Ichabod's Kin
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UNENDING REBELLION

          Given all recent attention to the end of the American Civil War and the death of Lincoln, be it known that there is among you a Southern transplant to New England, but one lacking the revisionist views of those for whom that conflict will never be over.

          My Yankee acquaintances however doubt that my grandfather could have fought in that war, and indeed the proof is unusual: he was born in 1841 and my grandmother was his second wife but not till many years later—she was born in 1883 and bore him three girl-children, including my mother. A Rebel, he was wounded at Shiloh, ending his military service. He died 20 years before my birth but the bullet that struck his upper leg remained there the rest of his life: had it entered a little higher, I wouldn’t be here, and lucky he was that removal of said leg was unnecessary. John Wesley Stone was in the Kentucky Seventh Infantry and, like Gen. Robert E. Lee, “rejoiced” that slaves were freed by the outcome.

          Thus is one myth shattered, that all Southerners believed in slavery or even deemed it the cause of the war—just as many Americans today see our modern conflicts as patriotic while Halliburton and Dick Cheney view them much differently.

          My maternal grandmother, born years after that War’s end, was never heard to speak with other than total respect of all Civil War leaders: it was “Mr.” Lincoln, Mr. Grant, and Mr. Sherman, just as it was Mr. Lee and Confederate president, Mr. Davis—though it was the habit of southern women of her generation to refer even to their husbands, living or dead, as Mr. Stone or other appropriate surname.

          That is not to say that all southerners are over that bloody war and don’t still blame Yankees and their devil of a president. They called it the “War of Northern Aggression,” forgetting that their 3000 cannon balls that stripped Fort Sumter was a hell of a calling card.

          That my Missouri home is typically labelled a Slave state then, was trumped by being more a “Border” state, and as much at war with itself as with anyone else, and pro- and anti-Slavery support varied county by county. State history classes in school and college were steeped in stories of young men off to fight Yank or Rebel and on return home were shot by families whose allegiance had changed in their absence. We were also told that “Gone With the Wind” was a bunch of crap because slave owners were typically abusive-to-murderous and no slave women like “Mammy” ran such households.

          Still, there are pesky clots of southerners who remain charmed by the notion that the Rebel legacy is totally misunderstood, and they are out to redeem it–formal and informal orgs comprising a “Modern Confederacy” that is a well-funded, active political movement with a lucrative memorabilia industry. Sure, a few have interest in ancestry and history but others are given to a new narrative of the old days that is simply anti-government sentiment in sheep’s clothing, and that the Old Confederacy merely wished to preserve what the Founding Fathers had envisioned.

          Indeed, they attempt to expose “falsehoods” in a U.S. history written by “East coast elites” and “liberal academics” whom they feel have been unduly influenced by “minorities,” with much wailing over people who speak Spanish and the presence of blacks in high government posts. At last, they grouse about folks like themselves whom they feel work hard and get nowhere–a sense of victimization plus a loss of “righteousness,” whatever the hell that is.

          It should not surprise that the largest contingent are white, male, Republican Mississippians, but overall almost a third of whom would support another “Confederacy” in a modern civil war (half would stay loyal to the U.S., and the remaining fifth are undecided). They insist that the majority of them deny that slavery was the main reason for the Civil War, but a Penn Research Center poll found only 38% willing to agree.

          They also claim 30K active followers and over twice that many fellow travelers. Their current objective is to put the Confederate flag on Texas license plates–for which they went to the Supreme Court the past March.

          It is all worth keeping an eye on, not because a New Confederacy will get anywhere, but that underneath there is a political agenda that will fit snugly into many right-wing narratives today.

         

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