Restricted War icons conjure up a bitter past

samgrant

Captain
Retired Moderator
Joined
Jul 9, 2005
Location
Galena, Illinois 61036 U.S.A.
War icons conjure up a bitter past

From the Confederate battle flag to statues, Texas tries to come to terms with legacy that hasn't much gray area

By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
Published February 11, 2007


AUSTIN, Texas -- The Civil War ended nearly 142 years ago, for most of the country anyway, but bitter battles over how zealously that war should be remembered are suddenly erupting here in the Texas capital.

First, rock musician Ted Nugent wore a shirt featuring the Confederate battle flag--a banner sometimes employed by Southern white supremacist groups--at the Jan. 16 inaugural ball for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, prompting criticism from civil rights groups.

A few days later, the state's elected land commissioner, arguing for a more "balanced" view of history, marked Confederate Heroes Day--an official state holiday commemorating Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday--by accepting a donation from the Descendants of Confederate Veterans for an archive preservation project.

Over at the flagship campus of the University of Texas, officials said they will soon convene a committee to decide what, if anything, to do about four statues of Confederate leaders, including Lee and President Jefferson Davis, that greet visitors at the main campus entrance.

A state district judge in Austin is weighing a challenge to the removal from the Texas Supreme Court building of two plaques that commemorated the Confederacy.

And all of this is occurring in the shadow of the towering Texas state Capitol, where several statues and inscriptions honor the sacrifices of soldiers who fought to defend states' rights--and the rights of Southerners to keep black slaves.

"It's confounding, this continuing idolatry of the Confederacy," said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas branch of the NAACP and a persistent critic of Confederate nostalgia, "because if you cut it to its very essence, what's being said by the symbolism is that the Old South was right and slavery was OK."

Not true, countered Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, whose great-grandfather was a corporal in the Confederate Army.

"Many believe the War Between the States was solely about slavery and [that] the Confederacy is synonymous with racism," Patterson wrote in an op-ed article in January. "That conclusion is faulty, because the premise is inaccurate."

Conflicted emotions

The Civil War has long conjured deeply conflicted--if seldom expressed--emotions across the American South, variously evoking feelings of pride, shame, grievance and outrage depending on the role of one's ancestors. The recent controversies in Texas have shown those emotions to be as raw as ever.

The essential conundrum: Is it possible to honor the nobility of individuals who were engaged in an ignoble cause?

To Bledsoe, and many African-Americans, the answer is clearly no.

"You don't walk through a Jewish neighborhood waving a swastika and say, `I just want to do this because my great-uncle fought for the Nazis and I'm proud of the fact that he reached the rank of general,'" said Bledsoe, an Austin attorney. "What the Nazis did was wrong. And fighting to enslave human beings was wrong. The Confederates were fighting for an immoral cause. There is no way you can change that."

Larry Faulkner, a former president of the University of Texas, reached a similar conclusion with regard to the Confederate statues on campus when debate over possibly removing them began in 2004, near the end of his tenure.

"There is no question that many from all races interpret some of our statues as displaying a kind of institutional nostalgia for the Confederacy and its values," Faulkner wrote in an open letter to the campus. "Most who receive that message are repelled."

In fact, the Confederate leaders depicted in the bronze statues--Lee, Davis, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston and Postmaster General John H. Reagan--had nothing at all to do with the university, which opened nearly 20 years after the end of the Civil War. The statues were commissioned by a university benefactor early in the 20th Century.

But even the suggestion that statues or plaques commemorating Confederate history ought to be removed--or that there is anything wrong with celebrating Confederate Heroes Day, or donning Confederate regalia--riles Confederate descendants' groups and Patterson, the only elected official in Texas who has publicly endorsed their cause.

To them, the secession of the 11 Confederate states was about more than slavery--it was a principled reaction to the North's interference in what Southerners perceived as their sovereign rights. And when the fighting started, they contend, most of their ancestors took up arms in defense of their homes and families, not the institution of slavery.

`Hackles up'

"When you start saying we cannot honor the birthday of Robert E. Lee because he was a Nazi, that's when I get my hackles up," Patterson said in his office, filled with Confederate and other military mementos reflecting his family's five generations of military service. "Probably one of the greatest Americans that ever walked the face of this country was Robert E. Lee, whether you measure him by his military prowess, by his humanity or by his enlightened thought for the 1860s."

Patterson notes, for example, that Lee freed his family's slaves five years after he had inherited them from his father-in-law and that he expressed private opposition to slavery in a letter to his wife in 1856. By contrast, he asserts that President Abraham Lincoln's primary motivation during the Civil War was not freeing the slaves but preserving the Union.

Patterson hastens to add that he does not condone the South's use of slaves. "We had this terrible practice, this indefensible practice," he said. And he agrees that government displays of the Confederate battle flag are inappropriate, given its close association with the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups.

"All too often," Patterson said, "the introduction of a young black man in the South [to that flag] is when a pickup truck blows by and a beer bottle comes flying out and on the back of the bumper is a Confederate battle flag."

But the solution to the Confederate controversy is more, not fewer, public memorials, Patterson said--more memorials honoring African-American and Hispanic leaders, for example.

"We have a disproportionate representation of white history," he said. "Instead of tearing down the monuments of the South, we need to be building monuments of all the folks in the South and in Texas that have been somewhat ignored."

The University of Texas tried that approach in 1999, erecting a statue of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. some distance from the Confederate statues. After the monument was vandalized twice, the university installed security cameras to monitor it.

----------

[email protected]



Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Nashville
From the previous post:

"To them, the secession of the 11 Confederate states was about more than slavery--it was a principled reaction to the North's interference in what Southerners perceived as their sovereign rights. And when the fighting started, they contend, most of their ancestors took up arms in defense of their homes and families, not the institution of slavery."

When, pray tell, will this message ever sink into the heads of those who protest what they perceive to have been much else than the above? Slavery was wrong, but it wasn't the totality of the conflict by a long shot. My opinion and apparently that of some of my friends.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Larry,

Because history tells us otherwise, at least to me and some of my friends.

Mr. Patterson has his opinion on what the war was about, Mr. Bledsoe and Mr. Faulkner have theirs. It will be interesting to note what finally happens.

But I note Confederate statutes in the article are not defaced, and yet Mr. King's is. I wonder why there is so much consternation for a slavery museum on a Civil War battlefield, a Civil Rights Monument in the Capital of Alabama, nor any more room for Black American statues in Richmond. Why can one past be fought for tooth and nail it seems at times and another past be so much opposed?

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

Rad2duhbone53

Corporal
Joined
Feb 23, 2006
Its not so much who's right or who's wrong.It's how much noise you make will determine the end.My Dad had an old saying...." the squeaky wheel gets the oil".The side who WHIIIIIIINES the most will be on top; or try to be.To me the war ended....get on with your life.
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Nashville
Neil, you've probably forgotten more history than I'll ever comprehend. As for your friends, I couldn't say. Relationships between the races and the political interests, as you well know, are woven through our country's past from Oglethorpe in 1619 down in Georgia to the current celebration of Black History Month. Native Americans and Orientals also received far more than their fair share of the turmoil. Not everyone accepted the opportunity to live toghether as one free nation. Many did. I'm pulling for the few who did.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Rad2duhbone53,

The American Civil War is much like the Korean War. I has yet to end and it can still be lost. At the present, the only thing you can say about both historical conflicts is that no one is shooting at the moment.:smile:

Larry, concerning your last post, I find very little to argue about. Except the part that I have forgotten more history than you'll ever comprehend. If you believe that, I got a bridge I can sell you.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Nashville
Black Confederate Pensions in TN

Not trying to fuel the flame, dim as it may be. This is a gleaned message with information concerning the index for Confederate pensions in TN. Regardless of what we may "know" about black soldiers, as you can see the totals were not staggering:

" have in my possession a tattered copy of
the Index to Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications, published in 1964 by the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In the introduction on page vi, quote:

"There are now 16,693 soldiers' applications, 11,180 widow's applications and 285 colored soldiers' applications."

Section three of the book is headed "Colored Soldiers."

The authors were Walter L. Jordan, Director of Archives
and Walker K. Love, Senior Archivist, Search Section. It would seem in their opinion that black applicants were classified as soldiers. It would be interesting to look up the original legislation in Acts of Tennessee, 47th Assembly, 1st Sess., 1891, Ch. LXIV, pp. 150-52, to see if this
sheds further light on the definition of black Confederate soldiers.
---

The Robert D. Powel Camp #1817 put up a veterans' stone for "Doc" Dulaney based on his obituary that he was "a Confederate soldier," and a newspaper account that his son still had the original buttons from his Confederate
uniform. -When his master was captured at Fishing Creek Doc Dulaney was sent home, but then returned to finish out the war, in the service. -His contemporaries regarded him as a Confederate soldier, but he was never mustered in or enrolled, nor did he apply for or collect a pension. Many of those men from East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia who served in the army, paticularly after 1864 were never officially mustered in and had great difficulty in securing their pension rights, as on paper their service did
not exist. I would suggest that if those men who knew them thought they had honorable service and called them a soldier perhaps so should we."
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Nashville
Neil, I've actually purchased about 15 bridges in the last 20 years. Send me some photos of yours.
 

OpnDownfall

Cadet
Joined
Aug 28, 2006
War Icons............ .

THE Cause of the Civil War has been hashed out on many boards and threads.
Most of this controversy can be traced to the north allowing the south to promulgate and emplace the mythos of the "Lost Cause" in the general public, with little opposition. It allowed the south to deny the centrality of slavery to the starting and fighting of the Civil War.
 
Top