In Part 1 of this series we consider the efforts that the veterans of the Civil War made at reconciliation. In the estimation of some, they failed. They did not get over the problem that ultimately caused the Civil War, the racism that made the enslavement of black men and women acceptable.

What some people forget is that we do not go from sinful to perfect all in one fell swoop. We have rather awkward lives. We sin, that is, fall. Then with God’s grace we get up, and we continue on towards our destination until we sin again, that is, fall again. Then with God’s grace we get up, and we continue on towards our destination until we sin again. Until the day of our death, we sin. Today we have something of an illustration of that principle. So let’s set the pretext.

On another post, What You Must Learn from White Supremacists, Tony, made this comment that coincidentally directly addresses the subject of this post. First, Tony quotes me. Then he responds.

“None of the people who violently demonstrated in Charlottlesville, VA had anything to do with raising the monuments. Neither those who are for or those who are against. If we insist upon using the scum among the demonstrators as an excuse for either keeping the monuments or tearing them down, then the decision we render will be as wicked as their protests.”

I agree that it would be wrong to ignore ALL the intentions, some of which are undoubtedly more noble than others, in the raising of these monuments. However, to completely divorce the white supremacy that was slavery and Jim Crow from the motivations behind the Civil War and the monuments to that war, is to distort history far more. These monuments were erected for a number of reasons, and at varying times. Most of the some 700 plus confederate monuments were erected during times long after the war and during times of incredible racial strife. Some have been erected to a great Confederate tactician, who also was the terrorist founder of the KKK, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Shouldn’t all of this be taken into account?

Ignoring the foundational issues of white supremacy that surrounded the Civil War and these monuments celebrating the rebels in that war is indeed to “white wash” history. Despite the ambiguity of the intentions of folks long dead, one fact simply cannot be denied: absent the white supremacy issue of slavery and that lead to Jim Crow, the Civil War never would have happened and these monuments would never have been erected in the first place. (from here)

Who was General Nathan Bedford Forrest? It just so happens that he is the subject of the following video. Note that the video begins with some film from a Civil War reunion. Then it transitions to tell us something about the black men who served under Forrest during the Civil War.

The video also tells us quite a bit about Forrest. Was he an evil man? Well the video suggests he probably was not a saint, but he was not evil. The problem is the historical record surrounding the man is a mess.

We often forget that very few people live lives that people with video cameras and laptop computers sit around recording every move they make. So even though Forrest rose to the rank of Lieutenant General, the historical record is hazy. Much that people say we know is conjecture, not fact.

Were there black men serving under Forrest? To encourage the Union to accept black soldiers, Fred Douglass wrote these words.

There are at the present moment, many colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down . . . and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government. — ex-slave Frederick Douglass (from here)

There were certainly some blacks willing to fight in the Confederate Army, and apparently some did serve under Forrest.

The raid into Murfreesboro, which was undertaken to rescue civilians taken hostage and scheduled to be executed in retaliation for Union military casualties, included some of the armed Black Southerners who rode with Forrest. This was documented in the official report of the Union commander:

The forces attacking my camp were the First Regiment Texas Rangers [8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Texas Rangers, ed.], Colonel Wharton, and a battalion of the First Georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrison, and a large number of citizens of Rutherford County, many of whom had recently taken the oath of allegiance to the United States Government. There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day. (from here)

Did Forrest establish the KKK? Does not seem likely.  It is not especially clear how the KKK got started. Different references tell differing stories. If Forrest joined the KKK and became the head of it, he decided to disband it. He testified to an 1871 Congressional Committee he was not a member. If he had been, and they could have proved it, they would have jailed him. Yet we have all these historians convicting the man of being elected Grand Wizard. Maybe, but did he want the job?

This reference, Ku Klux Klan – History (adl.org), which the Wikipedia article, Ku Klux Klan, uses as a reference, is worthy of a special laugh. That article never bothers to mention that Forrest supposedly disbanded the KKK in 1868 (Author’s correction (8/24/2017): The adl.org article states Forrest disbanded the KKK in 1869, which seems to be the most common date. The adl.org gives Forrest’s loss of control over the KKK as the unequivocal reason.). All KKK did at first was scare blacks. When the killing started, Forrest, if he ever was a member, apparently  wanted no part of it.

The story told in this article, The Real Ku Klux Klan (The San Francisco call., October 28, 1906), is instructive. Here is a pertinent excerpt.

This much, nevertheless is assured: The Ku Klux Klan came into being in the year 1867, for a definite purpose. It passed out of actual organization in the year 1869, dying as soon as its purpose had been achieved.

That purpose was the restraining of the mistaken and misdirected enthusiasm of the Negroes at the time when, shortly after the close of the Civil War, the white men of the South were practically disfranchised.  (from here)

Because they had been disenfranchised, Southern whites suddenly found themselves put at the mercy of their former slaves. To see what happens when a bunch of poorly educated people form the electorate, look at the intercity in almost any large American city. Since our inter-cities have notoriously poor schools, that is not a good situation. Since many of the white slave owners had deliberately made it so, the former slaves were uneducated. Ironic justice? Perhaps, but the situation was not good for either the blacks or the whites. So some white men formed an organization designed to gently intimidate certain blacks. How gently? Well, some may have had better intentions, but the situation eventually got out of hand.

Another article, Members of Ku Klux Klan in Capital (Albuquerque citizen., January 09, 1908), states the KKK came into existence in 1865.  In 1869, some people decided to take vengeance using the name of the KKK.

Then some unrepresentative member of the Klan started to take revenge in the name of the Klan upon persons against whom they had a personal grievance. The stain of the pernicious activity was heightened by acts of lawlessness on the part of outsiders who cloaked their depredations under the name of the Klan. (from here)

So what is the point? Well, there are three points.

  • The KKK that Forrest may or may not have led came into being because whites, not blacks, were disenfranchised.
  • The KKK that Forrest may or may not have led is not the same one everyone got mad at. If he ever led it, he disbanded it.
  • Because they won’t take the time to investigate the poppycock spread by certain Democrat Liberal advocacy groups for fundraising purposes and newspapers for profit, we have people repeating with certainty things they don’t actually know to be true.

Did Forrest lead the KKK? Was he responsible for the violence? I don’t know.  He testified in an 1871 Congressional hearing (from here). He denied membership. When being asked about the membership, consider his response to the following question:


Understanding it, then do you still wish time to consider whether you could give them or not?


I cannot give you one of them correctly now to save my life; I have no idea I could. It was a matter I knew very little about; I had very little to do with it. All my efforts were addressed to stop it, disband it, and prevent it.

What is obvious from his testimony is that Forrest knew about the organization, and he probably knew people who were members. So people assume his denial of membership is a lie, but the fact is we don’t know.

Forrest had a very famous name. So whether he was involved or not, the KKK has gotten a lot of mileage out of using his name. What is also apparent is that even if Forrest had been involved, he would have had relatively little control. The KKK was a secret organization run primarily at the local level. Once the violence started, and the government started trying to suppress the KKK, if he had tried to exercise any control over the organization he would have gone to jail. All he could do is disband it.

What is probably the most serious charge against Forrest is the massacre at Fort Pillow. Allegedly, Forrest ordered the slaughter of black troops when they refused to surrender.  African American Military Records (familysearch.org) provides a point-blank refutation of that charge.

African American soldiers participated in every major campaign of 1864–65 except Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in Georgia. The year 1864 was especially eventful for African American troops. On April 12, 1864, at Battle of Fort Pillow, Tennessee, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led his 2,500 men against the Union-held fortification, occupied by 292 black and 285 white soldiers. After driving in the Union pickets and giving the garrison an opportunity to surrender, Forrest’s men swarmed into the fort with little difficulty and drove the Federals down the river’s bluff into a deadly crossfire. Casualties were high and only sixty-two of the U.S. Colored Troops survived the fight. Many accused the Confederates of perpetrating a massacre of black troops, and the controversy continues today. The battle cry for the Negro soldier east of the Mississippi River became “Remember Fort Pillow!”

The propaganda which sprang from the allegations of a “massacre” at Fort Pillow was useful in convincing United States Colored Troops to become suicide forces which entered battle shouting “No quarter! No quarter!,” never surrendered and who themselves perpetrated murders of surrendered Confederate forces in Florida and at Fort Blakley, Alabama, on April 9, 1865, at which battle they also shot two white Union officers who tried to stop them, killing one.

An 1864 investigation of Fort Pillow engaged in wholesale fabrication of “evidence” and included assertions that Black women and children had been murdered by Forrest’s forces when there were no women or children present at Fort Pillow. A later 1871 Congressional investigation conducted during Reconstruction by Radical Republicans concluded that there was no evidence of a “massacre” and stated that there were “isolated incidents along the riverbank” which Forrest stopped immediately upon his arrival.

The barracks Forrest’s men were accused of burning were actually burned under orders by a Union officer. Lieutenant Daniel Van Horn, Sixth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, whose report is contained in the Federal Official Records, documented that Lieutenant John D. Hill, U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, set fire to the barracks under orders of the Union commanding officer.

Forrest took 39 United States Colored Troops (USCT) as POWs and sent them up the chain of command. Forrest even transferred the 14 most seriously wounded USCT to the U.S. Steamer Silver Cloud where they could get better care than that which he could provide.

Allegations of a “massacre” continue to be controversial because historians remain either willfully or blissfully unaware of the Federal Official Records and the 1871 Congressional investigation conclusion. (from here)

Did I look up the record of the Fort Pillow investigation? No. There are only so many hours in the day, and I think it is reasonable to assume Forrest’s reputation would not have survived had the charge been true.  The reason I bring it up is to point out the difficulty of combating lies. We do dearly love to believe the worse about each other.

According to this article, Nathan Bedford Forrest and Racial Reconciliation the-american-catholic.com), in 1875, Forrest spoke to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers, an early black civil rights organization. Here is what he said.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.


I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.” (Prolonged applause.) (from here)

Frankly, I don’t know what to make of the man. How did a slave trader become such a fabulous cavalryman? I don’t know.  The slave trade strikes me as a despicable way to make a living. Yet there is no doubt Forrest demonstrated he knew how to lead soldiers, and that required him to earn the trust of his men.

Additional References


  1. Tom,

    You obviously don’t understand how the First Amentment works, which is not surprising because most people don’t. You are conflating these fascists’ legal “right” NOT to have “the government” stop them from publicly professing white supremacy with white supremacists being somehow equally or more morally in the “right” than those who oppose them.

    The constitutional right to free speech is only a limitation on “government” action, not anyone else’s. Getting a legal governmental “permit” to promote evil does not mean that promoting evil should not be opposed by everyone else but government. The first amendment says that “government” may not suppress free speech, even hate speech, in public spaces, but private citizens, groups and even corporations have a moral “responsibility” to oppose that hate speech, even if government must allow it.

    This may mean firing professed white supremacists from your business or not doing business with those who employ them. This may mean turning out in greater numbers to shout these fascists down. This may mean trying to shame the fascists. I recently read of a town in Germany where the Nazi war criminal, Herman Hesse, was buried that used humor to embarrass the Nazis who marched in pilgrimage there each year. The town turned the Nazi’s march into a marathon in support of a charity that tries to deprogram reformed Nazis. Businesses and individuals contributed money to the charity for each mile that each Nazi marched. People showed up with signs to lampoon and humiliate the Nazis by cheering them on toward the anti-Nazi charity’s fund raising goals for that year.

    As I said to anon, I don’t think “violent” opposition to the Fascists is either morally or practically appropriate in this instance, if for no other reason than it gives Nazis and their apologists this ridiculous case that they somehow have the moral high ground. White supremacy in this case or any case simply does not have the moral high ground. You know that.

    You would be protecting first amendment free speech if you contributed to the ACLU when they file a suit defending White Supremacists if the “government” actually tried to shut them down. On the other hand, you are not defending any sort of morality when you proclaim the “right” to speak hatred is free from any moral opposition other than government infringment. Just to emphasize: White Supremacists have a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to be free from GOVERNMENT INFRINGMENT on their ability to speak their hateful beliefs freely, but they don’t have any MORAL RIGHT, God given or otherwise, to speak that way. You are confusing the two very different things.

    1. @Tony

      I don’t often use the expression “moral right”. Nothing wrong with it, I suppose, but the way you used it confused me.

      Do white supremacists have the moral right to espouse racism? What in tarnation does that mean? Not much.

      What is a moral right? Well, since you don’t believe in inalienable rights, I find it amusing you used the expression. This document describes the meaning of the expression.
      => http://www2.isu.edu/~baerralp/MoralRights.pdf

      As a lawyer, you should understand the expression, but I think a review is in order.

      Do white supremacists have the moral right to espouse racism? Why is that question even part of the debate? I guess somehow, some way, this debate has to be framed so that the mean and nasty opponents of Democrat Liberalism appear to be supporting white supremacy. Well, I don’t. Trump doesn’t. Hardly anyone does. So please quit spewing the crap.

      Do white supremacists have moral rights? Everyone does. Everyone has the moral right to speak. That does not mean we have to agree or listen, but everyone has the right to speak.

      When the so-called “Unite the Right” crowd got a permit to demonstrate, they had a moral right to be where they were and speak. No one had the moral right to counter their demonstration by beating them up or shouting them down. That is just plain abusive and hateful.

      Did people have the legal right to attend the rally and shout down the speakers at the “Unite the Right Rally”? I am not certain about that. Since the demonstration was on public property, I suppose they did. However, the police had a moral obligation to protect the “Unite the Right Group from violent counter protesters. It is their job.

      Look up Hitler’s brownshirts. Consider how he used that group. The brownshirts protected his rallies and disrupted his opponent’s rallies. Is that the free speech model you are advocating? Since it is clearly fascistic, I doubt it. Nevertheless, you are clearly intent upon putting the entire onus for what happened in Charlottesville, VA on one side, but the violent left-wing groups that made their appearance in Charlottesville, VA did not have the moral right to be disruptive. Except for the fact you are determined to cast one group of people as pure and unadulterated villains and another as morally pure — when obviously they are not — I don’t know why we have to debate this.

      You don’t like Trump? You have that right, whether it moral or not. It would be more constructive, however, to discuss his polices and what he has actually done. Instead, we are talking about whether Trump hates Nazis enough. Don’t you realize how sick that is? You are demonizing your opposition. That is not good.

    2. “The constitutional right to free speech is only a limitation on “government” action, not anyone else’s. Getting a legal governmental “permit” to promote evil does not mean that promoting evil should not be opposed by everyone else but government. The first amendment says that “government” may not suppress free speech, even hate speech, in public spaces, but private citizens, groups and even corporations have a moral “responsibility” to oppose that hate speech, even if government must allow it.”

      Your interpretation of the protected speech is very….fanciful.
      (though I concede it’s true in part, I’ll get to that in a moment)

      Protected speech is protected speech. If the city gives a group a permit to rally (political speech is considered a core right, and offered the highest level of protection under scrutiny) the city is obligated to protect that assembly by law.

      So, certainly, others are free to show up and give them the finger….but they aren’t free to threaten or attack. If they were free to do that, it’s not protected speech.
      It is the job of government to protect speech but (to address the true portion of your claim) that freedom doesn’t ipso facto extend everywhere.
      It DOES however, ipso facto extend to everywhere the government has specifically granted petition for assembly.

      Remember that quote (I’ll bold it), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say It”.
      People fought and died to protect the right of idiots for freedom of assembly.
      I can tell you, if you don’t like the “moral equivalency” comparison between a antifa and the fascists, please understand your moral equivalency comparison with the militant anarchist antifers to our honorable fighting soldiers brings a bit of bile up to the roof of my mouth.

      Maybe i should go on an anti-colonial campaign and target kings and queens next. I’ll show up when they play the movie “Frozen” at the park and start macing and clubbing people, just like our soldiers did during the American Revolution!!!

      To continue and just drive the point home…if your interpretation were correct, it would also apply to other freedoms.
      Heh, you have freedom of religion….our group is just going to stand around this mosque and hit people with bats and mace when they step onto public property.

      Heh, you have freedom of expression….Government won’t stop you, but I’m going to kick you in the junk if you go out wearing girly pink pants.

      Heh, black people can assemble…I’m just going to bring my group of hooded folks with bats and mace to attack them and put this flaming cross right here….

      “As I said to anon, I don’t think “violent” opposition to the Fascists is either morally or practically appropriate in this instance, if for no other reason than it gives Nazis and their apologists this ridiculous case that they somehow have the moral high ground. White supremacy in this case or any case simply does not have the moral high ground. You know that.”

      Yes, it’s not “appropriate” to mace and club, also “not practical”….here’s the big one: It’s also NOT LEGAL. Antifa wasted police resources, broke the law on a massive scale (and continues to do so…they’ve also attacked journalists and destroyed property). A helicopter crashed and two officers died in connection with the Charleston mobs. Those deaths have been blamed (by media) directly on white nationalists who petitioned beforehand to assemble legally. The media made it sound as if the group hit the helicopter with the howitzer….but it crashed seven miles away. They were responding to the mob. If Antifa hadn’t showed up and incited violence, it would’ve made it a lot easier for those policemen to do their jobs, and the helicopter probably wouldn’t have been necessary.

      1. Correction: Charlottesville, not Charleston, above.

        Also add: “Down with the QUEEN!”
        while I’m clubbing and macing Frozen advocates in the park.
        Just to let them know I’m a freedom fighter.

      2. Two policemen died in the performance of their duty. Those men most certainly deserve our respect, but the news media’s attempt to insinuate their deaths is somehow the fault of the “Unite the Right” rally has been absurd. It makes the argument for guilt by association so absurd I am amazed anyone takes it seriously. What it is is a measure of how biased the news media has become.

        1. Yep.
          But be careful, asserting that Unite the Right isn’t directly to blame is getting dangerous….are you a hater?
          You will comply with the mob, Equality 7-2521.

  2. Anon, I don’t think the anti-fascists responding with sticks and pepper spray is morally called for or even practical in opposing a cadre of gun toting, body armored, white supremacists, but you are drawing a false equivalency if you think that those who profess facism and those few vigilantes who showed up to oppose that evil, even with violence, are morally the same. If they were, then the Axis and the Allied forces were also morally equal. And more to the point, the myth that the North and the South were both morally equal is also true.

    Other than that, I am not sure what your point is. Are you saying that a few years of wrongful Japanese internment is the same as centuries of human bondage, oppression and rape and then another century of Jim Crow? That the temporary ill treatment of various immigrant groups did the same cultural and economic damage as we did to a people forced to come and stay here? As comparatively short lived as their internment was, if you think that those Japanese prisoners have actually gotten over it or that it did not have any effect on Japanese American confidence in our democratic institutions, then you have never met anyone who was interned. If that short internment could do at least some long lasting damage that we needed to recognize and apologize for, then it is hard to even scale the damage of centuries of much worse oppression.

    It’s not a zero sum game where we could ever possibly even the score, but we could at least acknowledge the evil that was done and by whom, rather than literally putting the defenders of that oppression on a pedestal. We could at least recognize that history for what it really was and then recognize that it may be more than one generation before those economic and cultural wounds can heal and scab over.

    As for the press loving a controversy, well, there is a surprise. Next you will be telling me that military people tend toward good order and discipline. 😉

    1. @Tony

      Do some research. Every time people who are not politically correct somehow or some way demonstrate these days “ninjas” show up and start beating on them. In Charlottesville, VA there were enough policemen, but they did not even try to keep the two groups apart. The just used the arrival of the “ninjas” as an excuse to shut down the lawful rally by the “Alt-Right”.

      The so-called “Alt-Right” crowd had a permit to hold a rally. The people who showed up to attack them did not. Given the “Alt-Right” expected to be attacked, I am not surprised some of them were armed. Virginia is an open carry state. You don’t like that? Don’t care.

      If we are not prepared to defend the free speech and freedom of the press rights of the people with whom we disagree, then the concept is meaningless.

  3. Yes Tom, it is all some cynical Democratic conspiracy to protect the status quote of not holding any of the branches of government. You think Democrats were so smart and organized as to be so diabolically ingenious? You think that Republicans have never race baited and that Trump is not race baiting now?

    What surprises me is not that things have changed after hundreds of years of racial bigotry and oppression. What surprises me is that, in historical terms, things changed so rapidly that now within one lifetime we want to pretend that the injuries of that oppression are somehow magically disappeared. All the racism ended. The economic and cultural damage of generations miraculously fixed itself in a flash. That is wonderful magical thinking?

    1. “What surprises me is not that things have changed after hundreds of years of racial bigotry and oppression. What surprises me is that, in historical terms, things changed so rapidly that now within one lifetime we want to pretend that the injuries of that oppression are somehow magically disappeared. All the racism ended. The economic and cultural damage of generations miraculously fixed itself in a flash. That is wonderful magical thinking?”

      Okay, so…when are we to be considered “square”?
      500,000+ people were slaughtered in a very short timeframe, via machetes, in Rwanda for being on the “good side” of colonialization a hundred of so years prior. I’ll bet they’re still up to race-based shenanigans.
      The black people who have been here since the slave days are far more American than my family. We’re first generation. Want to know what my mom was treated like when she arrived as an immigrant? How about my husband’s parents? They were chased with sticks in Miami. Yeah, they were some of the first Cubans.
      Good grief.
      /anon out

      1. We put Japanese immigrants in concentration camps seventy or so years ago (well, not the Japanese in Hawaii…because there were too many, THAT’S how inconsistent we were). What does that say about FDR?

    2. @Tony

      You are putting words in my mouth. I never said racism disappeared. I said the cures the Democratic Party wants creates more problems than the disease.

      You are putting words in Trump’s mouth too. When people insist others believe what they believe and conform to their beliefs, that is political correctness. Given all the strife that creates, I will settle for the rights described in the Declaration of Independence.

      Is it really too much trouble to ask you to use your resources and the resources of volunteers in your schemes to save the world? It seems that from your perspective it is, and that is sad.

  4. Tom,

    As usual, you are ascribing to me narrow points of view that I do no hold and have not argued. Why? I only can guess that it is in the hope that, if you can label my viewpoint as narrow and absolutist, then it allows your own narrow absolutism in return. I have no absolutist answers for this.

    As a southern white person, it is easy for me to empathize with the white southern backlash when whites were being disenfranchised after the Civil War. Growing up mostly in the South, I was as steeped in the white view of history just as much as you. It is also easy for me to imagine all the emotions that must have been felt by white southerners as the northern armies invaded. I can see how the immorality of slavery must also be looked at in the moral and situational context of the times. And although we may judge actions and intentions as moral or immoral, who are we to judge individual souls who are centuries gone? Much as you may want to paint me as your partisan opposite, I get all your arguments, and I agree with them to some degree or another.

    What you have not tried to do is understand the black person’s point of view. How many hundreds of years did African Americans suffer under slavery and Jim Crow? How much do they still suffer from this heritage today? Given this heritage of oppression, how should black citizens feel about maintaining statues in their neighborhoods, towns and cities to men who fought to continue the white supremacy that was slavery? Can you even imagine that the timing and placement of these statues may have, at least in part, been designed to maintain white supremacy and to white wash away the immorality of the primary purpose of the Civil War, without which there would have never been a war?

    You accuse me of being unforgiving and lacking sympathy, but where is your rational and empathetic argument of this history from the point of view of the actual victims of America’s greatest moral failure? Should there be any recognition, any repentance, as a nation?

    And no, I am not for tearing down every monument. I think that each one is different and should be judged by the people of that city and state in the context of when and why it was erected. More importantly, especially when these statues are not in graveyards, but instead prominent high places in cities and states, don’t citizens of all ethnicities and races in a pluralistic nation have a right to ask what does this monument say about where that city and state sees itself going in the future? What is decided should be decided locally as much as possible and within the civic institutions of that community. Finally, history, insomuch as a given statue actually is really important historically, should be maintained in the most accurate context possible, which may mean doing nothing, or it may mean putting up information which puts the monument in the truest historical context, both good and bad.

    1. “What you have not tried to do is understand the black person’s point of view. How many hundreds of years did African Americans suffer under slavery and Jim Crow?”
      Why is this an issue in 2017…as compared to an issue in any of the previous years before now? Jim Crow is far further away from us today than ever before. Yet now, the removal of these statues, slavery and Jim Crow and so forth are so very important.

      “How much do they still suffer from this heritage today? Given this heritage of oppression, how should black citizens feel about maintaining statues in their neighborhoods, towns and cities to men who fought to continue the white supremacy that was slavery? Can you even imagine that the timing and placement of these statues may have, at least in part, been designed to maintain white supremacy and to white wash away the immorality of the primary purpose of the Civil War, without which there would have never been a war?”

      Okay, but again…why now? I haven’t really seen any political pressure from blacks to remove the statues. It seems primarily white people (like the newly elected first white mayor in New Orleans in the last three decades…his black predecessors didn’t feel the need to remove them). Is it really concern for black feelings when they haven’t really expressed those concerns? At some point concern crosses over into condescension.

      You’ve mentioned the importance of facts over emotion in arguments before. Aren’t you sort of appealing to emotion now? And if black people feel so very strongly about the removal of statues and the harsh legacy shouldn’t this have been an issue before now? My husband is first generation American, our kids are a good measure North African. His people came over to Cuban on slave ships, I’m pretty certain (based on the fact our sons are monstrously large, good “sugar cane slave stock” and also we have the DNA saliva tests to verify). It really doesn’t matter at all now.

      1. These are good questions anon. Why now? Americans these days seem to live in the now, as if nothing really happened unless it was on Facebook two minutes ago. Is history viewed differently and more realistically with expert study and knowledge from a more objective distance?

        When I was first growing up in Mississippi, for the most part, we still had separate schools, bathrooms, beaches and drinking fountains. When I was a cub reporter working on a daily paper in Natchez in the late 70’s, I covered the racially charged wounding of a black detective and the shooting death of his white partner because a white man felt his wife working at veterinary clinic should be able to freely slap a black laborer for not following her orders to fill the dogs’ water dishes. Maybe you have experienced more of life and the history of racism from a more objective and less emotional perspective than I have, but do you think just maybe it could be that until recently in our history, in fact just in my lifetime, black Americans might have been too busy living in that oppression than worrying about the history that brought them there?

        Or could it be that Donald Trump’s misogynistic and racist dog whistling (against Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, women, elites, you name it) somehow sparked all this resentment both from whites and blacks? Or instead, was it a slow boiling backlash from having the first black president (you know,the one that Trump began his political career by accusing of not being born in the U.S.)? Are the Democrats manipulating these situations just to pander to and solidify their African American base?

        If we were to awaken from each our own partisan blindness and overblown absolutist opinions on all the endless issues where we often really know very little of what we are talking about, wouldn’t we see that there may be a little simple truth and a little overblown nonsense to the arguments and accusations on all sides? Wouldn’t that newly discovered sense of humility allow us as local communities to compromise in ways that neither tears down all these monuments nor leaves them all as they are, without reference or context to the major reason why the Civil War was fought – African American slavery?

        I am not smart enough to know all the answers. However, although both parties may be using the issue for partisan purposes, history does have objective nonpartisan truths even if it is clouded by our limited perspectives. And one objective truth in all this stands out in my mind. We need to have the humility to recognize our legacy is both exceedingly noble and pretty damnably awful. And we do those better angels of that legacy no great service if we ignore the awful and overly glorify the noble. Nations and cultures have sins just the same as people do. Repentance and redemption, for individuals and for cultures, comes from facing those sins openly – only then can we move forward with humility, love and compassion for all.

        Why did this come up now? Unless we want to sink to the level of conspiracy theories, its probably not any one thing, and much as I would like to think so, no one, not even Trump, is to blame. I tend to think that Trump is more the result than the cause of this bickering and divided moment in our history. Maybe in another 50 years we will start to have a better, more objective perspective though. It will have to be you because odds are I’ll not make it that long.

        1. “Or could it be that Donald Trump’s misogynistic and racist dog whistling (against Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, women, elites, you name it) somehow sparked all this resentment both from whites and blacks?”

          I do not see what you see. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit younger. I do not have memories of anyone feeling free to slap black people around. My earliest memory of a national “racially charged” incident was the OJ Simpson trial. I was at Sam’s club with my husband when the verdict was read. All the black cashiers cheered in glee and started hugging each other. Some looked like they were weeping. It was pretty disturbing.

          I recently revisited the Trayvon Martin shooting topic. I’d paid close attention at the time…because I, like the rest of the world, was stunned that a white neighborhood watchman in an upper-middle class safe gated community would shoot a child who looked to be about 12 because he was walking while holding a bag of skittles.
          That’s the information the media released at the time, complete with photo of 12 year old Trayvon.
          After Spike Lee posts the wrong address online, hoping for a public lynching, and everyone has decided Zimmerman needs to die… the truth gradually starts to come out. But the media generated hysteria was so effective the truth and facts still didn’t seem to matter. Witnesses (their names released by the press) started changing their initial testimony three weeks after the fact…and still, that didn’t matter because it fit the narrative a large portion of the population accepted it.
          I think this example is a good one because it illustrates the rational of the mob, and current events are kind of bringing that case back to mind.Let’s review the first media version:
          -Racist white guy shoots child in good safe neighborhood for simply walking through while holding a bag of skittles

          Real version:
          -Not a white guy, crime ridden neighborhood, six foot tall “child” of 17 not 12 as the photo would indicate. Zimmerman’s face and back of the head were beaten and bloody, his voice was heard screaming on the recording and we know it was his voice because other than the gunshot wound the only injury on Trayvon were his knuckles. All initial testimony from witnesses supports Zimmerman’s version of events.

          That second version wouldn’t have even been interesting enough to make the news. This was a clear case of media generated mob-fueled outrage. And of course, as a result Zimmerman is forever un-hirable. Would you give him a job? So, now, he’s not a great guy. I don’t know if he stopped being a good guy after the fact or if he was always that way. It doesn’t really matter, either way the media ruined his life and they did it via deception and inciting mob-stye justice, to sell a story.

          Back to Trump:
          From my perspective, what Trump said about Charleston and blame on both parties was spot on. For years hate groups have been ignored and ridiculed and given free speech to protest. Now, somehow, they are headline news material and the world thinks we have a booming neo-Nazi movement because 100 white nationalists in a nation of over 300 million came together to protest the taking down of a statue. But another hate group came in with clubs and made them relevant.

          What Trump has said about Mexicans (not race, a country btw) is exactly what I heard from boarder patrol agents when I lived near the border in New Mexico. These was bilingual, MEXICAN-American border patrol agents. I worked with a nurse from Chihuahua and her whole family was from there, and she told me the same thing (though actually far worse than anything Trump ever said).

          But let’s look at the hard data:

          The arrows to the right show the change from the previous Romney election. All minority categories went up with Trump. Latinos up 8 percent, blacks 7 percent, Asians 11 percent. The female vote was down only one percent (if memory serves, more married women voted Trump, single women favored Hillary).

          I don’t buy that we are experiencing a new racist backlash after EIGHT years of a black president. What we are experiencing currently, smells a lot more like Zimmerman-ization to me.

        2. @Tony

          I am older than you. I grew up in much the same places. During the sixties the civil rights movement took off. MLK made his speech in 1963, the same year JFK died. Next year we had the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I was 11 when JFK died. When I was in high school, I had to put up with being bused to integrate a black school. Stupid stuff that just infuriated our parents who had nothing to do with creating the mess.

          What you experienced in some backwater on the Mississippi River was already being corrected, but societal change takes time. Unfortunately, politicians don’t empower themselves by just waiting for people to accept what would otherwise be inevitable.

          One of the mistakes of military strategists is trying to refight the last war. Doesn’t work well because such a mindset ignores the threat. In addition, when when just refight the last war, we never update our objectives. So what we end up with is a vain attempt to preserve the status quo. That is actually why people want to refight the last war. They are too invested in the status quo.

          Democrats stand for big government and they use race hustling as a cheap tool for buying votes with other people’s money and rights. All Democrats have done in recent decades is adapt racial politics by widening the scope to include identity politics.

          What is identity politics all about? Instead of letting us focus on the content of each others character, Democrats demand we focus on race, sexual orientation, creed, disabilities, economic class, and so forth. Their immoral cure for “discrimination” is worse than the moral disease they claim is such a vast problem. Unfortunately, Democrats are too invested in identity politics. That’s why they never let the subject rest. That’s is why they run around accusing their political foes of racism, sexism, and bigotries of various sorts. Accusations are all they have got.

    2. @Tony

      Busy. Got the grand kids visiting. They are in bed now.

      Anon linked to something earlier worth a read.

      Have I tried to see things from a black person’s point of view? Do you have any idea how difficult it is in our race obsessed society to avoid seeing everything some guilt-ridden white person presents us “from a black person’s point of view”? It is work to avoid it, I tell you! The obsession with race is ludicrous.

      Have I tried to see things from a black person’s point of view? Before or after the Democratic Party screwed up the education system in this country and the news media tried to stir up race riots?

      Frankly, I don’t want to have such a narrow viewpoint. As a member of the human race who lives on the planet earth, I still believe I am too constrained. Unfortunately, I have not figured out how to gain an extra-terrestrial viewpoint. Nevertheless, I figure I may as well skip that and try my best see things as God does.

      There is difference between loving people and constantly pitying and lowering the bar for people just because we enjoy thinking they are not as well-favored as ourselves. Anybody born in this nation stands among the luckiest people on earth. So I don’t believe we need to belittle any Americans by constantly lowering our expectations of them. So what if the ancestors of blacks were slaves. You do realize that just about everyone has slaves, serfs, or peasants of some sort in their ancestry?

      During the American Civil War, hundreds of thousands died. The Yankees, adopting a scorch earth policy, burned down much of the South. After war, Union troops garrisoned the South and imposed order, but they also imposed some dreadful policies, policies that did not encourage reconciliation, unfortunately.

      So what should blacks see when they look at those statues? That is not for me to say, but I think there is one takeaway we should all have. Loving ones neighbor does not include slavery. It may take time, but such nonsense eventually will get lots and lots of people killed. Yet even otherwise so-called good men are capable of such an abhorrent thing. Instead of tearing down the monuments to them, we need to take the time to learn something about those men. Instead of looking for someone to dishonor, why don’t you look for someone to honor?

      Why would Democrat Liberals want to get rid of those statues? What part of the history of racism in this nation wouldn’t the Democratic Party like people to forget? If the blacks in this nation knew anything about the history of the Democratic Party……, but too many have forgotten.

      Instead of actually helping one of their most loyal voting constituencies, the Democratic Party wants to placate their black voter base by removing Confederate Memorials, which has the benefits of costing almost nothing, shifting the debate, rallying the base, destroying evidence of their own shenanigans, putting Republicans on defense, and setting the stage to attack the framers of the Constitution as slave owners. Of course, Jefferson (a strict constructionist) and Madison (Father of the Constitution) started the Democratic Party, but who in the mainstream media ever mentions that?

  5. Very well balanced and sourced account of a misunderstood and enigmatic man of his times. It’s funny how our myths seem more real than the actual facts of history. I’m glad Forrest is finally being shown in a fair light if he’s not who he’s been accused of by both sides of the issue..

    1. Given the time period he may or may not have been involved in the KKK, I don’t even know what the fuss is about. It is hindsight now, but what would we expect to happen in a state where the law made it permissible for only blacks to vote? We would expects the whites not to get angry. What is remarkable is that once the KKK became associated with violence, whites abandoned it, and EVERYONE admits Forrest supported disbanding the KKK. Slandering or libeling the man of this is just foolishness.

  6. Tom,

    Interesting look at NB Forrest. However, I think that you are still missing the main point of this controversy. You think that if you can find anything less than pure evil intent and actions in the confederate leaders who fought in the war then somehow erecting monuments to war that ultimately was fought to protect the white supremacy institution of slavery is somehow justified. Tens of thousands of men died on both sides for a war that would never have been fought absent this issue of African American human bondage. Finding a confederate soldier, even a black confederate soldier, who mistakenly thought he was fighting for something else, does not change this formula: But for the white supremacy issues involved in slavery and later in Jim Crow, there is no civil war and there is no Jim Crow – none of these monuments would have been erected.

    1. F@Tony

      Go to a graveyard. There are memorials. Every headstone is a memorial. Find them all over. Where I do my grocery shopping, there is a, small, tiny plot of land with a graveyard in front. There are a couple parks nearby with tiny little plots like that. Given the tenor of our times, I suppose some judgmental person will destroy them before they weather away.

      When I hike in Manassas Battlefield National Park, I can find monuments. Battlefields are graveyards. Are the monuments to the soldiers who wore blue acceptable, but the monuments to the soldiers who wore grey unacceptable? Must we tear down the monuments to every man who owned a slave or a serf or whoever bound some poor soul in some sort of servitude? Or are race baiting Democrats just making a special case for blacks? Where does your politically correct prejudice stop?

      What is a monument? It is a type of symbol. Symbols do not have to mean the same thing to everyone, and they do not. Just because you have pronounced the Confederate Monuments detestable does not mean others must see them that way. Yet that is what you insist must be so. Otherwise, for example, Trump is a racist. Frankly, I find that narrow-minded attitude far more disturbing than a statue dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest at the turn of the 19th century.

  7. How come I never read anything about colored slaves fighting on the side of the Confederates?

    Don’t answer, we both know, Interesting post.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

  8. If you’d like to put your name on the ballot for the next presidential election, I will be more than happy to cast my vote for you Tom, but I fear that like the Mr. Smith’s among us—the swamp’s quicksand might just suck you under…
    As always, the light you shed on our history, our past, be it good past or bad, is so utterly important that it borders on urgent and crucial.
    Time as well as we humans have a way of distorting all that was…usually in order to make the current moment lean favorably to those loving or needing the distortion in which to alter the further progression of time…

    It is my belief that at some point, the closing decades of the 20th, century along with the opening of the 21st, will not be looked very kindly by those who will come long after this madness of ours.

    I find it almost like some sort of tragic play…the previous generations suffered at the hands of their fellow man yet managed to scrape up a sense of decency and even honesty when it was most needed…. our ending however will not be remembered as either decent nor honest.

    1. Not a good salesman. Don’t think fast enough on my feet. So I would not make an impressive candidate. Writing is more my speed. Gives me at least some chance to take my foot out of my mouth before anyone notices. Nevertheless, I thank you for the thought, I think. As you say, there is that swamp.

      I hope you are right that history will not look especially kindly upon upon us. If they do, it will be because we came so close to casting away our freedom, but we did not. If we start teaching our offspring just how valuable it is to be free, then they will have trouble understanding why we almost gave up our freedom.

      Consider that saying: “History is written by the victor.” If we do cast away our freedom, the history books written by the victor will praise us for our incomparable wisdom. Don’t tyrants heap lie upon lie. Isn’t the object to force us to believe something that is not true?

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