Confederate Heritage Month

For Confederate Heritage Month, First Floor Tarpley presents an amusing interpretation of 1860s American politics that is not necessarily in accord with current historical consensus. This excerpt may be found in Janet and Geoff Benge, Lottie Moon: Giving her all for China (Seattle: YWAM, 2001), a children’s chapter book in a series entitled Christian Heroes: Then and Now. 

On April 12, 1861, a month before she graduated, Confederate artillery in South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter at the entrance to the Charleston harbor, which was manned by the U.S. Army. The attack was the climax of a long series of disagreements between northern states and southern states over the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Lottie had heard these disagreements being discussed endlessly around dinner tables and on buggy rides, but she, like most other people, was shocked that the North and the South were now firing at each other.

Basically the North was in favor of the federal government’s having broad rights over all of the states in the Union, while the South wanted the federal government to have very limited powers. The southern states wanted to make their own decisions and fund their own projects. The North and South had already clashed over a number of issues, including who should pay for new roads and railways in the West, taxes on manufactured goods, and one issue that did not start off being very important but quickly grew into a big issue: slavery. In the beginning, the North did not want to ban slavery in the South but rather wanted to prohibit slavery in any new western states. The South was afraid that if this ban happened, there would eventually be so many “free” states in the Union that they could, and most probably would, vote to outlaw slavery everywhere. As a result, the shots fired at Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the War Between the States, or the Civil War, as it came to be known.

The war dragged on. Ike Moon was wounded in battle but lived to tell about it. Lottie and her sisters tried their hardest to keep the plantation going with a steadily dwindling supply of equipment and labor. 

The Confederacy in the National Cathedral

I wanted to attend the 9:00 service at Washington National Cathedral. Unfortunately, and contrary to the cathedral’s website, there was no 9:00 service this Sunday. However, I did get to sing the last hymn of the 8:00 service! It was a good hymn, and I enjoyed exploring the place afterwards. It is immense, with all sorts of details to notice. I confess that I was particularly keen to see what had happened to the Confederate stained glass windows. A parishioner named Jared kindly showed me where they were. One was dedicated to Robert E. Lee, and the other to Stonewall Jackson. I reproduce the windows, and their inscriptions:

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“To the Glory of God, all righteous and all merciful and in undying tribute to the life and witness of Robert Edward Lee, servant of God, leader of men, general-in-chief of the armies of the confederate states whose compelling sense of duty serene faith and unfailing courtesy mark him for all ages as a Christian soldier without fear and without reproach this memorial bay is gratefully built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.”

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“To the glory of the Lord Jesus whom he so zealously served and in honored memory of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Lieutenant General C.S.A. Like a stone wall in his steadfastness, swift as lightning, and mighty in battle, he walked humbly before his creator whose word was his guide this bay is erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and his admirers from south and north.”

The sharp-eyed reader will notice that some Confederate flags remain in the windows above: there are two instances of the Stars and Bars, and one of Hardee’s Battle Flag (the blue one with a white circle in the center). Other flags include the U.S. flag, the flag of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (red field, white castle) and the flag the U.S. Army Field Artillery (red field, crossed cannons).

But you’ll notice that no Confederate Battle Flags are in evidence. These were replaced with blank flags, a blue one in the Robert E. Lee window, and a red one in the Stonewall Jackson window.

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For reference, from NPR.org, here are what they looked like in 2015, before the Charleston shooting:

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What to say? In general I am not in favor of the Confederacy, but I am not in favor of Jacobinism either. And yet, monuments like these express endorsement of their subjects – it’s a little bit more than a case of acknowledging “our heritage,” as supporters would have it. Apparently the former dean wanted to get rid of the entire stained glass display, and the inscriptions, on the principle that no Confederates should be memorialized, certainly not in the National Cathedral. But then people raised the usual objections – near these windows, for instance, is the tomb of Woodrow Wilson. Should we dig him up and bury him elsewhere, on account of his unfortunate racial views? Should we not celebrate important people, warts and all, particularly when reincorporating the defeated southern states was at one point a major priority, and if that meant honoring Confederates, so be it? On a practical level, does the Cathedral not have better things to worry about, particularly the $34 million dollars worth of damage caused by an earthquake in 2011?

Frankly it does seem like the choice here should have been all or nothing. Either leave the windows alone, or get rid of all traces of them. Blanking out the one “offensive” image seems somewhat faint-hearted.

Failing that, why not replace the Battle Flags with other, proper flags, and not just blank spaces?

In the meantime, note that the Cathedral displays the flag of Mississippi, with its canton of the Battle Flag, in the nave.

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Stone Mountain

Yesterday I finally had the chance to visit Stone Mountain, a large granite monadnock formation to the east of Atlanta. In terms of sheer natural beauty it rivals Ayers Rock or Devils Tower; you can take a cable car to the top and explore the ethereal moonscape while admiring the distant Atlanta skyline.

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But this is not the primary significance of Stone Mountain. Carved into the north face is the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture… of the Confederate heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, all riding their favorite horses (Black Jack, Traveller, and Little Sorrel, respectively). I’m afraid that for my visit the sun was in exactly the wrong position for photographs, so I am reduced to reproducing Wikipedia’s:

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This sculpture, which measures some 76 by 158 feet, dates from 1916 and, after many fits and starts, was finally completed in 1972. It is faced by a long, gently sloping lawn (where the people are sitting in the picture above); this is lined with memorials to the thirteen states of the Confederacy, and at the top, facing the sculpture, is Memorial Hall, which houses the Discovering Stone Mountain Museum. This museum deals with Stone Mountain and its surrounding community throughout history, including Indian occupation, the arrival of European settlers, the Civil War, granite quarrying in the nineteenth century, races to the top of the mountain in the twentieth century, the bicycling events of the 1996 Olympics, the politics and production of the sculpture itself, and yes, the founding of the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan on the top of the mountain on November 25, 1915. Almost needless to say, this was designated as a “dark chapter” in the Mountain’s history; it was nice, though, that they acknowledged it, rather than pretending it didn’t happen.

But it seems that Stone Mountain wants to live down its Confederate associations as well. No, they’re not prepared to blow up the monument, as some have requested. But there’s more to the park than the sculpture, and very little of it is Confederate. You can visit the Great Barn, ride the Scenic Railroad, or enjoy the Yogi Bear 4-D Adventure (this is all provided by Herschend Family Entertainment, which has been contracted by the state of Georgia to run the place). Although it’s clear that the whole thing was once intended to be the “Southland’s Sacred Mount” – somewhat like the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, South Africa – and apparently the Stone Mountain Memorial Association retains the right “to reject any project deemed unfit,” they don’t seem to have any qualms about allowing the Laser Show Spectacular, projected after dark and only on certain nights onto the side of the mountain with the carving, accompanied by music and fireworks, or Snow Mountain, a series of slides and ramps on the lawn facing the sculpture, that will be covered in artificial snow for sledding come wintertime. Even the gift shop is completely devoid of Confederate memorabilia. Instead, there’s lots of American patriotism on display:

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And, on one postcard, even the sculpture itself has been defaced with a US flag, something unthinkable at one point.

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I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t care much for the Lost Cause stuff you sometimes find around here, but if you’re going to have a memorial… man, have some respect!

A website entitled Shades of Gray: The Changing Focus of Stone Mountain Park has more information.

Oakland Cemetery

Our trip to Atlanta also included a visit to Oakland Cemetery (logo from their pamphlet).

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It dates from 1850 and occupies a 48-acre site between the Sweet Auburn and Grant Park neighborhoods, not far from the King Center and the Georgia State Capitol. Numerous famous Atlantans are interred here, among them:

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Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind.

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Bobby Jones, the most successful amateur golfer ever, and a founder of the Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters’ Tournament held there.

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Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor.

Of course, a large section is devoted to the Confederacy and the soldiers who died for it, whether known:

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Or unknown:

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At one point this obelisk was the tallest structure in Atlanta:

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Note, though, how they’ve tried to defang its message: all three of the federal, state, and city flags take precedence over the flag of the CSA, which of course is the original Stars and Bars, not the Battle Flag.

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There is also a segregation-era African-American section, and a Jewish section, along with the usual collection of interesting headstones and monuments.

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Fort Gaines, Alabama

One more set of summer-trip postcards, from Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama. As it says on the sign, Fort Gaines was established during the presidency of James Monroe to guard the entrance to Mobile Bay. (Two miles across the bay, at the tip of Mobile Point, lies Fort Morgan, which was built in the 1830s. We did not get to visit that fort, however.)

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Fort Gaines was taken over by the Confederacy, and regained by the United States after the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864. This is the engagement when Admiral Farragut gave his famous order: “Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!” (or words to that effect – contemporary sources differ on the phrasing). This was a risky but ultimately effective tactic of running the Confederate minefield and then sinking the Confederate ships in Mobile Bay. Forts Morgan and Gaines surrendered to the US shortly thereafter. The anchor from the USS Hartford, Farragut’s ship, is on display in the courtyard of Fort Gaines.

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The fort was modified in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American war, and decommissioned in 1926, at which time it was sold to the City of Mobile. During World War II it housed a unit of the Alabama National Guard. At some point the fort was deeded to the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board, which act as its current caretakers. It is not currently in the best of repair but we kind of liked that – it was fun to explore all its nooks and crannies. Every time a hurricane comes through it gets damaged a little more, and erosion from seawater is eating away at its foundations. Apparently it’s on a list of endangered historic places so you should see it while you can, or give money to save it before it’s too late.

gaines2You can go on an interesting self-guided walking tour and see the cannons, magazine, fort museum, kitchen, twelve-seater latrine, barracks and, best of all, the working blacksmith forge and blacksmith Ralph Oalmann who explains his craft as he exercises it.

Flaggery

As regular readers know, I am a great fan of heraldry, flags, and identifying emblems in general. On a recent road trip from Georgia to Texas and back again, I was pleased to note a lot of historic flags in use.

1. As we passed into Texas on I-10, we saw six flags flying at the Welcome Center, representing the six sovereign entities that have ruled Texas in the past.

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These are, from left to right: the United States, Texas, the Confederacy, Mexico, France, and Spain. Some notes:

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Flag of Texas (Wikipedia).

• Texas, of course, acted as its own country from 1836 to 1845, between its secession from Mexico and its joining the USA. It retains this former national flag as its state flag. The design is wonderfully simple, even striking, and consequently flown quite a lot by Texans (including massive ones at car dealerships). This positively reinforces civic pride, as Roman Mars notes.

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First national flag, CSA (Wikipedia).

• The Confederate Flag flown is the first national flag with seven stars, which is appropriate as Texas was one of the original seven signatories to the CSA in early 1861. Displaying the Stars and Bars helps to avoid the appearance of the ever-controversial Confederate Battle Flag, which appears on the canton of the second and third national flags.

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Second national flag, CSA (Wikipedia).

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Third national flag, CSA (Wikipedia).

• The Mexican Flag (Texas was a Mexican state between 1821 and 1836) is actually the version flown in the 1820s, i.e. this:

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Flag of the Mexican Republic, 1823-1864 (Wikipedia).

And not this:

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Flag of the United Mexican States, from 1968 (Wikipedia).

I appreciate such attention to detail!

• Bourbon France is represented by Argent semé de lys Or, i.e. a white field strewn with gold fleur de lys, one of the flags that the regime used:

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Wikipedia.

The “Six Flags” display is popular in Texas; other royal French flags employed elsewhere include Argent three fleur de lys Or (i.e. a white field with only three gold fleur de lys on it) and Azure three fleur de lys Or (i.e. a blue field with three gold fleur de lys). This last one makes for the best flag in my opinion – you want a dark color to contrast with the sky, and with the fleur de lys, even though this one is technically a banner of arms, and not a flag. Here it is at the Alamo:

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• Finally, there are several options for the flag of royal Spain. The flag displayed, according to Wikipedia, is Spain’s “navy and coastal fortifications flag 1785-1843, and national flag 1843-73 and 1874-1931.”

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Ensign of Spain, 1785-1843 (Wikipedia).

Elsewhere, Texans fly a quartered flag of Castile and Leon:

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Outside the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

An elaborate war ensign:

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From a display at a Spanish mission in San Antonio.

Or, best of all in my opinion, the Cross of Burgundy Flag. It’s simple, distinctive, and historically accurate.

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At Misión San José in San Antonio.

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From a display in Misión San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio.

2. The Louisiana Welcome Center on I-10 flies two flags, the current Louisiana flag, and the Bonnie Blue Flag (apparently upside down!).

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The Bonnie Blue Flag was used by some Confederates as an unofficial emblem; it is immortalized in a song. What people tend not to realize, however, is that this flag had been used earlier by Fulwar Skipwith’s breakaway Republic of West Florida for a few months in 1810, and the I-10 welcome center is in one of these so-called Florida Parishes.

Interestingly, in the Louisiana State Capitol, the Bonnie Blue Flag is shown as light blue. Apparently this was the actual shade of the flag of the Republic of West Florida. Thus, it appears that the RWF and Somalia have something in common.

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3. To the immediate left of the Bonnie Blue Flag in the photo above is a flag the reader has probably not seen before.

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Flag of Louisiana, 1861 (Wikipedia).

This is the flag flown by Louisiana between its secession from the Union, and its joining of the Confederacy, in 1861. Not a bad design – I wish they had kept it as their state flag, in the mode of Texas.

(You’ll also note the flag of Republican France on the right in the photo above – Napoleon reacquired Louisiana from Spain in 1800, but then sold it to the United States in 1803.)

(You’ll also note the third national flag of the CSA. It would not surprise me if this gets changed sometime soon.)

4. A similar situation prevails in Mississippi. We drove most of the way from Mobile, Ala. to New Orleans, La. along a coastal scenic route. We thus passed Beauvoir, President Jefferson Davis’s retirement home and now Presidential Library. I did not get any pictures, but Beauvoir doesn’t mess around: flying out front are large versions of the Bonnie Blue Flag, the three national flags of the CSA, the Confederate Battle Flag, the current Mississippi flag, and the Magnolia Flag:

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Magnolia Flag (Wikipedia).

According to Wikipedia, this flag was Mississippi’s official flag from 1861 until 1865; it remained in unofficial use until 1894, when the current state flag was adopted. And we all know the problem with the current flag.

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The Confederate Battle Flag on the canton survived a referendum in 2001, but I would have no problem with the governor changing it by fiat anyway, because Confederate symbols have no place connected to current symbols of sovereignty. Furthermore, the Confederacy lasted all of four years, was in defense of a horrible cause, and went down in flames. (Why not a canton of the Union Jack, or the Cross of Burgundy? Those were also episodes in Mississippi’s history – and probably happier ones.) The Magnolia Flag is a nice design and especially appropriate to the state: eleven states were in the Confederacy, but there’s only one Magnolia State.

In the meantime, when displays of all the state flags are needed, the Mississippi flag should probably be placed a little more discreetly than it was at the Superbowl this year:

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Or at this citizenship ceremony:

immigration5. The City of New Orleans has a nice flag, even if it has gold fleurs de lys on a white background:

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6. In 1965, Thomas J. Arseneaux designed the flag of Acadiana, that is, a flag for those of Cajun ancestry:

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I was pleased to learn about this one, because there is a similar flag in Canada: the flag of Acadia is a French tricolor, defaced with a gold star.

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Wikipedia.

7. We spent the night in Gonzales, Texas, and thereby discovered the existence of the Gonzales Flag.

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Wikipedia.

In 1831, the Mexican government had given the residents of Gonzales a cannon for defense. At the outbreak of the Texan Revolution in 1835, however, the Mexicans sent a force to take it back, and the Gonzalans replied with a suitable Laconic phrase, embroidered on an improvised flag. The Battle of Gonzales was the first military engagement in the Revolution, and inspiring for the Texans, as the Mexicans were forced to retreat without their cannon.

I’m surprised that this flag is not more popular among right-leaning Americans (cf. “Don’t Tread On Me“). Current residents of Gonzales certainly cherish it:

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8. Finally, the Louisiana state history museum exhibits an unofficial flag celebrating Louisiana’s admission as the eighteenth state of the Union in 1810.

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You’ll notice that this flag has eighteen stars – and eighteen stripes! Actually the official flag of the United States stopped with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes when Kentucky was admitted in 1792, but people kept adding both stars and stripes anyway out of pride. Only in 1818 did official word come down that the number of stripes should revert to thirteen, and the number of stars increase to twenty, for the number of states by that time.

“Confederate History and Heritage Month”

A great article from David Parker on Like the Dew: A Journal of Southern Culture and Politics:

Governor Phil Bryant caused something of a stir in February when he signed a proclamation declaring April to be “Confederate Heritage Month” in Mississippi.

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal made no such proclamation, but he didn’t need to. The Georgia General Assembly already took care of this back in 2009, when it legislated that “the month of April of each year is hereby designated as Confederate History and Heritage Month and shall be set aside to honor, observe, and celebrate the Confederate States of America, its history, those who served in its armed forces and government, and all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear.”

“The cause which they held so dear” had as its cornerstone the institution of slavery. This is according to Alexander Stephens, a Georgian and vice-president of the Confederate States of America, who said exactly that in a speech in Savannah in March 1861.

But forget for a while that the resolution calls on Georgians to honor and celebrate a nation built on slavery. As a historian, I have another problem with it: “All those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear.”

Georgia’s resolution assumes a unity of support for the Confederacy and the war effort that simply did not exist. African slaves had little enthusiasm for the Confederate cause, of course, but here’s something we seem to have forgotten, or perhaps never knew: A lot of white Georgians did not support the war.

On January 2, 1860, when Georgia’s (white male) voters went to the polls to elect delegates for a statewide convention to decide on the secession question, the secessionists won—by a vote of 42,744 to 41,717. Hardly overwhelming support! Once the convention voted for secession, and especially after the shooting started, white support shifted a bit, but there was always a tremendous amount of white disaffection.

We have forgotten that a lot of white folks thought of the war as “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” White disaffection was not confined to the lower class, but it was strong there.

There’s more at the link. White opposition to the Confederacy deserves to be remembered. The same impulse that created West Virginia was found in pockets throughout Appalachia, and beyond.

 

Phi Alpha Theta 2016

The History Program is pleased to announce that nine new members of the Reinhardt chapter of Phi Alpha Theta were inducted yesterday in the Glass House. They are in the photograph below, wearing their new honor cords, blood red and sky blue, the colors of PAT.

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Left to right: Cole Gregory, Joseph Wheeler, Max Smith, Kyle Walker, Melissa Martinez, Grant Patrick, Katie Hale, Brent Blackwell, Faculty Advisor Jonathan Good. Photo: Jeff Reed. Not pictured: Chase Palmer.

A highlight of the ceremony was guest speaker David Parker of Kennesaw State University, who spoke about “Rearing Rebels: Confederate Textbooks and Confederate Nationalism.”

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Prof. David Parker. Photo: Jeff Reed.

Prof. Parker has researched school textbooks published and used in the Confederate States of America, and furnished us with some amusing examples of math problems (such as “if one Confederate soldier can kill seven Yankees, how many Yankees can nine Confederate soldiers kill?”) along with other embarrassing moral lessons about the benefits of slavery. But he warned us about arrogance: what things do we believe that might look ridiculous to our posterity?

St. Paul’s, Richmond

My friend Scott Meacham, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, tells me that the anti-Confederate flag movement has reached the cathedral of the Confederacy itself: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, where both Lee and Davis worshiped (and which we had visited this summer). According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The measure includes six plaques with various versions of the Confederate flag, the church’s coat of arms with the flag on kneelers at the high altar, and bookplates in some books in the church’s library.

The coat of arms will be retired, and the church will start to dig deeper in its history, the role of race and slavery in that history, and how parishioners can engage in conversations about race in the Richmond region, church leadership announced Sunday, three months after conversations began with the congregation.

The elected church leadership also said it hopes to erect a memorial to honor slaves in Richmond, especially slaves who were members of St. Paul’s Episcopal.

“While the Vestry does not believe that St. Paul’s should attempt to remove all symbols reflecting St. Paul’s past during the Civil War, the Vestry is united in agreement that it is not appropriate to display the Confederate battle flag in the church,” a church statement said.

The needlepoint kneelers have already been removed from the sanctuary. The two plaques on opposite walls of the sanctuary honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy’s president Jefferson Davis will be removed and placed in a not-yet-determined exhibit. Also in the exhibit will be a plaque installed in 1961 memorializing Confederate soldiers.

The plaques honoring Davis’ wife Varina Howell and daughter Varina Davis will be modified to remove the battle flag without removing the plaque from the church walls. A plaque honoring Frederic Robert Scott, an Ireland-born Confederate major, also will be modified to remove the battle flag.

More at the link, including an illustration of the coat of arms, which is really well designed.

County Histories and Historical Records

I was pleased to read a new column by David Parker, professor at Kennesaw State University and friend to Reinhardt’s history program. Happy archives month!

County histories remind us of need to preserve historical records

In 1929 the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution urging counties to compile their histories in honor of the state’s upcoming bicentennial (in 1933, 200 years after the founding of Georgia in 1733). More than 100 counties appointed official historians, and nearly three dozen published their histories. These books varied, but they typically included chapters on geography and natural resources, Native Americans, the Civil War, churches, schools, newspapers, and so forth.

Among the authors of these books were teachers and lawyers, preachers and journalists, school superintendents and county court judges, and leaders of local historical or patriotic societies. The published histories tended to be long—an average of nearly 500 pages, from Schley County’s 33 pages to Upson’s 1,122. Many of those pages consisted of census records, military rosters, lists of county officials, and reprints of newspaper articles. Some books had lengthy biographical sections, with histories of prominent individuals or families. Many included general sections on life in the old days—quilting bees, militia days, barn raisings, corn shuckings, log rollings.

David Kyvig and Myron Marty, authors of Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You (1982), noted that the county histories written in the early 20th century tended to be “long on local pride and short on critical observations.” The first part of that formula was certainly correct. The title page of the Coffee County history explained that the book was “a story… showing that Coffee County, in South Georgia, is God’s Country and a good place to live.” Walker County residents were “a hardy, brave and patriotic citizenry,” and those of Chattahoochee were “splendid men and women… whose lives are a credit to the civilization of America.”

The books were certainly “long on local pride,” but were they “short on critical observations”? In many cases, yes. A number of the county historians uncritically embraced Lost Cause ideology, a historical perspective that downplayed the role of slavery in the coming of the Civil War, overstated the support of white southerners for the Confederate cause, and distorted the nature of Reconstruction.

Perhaps the Lost Cause is most evident in the discussions of slavery. The Dougherty County historian noted that the institution “was a feudalism as illustrious as that of any medieval country of Europe. The barons were the slaveholders—the serfs were the negroes, and perfect tranquility in relations prevailed.” In Schley County, “White settlers were kind to their slaves, clothed and fed them, and allowed them to worship with them in their churches.” In Upson County, “Everyone knows that slaves were treated very kindly indeed, and only in rare instances was there any trouble between slave and master.” In Walker County, “There were generally, almost universally, the kindest of relations between master and servant.” And in Coffee County, “The training the negroes received while they were slaves has been a great blessing to them.”

Embarrassing sentiments, to be sure, but not universal ones. Find out more at the link.