Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Second American Revolution

1863 (Source)
No, that isn't a map of the Presidential Primaries. It is a depiction of the United States in 1863, in the midst of what I now like to call The Second American Revolution.
revolution
noun | rev·o·lu·tion | \ˌre-və-ˈlü-shən\

Simple Definition of revolution
    : the usually violent attempt by many people to end the rule of one government and start a new one

    : a sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc.

    : the action of moving around something in a path that is similar to a circle
(Source

1861 to 1865 was the bloodiest period of our history in which 900,000+ Americans died. (Some 50,000 of whom were civilians.)

I was reminded of this conflict recently when I saw yet another article in the press whereby some group of so-called "social justice warriors" is clamoring for the removal of another monument commemorating the Confederacy. I also started watching Ken Burns' award winning mini-series The Civil War. (I too was surprised that I hadn't watched it before. It came out in 1990, I was still State-side at the time, in Nebraska. Not sure how I missed it back then. Anyhoo, I'm watching it now.)

Why do I call it The Second American Revolution? Well, we all know of the first one, the one most Americans refer to simply as The Revolution. That was a violent, and ultimately successful, attempt to end the rule of the British crown and establish a new nation with a new form of government.

South Carolina, triggered by the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860, voted to secede from the Union in December of that year. Other states followed but open hostilities had yet to begin.

Then, on the 12th of April, 1861, Confederate batteries in Charleston, South Carolina, under the direction of P.G.T. Beauregard, opened fire on Fort Sumter. Thus propelling what had been a political squabble over States rights into revolution. The South's stated goal was to break free from the Federal government in Washington, DC and create a new government, form a new nation. That is, by definition, a revolution.

Some have called that time period The Civil War, The War of Northern Aggression, The War of Southern Independence, and of course the ever-popular War Between the States. I'm sure there are other names for the conflict. Being a Northerner I have always heretofore referred to that period from 1861 to 1865 as The Civil War, it's what we were taught in school. Most of those other names were and are used by Southerners. In reality, all of those names have a certain accuracy to them, no matter where you live in these here United States.

Union soldiers before Marye's Heights, Second Fredericksburg. (Source)

I know folks who are still passionate advocates of the Confederacy and believe that "the South shall rise again." Personally I think that tearing the Nation apart was a terrible idea back then and is an even worse idea in this day and age. In Europe that was called Balkanization, the process of "breaking up (a region or group) into smaller and often hostile units." (Source)

I understand the urge, I understand why the South wanted to get out from underneath what they saw as the oppressive hand of the Federal government. I also suspect that most of the common folk in the South didn't really give a damn about what the politicians and the wealthy were all upset about. Would a simple farmer in Alabama really give a rat's ass over whether or not slavery would be allowed in a new territory or not?

Well, he might if he was black.

As a child we were taught that The Civil War was fought to "free the slaves." Not in the beginning it wasn't, though that did become the cause célèbre in the latter part of the war. But only in the North. Most Southerners didn't own slaves. Most Northerners had no love for those of African descent but would hoot and holler for freedom for the slaves as long as they didn't move into their neighborhood.

Plus ça change...

Now I don't know how accurate the movie Gangs of New York is (well, it's Hollywood, not Princeton, you decide), but I recall the scene where the Irish are coming off the boat in New York Harbor and being talked into joining up to "fight for freedom." From what I gather, being Irish in the 1860s wasn't much better than being black. Yes, yes, I know, being a slave is far worse. But tell that to a factory worker in the North. A pittance for wages and long hours. (At least you couldn't be sold to another factory. I think.)

At any rate, the real point of today's post is that folks should leave those Confederate monuments alone. They commemorate the men who fought and died for their beliefs. Just as those in the North did. To the men who shouldered a rifled musket in the South the war was about being left alone. Georgia wasn't Michigan and still isn't. There are some things best left at the state and local level.

Don't sell short the men who fought and died for the South. They were, after all, Americans who were standing up for what they perceived as their rights and their freedom. We should honor them for that. At the very least.

Speaking of movies and the Irish. I recall a scene in the film Gods and Generals, the battle of Fredericksburg. A regiment made up of Irishmen wearing Union blue are advancing on Marye's Heights, facing them is an Irish unit in Confederate butternut and gray. Men from a foreign country, coming to this country to escape tyranny are killing each other. For two versions of freedom.

If you can watch this clip with a dry eye, I fear for your soul...



It truly was brother against brother.

Let's not do that again. Shall we?

Oh, and leave the war memorials alone. Let the honored dead rest in peace.

Confederate dead on Marye's Heights. Second Fredericksburg. (Source)



I'm not sure what's got me so riled up these days. I reckon I'll get down off my soapbox eventually. Be patient...


44 comments:

  1. I agree, but those monuments have been hijacked to represent something other than their original intent and the political correct malarkey has gathered too much steam. They will come down, but history won't be buried.

    The Civil War was the worst and stupidest war we have ever fought. 900,000 men died, how many more maimed, how much property destroyed. What was gained in stopping succession? I think the states if left alone would have merged again, slavery would have ended shortly anyway and assimilation of blacks been smoother, the Federal Government would be a bit less powerful and I'm not sure that would be a bad thing.

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    1. I hope the "bring the monuments down" crowd gets stopped. They have no right.

      Won't disagree with your view of the war, politicians on both sides made increasingly stupid decisions, then a lot of people died. Which sums up most wars when you think about it.

      The Feds have far too much power now.

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  2. Burns' film introduced to a wide audience the haunting musical sounds of "Ashokan Farewell".

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    1. Just thinking of it sends a shiver up my spine. Beautiful and poignant it is.

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    2. I hate that piece of music. For some reason Burns ignored the wealth of music from the period to use a 1980s piece that was composed as a good night waltz for a fiddle camp. Now generations will think that a real piece from the War of 1861.

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    3. I still like it, but I know it's not from that period.

      You're last point is spot on though. We have to careful how we educate the masses, they've grown far too used to pablum.

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  3. Good essay and that from this born and bred southerner.I will tell you that every time our current "Administration" comes out with another edict from on high concerning how I live my life, I feel twinge of sympathy for Jefferson Davis.

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  4. Growing up with the grandchildren of Confederate veterans, I got a college level course in d---yankees and the Great Unpleasantness. Yes, I was really into my teen years before I realized d---yankee was two words. One quote I remember from that series, "That war defined us as a nation, and still does to this day." I agree with joeh. I'm sure slavery would have died it's own death... eventually.

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    1. Any understanding of this nation has to be based and I mean really based on the understanding of Civil War. I believe that firmly, it defined us. The revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars began with the first World War did what it did, but the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became — good and bad things. - Shelby Foote

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  5. The Constitution is a contract. If you politicians follow these rules, We, The People, will ALLOW you to govern us. As with any contract, abrogation of the contract by either side renders it null and void. I'm pretty sure that the Constitution does not provide for a bureaucrat to make a rule, not approved by the legislature and signed by the President that has Felony penalties (EPA among others). I could go on for hours and would be wasting my breath. The people that understand the Constitution and believe in their oath to support and defend it, do not need convincing. The people that understand the Constitution and don't give a damn won't be persuaded. And the people who just want free stuff, won't listen.

    At some point, whether on a school playground or later, you've just got to stand up to bullies with a stout resolve. I'm afraid we're getting damn close to that point. God help us all.

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    1. In 1775 the Colonies stood up to Britain saying, "That's it, we've had enough, goodbye." The United States was born.

      In 1861 the South stood up to the Federal government saying, "That's it, we've had enough, goodbye." The Confederacy fell, leading to years of bitterness and distrust. The Spanish-American War of 1898 helped to heal some of those wounds, but not all.

      Now we have many people beginning to say, "That's it, we've had enough..." While no one has said "Goodbye" yet, it is on a lot of minds. Changes are necessary, Federal power must be curtailed and limited as laid out in the Constitution. Taking any other route benefits only evil.

      Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8

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    2. Well said, both of you. At the time of the War of 1861 (my own way of referring to that conflict) most scholars of the Constitution, and most politicians, thought that secession was a legal, constitutional option. New England had threatened to leave the Union 3 or 4 times before 1860, no one said those states couldn't leave.

      Was it a smart thing to do? No. Even one of the texts used at West Point that said it was a constitutionally protected option said it was a pretty stupid thing to try.

      We all hear about "southern batteries firing on Ft. Sumter" but never seem to question WHY they did. Just one fine spring morning they, for no reason started blasting away. Well, it was a bit more involved than that. Lincoln, in his zeal "to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts" refused to remove federal troops from territory owned by SC, which had observed the law and peacefully left the Union. Lincoln not only refused to remove his troops but was attempting to reinforce them. Just a bit provocative.

      That the South could not win a war of any length was a foregone conclusion, it lacked not only the manufacturing resources and raw materials, but also the manpower. As one television hero said of a fictional conflict, "May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."

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    3. Those of us who study history understand why Beauregard's guns fired.

      Those of us who have stood on that ground are still saddened by it. Charleston seems far too lovely a place for a war to break out, but it did. South Carolina was pushed too far. At that point politicians on both sides had let things go too far.

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    4. It's completely wrong to say that Fort Sumter and other Federal property belonged to the states. The Federal government cedes control of land to the states and vice versa as time goes by. The Confederates couldn't unilaterally claim that property after giving up control, no matter where it was, unless it was being used to attack them, which it was not.

      And the Confederacy WAS "the wrong side." All you have to do is to look at several states' secession proclamations, and you'll see over and over why this war was fought: slavery. While Lincoln in the beginning was smart enough to wrap the war in the garb of "Union," both sides know then and now that without slavery it would never have happened.

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    5. I will concede the points.

      I believe much the same myself. I do have issues with the Federal Government meddling in the affairs of the individual states. More so these days than in the 19th Century.

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  6. Something that bothers me greatly is what I've seen in Alabama. Visited Selma, AL. There is an interpretive area, run down and filled with trash. Seems those who benefited from the sacrifices made there can't be bothered to honor those who sacrificed by keeping up the area. Probably expect the gumberment to do it. Elsewhere in Alabama, and other areas in the South, the Confederate cemeteries are still being maintained. When I asked, I was told volunteers do most of the upkeep. Seems to me the Black Lives Matter crowd want to tear things down but are too damn lazy to keep anything up.

    They will call me racist. Fine, I know I'm not and I don't give a rat's hind end what they think. Show me something positive, eh.

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    1. My experiences are similar.

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    2. There is a similar situation in Knoxville, TN. The SCV chapter I belong to performs clean-up at he Confederate Cemetery there. On one side of that one is a Catholic cemetery and is immaculately (see what I did there) maintained. On the other side of the Confederate, is the Odd Fellows Cemetery. Since before my time here, it has been over run by trees and vegetation. Many of the graves are sunk in. Only recently some volunteers have worked to clear out the growth and the city may have been the sponsoring entity.

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  7. Excellent blog, so very well said. I would love to see this on the evening news.
    Of course we know the mainstream media would never allow such a thing to happen
    but I can dream can't I?

    And you're last statement was the best:

    "Oh, and leave the war memorials alone. Let the honored dead rest in peace."

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    1. Thanks Russ.

      One can always dream...

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  8. Excellent as usual. Correct as usual. But, as a first generation american, that stuff about the reason, slavery, was userped from states rights, which had been already settled by several mini revolts. Whiskey rebellion and etc... My namesake, wanted them to talk it out, diplomatically.
    You tear down a memorial, ban a flag, you rewrite history to forget the causes, to reformate the revolution. A shame to relegate the nation to the dustbin.

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    1. Rewriting history is never a good idea. For the very reasons you state.

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  9. The reason why I simply cannot see Lincoln as a hero is because he caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people because he could not take 'No' for an answer.

    The South was adamant about making the decision themselves. I have no doubt it would have been made as the nation evolved toward the industrial revolution. Slavery would have been outlawed as the US traded with more and more nations as we grew - the CSA would have been a pariah - Britain and France [Germany / Prussia and Russia] would not have traded with them as time evolved - and

    Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave. It only freed slaves in areas under rebellion. We used to own a home in Beaufort, SC - which was captured in November 1861 in the Battle of Port Royal - so NONE of the slaves working the low country cotton fields were freed on January 1, 1863 - that is the only place in the nation where blacks do not revere the memory of Lincoln.

    This all brings us to today where the issue is overreach by the Federal government - the limited powers of the federal government having been rendered empty by the necessary and proper clause, the federal purse and the interstate commerce clause.

    Yes Sarge, I do see another one coming - Texas and Georgia perhaps will leave, followed by Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, maybe Wyoming and Idaho.

    The rest of the states are too deeply embedded on the teat of Washington to even consider leaving. Will present an interesting challenge to the military stationed in those states - which government do you support? And why. And will DC fight for those places?

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    1. Well put Joe.

      You have put into words my greatest fear, a third, perhaps even more violent, American Revolution.

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    2. I think this time - the Feds would never kill people over states trying to leave [their words because secession is impossible according to the US Government]

      I think what they would do is tax them - pay your share of the federal debt and we will let you go and then trade heavily with you - and tax those imports as well. Can you imagine Barack Obama sending federal troops to 'reclaim' Texas?

      What I see happening is half the military [officers and enlisted] throwing their loyalty over to the new country - especially if they have ties to those states. . . . can you imagine if Pentagon lost Texas? Most of the nukes are there . . . .

      I don't see a lot of blood shed over it so long as they new nation is willing to pay some tribute. ...

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    3. There would be a lot of bloodshed. We don't live in a vacuum. What a playground that would be for Daesh, China, Russia, and any number of other bad actors.

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    4. I would pray that YPKM would be right and leaving emotion out of it, probably would be. However, I think Sarge's option is more likely.

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    5. Has there ever been a nation birthed with no bloodshed involved?

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  10. What I have experienced is, that being a son of the South, we are proud of our heritage, both as Rebels and Americans. Some of the most ferocious battle of the First Revolution were in the South I dare say that you will find no stronger belief and pride in America today than in the South. A quote I've used many times. "I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy." This by Richard "Shotgun" Weeks, a Vet of the US Air Force like yourself. Following his retirement he turned his love of history and heritage to a Civil War Blog( http://www.civilwarhome.com/ ) Sadly he passed away 3 years ago. The full quote puts it all in focus "I am not a reenactor, a Civil War expert, nor a historian, I'm just a simple old warrior who served in the uniform of this country's military for 22 years, in both peace and war, that loves to discuss all aspects of the late "Rebellion." It is my firm conviction that if one understands what caused the war, how the war was conducted, and the Reconstruction Years that followed, one will know what this country is about. I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy."

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    1. Well said.

      There is much to learn from our history. All aspects of it, not just the "winning" side.

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  11. They claim the Civil War ended the question of whether States have the right to secede, and that they do not.
    They are wrong.

    While the South failed in their attempt due to military might, the fact remains that States DO have the right.
    This right is proven true in to ways;

    1) The US Constitution is completely silent on the topic of State Secession. Thus according to the 10th Amendment...

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"...

    Shows that the States, and the people have the right if they so choose as no authority to determine that right is granted to the Federal government nor is it denied to the States or people.


    2) Secession is what our very Declaration of Independence is all about. To wit;

    "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."


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    1. Re: a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism

      You've been paying attention I see...

      I would prefer to see such a "throw off" occur at the ballot box, but...

      We shall see.

      (Excellent points all.)

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    2. That last line is one of my favorites from the Declaration. "...it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government,..."

      Mr. Jefferson didn't mince words there. Yes, we have the right to throw off such a government. However, we have a duty to throw off such government, a requirement. This will not end well for the DC crowd, I'm afraid, if they keep on this course.

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    3. Things could get, shall we say, "messy."

      We should always remember that our first duty is to the Constitution, not to a bunch of raggedy-ass politicians!

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  12. It is one of my great regrets that during my lifetime I have watched the educational system in this country change dramatically. When I was young patriotism was in favor and American history was taught in every school. Students were required to have at least a functional knowledge of the historical perspective that led to the present. Today, it seems that the average college student or young American has no clue whatsoever about history.
    They can recite, in depth, the amorous affairs of every singer, musician, television personality and Hollywood celebrity, but they probably can’t name more than two, or three, American presidents. They can’t name the nations that were our allies, or our enemies, in either World War. And most of them are totally illiterate concerning the Civil War.
    But far too many of them are quick to condemn the actions of men one hundred and fifty years ago based on nothing more than their highly biased views of “what is right” in accordance with societal mores today. It is absolutely impossible to have any real understanding of history without fully understanding the historical and societal perspective of the period.
    Much of the problem is caused by the failure of an education system that has taken on a decidedly leftward cant and which appears to demonize anyone, and anything, that doesn’t conform to the liberal agenda. Unfortunately, as George Santayana said “those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

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    1. Santayana, aye.

      The only way to understand the actions of historical figures is to understand the context of the times in which those actions occurred. Another problem manifesting itself in today's society is the wrong-headed belief that morality is relative.

      I concur with your assessment of the educational system. That, I believe, is no accident.

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  13. Thanks and thanks again, Sarge!
    I've long maintained that the War was a Second Revolution; indeed, many Confederate leaders framed it in just those terms. AFAIK, a civil war is a conflict in which 2 or more belligerents vie for control of a country's government. My forefathers didn't want Washington, D.C., except insofar as taking it would end the war, and give them their independence.
    I've explained it to folks in terms of the Boy Scouts vs. the Mafia. You join the Scouts & decide to leave, you go on your way. You join the Mafia & decide to leave, you go, but their way--& it's fatal. No state would have ratified the Constitution if told they would have no option of leaving the confederation.
    Leave the monuments alone. Remember Santayana's maxim.
    --Tennessee Budd

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    1. Thanks TB.

      I like your Boy Scouts / Mafia analogy.

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  14. Sarge,
    I've not spent much time south of the Mason-Dixon line. In 1980 the wife and I drove through on the way from NH to Dallas, TX . . . and then back. That was it. I got to know many, many Southerners during my years associated with the military. Never detected any hostile thoughts.
    Wrote this blog piece back in 2009:

    http://jmawelsh.blogspot.com/2011/07/23-jun-09.html

    Wrote this a couple of weeks ago while just doodling around:


    Once . . .

    We had each other's back

    What became of us?

    Why this racial divide?

    This is in no way part of the nation I held dear

    This is not the way living in America should be

    Where once we stood shoulder to shoulder

    A wedge has been driven

    Deep . . .

    By circumstance, mistrust, by ignorance

    What to do?

    What to do?

    We must retake the high ground . . .

    Ground that's been ceded to bigots

    With small minds in smaller heads

    Seeking to steer public thought

    Home from the war doesn't mean

    Free from the fight

    Come

    Raise up your buckler

    Don that steel helm

    There's a fight yet to win

    There's work to be done

    A nation in need.

    We were soldiers . . .

    Once


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  15. You're doing yeoman's work from up there Sarge. Good on ya.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)