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Texas, United States

6/28/2015

Hate Heritage & History



In light of recent events I thought I would shed some light on little known Civil War era trivia.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House: At least the end of the war was civil.


 Why are Civil War flags interesting? Throughout much of history, in time of war, the flag has always been one of the most important pieces of battlefield equipment...During battle, the Civil War flags gave soldiers a rallying point. When battle was raging, it was impossible for units to stay together or for commanders to know exactly what was going on without the flags. Flags identified groups of men as friend or enemy, and allowed commanders to know what movements were being taken by their various units. When men became separated from their units they could identify their unit by its battle flag, or at least pick out their national flag so that they would know which direction would lead them back to their comrades.
A better description of the power of the flag to the soldier who fought under it can be found in Union General Joshua Chamberlain's touching description of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House:
"Lastly, — reluctantly, with agony of expression, — they tenderly fold their flags, battle-worn and torn, blood-stained, heart-holding colors, and lay them down; some frenziedly rushing from the ranks, kneeling over them, clinging to them, pressing them to their lips with burning tears. And only the Flag of the Union greets the sky! "
*****
I know this is a very sensitive subject right now and I've seen some pretty hateful things said on social media lately so I thought I would address it here on my turf where everyone
can assume my opinions are my own influenced by nothing
 but 77 years of observation, research, and curiosity about what my Grandmother told me what she observed not long after the Civil War ended.
The Civil War has always intrigued me and I've read scads about it...and of course I loved Gone With The Wind... and now they want to ban it too with a lot of other "Southern" stuff.. So will burning the book be next? And then all other books of a similar nature?
 I've visited a lot of museums dedicated to the Civil War, and also Appomattox and Fort Lee in Virginia, and several other battlefields and monuments to soldiers of both sides.
 I've always been grateful the Union won and didn't allow the South to secede even though I've lived all my life in one of those states, Texas. Gov. Sam Houston who led the War for Texas Independence from Mexico refused to declare loyalty to the Confederacy and was removed from office by the Texas secession convention in March 1861. Governor Sam Houston accepted secession but asserted that the Convention had no power to link the state with the new Southern Confederacy. Instead, he urged that Texas revert to its former status as an independent republic and stay neutral. Houston took his seat on March 16, the date state officials were scheduled to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. He remained silent as his name was called out three times and, after failing to respond, the office of Governor was declared vacant and Houston was deposed from office. I would have been on Houston's side.
Recruitment poster for Sam Houston's war against Santa Ana
When I was a child I remember driving by a Confederate Veterans old folks home in Houston several times in the 1940's and seeing a couple of very old soldiers sitting on the porch adorned with flags of both the Union and the Confederacy...and I started wondering more about that war. I have done a lot of research over the years to find out things about it not taught in school books. I have been surprised more than once.
The soldiers who enlisted to fight for the Confederacy have been the subject of much debate in recent times. In this age of "political correctness," the symbols of the Confederacy have come under increasing attack by the media and "special interest" groups. Everything from monuments to flags has been subjected to barrages of scorn and protest by people who find them to be personally offensive. Of course, the particular flag that is under attack is the "St. Andrew's Cross" battle flag. It is not (and never was), the national flag of the Confederacy, even though it is almost always portrayed as such. It was not even the only battle flag used by the Confederate armies, but that brings up a major point. Southern history (and history in general), seems to be very misunderstood by the majority of today's public.
The men who enlisted to fight for the Confederate States of America were more varied in motivations and backgrounds than what is commonly realized or known. The soldiers who went to fight were not just native Southern white males or rich slave-holding plantation owners, but were also of foreign birth, native French-speaking Creoles, and even of Northern origin. There were also Mexican-Americans who enlisted, but the most surprising of those who chose to enlist to fight, or even wanted to enlist to fight for the Confederacy, were Native- Americans and African-Americans.
 In Charleston, South Carolina in 1860, 125 free Negroes owned slaves; six of them owning 10 or more. Of the $1.5 million in taxable property owned by free Negroes in Charleston, more than $300,000 represented slave holdings.
 In North Carolina 69 free Negroes were slave owners. 
Figures show conclusively that, when free, blacks disproportionately became slave masters in pre-Civil War America. The statistics outlined show that about 28 percent of free blacks owned slaves—as opposed to less than 4.8 percent of southern whites, and dramatically more than the 1.4 percent of all white Americans who owned slaves.

In 1860 there were at least six Negroes in Louisiana who owned 65 or more slaves The largest number, 152 slaves, were owned by the widow C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards, who owned a large sugar cane plantation. Another Negro slave magnate in Louisiana, with over 100 slaves, was Antoine Dubuclet, a sugar planter whose estate was valued at (in 1860 dollars) $264,000 . That year, the mean wealth of southern white men was $3,978.
 According to the US census report for that last year before the Civil War, there were nearly 27 million whites in the country. Some eight million of them lived in the slaveholding states. The census also determined that there were fewer than 385,000 individuals who owned slaves.  Even if all slaveholders had been white, that would amount to only
 1.4 percent of whites in the country.
Blacks in Africa first sold each other as slaves, and the first true lifelong slave in America was owned by a black man, not a white. The first official slave owner in America was an Angolan who adopted the European name of Anthony Johnson.

The country's leading African American historian, Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, records that in New Orleans in 1860 over 3,000 free Negroes owned slaves, or 28 percent of the free Negroes in that city.The fact is large numbers of free Negroes owned black slaves in numbers disproportionate to their representation in society at large.  In an 1856 letter to his wife Mary Custis Lee, Robert E Lee called slavery "a moral and political evil." Yet he concluded that black slaves were immeasurably better off here than in Africa,
morally, socially and physically.
I don't know what all was going on in Africa, other than they were selling each other at the time, so I don't know if Gen. Lee's statement is plausible. My Grandmother and her family chose to become "legal" slaves for seven years in order to escape persecution in Eastern Europe during the latter 1800's and she said their serf master in Pennsylvania was pretty bad...but well worth it in the long run so that her children and grandchildren could live free. After their "passage" debt was paid off they chose to move to Texas.
The ocean journey to America usually took eight to twelve weeks. Indentured servants were packed into the ships tightly, often being held in the hold without a chance to get fresh air. Every two weeks at sea they received an allowance of bread. Grandma told me the bottom of the ship was where they were confined for the voyage...with the animals.
Grandpa and Grandma worked their whole lives as share croppers for one man who took half of everything they earned in exchange for a home and land to farm cotton on. They didn't have indoor plumbing until they were in their 70's. I didn't mind...I loved staying with them...and yes, I have picked cotton and it's a really hard job. The same black families would come back to pick cotton for Grandpa year after year because he treated them fairly and fed them good...and we all used the same "outhouse."
 I am very grateful for the sacrifice and perseverance of my ancestors.
Grandmother and her family in East Texas. Grandma lived as an indentured servant from the age of 8 to the age of 15. She is third from left on top row and had seven sisters.
*****
Everyone who knows me knows how much I hate racism and that evolved at an early age. When I was 16 in the 1950's working in a "company" café I was alone in one Sunday afternoon,  a young black boy came in and asked if he could order four hamburgers, fries, and  cokes to go. I didn't know why not so he paid me and I gave him the cokes he took out to his friends waiting in a car and began to prepare the food for him while he came back and waited nervously by the door. The owner came to the stockroom door from his back room living quarters and motioned me over and told me I couldn't serve him...to give him his money back. When I asked why he said because the "company" didn't allow it...then he left me with the dilemma to resolve.
 I thought, "How stupid!" and finished the hamburgers and fries, bagged them, and handed them to the young man and he smiled broadly and said, "God Bless You." I then knocked on the owners door and quit the job and walked out in a huff. The owner was so scared someone had see the boy walk out with food he went to the "company" office's and told an executive it wasn't his fault I served a negro. It so happened I often baby sat for that executive and he told my boss to keep his mouth shut and hire me back because I was a very reliable employee once I learned the rules. Daddy laughed when  his friend, the executive, told him that...they both knew I followed few rules but my own based on my own common sense. Daddy was never a bigot either. The owner came over and talked me into coming back. I did, but told him if I was ever put in that situation again I would handle it the same way. He didn't respond as my Dad laughed knowingly. I learned racial tolerance from my parents as all children should.
My First Employer
Years later, in the latter 1960's I was  practicing baseball for Little League tryouts with my three young sons in Richmond Texas when a black and Hispanic boy rode up on bikes and asked it they could join and I welcomed them. We were having fun when a man came over and said in a gruff voice, "The nigger and Mexican are not allowed in this park, it's for whites only." Well, again I thought, "How stupid!"...I knew the Little League had declared two years earlier that all LL parks must be integrated.  I insisted the mean man tell me who the park manager was and immediately paid a visit to the bank president a few blocks away, who ran the park, with my five and "those" two barefoot kids in tow...I barged in his bank office in my dirt soiled short shorts and told him exactly how I felt. He was flabbergasted. Then I went home and my best friend and I wrote a letter to Little League headquarters and by the time LL tryouts rolled around there were young boys of all colors trying out in that "former white" park.
***** 
Some of the bravest men in the entire Civil War were the color bearers who carried the flags through battle. Firstly, they could not really defend themselves while holding these massive flags; and secondly, everyone was gunning for them.

 Approximately 625,000 men died in the Civil War, more Americans than in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. If the names of the Civil War dead were arranged like the names on the Vietnam Memorial, it would stretch over 10 times the wall’s length. Two percent of the population died, the equivalent of 6 million men today.
President Abraham Lincoln was personally against slavery, but in his first inaugural, he made it clear that placating the Southern states was more important. Actually, at one time his family did own one slave.  Quoting himself in other speeches, he said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." In order to keep the Southern states from later seceding, he had to change his position...as most politicians do when faced with unpopular adversity...and now he's referred to as the "Great Emancipator." Well.....
Both before and during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln pushed to send freed slaves abroad.
The policy, called colonization, had been supported by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay—a hero of Lincoln’s—and even Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose protagonists in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” ultimately emigrate from the United States to Africa. In August 1862, Lincoln brought five black ministers to the White House and told them that slavery and the war had demonstrated that it would be “better for us both, therefore, to be separated.” He wanted to send freed blacks to Central America, even calling for a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress to pay for colonization. But prominent abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were appalled by the idea. Lincoln never succeeded at gathering support for the policy, and after he signed the Emancipation Proclamation he never mentioned it publicly again.
Very little about Lincoln wanting to send the freed slaves all far away is referred to in history books. I didn't learn it in school. When I found out about it from research, I wondered if that's why it took so long for African Americans to finally become truly free with equal rights... and they had to accomplish that, for the most part, by themselves. The next 17 presidents after Lincoln didn't give them equal rights either, it was President Kennedy who drew up the Civil Rights bill in 1963 and President Johnson signed it in 1964 after JFK's death.
During those 100 years lots of memorials and monuments were built all over the nation to commemorate soldiers on both sides....and now, because of the awful and tragic actions of one radicalized racist, many are calling for Confederate flags and monuments to be removed from sight...supposedly because they incite hate.
No...it is not  flags or memorials that incite hate in racist's...it's a warped mind that wants to create  even more conflict between whites and blacks in the United States of America.
African American Civil War Monument

There are also those petitioning for the 100's of schools named after Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis and other Confederate soldiers in the South to be renamed, thus throwing a façade over our history and desecrating our American heritage, as if that would resolve the problem of terrorists, extremist, and racist in today's world.
I don't believe it would. I think it would just provoke more hate filled radicals and racist's to revolt and misuse these historical symbols as they commit more atrocities.


And what happens when those horrific acts don't incite as much rage anymore because we did the "right" thing by doing away with all things Confederate...and abominable racist and extremist start waving Old Glory as their insane excuse for killing innocent people?
 The worst kind of racist...ones who claim they wear a cross and pointy hood to
"prove" they are "real" Christians. Jesus must surely weep bitter tears
at this flock of foolish haters.

Until all our children are taught history correctly and the distant  past we can do nothing about is reconciled and forgiven...there will be those who refuse to see the truth...THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL...REGARDLESS OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN! 
God...Please Bless America on this 4th of July!
We need it more than ever.
All lives matter! Not just blacks or whites!
*****
Update
I did share a wonderful Independence Day
the old fashioned small town way, in Texas, with beloved family and friends... & a great parade and fireworks display that evening. I have confidence the war memorials to Confederate and WWII soldiers in that small park across from that historic courthouse will remain for the ages for all who know the truth to honor. Thank you!


12 comments:

oneperson said...

Fascinating Anna.

Thank you for sharing your perspective and the information.

When I read history, I endeavor to fill in the scenes. Personal interactions. Beliefs ingrained from generations before. Cultural and family ties. All the complexities that we don't really read about in the history text books. (Which reminds me of my 11th grade US history teacher who, each Friday, would put aside the 'regular' assignment and feature the personal quirks about the given presidents. It made the history come alive. The following year he was going to feature the First Ladies.)

Wow, regarding your Grandma.

From getting to know you online the past few years and through your memoir, I know you are not biased regarding race. So if someone who doesn't know you happens to come along and read this blog entry and if they assume otherwise...well, they just need to read more of you and get to know you. :)

Another awesome post Anna. <3

Anna Maria said...

Thanks so much Carol. I wasn't sure how this would be viewed but I felt folks needed to know that there were a lot more mitigating factors about that era than are commonly known. My curiosity about the Civil War has been almost life long...I'm not sure what sparked it. I wish more history teachers would point some of this so that children would learn that there was fault on both sides of the issue of slavery...not just rich white Plantation owners who actually were in the minority...but they are the ones most romanticized and written about and portrayed in movies.

You may recall some of the things I wrote in the memoir about Grandmother and what happened to her not long after they arrived in America. I was fascinated with the story's she told. I think I may do a blog on indentured servants next because I doubt the majority of Americans know what a huge part they played in America's past, almost from the beginning and a lot of them didn't come here willingly, nor were they allowed to be free after the customary seven year period.

Hope you are feeling well. So very good to hear from you.

GRACE PETERSON said...

Hi Anna, Granted I was not the most sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don't remember ever hearing or reading about black slave owners. And to think they were the majority? So, why has that important bit of information been quieted? I also wasn't aware of how important the flag was in terms of helping soldiers to find their way. It makes a lot of sense though. Do you think Lincoln wanted to ship the freed slaves back to "get rid of them" or did he think it was what the slaves wanted? Just curious. Fascinating post, my friend! I can't wait to see what's next.

Monica Brinkman said...

Anna, what a well written opinion and travel back in history. I personally feel there is but one flag to a country, yet states may have their own and I agree that flags do not create hatred but people may use them to incite.

And it is horrid to even think about banning books and movies because they may offend someone. We do have freedom of speech here and anyone who fears what teaching our history may evoke in others is ludicrous. We cannot live in fear and blame our history for people who choose to hate what they do not understand.

I adore history and enjoyed this article so very much.

You amaze me, my friend.

Anna Maria said...

Grace, thanks so much for your sweet comment. I'm not sure why the black slave owners were not mentioned in earlier history, except to keep from stirring up controversy never realizing racism was going to continue this long. There are folks who just want to keep on hating. The black slave owners were only in the majority in respect to how many blacks there were total. There were a lot more white ones because there were so many more whites...but the facts are still virtually unknown. I applaud that African American Duke professor for publishing the truth.

The Colonization idea was tossed around from the early President's days and Lincoln approved of it and tried to implement it but I doubt by then most freed blacks were in favor of leaving...some had it pretty good by the mid 1800's.

Anna Maria said...

Thank you so much Monica. Yes, the idea of burning books a few don't approve of is horrid. So is defacing historical monuments.

I saw photos today of the current Ku Klux Klan coming out of the woodwork again and wonder how that terrorist group has managed to hang around so long. That's who should be banned and arrested for wearing those hoods! They deliberately have used the Saint Laurence Cross Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy but it was not designed to be, it was originally designed to be the national flag of the Confederacy but was rejected because it was too similar to the Union national flag and later was used as one of the battle flags...it's just red white and blue fabric with stars, and a lot of honorable men died under it so I will not condemn it because some fools hijacked it for the wrong reason. I do believe only the American flag and state flags should fly over state and federal capitals. If they want to fly it over a historical monument, that's fine with me. Thanks again dear friend.

Anna Maria said...

One more thing I thought about after seeing the detestable KKK again...they have long used the cross to supposedly show they are Christians trying to do represent what Christianity is about...hating blacks. They wear them and burn them in yards but claim they are only "lighting" the way. We certainly don't believe that and no one has ever suggested we ban the sacred cross because they misuse it. We simply cannot let "white supremacist" hijack any of our heritage. And of course no one ever suggested banning Harley's just because Hell's Angel's prefer them.

Stephanie Faris said...

Very well put! If you get a chance, read what Mike Rowe from Dirty Deeds wrote on the subject on Facebook. It included depictions of the KKK with American flags (which apparently is that group's flag of choice). Very riveting:

https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/posts/1015663401777136

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Stephanie. I did read what Mike had to say and agree with him somewhat. I also read a lot of the comments made and most feel the way I do about it... "At the end of the day, a flag is a piece of cloth. You choose how you're going to feel about things. To say you allow a flag to cause feelings of hatred and potential violence when so many good people died defending it is, to me, hurtful and short sighted.

As for the hateful KKK. Their use of the Confederate flag has long caused bad feelings toward it and now they also use Old Glory to "prove" they are patriotic. They also wear and burn crosses to "prove" they are Christians doing what Jesus would have wanted. They should have been banned a long time ago for the symbolism those stupid white robes represents...racism and hatred of the worst kind!

DMS said...

What an informative post! I agree with you that so many people don't know history, but they talk and post things online as if they are informed. They end up spreading false information and everyone gets very heated.

I love that you have stayed true to your beliefs and that you still served that young man even though your boss told you not to do so (which is crazy). Awesome job with the LL too! :)
~Jess

Anna Maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Maria said...

Thanks Jess! I saw last week on our local news that our Commissioner's Court had voted to remove some old Confederate plaques in the middle of the night and that did cause some controversy from those who feel about it like I do. I looked up the email address of their Public Relations person and emailed her with a few of my opinions and a link to this post. She replied that she would send it to the Commissioners and thanked me for informing her. I also saw a post of a young black man who attended our Robert E. Lee high school here they are thinking of changing the name of and his heartfelt plea not too was heartwarming. Trying to plow under history and heritage just plain scares me and a lot of other folks.