“Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late...It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision..."
Maj. Gen Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA
Out of all the quotes I’ve ever read in my life, I think this one by Confederate General Patrick Cleburne is easily the most significant, the most memorable, and sadly, the most accurate in terms of how much of the predicted events actually came to pass. In this case, Gen. Cleburne was 100% on the mark – every single thing he predicted would happen if the South lost the war came true. And, IMHO, it is easily the single most tragic and despicable twisting of American historical events in the history of our great nation.
Let’s take a look at his quote, shall we?
“It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy….”
And indeed, it certainly has. About the most unbiased account of the war can be found in the Official Record, the publication by the United States Government which outlined the war and the events that took place therein. Even so, this is not a completely unbiased account; for example, the OR fails to mention Lincoln’s true motivation for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Aside from the OR, the vast majority of the books that have been written about the war have been written by Northern authors who have invariably told their tales of the war from the Yankee point of view; those points of view will almost unfailingly paint the South as the great villain, the nefarious, treacherous nation who fought a war for the sole purpose of preserving the institution of slavery. Those of us who are true students of American history know this to be not even a small fraction of the many real reasons that the South fought the war.
“…that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war…”
When my son was in high school, he had a rather spirited discussion with his history teacher during his senior year over how the teacher was presenting the history and causes of the war. Being raised by an ardent Southern patriot and SCV member, my son knew the real history of the war. During the discussion my son discovered that the teacher was not from Virginia, where his school was located, but was instead from a Northern state. Indeed, this has been the case over and over again throughout the South – I’ll bet that if you took a quick poll of how many history teachers in public schools throughout the South are actually from the North, you’d be surprised at what you’d find. And the next time you get the chance, ask your son or daughter to bring their history book home from school. When they do, open the book and look at the inside front cover and see where it was published. You’ll find that the majority of text books being published today come from a Northern publishing company, and just whose version of the war do you think they’re going to publish? Why, the victor’s, of course!
“…will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision..."
The first thing the Federal government did after the war was to imprison the former Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, in a small cell at Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, where they kept him imprisoned for more than two years while they tried to gather enough evidence to use against him in his trial for treason. I guess the lawyers at the time had never heard of the Constitutional right to a speedy trial, huh? Not the first time that the Federal government violated the Constitution, by the way…in any event, after more than two years of trying to get its ducks in a row, the Federal government finally released Davis “on parole” and allowed him to return to his home in Mississippi with the admonishment that his parole could be revoked at any time and he could then be brought back to Washington, DC to be tried for treason once the Federals were ready. Davis died before that day came. The Federals never did get enough evidence to put Davis on trial. Maybe their experience with the reliability of Union army “witnesses” during the kangaroo court of former Confederate Capt Henry Wirz, the commander of Andersonville prison camp, made them think twice before they tried it again.
To this day, the stigma of “traitor” hangs over the memory of the Southern men who fought and died for their country, all because their country was the Confederacy, not the Union. I’ve participated in many online forums in which the war was discussed, and in every single one of them there are legions of Yankees who revel in the opportunity to call Confederates “traitors.” What these “good people” (and I use the term loosely) fail to realize is that the men who fought for the Confederacy were fighting for their land, their homes, their states, and their independence from a government which they felt was unreasonable and oppressive to them and their way of life, a government which was running roughshod over them at every turn.
Sound familiar? It should…we fought our very first war in 1776 for the same reasons, and I don’t hear anyone in this country calling George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry “traitors.” But I’ll bet you that they sure called them that in jolly old England!
And the really sad thing is, I just don’t see any of this getting better anytime soon. As with anything, the further away from it you get the less important it seems to be in the overall scheme of things. The Yankees and the carpetbaggers and the scallywags have been preaching their twisted, one-sided version of the war for so long that unfortunately it has become engrained in the consciousness of America as “the true story.” Well, it isn’t the true story, and as long as there’s breath in my body I’ll continue to enlighten those in the dark, whether it be self-imposed or not, and will continue to fight for the proper, honorable remembrance of those gallant men of the South, those patriots in gray and butternut who fought for their country and gave their lives for what they believed in.