Tag Archives: Confederacy

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

In addition to being one of two people to serve in the U.S. House and Senate, a President’s Cabinet, and the U.S. Supreme Court, L.Q.C. Lamar was one of eight senators featured in Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy, which is one of those books you’ve heard about but never read.

A lawyer from Georgia, Lamar bounced between Georgia and Mississippi to practice law and teach before getting elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives in 1853, and then three years later in Mississippi to the U.S. House. (Pick a state, man!) When secession time came around, he resigned from the House and joined the Mississippi Secession Convention, drafting the state’s Ordinance of Secession and mustering a regiment. When bad health kept him away from the battlefield, Jefferson Davis appointed him Confederate minister to Russia and special envoy to England and France until the end of the war.

Once former Confederates were allowed to hold office again, Lamar came right back, serving in the U.S. House (again) and then Senate, where he earned his spot in Profiles in Courage by eulogizing Charles Sumner instead of caning him again and voting against the “free silver” movement. Grover Cleveland appointed him Secretary of the Interior in 1885, then two years later nominated him for the U.S. Supreme Court, where he died five years later.

Sources: 1, 2

Flag Abuse

Responding to the anti-shutdown right-wing protest in front of the White House on Sunday (which featured the Confederate flag and a rebel yell), Ta-Nehisi Coates gets at something that has long gnawed at me:

If a patriot can stand in front of the White House brandishing the Confederate flag, then the word “patriot” has no meaning. The Nazi flag is offensive because it is a marker of centuries of bigotry elevated to industrialized murder. But the Confederate flag does not merely carry the stain of slavery, of “useful killing,” but the stain of attempting to end the Union itself. You cannot possibly wave that flag and honestly claim any sincere understanding of your country. It is not possible.

I am a Yankee through and through, born and raised in the liberal hotbed of Madison, Wisconsin, and a denizen of Obama’s Chicagoland. I’m self-aware enough to acknowledge my lack of understanding for the Southern mindset in all things politics and culture. But for the love of Ulysses S. Grant, I refuse to give any credence whatsoever to the belief that wielding the flag of Dixie so loudly and proudly represents a mere appreciation of “heritage” and “freedom” and not what it actually represents: treason.

Let’s not forget: Robert E. Lee and his Confederate military colleagues were traitors. Not grand heroes of a glorious rebellion against the forces of evil, as their past and present acolytes believe, but willing participants in a war against their own country. Lt. Col. Robert Bateman writes in Esquire that Lee, “as a traitor and betrayer of his solemn oath before God and the Constitution, was a much greater terrorist than Osama Bin Ladin… after all, Lee killed many more Americans than Bin Ladin, and almost destroyed the United States.” It’s staggering to see Robert E. Lee, hero of Dixie, compared to Osama bin Laden, chief executive terrorist and national bugbear. As a genteel general Lee wasn’t a terrorist, but on both points Bateman is nevertheless correct: Lee willingly betrayed his solemn oath and went on to kill thousands more Americans than bin Laden ever did.

I think of Robert E. Lee because people today who wave the Confederate flag and tell the president to “put the Quran down” and “figuratively come out with his hands up” are him. They are him for inciting a destructive rebellion (Civil War, meet shutdown) that was 100% caused by their own party. They are him for scorching the earth to grandstand against laws they don’t like. They are not freedom fighters, nor righteous citizens. The Confederate flag stands not for freedom, but for the abuse of it. In their minds they are still Johnny Reb, fighting a battle that is long over yet insisting that his side won and remains the true keeper of the flame of freedom.

The line between protest and rebellion is wide. Crossing that line requires a deliberate jump that most incidents of dissent don’t make (Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, I think, are included). Properly registering dissent in America is relatively easy. Elections are the clearest means of making one’s voice heard (although apparently these protestors don’t agree with that given their obduracy toward the legally enacted and upheld health-care act). When that doesn’t work, civil disobedience is next (see The Civil Rights movement). But once you make the leap from civil disobedience to contempt for the law, you’re dangerously close to the precipice into which our country fell once before.

The Dixie flag-wavers don’t seem to understand this. They’re off in la-la land where the Confederacy was a great place with “honor” and “heritage” before those damn Yankees ruined everything.

I’ve been to the South. The South has friends of mine. South, you’re no Confederacy. So why do you act like it?

Robert Barnwell Rhett

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

We’ve got ourselves a good ol’ fashioned fire-eater here. And like fire itself, this brand of demagogue was a useful tool only until it burned its wielder.

A lawyer by trade, Rhett entered public service in 1826 as a South Carolina state legislator and continued as state attorney general, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator. Rhett came out loudly against President Jackson’s “Tariff of Abominations” in the 1830s, pushing secession before acceding to a “tyrannical” government:

Aye – disunion, rather, into a thousand fragments. And why, gentlemen! would I prefer disunion to such a Government? Because under such a Government I would be a slave – a fearful slave, ruled despotically by those who do not represent me … with every base and destructive passion of man bearing upon my shieldless destiny.

This, mind you, coming from a man who owned actual slaves. Rhett pushed for secession so hard that even John “Slavery Is A Positive Good” Calhoun wasn’t radical enough for him, which is like someone calling Ron Paul a moderate. But as this great New York Times profile of Rhett shows, that wasn’t even the guy’s best stuff. Through the Charleston Mercury, a newspaper he owned that was run by his son, Rhett spewed all kinds of obloquial, borderline slanderous “Rhett-oric” at Lincoln, Hannibal Hamlin, and the African slaves.

His secessionist dreams finally materialized in 1860 when South Carolina disunited itself after Lincoln’s election, prompting Rhett to help convene the Montgomery Convention that established the Confederate government and made Rhett a delegate. But like many a fire-eater who runs head first into the messy business of governing, Rhett soon became disillusioned by Jefferson Davis’ administration (Not seceded enough! Not fighting the Union enough! Wah!) and I’m guessing pretty pissed off by the war’s outcome. Though probably not as pissed off as dying from facial cancer in 1876.

Up next on CCWN, the traveled T. Morris Chester.

(sources: 1, 2)

Jubal Early

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

There’s so much Civil War in this guy it makes me want to cry. “Old Jube” (as Robert E. Lee would later come to call him) and his brawny beard fought early and often in the war between the states, but for reasons you wouldn’t suspect from an eventual Southern fire-breather. But before all that silly war stuff, Early graduated from West Point in 1837 ranked eighteenth (like his Union counterpart Rufus Saxton) in his class of fifty. After a brief stint in an artillery regiment, Early took up law for a while before returning to the military for the Mexican War.

But when the war drums started beating in his home state of Virginia, Early was an unlikely opponent of secession; that is until Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to fight the South—that pissed him off mightily. Soon Brigadier General Early was on a greatest hits tour of all the key battles: Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg. He even spearheaded a Lee-ordered run on Washington D.C., which was eventually swatted back by General Grant’s reinforcements. The rest of the war was downhill for Early: defeated by Sheridan, he fled to Mexico and then to Canada, where he wrote his “Lost Cause” tinged memoirs about the “war of independence.”

Lucky for Early, upon his arrival back in the States the Southern-sympathizing President Johnson issued him a pardon, which allowed him to resume his law career.

Up next on CCWN, the glory-bound GOUVERNEUR KEMBLE WARREN.

(sources: 1, 2) (image)

Zebulon Baird Vance

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

This guy had ambition. Studying law by 21 and in the North Carolina House of Commons by 24, Vance made friends and won elections with his oratorical skills and soon entered Congress as the youngest legislator and one of the few Southern supporters of the Union. This is 1860, mind you, and Vance’s fire-breathing neighbors to the south are calling for secession. Yet once his home state voted in favor of it, he resigned his seat and returned and raised a company of soldiers dubbed the “Rough and Ready Guards.” He fought his way up to colonel and by 1862 was on the gubernatorial ballot as the “soldier’s candidate.” It’s tough beating a popular soldier during wartime, so he won handily and left his regiment just before it was decimated at Gettysburg.

His time as governor was noteworthy for a few reasons: he pissed off the Richmond crew because of his insistence on local self-governance, meaning he didn’t always play along with the rest of the Confederacy. North Carolina was the only rebel state to keep its civilian courts open and observe habeas corpus, and Vance refused to let blockade runners pass through until Carolinians had their share. That was all well and good until the war ended and Vance was arrested and imprisoned for a time (that whole rebellion thing usually backfires). No worries though – he was paroled eventually and went back to governating to much popular acclaim.

Up next in CCWN, the scandalous Samuel Clarke Pomeroy. 

(Source: 1) (Image credit)