The Confederate Monuments Must Come Down

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As you may recall, during the weekend, white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park. And as you know, they clashed with a group of counter-protesters which resulted in 3 people killed and at least 35 wounded. Nevertheless, since the 2015 Emmanuel AME Church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, there has been more attention on Confederate symbols in public spaces. Two years ago, I wrote a post arguing why the Confederate flag is racist and why it should be removed. But it’s not the only Confederate symbol you see in the United States. Across the nation hundreds of Confederate memorials, plazas, and markers dot 31 states standing in public parks, courthouse squares, and state capitols. Plenty of cities, bridges, roads, parks, schools, counties, military bases, and other public areas are named after Confederate icons. And as of 2017, six states observe 9 official Confederate holidays. Since the Charleston shooting, at least 60 of these publicly funded Confederate symbols have been removed or renamed according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. However, as of 2016, the SPLC has documented that over 1,500 of them remain on public property including more than 700 monuments and statues.

Attempts at removing these monuments or renaming public spaces have generated considerable controversy and backlash. Some of these monuments like the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville have become rallying points for white supremacists. Yet, opposition to Confederate monument removal isn’t just limited to the radical right fringe. Southern state lawmakers have proposed legislation banning local governments from removing these controversial landmarks and symbols. One state representative from Mississippi even called for those removing Confederate statues to be lynched. Also, most of these plaques, statues, and monuments are still up thanks to the support of local residents, town councils, and even state governments. Many critics say removing a monument or flag, renaming a public place, or ending a state holiday is tantamount “erasing history.” Proponents often state that these landmarks and emblems represent history and heritage and that efforts to remove them is just political correctness gone too far.

Yet, the “heritage not hate” rationale used to justify public Confederate displays ignores the near-universal heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved in the South. It also trivializes their pain, their history, and concerns about racism. Not to mention, the “heritage” argument conceals the true history of the Confederacy and the 7 decades of Jim Crow segregation and oppression after Reconstruction. There is no doubt that the Confederacy was founded on white supremacy and that the South fought the Civil War to preserve slavery. Its founding documents and leaders made it perfectly clear. After all it was Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens who said in his 1861 “Cornerstone speech”, “Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” And by defending slavery with gunfire and cannons, the Confederates prolonged the life of an institution which brought indescribable suffering and horror to millions. Through waging war against the Union, they betrayed the United States and killed thousands of their fellow countrymen.
However, despite that Civil War history is well-documented, legions of Southern whites still cling to the Lost Cause myth as a noble Southern endeavor fought to defend the region’s honor and its ability to govern itself in the face of Northern aggression. This is of course, bullshit but it’s a deeply rooted false narrative resulting from many decades of revisionism in the lore and even Southern textbooks seeking to create a more acceptable version of the area’s past. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, 48% of Americans cited states’ rights as the reason for the Civil War despite which doesn’t hold up when you include the Fugitive Slave Act, Bleeding Kansas, and the Dred Scott Decision. Not to mention, all the pro-slavery and white supremacist sentiments in Confederate documents. Still, these Confederate monuments and symbols in the South are very much a part of that effort. Historian Thavolia Glymph noted that the Lost Cause became so endemic that it passed, “off legend as history so successfully that the legend came to be remembered as the history.” Though Southerners started honoring the Confederacy with statues and symbols almost immediately after the Civil War, most dedications of Confederate monuments and other symbols took place during the early 20th century which lasted well into the 1920s and from the early 1950s all through the 1960s. Why these periods? Well, the first spike happened during the period when states enacted Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise newly freed blacks and re-segregate society. This period also saw the dramatic resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan thanks to D.W. Griffith’s 1916 film The Birth of a Nation. The second spike in Confederate dedications happened during the civil rights movement, leading to white segregationist backlash. Even in the 21st century, these monuments keep cropping up, including 35 in North Carolina. Therefore, it’s very clear that many of these Confederate monuments and symbols exist not to honor history, heritage or the fallen but to enforce and perpetuate white supremacy through legal and even violent means.

Not only do these monuments instill white supremacy on the American landscape, they also perpetuate myths that screw up the American historical narrative known as the Lost Cause myth. When you erect a monument for someone or group, you also determine how they should be remembered as well as enshrine everything they stood for as noble and just. These Confederate monuments conjure images of resplendent generals and brave soldiers fighting for a noble but lost cause. Memorials to Confederate soldiers extol their heroism and valor or sometimes details of particular battles or local units. But some go so far as to glorify the Confederacy’s cause. One notable example is a monument in Anderson County, South Carolina reading, “The world shall yet decide, in truth’s clear, far-off light, that the soldiers who wore the gray, and died with Lee, were in the right.” But in reality, their cause was white supremacy and slavery which are anything but noble. They also conceal the economic exploitation, political oppression, and widespread violence black people faced when these monuments were built.

But while dedicating Confederate memorials for fallen soldiers is one thing, leaders are another. Many of these statues of Confederate leaders conjure a perception of them as gallant and noble heroes fighting for what was right. As an activist in Memphis told Al Jazeera, “Kids see these statues and think they’re for great people. These statues don’t say anything about the atrocities.” And they don’t usually reflect who these leaders are. Robert E. Lee is clearest example of this since he’s had more monuments and places with his name and/or likeness than any other leader in the Confederacy. And he’s certainly its most admired champion who’s continually praised as a brilliant strategist as well as a kind, benevolent figure who hated slavery and secession. But he fought for the South out of duty to the Virginia he so loved. Except that’s not the real Robert E. Lee. Lee did make some grandiose sentiments in favor of liberty on occasion. But he was not only fine with owning slaves, he fought a court case to keep his father-in-law’s slaves who’ve been promised their freedom after the old man died. He lost Documents show he was anything but the kind, benevolent man he’s portrayed as, at least as far as his family’s slaves are concerned. In fact, Lee opposed virtually any pro-emancipation cause that would’ve actually freed slaves and harshly condemned abolitionists. During his invasion into Pennsylvania, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would abduct free blacks for enslavement. His men also massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender during the Battle of Crater and paraded the survivors through the streets of Petersburg, Virginia. Lee never discouraged such behavior because he didn’t believe blacks shouldn’t be treated as human beings. And he certainly believed in white supremacy after the war since he argued against black enfranchisement, raged against Republican efforts to enforce racial equality in the South, and allowed students at Washington College to establish their own Klu Klux Klan chapter, rape black schoolgirls, and attempt lynchings. Besides, when the Civil War broke out, Lee first asked permission to sit out of the war altogether. While he did anguish whether to maintain his oath of loyalty to the US Army or fight on behalf of his state and slavery, he chose the latter. Fittingly enough, he sent a letter of resignation to the War Department via slave. Lee then wrote another letter expressing that he didn’t believe Virginia yet had full justification to secede, he knew he chose against the wishes of his wife and children (as well as several other family members). Besides, Virginians like Winfield Scott, George Henry Thomas, his own cousins Fitzgerald and  Samuel Phillips Lee, future West Virginians, and 40% of Virginia’s officers remained loyal to the Union. As for being a brilliant strategist, well, despite being an accomplished tactician and winning individual battles, many historians consider his decision to fight against a more industrialized and densely populated North as a fatal strategic error. But even if he was as great military commander, Lee was still responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of black people. Lee’s elevation as hero is a key part of Lost Cause mythology designed to erase slavery as the cause of the Civil War and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. Perhaps the most fitting monument to General Robert E. Lee is the national military cemetery on his lawn at Arlington. If you want a Confederate general to idolize, may I suggest James Longstreet? At least he embraced equal rights for blacks after the Civil War and took on white supremacists in New Orleans with an integrated police force. But that’s why Lost Cause folks hate his guts.

Even more disturbing is that many of these Confederate monuments aren’t just in the states that seceded from the Union. You have plenty in border states fighting for the Union, in Union states, and states that in 1861 were mere territories. One particular example is Kentucky whose government didn’t side with the Confederacy and two thirds of Kentuckians fought for the Union. But you wouldn’t know that from a state swamped in Confederate monuments. And one of these has to be a 35-story obelisk at Jefferson Davis’s birthplace in Fairview. In Arizona, the oldest Confederate Memorial was dedicated in 1943 while the newest went up in 2010. Of course, they were erected by the thousands of white Southerners who moved there and took their fondness for intimidating blacks with them. In Helena, Montana, a Confederate Memorial Fountain has sat in its Hill Park since 1916 which author James W. Loewen said, “tells that the Confederacy should be revered even as far north as Montana.” You might wonder why there are Confederate monuments outside the former Confederacy since they seem to no reason to exist there. But when you figure that segregation wasn’t just restricted to the South but stretched across a nation more concerned about unity in the face of foreign threats than rights for black people, it makes a lot more sense.

Nevertheless, these enduring tributes to white supremacy and black enslavement still stand in a nation that hasn’t moved past America’s original sin and has refused to address racism’s pernicious and ubiquitous nature. To say that these Confederate monuments only as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said, “immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks. But as the immense presence of Confederate monuments and symbols show there’s a lot of love for the losing side of an unjust cause. There should be nothing but condemnation and dishonor for those who seceded from the Union and fought for the privilege of keeping black people under involuntary servitude. Removing Confederate symbols and monuments will not erase history nor does it denigrate anyone’s Southern heritage. But the effort to topple them is about more than symbolism. Rather it’s about starting a conversation about a community’s shared values and beliefs along with our understanding as a nation. It’s about acknowledging, understanding, and reconcile past injustices as we address those of today. And lastly, it’s about us as a people being able to choose a better future for ourselves and make right what was wrong. Our historical monuments not only depict our history but also enshrine value we choose to promote. As a nation founded on the principles of liberty, equality and democracy, these Confederate monuments stand to extol values anathema to such ideas. Confederate monuments don’t belong on a pedestal in a public space. So it’s long past time to take them down.

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Worst Excuses for Keeping a Confederate Flag

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Disclaimer: While I am not apologetic in my stance on the Confederate Flag issue and wish for its removal, I understand this post may feature some material bound to offend a significant part of the US population, particularly in the South. And while the Confederate Flag has been taken down at the South Carolina state house, plenty of such flags remain in the area such as in Mississippi. Seriously, the Confederate Flag only belongs in museums, historical sites, Civil War media, and cemeteries. No where else. Nevertheless, I’ve done my research on this. So don’t say that I don’t know my history if the flag offends me. Because I know my history and can completely understand why that flag offends people. Also, anyone offended by the picture should know that I’m not praising the Confederate Flag in any way. In fact, this is an article on me debunking excuses people make on keeping it.

Now in my “Thoughts on Charleston” post, I discussed how the Charleston Church shooting was racially motivated and why it was a problem. I also discussed a bit on why the Confederate Flag needs to be removed. However, while the South Carolina state house agreed to remove the flag from its state legislature, there was a substantial number of white people who weren’t happy about it. In fact, they were quite angry. And this led to a spat between the Klu Klux Klan and the Black Panthers nearby over last weekend. Others may think that we should worry about bigger things other than removing a flag, especially when it comes to stopping terror. However, many of these people either have no idea what this flag really stands for or conveniently ignore that fact. Many tend to keep Confederate Flags just to express their southern pride or love for Southern Rock groups. Some may keep a Confederate Flag thinking it’s a cool symbol of rebelling against authority. And many are quick to defend that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of heritage, not hate. Not to mention, in states like Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina have laws banning the public mutilation, defilement, and cast of contempt on this flag. But such laws were overruled by the US Supreme Court in 1989 and aren’t enforceable anyway. But I’m sure they’re still on the books. However, hate to let ya’ll down, but the Confederate Flag is nothing more than a symbol of white supremacy and history shows this. Always has been, always will be. It’s not hard to figure out the American Civil War was over slavery and a lot of powerful white Southerners were really big fans of it. Nevertheless, I present to you many of worst excuses that people make about keeping the Confederate Flag.

  1. “The Confederate Flag is a symbol of Southern heritage and pride.”
While the Confederate Flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, it's one that embodies some of the worst aspects in the history of the American South. Basically it represents a region that split with the country in the name of preserving and expanding an institution where blacks were coerced into a lifetime of involuntary servitude with no rights or compensation. Here is an engraving of a slave auction in Virginia where this mother and daughter are unlikely to see each other again.

While the Confederate Flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, it’s one that embodies some of the worst aspects in the history of the American South. Basically it represents a region that split with the country in the name of preserving and expanding an institution where blacks were coerced into a lifetime of involuntary servitude with no rights or compensation. Here is an engraving of a slave auction in Virginia where this mother and daughter are unlikely to see each other again.

Well, if you feel that a Confederate Flag is a symbol of Southern pride, then I think you might want to find yourself a better way to express that. But while I agree that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, but in a way that reflects the worst of what it represents. By this, I mean a time in which the South was run by a wealthy elite who owned large plantations manned by a large underclass of blacks who either were or among descendants of kidnap victims and subjugated under a lifetime of involuntary servitude, which they depended on. And they tend to use a rationale that blacks were lazy and inferior simpletons in order to justify it. Now many of the Northern states on the other hand, had outlawed this notorious institution and was a realm of many anti-slavery activities that these Southern aristocrats didn’t like. This was especially the case since the cotton gin led to an economic boom in the region which made these rich guys even more dependent to keep blacks in a lifetime state of involuntary servitude. Of course, it also explains why Mississippi was home to the most millionaires in 1860. So tensions build up over the years which result in a bunch of political dysfunction and sporadic moments of violence. It soon got to the point that these wealthy elites became so distressed about the North being no fan of enslaving black people, that they decided to split from the country to form their own so they never have to worry about such encroachment again. Of course, the North didn’t like them leaving the country and so commences a bloody 4-year war, which the North won by the way. And the white Southerners were very bitter that this war helped outlaw such practices so they went to great lengths to make sure that blacks could never gain any social, political, or economic power. Of course, they managed to get away with such practices for decades until blacks started demonstrating during the 1950s and 1960s. But it doesn’t stop the white Southerners from romanticizing the days when wealthy plantation owners forced black people to work for them so they didn’t have to abide to certain whitey hiring regulations other than perhaps the occasional overseer. They don’t want to think about the highly unethical implications and human rights violations pertaining to forced black labor as well as other anti-black policies so they conveniently choose to forget that. But still, you get the idea what the Confederate Flag sort of represents.

  1. “The Confederate Flag is a symbol of freedom and states’ rights.”
While Confederate Flag supporters often say that the American Civil War was about states' rights, moments like the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott Decision show this wasn't the case. Sure the South wanted to preserve slavery and their way of life. But they also wanted to expand it into the territories and force the North to return runaway slaves. Since Northern states had banned slavery for quite some time, it didn't want to comply. Now this is a poster warning free blacks in Boston to be wary of slave catchers and kidnappers who might want to enslave them.

While Confederate Flag supporters often say that the American Civil War was about states’ rights, moments like the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott Decision show this wasn’t the case. Sure the South wanted to preserve slavery and their way of life. But they also wanted to expand it into the territories and force the North to return runaway slaves. Since Northern states had banned slavery for quite some time, it didn’t want to comply. Now this is a poster warning free blacks in Boston to be wary of slave catchers and kidnappers who might want to enslave them.

Yes, but this flag represents the Confederacy which split from the Union in 1860-1861, but the “freedom” and “states’ rights” in this pertained to the idea that a white person was free to own slaves who were usually black. Besides, those who think the American Civil War was fought over states’ rights should really look up the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required that all escaped slaves were to be returned to their masters upon capture and that citizens and officials had to cooperate, even in free states. Then there’s the Dred Scott Decision that centered on a black man who tried to sue for his and his family’s freedom on account that his master had died in a free territory. But the Supreme Court denied that request in which Chief Justice Roger Taney said that blacks were, “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” You should also take into account that thanks to the 3/5ths Compromise in the Constitution, the Southern states had a lot of political influence and representation in Congress, but industrialization, urbanization, and immigration would give the North much more political power. Now both the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott Decision took place before 1860 and were heavily favorable to slave owners in the South. But they also both reveal that the South didn’t just want to keep slavery within their borders (and they were in no position to abandon it either). They wanted to expand it to the territories and force the North to support that institution against their will. Abraham Lincoln and his fellow Republicans opposed both these measures in 1860 which led to the South seceding from the Union after Lincoln’s election to president in 1860. So much for states’ rights.

Dred Scott was a slave who tried to sue the government for his and his family's freedom on account that he spent time in a free territory. However, the Supreme Court ruled against him on account that blacks weren't considered US citizens and had no right to sue. Also, the Missouri Compromise of 1850 was declared unconstitutional which carried a designation of free territories in the first place. It has been known as the worst US Supreme court ruling in history. And it's no surprise that a few of the justices at the time were slave owners.

Dred Scott was a slave who tried to sue the government for his and his family’s freedom on account that he spent time in a free territory. However, the Supreme Court ruled against him on account that blacks weren’t considered US citizens and had no right to sue. Also, the Missouri Compromise of 1850 was declared unconstitutional which carried a designation of free territories in the first place. It has been known as the worst US Supreme court ruling in history. And it’s no surprise that a few of the justices at the time were slave owners.

We should also take into account that documents pertaining to the South’s split from the union because they refused to be in a country that was turning them into second-class citizens and refused to honor one of their most cherished beliefs, that slavery was beneficial to the negro. And it’s very clear that the Confederates weren’t in any way shy about this since the right to own slaves was written into their constitution. Besides, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said it himself in his “Cornerstone” speech, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…” And in Texas’s secession declaration, slavery is mentioned at a whopping 21 times as well as said that governments and states of the nation were established, “exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity,” and this didn’t apply to black people. So to say that the Confederate Flag was a symbol any other freedom than for whites to treat African Americans as property as well as force them to work for them against their will and with no compensation, then that argument is relatively weak. Besides, most historians think that the South played the states’ rights card only when they disagreed with federal policy and only when the rights in question applied to their states.

  1. “My ancestors fought under that flag.”
Southern Unionism was widespread throughout the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Southern Unionists comprised of 25% of Union Forces including my 3rd great-grandfather from East Tennessee and at least 3 of his brothers. This is an engraving of Southern Unionist refugees from Georgia in East Tennessee, a hotbed for Union sympathizers.

Southern Unionism was widespread throughout the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Southern Unionists comprised of 25% of Union Forces including my 3rd great-grandfather from East Tennessee and at least 3 of his brothers. This is an engraving of Southern Unionist refugees from Georgia in East Tennessee, a hotbed for Union sympathizers. However, in the “Lost Cause” myth, these people tend to be totally erased.

Are you sure about that? The National Park Service has a database listing American Civil War soldiers and sailors so you can look up your ancestors there. But even if your Civil War ancestors were white and resided in the Confederacy, there’s a substantial chance that they might not have fought for the side you previously thought. Unionism was widespread in the Confederacy during the Civil War (explaining the existence of West Virginia) and 25% of Union soldiers also resided in a secessionist state. So perhaps flying a Confederate Flag at your front porch may not actually be your way to honor the memory of your ancestors than possibly giving them the finger on the cause and country they fought for. This is especially the case if you find out that your 3rd great-grandfather from Arkansas actually fought for the Army of the Tennessee instead of the Army of Tennessee according to family legend.

Southern Unionists were often targets of violence by Confederates during the American Civil War. This is an engraving of a mass hanging of Southern Unionists in Gainesville, Texas.

Southern Unionists were often targets of violence by Confederates during the American Civil War (mostly for resisting draft laws but many were arrested as well). This is an engraving of a mass hanging of Southern Unionists in Gainesville, Texas. Like black troops, Southern Unionists who also fought for the Union also risked execution upon capture. Sometimes this would lead their families consigned to the not-so-tender mercies of their often unforgiving neighbors. After the Civil War, many Southern Unionists continued to be persecuted for their wartime beliefs after Reconstruction as well as targets of the Klu Klux Klan.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of descendants of Confederate veterans who don’t want anything to do with the Confederate Flag. Of course, many of these sons of Confederate veterans tend to be black and would want no part in honoring what their ancestors fought for. Not surprisingly, these guys were white and most likely owned slaves as well.

These are the official and military flags used by the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Though never used in any official capacity, the Confederate Battle Flag was used as an unofficial emblem of the Confederacy. This was because it was a very recognizable design from long distances.

These are the official and military flags used by the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Though never used in any official capacity, the Confederate Battle Flag was used as an unofficial emblem of the Confederacy. This was because it was a very recognizable design from long distances.

Even so, the Confederate Flag we know today was actually used as the Battle Flag for the Army of Northern Virginia but the design wouldn’t be incorporated in the official Confederate Flag design until 1863 with the “Stainless Banner” flag as well as in the “Blood-Stained Banner” in 1865. But both these flags have the Confederate Battle insignia in the upper left corner. But before these two flags, there was the “Stars and Bars” flag which had 3 stripes in red and white as well as a blue square with 13 stars. But this would later be disowned since it was too similar to the Union Flag and caused confusion during the 1st Battle of Bull Run (especially at long distances). So let’s just say if your Confederate ancestors fought under that flag, it was more or less on an unofficial basis. So it’s no surprise why the Confederate Battle Flag has become a widely recognized symbol of the American South since it was the Confederacy’s most recognized flag during most of the war. And the later flag designs both show this. But as far as we know the Confederate Flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, was never officially used for Confederate veterans groups, and never flew over state capitols during the Confederacy. So for the descendants of Confederate veterans, I’ll rule this as partially true.

  1. “Even if it is racist, the meaning of words and symbols is relative to the individual.”
The swastika is a good example of how symbols can be interpreted in many different ways. In Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, it's a sacred and auspicious symbol as well as a good luck charm. But try to explain that to Westerns who link it with Nazism, Anti-Semitism, totalitarianism, racism,  hate, and mass slaughter.

The swastika is a good example of how symbols can be interpreted in many different ways. In Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, it’s a sacred and auspicious symbol as well as a good luck charm. But try to explain that to Westerns who link it with Nazism, Anti-Semitism, totalitarianism, racism, hate, and mass slaughter. Of course, the Nazi swastika is turned, but still. Nevertheless, unlike Americans with the Confederate Flag, Asians can still play the culture card for the swastika because they’ve used it way long before it became associated with Nazism.

Yes, words and symbols can mean a variety of different things depending on the individual. But even though you may fly a Confederate Flag showing your love for Lynyrd Skynyrd doesn’t mean that your neighbors would interpret it that way. But most of the time words and symbols carry meanings that stand independently of any individual’s subjective interpretation. Such that it might lead your passionate but non-racist Rebel Flag waving Lynyrd Skynyrd fan to be mistaken for racist  or believing that any pursuit of white supremacy isn’t wrong and may be worthy of celebration. This is especially true when a symbol or term has very negative connotations for a certain group of people explaining why many people want the Washington Redskins to change their name. It also explains why nobody in the West no longer uses swastikas for decoration.

  1. “Taking down the Confederate Flag will rewrite history.”
Whenever Confederate Flag supporters complain how removing this banner would rewrite history, what they really mean is that it will change the American Civil War history as they remember it. Of course, it's no surprise that many of these Confederate Flag supporters believe in the myth of the "Lost Cause" which is a virulently racist and very distorting pseudo-history viewpoint. Of course, Birth of a Nation basically shows the worst of the "Lost Cause" myth and the ideology it supports.

Whenever Confederate Flag supporters complain how removing this banner would rewrite history, what they really mean is that it will change the American Civil War history as they remember it. Of course, it’s no surprise that many of these Confederate Flag supporters believe in the myth of the “Lost Cause” which is a virulently racist and very distorting pseudo-history viewpoint. Of course, Birth of a Nation basically shows the worst of the “Lost Cause” myth and the ideology it supports.

Actually, when we’re talking about taking down the Confederate Flag, it will still be used in a historic capacity such as being displayed in museums and historic sites, Civil War media, and Civil War reenactments. Not sure if displaying them on Confederate Civil War memorials and monuments is acceptable, but I’ll leave it. Let’s just say Confederate Flag removal will only apply to places like government buildings, state and national parks (save Civil War battlefields), public schools and colleges, and other public places. Still, taking down the Confederate Flag may not rewrite history but it will help put the Neo-Confederate “Lost Cause” myth to rest since it was only made up to justify the oppression of African Americans in the South with Jim Crow laws and extralegal violence. I think removing the Confederate Flag might help Americans come to terms with an ugly part of their history, which many tend to ignore. So removing it might rewrite history to an extent, but only in a way that brings down the “Lost Cause” myth which continues to be influential in media and in schools despite that it’s a major distortion of history used to serve a very racist political agenda. And sometimes historic distortions need to be corrected by removing symbols of hate from where they don’t belong.

  1. “Even if it is racist, meanings of words and symbols can change over time.”
It's illegal in Germany to wave a Nazi flag. But it's a perfect illustration of how once symbols acquire a negative interpretation to them, it usually stays that way. And the fact people still make excuses of keeping the Confederate Flag just makes it more disturbing. Nevertheless, an American keeping a Confederate Flag is certainly equivalent to a German keeping a Nazi one.

It’s illegal in Germany to wave a Nazi flag. But it’s a perfect illustration of how once symbols acquire a negative interpretation to them, it usually stays that way. And the fact people still make excuses of keeping the Confederate Flag just makes it more disturbing. Nevertheless, an American keeping a Confederate Flag is certainly equivalent to a German keeping a Nazi one.

They may but if a symbol acquires a highly negative meaning, it tends to stay that way. And at its most benign, it’s been used by the historically-ignorant without being fully cognizant of its implications. But whether it represented a defunct government whose reason for existence was to preserve slavery or as a symbolic embodiment of the so-called “Lost Cause” myth, you can’t take pride in such a flag without tacitly endorsing a racist view or being remarkably clueless. Even if your ancestors fought for the Confederacy. And since the American Civil War, Southern whites tended to use the Neo-Confederate “Lost Cause” myth as their history just to enact Jim Crow laws as well as keep black people from any form of social, political, or economic power. The Confederate Flag is an artifact from that history as the “Lost Cause” myth continues to be propagated by Sons of the Confederate Veterans as well as United Daughters of the Confederacy. However, these two organizations as well as other historical societies tend to be among the more mild offenders.

FILE - "In this April 14, 1964 black-and-white file photo, a man holds a Confederate flag at right, as demonstrators, including one carrying a sign saying: "More than 300,000 Negroes are Denied Vote in Ala", demonstrate in front of an Indianapolis hotel where then-Alabama Governor George Wallace was staying." The Confederate Flag enjoyed a resurgence of popularity after World War II, particularly to white supremacists who saw the rising Civil Rights Movement as a threat. Let's just say white segregationists' use of the Confederate Flag was no accident.

FILE – “In this April 14, 1964 black-and-white file photo, a man holds a Confederate flag at right, as demonstrators, including one carrying a sign saying: “More than 300,000 Negroes are Denied Vote in Ala”, demonstrate in front of an Indianapolis hotel where then-Alabama Governor George Wallace was staying.” The Confederate Flag enjoyed a resurgence of popularity after World War II, particularly to white supremacists who saw the rising Civil Rights Movement as a threat. Let’s just say white segregationists’ use of the Confederate Flag was no accident.

Yet, after World War II, the Confederate Flag enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the South used by segregationist whites to protest integration especially with the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education which declared school segregation unconstitutional. Southern states tended to use the Confederate Flag in their public pageantry during the Civil Rights Movement with the South Carolina raising flag at their state capitol in 1961. Two notable groups who used this as a symbol were the Dixiecrats and the Klu Klux Klan, both noted for white supremacy and opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. As Southern historian Gordon Rhea said: “It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads. They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: ‘that the negro is not equal to the white man’. The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate. But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population?”

  1. “Just because I keep a Confederate Flag doesn’t mean I’m racist.”
I'm not saying that Confederate Flag supporters are racists. It's just that I find it a hard time to consider them not to be when I see them waving a flag that's clearly a symbol for white supremacy by any means necessary. Seriously, this flag has been used to justify racist policies in the South, opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, and extralegal violence against African Americans. So I don't think Confederate Flag supporters are helping their case.

I’m not saying that Confederate Flag supporters are racists. It’s just that I find it a hard time to consider them not to be when I see them waving a flag that’s clearly a symbol for white supremacy by any means necessary. Seriously, this flag has been used to justify racist policies in the South, opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, and extralegal violence against African Americans. So I don’t think Confederate Flag supporters are helping their case.

Maybe, but as I said time words and symbols carry meanings that stand independently of any individual’s subjective interpretation. Just ask any Asian Hindu and Buddhist who’s denied Anti-Semitism while wearing a swastika T-shirt. You may not see yourself as a racist, but try convincing your cringing black neighbors that whenever they see the Confederate Flag flying outside your porch. Sure you might fly it in the name of southern pride or that you’re a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd. But most of the African American community and others identify it as a symbol of white supremacy, as well as political repression and violence against blacks. Many people also identify it as a symbol of treason in which a power elite of rich white guys seceded from the union in order to preserve a way of life that benefited no one but themselves as well as subjugated 40% the region’s population to a lifetime of involuntary servitude and a legal designation of property.

  1. “The Confederate Flag has nothing to do with racism.”
Uh, yes, the Confederate Flag has everything to do with racism. In fact, it's been always used as a symbol of racism from the moment of its inception. In fact, the guy who designed it said it himself and he certainly wasn't in the closet about his white supremacy.

Uh, yes, the Confederate Flag has everything to do with racism. In fact, it’s been always used as a symbol of racism from the moment of its inception. In fact, the guy who designed it said it himself and he certainly wasn’t in the closet about his white supremacy.

Really? But even in the antebellum American South, most Southern whites didn’t own slaves either. But most of them supported slavery anyway and a lot of them fought for the Confederacy. In the Antebellum South, white supremacy was accepted by almost all white Southerners of all classes which made slavery seem natural, legitimate, and essential for a civilized society. The whole Old South had a system of preserving slavery with elaborate codes of speech, behavior, or practices illustrating the subordination of blacks to whites. Southern whites serving on “slave patrols” and “overseers” were offered positions of power and honor. Such positions gave poor white Southerners the authority to stop, search, whip, maim, and even kill any slave traveling outside their plantation. “Slave patrols” were institutions bringing Southern whites of all classes in support of the prevailing economic and racial order. Oh, and policing and punishing slaves who transgressed the regimentation of slave society at the time was seen as community service. Not to mention, there was a constant fear of free blacks threatening law and order in the Old South as well. Also, there was no secret ballot so a poorer white guy voting against the wishes of the establishment ran the chance of facing social ostracism. Many Southern whites were linked to extensive kinship networks and/or depended on white Southern planters economically. Then there’s the fact many non-slaveholders perceived the possibility of owning slaves one day with the opening of the territories and how slavery gave poor whites some sense that they weren’t at the bottom of the Southern plantation society. So how could the Confederate Flag have nothing to do with racism, then how could it represent a society built around the idea of white supremacy?

  1. “The Confederate Flag doesn’t represent hate and violence.”
For over a century, the Confederate Flag has has stood for the idea that African Americans are less-than-equal members of the political community and that using any illegal violence against their interest is justified and that it’s noble to fight and die for the purpose of enslaving black people even if it means betraying the country. White supremacist organizations like the Klu Klux Klan have been known to use these flags as their symbols. Since it has inspired acts of violence such as lynchings and terrorism toward African Americans, its use is no accident. Still, if the Confederate Flag isn't a symbol of hate and violence, then I don't know what is.

For over a century, the Confederate Flag has has stood for the idea that African Americans are less-than-equal members of the political community and that using any illegal violence against their interest is justified and that it’s noble to fight and die for the purpose of enslaving black people even if it means betraying the country. White supremacist organizations like the Klu Klux Klan have been known to use these flags as their symbols. Since it has inspired acts of violence such as lynchings and terrorism toward African Americans, its use is no accident. Still, if the Confederate Flag isn’t a symbol of hate and violence, then I don’t know what is.

Seriously? Uh, for over a century it has inspired Southern whites to systematically discriminate and commit violence against African Americans. In fact, Southern whites split from the country and started a war because they so strongly viewed that blacks were inferior to human beings and should be put in their place through any means necessary (even though a significant number of white Southerners wanted no such thing like my Tennessee ancestors). For over a century, the Confederate Flag has stood for the idea that African Americans are less-than-equal members of the political community and that using any illegal violence against their interest is justified and that it’s noble to fight and die for the purpose of enslaving black people even if it means betraying the country. Such violence has involved hate crimes like lynchings and acts of terror by groups like the Klu Klux Klan and white supremacist groups. And for a long time Southern whites got away with it because the legal system always ruled in favor of white interests that African Americans would be put in jail for even the most trivial offenses. Nevertheless, if the Confederate Flag doesn’t represent hate and violence, then I don’t know what does.

  1. “The Confederate Flag is a symbol of the proud, distinctive heritage and gentility of the Old South.”
Contrary to the images of  elegant plantations, happy slaves, proper Southern gentlemen, and beautiful Southern belles, life in the Old South wasn't the kind of society people imagine it. The Old South consisted of a society built on white supremacy, slavery, and rule of a rich wealthy elite wanting to preserve a way of life that benefitted no one but themselves.

Contrary to the images of elegant plantations, happy slaves, proper Southern gentlemen, and beautiful Southern belles, life in the Old South wasn’t the kind of society people imagine it. The Old South consisted of a society built on white supremacy, slavery, and rule of a rich wealthy elite wanting to preserve a way of life that benefited no one but themselves. Anyone who wasn’t rich or white meant politically nothing.

Really? What the Confederate Flag symbolizes of the Old South is a heritage that’s distinctive all right. But it’s not genteel in any way and not something for Southerners to be proud of. The heritage the Confederate Flag symbolizes is an ugly one in which society is controlled by a wealthy slave owning elite with whites of all classes united under a doctrine of white supremacy and economic dependency. It represents the idea of blacks being inferior and should be kept in their place by any means necessary. It represents poorer whites who accepted the status quo that was against their own interests under the threat of social ostracism. Not to mention, education was only available to those who could afford it and many poor whites made less than their Northern counterparts. But they embraced racism since their skin color gave them more rights and opportunities than even the most well-off free blacks who had no civil rights (and it didn’t help that most free blacks were very poor and marginalized). Not to mention, the unrealistic prospect that they can be part of the white Southern elite if they can work hard enough. But nevertheless, the Old South was a society that worked mainly in the interests of the white rich guys who ran it. And by the eve of the Civil War, that wealth would be more concentrated. Thus, the kind of society of the Old South was based on the notion of slaves and land being status symbols, concentration of wealth and power at the hands of a few rich white guys, the idea that blacks were property and inferior to whites, and that unless you were a rich white guy who owned a plantation, you meant politically nothing.

  1. “The cry to take the Confederate Flag down is unjustified.”
During the Jim Crow Era, it wasn't uncommon for blacks to be targets for lynchings, especially in the South. These were meant to keep black people in their place as an act of terror and intimidation. And yes, the Confederate Flag was used to justify this since it was seen as the emblem for the notoriously racist myth of the "Lost Cause." If this horrific scene doesn't justify calls to remove the Confederate Flag, then I don't know what does.

During the Jim Crow Era, it wasn’t uncommon for blacks to be targets for lynchings, especially in the South. These were meant to keep black people in their place as an act of terror and intimidation. And yes, the Confederate Flag was used to justify this since it was seen as the emblem for the notoriously racist myth of the “Lost Cause.” If this horrific scene doesn’t justify calls to remove the Confederate Flag, then I don’t know what does.

Seriously? Sure many whites think the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride and heritage, which has been hijacked by white supremacist groups. But as history tells us, there was never a time in which the Confederate flag was used to represent anything other than the right for whites to subjugate black people and perpetuate slavery. And when slavery was outlawed, it was used as a banner for white supremacy through any means whether it meant instilling Jim Crow laws, acts of extralegal terror, or opposing the Civil Rights Movement. It’s no wonder why so many people think it’s a racist symbol, particularly most African Americans who’ve seen it as nothing but a symbol of oppression and terror. The sheer presence and endorsement of such a flag by state governments promotes the idea that black lives don’t matter under any circumstance. And it doesn’t help that many Southern states have enacted laws that work against the best interests of the poor and minorities, particularly Voter ID laws, regressive taxes, welfare drug tests, right to work laws, and Stand Your Ground. So I’m sure that there’s nothing unjustified about removing a symbol that has denoted nothing more than white supremacy. This is especially if such ideas kept you from exercising your constitutional rights or in a system in which the odds of receiving justice weren’t in your favor.

  1. “If the Confederate Flag was used as a national flag, then how could it represent slavery and racism?”
In his "Cornerstone Speech," Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared that African slavery was the "immediate cause" of secession and that the Confederate Constitution had put to rest, "agitating questions" as to the "proper status of the negro in our form of civilization." Naturally the Article 1 Section 9 (4) in the Confederate Constitution says: "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." So the chief and immediate cause of the American Civil War was slavery. As Alex Stephens said it himself. Ironically, he was also friends with a little-known Illinois politician named Abraham Lincoln.

In his “Cornerstone Speech,” Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared that African slavery was the “immediate cause” of secession and that the Confederate Constitution had put to rest, “agitating questions” as to the “proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.” Naturally the Article 1 Section 9 (4) in the Confederate Constitution says: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” So the chief and immediate cause of the American Civil War was slavery. As Alex Stephens said it himself. Ironically, he was also friends with a little-known Illinois politician named Abraham Lincoln.

First off, the Confederate Flag we know was officially used as a Battle flag and was only a national flag in an unofficial capacity. Secondly, preservation and expansion of slavery was the most important reason why the South seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy in the first place. Slavery was even called “the cornerstone of the Confederacy” for God’s sake. And obviously, you can’t enslave blacks without having some justification that it’s perfectly fine to do so. Thus, that’s where racism and white supremacy kick in, especially when it comes to getting poorer whites to accept and defend the status quo even if it’s not in their best interests to do so.

  1. “The Confederate Flag is a quaint historical artifact and a memorial to those who’ve fought gallantly and bravely (even in a service of a cause no longer considered virtuous).”
Had the Confederate Flag been confined to be used for educational, historical, and memorial purposes, it would've remained a quaint artifact of history. Unfortunately, white Southerners who supported the Confederate cause never got over racism or losing the Civil War. So instead they made the Confederate Flag an emblem for the "Lost Cause" myth which they used to justify the systematic discrimination and violence against African Americans for decades.

Had the Confederate Flag been confined to be used for educational, historical, and memorial purposes, it would’ve remained a quaint artifact of history. Unfortunately, white Southerners who supported the Confederate cause never got over racism or losing the Civil War. So instead they made the Confederate Flag an emblem for the “Lost Cause” myth which they used to justify the systematic discrimination and violence against African Americans for decades.

Now I am not against anyone honoring their ancestors for their gallantry and bravery, even if it wasn’t on the right side or in service of a cause I wouldn’t consider virtuous. However, if the Confederate Flag was just used as a quaint historical artifact and memorial only shown in museums, historical societies, soldiers’ reunions, or soldiers’ graves, then I’d have little to no problem with it. Unfortunately, people don’t always learn their lessons and even when slavery was outlawed in the US, the virulent ideas of white supremacy remained, especially in the South. We know this because many Southern whites were so vehemently opposed to Reconstruction policies that they’d commit acts of terror to make sure African Americans didn’t exercise their rights. And when these guys returned to power, they passed significant legislation to segregate, disenfranchise, as well as deny them any kind of opportunity for advancement. They also justified such actions through an ideology known as the “Lost Cause” which painted blacks as loyal, benevolent, and subservient slaves to their masters as well as claimed that the American Civil War was fought over states’ rights, not slavery. It also reinforced notions that Jim Crow laws were a proper solution to Reconstruction racial tensions, Confederate soldiers were good, Union soldiers were bad, the Klu Klux Klan were heroic vigilantes, Robert E. Lee was an infallible icon, African American freedom and political power was bad, and any violence committed against blacks was justified no matter how illegal. The Confederate Flag was often seen as a symbol for the “Lost Cause” which promoted such ideas as well as remained an influential narrative of the Civil War for years since it was a history that many white Southerners were comfortable with. Plus, most textbook companies usually cater to Texas anyway. But the “Lost Cause” mythology’s key characteristic was the use of white supremacy as a means to an end. So while the Confederate Flag may be seen as historic artifact by some to honor Confederate soldiers, it’s also been used for far more sinister purposes such as oppressing black people for decades.

  1. “Slavery and racism wasn’t just limited to the Old South.”
Yes, slavery existed in the North as well as the South during the Colonial and Revolutionary Eras. And I'm aware racism in the North has existed as well. However, between 1777 to 1804, Northern states have taken steps to outlaw the practice, though most took gradual steps.

Yes, slavery existed in the North as well as the South during the Colonial and Revolutionary Eras. And I’m aware racism in the North has existed as well. However, between 1777 to 1804, Northern states have taken steps to outlaw the practice, though most took gradual steps.

Yes, I’m well aware that slavery and racism have existed in the North as well as still does to a certain extent. And yes, I know that doesn’t get much attention in the history books as it should (but you can say the same for a lot of stuff in American history, unfortunately). But most of the racism in the North had more to do with economics, political representation, and housing combined with the fact that they were viewed as inferior because they looked different from everyone else. But the racism was nonetheless destructive, systematic, and pervasive as anyone would know from the life of Malcolm X. And yes, white supremacy terrorism, lynchings, and other extralegal violence did take place there, too. Still, while the North had segregation, too, African Americans had more political rights and economic opportunities than they would’ve in the South (for instance, the right to vote). You can also say the same for the West as well (where the African American population has been way underrepresented in western movies).

While slavery was practiced in the North during the Colonial Era and the American Revolution, it was never as widely practiced or seen as anything economically important as in the South. This chart shows the right and restrictions of Northern slaves.

While slavery was practiced in the North during the Colonial Era and the American Revolution, it was never as widely practiced or seen as anything economically important as in the South. This chart shows the right and restrictions of Northern slaves.

However, while the North isn’t completely innocent of racial injustices either (as I can testify), it was never to the extent that they saw slavery as a cornerstone to the social order which must be preserved by any means necessary. In fact, between 1777 to 1804, every state north of the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line have passed anti-slavery laws and constitutions though for many it was a gradual process. But this didn’t mean the North didn’t have any economic interests in slavery or that Northern free blacks were treated equal to whites prior to the Civil War, which was certainly not the case. Nor did it mean that all of the abolitionists weren’t racist for that wasn’t the case either (with a notable exceptions of Frederick Douglass and John Brown). It wasn’t uncommon for Northerners to oppose slavery due to the view that it was incompatible with free labor.

John C. Calhoun was an influential politician during the Antebellum Era as well as one of the most terrible who ever lived. His most important contributions are ideas that states can declare federal laws null and void that they believed unconstitutional as well as the notion of slavery being a positive good. Such views would be influential in South's escalating threats of and eventual secession.

John C. Calhoun was an influential politician during the Antebellum Era as well as one of the most terrible who ever lived. His most important contributions are ideas that states can declare federal laws null and void that they believed unconstitutional as well as the notion of slavery being a positive good. Such views would be influential in South’s escalating threats of and eventual secession.

The South, on the other hand, had an economic system that depended on slavery that they developed a militant pro-slavery ideology that Southerners responded waged vitriolic responses to political change in the North, especially when it came to slavery in the territories and runaways in the North. The fact Abraham Lincoln came from a party opposed to slavery expansion led several southern states to secede from the Union. When slavery was outlawed, white Southerners weren’t at all happy that they did whatever it took to return to power and do whatever it took to make sure African Americans didn’t exercise their political or economic rights. When African Americans tried to defy them, Southern whites responded with terrorism and violence as long as they could get away with it. And despite the strides blacks took during the Civil Rights Movement, it’s still the case in many ways but in a different form. Yes, the North isn’t above committing racial injustices. But racism was never so ingrained or central in Northern society that it would be willing to divide the country over the right to subjugate a group of people into a lifetime of involuntary servitude due to the color of their skin.

  1. “But slavery existed in America long before the Confederate Flag.”
Yes, the US had slavery long before the Confederate Flag. But the United States was founded on the ideas of life, liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. And it was these ideas that helped influence the Abolitionist Movement dedicated to outlaw slavery throughout the Union during the Antebellum years. Did they think black people were equal? No, but that's beside the point.

Yes, the US had slavery long before the Confederate Flag. But the United States was founded on the ideas of life, liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. And it was these ideas that helped influence the Abolitionist Movement dedicated to outlaw slavery throughout the Union during the Antebellum years. Did they think black people were equal? No, but that’s beside the point.

Yes, but the United States wasn’t founded on the idea of preserving or expanding an institution dedicated to subjugating black people to a lifetime of involuntary servitude. Sure many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves and held racist views. But as any school child knows, the US was founded as nation based on the ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as well as that “all men are created equal.” Many of our Founding Fathers may not have believed it in the strictest sense but such ideas have inspired a spirit present in movements related to abolitionism, feminism, civil rights, organized labor, LGBT rights, and other social reforms. Sure there may be Americans who have funny ideas about liberty but in some ways, these ideals have inspired a lot of positive things in this country. And it’s these ideals that have helped made the US flag such a sacred symbol of our nation that embodies them. On the other hand, the Confederacy was founded on preserving and expanding an institution that denied blacks any recognition of humanity and justified even illegal violence to keep it that way.

  1. “But the Confederate Flag is on the state flag of Mississippi.”
This is the state flag of Mississippi. The Confederate Flag square on the top left represents states longing for a time in their history when they were the state with the most millionaires. Of course, knowing Mississippi you can guess why. Not surprisingly, it has been this state's flag since 1894 so it was adopted by an all-white legislature bent on making sure that blacks have no economic or political power.

This is the state flag of Mississippi. The Confederate Flag square on the top left represents states longing for a time in their history when they were the state with the most millionaires. Of course, knowing Mississippi you can guess why. Not surprisingly, it has been this state’s flag since 1894 so it was adopted by an all-white legislature bent on making sure that blacks have no economic or political power.

Yes, but that’s a problem for the state government of Mississippi to sort out. But if you want to show your love for Mississippi then I see no reason for you to fly it (but I recommend that you put on a disclaimer). Just remember that the Confederate Battle Flag was put on it in 1894 at a time when the state’s black residents were denied political rights and economic opportunities thanks to white supremacists politicians.

  1. “The Confederate Flag is a symbol of resistance against an oppressive authority.”
While Confederate Flag supporters tend to argue that the South seceded due to Northern economic and cultural aggression, it's really not the case. In fact, it had more to do with the fact that the North didn't want to cooperate or expand slavery and had successfully retaliated by electing Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. This shows the caning of Massachusetts US Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina US Congressman Preston Brooks in the Senate chamber. Yes, the South was usually the aggressor when it came to the years leading up to the American Civil War.

While Confederate Flag supporters tend to argue that the South seceded due to Northern economic and cultural aggression, it’s really not the case. In fact, it had more to do with the fact that the North didn’t want to cooperate or expand slavery and had successfully retaliated by electing Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. This shows the caning of Massachusetts US Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina US Congressman Preston Brooks in the Senate chamber. Yes, the South was usually the aggressor when it came to the years leading up to the American Civil War.

People tend to use the Confederate Flag thinking it a symbol of rebellion and sticking it to the man, thanks to the “Lost Cause” ideology that painted the North as an oppressive authority that just steamrolled them with superior resources and manpower (even though these weren’t the only reasons the North beat the South). And that the South split from the Union over Northern economic and cultural aggression over the Southern way of life. But contrary to popular belief, both North and South supported states’ rights only when it was convenient to do so. This is especially true with slavery an institution they not only wanted to protect but also expand and didn’t give a shit what the North thought about it as long as the area didn’t become powerful enough to overtake their influence on the federal government. As Brooks Adams noted: “Between the slave power and states’ rights there was no necessary connection. The slave power, when in control, was a centralizing influence, and all the most considerable encroachments on states’ rights were its acts. The acquisition and admission of Louisiana; the Embargo; the War of 1812; the annexation of Texas “by joint resolution” [rather than treaty]; the war with Mexico, declared by the mere announcement of President Polk; the Fugitive Slave Law; the Dred Scott decision — all triumphs of the slave power — did far more than either tariffs or internal improvements, which in their origin were also southern measures, to destroy the very memory of states’ rights as they existed in 1789. Whenever a question arose of extending or protecting slavery, the slaveholders became friends of centralized power, and used that dangerous weapon with a kind of frenzy. Slavery in fact required centralization in order to maintain and protect itself, but it required to control the centralized machine; it needed despotic principles of government, but it needed them exclusively for its own use. Thus, in truth, states’ rights were the protection of the free states, and as a matter of fact, during the domination of the slave power, Massachusetts appealed to this protecting principle as often and almost as loudly as South Carolina.”

Whenever it came to states' rights in the years leading up to the American Civil War, it was only Southern states' rights that the South really cared about. To them, infringing their northern neighbors' rights not to support slavery was fair game to them. This was demonstrated with their support for the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott Decision. As with any states' rights proponent, Southerners only supported states' rights when it suited them.

Whenever it came to states’ rights in the years leading up to the American Civil War, it was only Southern states’ rights that the South really cared about. To them, infringing their northern neighbors’ rights not to support slavery was fair game to them. This was demonstrated with their support for the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott Decision. As with any states’ rights proponent, Southerners only supported states’ rights when it suited them, particularly on policies they didn’t like.

Historian William C. Davis explained the Confederate Constitution’s protection at the national level as: “To the old Union they had said that the Federal power had no authority to interfere with slavery issues in a state. To their new nation they would declare that the state had no power to interfere with a federal protection of slavery. Of all the many testimonials to the fact that slavery, and not states’ rights, really lay at the heart of their movement, this was the most eloquent of all.” So the kind of “economic and cultural aggression” the South was rebelling against was that the North simply didn’t want the Southern way of life encroaching on their states’ rights. In fact, the South wanted to remain dominant in the federal government in order to protect and expand slavery. When they failed to maintain dominance of the federal government through democratic means (as demonstrated by Abraham Lincoln’s election as president), they sought other means such as military aggression by right of force and coercion. Thus, the Civil War occurred. Nevertheless, who was the aggressor in the Civil War is very hard to say, but in the decades leading up to it, I’m certain it wasn’t the North.

  1. “But you see many black people with a Confederate Flag. So how can it be racist?”
Now Confederate Flag defenders love to show black people with the banner they love to prove it's not racist. However, symbols and words can carry a different meaning than what the individual intends. Such actions don't disprove the Confederate Flag as a racist symbol regardless of the individual's race or ethnicity. In fact, most African Americans view the Confederate Flag as racist. So sorry, Kanye West.

Now Confederate Flag defenders love to show black people with the banner they love to prove it’s not racist. However, symbols and words can carry a different meaning than what the individual intends. Such actions don’t disprove the Confederate Flag as a racist symbol regardless of the individual’s race or ethnicity. In fact, most African Americans view the Confederate Flag as racist. So sorry, Kanye West.

Like I said, symbols and words can carry meanings that stand independently of any individual’s subjective interpretation. There may be African Americans who may not think the Confederate Flag is a racist symbol. But this doesn’t mean that all blacks share this view. In fact, most blacks usually link the Confederate Flag to white supremacy as well as anti-black suppression and terrorism. And history shows that they have a compelling reason to believe this since the “Lost Cause” myth as well as its use by politicians

  1. “But various Southern Rock groups used the Confederate Flag like Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
Since the 1960s and 1970s, many Southern Rock bands have used Confederate Flag imagery. Lynyrd Skynyrd is the most famous among them. However, since 2012, the band has stopped using the flag on their albums and promotional materials  due to racist connotations. Same goes for Wal Mart and NASCAR in recent years.

Since the 1960s and 1970s, many Southern Rock bands have used Confederate Flag imagery. Lynyrd Skynyrd is the most famous among them. However, since 2012, the band has stopped using the flag on their albums and promotional materials due to racist connotations. Same goes for Wal Mart and NASCAR in recent years.

Yes, but Lynyrd Skynyrd has distanced themselves from that symbol since 2012 and has stopped using the flag on their albums and promotional materials. This was over the racist connotations. And since the Charleston shooting, it has been dropped by various retailers, flag manufacturers, and NASCAR.

  1. “The Civil War’s been over for 150 years so why waste our time over arguing about the Confederate Flag?”
As long as people revere and celebrate the Confederate Flag, then they shall carry the banner of a heritage that embodies nothing but the worst of their history. The Confederate Flag is nothing but a white supremacist symbol that advocates racism, hate, and violence against African Americans. It always has been and always will. We need to take it down for good.

As long as people revere and celebrate the Confederate Flag, then they shall carry the banner of a heritage that embodies nothing but the worst of their history. The Confederate Flag is nothing but a white supremacist symbol that advocates racism, hate, and violence against African Americans. It always has been and always will. We need to take it down for good.

Yes, slavery may be over. But the racism is still alive and well which affects those victimized by it whether it be through violence or the system. Blacks still find themselves discriminated against, undervalued, and negatively stereotyped, especially in the South. And whenever African Americans demonstrated in Ferguson and Baltimore over unlawful police killings saying “Black Lives Matter,” there were plenty of whites who saw them as nothing but disrespectful thugs (which may be true for some but that’s beside the point). White supremacy groups still remain in this country and they still do terrible things. Even though many may not be violent or perhaps racist, many still display the Confederate Flag believing it represents something that it doesn’t. And we still have Americans still expressing reverence for the “Lost Cause” myth which is still taught in American schools, especially since textbook companies still cater to Texas. But if we didn’t have slavery, the Civil War, and Martin Luther King Day, then I’m sure that much of African American history would be ignored in the classroom. Not to mention, when it comes to antebellum slavery, schoolchildren are more likely to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin than The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass: American Slave. Not only that, but the “Lost Cause” myth also distorts the American Civil War that paints a picture of the conflict which had nothing to do with the reality.

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 41 – The American Civil War: Reconstruction and Other Things

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Perhaps no movie has managed to shape perceptions of Reconstruction in many people than D. W. Griffith’s 1915 Birth of a Nation, even if it was a grossly inaccurate as well as blatantly white supremacist propaganda, which made Woodrow Wilson think it was too racist (who actually was more racist even by 1915’s standards). However, despite its controversy even in its day, this is a movie that can’t be ignored when it comes to movie history. In the words of Andrew Sarris, “Classic or not, Birth of a Nation has long been one of the embarrassments of film scholarship. It can’t be ignored … and yet it was regarded as outrageously racist even at a time when racism was hardly a household word.” Still, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch this movie, except film students.

The American Civil War would draw to a close in April of 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. However, barely a week later Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth  which would send shock waves to the nation. Still, the process of Reconstruction had begun which was said to be a time of healing factions between North and South as well as grant African Americans US citizenship and help them to carve lives of their own. Still, while the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments would pass, unfortunately, many Southern whites weren’t happy with blacks trying to live their lives as American citizens and tried to do all they can to ruin it through intimidation as well as violence. Eventually Reconstruction would end but though there was so much progress made in the South, many of the Southern whites would eventually reverse many of these changes or at least try to that by the rest of the 19th century, there would be a new system of discrimination called segregation, black codes, and Jim Crow in an era seen as the nadir of American race relations which would continue until at least the 1920s, if not the 1940s. Yet, despite setbacks, African Americans would continue to fight for their rights and would keep the spirit of Reconstruction on even if no one else did. Hollywood doesn’t treat this subject well, since it’s a controversial time in American history, yet nevertheless, there are plenty of movie inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

The Lincoln Assassination:

Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous words to the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural the day he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. (No, he gave these speeches much earlier. Still, what the hell D. W. Griffith?)

John Wilkes Booth entered through the door behind Mary Todd to Abraham Lincoln’s right. (He entered through the door on Lincoln’s left and fired just below his left ear. The D. W. Griffith biopic also shows him jumping from Lincoln’s box through the far left opening {facing the right}. In reality, he actually jumped through the right opening directly in front of the president, nicking the corner of Washington’s picture with the spur of his ankle. This caused him to stumble when he fell resulting in a broken leg.)

Dr. Samuel Mudd was involved in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, hence the phrase “His name is mud.” (The saying had been around for two decades before the Lincoln Assassination. Also, it’s more likely Mudd was just a man doing his job who probably knew nothing about the conspiracy against Lincoln. His only involvement in the assassination was just patching Booth’s leg.)

Abraham Lincoln was laid on a bed to the side over the covers and clothed at the time of death. (He was laid diagonally on a bed under the covers to be kept warm {since he lingered for 10 hours} which was too small for him and he wasn’t clothed so the doctors could check for other wounds.)

Frederick Aiken was a 27-year-old Union veteran and lawyer in 1865. (He was a 33 year old Democratic activist with strong Southern sympathies {yet fought for the North anyway and achieved the rank of Colonel} who had a co-counsel named John W. Clampitt who helped him at the trial when Reverdy Johnson stepped aside.)

Edwin Stanton tried to strong arm the commission into returning a death sentence against Mary Surratt. (There’s little evidence he did this.)

The Lincoln conspirators were held in a prison situated in a barren area miles from Washington DC. (They were held at the Old Capitol Prison in the middle of the city which is now the site of the Supreme Court building.)

John Wilkes Booth still had his trademark mustache when he was trapped and killed. (He had shaved it off shortly after Lincoln’s assassination so he’d be more difficult to identify. Still, he probably shouldn’t have broken his leg.)

John Wilkes Booth caught his spur on the American flag on the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater. (He caught it on a US Treasury flag.)

Abraham Lincoln was carried out of Ford’s Theater fully dressed with suit and tie neatly in place. (According to historical accounts, Dr.Charles Leale and other doctors assisting him at Ford’s Theater cut away much of Lincoln’s coat and shirt in a frantic attempt to resuscitate him moments after the president had been shot. This was done prior to his being moved.)

Secretary of State William Seward was stabbed in his bed when his room was brightly lit. (Historical accounts state that Seward’s room was quite dark accounting for Lewis Payne’s failure to kill the Secretary of State {later known to oversee the purchase of Alaska} resulting in him missing any vital areas with his knife because he couldn’t see his target very well in a dark room. Also, the elderly Seward was very thin causing Payne’s thrusts to miss the mark.)

The room Abraham Lincoln was brought to in the Peterson Boarding House was brightly lit. (All historical accounts say that the room was very dark and dim as well as being illuminated by a small gas jet fixed to a wall.)

Abraham Lincoln was placed in the bead with his head toward the wall and his feet toward the doctors. (He was placed with his feet toward the wall and his head closest to the open side of the bed so the doctors could get to him {I mean he’d been shot in the head}. A historical photograph of Lincoln’s death bed confirms this.)

Frederick Aiken’s middle name was Sebastian. (It was Augustus.)

Reconstruction:

It was the job of the Klu Klux Klan to restore honor to the South that was lost by the Northern victory during the Civil War. (In the minds of the white racist Southerners, yes, but some people have a twisted sense of honor. Had to include this because of Birth of a Nation, mostly because it depicts the KKK as white knights, which is obviously offensively false. In reality they were terrorists who wanted the freed slaves stripped of their rights as citizens and helped usher in an era of segregation, disenfranchisement, and Jim Crow.)

African Americans were unfit to exercise their political rights. (Made up by Southern whites because they didn’t want blacks to have any political power. And as politicians, blacks were no worse or than their white counterparts. Another racist lie from Birth of a Nation.)

Northerners who came to the South during Reconstruction were carpetbaggers invading happy Southern land and conspiring with blacks. (Many helped slaves get a new start in life as well as expand opportunities {like public education} and voting rights to poor whites as well as those who also didn’t have the right to vote before the Civil War began {except women}. Still, according to David Blight: “The South dearly wanted Northern investment. It’s one of the ironies of this. Early on, they wanted Northern investment. They wanted federal investment to help them rebuild their harbors and build some railroads and rebuild towns and cities, re-establish agricultural production. Most Northerners that went South and became carpetbaggers were already there in 1865 or ’66, before the radical regimes are even created. So that idea that they all went there to exploit and establish radical Republican political organization is not exactly the case.”)

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was fanatical, vengeful villain obsessed with further punishing, the poor, defeated South. (Actually, what Stevens was obsessed with granting newly freed blacks civil rights and suffrage, mostly because he saw them as human beings not as a way to punish the South. But Southern whites didn’t want that. This is another error from Birth of a Nation but Lincoln corrects this. Actually, almost everything in Birth of a Nation is while a significant film itself, one that is better described as a long KKK recruitment commercial than anything. It is one of the worst examples of historical films to date eschewing the facts to promote white supremacy as well as contained perhaps the most negative depiction of African Americans to date. Oh, and all the black characters in the film were played by whites wearing blackface. It has no historical credibility whatsoever.)

Andrew Johnson addressed his enemies in the Senate during his impeachment. (This didn’t happen.)

An ailing senator cast the vote against removing Andrew Johnson from office brought into the chamber at the last minute. (It was actually by a Republican senator from Kansas named Edmund Ross who thought that the impeachment articles against Johnson were trumped up political charges without merit {which they were}.)

Senator Jim Waters was the man who would’ve succeed Andrew Johnson had he been removed from office. (A senator named Ben Wade was.)

Most blacks were lynched over sexual indiscretions involving a white woman. (Well, these kinds of stories made sensational national headlines as well as used as a way to justify such hate crimes in movies like Birth of a Nation. However, according to muckraking journalist and an African American woman, the legendary Ida B. Wells, 70% of lynchings occurred when victims tried to vote, demanded their rights, purchased land, and owned successful businesses. So I guess Southerners were more worried about blacks exercising their God given rights than anything. Thus, most lynchings were simply hate crimes against blacks.)

Most black legislators were ignorant buffoons who looked ridiculous “playing government.” (Well, you can say the same thing about many legislators of any ethnicity. Still, while some black legislators were fresh from the farm, many were well-educated anti-slavery activists. Sorry, Birth of a Nation.)

Southern convicts during Reconstruction were primarily white. (They were mostly black who may have been incarcerated under dubious circumstances {but they were treated horribly nevertheless}. Yet, the convict whiteness serves a purpose in Gone with the Wind just to make Frank Kennedy and Ashley Wilkes squirm.)

Ulysses S. Grant helped robber barons with crooked land deals for the first transcontinental railroad in exchange for their influence in securing him in the 1868 presidential election. (Grant was widely recognized for his integrity and would never have done this. Also, by 1868, Grant would have no trouble getting the presidency because he was incredibly popular and would remain so for the rest of his life.)

The South was under oppressive military rule during Reconstruction. (According to Eric Foner: “The idea that the South was under military rule and military occupation is really a myth. The Union army was demobilized very, very fast at the end of the Civil War. Some people thought, too fast, because there was so much chaos and violence in the South. By 1866, there are 10,000, 12,000, maybe 15,000 soldiers left in the South. But most of them are in Texas, fighting the Indians. You could go for months and months in the South without ever seeing a federal soldier. There were small encampments of federal soldiers around. And if there were outbreaks of violence, they would sometimes be brought in to try to suppress it. Sometimes the Freedmen’s Bureau would call in a few soldiers to arrest a planter who refused to pay his workers or something like that. But no. Law and order was in the hands of governments, not of the army. And military rule was very, very brief. And the occupation was quite short-lived, really, in any practical sense.”)

The Klu Klux Klan wore white robes and conical hats during this period. (They did wear masks and hoods at this time but the white robes and conical hats started in the Klan’s second iteration, perhaps thanks to Birth of a Nation. So the first Klan more or less looked like the posse you see in Django Unchained than in the 1915 D. W. Griffith film. It’s said to have started as a social brotherhood in funny hats club for Confederate veterans but I’m not sure if I buy it.)

Miscellaneous:

J. E. B. Stuart, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Philip Sheridan, John Bell Hood, and George Armstrong Custer all graduated at West Point in 1854. (Stuart, yes, but Longstreet graduated in 1842 about a year before Grant, Pickett in 1846, Sheridan and Hood in 1853, and Custer in 1861. Yet, these guys all seem to be in the same West Point Class according to The Santa Fe Trail.)

Colonel Arthur James Lyon Freemantle was a total English fop. (He was a British observer on a self-funded trip to the Confederacy to shadow the army and see the war for himself. He was a pretty down to earth kind of guy whose book contained frequent references to his lack of dress clothes, his gray pants, and his dusty attire so he wasn’t wearing a shiny red outfit at Gettysburg. Not to mention, he wouldn’t be sipping a tea from a china cup on the freaking battlefield. Still, traveling all the way to see a war that will have lasting implications on how wars are fought in the future? Why weren’t other foreign officers doing this?)

Bananas were available in the US during the Civil War. (They were available after it, not during it.)

Both sides called the Battle of Bull Run by its well-known name. (Only Northerners referred to it as the Battle of Bull Run because of the Bull Run River. Southerners refer to it as the Battle of Manassas because it was the closest town. Many battles would be named after the closest river by the North while they’d be named after the closest town in the South.)

Americans during the Civil War sided with the side representative of the geographical location. (Yes, to a point for there were the Northern Copperheads like Clement Vallandingham who sympathized with the South and there plenty of people in the South who sided with the Union including a few generals. In fact, about 25% of Union Forces consisted of those from Confederate states {one of them being my 3rd great grandfather from Tennessee}. Richmond was rife with anti-Confederate sentiment that it spent much of the war under martial law and Confederate officials were suspect to attacks by pro-Union guerrilla bands. Arkansas had two governments that represented both sides. In Texas, Unionist support was endemic among the German and Mexican communities and various Unionist areas were harassed and/or massacred by local officials for it. When the draft was instated, many resistors in these communities were said to go into hiding or flee to Mexico with many hunted down or shot. Also, there was another demographic that was all too happy to don the blue uniform and that group was known as ex-slaves. Then there’s the existence of West Virginia which split from Virginia to rejoin the Union. Not to mention, the James brothers and their gang fought for the Confederacy, even though they were from Missouri.)

Robert E. Lee was a brilliant general and a saint while Ulysses S. Grant was a drunk who got lucky. (Actually Robert E. Lee wasn’t a nice guy and despite the fact he graduated from West Point with no demerits which still stands, he wasn’t the great general Lost Causers make him out to be. He was also a man of his time who could only think inside the box. I mean Lee was the one who decided to invade the North going through Maryland and Pennsylvania which resulted in the Union kicking his ass in Gettysburg. As for Grant, he probably wasn’t a drunk; he more likely had a low tolerance for alcohol for drinking was very commonplace in the military at the time, even to excess. It was said he usually drank when there was nothing going on or when he was separated from his wife. Still, as far as I’ve read on Grant’s drinking, his drinking habits don’t seem to fit those of an alcoholic. And despite the fact he graduated in the middle of his class at West Point, he didn’t help the North win the Civil War just because he had more disposable resources than Lee did and historians have called him one of America’s first twentieth century generals who won victories through his creative strategy that would be one of the reasons why the American Civil War was known as the first modern war.)

Civil War Enfield rifles had serial numbers. (Authentic ones don’t but reproductions do.)

The Civil War began with the Union Army firing on Fort Sumter. (It was the Confederate Army that fired the first shot.)

In the Civil War cannon shells that exploded on impact were not used. The cannon shells at Gettysburg had timed fuses so that the shells would explode in the air casting shrapnel downward to cause casualties. If a shell landed before exploding, it would just bury itself in the ground and scatter dirt harmlessly when exploding. In the movie, the cannon shots all explode when hitting the ground, not in the air, and are obviously preset charges. By the way, this is why the Confederates overshot the Union forces at Gettysburg. Their main supplier had burned down just prior to the battle and they were forced to use fuses from another source. The Confederates did not yet realize that these fuses burned slower than their previous ones so the shell would travel further before exploding. [This is untrue. ‘Percussion’ shells were used during the Civil War which would mean that shells would explode on impact.] (I got this from a site, but I don’t know which one.)

The barrage tactic was used in the Wilmington attack of 1865. (It was invented by the British in the 1880s and was first used in 1915.)

The Civil War was referred to this during the 1860s. (It would be referred to this a decade later and only by the North while it wouldn’t be referred to this in the South until the 1960s. At this time it was either “the war,” “the War of Secession,” or “the War between the States” since the South tried to form its own country. However, there were plenty of people living in the Confederacy who fought for the North such as the future state of West Virginia {Southern Unionists made a quarter of the Union forces}.)

Ulysses S. Grant and James Longstreet were buddies before the Civil War. (This is true but Longstreet also was at Grant’s wedding. Also, Julia Dent Grant was Longstreet’s cousin and Grant’s wife.)

Civil War doctors boiled their surgical instruments to prevent them from infecting patients. (Doctors wouldn’t do this until 1879. Also, I’m sure that Civil War doctors didn’t practice modern sanitation since clean hands and clean water for cleaning surgical instruments were optional. In fact, wasn’t the lack of sanitation the reason why so many soldiers died? I mean germs killed more Civil War soldiers than bullets. In the Civil War, it was safer to fight an entire battle than it was to be sent into a field hospital. Yet, in The Horse Soldiers, the doctors seem oddly concerned with cleanliness.)

Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant were famous names at the start of 1862. (Both were relative unknowns at the time. Lee wouldn’t assume command of the Army of Northern Virginia until June of that year. Grant would win his first victory at Fort Donelson that February in which he’d get the nickname “Unconditional Surrender Grant” for his generous surrender terms.)

All soldiers who participated in the Civil War lived in the modern United States. (Some 33,000-55,000 Canadians also fought in the war, but mostly on the Union side since they were more anti-slavery than many US Northerners. About 29 of them would receive the Medal of Honor. There were notable examples from other countries as well.)

The Battles of First Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville were the three major battles before Gettysburg. (There’s Antietam, the Peninsular campaigns, Battle of Seven Days, and Second Bull Run. And that’s just the battles involving the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac. You also have Fort Donelson, Shiloh, the Vicksburg Campaign, Farragut’s capture of New Orleans, and others.)

Soldiers on both sides always stayed loyal to the entity they started in. (A lot of POWs from both sides had the tendency to switch.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 40 – The American Civil War: The North

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As far as American Civil War movies go, Spielberg’s Lincoln from 2012 is one of the best as well as brings the beloved 16th president to life in a way nobody else has ever seen before which gave Daniel Day Lewis a well deserved Oscar for his performance. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones performed superbly as Mary Todd Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens as well. Sure there may be some minor inaccuracies in this but the overall spirit rings true in almost every way. Still, perhaps the biggest historic atrocity about this film is that it lost to Argo at the Academy Awards. I totally love this film which is like historical C-SPAN but fun.

The American Civil War wasn’t much better in the North at first since they had a series of terrible generals who Abraham Lincoln had to select because he couldn’t find anyone else. However, once there were generals like Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Chamberlain, and Thomas who won battles, then he focused his attention to them. In 1861, the primary reason for the North fighting this war was to save the union through any means necessary even if it meant not freeing a single slave. But once slaves began to flock to Union troops seeing them as liberators, Lincoln would later issue his Emancipation Proclamation the next year which called for slaves in areas controlled by the Confederacy to be forever free as of 1863. Then you have the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg address. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed which abolished slavery once and for all. Still, national unity and freeing slaves weren’t the only things that the North one on. They also had factories, a strong centralized government, large populations, a good navy, good diplomatic ties, and a strong skilled leader in President Abraham Lincoln. Of course, despite a lot of these things, sometimes the North tends to be seen as the villain in Civil War movies which kind of give many inaccurate impressions of them. Still, there are plenty of historical errors relating to the Civil War North which I shall list accordingly.

Francis Preston Blair Sr. was a nice looking old man in 1865 with a full head of hair. (Unlike the Hal Holbrook portrayal in Lincoln, the real Blair kind of resembled some undead monster you’d see in a zombie film rising from his grave. Also, he had been bald since he was a young man. I’ll forgive Spielberg on this one. Elizabeth Keckley doesn’t look like the Gloria Reuben’s portrayal in Lincoln either according to her photograph, but we’re not sure when her picture was taken.)

Union soldiers took aim by standing forward with their left foot. (They would usually step back with their right foot bringing it behind their left. Stepping forward would desecrate the line according to 19th century warfare.)

Joshua Chamberlain died at 83. (He was 85.)

Thomas Chamberlain was an everyman who fitted throughout the Confederate camps and made friends with whomever he met at Gettysburg. (There’s no historical basis of this.)

There were no black Union soldiers involved in the Battle of the Crater. (They were heavily involved in this battle.)

Union officers drank Don Perignon champagne. (This brand wasn’t around until 1921 or sold until 1936.)

Union officers used “at ease.” (This command didn’t exist in the Civil War. It would’ve been “at rest” or “in place rest.”)

Union General Charles Garrison Harker was in South Carolina at the same time as the 54th Massachusetts. (He was part of the Army of the Cumberland and was fighting in the Tullahoma Campaign in Tennessee. Also, unlike his portrayal in Glory which has him as a man in his forties, he was only 25 at the time.)

Union Army sergeant insignias were sewn onto a blue cloth backing all at once. (This is common among Civil War reenactors. Yet, during the Civil War, the stripes of the era were individual stripes which had to be sewn on one by one.)

Union volunteer cavalry at Shiloh also served at Gettysburg. (The cavalry that served in Shiloh were in the Battle of Vicksburg which was being fought around the same time as Gettysburg. Those at Gettysburg were in Virginia during the Battle of Shiloh. No volunteer cavalry could be present in both battles.)

Secretary of State William Seward was patronizing and dismissive toward Lincoln. (By 1864, he was practically in love with the man, but not in a gay way. Also, Lincoln would sometimes go to Seward’s house for dinner and an evening of laughs, songs, and wine.)

There were black Union soldiers at Fort Monroe at the arrival of the Confederate Peace Commission. (Black soldiers greeting Confederate envoys, what could possibly go wrong with that?)

The Capitol Dome was gray in 1865. (It had always been white since its completion in 1863.)

Andrew Johnson last served in the US Senate in 1861. (He last served in 1862 before being appointed as military governor of Tennessee.)

Only one Connecticut representative voted for the 13th Amendment. (All four representatives did.)

Every seat in Congress was occupied during the vote on the 13th Amendment. (At least 18 were left empty which would’ve belonged to the states that seceded.)

Copperheads were peaceful people who just didn’t like war. (Actually they were the antiwar Northern faction of the Democratic Party who wanted immediate peace with the Confederacy. While the War Democrats didn’t care for Lincoln, they supported the Union war effort anyway. The Copperhead Peace Democrats, on the other hand, were more radical in their virulent racist, hatred, and demonization of Lincoln, as well as sympathy for the Confederacy. And some of their rhetoric is just so vile with so many n-words that it’s too offensive to quote {well, you can watch the scene in Lincoln with the introduction of Fernando Wood, but it’s pretty tame. Still, he was a notorious Copperhead who called for New York City’s secession in the war’s beginning}. Sure they opposed the draft, emancipation, and suspension of habeas corpus, but they weren’t pacifists or Quakers {who were deeply anti-slavery and supported the Underground Railroad}. They were an organized political movement with political aims to chiefly undermine the Union war effort and fed off defeatism. Nobody knows how large it was. But it wasn’t uncommon for Copperheads to coordinate their operations with the Confederate government to create havoc on the Union home front. There was also Copperhead agitation behind the New York City Draft Riots in July of 1863 which was the war’s largest mob action with 120 killed, including 11 lynched black men. They also had support and funds by the Confederate government pertaining to actions and schemes like: overthrowing Lincoln, tried to stage a secession of the Midwest, organized killings of Union soldiers in southern Illinois, etc. In short, Copperheads were traitors who make modern day Tea Party Republicans look benign in comparison.)

Abolitionists staged violent insurrections against those who attacked their opinions during the war. (While mobbing was quite common before and during the Civil War, not a single instance involved abolitionists attacking individuals of opposing opinions. That was not how abolitionists behaved. Yes, there was John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry but he was trying to arm blacks to rise against slave owners, which is another matter entirely. Also, no Copperhead was attacked in upstate New York during that time either. Still, abolitionists often were targets of mobs with pre-Civil War numbers as 73 in North and 19 in the South, many at abolitionist presses. Abolitionists have also been subject to numerous beatings as well as tar and featherings, and even murder, which were well known in Lincoln’s time. In fact, Lincoln’s first major political speech centered on the mob attack and murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837.)

The dome of the US Capitol was completed by 1861. (It was finished in 1863.)

Union soldiers were flogged as punishment. (Since Colonel Shaw was a by-the-book man, no one in the 54th Massachusetts would’ve never gotten whipped {nor would Shaw order it} since flogging was banned in 1861. However, since slaves were often flogged, it kind of serves a purpose in Glory to have Private Tripp punished this way even if it was out of Shaw’s character to give such an order. Still, there were harsh punishments like being “spread eagled” on the spare wheel of an artillery limber which would’ve broken a man’s back.)

Colonel James Montgomery was a marauding racist and former slaveholder who made use of free slaves to pillage and burn towns. (Yes, he did pillage and burn but he was a staunch abolitionist in the vein of John Brown whose methods actually came from his days as an anti-slavery partisan during Bleeding Kansas. Also, he most likely didn’t own slaves at all.)

During his raid, Benjamin Grierson decided a deliberate retreat than to risk slaughtering Mississippi schoolboys. (This may not have happened. Yet, there’s a similar incident in the Battle of New Market with the Virginia Military Institute student body.)

White Union soldiers were thuggish and venal who tend to wonder why they’re in the army or why there was even a war going on. (I’m sure that many Confederate soldiers were like this, too, especially towards the end of the war when they started deserting the Army while Sherman’s Army marched to the sea. According to TTI: “Desertion was a serious problem in the South; by 1863 men were deserting faster than new recruits could be conscripted to replace them, and by war’s end over three-quarters of the Confederate army was AWOL. Entire Confederate divisions existed solely on paper, their men and command structure having walked out en masse, stealing as much equipment as they could carry. The most notable incidence of desertion was probably Confederate general Pemberton’s army, paroled after the surrender at Vicksburg. Mustered with 30,000 men, a month later fewer than 1,500 of them were left to report for duty, the rest having simply changed back into civilian clothes and gone home.”)

The Union Army had integrated regiments. (Blacks served in all black regiments but they were under the command of white officers but that’s as integrated as you’re going to get. Yet, white regiments did have black civilians working for them for a time though.)

White Union spies sometimes used blackface and pretended to be slaves in the South. (Many of them just used actual slaves mostly. Also, those posing as slaves were usually black to begin with.)

A 304th regiment existed in the Union Army. (No state assigned regimental numbers above the 100s.)

Benjamin Grierson’s raid consisted of the 1st Illinois, 1st Michigan, and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry regiments. (It was composed of the 6th and 7th Illinois and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. Also the 1st Michigan served in the Army of the Potomac in 1863 so its presence would’ve been more appropriate for Gettysburg not Vicksburg.)

After laying mines in the Confederate trenches, Union soldiers lay in formation waiting to charge after they went off. (Union troops would’ve waited in their trenches because there would’ve been no open ground where they could lay in formation, they would’ve been hit by debris in the explosion, and the Confederates would’ve seen them getting out and lying in wait.)

The US Secret Service was around during the Civil War. (It was formed in July of 1865.)

The 116th Pennsylvania led the Irish Brigades charge at Maryes Heights. (It was the 28th Massachusetts.)

The 116th Pennsylvania had a green flag. (It was the only Irish Brigade regiment that didn’t. Theirs had the State of Pennsylvania. Also, before the Battle of Fredericksburg only the 28th Massachusetts had the famous green Irish Brigade flags. Most regiments received the green flags by General T.F. Maegher days after the battle. )

The 20th Maine charged independently at Fredericksburg. (No Union regiment charged at the Confederate position without supporting regiments around it during the battle.)

Union forces used the Gatling gun during the Civil War. (It wasn’t patented until 1865 and the US military didn’t adopt it formally until 1866.)

St. Clair Augustine Mulholland was a Lieutenant Colonel during the Battle of Fredericksburg. (He was a major and a commander of the 116th Pennsylvania which was part of Maegher’s brigade, not the brigade in total. Also, Maegher made his charge on horseback not on foot, and did not “protect the rear.”)

Brigadier General Thomas R. R. Cobb commanded an Irish regiment. (He commanded the Irish Brigade.)

Irish Union soldiers didn’t know what they were fighting for. (There are historical documents in their own eloquent words of why they as immigrants believed they ought to fight for the Union. Of course, many were drafted like Gangs of New York implies but there were plenty of Irish immigrants who did fight voluntarily as well.)

Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were warmongers who pressured Abraham Lincoln to punish Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. (Actually Grant and Sherman would’ve wished nothing of the sort. Sure they got a lot of men killed and destroyed a lot of property but they considered such destruction as part of their duty as generals. Yet, once their enemies surrendered, they turned out to be very okay guys more interested in healing national ties than settling scores.)

Private Buster Kilrain was a grumpy Irishman from the 20th Maine demoted for drunkenness as well as delivered a very poignant speech at the Battle of Gettysburg. (This character from the movie Gettysburg is totally made up which is why his name isn’t on the 20th Maine monument at Little Round Top. The photo used to represent him in the opening credits was nothing more than an unknown ordinary Union soldier. However, there’s a cacophony of gullible individuals demand to know why that is on their trips to Gettysburg, which annoys the piss out of the tour guides in the process. )

Alexander H. Coffrot nervously voted for the 13th Amendment. (He was a pallbearer at Lincoln’s funeral so he was more than a simple political pawn to the White House.)

General Philip Sheridan commanded the Army of the Potomac. (He was the Commanding General of the Army of the Shenandoah. George Meade was commanded the Army of the Potomac during the last two years of the Civil War.)

Union cavalrymen always knew how to take care of their horses. (The Union Army actually lost more horses rendered unstable or even dead to sickness, exhaustion, etc. than to actual combat. While many volunteers in the first two years of the Civil War were from the farm, it wasn’t unusual for urban volunteers and  later conscripts to be assigned to cavalry units. So it’s possible that many Northern cavalrymen had no idea hot to take care of a horse because city horses were owned by commercial firms {like cabbies or wagoners} so many urbanites never learned how since horse care was left up to the professionals.)

Ulysses S. Grant:

Ulysses S. Grant was a four-star general in 1865. (He was a Lieutenant General which is a three star rank. However, many people believe that Lieutenant General is a four star rank anyway, which it’s not. Grant wouldn’t become a four-star general until 1866. Then again he was the first four star general this nation has had.)

Ulysses S. Grant swore and used firearms on a habitual basis. (He never used profanity and had an aversion to firearms {only using them when he needed to}.)

Ulysses S. Grant was a butcher who was willing to shed more lives because he could. (Though Grant’s strategy may be cold hearted, it worked and he wasn’t afraid to take advantage of having a superior numbers. Not to mention, he did feel the carnage deeply and was said to have wept after the first day of Wilderness. Then again, haven’t all generals done this even during the Civil War? At least Grant won battles and wasn’t a chickenshit unlike some of his counterparts. And by that time Lincoln was fed up with chickenshit generals.)

Ulysses S. Grant graduated at the bottom of his class. (He graduated 21st out of 39 in his class in 1843.)

Ulysses S. Grant was a short, coarse, rough man usually scowling as well as a drinker and smoker. (He was of average height in his era and “a man whose values and character often avoided the pitfalls that often face those who are given military and political blood and was painfully alive to every form of human suffering,” according to the site on his tomb. He was also a very creative strategist, a tough calm and collected leader, as well as was very nice to his adversaries who were willing to surrender. Also, he was an avid horse lover and once had a soldier beaten for mistreating one. Not to mention, he was a man of great humility as well as deeply respected by those who knew him {even by those who surrendered to him}, which was why he was so popular at the time of his death. Still, yes, he did smoke and was his tobacco habit that would kill him. As for his drinking, he probably wasn’t a drunk and more of a man who couldn’t hold his liquor.)

Ulysses S. Grant arrogantly and casually walked around the room smoking a big cigar during the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. (Grant may not have been one of the most formal men but he treated Appomattox with the utmost dignity and sensitivity for his defeated foe. Not so in Birth of a Nation.)

William Tecumseh Sherman:

William Tecumseh Sherman was a monster who burned down Southern towns for no reason. (The reason why Sherman was burning down areas of the South had to do with the strategy of total war which meant destroying resources and bringing the war to civilians so the South would be scrambling and have low morale and arguably his strategy worked. Not to mention, Sherman didn’t take delight doing any of that. He also had a reputation for leniency and mercy, regularly permitting defeated enemies to retrieve their belongings and go home without further incident.)

William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta in September in 1864 and at night. (He burned down Atlanta two months later. Yet at that time, retreating Confederate troops were torching ammunition dumps to keep the Union army from capturing them. However, the fire wouldn’t have been as spectacular as it was on Gone with the Wind.)

General Winfield Scott:

General Winfield Scott was in command at the Battle of Gettysburg. (The commander of Union forces was General George Meade. By Gettysburg, Scott had been retired from the army for over a year.)

General Winfield Scott was a buffoon over confident of a quick victory in the North. (He was one of the few people who knew the Civil War would be long, costly, and bloody. He also might’ve been taller than Lincoln at 6’ 5.” Not usually portrayed as such in movies.)

General Winfield Scott was in charge of the Union Army until after the end of the American Civil War. (He resigned in November in 1861 and was succeeded by a series of generals over the course of the war until Lincoln settled on  Ulysses S. Grant. If this were true, it might’ve saved Lincoln a lot of headache and he’d probably not appoint men like George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose Burnside, Henry W. Halleck, Irvin McDowell, John Pope, and George Meade {though he was actually quite decent and won Gettysburg}. Yet, you don’t see this in They Died with Their Boots on.)

Thaddeus Stevens:

Thaddeus Stevens had a black live-in girlfriend. (He had a black housekeeper he was close to, but we’re not sure whether they were lovers or not. Still, he never married.)

Thaddeus Stevens disavowed his conviction that blacks were equal in all things in front of the House floor. (He didn’t, nor was his speech a decisive moment. Still, as far as historical inaccuracies go, Spielberg rates pretty low and actually tries to be historically correct. Also, in regards to historical accuracy in Civil War movies, Lincoln ranks pretty high on the list.)

Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln was an unambitious man who didn’t want to get into politics, and was called Abe. (Lincoln hated to be called Abe. As a politician, Lincoln combined his policy substance and electioneering skills and knew how to play the game. Lincoln also had plenty of ambitions of his own such as to leave the log cabin and never look back, to marry a woman who could speak French and had attended finishing school, to send his son to Exeter prep school and Harvard. His law partner William Herndon called him, “a little engine that knew no rest.”)

Abraham Lincoln was wrong to suspend habeas corpus and use his war powers. (Contrary to Copperhead, Lincoln only briefly suspended habeas corpus in Maryland to prevent insurrection and secession simply because having the state go would have Washington D.C. surrounded by the Confederacy. Most arrests in the North during the war mostly consisted of  insurrectionary acts like blockade running, gun running and desertion. And mostly to protect enlistment and conscription. Newspapers were suppressed but only for a short time but reopened acting through the War Department and the Copperhead press remained more or less intact and left alone throughout the war even as they advocated for Lincoln’s assassination. Oh, and Lincoln believed that the Emancipation Proclamation was totally constitutional.)

Abraham Lincoln had a deep and sonorous baritone voice. (His voice was a high pitched nasal tenor.)

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t offended by profanity and wouldn’t be upset for people swearing in front of his kids. (Though he was all right with the occasional swear word now and then as well as cursing in extreme frustration {which he probably did a lot himself during the war}, he was known to be very offended by profanity going so far as to rebuke generals in the field for cursing in his presence. Nevertheless, it’s highly unlikely he would’ve tolerated Preston Blair’s swearing in front of Tad.)

Abraham Lincoln managed to get the 13th Amendment passed in Congress mostly by his own efforts. (It was actually due to the work of black and women activists who managed to send a 400,000 signature petition organized by the Women’s Loyal League {headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton}. Also, Frederick Douglass should deserve considerable credit as well. Yet, as Lincoln notes, had Lincoln pressed Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, most of their efforts would’ve come to naught.)

William Henry Harrison’s portrait hung in Abraham Lincoln’s oval office. (It never did.)

Union soldiers could memorize the Gettysburg Address in Abraham Lincoln’s time. (The Gettysburg Address didn’t enter into the national vocabulary until the early 20th century. The chances of any Union soldier memorizing this speech, black or white, would’ve been far remote. Still, in Spielberg’s Lincoln, this is forgivable.)

Abraham Lincoln’s face was on coins during his lifetime. (It was on a $10 bill not coins. He didn’t appear on a coin until after his death with his first appearance being on a fourth series 50 cent piece.)

Abraham Lincoln was a homespun folk hero not fond of getting into fights or engaging in low brow humor. (TTI says he’s known for inventing the chokeslam as well as wrestled in his youth and nearly fought in a duel. As for low brown humor, Lincoln was notorious for these kind of jokes as seen in Lincoln. Folksy family friendly folk hero my ass.)

Mrs. Bixby’s five sons who served in the Union Army were all killed in the Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter for. (The Bixby legend is a myth plain and simple. Besides, Lincoln may not have written the Bixby letter himself {his secretary John Hay seems like a likely candidate}. Still, Mrs. Bixby only lost two sons in battle while her other boys survived the war with two being captured {one possibly deserting to the enemy} and one going AWOL. Bixby herself was said to be a Confederate sympathizer and had been described by her contemporaries as a madam and “untrustworthy and as bad as she could be.” It’s possible that she may have even been a con artist who exaggerated her claims for financial compensation. Still, this letter seems to have some prominence as setting up the plot in Saving Private Ryan.)

Abraham Lincoln sent an emissary to the Dakota Territory in order to negotiate a treaty with the Sioux which included a $130,000 payment for the tribe in gold. (Lincoln had bigger things to worry about than hostile Indian tribes.)

Abraham Lincoln arrived riding among piles and piles in a war torn battlefield after the fall of Petersburg and Richmond. (He was actually greeted by hundreds of ecstatic freed slaves.)

Mary Todd Lincoln:

Mary Todd Lincoln was a crazy bitch and there wasn’t much love between her and her husband. (Yes, she was feisty and had her moments as well as had a tendency to be misunderstood, but she was hardly as unpleasant as most film adaptations depict her with the exception of Spielberg’s Lincoln. The reason why she’s depicted like that is because Hollywood mostly likes to depict Abraham Lincoln as an unambitious man who had no interest in politics which is also inaccurate, thus, it’s up to Mary to push him into it so Abe could become president. As with the Lincolns’ marriage, Lincoln often said happily of her, “My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I…fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out.” Sure Abe and Mary didn’t have an easy life together but their marriage was anything but loveless. And as with the craziness, her mental state began to deteriorate after Lincoln’s assassination and the death of their son Tad. Mary Lincoln may not have been the crazy bitch depicted in earlier film adaptations, but she was much misunderstood.)

Mary Todd Lincoln attended debates in the House of Representatives. (She didn’t nor would she make a scene in public. As a woman, she’d also be scorned at the time for sitting in the House Gallery.)

Mary Todd Lincoln berated Thaddeus Stevens for his investigation into her lavish expenses. (She would’ve never made a scene like that.)

Tad Lincoln:

Alexander Gardiner sent fragile one-of-a-kind plates to Tad Lincoln. (He would never do such thing since Tad had once ruined several images by locking the developer in a closet.)

Tad Lincoln was a normal 11-year-old boy in 1865. (He had a very serious speech impediment to the point that only his closest teachers and family could understand him {he also had speech therapy to overcome this as a teenager}. Based on photographs, he may have had a cleft lip or cleft palate. It’s also said he had such uneven teeth that he had such difficulty chewing food, his meals had to be specially prepared. He also didn’t attend school until after his father’s death. Still, Lincoln portrays him as a normal kid because most children with Tad’s condition have usually gone through surgery and therapy by 11 years old anyway these days. So to find a white 11 year old American child with a cleft palate and speech impediment like Tad’s would’ve been extremely difficult, if not impossible. Yet, other than that, Tad was mostly a normal kid albeit rather impulsive and unrestrained that many of his numerous tutors quit in frustration. But that had more to do with his parents not being disciplinarians.)

Tad Lincoln’s uniformed was of a Union Lieutenant Colonel. (In 1863, Edwin Stanton “commissioned” Tad as an artillery 2nd lieutenant.)

54th Massachusetts Regiment:

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw asked who would carry the colors if they should fall during the assault on Fort Wagner. (It was General Strong who asked the question and it was Shaw who volunteered to carry them.)

Most of the Massachusetts 54th consisted of ex-slaves. (Actually most of that regiment was made up of free blacks at least initially. Most of the original soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts could read and write and one of their privates was a doctor {today, he would’ve been commissioned a captain though}. Glory just used the Massachusetts 54th as a way to tell the story of black soldiers and sailors during the Civil War who were mostly ex-slaves, some even a few months or days before they joined up.)

Sergeant William H. Carney took up the flag and never let it touch the ground during the battle of Fort Wagner, a battle in which he later died in. (He survived the battle despite being wounded a few times. Not to mention, he would later become the first black recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions 37 years later in 1900. His expy Tripp in Glory doesn’t survive Fort Wagner though. But like the Denzel Washington character in the film, he was indeed a former slave.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was thrown in a mass grave with everything on him minus his shoes. (According to Confederate General James Hagood, Shaw’s body was stripped and robbed before being thrown in the grave. Of course, you can’t have this in Glory.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was eager to be the CO of the 54th Massachusetts. (He was actually very reluctant but he soon came to respect them as fine soldiers. Still, unlike Glory says, the pay boycott depicted was actually his idea.)

Robert Gould Shaw received the request to be Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts at a Boston party and accepted it immediately. (He didn’t receive it at a party nor did he accept it right away. He actually refused it twice since he felt himself unworthy. He eventually accepted it after his friend and future brother-in-law Charles Russell Lowell {who commanded the 2nd Massachusetts cavalry which had 5 companies of Californians} talked him into it.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw died falling into a parapet. (He actually made it to the top of the hill and his body fell into the fort. Other than where his body fell, his death scene in Glory is mostly accurate.)

Over half of the 54th Massachusetts regiment was lost during the assault at Fort Wagner. (Official records state that 54th sustained 272 casualties which closer to 40% of its force and of these only 116 were fatalities which is under one fifth of the men who stormed the fort. If the 156 soldiers that were captured are included {which is rather likely they didn’t survive capture since most black Union troops didn’t}, it would bring the total to over half. In any event, these heavy casualties and the regiment was widely viewed as having performed bravely indeed.)

The 54th Massachusetts was raised and trained in the fall of 1862. (It formed in March of 1863 just four months before Fort Wagner. However, they also saw action on James Island two days before the Fort Wagner attack.)

The 54th Massachusetts didn’t survive without Colonel Robert Shaw. (It actually continued to see action in Olustee, Florida in February 1864, Honey Hill, South Carolina in November 1864, and Boykin’s Mill, South Carolina in April 1865.)

Robert Gould Shaw was Governor Andrew’s first choice to lead the 54th Massachusetts. (Shaw wasn’t but he was probably the best choice.)

New York Draft Riots:

Bill the Butcher was a dangerous man who was around during the New York Draft Riots. (Actually he died eight years before the riots happened and his name was William Poole not Bill Cutting. And contrary to Gangs of New York, it’s not known killed anyone though he was murdered and owned a butcher shop. Sorry, Martin Scorsese.)

Irish immigrants were drafted into the Union Army after they just left the boat. (I’m not sure that newly arrived immigrants were draft targets at the time but it’s in Gangs of New York.)

The Chinese had their own communities and venues in 1860s New York City. (Yes, there were Chinese living in New York as early as the 1840s but significant Chinese emigration to New York didn’t begin until 1869.)

John F. Schermerhorn was alive during the New York Draft Riots. (He died in 1851.)

US Navy vessels were fired at New York City during the draft riots. (Sorry, Martin Scorsese, but this never happened.)

Working class Irish immigrants in New York City rioted in response to the draft of 1863 because they didn’t want blacks taking their jobs and social space as well as wanted no part in the war to free slaves. They also were a rather rowdy bunch who turned on each other and mostly destroyed property. (It was also because Democratic propaganda in New York City stirred their racial hatreds with antiwar and antiblack sentiments. And contrary to what Gangs of New York said, the toll was not that high. Also, there were plenty of Irish immigrants who fought for the North during the Civil War and some of the guys who tried to clamp down on the riots were Irish themselves. And there were no riots in the Five Points area of New York.)

Hell-Cat Maggie was around during the New York Draft Riots. (She was around during the 1840s. However, her character on Gangs of New York is more of a composite of other female fighters.)

George Armstrong Custer:

George Armstrong Custer was given a medal for his actions during the Civil War. (He wasn’t given any decoration though he did receive honorary brevet promotions for gallantry. Only the newly developed, “Medal of Honor” was awarded in the US at the time, which Custer never won. However, his brother Thomas was one of the only three Civil War soldiers along with 16 others since them to receive it twice. Still, despite media portrayals, Custer was no idiot. Also, the Confederacy didn’t use decoration either but only added a few names to a “roll of honor.” Not to mention, they didn’t use the Southern Cross which was a memorial recognition created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1890s.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 39 – The American Civil War: The South

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No movie perhaps shows the American Civil War in the view of the South like Gone of the Wind, or at least one that is relatively fair enough to be seen as one of the greatest films of all time. Of course, this movie does tend to be rather racist in regards to the portrayal of black people but so did many films around 1939. However, though Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler are fictional characters, there were many people just like them during the Civil War with these two being featured as the flawed and relateable human beings they are as played by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Not to mention, this film shows how much the South changed in the course of these critical four years. Though this is a flawed and romanticized historical interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction in the South, this is a classic that still flourishes and entertains.

For the next few posts in my movie history series, I’m going to cover films pertaining to the American Civil War. Two of these would feature photos of movies that I adore like Gone with the Wind and Lincoln. One will feature a movie which is historically significant in the history of film but one I sincerely despise because of its blatantly racist connotations and its message of racial hatred like Birth of a Nation. Nevertheless, the American Civil War may be a four year conflict but it’s one of the nastiest wars in American history that tore the US apart as well as families, towns, and even governments with implications that will not only have an impact on the United States as a nation (which you will get plenty of opinions on no matter where you are) but will also have ramifications worldwide, especially in how people fight wars in general (it’s not called the first modern war for nothing). The American Civil War is perhaps one of the bloodiest wars in American history in that it killed more Americans than any other war before or since as well as wiped out 2-5% of the US population at the time, and left many more impoverished, displaced, maimed, and traumatized. It was the first time waged in the battlefields and won in the factories as well as the introduction of the first military medical corps, war trenches, veterans organizations, and government involvement with the military dead. It was a war in which weapons like submarines, metal warships, repeating rifles, and others. It was also a war where many aspects like cavalry, Napoleonic battle tactics, wooden warships, cannon balls, and other things would become obsolete. However, many Civil War movies do tend to get things wrong like having soldiers using the wrong guns of the period or wearing the wrong kind of uniforms. Sometimes they tend to downplay the main cause of this conflict in the first place which was slavery.

Of course, as I said in the my post about the antebellum years, slavery was a major cause to why the American Civil War broke out or at least the expansion of it and the fact that Southern states wanted the whole country to recognize it but the North didn’t want that. Abraham Lincoln’s election of 1860 caused South Carolina to secede from the Union along with others from that time to early 1861. By 1861, these states eleven states formed the Confederacy and elected Mississippi politician Jefferson Davis as its first president. That April, the Confederates would fire upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina which kicked off the American Civil War as we know it. Of course, the South did luck out at first with good generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, and others. But things started taking a turn in the South such as Jefferson Davis’ propensity to pick generals he liked (instead of good ones), heavy losses that couldn’t be replaced, economic problems, limited industry, Northern blockades, and other things like Sherman’s march to the sea, Lee’s mistake at Gettysburg, and Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, the Confederacy would soon be doomed to defeat by 1865. Towards the end, the Confederacy had endured a great deal of destruction and suffered greatly in morale. Union capture of Richmond as well as Lee’s surrender would bring an end to the Confederacy as we know it. Still, there’s a lot of things movies get wrong about the Civil War in the South which I shall list accordingly.

The Southern whites during the Civil War just wanted to live in peace. (So they can continue owning slaves and expand into Latin America and the Caribbean.)

It wasn’t unusual late in the Civil war to see well-dressed Southern ladies having tea and slaves picking cotton. (This would’ve been highly unusual at this point in the war especially in 1864-1865.)

The Confederate Home Guard was a brutal organization which went around killing indiscriminately and torturing women. (Their main job was to return escaped slaves to their masters and sending deserters back to Confederate lines but they could certainly be this, especially towards the end of the war when Confederate morale was low. Still, it’s complicated.)

Confederate deserters were nice law abiding people worried about their starving families. (Many of them became mountain outlaws and some banded with Union guerrillas to plunder farms and towns.)

The Confederate flag was always used by the Confederacy during the Civil War. (Actually it was the “stars and bars” flag which looked very different. The Confederate flag came later.)

The Cherokee sided with the Confederates during the Civil War due to their mistreatment on the Trail of Tears. (Actually they fought on both sides for even though they were slave owners, many remembered they were forced out of a Southern state by a Southern president. Some volunteered to go to Oklahoma and supported the removal while others opposed it and were forced off. Even Indians weren’t that stupid to attribute the atrocities to just the North.)

Confederate soldiers wore gray uniforms. (Well, though the Union Army uniforms tend to be accurately depicted for the most part in movies, Confederate uniforms not so much. Also, early in the war there were Confederate units in blue and Union units in gray. Still, most Confederate soldiers usually wore what they had on at the time since many Confederates couldn’t produce or afford gray. And even soldiers who wore grey uniforms, each one varied considerably in hue.)

W. P Inman ditched the Confederate Army because of a serious injury in a calamitous battle. (It was actually for “cowardly desertion at his post.” Oh, and he signed an oath of allegiance to the US in December of 1864 in East Tennessee. Still, unlike what Cold Mountain says, Inman might’ve deserted multiple times.)

W. P. Inman’s wife was Ada Monroe and his daughter was named Grace. (Her name was Margaret Henson and his daughter’s name was Willie Ida. Still, Grace is a better name for your daughter.)

The South seceded from the Union over states’ rights. (Yes, if that includes the right to own slaves and treat black people as property. Yet, the South also wanted slavery to be recognized in the Northern states which opposed it. Also, until the Civil War Southern presidents and lawmakers dominated the federal government.)

Confederate soldiers were heroic and respectable men. Confederate officers were gentlemen while enlisted men were tough, had thicker accents, and were very loyal to their officers. (Yes, there were some noble Confederates, most of them would be all right as long as they weren’t against a black regiment.)

Confederate soldiers were superior to their Union counterparts in every way such as braver, more clever, more noble, and more tragic. (Ulysses S. Grant didn’t win the Battle of Vicksburg on significant numbers alone but on creative and innovative strategy. He also did a lot of things in battles that haven’t been done before as well as is sometimes referred to as a 20th century general. However, Hollywood and a lot of people tend to forget this and other battles. Still, the Confederate soldiers were no more superior than their Union counterparts, especially when it came to the treatment of blacks.)

The Confederate soldiers were nobly fighting for freedom. (Actually they were fighting for the freedom to subjugate black people under involuntary servitude under one of the most inhumane institutions known to history. I’m talking about slavery folks.)

Slavery had nothing to do with the Confederate cause. (It had everything to do with the Confederate cause and why the Southern states seceded from the Union. To quote from Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens, “Our new government [the C.S.A.] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” Pretty sums the whole thing up.)

Virginia regiments fought at Little Round Top. (No Virginia regiment fought there.)

Many Irish in the South sided with the Confederacy. (The Confederacy had some company sized Irish units while the Union Army of the Potomac had an Irish brigade. Gods and Generals exaggerates the Irish Confederate presence a bit. Oh, and there was at least one ethnically European {mostly Irish} regiment from every Confederate state fighting for the Union.)

People from the Southern Appalachian Mountains were Confederate diehards. (People from this area have often been portrayed this way. However, Appalachia was strongly pro-Union during the American Civil War {so much that West Virginia formed their own state} and many of these areas suffered in retaliation from the Confederacy. The reason why Appalachia was such a pro-Union hotbed was because the mountainous topography separated them from the government seats which prevented them from using plantations as a means of income. Most of the trade and transport in Appalachia came from Northern states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio. Thus, many areas in this region didn’t have as strong a loyalty to the state’s government as when they seceded. Because of economic and social differences, West Virginia pushed to have its own state as early 1820, yet secession just gave them an opportunity to do so. Other factors contributing to Appalachian Unionism included religious differences, class differences, and ethnic differences, which have not all been forgotten either.)

12lb Brooke guns were used as Confederate field pieces. (There’s no such thing as a 12lb Brooke gun nor were these guns ever used for field artillery. Brooke guns were used in the Confederate Navy and in some forts.)

Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were bearded at the start of the Civil War. (Both grew beards later on in the war. Also, Lee didn’t get his signature look until he served as Jefferson Davis’ military adviser. Before that, he had dark hair going gray with a 1850s military style mustache. As for Jackson, he had a well-known disinterest for personal grooming and appearance but he was clean shaven at the start of the war.)

Confederate General Sibley’s units consisted entirely of infantry. (They consisted entirely of cavalry units and a single battalion of artillery. No Confederate infantry was used in the New Mexico campaign.)

Andersonville accepted prisoners in 1862. (It didn’t accept prisoners until 1864 and only took enlisted men. Yet, Libby Prison in Richmond would, which took officers.)

The Confederate 3rd Army regiment served in the 1862 invasion of New Mexico. (The Confederates deployed the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th regiments of the Texas Mounted Rifles and some unnumbered territorial groups. There was no 3rd Confederate regiment of any sort there. Though there was a 3rd U. S. Cavalry on the Union side.)

The Confederate government sent agitators to the American West to incite Indian tribes against the Federal Government to draw troops away from battle in the East. (The Confederacy didn’t need to do this since the Western Indian tribes were agitated enough to fight the white guys already. Also, it probably wouldn’t have done much good since the Union Army was several times bigger than the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War. Besides, Sherman was more successful drawing Confederate troops away from battle through his March to the Sea.)

The Confederates were more Christian than those in the North. (Both sides were about equal in religious fervency.)

Virginia was one of the most pro-secessionist states in the Confederacy. (Remember that there was a group of Virginians who wanted to get out of there that they formed their own state. Also, there were so many Anti-Confederates in Richmond that the whole city was placed on martial law for a time. Not to mention, perhaps one of the only reasons why the Confederates picked Richmond as its capital was to keep halfheartedly-Confederate Virginia in the Confederacy.)

The Swangers were named Esco and Sally. (These people were real but their names were John and Margaret Steven Swanger.)

Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg was made during the morning. (It was made at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.)

Only the Confederates supported slavery. (There were many in the Union who did and there were four Union states that allowed it.)

Robert E. Lee:

Robert E. Lee’s surrender meant that the Civil War was over in Georgia as well as everywhere else. (The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia had no effect on Georgia. In fact, Georgia State troops didn’t surrender until almost a month after Lee {due to slow communication}. The surrender of General Kirby Smith at Galveston, Texas on May 26, 1865, is considered the end of the Civil War.)

Southern Slaves:

It wasn’t unusual for a Southern slave to turn down his chance of freedom or turn against his or her master. (Actually few slaves would turn down such offers because many slaves given the chance to do either usually did {Some of Jefferson Davis’ slaves helped spy for the Union}.)

Many Southern slaves tended to remain loyal to their masters during the Civil War. (Really? So why were so many slaves willing to join the Union Army when they arrived in their neck of the woods?)

Though they did desire freedom at some future date, many slaves were genuinely happy with their lot in life as well as faithful and supportive to their beloved masters and the cause of the Confederacy. (What kind of racist bullshit is this, Hollywood? Sure there may have been some slaves who remained faithful to their masters, but this didn’t consist of the majority. Rather most slaves were so committed to gaining their own freedom that many were willing to offer their services to the Union without making a fuss. Also, many ex-slaves ended up taking arms against their own masters. Oh, and during the war, slaves were defecting from their masters in droves. At least Gone with the Wind gets the defection part right, sort of but not too much.)

A. P Hill:

A.P. Hill was a Brigadier General during the Battle of Chancellorsville. (He had been a Major General for over a year at this point.)

J. E. B. Stuart:

J. E. B. Stuart’s wife was Kit Carson Holliday. (Her name was Flora Cooke. Seriously, Hollywood, why would anyone want to name their daughter after a noted frontiersman like Kit Carson {who was real, by the way but a man}? Still, it’s in The Santa Fe Trail.)

J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry adventure was a major impediment for Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg depriving him of information and cavalry support. (The Confederate cavalry was mainly used for raiding, not scouting. Though Lee rebuked Stuart, it wasn’t over leaving him blind in enemy country. The Confederate Army mainly relied on individual horsemen and overly-informative Union newspapers as intelligence sources. Thus, Stuart’s absence wasn’t of great importance to the battle of Gettysburg as Lee’s poor decision making was {and General James Longstreet knew it}. Still, many historians and Lost Cause advocates made Stuart’s supposed culpability a part of popular history which is why it’s in Gettysburg.)

The 5th Georgia Cavalry served with General J.E.B. Stuart. (They served exclusively in the Western Theater during the Civil War while Stuart was at Gettysburg.)

John Bell Hood:

When John Bell Hood was a Lieutenant General, he had both legs. (By the time he had this rank, he had already lost his leg at the Battle of Chickamauga and an arm at Gettysburg in 1863. Also, he never served in Louisiana during the war but lived and died in New Orleans after the war was over.)

Alexander Stephens:

Alexander Stephens was respectful to black Union soldiers. (He may have been nice the black Union soldiers as he was in Lincoln but he may not have had much choice. He’s also said to be nice to his slaves that many stayed with him as paid servants after the war {one served as his pallbearer} as well as campaigned for better treatment of slaves in general. However, he was a noted white supremacist and avid supporter of slavery {though he didn’t see it as a reason to mistreat or denigrate black people}. Even more interesting is that he was friends with Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War which Lincoln hints at when the 16th president calls him “Alex.”)

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson:

Stonewall Jackson favored an eventual abolition of slavery in the South. (There’s no historical evidence he believed this. Still, the first Confederate general to even consider freeing his slaves in order to have them fight against the North was Patrick Cleburne known as “the Stonewall of the West” in early 1864 when Jackson was long dead.)

Stonewall Jackson’s cook was a freed man. (He was a slave.)

General Stonewall Jackson’s men carried him on a stretcher which they dropped because of gun fire. (They dropped him because they slipped in the mud, not due to gunfire.)

Stonewall Jackson called his black cook, “Mr. Lewis.” (A lot of people in the South wouldn’t address black people this way at the time.)

Stonewall Jackson was a saint. (He was a religious man, but he had his flaws and eccentricities. However, he owned slaves, had a Christian Fundamentalist streak that contributed to his military prowess, as well as had a zealotry and causal disregard for human life, which made him so disturbing. Can’t have that in Gods and Generals.)