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Why do present-day Southerners have such passion for the 'Lost Cause?'

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by unionblue, Jul 31, 2002.

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  1. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    This is a new one for me as I have been pretty content to sit back and wait for Oldreb to put forth his ideas on secession, etc. and then try to slap them down.

    I know it has entertained and amused most of you and may have caused some distress with a few of you on this board.

    But now I put a serious question to all who find sympathy with the cause of the South during the War of the Rebellion. Why?

    Why such passion and such a fervent belief in that the cause of the South was somehow right? Why do you think secession was proper and just? Especially when it was so long ago and is so remote from your present day life. And why do you have such deep passions about the subject?

    Unionblue
     

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  3. oldreb

    oldreb Guest

    Just because ****it.

    regards
     
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  4. jgallagher109

    jgallagher109 Cadet

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    For the record, nothing my friend Oldreb has said has ever distressed me - Ron, you've got just the right blend of sincerity with a good sense of humor (this last indispensible)...and that's the last compliment I'm paying you today!
    (gotta run, sorry I don't have more time for your actual question Neil..)
    Jim
     
  5. tamaroa

    tamaroa Cadet

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    I May have already bored you to death with this little tome but It fits in with the question asked so here goes. If you want a flavor of why the Confederate soldier fought and why southerners today admire them read a book called Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz. It is a terrific book about a hard core re-enactor and some of the antics they go through visiting places of all kinds in the south.

    In the book, the author notes that 2% of all Northerners had ancestors who fought in the war while, 6% of southerners had relatives who fought in the war. That's where it starts but it by no means ends there.

    I lived in Virginia for 7 years or so. I loved the history, the people the state. My wife had to drag me kicking and screaming from there to New York. While in college there, I researched a paper which required interviewing people about the Civil War. One man's father had fought in the 11th Virginia. Another man had an Aunt whose mother was Jeb Stuart's nanny/maid. These people are still very close to the war. Not just generationally but physically as well.

    Remember the south was laid prostrate at the end of the war. No other section of the country went through what southerner's did. Hell, would you forget what happened?

    I had a distant relative from North Carolina, a dirt farmer from Mecklinburg, join the Confederate Army. He died at the age of 23 at Gettysburg. I admire him a great deal. He gave his life for his country. I am not interested in politics or why he did it except to say that I honor his memory for fighting for a cause that he believed in. No letters survive so I can't tell you why he fought. He had one horse and no slaves. that much I do know. And he died at Gettysburg. He died at the place where every southern boy dreamed about decades ago.

    He fought against all odds and he was unlucky as well. You see, the one horse he had was shot out from under him when he was in the 1st NC Cavalry. He could not afford another horse, so he was transferred to the infantry (37th NC) and 30 days later was KIA. Who knows what my family missed out on because of his untimely death.

    Below is General Stephen D. Lee's charge to the Sons of confederate Veteran' in 1896.

    "To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we submit the vindication of the Cause for which we fought; to your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier's good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles he loved and which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Remember, it is your duty to see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations."

    Regards,

    Bill
     
  6. jgallagher109

    jgallagher109 Cadet

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    Great, great post Bill. I'm came online tonight to follow up on Neil's question, and was going to mention Horwitz's book as well, but the rest of my words would have fallen far short of the eloquence of what you just wrote.

    Best Regards,

    Jim
     
  7. longstreetlass

    longstreetlass Cadet

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    Dearest Sirs,

    I am moved by your question and answers.

    I asked my mother once when I was a child if being a soldier and having to kill people in war was considered "killing." My mother said that soldiering is not the same as the biblical sin of killing and that there was a special heaven for soldiers. (Now you CWTalk warriors will be glad of that!)

    Anyway, I agree with Shelby Foote who said that the Civil War defined us and showed us who we are. I am still pondering that one.

    Fondly,

    LongstreetLass
     
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  8. minie57

    minie57 Cadet

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    As a Red Sox Fan I understand the psychology behind this.

    Seriously, when you have a group of people, and henceforth their ancestors, who fought for a cause and a way of life and despite their best efforts lost. (Waiting for a response to that) The passions about this would and no doubt should run high.
     
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  9. blackirish

    blackirish Cadet

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    One of my friends that I work with is from Minnesota. I was born and raised in the deep south. I have lived most of my life here and would not willingly go anywhere else. This friend who is from Minnesota was discussing his daughter's history class and was somewhat shocked at the amount of time spent studying this period. He seemed puzzled by the emphasis the school placed on this period of history. He knew I was a keen student of history but was suprised to learn that most of the people in our group who were from the south were intimately aquainted with this period of history as well.
    The south saw a social upheaval as a result of the war that never touched the north. Every soldier and soldier's family in the north was of course affected but in the south EVERYONE was affected. The whole social structure of the south was turned upside down in a mannner that still has ramifications today. People who had land, money, and property in the south previous to the war lost it as a result. The economic system that the south was built upon was destroyed in one decade. As is often the case in economic disasters, the lowest levels of society bore the brunt of the collapse. While the plantation owners and large planters suffered and lost their fortunes, the small farmers lost everything. There was no segment of the south that was not affected intimately by the war and reconstruction.
    Bill points out that 6% of the people in the south have relatives that fought in the war. I would also point out that 100% of the people in the south in 1865 suffered as a result of the war.
    There was a term when I was growing up to describe the political fallout from the Civil War that still is in evidence in the south. A "yellow-dog democrat" is how many people described their political persuasion. A "yellow-dog democrat" would vote for a yellow dog providing he was a Democrat and was running against a Republican.
    The governor's race in Alabama was in point of fact the Democratic primary. The Republican's always ran a candidate but it was only a formality until the 1970's.
    To take this one step further, imagine how this discontent is magnified when someone is intimately aquainted with the thoughts of a relative who fought and died on the Confederate side through letters or a journal. If great-grandfather bravely gave his life for a cause it simply must have been just.
    I think these are the basic reasons for the passion and almost religious reverance for Confederate symbols. I know that the war is much closer to southerners in general because of the economic afteraffects that are still in evidence in the south today.

    blackirish
     
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  10. tamaroa

    tamaroa Cadet

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    Rick,
    Slightly off subject, do you think that young Woodrow Wilson growing up in the reconstructed south may have had his opinions of war colored by what he saw as a young man; consequently, transferring a distaste of war to the situation in Europe delaying our entry into WW1?

    just curious,

    Bill
     
  11. longstreetlass

    longstreetlass Cadet

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    Blackirish,

    Thank you for your eloquence and passion.

    Having grown up in the North, I can say that so much is taken for granted. If any word I know could be applied to the North, even today, it is "careless." We have grown so competitive as a culture, and losing is bad and having little money is bad. Few people understand the pleasure of "porch sittin'" with your neighbor, or just "sittin'."

    Recently, back for a visit to the rural community in which I grew up, I sat out in the front yard, which looks out on a vista of cornfields, of the house of the old church superintendent, now 90 years old, and we just "sat."

    I don't remember much of what we talked about, which was probably not real important. When I thought to look at my watch, because I was supposed to be at my mother's house for lunch, it was 5:00 p.m.!

    Anyway, I believe that some of us miss simpler living and working at home. The South stayed rural for a long time after the War, so even us rural northerners have similar yearnings. The North's mad industrialization and now post-industrialization have left many of us wondering how we can retrieve that lost quality of life.


    LongstreetLass
     
  12. kyreb

    kyreb Cadet

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    Just wanted to add a few thoughts on this subject. I have often wondered why I feel so strongly. But the more I study and learn the more "southern" I become. Think of Vicksburg and those women and children living in caves while being bombed and starved and wonder how anyone who had family there could forget. All those brave men and women of the south who gave up their homes and even their lives. To add injury to insult, today if you want to honor those brave souls, you are branded "unAmerican" or a racist. NO I will never forget.
     
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  13. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    BJ Hayden, honoring brave souls and your ancestors is one thing. But the passion at which persons born in the 20th century adopt the ideals of the cause of secession as to almost make it a religion is what is puzzling to me.

    Unionblue
     
  14. creed

    creed Cadet

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    I'd like to add a question to this posting. How have books (such as Gone with the Wind) and film added to or detracted to the "Lost Cause" myth? Women, in particular, are drawn to the "Gone with the Wind" ideas of chivalry, duty and honor. Noble ideas they are, but yet, if you really look at how people lived in those days, you will find evidence of a "Gone with the Wind" society less and less. Only the plantation class could afford the grand clothing and afluent mannerisms. For the lesser gentry, life was a bit harder. From my readings, the plantation class, for all their high strutting, were probably a bit more immoral than the "commoners" they looked down upon. I think that the truth of what life then actually was may actually be stranger than the fiction depicted in cinema and literature.
     
  15. tamaroa

    tamaroa Cadet

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    Want to know what life was really like? First read Booker T. Washington's autobiography "Up From Slavery," Apply a dose of slight jaundice to counteract some of his musings, please. Its a great book, but when you read it you can't help but think he is pandering somewhat to the white populace of the time. Nevertheless it gives you an idea of life on a tobacco farm in Virginia in the 1850's and beyond.

    Here is the National Park service Site:

    http://www.nps.gov/bowa/home.htm
     
  16. sf46

    sf46 Corporal

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    I don't know that I necessarily agreed with secession, but I do think that State's Rights was a valid issue then and still is today. In recent years, many states (and not just Southern ones) have had state's rights issues, as well as Sovreignty Declarations. I think Oklahoma just did one recently. The unfunded Federal mandates issue is another example of state's rights coming back to the forefront.

    What I found strange was when talk came about of a U.S. Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, many liberals cried that this should be an individual state's rights issue, yet these same folks were against state's rights during the Civil Rights era in the 1960's.
     
  17. TerryB

    TerryB Major

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    Many of us grew up hearing stories about great great grampaw eating rats in a prison camp up North, or how they rode in and took all the horses, pigs and cows. There is even an expression in Middle Tennessee I heard a lot when visiting my grandparents. If you saw a bunch of kinfolks coming up the road like a hungry army needing a meal you said, "Oh, Lordy, here comes Bragg's Army!" You in the North have few, if any, such folk memories. Maybe you have someone who dodged Morgan's raiders or watched Lee go through Pennsylvania like it was a Walmart that took Confederate money, but that's about it. Those folk memories we have die hard. I have a friend at work who was in the Korean War. He hails from New York and later Michigan. He doesn't understand it either, and I have to explain it to him all the time. I understand the Indian nations out West have similar, much stronger bitterness in their own folk memories. In a way, listening to Northerners tell us what we ought to believe is like listening to Rush Limbaugh tell black folks who their leaders ought to be. (He don't like Jesse or Al, but it ain't up to him, now is it?)
     
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  18. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011 Honored Fallen Comrade

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    Neal, as we have oft discussed, it ain't so simple. You have to FEEL the warmth of Southern blood in your veins to understand. You have confessed to having a bit of that, but I suspect you are blessed with some northern serpentine characteristics. Please don't ask me to explain that one; not sure I could. It's more of a commonality of spirit than anything else. None of us, as least the folks I know, worry too much about slavery or northern agression, we merely celebrate the courage and energy of our ancestors who made a serious effort at defending their beliefs whatever that might have been. Not so many folks, even in 1861, were convinced secession was a good idea. N.B. Forrest, as an example was against such a silly notion, as well he should have been. What he did, and many a Southern soldier by his side, was defend their homeland and their existence in a troubled land and time. It is my belief that is the spirit we celebrate, little else.
     
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  19. sf46

    sf46 Corporal

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    I'll give an Amen on that!
     
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  20. atthelevy

    atthelevy Corporal

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    The war was far more devastating in every way to the South. Reconstruction was a long nightmare as someone previously mentioned the South still suffers from in some ways. But I think in a way it has a lot to do with pride, while Southern culture is beautiful I am not sure that trumps a devastating defeat. The South lost everything. Being the loser in any conflict leaves a very deep wound and it is obviously passed on through generations. The grudges from Civil wars can be carried on for a long time as can be seen in Africa and in the Balkans. Although we are all Americans the Cultural difference between North and South are still very evident to anyone who is familiar with both . I have personally witnessed that Northerners adapt better to the South than Southerners to the North. Except those who study the Civil war most Northerners really don't think about it much, its not ingrained in Northern culture the way it is in the South.
    You still see "Souths gonna Rise" signs and tattoos and bumper stickers in the South- there is no equivalent to that in the North ie " We kicked your rebel ***" or "you were on your Knees at Appomattox". No one really gives a ****. Maybe because half the North are descendants from people who immigrated after the Civil war? People from Poland don't move to Birmingham they move to Chicago . They have other grudges and have Polish Power bumper stickers. It seems the "winners" have moved on because aside from soldiers deaths the North really didn't suffer that much and no one has a vested interest.
     
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  21. catspjamas

    catspjamas First Sergeant

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    It's in our veins and our culture. We are descended from the men who fought, we heard the stories from our grandparents and great-grandparents about fighting the war, and the effects after the war. Many families have great-granddaddy's rifle, pistol, or sword he used in the war. My confederate heritage is as much a part of me as my german heritage. And throughout the south are memorials to the men and women who served. Not to mention all the battlefields. When I was in the 8th grade, during a study of NC history there was a long section about Wilmington's role in the war, and a field trip to Fort Fisher. The effects of the war reach into my childhood. A report had come out in the 1960s about the poor conditions of schools in the south, how they lagged behind the north. I remember the discussions of how the south had to rebuild it's economy because of the devastation of the war and reconstruction, and it really didn't start going good until WWII. Even the naming of Fort Bragg after Braxton Bragg set off a controversy.

    I've been to the UDC's national conventions, we have chapters in every state. The ladies from the northern chapters may have confederate ancestors, but they're still yankees. They may talk about the "lost cause" but it's something they learned about, not something they were born with.
     

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