More Chaos for Confederate Heritage Advocates

It’s not been a good two weeks for Confederate heritage advocates. They’ve suffered setbacks at Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas, and with the University of Mississippi marching band. They seem helpless to stop the rising tide of opposition to their position, and the best they can do to gain ground is to promise to fly more flags throughout the South.

But it’s the self-inflicted wounds that are just as likely to leave an enduring mark. There’s still fallout from Tripp Lewis’s attack on Karen Cooper. As detailed on Restoring the Honor, while many advocates of Confederate heritage sided with Cooper and denounced Lewis, others, led by Gary Adams of the Southern Heritage Preservation Group, called on Cooper to silence herself instead of denouncing Lewis.


Why, indeed? Continue reading

More Trouble in Flaggerland: Tripp Lewis Versus Karen Cooper

Over in Virginia Whine Country there’s trouble east of the Shenandoah Valley as well … and it’s not unexpected. After all, it’s been a contentious election year, and the nastiness of the campaign is reflected in the rather coarse contempt people display for each other on social media.

A case in point: a recent Facebook exchange between Virginia Flagger headliners Tripp Lewis and Karen Cooper. Lewis seeks attention far more than does Cooper, although Cooper’s not adverse to sharing her views with the media. We have no record of Cooper being arrested for Flagger-related activities: this is not the case with Lewis. Nor do we have any record that Cooper has been a part of any Flagger activities that have backfired: this is not the case with Lewis. Finally, we have no record of Cooper celebrating white nationalists as “good guys”: this is not the case with Lewis. But, as the following exchange suggests, those are not the only differences … Continue reading

Heritage Correctness: The Significance of What Happened at Vanderbilt

Historian Karen L. Cox has reminded us exactly why the United Daughters of the Confederacy invested in George Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) in the first place. Namely, the UDC hoped to train women teachers who would spread the Confederate gospel as the UDC saw it.

In short, one could call it a heritage indoctrination center.

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The Virginia Flaggers’ Next Target: Alexandria?

By now we all know that the Virginia Flaggers, perhaps the most notorious Confederate heritage group in existence (and certainly among the most amusing as well as most visible), is dedicated to restoring the honor by returning the flags. However, to date they have not made much of an impact in the Old Dominion in the northern part of the state. At present the northernmost Flagger triumph east of the Blue Ridge Mountains is at Stafford, along I-95 north of Fredericksburg.

Now comes word that the folks in Alexandria, Virginia, are also taking steps to diminish the city’s commemoration of the Confederacy. Already the city’s taken action to cease flying Confederate flags on public property. Now up for debate is a proposal to cease calling US Route 1 “Jefferson Davis Highway.” Left untouched is a statute honoring the service of Confederate veterans that remains an iconic part of the city.

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Will the Ku Klux Klan Rise Again?

Basically, that’s the question offered in this article from the Associated Press (a video will eventually play to augment the article).

I was particularly struck by the following claim in the article:

Formed just months after the end of the Civil War by six former Confederate officers, the Klan originally seemed more like a college fraternity with ceremonial robes and odd titles for its officers. But soon, freed blacks were being terrorized, and the Klan was blamed. Hundreds of people were assaulted or killed as whites tried to regain control of the defeated Confederacy. Congress effectively outlawed the Klan in 1871, and the group died.

The curious construction of the second sentence, complete with the double use of the passive voice, is remarkable. Might the Reconstruction KKK have had something to do with conducting a war of terror against freed blacks (and their white allies)?

Maybe. Just maybe.

As for the rest of the muddled narrative, let’s assume that the author has at best a partial understanding of the Ku Klux Act of 1871, how President Grant used the powers it authorized him to use, and the degree to which Grant’s actions destroyed the KKK.

The various reincarnations of the KKK in the 20th century, while inspired by the Reconstruction KKK (or, to be more precise, by the portrayal of that group in the movie Birth of A Nation), are distinct from that organization, even if they have many things in common, including an identification with the Confederacy and the preservation of white (Christian/Protestant) supremacy through terror, intimidation, and violence. But to say that they are the same is to overlook a great deal.

It is also unfortunate that many people identify white supremacist terrorist violence during Reconstruction with the KKK alone. That would be incorrect. Violence and suppression against freed blacks started during the summer and fall of 1865: we can see institutional evidence of state-sponsored white supremacy in the passing of the Black Codes and in the shaping of the southern legal sysyem by the state governments founded during presidential Reconstruction (especially during the Johnson presidency). Neither the Memphis nor New Orleans massacres of 1866 were KKK operations. Moreover, the tendency to identify the KKK with Nathan Bedford Forrest tends to obscure the fact that many Confederate veterans, including prominent ones such as John B. Gordon, donned Klan robes and did all they could to counter the emergence of black equality and political power. The KKK was far more pwerful in 1867 and especially 1868, when it battled the advent of black political power and the Republican party, and the organization in various forms persisted into the early 1870s, proving especially important in the Carolinas.

But the so-called destruction of the KKK in the aftermath of the passage of the Ku Klux Act and Grant’s application of the act in South Carolina in September 1871 did not spell the end of white supremacist terrorist violence. Far from it. Such violence took new forms under new names and emplyed new tactics and strategies (see the Mississippi Plan of 1875) as it did much to accomplish what the original KKK failed to achieve. Occasionally even biographers of Grant ignore or stumble over this inconvenient truth, most notably in Geoffrey Perret’s 1997 study, which was virtually silent about Reconstruction in Grant’s second term. By paying far too much attention to the KKK as the expression of such violence, Perret blinded himself to what else was going on … or perhaps he simply didn’t know about it. We must not be so ignorant.

But wait … there’s more.

Like several Confederate heritage groups, the KKK makes for good video, especially with the Confederate flag waving in the background or in places like Stone Mountain, a place favored by, among others, the Virginia Flaggers. Indeed, it’s not hard to draw connections between the KKK, other white supremacists, and Confederate heritage groups, as this news item this past week demonstrates. Note that the KKK leaders portrayed in this report endorse Trump and pledge death to their enemies (although they then claim that they don’t mean what they say–we’ve heard that excuse before from Confederate heritage apologists when white supremacists have advocated violence). And, of course, many of you will recall Mr. Heimbach’s association with a certain Virginia-based Confederate heritage group, one the group’s leadership has never disavowed (recall Virginia Flagger Tripp Lewis’s declaration that Mr. Heimbach was “a good guy”). A review of the social media offerings of several Virginia Flaggers reveals that, like the KKK and their buddy Heimbach, they, too, support Donald J. Trump for president.

Then again, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was prominent in KKK circles during Reconstruction, did much to play down that association when he appeared before a congressional investigating committee in 1871. The Virginia Flaggers would like to do the same with their association with Heimbach and other white supremacists, including two people who rented them land upon which to fly their flags near Virginia interstates. But how can we forget that the spokesperson of the Virginia Flaggers, Susan Frise Hathaway, openly idolizes Forrest and Wade Hampton, whose Red Shirts used white supremacist terrorist tactics to regain control of South Carolina’s state government? The woman in the red dress loves that man and his Red Shirts.

As Mark Twain once reminded us, although history may not repeat itself, sometime it rhymes.

Confederate Heritage Salutes Veterans

This is how they do it at Sea Raven Press, long known for its support of Confederate heritage correctness scholarship:

SRP 1.JPGOne million armed African American slaves supporting the Confederacy by taking up arms. That shows a certain ability in math as well as history. Where did they hide all these soldiers? General Lee wants to know.

And, by all means, honor the Confederate Battle Flag … like this:

SRP 2Of course, there are too many stars there, and the flag is shredded, but these are mere details.

And finally, we all know that Confederate heritage has nothing to do with present politics, right? Sure …


This is the sort of political correctness I’m sure some people who whine about it can get behind. Just ask Matthew Heimbach.


The Growing Vacuousness of Confederate Heritage

Over at Civil War Memory Kevin Levin’s speculated about the decline and eventual disappearance of Confederate heritage commemorationsimplying that perhaps confining such ceremonies in time and place may prolong their existence by confining their expression to appropriate venues and occasions. As you might well imagine, some of Kevin’s most vocal critics (who also happen to be among his most loyal readers) offered their usual pitiful petulant protests. Fine, folks: just go raise another flag somewhere and claim victory.

Although I appreciate Kevin’s argument, I hold a different view (although I suspect that Kevin agrees with much of what I am about to say). I think that the real problem with Confederate heritage today is that it has less and less to do with the Confederacy or any sort of heritage and much more to do with serving as a vehicle through which people express their political views and cultural preferences. There are several themes sometimes associated with Confederate heritage that come through in these declarations, much as other themes woven throughout Confederate heritage reappear in the claims made by critics of Confederate heritage (think slavery, folks: there’s no Confederacy without it).

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Defeat in Danville

While most of the nation watched last night as voters in Indiana dealt a death blow to one presidential candidate’s campaign while keeping alive the fantasies of another, a few people focused on a city council election held in Danville, Virginia, best known as the last capital of the Confederacy. Running for reelection were three council members who had supported the removal of a Confederate outside the Sutherlin Mansion, otherwise known as the last Confederate White House, where Jefferson Davis learned of the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant.

The Virginia Flaggers were out in force on this one:

Flaggers Danville election

Well, the results are in, and the Flaggers are not happy. So much for #novotesforturncoats. Exactly why these three people are “turncoats” is another matter altogether, but never let reality get in the way of a snappy turn of praise … like “Restore the honor.”

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A Virginia Flagger Urges Assassination

Willie Earl Wells is a rather visible member of the Virginia Flaggers. He’s a favorite subject of the group’s photographer, Judy Smith.

Wells FB

Like many other people who like to run around in Confederate uniforms, Mr. Wells likes to pretend he belongs to the artillery branch. There are far more Confederate artillerists today than there were during the war, I guess.

So guess what Mr. Wells suggests ought to be done when it comes to the Confederate monument controversy in Louisville, Kentucky?

Wells Placed Sniper
Courtesy Restoring the Honor (link above)

We can’t wait for the Virginia Flaggers to disavow this threat of violence.