Confederate Flag Day, March 4

confederate flag
(Wikipedia)

The political pressure to take down the Confederate battle flag flying at South Carolina’s state capitol has grown stronger in the wake of the execution-style murders of nine black people by white racist Dylann Roof during a Bible study session at the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week. For many Americans, the flag is a symbol of racial hatred. Many Southerners, however, claim that it’s just a symbol of Southern pride and heritage. But that’s not true.

First of all, the flag is a reminder that the Southern states violated the Constitution and rebelled from the U.S. and formed their Confederacy in 1861 in response to Abraham Lincoln’s election. Their primary concern was that Lincoln’s election threatened the Southern economic institution of slavery. Many Southerners to this day claim that the real issue was states’ rights, but the right that caused the problem was their right to maintain the legality of slavery.

last confederate flag
The Last Confederate Flag

Many Southerners also like to claim that most Confederate soldiers didn’t fight to preserve slavery, but were just defending their homelands from invaders from the North. But the North didn’t start the war. The Civil War began when Confederate forces, with the approval of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, began to bombard, without provocation, the U.S. forces stationed in Fort Sumter in Charleston’s harbor on April 12, 1861. Furthermore, the Confederate army invaded non-Confederate states several times during the war, including the states of Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. They also invaded the territory of New Mexico and declared a new territory named Arizona in the southern portion of that territory. Despite these facts, many Confederate sympathizers disingenuously call the conflict The War of Northern Aggression.

The conduct of the Confederates during the war shows otherwise too. The U.S. government began recruiting black soldiers into the Union Army after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Jefferson Davis responded with an order that any black Union soldiers that were captured by Confederate troops were to be executed or returned to slavery. Before the Battle of Olustee in Florida in February of 1864, for example, Confederate soldiers were told not to take “any negro prisoners.” Confederate troops led by Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Fort Pillow in Tennessee in April of 1864. The fort’s Union garrison numbered about 600 soldiers – about evenly split between black and white. But only about 20% of the black soldiers were taken prisoner while about 60% of the white soldiers survived. The battle came to be called the Fort Pillow Massacre because Confederate soldiers were accused of killing black soldiers who were trying to surrender. Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan after the war ended.

Flying the Confederate Flag Isn’t A Tribute to the South’s Heritage
“That cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” – U.S. Grant

Furthermore, the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina state capitol wasn’t put there as tribute to the South’s heritage. It was raised in 1961 supposedly to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, but in actuality as a protest against court-ordered school integration in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision wherein it found separate public schools for black and white students were discriminatory and unconstitutional.

It’s legal to display and fly the Confederate flag because of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech in the U.S. Constitution. But that doesn’t mean that it should be officially displayed by local governments. Last week, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that it was legal for Texas to prohibit the issuance of vanity license plates that displayed the Confederate flag. But this practice is still allowed in South Carolina and eight other Southern states. And the Confederate flag is still a part of Mississippi’s state flag, even though it’s the state with the highest percentage of African-American citizens in the U.S.

“I don’t believe their service, however distinguished, needs to be commemorated in a way that offends, that deeply hurts, people whose ancestors were once denied their freedom by my ancestors,” – John McCain

In response to the growing criticism about flying Confederate flags on public property, local chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) have begun promoting March 4 as Confederate Flag Day. That’s the day in 1861 when the first Confederate flag was hoisted over the initial Confederate capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. SCV members are encouraged to salute the flag by proclaiming, “I salute the Confederate flag with affection, reverence and undying devotion to the Cause for which it stands.”

Confederate flags, of course, should still be flown at military cemeteries, Civil War battlefield sites, and museums. But it’s time for local government’s to quit allowing the display of Confederate flags on other public property. Why would any nation sanction the public display of a flag used by a rebellion that killed and wounded over 640,000 loyal soldiers?

Update

On July 10, 2015, a crowd of thousands cheered when the Confederate flag flying on South Carolina’s statehouse grounds was permanently taken down after the state’s legislature voted to remove it.

On September 26, 2017, somebody left Confederate flags with cotton balls attached on billboards at American University, in Washington, D.C., after the school introduced a new Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center.

On April 17, 2018, white high school students in Auburn, Michigan, parked their trucks displaying Confederate flags across the street from a local high school.

On April 5, 2019, a Republican candidate for Mississippi attorney general called for the Confederate flag to be removed from Mississippi’s state flag because too many young people are leaving the state because they think it’s behind the times.

On April 26, 2019, New Jersey’s governor announced that the Mississippi state flag would not longer be allowed to fly at a park overlooking the Statue of Liberty because it includes a Confederate flag.

Confederate Memorial Day, April 26

Confederate General Joseph Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston (Wikipedia)

On April 26, 1865, at the farm of James and Nancy Bennett, just west of Durham, North Carolina, General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Confederate forces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida surrendered to Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. This ended the war for more than 89,000 Confederate soldiers. This number far exceeded the approximately 28,000 troops that Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia more than two weeks earlier, on April 9.

Johnston knew, after learning of Lee’s surrender, that continuing the war was futile. Sherman’s army had been pushing Johnston’s army north from Savannah, Georgia, since the beginning of the year. Johnston’s troops had enjoyed a temporary success with a surprise attack against a wing of Sherman’s army at Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 19. But the Union army’s superiority in numbers had turned the tide. Johnston knew that if he couldn’t unite his army with Lee’s, the total defeat of his army was inevitable, especially since the Union troops which had been fighting Lee would now join Sherman.

So, despite Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s desire to continue the war, Johnston informed Sherman that he was willing to discuss a surrender. Their first meeting at Bennett Place took place on April 17, during which Sherman informed Johnston that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated by Confederate terrorist John Wilkes Booth. The two generals signed surrender papers on April 18, but on April 24 U.S. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant arrived and informed Sherman the agreement had been rejected in Washington, D.C., because it included some political concessions sought by Davis.

The generals met again on April 26 and Johnston agreed to a revised surrender agreement that was solely focused on military issues. Jefferson Davis, unable to accept reality, considered Johnston’s surrender to be a traitorous act and kicked him out of what little remained of the Confederate army on May 2. (Davis wasn’t captured by Union troops until May 10.)

General William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman (Wikipedia)

Johnston’s surrender led to the eventual surrender of all of the remaining Confederate armies. Afterwards, Sherman issued rations, horses and mules to the former Confederate soldiers, and distributed food to civilians throughout the South. Johnston never forgot Sherman’s generosity and after Sherman died in New York City on February 14, 1891, Johnston served as a pallbearer at his funeral.

Confederate Memorial Day Celebration, Phoenix, AZ, 2017
Confederate Memorial Day Celebration, Pioneer & Military Memorial Park, Phoenix, AZ, 2017 (Pioneers’ Cemetery Association)

In March 1866 the Columbus, Georgia, chapter of the Ladies Memorial Association passed a resolution to recognize April 26, the day that Johnston officially surrendered, as a day to annually memorialize Confederate war dead. It was distributed to other chapters all across the South and thus it came to be known as Confederate Memorial Day. It’s an official state holiday in several Southern states and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) are dedicated to its continuance.

Updates

On April 23, 2016, white supremacists held a rally at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Enormous carvings of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson are carved into the side of the granite mountain. They said it was part of their Confederate Memorial Day celebration.

On April 2, 2019, Ocala, Florida, Mayor Kent Guinn (R) signed a proclamation making April 26, Confederate Memorial Day, “a time in which to honor the memories of those who sacrificed their lives in the War Between States.” Ocala City Council President Mary Sue Rich severely criticized his decision.

Texas Should be Allowed to Secede

texas state flag
Texas state flag

The 2014 Scottish independence vote renewed discussion about Texas seceding from the U.S.

Texans have already seceded twice. The first time was when Texas was part of Mexico. American immigrants living in Texas became upset after the Mexican government outlawed further immigration from the U.S. in 1830 because too many of the Americans wanted to own slaves. The American immigrants were further angered when Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna established a military dictatorship in 1834. Their dissatisfaction with the Mexican central government eventually led to the Texas Revolution in 1835, wherein Texas won its independence from Mexico when it defeated Santa Anna’s army at the Battle of San Jacinto in April of 1836. Texas remained a sovereign nation until 1845 when Texans agreed to join the U.S. as a slave state.

Texas seceded for the second time in 1861 when it reacted to the election of Republican anti-slavery President Abraham Lincoln by joining other slave states to form the Confederate States of America. The secession declaration of Texas said that the United States was “established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”

U.S. Army defeated the Confederacy, and the major Confederate armies surrendered in April, 1865. It wasn’t until June 19th, however, that Union Major General Gordon Granger was able to notify blacks in Texas that they were now free, as news of  President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, had been withheld from them.

Texas was finally readmitted to the Union in 1870 after it agreed to abide by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery and protected the rights of former slaves. It was the second to last former Confederate state to be readmitted.

Texas has long been a hotbed of right-wing politics so the 2008 election of the first black U.S. president Barak Obama upset many people. Obama’s reelection in 2012 increased the discussions about Texas seceding again. The Texas Nationalist Movement, for example, has a Facebook page that’s garnered over 190,000 likes. I suspect, however, that many of the people who “liked” this page weren’t Texans, but Americans from other states who think that getting rid Texas is a good idea.

There would certainly be some advantages to the rest of the U.S. if Texas seceded. The state, for instance, receives about 43% more money from the federal government than its residents pay in federal taxes. And the textbooks used by many U.S. school children would no longer have to be dumbed-down so they can be sold in Texas, which is the largest market for schoolbooks. Furthermore, people like George W. Bush, Rick Perry, Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz would no longer be U.S. citizens. But of course the biggest advantage to getting rid of Texas would be that the Dallas Cowboys would be kicked out of the NFL and could no longer be called America’s Team.

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