Editor’s Note: I’d like to welcome those of you coming from either Brooks Simpson’s Civil Warriors post or his updated version at Crossroads. Before you read further, I urge you to read our disclaimer here at TOCWOC, which reads:
The views of each individual TOCWOC blogger do not necessarily reflect the views of the group as a whole or any other individual contributor to this blog.
I’d also like to note my own (Brett Schulte’s) two-part response to Jim’s post below, only days after this one appeared. My point is that you may have already formed an incorrect opinion of this blog based on one blog entry, considering there was no disclaimer of this type in Brooks’ original posts. I do this now because something similar happened not too long ago at Andy Hall’s Dead Confederates site, and I want to make clear what TOCWOC is and what it isn’t. I encourage you to explore the site as a whole, including our long list of Civil War book reviews, or for another portion of what Jim Durney contributes to this blog, his monthly looks at upcoming Civil War books, before you form an opinion. With that said, read on.
Brett Schulte 2/26/2011
Hallmarks of the Politically Correct Myth of the American Civil War
by James Durney
1) The insistence that the North is good and the South bad can be a warning sign, just as an insistence that the South was good and the North bad is a warning sign of Lost Cause Mythology. Most accept that the North’s position was the right one and that the United States should not have allowed secession. However, an insistence that the Northern position was 100% right and the South’s 100% wrong isn’t historical or likely. Both sides missed opportunities to avoid the war and both sides did things that brought the war closer. The South has the majority of responsibility for causing the war but the North is not the innocent victim. An excellent indication that you are talking to a PCMer is when they equate the Confederacy and /or owning slaves with the Third Reich.
2) Slavery is wrong, was unkind and was the underlying cause of the war. It was the most visible difference between the two sections but it was not the only difference. The South lost national influence in the years leading up to the war. This coupled with the differences between agricultural and industrial economies created tensions that led to war. Southern slavery, while not kind, was not excessively cruel considering the standards in place. An example of the PCM is the person on Yahoo Groups that stated slave owners would let a slave die rather than spend the price of a chicken on a doctor. Considering the price of a slave was several years’ wages, the idea makes no economic sense.
3) Black support of the Confederacy is the one place the PCM & LCM meet! Both are dedicated to showing that the CSA was an all-white operation. The LCM simply ignored any contributions by Blacks expect as “the faithful slave” stories. The PCM has decided that, the South being the center of evil and slavery being hell on earth, no Black could support the CSA in any way. This has led to the assertion that any Blacks serving in CSA armies were really mixed race and somehow less Black. I have had authors say that a history of the Battle of Williamsport cannot be written. Black teamsters picking up rifles joined white troops in fighting off the Union cavalry. While historical, this is not acceptable to the book buying public. The SCV is accepting the contributions of Blacks and recognizing them as a valued part of the South’s armies.
4) Reconstruction; part of the PC Myth is the contention that the USA should have engaged in massive land distribution projects during Reconstruction. These projects would have stripped those that fought for the CSA of land and given it to former slaves. This idea seems based on the redistribution of land done in Russia and China after the communist revolutions and would have been completely out of character for the USA.
5) The failure of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow are blamed on racism and the refusal of Southern Whites to be reconstructed. Books by Eric Foner follow this line, restricting the failure to racial issues and local politics. Part of the popularity of this view is how well it works with the South being the center of evil, one of the most popular and widely held parts of the PCM. This view holds that whites should have been denied civil rights for life and reduced to non-citizens for rebelling.
6) The Reconstruction Klan is seen as a wholly rascist organization having no other reason for existence. This view is more consistent with the Klan of the 20th Century and ignores any excesses, real or perceived, that occurred during Reconstruction. This view is consistent with the underlying theme of racial animosity that is so much a part of the PC Myth.
7) Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow occupy a special place in the PCM. First, Forrest is the perfect Southerner for this group. A slave trader prior to the war and founding member of the Klan afterwards, makes him the man they love to hate. Fort Pillow is a massacre of surrendering members of the USCT directed by Forrest. Richard Fuchs’ book scores very high with the PCM. The lack of prosecution after the war and race relations between Forrest and the Black community has no bearing here.
8) John Brown is an iconic figure for the PCM. Their history abounds with books lauding Brown for destroying slavery and being free of racism. They see Brown, in Kansas, as shielding the anti-slavery group from violence initiated by the pro-slavery group. Harpers Ferry is an act of civil disobedience, not insurrection, and is applauded as a blow against slavery.
9) While not a defining trend, the PCM is more interested in the political, social and/or economic history of the war than the military history. McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom” is always the recommended general history of the war for this reason.
10) The Bleeding Kansas violence was caused by pro-slavery faction invading the area from Missouri. These groups were responsible for 75% of the violence during this time. The anti-slavery faction was just protecting their lives and responding to the violence committed against them.
11) The South was incapable of changing their position on slavery and would never have grown to accept emancipation without the war.
12) “Gone with the Wind” is hated and considered a rascist book and movie. Those involved with the PC Myth will go to great lengths to deprecate GWTW.
13) John Brown is a revered hero. His actions in Kansas are always defensive and justifiable. Harpers Ferry was a good plan, local slaves joined him and the drunken rascist locals forming a mob frustrated his plans and trapped him in the arsenal.
14) Robert E. Lee is dismissed as a traitor and responsible for prolonging the war unnecessarily. In addition, much is made of the problems with freeing the slaves under his Father-in-law’s will and his having a runaway slave whipped. Both are used to “prove” Lee was an evil person.
A defining trait of the PCM is the insistence that there is no such thing as the Politically Correct Myth of the American Civil War. A second part of this argument is that there is no such thing as political correctness, just the truth.
Editor’s Note: Jim is a Top 500 Amazon.com reviewer.
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