The flag is down but what does it change?

South Carolina politicians have spoken (the people had nothing to do with it. If they were intended to have a voice, there would have been a referendum.) Pundits and activists are claiming that now that South Carolina’s Sikh governor has had her way, the world will be a better place. (Sikhs are members of an Indian religious group. Although Haley says she’s a Methodist and is a board member of her husband’s Methodist church, she attends Sikh services. Her full name is Nimrata Nikki Randhawa.) Don’t bet on it. None of these “earth-shaking” events ever amount to anything. Personally, I could care less whether a Confederate flag ever flies over anything, including over the cemeteries containing the remains of Confederate soldiers and/or veterans, but I am deeply concerned about how the media and politicians are so damned concerned about symbols. I am most concerned about how northern historians are coming out of the woodwork claiming once again that the South seceded over slavery and that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves. Neither assertion is true. The above link shows the articles of secession of each of the eleven states of the Confederacy and the two other states that also voted to secede but remained in the Union (after Lincoln declared martial law and sent troops to occupy them and suspended habeas corpus.)Yes, some of the Southern states seceded because they feared that New England abolitionists were going to force Congress to pass laws abolishing slavery nationally (states in the North had abolished slavery with state laws, not national laws) but that was only part of the reason. The states that seceded before Fort Sumter did so because they believed that the non-slave states were ignoring the Constitution and Federal laws and no longer wanted to be part of an organization with them.

Although slavery was a factor in secession, the Civil War was initiated by the United States after South Carolina troops fired on Fort Sumter – after Lincoln refused to withdraw its garrison as requested by the South Carolina governor – in an attempt to force the seceded states back into the Union. In spite of claims by northern academics, this is well-documented. In fact, five of the states that joined the Confederacy plus Kentucky and Missouri only voted to secede after Lincoln demanded troops to “put down the rebellion.” Lincoln chose Virginian Robert E. Lee to command his army. When Lee refused and stated that his loyalties were to Virginia, the irate Lincoln proclaimed that Lee’s wife’s ancestral home would be turned into a cemetery. He used subterfuge to take possession of the estate for non-payment of taxes even though Lee’s wife had sent the payments by an agent. (In 1884 the US Supreme Court ruled that Lincoln’s actions were illegal and returned possession to Lee’s son. However, the property had been turned into a graveyard and he was forced to sell the land to the United States.) Lincoln’s object in going to war was NOT to destroy slavery, but to force the seceded states to return to the Union. This is evident by the US Army’s actions regarding slaves during the first two years of the war. Instead of freeing slaves in areas they came to control, they left them where they were. Those slaves who sought to follow after them, were considered as contraband and while some of the men were used as laborers, the rest and the women and children were placed in contraband camps.

In September 1862, Lincoln announced that if the seceded states didn’t return to the Union by the end of they year, he was going to order his commanders to free all slaves in areas that came under Union control. The order did NOT emancipate slaves, as is commonly believed. Slaves in Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, which were part of the Union, were not affected. Neither were slaves in Tennessee, much of which was under Union control due to the Confederate strategy of withdrawing south into Alabama and Mississippi. No forethought was given as to what do with freed slaves once they had been emancipated. They were left confused and wondering what to do. Lincoln seized on the opportunity to use freed slaves to alleviate a shortage of manpower and authorized the raising of colored regiments in addition to the labor battalions he had already authorized. The families of the new colored troops followed after them and set up camps near the army camps. (This was also true of white soldiers.) Hundreds of young black women became prostitutes. Nashville alone had over 1,500 prostitutes and many of them were black. In the spring of 1864 Union cavalry made an excursion from Memphis into Mississippi, freeing thousands of slaves along the way. Confederate cavalry under Gen. N.B. Forrest defeated the Federals and drove them back to Memphis. The just-freed blacks panicked and fled into Alabama headed for Georgia until they found their way blocked by a river after Federal troops destroyed the bridge. Many rushed into the river and drowned. Lincoln’s proclamation didn’t work. The war continued for almost two and a half years. Yet even though the North eventually defeated the South, slavery wasn’t officially abolished until December 1865 when the Georgia legislature (made up of Unionists and blacks because anyone who had supported secession was forbidden from voting) ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

With the war over, the writing of history began. Northern educators knew that they couldn’t justify the northern invasion of the South on the basis of it being to “preserve the Union” so they made it a noble cause by claiming the war was fought “to free the slaves.” It made for a better story.

The Civil War has been over for just over 150 years and the painful era of “reconstruction” that followed has been over for almost 140 years. Not a single Southerner has owned a slave since 1865.  Reconstruction was made painful because of the efforts of “radical” Republicans in both North and South who sat out to punish the South, not only for the rebellion but also for its institution of slavery. They conveniently forgot that slavery was practiced in the North as well until only a few decades before the war broke out. They also forgot that the New England states had come close to seceding in protest of the War of 1812. For that matter, they also forgot that their predecessors had rebelled against the British Crown a century before. Now it seems that the descendants of those radical Republican reconstructionists are once again among us. They quickly seized on the presence of a Confederate flag flying over a memorial on the South Carolina capitol grounds as symbol of the unreconstructed South. Even though Charleston shooter Dylann Roof was not carrying a Confederate flag at the time of the shooting and made no mention of the Confedracy in his “manifesto,” neoreconstructionists quickly seized on the flag as something that had to come down, and while at it, get ride of all of those monuments around the South – and elsewhere in the country – as well. “It will promote racial healing,” they claim. Writer after writer associated the Confederate flag with the KKK; never mind that the KKK has it’s own flag and the flag they most identify with at rallies has long been the United States flag. Yes, Klan members sometimes carry Confederate flags but they also carry the US flag right beside it and in a more prominent position.(In the Cohen Brothers movie “O Brother Where Art Thou,” no US flag is shown even though that was the flag the KKK of the period used. Instead, they feature the Confederate flag.)

If anything, the lowering of the Confederate flag in South Carolina has made a lot of people madder than they already were. In the news accounts that I saw, the crowd assembled to watch the lowering of the flag was made up mostly of blacks. All of those I saw interviewed, with one exception, were blacks. One South Carolina Democratic Senator gave an example of “white racism” in his speech during the debate before the vote. He said that a white woman told him that “all you care about are blacks and Mexicans.” Add feminists, LGBTs and labor unions to that and it pretty well sums up the Democratic Party, which, by the way, owes its very existence to the men who fought under that Confederate flag and the KKK that came along after the war. After all, the stated goal of the post-war KKK was to “support the Democratic Party.” Without the klan and its nightriders, there would have been no Democratic party in the South.

Nikki Haley may have felt like a “huge weight was lifted off of my state” when the flag came down but nothing has really changed.