The Other Independence Day

Closing Thought–19Jun19

Nope not a sequel to a popular SciFi movie….but a second American independence Day…..19June….or as it has become known as…Juneteenth……..

Juneteenth falls on June 19 each year. It is a holiday whose history was hidden for much of the last century. But as the nation now observes the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s onset, it is a holiday worth recognizing. In essence, Juneteenth marks what is arguably the most significant event in American history after independence itself—the eradication of American slavery.

For centuries, slavery was the dark stain on America’s soul, the deep contradiction to the nation’s founding ideals of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “All men are created equal.” When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he took a huge step toward erasing that stain. But the full force of his proclamation would not be realized until June 19, 1865—Juneteenth, as it was called by slaves in Texas freed that day.

Another part of our history that usually gets overlooked for the more sanitized version of the days after the end of the Civil War.

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The Civil War Fades

I live in the South and the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis is right down the road from me…..I was talking with a guy that works at the home which is now a museum and he complained that the tourist were not flocking to the site as they once did….

And then I read a news report on the Civil War…..

Museums and historical sites are making changes to appeal to a broader audience in the face of declining interest in the Civil War. Data from the National Park Service shows that its five major Civil War battlefield parks drew 3.1 million visitors in 2018, down from about 10.2 million in 1970. Gettysburg, the best-known battle site, had about 950,000 visitors last year; that was 14% of its draw in 1970 and the fewest visitors since 1959, the Wall Street Journal reports. In response, museums and sites are trying to present a fuller picture of history. Often, they focused on “who shot who where,” said one history teacher, “with no explanation of why people were there shooting each other.” The American Civil War Museum that just opened in Richmond includes information on slavery and the war’s effect on civilians. In response to the narrative that slavery wasn’t a core issue in the war, its director says the museum is taking the war’s history “back from the crazies.”

The number of Civil War re-enactors also appears to be dropping. Louis Varnell competed with several military-memorabilia shops when he opened his near Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia in the 2000s; now, only his remains. People who were interested in reenacting Civil War battles in costume are now too old or are more interested in reenacting as Vietnam War troops or cowboys, he said. “Cowboy re-enacting is where bitter, jaded Civil War re-enactors go,” Varnell told the Journal. A Civil War reenactor in Georgia said, “The younger generations are not taught to respect history, and they lose interest in it.

This American war seem to be more popular in Europe than it is here at home where t was fought.

The younger generations find nothing romantic about this war…they see it as a time when the US was divided and the only way it could solve its division was with a war…..the perfect American answer.

The South Shall Rise Again

So far that promise has yet to materialize….but they keep hoping and wishing…..

I live in the South and many of my friends are into the American Civil War……some even play at the war game in re-enactments….but I have found that not many actually have any idea about the history surrounding the war…..

And this is where I offer my usual history lesson……

First, a few simple facts about the American Civil War that every American should know……here are the ten most needed facts……

The South’s attempt to control their future has been called a “Lost Cause”….there are “tenets” that feed this “romantic” look at this War………

The Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War typically includes the following six assertions:

1. Secession, not slavery, caused the Civil War.

2. African Americans were “faithful slaves,” loyal to their masters and the Confederate cause and unprepared for the responsibilities of freedom.

3. The Confederacy was defeated militarily only because of the Union’s overwhelming advantages in men and resources.4. Confederate soldiers were heroic and saintly

5. The most heroic and saintly of all Confederates, perhaps of all Americans, was Robert E. Lee.

6. Southern women were loyal to the Confederate cause and sanctified by the sacrifice of their loved ones.

Finally there are ten opinions from historians on why the South lost the war……

For the past 130 years Americans have argued over the reasons for the Confederacy’s downfall. Diverse opinions have appeared in hundreds of books, but the numerous possibilities have never adequately been summarized and gathered together in one place. So we decided to ask ten of the country’s most respected Civil War historians: “Why did the South lose the Civil War?” Here (edited for length) are their answers.

There you have your history lesson which is more than most students get in their education……

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Hampton Roads

This sounds a bit like some tourist trap in the making, right?  Or maybe one of those romantic dramas on the Hallmark Channel, right?

As a history buff I am always trying to learn more about American history….the stuff that was seldom taught in schools for various reasons…..

We all learn in school about the surrender of the Confederate forces at Appomattox in 1865…..but how many know of the peace conference before that?

Civil War historians have dismissed the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of February 3, 1865, in which President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward met with Southern representatives or “commissioners,” as a fruitless and relatively unimportant episode occurring two months prior to the surrender of the Confederate armies. [1] One prominent scholar in his history of the Lincoln presidency has completely ignored the meeting. [2] Other historians cite the results of the conference as additional proof of Lincoln’s “strategy of unconditional surrender” in the war. [3] David Donald in his magisterial biography of Lincoln asserts that the president did not expect to achieve any real results at Hampton Roads. According to Donald, Lincoln’s purpose in meeting with the rebel commissioners was not peacemaking; it was “to undermine the Jefferson Davis administration” by appealing to the discontented Southern masses’ longing for peace. “He wanted to raise their hopes, if necessary through a campaign of misinformation,” including the prospect “that at least the remnants of their ‘peculiar institution’ could still be saved.” [4]

Historians are probably correct in concluding that an end of the conflict based on Abraham Lincoln’s terms—the restoration of the Union and the destruction of slavery—was not possible until the surrender of Confederate armies in April. At Hampton Roads, Southern representatives, on instructions from Jefferson Davis, rejected out of hand any peace that failed to recognize Confederate independence or provide for a cease-fire. Though the Hampton Roads Conference did not produce peace, it was more important than historians have judged, particularly in regard to Lincoln’s purposes and concerns during the last few months of the war and the Northern reaction to his peace effort. Furthermore, a history of the conference can provide insights into Lincoln’s late-war leadership, his emancipation and reconstruction policies, and his standing among contemporaries before his apotheosis as an American icon.–hampton-roads-peace-conference-a-final-test-of-lincolns?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Granted the conference was unsuccessful but that should not preclude the teaching of the attempt to reach a peace before the actual signing of the surrender.

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Class Dismissed!

Romancing The War

War re-enactment is a popular way for us Americans to remember our history…..down here where I live it is Civil War re-enactment……every year we have the weekend of reliving the famous battle of the Mississippi Coast….the problem is it is all made up there was NO famous or otherwise battle of the Mississippi Coast…..but yet the locals romanticize the death and destruction of the Civil War.

My question is….WHY?

In his book The Red and the BlueSteve Kornacki offers an illuminating and concise history of the birth of contemporary political tribalism in the United States, tracing its origins back to the 1990s in the defining political contest between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and the Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. In retrospect, cast in a Long Edwardian Summer nostalgia, followed by the attacks of September 11 and the ensuing war on terror, the 1990s were indeed a time of political turmoil in the U.S. that periodically discharged into acts of political violence and terrorism, culminating in the Centennial Olympic Park and Oklahoma City bombings. Although political tribalism was not the direct cause of these acts of domestic terrorism, commentators at the time noted the poisoned political climate made such violent manifestations at least more likely.

Curiously, the rise of political tribalism in the 1990s, similar to the 1960s, coincided with a general rise in interest in the U.S. Civil War, America’s bloodiest and most costly political conflict. Since its conclusion in April 1865, the Civil War, cloaked in Lost Cause mythology, has inspired anti-federal government and white supremacist ideology like that of William Luther Pierce, a fierce defender of the antebellum South and the author of the dystopian racist novel The Turner Diaries, which inspired the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. The depiction of the Civil War in print and film in the late 1980s and early 1990s appealed much more to the broader masses than it had in prior times.

I wish I could give a good reason why adults want to play war……but I got nothing.

“Making America Great Again”–Part 17

This part of the series touches on the American Civil War and the aftermath…..the Southern strategy and the so-called Union invincibility….Maj. Sjursen looks at the war and aftermath with different eyes…..

Part 17 of “American History for Truthdiggers.”

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” —President Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to the abolitionist Horace Greeley (Aug. 22, 1862)

It is nearly impossible to illustrate the magnitude of the American ordeal of civil war. It is not just the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, but the fact that this war—perhaps more than any other—utterly transformed the United States. The bookshelves simply overflow with fascinating military histories of the conflict, and I’ll leave that part of the story to their distinguished authors. Rather, let us here examine how, in the course of just four years, the war moved from being dedicated solely to the preservation of the Union to becoming a war of liberation to emancipate slaves.

The war is over….now what?  Next part he looks at the experiment of ‘reconstruction”……

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Class Dismissed!

“Making America Great Again”–Part 16

The series written by historian Maj. Sjursen has taken the reader through the early day, the revolution, the convention and the days as the country come to terms with itself……and now he touches on the decade before the outbreak of hostilities that led to what was to be called the American Civil War…….

Part 16 of “American History for Truthdiggers.”

“Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators … mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation.” —Sen. William Seward of New York (1858)

“It is difficult to achieve a full realization of how Lincoln’s generation stumbled into a ghastly war. … To suppose that the Union could not have been continued or slavery outmoded without the war … is hardly an enlightened assumption. If one questions the term ‘blundering generation,’ let him inquire how many measures of the time he would wish copied or repeated if the period were to be approached with a clean slate and to be lived again.”—Historian J.G. Randall (1940)

The war is coming……Abe( a name he hated) Lincoln is coming, so much history and so much change is coming…..

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Class Dismissed!