The Guns of the Civil War Still Echo In Our Heads
Published on: April 12, 2010
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  • joe

    Professor Mead: you wrote: “It was 149 years ago today that deeply misguided Confederate hotheads rejoiced as they began the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.” Don’t you agree that should read South Carolinian hotheads? One of the greatest weaknesses of the Confederate Union was the lack of a cohesive federal executive government. Even now Charlestonians are a proud bunch, and back then they had good reason to be proud of that international city. They were willing sacrifice Confederate strategic aims for short-term tactical victories because those victories involved the unlawful occupation of the territory of the sovereign State of South Carolina.

    And anyway, you know the garrison commander of Ft. Sumter violated his agreement with the Charlestonians by resupplying, fortifying and accepting reinforcements from the Union Navy.

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  • phil g

    I’d like to hear more about Mr. Meads’ thoughts on the war with Iraq. I’d like to know more specifically what he didn’t like about Bush’s strategy and what he thinks a better approach would look like given the circumstances as we knew them at the time of 9/11.

  • jp

    Politically you are correct re: Iraq…however technically Saddam Hussein did Fire on the United States first.

    Throughout the 90’s, each time being an “Act of War” and violation of the Cease Fire Agreement Saddam signed. Which is why the Senate and Clinton bombed them and passed “Regime Change in Iraq” as official policy in 1998, referenced in the Iraq War Resolution along with his violations of the original Cease Fire Agreement…. Perhaps this should’ve been repeated over and over and over in the lead up, to thwart the coming historical White-wash of the MSM/Left/crank-Right coalition. My guess is Bush figured the post-60’s ‘revolution’ was dead and country was with him after 9/11. Big mistake.

    after 9/11, aiding and harboring Al-Qaeda and other Muslim Brotherhood off-shoots see: was attempted by Bush anyway to be known as Acts of War themselves. Amazingly the left doesn’t agree with this apparently.

  • jp

    Put simply, Liberals, when in control of Media and Culture, know how to get the countries “Panties in a wad”, though it may take awhile, and how to whitewash history.

    Thomas jefferson considered the Barbary Nation States not flying the US Flag at their Embassy as an “Act of War” if I remember correctly.

  • jp

    As you can see by the AmCon pingback, if you are going to educate on the Civil War you best be well versed, unfortunately, in the industry DiLorezo, Thomas Woods and the Lew Rockwell cranks have created. Thanks to the internet and the Paulnut they have some traction and devout followers.

  • Like Mr. Mead, I remember people talking about the Civil War in near-past-tense when I was a kid, and I also remember our history lessons as being essentially kind-hearted toward confederates, who were after all themselves caught up in an economic process that was nearly impossible to staunch any other way than war. Lee in particular was treated kindly in school history books. Bet that’s not the case in these crude and rude times. I don’t see any reason why we can’t still regard confederate soldiers kindly today, and I don’t have any problem with McDonald’s proclamation, nor Barbour’s defense of it. As a southerner, it has to hurt them even more to be essentially demonzied in perpetuity. When are we going to stop wearing this particular hairshirt and whacking our backsides repeatedly with stinging nettles? Is there really any value to this sad ritual?

  • Luke Lea

    What we can do to honor the memory of those events and educate people about what remains, by far, the bloodiest war Americans have ever fought?

    You can’t do better than Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address recalling the millions of mostly white Protestant lives that were sacrificed in the cause of human freedom.

  • Mrs. Davis

    It’s certainly not my recollection that the slavedrivers of the South were treated kindly in books or lectures. After all they didn’t even celebrate Decoration Day on the proper day. Instead they had their own celebrations that we ignored as they ignored ours.

    And as to when the remembrance of what happened should stop, I’d say another 250 years, about 100 years before the Germans can forget what they did in the 20th century. The value of the sad ritual is that it makes it is a public statement about what is right and wrong and what lessons we should learn from the mistakes of the past. Remember that there are more people held in slavery today than there were 150 years ago.

  • jp

    One thing that Neo-Confederates and other War critics I think forget, is that it is very likely most if not all of us wouldn’t exist today had that war not taken place.

    We all exist, physically anyway, because of a long ancestory that met, hopefully got married and had sex at exact points in history with one unique sperm and Egg becoming one.

    The 700k dead and others re-located completely changed from that point on that ancestory line. Many of our grandparents may not have ever met, probably wouldn’t have. Same can be said for slave descedents, of course..

    A Calvinist shouldn’t have much trouble accepting this, when you get into history revisionism you have to look at all angles.

  • Mrs. Davis is correct in stating that slavery is anything but dead. However, I’ve yet to hear a single account of anyone outside of Christian evangelicals doing much about it in Africa where it is currently, not to mention ironically, still the most prevalent. Kristoff of the NYT has written wisely about this, as did Safire prior to his retirement.
    Slave owners in the south were a relative handful of folks, while most southerners were not wealthy enough to be such. States’ rights were much more important to the average citizen then, and most southerners were fighting for the honor of their homeland, not for the perpetuation of slavery. What was most threatening to them was what they perceived as the end of state sovereignty.
    Slavery is one of the oldest social institutions known to man. It was initiated here by Europeans with collusion from African and Arab slavedrivers–there are your true slavedrivers, along with the Europeans shipowners–and had long since wrapped itself around the economy of the south by the time of the Civil War. Nor did we have the science of race down back then. In 1890, the Bureau of Ethnology released the first study indicating without a doubt that it was actually Native Americans who built “Indian Mounds.” This is all relatively new science. Germany in the 1940s was a fully civilized country in a temporary state of insanity and bears no comparison to what happened in the Civil War. We shouldn’t forget the horrors of slavery, but we should also understand that it was part of an historical process of which the good news is, we came out the other side. Plus, America learned from it and has since engineered the most racially tolerant country on the planet…way way ahead of the laggard Europeans, who talk a good game but do little more than create welfare ghettos that segregate their diversite immigrants.

  • Luke Lea

    It is surprising how few commenters — or Mead himself for that matter — emphasize the world-historical significance of the Civil War. Lincoln said it best:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    No wonder Tolstoy said Lincoln would be remembered for a thousand years.

  • Al Barrs

    Sadly the author, Walter Russell Mead, has not done his homework and understands little about the real causes of The War of 1861. Lincoln was not the “honest Abe” revisionists historians have made him out to be. Read his speeches, period documents, period newspaper articles and letters of people living then. Lincoln governed as a despotic ruler bypassing the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress and U.S. Supreme Court.

    To call this “American History” is an affront to all the honest citizens of the United States… This is nothing more than revisionist history continuing the perpetuation of a false legacy and is destructive to truthful American History…

    False American History is what has gotten us to the despotic place we are today with our Central Government…


  • Al Barrs

    Fort Sumter was not a military fort! It was a Union Custom House collecting high tariff, i.e. taxes from exported agriculture products of the South and collecting duties, i.e. taxes from the foreign cargo entering the Port of Charleston. Consequently the Confederate shore batteries would never have fired on Major Anderson’s men if Abraham Lincoln had not ordered General Scott to send ships to Fort Sumter and other Custom Houses in Southern Territory if they had not loaded military troops and large stores of cannon ammunition on bard the ships to fortify Fort Sumter which wasn’t even finished when Anderson moved his men in the dark of night from Fort Monroe on shore to Fort Sumter breaking the agreement between the Union and South Carolina. Two days after the Fort Sumter incident Lincoln ordered up 75,000 volunteer militia for 90-days to force the seceded states back into the Union. Lincoln made the largest most damaging mistake of any President in history by assuming the South would come back into the Union when he confronted them with his 75,000 man militia. He assumed there would be no bloodshed and little property damage. He was wrong and his poor decision making cost the Nation 620,000 dead young Americans and over one million wounded and maimed young Americans for life. By the way not one single slave was freed during Lincoln’s entire Presidency…


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