April 2nd, 2011
Mr. James Lighthizer, President
Civil War Trust
1156 15th Street, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005
Re: A Matter of Grave Concern
I write to you as the editor of The Southern Cavalry Review, the newsletter of The Stuart-Mosby Historical Society so that you may be able to judge that I am not altogether ignorant of—or disinterested in—this subject. However, I do not write on behalf of anyone other than myself and certainly I am not speaking for the Society, its Executive Board or its members.
Yesterday I received a letter regarding the renewal of my membership in The Civil War Trust to which I gave considerable attention. Under ordinary circumstances I would simply renew, even in these economically depressed times, because the history of the War of Secession is a matter of interest and importance to me as well as one of grave concern.
I will be seventy on May 30th, (the original “Memorial Day”) and remember a time when what was called the “Grand Bargain” was in force in the nation albeit, fast passing away under rising pressure from the burgeoning civil rights movement. As you undoubtedly know, the Grand Bargain was a compromise almost spontaneously reached in the latter part of the 19th Century. People of foresight and patriotism determined to end any remnants of “the bloody shirt” and move towards a final healing of the wounds caused by many years of sectional strife followed by four years of bloody war and eleven years of what was euphemistically termed “reconstruction.” In this unspoken pact, the ill-feelings of those events would be, as Col. John S. Mosby put it, “consigned to oblivion” with both sides moving toward true reconciliation. For its part, the North would acknowledge that the South fought bravely (if mistakenly) for a noble cause, that its heroes would be considered honorable Americans and its symbols and heritage respected throughout the nation. In return, the South would admit that the North fought nobly and that, in the end, it was all for the best that that cause was lost and the Union maintained.
Thereupon followed decades of relative harmony. The South was well represented in the culture, its heroes elevated and its courage celebrated and in return, that section entered enthusiastically into the restored nation (which, in fact, it had done even before the Grand Bargain) giving many of its finest youth to the United States military to spill their blood in the nation’s defense. On the other side, the North gladly proclaimed the virtues of Southern heroes like Lee and Jackson and the noble efforts of a vastly outnumbered and outgunned Confederate military. Veterans North and South met and dined together at Gettysburg and the War was presented as a terrible affliction that in the end had served to strengthen the bonds between the sections as the years passed. Parenthetically, much of that “history” was more myth than truth—indeed, I never realized how much “myth” Southerners had to swallow until I began my own independent studies less than a decade ago! Nonetheless, the Grand Bargain helped to end much of the ill feeling between the sections, especially in the South.
If the Grand Bargain were still in effect, I would send in my membership promptly to help preserve the sites of this tragic conflict upon which the blood of so many was shed—North and South. But the Bargain, sir, is not only dead, but a wicked fiction has risen in its stead the result not of a bargain between estranged brethren, but rather an “agenda” in which special interest groups in the process of advancing their own stratagems have determined that Southern history, heritage and heroes and not past hostilities, should and, indeed, will be “consigned to oblivion” even at the cost of fundamental constitutional rights, personal liberties and historical truth.
Neither is this new “agenda” limited to any section. There are many in the South who support it either enthusiastically out of ideology or reluctantly out of fear or apathy. And, of course, there are those from other parts of the nation who do so for much the same reasons. Furthermore, the war being waged for nothing less than the cultural genocide of the South is neither of the “left” or of the “right;” it embraces the entire spectrum, ideological, academic and political. Leftists like “historians” Eric Foner and Ed Sebasta as well as figures on the right like commentators Mark Levin and Bill O’Reilly equate the Confederacy and her heroes with Hitler’s Nazis! Meanwhile, workers, students, businessmen and housewives are castigated and punished for daring to display the Confederate battle flag, a flag that was used by patriots in Eastern Europe as a symbol of their desire for freedom from the Soviet yoke! Then there is the example of a Southern youth attempting to enlist in the Marines and being refused because he had a battle flag tattoo. His father, a former Marine, came to the recruitment site, asked about the matter and when told that the flag was not “acceptable,” took his own medals and threw them in the trash stating that if the battle flag wasn’t “good enough” for the Marines, the Marines weren’t “good enough” for himself and his son! Such are the consequences of the present “agenda.”
Of course, Southerners are expected to keep their part of the original bargain and ignore credible, valid facts from incontrovertible sources regarding Northern atrocities and the political, military and economic chicanery of the Union previously ignored by mutual consent. However, when objective people do speak up, so strong is the hold of this agenda on the heritage community and beyond, that they are informed through veiled or even open threats that to depart from the “acceptable (politically correct) version” of history—the South was evil and treasonous and the war was about slavery and nothing but slavery—is to become a pariah and a persona non grata in the heritage community at large.
As well, the academic standards are such that anything seen as contradicting “official scholarship” (especially with regard to Lincoln) is rejected and frequently subject to what cannot be seen as anything but censorship. Fortunately, I am happy to say that the internet as well as the increase in publishing outlets especially those targeting Southern apologists have resulted in the rise of numerous “politically incorrect” publications and forums. Yet I know personally that sounding a “wrong note” on an internet “history list” results in ill-disguised contempt and rejection.
Ergo, before I contribute further, I must know the position of the Trust on this premeditated attempt at cultural genocide and the relegation of Southern heritage, heroes, monuments and symbols to the “ash heap of history” or, at best, some museum to be viewed in the same light as the swastika and iron eagle of Nazi Germany gathered from the rubble of war. Neither is it sufficient to say that as an organization, the Trust “doesn’t take a position” on such matters. Frankly, that just won’t wash. To begin with, you can hardly not take a position given the nature of your organization; and secondly, to remain silent and not openly oppose these attacks means that you are in effect saying “yes” to this campaign. In law, the meaning of silence is assent and the Trust’s silence will be seen as such on both sides. There is no “middle ground” here and trying to find such a thing or, in the alternative, sitting on the fence is unacceptable and impossible. Realistically, consider these actions with respect to the survival of a soldier on the battlefield! It is obvious that you either have to fight or surrender! And since neither of the above involves fighting, the only conclusion one can reach if the Trust says and does nothing is that you have surrendered.
Of course, your answer—or lack thereof—will be as widely publicized as it is in my power to do. But this is not a threat. I do not believe in extortion though extortion is the tool of choice for those trying to destroy Southern heritage—and it is wielded widely and indiscriminately as one can tell by the hundreds if not thousands of terrified politicians left in the wake of numerous confrontations with these bullies. Rather, I believe in letting in the light! It is my opinion that we never would have gotten where we are today if the intentions of those running the present “agenda” had been widely known from the beginning rather than being incrementally implemented in secret. We are now dealing with what was put into operation virtually unseen and undetected by the vast majority of decent people who believed that the original “Grand Bargain” was still essentially intact. Even when certain claims and demands were openly made early on, most of us were moved by a debate that seemed more important than a century old war—efforts to address acknowledged injustices suffered by American blacks. Few, except those involved, understood just how far the pendulum would swing towards injustice in the opposite direction. But injustice is injustice and the ends, even in the battle against injustice, never justify the means as surely as falsehood cannot be permitted to replace fact.
If the Trust is willing to go on record against cultural genocide, then I will certainly continue to support you. But if you do not wish to commit yourself or already have chosen to side with the haters of Lee, Jackson, Davis—and the truth, then the time has come for us to part ways. I see no value in protecting land while turning the history of that land into an atrocious fable of “patriotic, noble egalitarian heroes in blue vs. treasonous, brutal. racist villains in gray.” Frankly, it would be preferable that all was “consigned to oblivion” and forgotten rather than that liars and their agenda should prevail.
Very truly yours,