Monday, March 12, 2018

Removal of Lee Statue
in New Orleans
On Sunday, March 11, 2018, 60 Minutes aired a story about Confederate monuments. The episode can be viewed online at The Monuments, Clones. The program discusses the usual problems with monuments --- honoring or glorifying Civil War military and public officials, removing monuments in New Orleans and Richmond, the Lost Cause, and opinions of historians on removing the monuments.

General Robert E. Lee opposed monuments and said they would only “keep open the sores of war” and the ill will war engendered, which he thought should be consigned to “oblivion.” <1>

After Lee became president of Washington College, he received many proposals for memorials, but turned them down because he thought they would “anger the victorious Federals.”

General Robert E. Lee
As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated; my conviction is, that <2>
however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.

According to Lee biographer, Jonathan Horn, not only did Lee oppose Confederate monuments, "he favored erasing battlefields from the landscape altogether.

"He even supported getting rid of the Confederate flag after the Civil War ended. He didn't want it flying above Washington College."Lee believed countries that erased visible signs of civil war recovered from conflicts quicker." Horn said Lee "was worried that by keeping these symbols alive, it would keep the divisions alive."<2>

<1>Here's what Robert E. Lee thought about Confederate Monuments, Business Insider
<2>Robert E. Lee discouraged monuments, Washington Post

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"The River of Blood" Battlefield

In the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, Donald Trump added  a flagpole along the river complete with a plaque commemorating the "River of Blood," The club, now known as Trump National Golf Course, is located at 20391 Lowes Island Blvd., Potomac Falls, Virginia. On the course is a plaque in honor of a Civil War battle. The plaque reads as follows:
Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot, “The Rapids”, on the Potomac River. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as “The River of Blood.” 
It is my great honor to have preserved this important portion of the Potomac River!  – Donald John Trump.

"The River of Blood"
The first thing that you notice about the plaque is the battle that "occurred" here is not specified. Next the date of battle is not mentioned. Most Civil War monuments contain a description of the engagement including officers and units involved.  This should raise some concern about its authenticity.  The title "The River of Blood" suggests a large engagement with many casualties. The closest battlefield is northwest of the golf course at Ball's Bluff.

Battle of Ball's Bluff

The Battle of Ball's Bluff took place on October 21, 1861. It is known as the engagement where Edward Dickerson was killed. Baker was a colonel in the Union Army, a US Senator from Oregon, and close friend of President Lincoln. Colonel Baker's force consisted of 1,720 men. Opposing Baker was Nathan G. Evans's 1,709 Confederates. The battle resulted in 921-1,002 Union casualties and the Confederate losses were only 155 (36 killed, 117 wounded, and 2 captured. The Union lost 223 killed, 226 wounded, and 533 captured. Baker was in command of the Third Brigade composed of four infantry regiments from California. Colonel Evans led the Seventh Brigade composed of three Mississippi regiments and one Virginia regiment.

After the battle many Federals, including some of the wounded, were drowned. Bodies floated downriver to Washington and even as far as Mt. Vernon in the days following the battle. These bodies might have turned the river red.

The Historical Record

Unfortunately, according to local historians there was no battle at this site or within eleven miles of the plaque. Actually, the distance between Leesburg (near the Ball's Bluff battlefield site) and Potomac Falls (near the Trump National Golf Club) is 11.6 miles.

In a phone interview with The New York Times, Mr. Trump described himself  as "a big history fan." Reporters from the Times told Trump that many local historians said there was no Civil War battle within 11 miles of the plaque. 

Trump countered with, "That was a prime site for river crossings." "So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot - a lot of them."
People crossed there, so surely, if there was a war, people were shot while crossing. It just makes sense.

Then Mr. Trump questioned the authority of local historians who called his plaque "a fiction."  Mr. Trump asked "How would they know that?" "Were they there?"

Mr. Trump challenged the historians with claims that "numerous historians" had told him that the golf club site was known as the "River of Blood." Regrettably, he said he did not remember their names. Then he said he had not spoken with the historians but "my people"  had talked to them. He refused to identify any of his people who might remember the historians' names.

The plaque and Mr. Trump's responses to The New York Times demonstrate a complete lack of scholarship. He does not name the battle, state the date, describe the combatants and their officers, and fails to identify his "numerous historians."

Neither the Civil War Trust or National Park Service websites mentions the supposed battlefield.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why Virginia Seceded

After P. G. T. Beauregard's Confederate forces captured Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion. For Robert E. Lee, there was little choice. In his resignation letter to General Winfield Scott, Lee wrote: "Save in defense of my native state. I never desire again to draw my sword."
Virginia's Articles of Secession

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers,not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.  
Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the Union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State. 
This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule to be hereafter enacted.
Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the 17th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 
JNO. L. EUBANK, Secretary of Convention
This Secession Ordinance is brief and to the point. It mentions both states' rights and slavery. Slavery is the cause and rights defines Virginia's "legal" ability to secede.

Ordinance of Secession
Date of Secession
South Carolina
2/1/1861 2/23/1861 
4/17/1861 5/23/1861
5/7/1861 6/8/1861
North Carolina

After reviewing the secession documents for each state, the term slave appears 87 times compared with rights that appears 20. It is also interesting that those states that seceded prior to the attack on Fort Sumter, the term slaves appears 86 times compared with the term rights that appears 13 times. Therefore, by their own words the seceding states cited threats to slavery as the reason they left the Union.

Comments on Secession

"If the Cotton States wish to form an independent nation, they have a clear moral right to do so." --- Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, February 23, 1861

"Politically, the Southern leaders have for a long time formed their association with the least intelligent, the least advanced classes in the Free states, and these Southern leaders are those our Catholic population have followed with the most alacrity. This fact proves, on the one hand, that the South represents the lowest order of civilization in the Country, and that Catholics are more easily engaged in supporting it than in supporting the superior civilization represented by the Northern sates." --- Orestes A. Brownson, "Catholic Schools and Education," Brownson's Quarterly Review, January, 1862

"Secession is nothing but revolution." --- Robert E. Lee quoted by Lloyd Lewis in Sherman, Fighting Prophet, 1932

"But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation." --- Robert E. Lee letter to his son Custis, January 23, 1861 

"I must say that I am one of those dull creatures that cannot see the good of secession." --- Robert E. Lee quoted by CS colonel John S. Mosby in The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, 1917 

"The recognition of such a doctrine [of session] is fatal to the existence of any government of the Union: it is death --- its is national suicide."

"I see in the permanent overthrow of the Union, the utter ruin of the South and the complete prostration of all their interests." --- Robert J. Walker, Former US Senator from Mississippi in speech at the Union Meeting in Union Square, New York City, April 20, 1861

"The South had $2,000,000,000 invested in Slaves. It was very natural that they should desire to protect, and not lose this amount of property. Their action in this effort, resulted in War" --- Sterling Cockrill, Alabama Planter, in letter to President Andrew Johnson, September 18, 1865

"Secession is to be justified upon the basis that the States are sovereign." --- Jefferson Davis in resignation speech, January 21, 1861

"But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other -- though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest,forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." --- Alexander Stephens in Cornerstone Speech,  Savannah; Georgia, March 21, 1861

(Source: John D. Wright, The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations ___________________________________________________

Other Opinions of the Cause of the Civil War

Causes of the Civil War | HistoryNet -

Causes Of The Civil War | History Detectives | PBS -

Civil War Facts | Civil War Trust -

Causes of the Civil War a North Georgia Perspective -

Causes The Civil War culminated 80 years of sectional tension -

Causes of the Civil War - Civil War Journeys -
Causes of the Civil War - A Southern Perspective

What Caused the Civil War | Pew Research

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why Texas Seceded?

Slavery in Texas began long before it was a Republic and State. In 1825, there were 443 slaves in Texas. That number ballooned to 5,000 in 1836. The slave population kept growing to reach 11, 323 in 1840, 58,161 in 1850, and 182,566 in 1860.

In 1860 almost twenty-five percent of all white families in Texas owned at least one slave. Texas ranked tenth in total slave population and ninth on plantations along the Gulf Coast and in the East Texas river valleys, where they cultivated cotton, corn, and some sugar. Fifty percent of the slaves worked either alone or in groups of fewer than twenty on small farms ranging from the Nueces to the Red River, and from the Louisiana border to the edge of the western settlements of San Antonio, Austin, Waco, and Fort Worth.
Although most slaves lived in rural areas, more than 1,000 were in Galveston and Houston by 1860, with several hundred in other large towns. Unlike in most southern cities, the number of urban slaves in Texas grew throughout the 1850s. Most worked as house servants or on farms on the edges of towns, but others served as cooks and waiters in hotels, as teamsters or boatmen, or as coachmen and skilled artisans, such as blacksmiths, carpenters, and barbers.
Many communities adopted laws forbidding slaves from having liquor or weapons, from selling agricultural products, hiring their own time, or being hired by free blacks. In rural areas, counties often set up patrols to enforce restrictions on slaves' traveling without passes from planter owners. Urban slaves often had greater freedoms and opportunity. Unlike most southern states, Texas did not explicitly ban education of slaves, but most slave owners did not allow the practice. In 1865, 95% of the slaves were illiterate.
In 1860, mass hysteria ensued after a series of fires erupted throughout the state. Planters had hundreds of slaves arrested and questioned forcefully. Several confessed to a plot by white abolitionists to avenge John Brown's execution by burning food supplies and poisoning slaveowners. Up to 80 slaves and 37 whites may have been executed because of the supposed plot.
In this blog entry, I examine the reasons Texas seceded. The mentions of states' rights and slavery are highlighted.
A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union. 
The government of the United States, by certain joint resolutions, bearing date the 1st day of March, in the year A.D. 1845, proposed to the Republic of Texas, then a free, sovereign and independent nation, the annexation of the latter to the former as one of the co-equal States thereof,
The people of Texas, by deputies in convention assembled, on the fourth day of July of the same year, assented to and accepted said proposals and formed a constitution for the proposed State, upon which on the 29th day of December in the same year, said State was formally admitted into the Confederated Union.
Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated States to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility [sic] and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro [sic] slavery--the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits--a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences [sic] and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States.
By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.
The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refused reimbursement therefor [sic], thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing [sic] than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.
These and other wrongs we have patiently borne in the vain hope that a returning sense of justice and humanity would induce a different course of administration.
When we advert to the course of individual non-slave-holding States, and that [of] a majority of their citizens, our grievances assume far greater magnitude.
The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holdings States in their domestic institutions--a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.
In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon the unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color--a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro [sic] slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.
For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.
By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments.
They have proclaimed, and at the ballot box sustained, the revolutionary doctrine that there is a “higher law” than the constitution and laws of our Federal Union, and virtually that they will disregard their oaths and trample upon our rights.
They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.
They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offences, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.
They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.
They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.
They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.
They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.
And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued [sic] wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.
In view of these and many other facts, it is meet that our own views should be distinctly proclaimed.
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.
By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.
For these and other reasons, solemnly asserting that the federal constitution has been violated and virtually abrogated by the several States named, seeing that the federal government is now passing under the control of our enemies to be diverted from the exalted objects of its creation to those of oppression and wrong, and realizing that our own State can no longer look for protection, but to God and her own sons--We the delegates of the people of Texas, in Convention assembled, have passed an ordinance dissolving all political connection with the government of the United States of America and the people thereof and confidently appeal to the intelligence and patriotism of the freemen of Texas to ratify the same at the ballot box, on the 23rd day of the present month.
Adopted in Convention on the 2nd day of Feby [February], in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one and of the independence of Texas the twenty-fifth.
The document contains twenty-two references to slavery compared to four for states' rights. The Texas and South Carolina articles are the most extensive declarations of causes and both reveal that slavery was the major reason.