The Superintendent Responds


Last week I received a "snail mail" letter from Gettysburg Park Service Superintendent John Latschar. It would appear that my irate emails, written using the email form on the Park Service website, as well as my
scathing review, on the SHNV website, reached him.

Latschar’s 2 page letter to me attempts to answer my query regarding how in the world the Freedman, during Reconstruction, could acquire the expertise to be able to know what he was voting for, much less hold
office in such record numbers? Latschar suggested I read Eric Foner’s book, "Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution", in which Foner claims that those Freedmen who held political office were educated and
could read and write. Latschar cited Francis Cardozo, who was "elected" Secretary of State in South Carolina, as a primary example.

Below find my somewhat lengthy response to Mr. Latschar, which went into the mail this week.

The Gettysburg Visitor Center and the subject matter of its short movie presentations, is something that should make us all very very angry.  Remember, Gettysburg gets 1.8 million visitors per year, many of whom
know little or nothing about the war or its causes. What they see in the Visitor’s Center is what they will  absorb and come away with.

Choosing a battlefield in Southern heritage defense is a difficult thing – too few resources, a well funded and well connected enemy. Maybe this is one battlefield that we should devote some resources to…. Maybe
this is where we stand a chance to affect the greatest number of people.  Just a thought…

Bill Vallante
Commack NY

Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg, Pa., 11735

Attn: John Latschar

I am in receipt of your letter dated September 17, 2008 which in which you attempt to address my question of “how the Freedman could acquire enough expertise in the 2-3 years he was free to know who and what he
was voting for”, (not to mention how he was able to hold political office in such record numbers)”? You claim that those blacks who “led” during Reconstruction were “well educated” and included ministers, former USCT soldiers, free blacks and northern blacks. You cite a Secretary of State in South Carolina (I believe that was Francis Cardozo?) as an example, who was supposedly educated at the University of Glasgow and you suggested that I read Eric Foner’s ”Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution.”

First, you must think I was born yesterday. I am well aware of Mr. Foner’s philosophical leanings (and yours as well). This is the same guy who bemoaned the breakup of the Soviet Union and who thinks that
Reconstruction didn’t go far enough. Sorry Mr. Latschar, but I revolt when I see others trying to shove their philosophies down other peoples’ throats, a type of policy pursued by both the Soviet Union and by the
politicians who orchestrated the Reconstruction Period.

Additionally, the contemporary school of thought regarding the Reconstruction Period has never successfully refuted anything that was said by the earlier “Dunning School”. What it has conveniently chosen to do is ignore the Dunning School. Dunning and his colleagues simply pointed out the major gaffs which occurred during the Reconstruction era. No matter how much people like Foner, or you, try to twist things, they are what they are. To quote a phrase that has been making the news headlines lately, “you can put lipstick on a pig and it will still be a

So Mr. Cardozo was educated? For every Cardozo you come up with, I will come up with a (Virginia “lawmaker” and later fish-wrapper), Lewis Lindsey, who in Virginia’s first Reconstruction State Convention said, “Mistah Preisdet, I hopes in dis late hour dat Ole Fuhginny am imperilated, dat no free-thinkin’ man kin suppose fuh one minute dat we ‘sires tuh misrippersint de idée dat we ain’ qualify de sability uh de sternogrhy uh dis convention. I hopes, suh, dat we kin den be able tuh superhen’ de principles uh de supposition.” Does that sound “educated” to you? Maybe you could translate Lindsey’s hodge-podge for me? I possess better than average reading comprehension skills but for the life of me, I just can’t follow it?! For every Cardozo you find, I’ll
find you more than one Lewis Lindsey.

Also from the same source in reference to that same convention – (M.A. Lockett, “Dixie After the War”, Page 253) – “ .And newspapers! No sooner did darkeys observe that whites sent out and got newspapers than they
did likewise; and sat there reading them upside down!”

“Upside down?” How does this childishly imitative behavior constitute being “educated?” And how about
“. . . There were said to be in South Carolina alone, in November, 1874, two hundred negro trial justices who could neither read nor write, also negro school commissioners equally ignorant, receiving a thousand a year
each, while negro juries, deciding delicate points of legal evidence, settled questions involving lives and property.” (Benjamin Andrews on the “Evils of Reconstruction”)

How is it that a man could be elected to a judgeship when he cannot read or write?

How about the Alabama Legislature, which had to hire a “spelling clerk” to correct all the misspelled words in the legislation passed by that not-so-august body? (John Tilley, “The Coming of the Glory”, Page 168).
Where were all those “educated” black men in Alabama?

Or how about those Commissioners of Education, many of whom were black?

* “in 1874 there were hundreds of trial justices unable to either read or write and so, with only hearsay knowledge of statues they were commissioned to enforce; also that educational interests were not
infrequently entrusted to colored school commissioners to whom reading and writing were unrealized accomplishments.” (“The Coming of the Glory”, John S. Tilley, pp 214-215, Taken from “The Unites States in Our
Time” by Dr. E. Benjamin Andrews, who was born in New Hampshire)

How can one be a Commissioner of Education and be illiterate at the same time?

Space and the need for some brevity keep me from listing every source and every incident I have in my hundreds of pages of files and notes. I do not need to “read” Foner’s book. I’ve already read many books – books
written in a time when those who wrote them were not afraid to tell the truth.

And what of the word “Corruption?” Why is it that when I was growing up, the word was synonymous with the Reconstruction Period, yet, I never hear that word mentioned by contemporary authors? I certainly did not
see any reference to it in your Visitor Center movies!? I should point out that the convention in which Rep. Lewis Lindsey served voted itself per diem salaries and used up nearly $100,000 of Virginia’s treasury.  And you are well aware that such things were not isolated incidents.

And what of the $420,000 worth of railroad bonds purchased by the Reconstruction legislature of North Carolina? Are you going to tell me that Ms. Lockett is a liar or was in error? Even if she were in error,
there are plenty of other sources to substantiate this as well as numerous other like-incidents!

“In North Carolina, $420,000 in railroad stock belonging to the Educational Fund for the Benefit of Poor Children were sold for $158,000, to be applied in part payment of extended per diems of legislators. These legislators gave at state expense, lavish entertainments, and kept a bar and a house of prostitution in the Capitol; they took trips to New York and gambled away state funds by thousands; war had left a school fund, taxation increased it; but for 2 years, no child, white or black, received benefits.” (Dixie After the War, M.L. Avary, Page 307)

And what of Georgia, who, according to according to Senator Daniel Vorhees of Indiana finished the war free from debt. Yet, after 6 years of being governed by this wonderful “biracial democracy” of which you speak, found itself in debt to the tune of 50 million dollars?

And what about those black preachers, who you imply led their people so ably? How many of them threw out members of their congregation for voting Democrat? Was it they who helped put up those “Death to Colored
Democrat” signs in southern polling places during Reconstruction, or was it the Union League, or both?

 “The Union Leaguers, supported by black militiamen, started an intraracial war between the black militia and black Democrats. The sign in an 1878 polling booth, “Death to Colored Democrats”, was no idle threat. At a political meeting in the 1868 presidential campaign in Georgia, the following banner was displayed: “every man (negro) that didn’t vote the Radical (Republican) ticket, this is the way we want to serve him: hang him by his neck.”

(“When in the Course of Human Events”, Charles Adams, Page 153)

I guess political freedom for the Freedman is ok as long as the Freedman votes the way he is supposed to?

You claim that USCT soldiers functioned as black leaders. Are you talking about the same USCT soldiers who murdered Confederate soldier Calvin Crozier when he tried to stop them from molesting a woman on a
train in South Carolina? You may choose not to believe Lockett but the incident is well documented. Just do a google-search. The truth is a difficult thing to hide.

Or, how about:

“A company of black soldiers drove off the family’s hogs, Eudora Inez Moore reported from Texas, and when her father tried to stop them, the troops picked up sticks and threatened to “beat his brains out” if he came any closer.  Complaints against black troops alleged not only mistreatment of whites but harassment of fellow blacks as well. A freedwoman in Norfolk, considered to be a violent and “bitter Rebel”, was put to work sweeping the streets, more for humiliation than for legitimate punishment.” (“The Day Dixie Died”, Thomas and Debra
Goodrich, Page 155)

I have lots more where these came from Mr. Latschar, but I did not see any mention of them in your Visitor Center presentations. Your taxpayer funded presentation leaves out the same things that most contemporary
authors choose to leave out in their books on this particular subject.  But don’t worry.  I intend to tell as many people as I can about it.

Let me close then by giving you the best synopsis for the motivation of the men behind the Reconstruction Acts and the shameful period they ushered in. I’d say this Englishman’s observations sum it up perfectly.

Page 380 – "Can there be a dozen field Negroes in all the South who could even pronounce the word “suffrage”, or who can be supposed to have the faintest idea of what such a word means? The other day slavery was
said to have brutalized the race until nothing was left but the mere shape of humanity. Now they suddenly appear as the most loyal, intelligent, praiseworthy, loveable of mankind – devoted to Constitutional principles, admirers of Northern character, worthy of the fullest privileges of citizenship.  It is curious that when the
Southern man was to be maligned, he had reduced the Negro to a brute; but when there is an object to be gained by the discovery, the same Negro is found to be an angel. The meaning of all this can easily be
discerned. The Republican Party have an idea that when the South recovers from its present prostration, it may send members to Congress who may not be as they wished. Now in several of the States the Negroes
equal the white population in number, and it is assumed they will be entirely controlled by the Northerners who go down to settle in the country. The latter, with the Negro vote in their hands, of course, will carry every election, and produce the same result as if the Southerners were deprived in the future of all representation. This cunning scheme of course is made to wear a virtuous and lofty form; it is another proof of moral growth’."

(“The Quarterly Review”, The American War, London, July – October 1865, vol. 118, pp. 106 – 136)

Try putting that one in your Visitor Center movies.

Bill Vallante
Commack N.Y.

 “All these cries of having ‘abolished slavery’, of having ‘saved the country,’ of having ‘preserved the union’, of establishing a ‘government of consent’, and of maintaining the national honor’, are all gross, shameless and transparent cheats – so transparent that they ought to deceive no one.” Lysander Spooner