What It Was All About

On this, the 150th anniversary of the second day of the War Between the States, let us pause to reflect what it was all about. But this has been done so many time before, you say. Yes, but we still take opportunities like great round number anniversaries to reflect. However, it is also relevant because of the various civil wars currently raging in the Middle East. It is further relevant because of the cadre of newly elected officials in Washington who align themselves with the Tea Party movement.

The War of Northern Aggression, or as it is sometimes called, Mr. Lincoln’s War, was about one thing. Political self-determination. There is no question that the issue of slavery divided the country, but the war wasn’t about what divided the country. It was about what to do with a divided country. And it is all well and good to look back with 20/20 hindsight and make the moral judgement that the lives of 600,000 men and boys was worth the speeding up of the emancipation process, thus laying the groundwork for the hostility of many whites toward blacks for the next hundred years. However, justifying the war by the result does not explain why it happened in the first place.

Mr Lincoln was only interested in one thing. His single goal was to save the Union. A friend reminded me recently of his letter of August 22, 1862 to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune:

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. 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 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; and what I forbear, I forbear because I don’t believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be error; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

The turn of phrase “save the Union” sounds very noble, but what does it mean? It means that people who freely chose to associate themselves in a particular political arrangement were no longer free to change that arrangement. They bound future generations in perpetuity.  In Mr Lincoln’s view, the Constitution abrogated to words of the Declaration of Independence:

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Mr Lincoln had no regard whatsoever for the consent of the governed. The men of the Confederacy were not anarchists.  They had lawfully constituted and constitutional state governments. This was not good enough. Thousands upon thousands of young men were marched to their deaths to restore the national authority – to enforce at the point of a bayonet that Washington DC, not Montgomery or Jackson or Little Rock or Nashville or Austin or Richmond, was the source of civil authority.

This was made all the clearer during the so-called Reconstruction, when the Southern States, which according to the Northern States had never (and could have never) left the indivisible Union, were run as military departments. Their constitutional governments were suspended until such a time as it was determined that they had been re-created in the way the victors demanded.

Since this time, the power of the national authority has been steadily increased. The Supreme Court often gets the blame for this, but all the branches of government have played their part. Almost every day I come across provisions in the U.S. Code that should be left to the States. And those who decry the executive acts of the Obama administration overlook decades of incursions and usurpations of state sovereignty but administrations of both parties.

At the height of the hypocrisy is the support for self-determination in other countries by a government that refuses to follow its own Constitution and limit itself to specifically delegated powers. This is the legacy of the War Between the States.

Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution

First it was the Tea Party and now it is the Revolution.  Apparently that is the new thing. I’ve been told by more than one person that they are preparing for the next Revolution and I’ve started to see it all around the conservative blogosphere. I used to be the firebrand around here. Now I’ve turned into the voice of reason.

Apparently Obama has gone too far and Revolution is the answer. It’s all leading to armed uprising. So go ahead and have your revolution.  The biggest problem I see is figuring out what to revolt against and what to put in its place. I’m afraid this is where it’s all gonna fall apart.

Some people are mad at Obama. I’ve heard people say they think he’s on the verge of becoming a military dictator. Some people think it is whole “Ruling Elite” of both parties. Regardless of elections and even changes in party power on Capitol Hill, the same machinery of government rolls along, so apparently they will all have to be throw out by force.

But no one seem to know who’s gonna do the throwing, from whence they will derive the authority to do the throwing, where they’re gonna throw them, and what they are going to put in their place.

There have been two American revolutions. One succeeded and one failed. However, both had something in common. They had recognisable governments already in place.

In 1775, there were established, properly elected colonial governments. A year before the first shots were fired, these colonial governments had already sent delegates to the First Continental Congress.  In 1861, there were properly elected state governments.

In the first American revolution, the colonists had no forum of redress for their grievances against the central government. They were able to change the form of government from monarchy to republic. Have the new revolutionists come up with a new form of government they think works better? That would seem incompatible with extolling the virtues of the US Constitution, which they all seem to do. Nonetheless, the mechanisms within that Constitution to change the government, left virtually unchanged other than the direct election of senators, do not seem to satisfy. And I don’t hear anyone clamoring for revolution over dissatisfaction with the 17th Amendment.

The Second American revolution, that war between the states known to most of my ancestors as the War of Northern Aggression, was fought after a nation was divided by different political views and one side felt helpless as the deck had been stacked against them.  The new President didn’t openly threaten to change the entire structure of the economy and the society, but there was a lot about his background that made them gravely suspicious. This is probably a better model for predicting the outcome of any future conflict.

The citizenry of the South were well-armed and morally outraged. All my friends with AR-15s will tell you that this is why they have their assault rifles and boxes of ammo. To defend themselves against the government.  The thing is, weapons have moved on a bit since 1861.

Now let’s say this Third American revolution is so organized as to have entire states willing to secede. And let’s say that the governors of those states were able to maintain control of all the resources available to them in the National Guard and State Guard units. If so, they would have some proper military weapons, including some aircraft. Now there’s your revolution. The thing is, though, they would be so far outmatched by the regular US military forces that comparisons to the Recent Unpleasantness wouldn’t hold up. There’s not a single red state that has an aircraft carrier.

But let’s say we go ahead have a civil war. At the time of the last one, the population of the United States was about 31 million. Today is it roughly ten times that. The number of deaths is generally estimated at about 620,000. It would be nice if it were just a matter of multiplying by 10 and saying a new civil war would result in 6.2 million deaths. However, modern wars are much better at adding collateral damages. You know, civilian deaths. But let’s say we keep those to a minimum. Let’s keep the total deaths at 10 million.

Surely this is a small price to pay for an insurrection against a President and Congress that refuse to stop all the illegal immigrants from coming in and won’t catch and send back all the ones already here.  If you consider that he’s also put us on the road to European-style health care, you’d be willing to sacrifice a few sons – and considering the collateral damage, wives and daughters – for the cause, wouldn’t you? The constant fear of bombardment and food rationing would only be for a few years at most.

There are, after all, some people who have gotten innoculations at the free clinic when they weren’t entitled to do so, and maybe even some food stamps. And some of them haven’t learned English. If we give up the lives of a substantial part of the 18- to 30-year-old men in combat and a few million non-combatant men, women and children, there won’t be any illegals working on construction sites, cleaning houses or mowing grass. That’ll show ’em.

And one thing’s for sure: during this new American revolution, it will be much more dangerous north of the Mexican border than south of it. It will be safer for these dastardly immigrants to put up with the drug cartels. They won’t want to be sneaking into a country torn apart by war. Not only that, but since the federal government won’t be there to protect them, anybody that doesn’t like them will probably be able to kill them with impunity. There’s the motivation they need to leave Arizona.

Luke 14:28-32

Proud of Desecration and Theft

This is one of the  most outrageous things I have seen in a long time. Last Thursday, an Auburn, Alabama city councilman trespassed on graves in a cemetary and desecrated them. Then he stole from them. In broad daylight. In front of descendants of the those interred there. And he’s proud of it.  They are, after all, the graves of Confederate soldiers.

Arthur L. Dowell was offended when he saw the Confederate flags placed on the graves of veterans in preparation for Confederate Memorial Day, a state holiday in Alabama. His justification? “It’s offensive to me,” he said. “To me, it represents the Ku Klux Klan and racism.” So, Arthur Dowell’s complete lack of historical knowledge outweighs the law. That’s why he felt it was okay to snap the pole of the flag that was on Mary Norman’s great-grandfather’s grave as he was putting it into his car.

He stole four flags, but unlike most thieves, he didn’t hide his stash. He showed it off to the local press. Then he promised to go back for more.

Unlike the dastardly motives he assumes for those who were honouring their ancestors, he was quite open about his. “If I had my way, I would have broke them all up and stomped on them and burned them.” Seems to me that makes what he did manage to do a hate crime.

When local citizen complained that the police shold take action, the mayor issued a statement saying, “I believe it would be in the best interest of all involved to settle their differences privately.” Is he suggesting that in every case of theft and criminal damage, the police should not uphold the law? Or is it just when it also constitutes a hate crime that doesn’t happen to be against blacks? The only appropriate description of the mayor might cause this blog to get blocked by some filters, since it refers to the poo of certain farmyard birds.

I’m not admitted to practice in Alabama, but it appears to me that Dowell should be charged with violating Alabama Code 13A-7-23 (Crminal mischief in the third degree), 13A-7-23.1 (Desecration, defacement, etc., of memorial of dead), 13A-7-26 (Criminal tampering in the second degree), 13A-8-5 (Theft of property in the third degree) and 13A-11-12 (Desecration of venerated objects).

It appears, however, that political correctness will be the deciding factor and he will not be charged with anything. Not only that, but despite the overwhelming disapproval of his actions, he will probably get re-elected because he represents a ward that was gerrymandered to insure a specific racial representation.


Rick Perry, Texas and Secession

I love that Texas Governor Rick Perry has stirred the liberal hornets’ nest over whether or not he said things supporting Texas’ right to secede from the Union. He is now saying that his comments were misinterpreted. What a shame. I thought the way the TEA Party crowd in Austin understood them was perfectly good. I say this realising that supporting Texas puts me on the Potential Terrorist List with Homeland Security. But then again, I suppose Rick Perry will have to be on the list for saying, “States’ Rights! States’ Rights! States’ Rights!” so I suppose I’m in good company.

Things didn’t work out so well the last time Texas seceded. Maybe it was because they were held back by all the other Confederate states. When that didn’t go to plan, I had relatives who moved to Cuernavaca rather than live under oppression from Washington.

I have enjoyed all the rantings in the comments to the CNN articles. Being the Commie News Network, it attracts a lot of lefties shrieking about treason. And then the silly comments like ” You can deal with Mexico on your own, as it will then be your neighbor and your problem – not ours” – yeah, because California doesn’t have a problem with illegal aliens and no one has ever trafficked into Arizona.

Or “Please separate from us. As a teacher, I am looking for creative ways to bring up our national average in education. Please leave by all means.” I wonder where that teacher lives and works. Maybe in California, which ranks 22 places lower in Moran Quintos “Smartest State” rankings. In fact Texas ranks above all of the enlightened Left Coast states. It also graduates a higher percentage from high school than all of them.

Then there was “We can pick up Cuba or PR to replace Texas so that we don’t have to change the flag.” Yes, it would be better to absorb a Communist country than have Texans who don’t believe in the dominance of central government. After all, Obama is lifting all the restrictions with Cuba and Castro has responded by saying he is willing to talk with the US about anything as long as it is on equal terms.  So it won’t be absorbed, but it is willing to be an equal partner. I’m sure Cuba is a model for the Obama administration – not just free health care, but government intimately caring about the lives of every individual. If Texas misses out on an opportunity like this, it will put Texas in the 2010’s and the rest of the US in the 1950’s.

If Texas can’t secede, then it should invoke it’s power in the Treaty of Annexation to divide into five states. That would give it ten US Senators and control over 18.5% of the Senate. This wouldn’t have an immediate effect, because the Democrats currently effectively control 58 seats and will probably have 59 when Al Franken is admitted. Eight added Republican seats would only give the Republican 49 of 108, but a 49/59 split is easier to overcome than a 41/59.

Endless Research

I’ve been a bit scarce of late, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. The creative juices have really started to flow with my novel and I have been spending every available moment doing research. I even have the tentative first couple pages drafted.

Do you know how difficult is it to find out the price of a train ticket from Nashville to Algood, Tennessee in 1912?

And what about the statutory interpretation of a 1881 Jim Crow law that railroad companies were “required to furnish separate cars for colored passengers who pay first-class rates”. If a white person and a black person were to both buy second-class tickets, could they then ride in the same car? And before you think that there wouldn’t be provision for black people to go first-class, the law was amended in 1882 so that railroads were “required to supply first-class passenger cars to all persons paying first-class rates.” It’s not the sort of thing a lot of people need to know.

And what was travel like in a day car? Photo archives that I’ve seen only show the inside of first-class carriages. I have a fight to stage and I need to know what I’m working with here.

Enjoying Research

When it came out, many of my friends Stateside raved about Gods and Generals, the prequel to Gettysburg. Being on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I was a bit out of the loop. The film went to DVD and I went on to other things and it drifted from my mind.

As I was doing work on my own Civil War novel that I hope will one day be picked up by a big Hollywood studio (or Ted Turner, as was the case with those two), I though about it again and thought it might be helpful in working on my mid-19th century dialogue. One of the online discount DVD stores had both in a boxed set for £5.99 with free shipping. No-brainer.

So late to the party, here’s my review of Gods and Generals: it’s a pretty good film, even if they left Sharpsburg on the cutting room floor. I would have watched the as of yet never released director’s cut of over 6 hours. The film is really about Stonewall Jackson, and I don’t mind that at all.

The film certainly gives justifiable attention to Jackson’s Christianity. While very serious about his religion, the general is not portrayed as dour as he is often thought to have been. His was not a miserable faith.

The only glaring problem I saw with the film was when a bunch of Confederate officers sang “Silent Night” around Christmas of 1862. While the music was composed in 1818, the English lyrics were not written until 1863. They certainly would not have been available in the hymn book handed to Stonewall’s adjutant by his soon-to-be fiancée.

I’m sure there were other liberties taken with history, but they didn’t jump out at me. The thing to remember is that it is the adaptation of a novel, not a documentary.

My Confederate Heroes

Today is the 201st birthday of Robert E. Lee. It is a legal and public holiday in Florida. In Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi it will be celebrated on Monday, along with the birthday of another son of the South.

In my home state of Texas, it is Confederate Heroes Day. So whilst I am happy to remember General Lee, I also think there are others who deserve mention.

In September, 1861, my uncle George Washington Littlefield mustered in as a 2nd Sergeant of Company I, of what would be officially designated the 8th Texas Cavalry, but is usually known to history as Terry’s Texas Rangers. On January 10, 1862, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant.

He commanded the company at the Battle of Shiloh, because the Captain and 1st Lieutenant were on furlough in Texas. The Captain never returned and the 1st Lieutenant was killed a few days after returning to the regiment, so my uncle was elected Captain on May 10. There was only one man younger than him in the entire company and he was not yet 20 years old.

He commanded his company through the battles of Perryville and Murfreesboro. After Chickamuaga on September 18-20, 1863, he was made acting major of the regiment. He fought at the Third (and most famous) Battle of Chattanooga, specifically the part known as the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and then a little over a month later at the lesser known Battle of Mossy Creek.

It was there on December 29, 1863 that, in his own words, “I was blown off my horse by a piece of shell passing through my left hip, cutting a wound 11 by 9 inches from my groin across my hip . . . While laying on the ground, General Thomas Harrison road up and looked at me and remarked that he promoted me to the rank of Major, for Gallantry in action.” My Uncle George was 21 years old. He further commented, “I was never able to do duty again, did not quit use of my crutches until July, 1867, two years after the war was closed.”

George W. Littlefield did recover and later became a successful cattleman and banker, and the single largest donor to the University of Texas in it’s first 50 years. At one point, when the Governor of Texas threaten to veto the biennial appropriations for the university, my Uncle George offered to personally fund the university for those two years. The Governor backed down.

If you visit the plot of George Littlefield’s grave in Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery you will find the another Confederate hero there as well. Nathan Stokes was Uncle George’s life-long servant. He followed him throughout his military service and nursed him back to health from his severe wounds. People who are ignorant about slavery and its aftermath would not understand why the 13th Amendment may have changed the legal relationship between Uncle George and Nathan, but not the personal relationship.

Nathan is a hero on my mother’s side just like Abe Officer, a slave on my father’s side, whose quick thinking saved my cousin’s life from Federal troops when they surrounded my aunt and uncle’s house in Tennessee and massacred the other six Confederate soldiers having breakfast inside and wounded my aunt. (Those troops, as history would strangely have it, also belonged to Terry’s Texas Rangers.) Abe and my cousin would be life-long friends.

There are other Confederate heroes in my family, about whom I know less and time would not allow me to ramble on if I could. Christopher Columbus Littlefield, Charles Erasmus Littlefield, and Robert Littlefield were cousins that also served with Terry’s Texas Rangers. My great-great-grandfather Samuel Pearson Carson Hampton served with several units, including Gore’s Tennessee Calvary. My cousin Alexander Officer died at Corinth, Mississippi. There are many other cousins as well, some whose service I have yet to uncover. May their memories be eternal.

As with soldiers in any war, there are unsung heroes whose acts are known only to God. If nowhere else but in his infinite knowledge, may their memories also be eternal.