A History Lesson (in the key of ?)

Posted: May 10, 2010 in History

Preface: This is not an opinion peice. This is an entry consisting of documented Historical Fact and Evidence that oh, mayhaps bears a little revelance to things which have been discussed, in an opinion sort of way, here recently.

Let us begin with the History of the Confederate Battle Flag:

This flag was never a national flag of the Confederacy, or the flag of any Confederate State. It was, as the title indicates, a military flag, most notibly used by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. It is often mistakenly refered to as “the Stars and Bars”, which was the name for one of the actual flags of the Confederacy. This is “the Stars & Bars” and was the first official flag of the Confederacy, used from 1861-1863, the stars representing the original Confederate states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama , Lousiana & Texas. A second flag was instituted for the Confederacy in May 1863, which put a modified version of the Confederate Battle Flag on a plain white field- the modifications were extra stars representing additional states which had officially joined the Confederacy: Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina & Arkansas. This flag became troublesome as in battle, if there was no wind, it could be mistaken for a flag of surrender. In March of 1865, a third flag was made the official flag of the Confederacy.

At no time however, was the Confederate Battle Flag itself used in an official capacity other than a military one.

General Robert E Lee:

Was a West Point Graduate and decorated officer in the US military prior to the Civil War. President Lincoln actually offered Lee command of the Union forces, but Lee declined because he would not fight against his home State of Virginia (some historians also assert that Lee was disconcerted by unequal tariffs in the US, as often the South paid roughly 85% of nations total tariffs prior to the Civil War). Lee himself did not own slaves, when his wife inherited a plantation and slaves owned by her father, she and Lee began freeing them. By the time Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, all of the slaves owned by the Lees  had been freed. Lee himself was on record as opposing slavery:

“There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil”

* Union General and Former President Ulysses S Grant also owned slaves, as did his wife. Union General William Sherman rented slaves while living in the South.

African American Soldiers in the Civil War:

It is widely known that the Union Army had African American Soldiers. Approximately 198,000 African American men served in the Union Army & Navy. Roughly 65,000 African American men, a mix of free and slave, served in the Confederate Army.

Famous Women of the Civil War:

Two very famous Historical Civil War figures are actually women: Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton, who both served as nurses. Barton is often cited as a leading figure responsible for better sterilization of medical instruments and advancements in prioritizing of the wounded which helped survival rates and decreased the rampant infections that were par for the course throughout the war.


Were most members of the Confederate Army Slave Owners?


Was there any slavery in the North or Union Allied States during the Civil War?


Were their any African American slave owners?


Why was the Civil War so…bloody?

Advancements in military technology such as better guns, precision barrel rifling, and the mini ball combined with the old school tactics of battle (i.e, droves of combatants just charging across a field at each other) led to disastrous consequences.

How did the North Win?

Well, that will be a lesson for another day!


  1. Erik says:

    My goodness! Renegade Evolution is starting to read like the minutes from the Sodality of Confederate Widows. I look forward to future references to “The War of Northern Aggression” and “The Late Unpleasantness,” not to mention photos of Miss Ev in hoop skirts and bustles. Not that I am unsympathetic. Here In New Orleans we are still smarting from the importunities and insults of Beast Butler, the Union general who occupied the city. Should you ever visit us, may I suggest calling at the Confederate War Museum, whose unreconstructed curatorship will surely delight.

  2. Erik says:

    Ah yes, facts are facts, but the rub is that they come with contexts. And choices about which facts we choose to adduce and which we choose to omit. Which is to say that facts can be used to gin up sympathy or antipathy or almost anything in between. History is a story we tell – whether Herodotus or Ambrose – and the same fact can be made to play the part of hero or villain depending upon point of view. And please don’t call me “Dude! ” I am much too old and creaky.

    As for Sherman, what shall we say? Mediocre tactician but great strategist. Liberator of slaves yet unabashed racist. Practically genocidal as an Indian fighter, but concerned to protect them from corrupt officaldom. And the author of the following lines on war: “its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families…” Which he later summarized as “War is Hell.”

  3. Amber Rhea says:

    I think one thing people conveniently forget when thinking about the Civil War is that it was (like so many wars are) a rich man’s war, but who was actually doing the fighting? That’s right: the lower classes. To the poor families trying to scrape out a living in the agrarian South, the Union army was an army of invaders who tore their lives apart. Many if not most were illiterate and apolitical… but when an army showed up to destroy what little they had, they noticed. Think about what it must have REALLY BEEN LIKE to be living in Atlanta when Sherman’s army came through and burned this city to the ground. Also, then, as now, many Southerners joined the army out of lack of options (although it was, of course, a very different time).

  4. Carson D Carson says:

    People tend forget that the Civil War was more about states rights than just the right to own slaves, and it seems to me that a lot of blue states want to start another little civil war over Arizona’s new law.

    • Danny says:

      Yes it was about state’s rights. It just turns out that slavery was the most majorly contested issue. And besides even though the North postured itself as being oh so antislavery it had no problem profitting off of the cotton that was shipped up north for textiles, all courtesy of slave labor.

  5. Sorry, but the “States Rights” argument was intrinistically linked to the defense of slavery and White Supremacy.

    And while the North (aside from a few true abolitionists) probably didn’t really have the more egalitarian interests of Blacks in mind (more likely, they feared the spread of slavery AND Black folk to the North, and they wanted to exploit Southern land and property for themselves, it doesn’t take away from the basic fact that the South’s motivation was to keep and expand slavery and to protect the “perculiar institution”.

    And also remember, the South invaded Fort Sumter first, and invaded the North twice (resulting in the battle of Gettysburg that ultimately began turning the tide towards the North).

    Those who say that the camera doesn’t lie ignores that the people holding the camera most definitely can lie. Similarly, even just plain facts can be twisted and distorted to favor a particular view.

    Then again, my perspective is just a bit different than others, I believe.

    And HELL TO THE NO, I’m not accusing Ren of any racist intent at all…just adding some facts of my own.

    And yeah, Sherman was a real sonafabitch, and I can clearly understand why Southerners hate him immensely As a Southern Black man, though, I’m more than happy that he was OUR SOB. Stuff sometimes happens in war (see Coventry and Dresden and Hiroshima/Nagasaki during WWII, Fallujah during Iraq War II)..


  6. Oh….and while is is certainly true that the Stars and Bars was mostly a military flag during the Civil War years, it is also very much a fact that it wss taken up by opponents of Blacks fighting for civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s as a rally flag for defending segregation and “Massive Resistance” against the Civil Rights Movement.

    And even today, our present Southern extreme right wing seems to love ’em some Stars and Bars to show their resistance to the creeping “socialism” represented by Black folk. Newt Gingrich, when he was House Speaker, used to always feature in his many press conferences a flag of the State of Georgia that included the Stars and Bars as a backdrop. (Not the official flag of Georgia, which did not have such an endearment.)


  7. Ahhhhh…funny how you learn something new every day. I sit, as it were, corrected.

    I’ve always wondered why I confuse the original “Stars and Bars” with the actual Confederate battle flag, It was actually the latter that became the symbol for the Southern resistance to the Civil Rights movement. Maybe the CSA rejected the original because it looked a bit too much like the US flag??

    Don’t get me started on Newtie. Please.


    • Ren says:

      AK: Exactly, the original stars and bars looks so much like the US flag that well…the armies got confused.

  8. soulhuntre says:

    I find it amusing how many on the left these days conveniently pretend that the Democratic party was not the party that supported slaver, or the one that formed the KKK. They will go all out to trash anything that looks remotely like sympathy for the South, all the while voting time and time again for the political party most directly supportive of slavery.

    And, of course, they (the Dems and the left) have gotten very adept at accusing anyone they disagree with of racism. Funny that.

  9. Aspasia says:


    I think you would like the book “The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue” by Lawrence Tenzer. I, myself, haven’t read it yet but it comes highly recommended from contacts I have who specialize in history of the Civil War and how racial politics play into it. OH and reading Abraham Lincoln’s written opinion on the Dred Scott case is an eye-opener for folks who always want to parade Lincoln around as the Great Emancipator and Democrat nonpareil. Pfft. A lot of his real fears concerning what would result from the spread of slavery were communicated in that written opinion of his.

    • Ren says:

      I will look into it…

      Yeah, some of Abe’s Ideas were…um…yeah. Lee was actually MORE progressive in a lot of ways.

  10. Ahhh….after a long absence, Soulhuntre appears.

    Unfortunately, friend, the attempted distortion won’t work.

    First off, “we on the left” are well aware that in the South, the Democratic Party before around 1970 was controlled mostly be segregationists and other assorted racists. If I remember right, it wss the subsequent takeover of the Dem party by Blacks and less conservative Whites (albeit a bit incomplete, since there are still plenty of conservative Democrats around) that drove most of the former segregationists into the arms of the current Republican Party (or, in some extreme cases, into the bulk of the current Tea Party/Teabagger movement).

    Secondly….you are aware that there are some of us “on the left” who reject the Dems as too conservative for our tastes, right??

    Oh, and on this “anyone who disagrees with us is a racist” bullshit, Soulhuntre: did you not read my comment saying that Ren was NOT a racist in any way for posting this?? How is that any different from “anyone who doesn’t agree with my brand of libertarianism is an evil Communist Socialist” nonsense??

    This isn’t about “sympathy for the South”….hell, I AM a Southerner; unless my race disqualifies me or somehow Louisiana was not one of the original Confederate states. And actually, this wasn’t even about “defending the South” except from Ren’s original concept of racial stereotyping of White Southerners. But, if you want to defend the Confederacy as is and trash those of us who weer their main victims, Soulhuntre, then be my guess. Just don’t expect me to stand still and take it.

    My apologies, Ren, for derailing this topic, but I simply can’t let BS stand without a response.


  11. soulhuntre says:

    Hey Anthony!

    If you want to generalize the phrase “many on” to mean “all of” your welcome to do so, however your responses are then not directed to anything I actually said, but a straw man created entirely of your own imagining.

    Feel free to carry on though 🙂

    • soulhuntre says:

      Upon re-reading, I see that in my closing paragraph I may have left room for someone with an urge to generalize to mistake my intention. I would thus amend the text…

      “And, of course, they (the Dems and the left) have gotten very adept at accusing anyone they disagree with of racism. Funny that.”


      “And, of course, many of them (the Dems and the left) have gotten very adept at accusing anyone they disagree with of racism. Funny that.”

      So as to be consistent with the rest of my comment. Of course, since accusations of racism are basically the official position of the Democratic party leaving that much wiggle room to it’s supporters is being generous, but I am a generous guy 🙂

  12. No, Soulhuntre, it’s directed EXACTLY at what you said.

    You are the one bringing in the “many on the left want to bash Southerners as racists” meme.

    You are the one who brought in the Democratic Party as a foil for slamming “the left” for accusing everyone of being racists.

    It may be a straw person, but it’s your straw. Don’t blame me for calling it out.

    Again, sorry for the derail.


    • soulhuntre says:

      We could go around on this ride for a while, and it would be pointless 🙂

      For instance, your newly manufactured assertion that I said anything about Southerners as a whole being called racists is an example. You will simply continue to manufacture new points as needed to go for another spin.

      I am not sure I agree that this is a derail – this post was in part generated (I believe) by the knee jerk reactions Ren gets to anything that can be construed as a Souther sympathy. A discussion of that tenancy seems on topic to me… but I could be wrong.

      In either case going around and around with you on it is certainly non-productive so I will leave it to you to take a cursory victory lap and declare some sort of victory here 🙂

      Enjoy it!

  13. Roy Kay says:

    It should be noted that the Dred Scott decision was manifestly anti-states rights. Slaves, when brought into free states, remained slaves. Of all possible decisions, Taney adroitly selected the best possible short term solution for slave owners and the worst possible long term solution to avoid a civil war of some sort – especially with the Fugitive Slave law.

    The Fire Eaters, who prompted not only secession, but also the attack on Fort Sumter and the firing on of the Star of the West commenced hostilities. No Radical Republican (and I can’t imagine myself as prospectively anything else) could resist this opportunity for war on the home of slavery as part of the road to abolition. Radical Republicans had no difficulty at all honoring the secession of West Virginia from Virginia.

    It probably can’t be teased out how many Union soldiers were singing “John Brown’s Body” vs. “Rally ‘Round the Flag”, but SOMEONE voted for Lincoln and I would gauge that many of those someones were intensely anti-slavery. Rich men may have profited, but free men felt obligation, if not kinship, for those in bondage – just as they had in Kansas and Nebraska. The mid-west and plains, which at times past tilted anti-tariff and thus anti-Union, instead elected to tilt anti-slavery and thus anti-Confederacy.

    Ultimately, it was the Confederacy itself that made the decision for the war to be, de facto, about slavery. English and French government were both eager to support the Confederate cause – if only to divide the power of the United States. France actively sought to colonize Mexico and established Maximilian as titular Emperor. British mills were idled for lack of cotton. (A clever abolitionist ladies group sent a relief ship to aid the workers of Manchester.) However, slavery made outright war rather untenable. It was too much against the internal polity of both Britain and France, particularly since Britain had been declaring war on the slave trade sine the early 1800s.

    • Aspasia says:

      I’m sorry, was the comment about the Dred Scott decision a response to what I said? Could you re-read what I actually said though? I was talking about Lincoln’s response to the decision, not the decision itself. And I’m assuming you haven’t read Lincoln’s response to it because you would have understood what I was referring to.

      But to make it crystal clear, one of the main concerns Lincoln (and apparently, according to him, a large majority of the then-Republican party) had about the spread of slavery would be the increase in mixed-race peoples. To wit, Lincoln said:

      There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people, to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races;

      But Judge Douglas is especially horrified at the thought of the mixing blood by the white and black races: agreed for once a thousand times agreed. There are white men enough to marry all the white women, and black men enough to marry all the black women; and so let them be married. On this point we fully agree with the Judge; and when he shall show that his policy is better adapted to prevent amalgamation than ours we shall drop ours, and adopt his. Let us see. In 1850 there were in the United States, 405,751, mulattoes. Very few of these are the offspring of whites and free blacks; nearly all have sprung from black slaves and white masters. A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation but as an immediate separation is impossible the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas. That is at least one self-evident truth. A few free colored persons may get into the free States, in any event; but their number is too insignificant to amount to much in the way of mixing blood. In 1850 there were in the free states, 56,649 mulattoes; but for the most part they were not born there they came from the slave States, ready made up. In the same year the slave States had 348,874 mulattoes all of home production. The proportion of free mulattoes to free blacks, the only colored classes in the free states, is much greater in the slave than in the free states. It is worthy of note too, that among the free states those which make the colored man the nearest to equal the white, have, proportionably [sic] the fewest mulattoes the least of amalgamation. In New Hampshire, the State which goes farthest towards equality between the races, there are just 184 Mulattoes while there are in Virginia how many do you think? 79,775, being 23,126 more than in all the free States together. These statistics show that slavery is the greatest source of amalgamation; and next to it, not the elevation, but the degeneration of the free blacks.


      I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation. I have no right to say all the members of the Republican party are in favor of this, nor to say that as a party they are in favor of it. There is nothing in their platform directly on the subject. But I can say a very large proportion of its members are for it, and that the chief plank in their platform, opposition to the spread of slavery, is most favorable to that separation.

      That is what I was talking about, Roy Kay.

      • Roy Kay says:

        I hadn’t been referring to your post. Usually, though not always, I try to do the via the reply button. The only times I don’t is when my responses are to multiple posts and thus I consolidate.

        What I was referring to w/r/t Dred Scott, was that it was manifestly NOT a states rights decision.; and thus the states rights “defense” of the “peculiar institution” could no longer be sustained. Under Dred Scott, the mechanism was set to basically extend slavery nationwide through the purchase of slaves in the slave states and conveying them to the free states.

        But beyond this was a declaration of slaves as “property”. Of all possible decisions this was the most dehumanizing and dangerous. Had Taney, say, approached slavery as an issue of “lifelong indenture”, the second worst (in my view) perspective, slave would have had at least some rights, including the “status” to file suit against masters. Dred Scott slammed the door on that. This was a solid win for even the most capricious master, but it totallu closed the door to even and attempt to “reform” slavery – by insuring some rights to slaves.

  14. Can I just say that I’m feeling pretty smug as this non-USAian eas aware of most of this already, including the various points raised in comments?

    I just think back to the episode in the Simpsons where illegal immigrant Apu is applying for citizenship under an amnesty rule. To complete the citizenship test, he’s asked, “What caused the civil war?” Apu starts, “There are many reasons, social and economic…” the interviewer cuts him off: “just say slavery!”

    Oh, and nitpicking extraordinaire: unless you’re using it in a naval context, what you want is the Union Flag, not the Union Jack. Strictly speaking. 😉

    • Ren says:

      lol Snow, just for that, remind me to make a CoV video with my English Villain- Union Jacky 🙂

    • Erik says:

      I believe we were indeed naval gazing – and throwing around phrases like “rum, sodomy and the lash.” The larger context, as I recall, was the nasty old Royal Navy v. the peaceful inclusive pirates, who lived in floating intentional communities and were dedicated to resource-sharing and conflict resolution. Ain’t revisionist history great!

  15. Jeremy says:

    Aspasia, you are taking what Lincoln was saying completely out of context. He is not simply expressing a personnel opinion but he is acting as a practical politician. Over a hundred years after these events, it was still controversial to have Captain Kirk kiss Lt. Uhura. Lincoln and Douglas are fighting over a same block of voters: white people who are against or uncomfortable with slavery but not very tolerant of racial diversity or ‘race mixing.’ It had been common tactic by Douglas and other pro-slavery individuals to exploit such bias by calling Lincoln and other anti-slavery people ‘race mixers’, ‘ni—-r lovers,’ and would bring posters featuring Black men and White women (the horror!) to the debates with the words Abolitionists on them to stir the moderate elements to their banner. Lincoln in this speech is turning the tables on them by pointing out that the most ‘race mixing’ occurs because of the existence of slavery. Lincoln’s speech might makes us pause uncomfortably today, but that is thanks to the incredible change that has occurred in my parents’ lifetime.

    As for the Civil War itself, I don’t can read all Succession Statements that were issued by the succeeding states, Jefferson Davis response to the Emancipation Proclamation or Alexander Stevens’ Corner Stone speech and say the war was not mainly about slavery. Robert E. Lee might have been a very nice man personally but he was fighting for very bad cause.

    • And many of the Abolitionists were also anti-race mixing and pro-segregation and that spurred their opposition to slavery. You just proved my point with your entire reply, so, thank you very much.

  16. Jeremy says:

    Your Welcome, Oh and on my last paragraph the words ‘know how anyone’ are missing between the words ‘don’t’ and ‘can.’ How embarrassing!

    • Aspasia says:

      I figured that’s what you meant. 🙂 Unlike the average message board where a small error like that would somehow render your entire argument null invoid, you don’t have to worry about that on Ren’s blog.

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