From: colonel@37thtexas.org
To: insight@sfchronicle.com

I read with interest your article, "Give the Confederate flag a break." I also noted that you perpetuated the sorts of errors which harm the credibility of trying to use history as an argument in establishing the truth.

You discussed "the Confederate flag" without making clear which of the three National flags or the many regimental and divisional flags used by the Confederate military and the Confederate nation you were discussing.

First, unless you were referring to the Confederate 1st National flag the term "Stars and Bars" is incorrect for referencing the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) battle flag, which is what I assume you were addressing. Your ancestors fought under the "Stars and Bars" but they may never have fought under the ANV battle flag. There were, after all, more than 180 different Confederate battle flags many of which bore absolutely no resemblance to the ANV battle flag.

It becomes an easy point upon which to dismiss any argument regarding "heritage" if the speaker or writer cannot correctly name the flag to which they refer.

Second, the issue for which the South was fighting was, in their opinion, identical to the issue over which their fathers and grandfathers staged a successful revolution – unfair taxation without representation – and this is why many of them called it "The Second American Revolution:"

"The South has furnished near three-fourths of the entire exports of the country. Last year she furnished seventy-two percent of the whole…we have a tariff that protects our manufacturers from thirty to fifty persent, and enables us to consume large quantities of Southern cotton, and to compete in our whole home market with the skilled labor of Europe. This operates to compel the South to pay an indirect bounty to our skilled labor, of millions annually." – Daily Chicago Times, December 10, 1860

"They (the South) know that it is their import trade that draws from the people’s pockets sixty or seventy millions of dollars per annum, in the shape of duties, to be expended mainly in the North, and in the protection and encouragement of Northern interest…. These are the reasons why these people do not wish the South to secede from the Union. They (the North) are enraged at the prospect of being despoiled of the rich feast upon which they have so long fed and fattened, and which they were just getting ready to enjoy with still greater gout and gusto. They are as mad as hornets because the prize slips them just as they are ready to grasp it." ~ New Orleans Daily Crescent, January 21, 1861

"…the Union must obtain full victory as essential to preserve the economy of the country. Concessions to the South would lead to a new nation founded on slavery expansion which would destroy the U.S. Economy." – Pamphlet No 14. "The Preservation of the Union A National Economic Necessity," The Loyal Publication Society, printed in New York, May 1863, by Wm. C. Bryant & Co. Printers.

Third, you stated in partial accuracy, "…Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate hero and later founder of the Ku Klux Klan…"

Forrest was a Confederate hero. The fact is that the Congressional investigation of the Klan in 1871 concluded that Forrest did not found the Klan, did not serve as its leader and did not advise or participate in it in any capacity other than to constantly urge its disbanding. This Congressional investigation was conducted by Radical Republicans who wanted nothing better than to find some reason to charge, try and hang Forrest.

Incorrectly validating a historical lie does not serve us well.

As a matter of fact many of Forrest’s Black troopers were combat soldiers and seven of them served as his personal armed bodyguards. Nelson Winbush, the grandson of Louis Napoleon Nelson one of those bodyguards, lives in Florida and remembers his grandfather’s stories which he told him before his grandfather passed on when he was nine years old.

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol XVI Part I, pg. 805, Lt. Col. Parkhurst’s Report (Ninth Michigan Infantry) on General Forrest’s attack at Murfreesboro, Tenn, July 13, 1862: "The forces attacking my camp were the First Regiment Texas Rangers

[8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Texas Rangers, ed.], Colonel Wharton, and a battalion of the First Georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrison, and a large number of citizens of Rutherford County, many of whom had recently taken the oath of allegiance to the United States Government. There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day."

These Black soldiers in Forrest’s command were lured by the promise of freedom in the event of a Confederate victory, but somewhere along the line that changed:

"Forty-five of Forrest’s own slaves, indeed served through the war with him as teamsters. ‘I said to forty-five colored fellows on my plantation…’ Forrest told a Congressional committee after the war, ‘that I was going into the army; and that if they would go with me, if we got whipped they would be free anyhow, and that if we succeeded and slavery was perpetuated, if they would act faithfully with me to the end of the war, I would set them free. Eighteen months before the war closed I was satisfied that we were going to be defeated, and I gave those forty-five men, or forty-four of them, their free papers, for fear I might get killed.’" – "First With the Most" Forrest" by Robert Selph Henry, Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1944, page 14

Those men stayed on with Forrest to the end of the war and beyond.

Fourth, you wrote, "By our standards, black Confederates were misguided, or scoundrels, or the victims of coercion…" This is not "by our standards" but by the standards of a history thoroughly rewritten by the victors. As a matter of fact the vast majority of Black Southerners who served the Confederacy had compelling reasons to do so:

"Almost fifty years before the (Civil) War, the South was already enlisting and utilizing Black manpower, including Black commissioned officers, for the defense of their respective states. Therefore, the fact that Free and slave Black Southerners served and fought for their states in the Confederacy cannot be considered an unusual instance, rather continuation of an established practice with verifiable historical precedence." – "The African-American Soldier: From Crispus Attucks to Colin Powell" by Lt. Col [Ret.] Michael Lee Lanning, Birch Lane Press (June 1997)

In 1860, by the U.S. Census, there were almost a quarter-million Free Blacks and Free People of Color in the South. Among those, some 25,000 were themselves slave owners and some were quite wealthy.

Fifth, you wrote, "…the Union flag, the Stars and Stripes, flew over the entire nation before 1861, and that flag, too, symbolized a slave-holding nation." This is partially correct.

This statement ignores the fact that the Stars and Stripes flew over Union slave states and a slaveholding nation from 1861-1865 during the entire course of the War and over Union slaveholding states and a slaveholding United States for eight months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox and prior to the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December, 1865. Slavery had ended in the former Confederacy in April, 1865, but continued as a legal institution in the Union states of Kentucky and Delaware – and Delaware was one of only two states to vote NOT to ratify the 13th Amendment.

Sixth, you wrote, "Robert E. Lee fought in the interest of a bad cause…" This is incorrect. Lee stated originally and clearly that he was fighting to protect his home state. You seem to believe he and the Confederacy fought to preserve slavery when what they fought for was a restoration of the original tenets of the Constitution and when Lee had made clear his stance on slavery five years before secession:

"There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race." – Col. Robert E. Lee, United States Army, December 27, 1856

When Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address his statement that "…government by the people, for the people, and of the people shall not perish from the earth" was a cynical contradiction of his pre-war sentiments and which contrasted absolutely with his actions during the war:

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much territory as they may inhabit." – Abraham Lincoln, 1848

"Among the unconstitutional and dictatorial acts performed by Lincoln were initiating and conducting a war by decree for months without the consent or advice of Congress; declaring martial law; confiscating private property; suspending habeas corpus; conscripting the railroads and censoring telegraph lines; imprisoning as many as 30,000 Northern citizens without trial; deporting a member of Congress, Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, after Vallandigham – a fierce opponent of the Morrill tariff — protested imposition of an income tax at a Democratic Party meeting in Ohio; and shutting down hundreds of Northern newspapers." – "Constitutional Problems under Lincoln," James G. Randall, 1951, Urbana: University of Illinois Press

By 1863 "…government by the people, for the people, and of the people" had already perished from the earth and Lincoln had buried it.

Perhaps the reason your attempt to explain to a California audience – having myself lived in the People’s Republic of California 13 times between 1952 and 1984 – suffered from such historical misstatements can be explained most easily by quoting Irish-born Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne from the uncannily accurate predictions of his January, 1864, letter which proposed the mass emancipation and enlistment of Black Southerners into the Confederate Army:

"Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late…It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision…The conqueror’s policy is to divide the conquered into factions and stir up animosity among them…It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties."

Is the supposed "outrage" over the Confederacy and its symbols a smokescreen? Of course it is. Sharpton and Jackson use it as a means of self-promotion and income generation while the Black people of this nation, including our fellow Black Southerners, descend into chaos and become more and more disenfranchised and distanced from the "American Dream."

The real issues are ignored because dealing with them is unglamorous – but mainly because dealing with issues of violence, education and drug addiction are not profitable to a select few.

Martin Luther King – who had his faults – dreamed of and espoused a nation in which color did not matter and was not to be a consideration. He is no doubt spinning in his grave at 6000 RPM while hucksters and charlatans try to create a society in which color is all that matters and upon which resultant conflict economic gain may be realized.

While well-intentioned your piece only feeds the fire of misunderstanding and misstated history.

Through painstaking research and thorough, uncommented documentation we celebrate the courage, sacrifice, and heritage of ALL Southerners who had to make agonizing personal choices under impossible circumstances.

"The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice." – Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

We simply ask that all act upon the facts of history. We invite your questions.

Your Obedient Servant,

Colonel Michael Kelley, CSA
228-235-7720
Commanding, 37th Texas Cavalry (Terrell’s)
http://www.37thtexas.org
"We are a band of brothers!"

". . . . political correctness has replaced witch trials and communist hearings as the preferred way to torment our fellow countrymen." "Ghost Riders," Sharyn McCrumb, 2004, Signet, pp.