Re: Forrest Hall

A recent forum at Middle Tennessee State University regarding the renaming of Forrest Hall brought the usual suspects out from under their rocks.

First, there was the star of the show, Amber Perkins, who pontificated that buildings should not necessarily be named after people with “brilliant military minds” because, after all, Hitler and Osama Bin Laden were also brilliant military minds!? It’s that old analogy again – between the Confederacy and Hitler, with Bin Laden thrown in for good measure. Student Ali Davis chimed in with a whine about being on the auction block if the Confederacy had won, and MTSU Professor Bobby Lovette supported their rants with the statement, “Forrest was a Racist”

First, with respect to Professor Lovette’s comment that Forrest was a racist, I am reminded of what Dr. Clyde Wilson once said with respect to the average American’s inability to understand history.

"There is indeed a certain childish willfulness in the American mind that insists on chastising the people of the past for not being like them, or else pretending that they were. Which is a certain way NOT to learn anything from history."

No one has any business passing judgment on people of the past. If they are to be judged, then judge them in the context of their times, not ours. Lovette should know better. “Childish” doesn’t go far enough in describing him and those of his ilk.

Forrest’s views on white supremacy were no different from anyone else’s; in fact, in some ways, his views might have been milder than a lot of Americans at that time, example:

“We want the best young white men of the land, and they should be inspired with the pride of freemen to fight for their country. If Mr. Lincoln or Stanton could walk through the camps of this army and hear the soldiers talk they would hear new ideas. I have had the question put to me often: "Is not a negro as good as a white man to stop a bullet?" Yes, and a sand-bag is better; but can a negro do our skirmishing and picket duty? Can they improvise roads, bridges, sorties, flank movements, &c., like the white man? I say no. Soldiers must and do many things without orders from their own sense, as in sentinels. Negroes are not equal to this. I have gone steadily, firmly, and confidently along, and I could not have done it with black troops, but with my old troops I have never felt a waver of doubt, and that very confidence begets success.
” William T. Sherman, September 4th, 1864, O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXXVIII/5

[S# 76]

Or Sherman’s brother….

John Sherman, (General Sherman’s brother), April 2, 1862, – “We do not like the negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana said yesterday: ‘The whole people of the Northwestern states are opposed to having many negroes among them and that principle or prejudice has been engraved in the legislation for nearly all of the Northwestern states.’ “
Mildred Rutherford – “The Truths of History” p. 92

Or any of his soldiers….

“The….niggers, as a general thing, preferred to stay at home, particularly after they found out that we wanted only the able-bodied men, and to tell the truth, the youngest and best looking women. Sometimes we took them off by way of repaying influential secessionist. But a part of these we soon managed to lose, sometimes in crossing rivers, sometimes in other ways.” – Thomas J. Myers, Lieutenant, February 26, 1865

I could give hundreds of similar examples. So what do we do, throw every history textbook out the window or rewrite them all to soothe the sensitivities of poor little Amber, or poor little Ali, or that incredible nitwit Lovette?

Whose history is without blemish? Ambers? Alis? Think again!

“The affidavit of Thomas E. Gilkerson states that negro soldiers were promoted to corporals for shooting white prisoners at Point Lookout, where he was a prisoner…” Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol.I Richmond, Virginia, April, 1876. No. 4

“That negroes were placed on guard. That while on guard, a negro called a prisoner over the dead line, which the prisoner did not recognize as such, and the negro shot him dead, and went unpunished….” Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol.I Richmond, Virginia, April, 1876. No. 4

What? Black union soldiers shooting unarmed prisoners? Say it ain’t so Joe!

Or how about this….

“About the 14th ultimo, at a place called Hutt’s Store, near the center of Westmoreland County, some of the negro troops went to the house of Private George, of Ninth Virginia Cavalry, and committed a rape upon his wife, who had just been confined with a babe only six weeks old. She is now almost a maniac, and begs that some one will kill her. This atrocious crime can be verified by a number of witnesses who are personally cognizant of the fact. In Warsaw, Richmond County, the negro troops attempted to ravish white ladies, but were foiled by the assistance of the female slaves of the households…” O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XL/3 [S# 82]

WHAT? Black men committing rape? Unheard of! Must be Confederate propaganda huh?

Actually, it’s not. And I can give Amber or Ali or Lovette or anyone else who needs it many many documented pages detailing similar incidents.

So whose history do we throw into the garbage pail? Why not toss Amber’s history as well and then we’ll have nothing? Or could it be that Amber’s history, as well as her tender feelings, get a “Get Out of Jail Free” card because she’s a member of an “Accredited Victims Group”?

It is time that people like Amber and Ali be made to see that the world does not revolve around them. It never has and it never will. There is no law written anywhere which says that others must assuage their sensitivities. What is important to them may not be important to others, and visa versa. That’s life baby. That’s simply the way of things. Get over it and deal with it.

And as far as Amber’s statement about many people having brilliant military minds, including Osama Bin Laden and Hitler, all I have to say is that if anyone is going to draw that tired old analogy between the Confederacy and Hitler, or Bin Laden for that matter, then get up and write a public paper demonstrating exactly how this is so – because most people who can think a straight line just don’t see it. Just because someone THINKS something is so, doesn’t mean it is. Put up or shut up. Tell us how Forrest, or anyone else who fought for the South for that matter, is anything like Hitler. My money says that Amber and Ali couldn’t even put together two coherent sentences on the subject.

Finally, Ali Davis’ statement about being on the auction block if the Confederacy had won warrants some thought. No one can say for sure what would have happened to slavery if the South had won. It is highly unlikely that it would have survived 140 years. All civilizations on the planet have practiced the institution over the last 6000 years. In most cases, slavery bites the dust when it is no longer profitable. “Money talks and B.S. walks” is the driving force behind historical events.

What is far more certain however, is that if someone in Ali’s past, or Amber’s past, for that matter, had not survived a trip across the Atlantic in the hole of a slave ship, then gone on to produce a line of progeny that led to them today, neither Ali, nor Amber, nor most black Americans for that matter, would be here today. That’s the way their ancestors came to this country. Deal with it and stop whining. And if they hadn’t come here, Amber and Ali would face one of two possibilities. Either they simply would not exist, or, they’d be sitting in a loin cloth in front of a mud hut in that paragon of civilization we call Africa, trying to figure out how they’re going to eat – because the last bunch of guerrillas who came through their village cut their arms off!!

Here’s a thought. Instead of whining, or trying to change the name of a building because they don’t like the person it was named for, maybe instead they should set aside a day of thanks – a day in which they recognize the trials their ancestors went through in order that they might have a better life than any of them could have ever imagined for themselves.

And if they can’t do that, then sit down, shut up, and give the rest of us a break!!

Bill Vallante
Commack NY
SCV Camp 3000 (Associate)
SCV Camp 1506 (Associate)