s blood runs hot. Some people’s blood runs cold. In this case, it’s simply run out.

And if you’re waiting for a retraction or an admission of error from the Flaggers, be prepared to wait a long time. Given their interest in monitoring this blog (hi Connie!), we’ll see whether the Flaggers clean up their feed.

Remember, folks, it’s heritage, not history. And if it takes lying to preserve the heritage and restore the (lost) honor, so be it.

10 thoughts on “Heritage, Not History: Distorting the Past To Satisfy Present Needs

  1. Jimmy Dick September 18, 2016 / 7:39 pm

    The hypocrisy of those who whine about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem while also whining about political correctness is rather amusing.

    The sad thing is everyone seems to overlook why he has chosen not to stand for the anthem. I am not surprised that the confederate heritage types get mad at him, but they also ignore the reason he sits while waving the flags of a group of traitors to the nation whose anthem Kaepernick refuses to stand for.

    Double hypocrisy for the heritage folks!

    • John Foskett September 19, 2016 / 9:37 am

      That said, if Colin were truly committed on this issue (and understood that there are polarized/extreme/wrong views on both sides), he’d find far more meaningful ways to work needed change. None of that, of course, detracts from the stupidity and hypocrisy of these 10 Watt bulbs.

      • Jimmy Dick September 19, 2016 / 10:35 am

        I agree completely. I think he has chosen the wrong venue because people are not discussing the reason behind his stance. Instead they focus on whether he should stand or not. He could have found better methods to communicate his concerns to the public. However, he made a choice to make a stand and that in itself has developed a conversation, just not over the topic he thought it would.

  2. Scott Ledridge September 18, 2016 / 8:11 pm

    I’ve never seen a group that is so context-handicapped or intentionally dismissive of context.

    But, I guess when you have the very instigators creating a Lost Cause, it was inevitable that their descendents would do the same.

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 18, 2016 / 9:50 pm

      It’s easier to understand that they are either amazingly stupid or dishonest. Of course, there’s pleny of evidence to suggest that one does not preclude the other.

      That said, if they don’t take it down, they are dishonest (and amazingly stupid to leave up the evidence of their dishonesty). We’ll see.

  3. OhioGuy September 18, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    Classic case of creative use of a partial quote out of context. In this currrnt loony election season I’ve seen many examples on both sides of this same kind of distortion of something said by the other side. Take a sentence here and a sentence there and you can make it look like the person meant the opposite of what he or she actually said. I guess you might say it’s as American as apple pie. Or, should it be as Confederate as buckwheat cakes and Injun batter? Thanks, sharing the full quote, Brooks. It really sheds light on the intellectual dishonesty of CC (Confederate Correctness).

    • The Other Mark September 20, 2016 / 11:23 am

      I’ll second that. Thanks for bringing full context to our attention.

  4. Eric A. Jacobson September 20, 2016 / 3:52 am

    They are both stupid, and when confronted with the truth, blatantly defiant. It is dangerous when those two qualities exist in one person or group. Sadly, I have learned that the online world allows idiocy such as this a broad platform.

  5. Erik September 23, 2016 / 4:58 pm

    Most heritage memes have misspellings and/or bad grammar. At least this direct quote doesn’t.

    This reminds me of another heritage distortion. I can’t recall the details but some yahoo posted language citing all the harsh things the Union was doing to rebel POWs as proof of how despicable the Union was. Once someone posted the original quote it was clear that the yahoo’s quote was manipulated. The original included a list of things that were already being done to Union POWs and the suggestion was made that if rebel officers were treated the same way as the Union soldiers it would stop.

    And boy did the US stink it up at the WC of Hockey!

  6. Shoshana Bee September 29, 2016 / 6:20 pm

    I hate this sort of manipulation of history for selfish personal reasons: I do not know enough to always recognize when I have been “hooked”, so the best I can do is steer clear of those websites who engage in chicanery, altogether. The folks in the know get to have all of the fun, ’cause they get to bust this malarkey wide open and lay ruin the idiots who tried to pull a fast one. Some of these peddlers of “alternate” history are real cool cats when it comes to messing with primary source: they alter one our two words and it changes the whole meaning of a phrase. Alas, we have history super heroes, so I get the vicarious pleasure of watching these charlatans have their viscera pulled through their nostrils by the experts.

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