Sunday, July 23, 2017

What Southern Heritage is.

Southern heritage is not "The South will rise again" nonsense. It is not an argument that the war was over state's rights and not slavery. The civil war was over slavery. State's rights was a roundabout way of people protecting a free workforce. How well the slaves were treated was dependent upon the people that owned them.

Only 1 percent of white southerners owned slaves. A large slave owner named Pierce Butler had 436 people auctioned to settle debts. It was a horrible breakup of families. Large slave owners often lived in large cities like Philadelphia or New York to enjoy their affluence and culture. Some large slave owners lived on large tracts of land with their slaves and family. Some slave owners owned two to fifteen slaves.

There is nothing good to say about the institution of slavery.

If slavery were legal today, you know there would be people who would own slaves who would justify their actions. Pretty much like someone who has a very profitable business and pays their workers minimum wage. Or someone getting an au pair who helps with a family but is to be paid and have free time being used as a 24/7 childcare helper.

What is as bad as slavery is the prejudice African Americans have had to endure. It is 2017 and the problem is still with us.

But Southern heritage is my family. I had ancestors that fought on both sides of the civil war. I had one branch that received reparations in that they were Union sympathizers that lived in middle Tennessee. However, the bulk served for the Confederacy.

I remember my dad telling my brother before he went to Vietnam that you don't want to lose a war. His answer was based on his experiences in Germany after World War II. His answer was based on grandfathers who served in the Confederate Forces. His answer was based on family deported from England by Cromwell for supporting the bonnie Prince Charles during the turbulent 1600s.

Men were expected to enlist and serve to do their part during the civil war. I came across this letter in doing genealogy research. If I am related to this man, it is most distant. But his letter shares the pathos of the common soldier during the civil war. And this is my heritage.

I do this in memory of my great great grandfathers Simon Bennett and Big John McDuffie. They served in the Confederate Militia. Simon Bennett in a South Carolina Militia and John McDuffie in a Georgia unit. This is my heritage. Both men were not perfect. But they were honorable men and deserve respect.

The Bennett's never owned slaves. The McDuffies did. The civil war alienated people much like today's politics. I don't know if it was the McDuffies or the Bennetts where this story originated. The Southern soldier who was on his deathbed refused to meet with his brother who had fought for the Union.

The customs and treatment of African Americans of that era do not deserve respect. Nor does the class system that permeated the South deserve respect. Both are abominations of the human spirit.

But the men who served and the families that suffered during the Civil War lived through difficult times. I honor them. This is my Southern heritage.

King Richard Sellers died of typhoid fever in June of 1864. He had two brothers who died during the war. Another brother disappeared during the Civil War.  Snipped from

The Confederate battle flag is a difficult topic. To me, it is a symbol of the South. To African Americans it is of oppression and slavery. Since 90 percent of the African American population was enslaved before the civil war, I see their side. As an American, I have to stand with them to oppose oppression.

The battle for the Confederate battle flag was lost when hate groups began to use it.

Interesting enough, people outside the South have begun to use the flag to state rebelliousness. I was walking my dogs yesterday evening and thought of this anomaly when the thought emerged that in say twenty years, African american youths might start waving the Confederate flag. Much like Muslim teenagers aggravating their parents by wearing a burka.

Hard to believe I know. But nothing is as queer as folks. But never underestimate a new generations redefining who we are as a culture. I've gotten older and seen changes happen I never thought would happen. I just hope we become a more generous, kind culture.

One thing true about the American people, we don't do anything halfheartedly.


  1. Would be nice if culture changed for the better, but humans never seem to learn.

    1. So very true, I will not bet the rent on improvement.

  2. My family came after the civil war. We all were in the military in later years.

    1. It was a turning point for our country. A fight among family and friends is always the worst. I got the idea for this post from some kids (in their twenties) discussing the Confederate battle flag on Facebook. For young Southerners, there is a regional identity. But a need for sophistication in moving with the times.

  3. I don't have a clue about any of my family back during the civil war. I do know as late as the 1960's aunts had hired black maids to help when the children were young. I know husbands grandfather fought for the South. Near the end of the war, he and two other men swam from Galveston Island to Boliver and journeyed up into East Texas. Grandfather bought a tract of land over 450 acres. In the 70's a big chunk was taken by the US government to be part of the Big Thicket National Preserve.
    We live today at the old home sight.

    As to the rebel flag, I have no strong feeling one way or the other. Personally, it makes me think of Southern hospitality, respect for religion, pride in manners and decorum: all the best that was the old South. A shame when hate mongers latch hold of anything to spew their swill.

    I do totally disagree with the removing of all statues and symbols of the confederacy. To me removing all traces of history lends one to forget both the good and the atrocity of the past. A past forgotten lends itself to be repeated in some fashion in the future.

    1. I drove through a small town and looked at their Confederate statue and wondered how long it may last. In rural areas, I think they will continue to stand. But time takes it toll anyway. It really depends on the millennials.

  4. My father, a German jew, told us that there are no winners in war. There are losers and bigger losers. A view I now understand.
    I suspect that most countries have some black spots in their history (I know ours does). Black spots which should be remembered (not celebrated) so we can learn from them.

    1. This comment is so profound. One of the big gashes in America's history is the treatment of people of color.

    2. We treated (and continue to treat) our indigenous population badly. And I realise (in shame) that I described our mistakes and our cruelty as 'black' spots in my original comment.

    3. I think that we all use the analogy of dark or black to describe what we are ashamed of. I had this discussion a long time ago with a black teacher I worked with. It was a peeve of hers. But there is no solution. It is just the way we use language.

  5. I don't like seeing historical things destroyed. It reminds me too much of what is happening in the Middle East. What happened in the past is shameful of the people who committed the atrocity of slavery. Our modern shame shouldn't be about what our ancestors did but how we ignore or are oblivious to the continuing disparities between races in our culture. There's no overnight answer but I doubt it is outlawing a flag or tearing down statues.

    1. Many of the statues that I have seen probably need some repair. The heat and moisture is getting the best of most. I agree about historical items need to be preserved. But it is a political thing at the moment. It is a difficult thing. Some people on both sides are so passionate that reason will not prevail.


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