Tag Archives: Confederacy

The Woodlands Welcomes Racist Historical Monuments

The Woodlands – an exclusive enclave north of Houston – could become the repository for displaced memorials to American traitors.  At a Tea Party meeting on Tuesday, Gordy Bunch, the Woodlands Township Board Chairman, said Tuesday that his town might welcome in the statues that are coming down across the South.  Bunch, taking a stiff draught of the Tea Party Kool-Aid, seems to think that having a bunch of monuments that were erected not to honor the confederacy but to encourage white supremacy deposited in his community will give his town a sense of history.  Bunch repeated the same tired old myths equating getting rid of memorials to traitors with trying to change history.  As Red has repeatedly pointed out, you can’t change the facts of history.  You can, however, decide whom you choose to honor in bronze.  His poor brain addled by the Tea Party Kool-Aid, Brunch argued,

“What’s happening across the state and across the country is ridiculous regarding eliminating history.We don’t have a lot of history here in the Woodlands because we’re only 42, 43 years old. For all these folks in Dallas, in Austin and San Antonio and other places looking to relocate their history, might I suggest they can take those assets over here.”

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You Can’t Change History

As statues of Confederate icons are removed from public spaces across the South, the common refrain against removal is “You can’t change history.”  That’s true to an extent.  The established facts of history as they can be best derived typically do not change that much unless new sources of information are discovered.  The interpretation of historical events, however, is subject to constant change.  And what we think of as “history” is the analysis and interpretation of the historical record by those who have studied what is available.  So history does in fact “change” as either new pieces of the record come to light (the Dead Sea Scrolls for example) or the existing evidence actually supports a different interpretation.

As long as we are talking about the Civil War, let’s take U.S. Grant as an example.  The long-standing narrative on Grant was that he prevailed in the Civil War by sheer brunt of numbers and industrial might.  That ignores the fact that his predecessors were unable to use those advantages to achieve victory and it ignores Grant’s background.  He was trained primarily in the Quartermaster Corps.  Grant knew exactly what an army needed to fight and win.  His armies were well-equipped to fight because he made sure of it.   Grant also recognized the unfortunate fact that just being in the Union Army was about as deadly (because of disease) for the average soldier as actually fighting in a battle for that army.  The sooner the war ended, the sooner more soldiers would be out of harm’s way and back home where they were much less likely to die from communicable diseases than in the close quarters and rough conditions of an army camp.  If that meant more men dying in battle to foreshorten the war, it was a matter of the grim economics of war that Grant faced.  Grant’s battlefield tactics were not genius, but neither were they middling or incompetent.  He knew that standing and fighting – something he equipped and trained the Union Army to do –  would ultimately defeat the South.

The narrative on Grant’s presidency was even more dire.  He was roundly considered a major failure who led a corrupt administration.  There was corruption but not on Grant’s part and the achievements of Grant’s presidency were considerable.  He negotiated the Treaty of Washington which resolved all of the North American disputes between the U.S. and Great Britain and set in place the greatest alliance of the last 170 years.  He almost single-handedly stopped for a time the planned extirpation of the Plains Indians.  He led efforts to fight the Ku Klux Klan and supported the rights of the Freedmen.  Under his leadership, Congress passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1870 and 1875 and the 15th Amendment guaranteeing voting rights for Black Americans (a promise which the Republicans failed to keep after his administration).  He brought the country out of the Panic of 1873 with a strong dollar policy.  He guided legislation creating the Department of Justice, the Weather Bureau and the first National Park – Yellowstone.  He began Civil Service Reform in an attempt to end the prevalent patronage system and professionalize government service.   He would have secured the annexation of the Dominican Republic and provided the U.S. with a foothold in the Caribbean but it was rejected by Congress.   Yet, he was regarded as a failure until some recent biographies began to rethink his legacy.

Rethinking of the legacy of the Confederacy is why we have all of these monuments to American traitors in our midst.  Most of these statues and memorials were erected in response to attempts by black Americans to secure the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution.   The first wave of such monuments largely coincided with the passage of Jim Crow laws institutionalizing segregation across the South in the wake of the Supreme Court’s absurd “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.  The second wave came with the growing civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s for the end of segregation and institution of full citizenship.  These monuments were primarily erected in support of continuing white supremacy and a public warning to those who would challenge that orthodoxy.  And the honoree of many such memorials, Robert E. Lee, himself stated that it was “wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

So is removing such monuments “changing history.”  The answer is mixed.  It is changing (or attempting to ameliorate)  the history of the placement of such monuments in the context of the white supremacist movement that erected them in the first place.  It is not changing the history of the Civil War – the time of America’s greatest test.  The Civil War will continue to be studied and hundreds of new books will be written every year from many different viewpoints.

You cannot change history – if you mean the fact of the Civil War and its aftermath.  You can, however, change who you choose to honor.  Do you honor those who fought to tear the country apart, to continue a crime against humanity and who lost that fight?  Red says no; you don’t honor those folks on the wrong side of history no matter how bravely they may have fought in a losing cause.  Removal of some monuments that were erected in a revisionist attempt to justify the “Lost Cause” have outlived their ignoble purpose and it is time for them to go.

Vintage postcard of Confederate Memorial on the Texas State Capitol grounds.

Today in Texas History – February 23

From the Annals of Bad Decisions –  In 1861, Texas citizens (meaning white, property-owning men) voted on the Texas Ordinance of Secession. The vote was overwhelmingly for secession from the Union with 46,153 voting for secession and only 14,747 against. Of the 122 counties casting votes, only eighteen cast majorities against secession. Only eleven other counties had votes of as much as 40 percent against.  For those who claim the Civil War was not about slavery, please take a look at the vile racist screed that is the Texas Ordinance of Secession.

Today in Texas History – January 23

 

From the Annals of the Civil War -In 1863, Martin Hart was executed in Fort Smith, Arkansas for treason against the Confederate States of America.  Hart was an attorney from Hunt County who had served in the Texas Legislature as a representative and senator.  He was opposed to secession, but after Texas passed the vile screed known as the Ordinance of Secession, he resigned from the Legislature and organized the Greenville Guards, pledging the company’s services “in defense of Texas whenever she is invaded or threatened with invasion.”   He was, however, a Union spy.  In Arkansas he led a series of rear-guard actions against Confederate forces, and is alleged to have murdered at least two prominent secessionists. He was captured on January 18, 1863, by Confederate forces, hung five days later and buried in an unmarked grave under the hanging tree.

Renaming Austin School May Be Harder than Thought

 

The Austin Independent School District is determined to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary school.  The school, located in a neighborhood just north of the UT-Austin campus, is now at the center of the growing controversy over removing Confederate icons from the public space.   USA Today reports that turning to the community to suggest a new name isn’t working out exactly like the school board had hoped.

The school board overseeing Austin’s Robert E. Lee Elementary voted last month to rename the school, deeming its namesake — a Confederate general — too polarizing. It then turned to the community to suggest a new name.

But the Austin Independent School District probably didn’t expect the top suggestion would be Donald J. Trump Elementary.

That name, with 45 nominations, heads the list of 240 suggestions announced Friday, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Thirty-four nominations urged the board to leave the school’s name unchanged.

Rounding out the top five were suggestions to name the school after Texas photographer Russell Lee (32 nominations), author Harper Lee (30 noms) or Elisabet Ney, the 19th century Austin sculptor (15 noms).

Other suggestions, shown on a list obtained by Mashable,  proved as colorful as Trump:

  • Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance (8 noms)
  • Kanye West Elementary (2 noms)
  • John Cena Elementary (1 nom)
  • Bee Movie (1 nom)

The British government could have perhaps warned the school board about the dangers of crowd-sourcing names. The top-voted name for its $300 million research ship was “Boaty McBoatface,” thanks to an online poll.

Red thinks Schooly McSchoolface has a certain ring to it.

Texas Observes Confederate Heroes Day

Today is an official Texas State Holiday – sort of.  Texas state offices remain open but with minimal staffing.  The holiday is observed on January 19 which is Robert E. Lee’s birthday and was the original name for the holiday.  Red’s negative views on the Confederacy and secession are well known by now.  And while it seems odd (at best) to celebrate a cause which was rooted in the defense of the institution of chattel slavery (spare Red the BS about states rights), Red does find it refreshing that the United States is one of the few countries in the world where the population is free to celebrate traitors.

Today in Texas History – January 8

From the Annals of the Civil War – In 1864, the Boy Martyr of the Confederacy was hanged in Little Rock, Arkansas.  David Owen Dodd, a native of Victoria then living in Arkansas, had carried some letters to business associates of his father in Union held Little Rock.  He obtained a pass to return to his family in Camden, but a guard destroyed it when he  entered Confederate held ground.  After spending the night with his uncle, he wandered back into Union territory.  Union soldiers determined that he did not have a pass and upon a search found that he was carrying a notebook with Morse code annotations describing the location and strength of Union troops. He was arrested and tried by a military tribunal.  Dodd represented by attorneys T.D.W. Yonley and William Fishback, who was pro-Union and later became Governor of Arkansas. The defense consisted mostly of a plea for amnesty, which was rejected by the tribunal. Dodd was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death.  His hanging before a crowd estimated at 5000 was reportedly botched likely resulting in a slow death.  At the time, Union sympathies were strong in Arkansas and a constitutional convention was in session to enable the state to rejoin the Union.  Dodd’s execution renewed tensions between Union and Confederate factions. Dodd quickly became a folk hero and a force behind renewed support for the Confederacy.