Looking South

As Memphis grapples with the issue of its Civil War Parks, Helena Arkansas, is moving forward with a bold, balanced plan to memorialize the war — and all of its history.

| March 14, 2013
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- Justin Fox Burks
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In the spring and summer of 1862, a Union general named Samuel Curtis led the Army of the Southwest from southern Missouri toward Helena, Arkansas. It was a four-mile procession of soldiers, horses, wagons, and artillery, but during the months-long march, the numbers grew: As the army passed through, slaves left their homes to join the line, pursuing freedom under the protection of Curtis' forces.

Some Union commanders refused to allow fleeing slaves behind their lines. But Curtis, an abolitionist, took them in as contraband, even issuing papers declaring their freedom.

By the time Curtis reached Helena, on July 12th, some 2,000 "freedom seekers" had joined his line. With word spreading that refugee slaves were not turned back, others began to flock to Helena as well, overflowing makeshift contraband camps around the city. Soon, a hospital and school for freedmen were established.

Following the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, the Year of Jubilee was celebrated and forces were raised for a U.S. Colored Troops regiment out of Helena. By the end of the war, more than 5,500 former Arkansas slaves would fight for the Union, with more than 85 percent coming from the Delta.

Forgotten History
You can be forgiven for not knowing this story. I grew up in eastern Arkansas, not far from Helena, and was never taught it. Until recently, few in Helena knew about this chapter in their town's history.

The story of Helena's freedom seekers is not unique among Southern stories soon buried under Lost Cause mythology and officially forgotten. Three years after Curtis marched into Helena, former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, dug up Union soldiers who had perished in a Confederate prison and were buried in a mass grave. The former slaves gave those who helped free them a proper burial and then commemorated them with a massive parade, speeches, and songs. It was the birth of what we now call Memorial Day.

"People who like to talk about 'revisionist history' always hit on that they're changing this story that's been told for years and years and years," says Joseph Brent, a Birmingham-bred, Kentucky-based historian whose company Mudpuppy & Waterdog consults on public history projects. "That story was modeled by the United Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy, and it's one of those weird situations where the losers wrote the history. That's the hardest thing to break through. When your dad and your granddad and your great-granddad tell you these stories, it's kind of hard to say, well, they weren't right."

The Lost Cause itself was a revisionist spin that has held sway in the South, to one degree or another, for generations, promulgated not just by the vanquished and their descendents, but by blinkered academics and the popular culture, driven by the post-Reconstruction willingness to sacrifice black freedom for the cause of white reconciliation.

But that's changing. In places like Charleston and Helena, the hard work of severing a Southern view of history from a Confederate one is finally being done.

The first "decoration day" was a memory repressed by post-Reconstruction Charleston and lost until Yale historian David Blight rediscovered it several years ago.

But Charleston recognized this part of its history in 2010, with a marker at the original site. And now Helena is in the midst of an ambitious "Civil War Helena" campaign to rediscover, interpret, and present the full measure of its own community history. On February 23rd, as Memphis wrangled anew over the future of its "Confederate" parks and monuments, Helena dedicated Freedom Park on the site of one of its former contraband camps, giving those freedom seekers some long-overdue recognition.

The Helena Story
"When you talk about the Civil War in the South, you think mainly of Confederates. And that's what had been promoted here in Phillips County," says Cathy Cunningham, a community development consultant for Southern Bancorp and one of the civic leaders spearheading the Civil War Helena initiative in the economically depressed Delta town, 70 miles south of Memphis.

"We did have seven Confederate generals [who came from the county], which is great. But there's so much more to the story than that," Cunningham says.

For generations, those seven generals and the July 1863 "Battle of Helena" — in which Union forces held the city from a Confederate counterattack — were the extent of the history Helena acknowledged.

"If you asked anyone, it was those two things," says Katie Harrington, director of the Helena-based Delta Cultural Center, which is an offshoot of the Arkansas Department of Heritage.

Rescuing the city's broader Civil War-era history began in the early 1990s, with the work of Ronnie Nichols, a Little Rock native and African-American Civil War buff who was then the Delta Cultural Center director. Nichols first proposed building a replica of Fort Curtis, the Union stronghold that was forged, in large part, by freed slaves. And he organized the first Battle of Helena reenactment in the city.

"At some point, people became locked in time, and really one of the greatest assets [in Helena] is the Civil War history," says Nichols, who served as a technical adviser on the film Glory, about black Union troops, and is now a historical consultant based out of Potomac, Maryland. "It's something that people had not developed and seemed to almost work around as opposed to using it as a draw. But Helena was really the crucible of the Civil War in Arkansas, so it had a very important role."

"Because of Ronnie's research, we thought it was something very exciting. It's just taken awhile to pull it together," Cunningham says. "When he was interested in doing this, we, as a community, may not have been ready for it. I think now we are."

The change began with the Delta Bridge Project, a public-private community development initiative spurred by Southern Bancorp in 2003.

"The community came together and decided what goals they wanted to pursue," Cunningham says. "Within tourism, the people at the meetings — and we had more than 600 community members attend — put an emphasis on Civil War Helena."

The project has been led, jointly, by Southern Bancorp, the Delta Cultural Center, and the recently formed Helena Advertising and Promotion Commission. They called for proposals in 2008 and hired Mudpuppy & Waterdog — Joseph Brent and his anthropologist/archaeologist wife, Maria Campbell Brent — to help develop an interpretive plan.

"We chose Mudpuppy & Waterdog mainly because they weren't just talking about troop movements and the battle. They were interested in the effects [the war] had on the people who came here," Cunningham says. "What did the Confederate women feel like once they were left here? We liked that aspect of it. They gave us much more than we expected."

"In our proposal, we said we wanted to tell everybody's stories. There was so much going on in Helena that had not been told before," Maria Brent says.

The result has been a 25-site plan that tells a comprehensive history of Helena during the war. Before Freedom Park, there was New Fort Curtis, a realization of Nichols' initial vision, which was built to three-quarter scale three blocks south of the original site (which is now a church) and which was dedicated in 2012. A new statue of Helena's most famous Confederate general, Patrick Cleburne, adorns the path to downtown's Helena Museum. Cleburne is buried in Helena's Confederate Cemetery, which sits atop a hill in Maple Hill Cemetery, overlooking the adjacent Magnolia Cemetery, an African-American resting place containing the graves of Civil War veterans and Reconstruction-era leaders.

From the soon-to-be refurbished Battery C, you can survey the entire city and see how the Battle of Helena played out. For military buffs, it's fascinating. But the Civil War Helena project also tells other stories, from those of the freedom seekers to those of left-behind Confederate women living under Union control. This comprehensive approach to history remembers the loss of the war while also celebrating the liberation. If not unique, this approach is still rare in the South. But it's becoming less so.

"The Park Service, a few years ago, had a 'come to Jesus' moment," Joseph Brent says. "They decided that in all of their Civil War parks they were going to talk about slavery and talk about how slavery was the cause of the Civil War."

Brent mentions a project in Corinth, Mississippi, which Mudpuppy & Waterdog worked on, that details its contraband slave camp. "That's about the only other place I know where this is being told," he says. "But I think, as a whole, this is a direction in which a lot of people want to go."

Everyone involved in the Civil War Helena project insists that resistance to this comprehensive approach, while not nonexistent, has been minor.

"Everything is fact-based. Everyone has their own opinion. Some may not want to wear a Union uniform, but that doesn't change the fact that we had a Union fort," Harrington says. "We're not Disney World."

"Some people, if you show them the history and that it's traced through primary documents, are willing to listen. But some people just aren't," Joseph Brent says of the general challenge of telling a comprehensive Civil War history in the South. "But if you base interpretation on good, solid research, you can tell a story that gives everyone a voice. Civilians and African Americans and Confederates and the Union."

History Belongs to Us
It helped, in Helena, that the project has been couched as an engine for much-needed economic development.

"We do a lot of battlefield preservation and interpretation," Maria Brent says. "You deal with people who seem to have leanings in [the Confederate] direction. But with most of the sites that we work with, one of their motives is developing tourism. They know that the more inclusive they can be, the broader the appeal can be to nontraditional visitors. And they need that."

"Because of the physicality of the place, it really lends itself to that," Nichols says of the prospects for Civil War tourism in Helena. "We would have people who would come in from Minnesota and Missouri and so forth and say, 'My great-great-granduncle served here, and can you tell me or show me something about it?' So it wasn't just about black history. People were coming in who knew about the place, but there wasn't anything to show. So the whole idea was that we needed to start developing what people are asking for."

Helena is well-positioned between Shiloh in West Tennessee and Vicksburg in Mississippi, both of which draw hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. The hope is that Civil War Helena can tap into a decent percentage of those tourists.

"We think Helena is well located to draw visitors from each of those places," Maria Brent says. "Until recently, there hasn't been anything to really explain what was going on in Helena. So it's been under-visited. It's mostly been known for Patrick Cleburne, and that's where most of the visitation has come from, pilgrimages to the gravesite."

"Helena needs anything it can get," Harrington says. "I want to be high with my expectations, but anything is better than nothing. Helena's had a lot of ups and downs."

In addition to tapping into the existing heritage tourism market, the hope is that a more comprehensive approach to the history can also help broaden that tourist base. This means reaching beyond the stereotypical (or maybe it's just typical) Civil War tourist — the older white man interested in battle logistics — and reaching more African Americans, more women, and more families.

"I think everyone agrees that if you can find someone you can relate to, it's easier to be interested," Harrington says of the approach. "You don't have to be a Civil War historian to catch onto the story."

This broad approach may be good for business. But it's also good history. The brochure touting Civil War Helena reads: "This is the story of our nation's struggle. This is our history." "Our" means all of us.

And that hints at what's most refreshing about it: This is Southern Civil War history seen through a contemporary American lens rather than a Confederate lens.

Nichols mentions that, while at the Delta Cultural Center, he was the only African-American member of the Arkansas Civil War Roundtable. That Nichols is an anomaly as a black Civil War buff is itself an indictment of the way this history has been presented.

The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote eloquently on this subject for The Atlantic last year, chronicling his own lonely experience as a young, African-American Civil War buff in an essay bluntly titled "Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?"

"[O]ur general sense of the war was that a horrible tragedy somehow had the magical effect of getting us free," Coates wrote. "Its legacy belonged not to us, but to those who reveled in the costume and technology of a time when we were property."

Then he continued:

"Our alienation was neither achieved in independence, nor stumbled upon by accident, but produced by American design. The belief that the Civil War wasn't for us was the result of the country's long search for a narrative that could reconcile white people with each other, one that avoided what professional historians now know to be true: that one group of Americans attempted to raise a country wholly premised on property in Negroes, and that another group of Americans, including many Negroes, stopped them. In the popular mind, that demonstrable truth has been evaded in favor of a more comforting story of tragedy, failed compromise, and individual gallantry. For that more ennobling narrative, as for so much of American history, the fact of black people is a problem."

"African Americans are Southerners too, and their history is as significant as that of white Southerners," Joseph Brent says. "That's always the story that's been left out. And it's great when communities can embrace and tell these stories and involve African Americans in their Civil War history — because it is their history as much as it is the Southern, white, Confederate story. Let's face it, many, when they had the opportunity, did join the Union Army, and they did fight. It's a complicated history. As more of these stories come out, it adds to the fabric of our history."

Letter to Memphis
The comprehensiveness of the historical interpretation in Helena stands in stark contrast to Memphis' embattled parks.

The former Confederate Park, on Front Street, is historically incoherent by comparison. It's meant to commemorate the Naval Battle of Memphis, on June 6, 1862, which was a Mississippi River precursor to the following battles in Helena and Vicksburg.

The land atop the bluff where the park is located was where civilians gathered to watch the gunboat battle on the river below. But the Union won this battle in short order, and Memphis, like Helena, was Union-occupied for the remainder of the war.

The name "Confederate Park" didn't convey this history. It conveyed the attitudes of those who dedicated the park in 1908, after Reconstruction was abandoned and former Confederates had reclaimed the South. Similarly, the statue of Jefferson Davis at the center of the park has little to do with the actual history that took place there, beyond Davis' role as president of the Confederacy at the time. Davis did spend a few years living in Memphis but much later. The inscription on the Davis monument refers to "The War Between the States" and asserts, without a trace of irony, that Davis, the ultimate secessionist leader, was "a true American patriot."

Other elements that dot the park include a couple of markers about Confederate-connected Memphians, a World War I medical monument, and, most incongruently, a 1952 Jaycees monument displaying the Ten Commandments.

If the message of the former Confederate Park is muddled, the former Forrest Park comes across as a civic abdication to the Lost Cause. While Forrest's relevance to the history of Memphis is incontestable, his meaning is, of course, fiercely contested. And nowhere is this acknowledged. There is no reference to his history as a slave trader or his post-war role in the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan. An inscription says that the statue was erected "in honor of [Forrest's] military genius," without, of course, an acknowledgment that these military exploits were performed in the service of an attempt to preserve and expand slavery — as if "military genius," in itself, is worthy of being honored. Instead, there's another inscription, from "poet laureate of the Confederacy" Virginia Frazer Boyle, that uses the words "God," "titan," and "glory" in four lines.

Cultural products tend to reveal the circumstances of their production. Gone With the Wind is "about" the South during the Civil War era. But, released in 1939, the real meaning of the film and its popularity come from what it says about how people in 1939 viewed this history; how seductive the lies of the Lost Cause were for most of the country at that time.

The Jefferson Davis statue on Front Street was erected in 1964, when much of the white South was pushing back against the demands of the civil rights movement and acting in defiance of federal attempts to impose integration and other measures of justice. In that context, is the Davis statue a Civil War monument or a segregationist monument?

The remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife, Mary, were moved from their initial resting place at Elmwood Cemetery to Forrest Park in 1905 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Is the Forrest statue a Civil War monument or a Jim Crow monument?

These "Confederate" parks and monuments have always been bad or, at best, incomplete history. But there was a time when they reflected the values of the communities that built them. That time has passed.

And so, with the fates of these parks in limbo, this perhaps unwanted moment presents an opportunity — not to erase history but to rescue it. In Helena, they've managed an honest, full reckoning with history that also honors contemporary community values. Memphis lacks the same kind of opportunity and need to leverage Civil War history for economic development. But as far as presenting true public history and finally resolving a long-festering civic embarrassment, the city could do worse than to look south for inspiration.

Statue of Jefferson Davis in downtown Memphis
Statue of Jefferson Davis in downtown Memphis
- Justin Fox Burks
Statue in Helena’s Freedom Park
Statue in Helena’s Freedom Park
- Justin Fox Burks
Confederate Cemetery in Helena
Confederate Cemetery in Helena

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Comments (48)

Showing 1-25 of 48

A good story by someone who usually writes about music.

The Helena story was very interesting.

However, if you really believe the motive behind the City Council was to "correct" history, I must say, IMHO, that you have misread their agenda.

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Posted by CEBorst on 03/14/2013 at 11:19 AM

CEB

There need not be but one motive; that motive is truth.

The truth is that all of these parks and the names of them were forced on the black population, cloaked in falsehoods and distortions and downright untruths.

There has not been demonstrations and such when parks and monuments have been erected that tells an unmistakable truth or everyone was given a chance to be involved.

I learned history as thaught in the Memphis Schools. They did me a disservice by not telling me the truth. There is no excuse for that.

The more we get the true history, even if some of it is deplorable, out into the open, the faster we will heal and move on to todays problems and the reality of trying to sove future problems. White washing history is a tragic sin, for the people that were involved and the ones hurt, their discendents can't bring closure until the real truth is told. When that and if it happens, we, as a people will be able to move on and work together to form that ever searchable perfect union.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 03/14/2013 at 6:34 PM

Most interesting. It is indeed an historical irony that previous Memphis city officials would choose Confederate leaders as the subjects of memorial reverence. According to historical records, in the 194 years since the founding of Memphis there have been at least 13,786 notable Memphians for whom permanent statuary could be justified according to the mores and customs of the times during which they lived.

I have found that humans often place a higher emphasis on the memories of those whom they consider to be their ideological peers. Perhaps, in light of changing circumstances, modern city leaders would find it expedient to reconsider which memories they choose to preserve. This could make it possible to enhance the neural pathways of future generations of Memphians.

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Posted by Lieutenant Commander Data on 03/14/2013 at 9:32 PM

Excellent piece. I can’t help but wonder - who will lead the charge for a more refective telling of our collective history? A.C. Wharton proved himself to be the black equivilant of Wyath Chandler by racing out to an all-white businessmans club to “distance himself “ from the re-naming of the parks. If we have appeasers where we should have leaders. If we have leaders afraid to speak truth to presived power. Then who will light the way?

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Posted by Brad Phillips on 03/15/2013 at 1:31 AM

From an older man who has no dog in this hunt, please quit trying to distort and revise history. These parks should NEVER have been renamed!

"Political correctness" is ruining our country!

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Posted by Fred Blalack on 03/15/2013 at 2:37 AM

Fred Blalack

As an older man, I say Fred, you don't have a dog in the hunt because your dog cn't hunt anymore under the terms that it once did. The prey now have as much or more pwer than they did when your dog hunted.

How is anybody trying to distort or revise history? Everyone keeps saying this, but, they can't say how. Maybe an older man with no dog in the hunt, you can tell me how history is being distorted and revised.

Why was monuments and a park place where it is and named Confederate Park? As the true history will telly, the place of Confederate Park was a resounding defeat for the Confederacy. There was no valient stand by heroic confederate soldiers. The colored, as they were called, sharpshooter from the Illinois Army, shot down the soldiers that was manning the cannons atop the bluf. The battle was over in short order, with Memphis falling to the union soldiers.

What made the park named Forest important. What happened at that site that was historically important. I can understand Fort Pillow, for an important, 2nd or third tier battle was fought there and Forest was it's commanding general.

Jefferson Davis Park has no significant history either. Jefferson Davis lived in Memphis for approximately 3 years. Why? He lived there because he couldn't live in Virginia, it was too close to D. C. He lived most of his life after the civil war without having citizenship.

I grew up in LeMoyne Gardens, adjacent to Elmwood Cemetary, a confederate burial site. That is so marked and is a vital part of history. There has never been an outcry to rename that cemetary. The dead has to be buried and it was fitting that the soldiers of the confederacy be given a decent, historical site. There were and, even now, on objections from the very citizens the the confederacy fought a war to keep them in chains and servitude.

No one ever asked the african americans of Memphis what they thought about building monuments to people that were slave traders and fought a war to keep the practice up and, after losing the war, built monuments to the very perputraitors of that deplorable sin.

Do you not think, for a minute, that the slaves that was freed because of the war fought on the bluffs of the Mississippi River were not glad that the union prevailed? Get real!

No one is trying to distort or revise history, it is you, and others such as yourself that don't want to face the true facts of history. You are the one with the problem.

Move the staue and graves from Forest Park to either, Ft. Pillow, Forest won, or to Shiloh, where Forest lost. That would be more historically correct and you wouldn't hear a peep from the african american comunity.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 03/15/2013 at 9:30 AM

The truth re: the War for Southern Independence must be told...in its entirety. Unfortunately, the only version of the history of that war, and its causes, (being taught in our schools) is that of the Union (pro-North). Northern "myths" abound in this version, and must be countered with the viewpoints from the Southern perspective. Many historians claim to want to learn the truth, and to share it with others, but when the truth goes against their pre-conceived viewpoints, then they jump to the conclusion that this unwelcome information must be something attributed to the "Lost Cause." Pro-North advocates don't always have any concrete "facts" to use in defense of the counter-claims of Southerners, so they fall back on the old "tried and true" Northern "myth" they have labeled..."the Lost Cause." The funny thing about the Lost Cause, is that the South's failure to acquire its independence from the malfunctioning Union, was their "lost cause." Thus, how can the fact that the South failed to attain its "cause," when it was forced into an unconstitutional war, be a "myth?" Southern Americans' attempt to exercise their God-given right to self-determination via secession, and to re-establish a limited constitutional government as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, by founding the Confederate States of America, was the "cause" for which they fought for four, long years, against a much larger, stronger, foe. This was no "myth" except in the minds of pro-Northern academics/advocates. To claim that there was no "lost cause", and that the "lost cause" is a "myth," is reprehensible, and has done more damage in preventing the truth re: the cause(s) of the war from being taught, than just about any other attempts to subvert the pro-Southern point of view. If only one side of an issue is being taught, then the complete coverage of said issue is not being taught. This is unacceptable.

Following the war, Southern Americans decided to honor their war dead, and to honor their political leaders, which was most certainly their right to do. There were monuments erected to do just that, and parks named in honor of their heroes, as well. Cemeteries were established for the burial of their loved ones, many of whom had fought and died in their war for independence. Northern Americans did the same thing, and for some reason, there is no public outcry re: monuments and parks named for the likes of such war criminals i.e. w.t. sherman, or Phil Sheridan, or "Beast Butler." If contemporary military leaders committed the same types of atrocities against civilians, as some Union military leaders did against Southern civilians, during the War for Southern Independence, there would be a huge outcry against such war crimes.

At one time, all Americans believed in their God-given right to self-determination, and used this principle for issuing their Declaration of Independence, adopting the Articles of Confederation and the federal Constitution, and establishing the United States. They believed this God-given right was inalienable...it could not be taken from them, and they could not give it away...period. But when Southern Americans decided to exercise this right in 1860-61, as their ancestors had done in 1776, Northern Americans apparently forgot said right still existed, and hadn't been "lost" with the ratification of the federal Constitution. How weird was that? It was acceptable to claim this God-given right in 1776, but it somehow "disappeared" by 1860-61? I don't thnk so, and neither would Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. The Founding Fathers acknowledged that there would always be the chance that people might decide to change their government, as was their inalienable right to do. There was no "treason" involved when Southern Americans decided to secede from the Union, thus their political and military leaders were not "traitors," but were "heroes," and were treated as such with parks and monuments named in their honor. Nothing wrong with this.

African Americans have been overlooked by the majority of historians, when discussing the War for Southern Independence, just as they have been overlooked throughout most of American History. Why has this been permitted in academia? Perhaps racism has been at the root of this problem, just as racism has been at the root of the majority of problematic issues in the United States. Northern Americans have especially been involved with promulgating racism via "defacto segregation," which is still thriving...especially outside of the South. But when the issue of racism is brought-up in the media, the focus has always been on the Southern States, while the Northern States have continued to escape scrutiny re: their racist practices. When will Americans demand that this imbalanced treatment of racism be addressed, and finally take the necessary steps to put racism behind us...once and for all? This can never happen until we stop blaming the South for both slavery and racism, and place the blame for both slavery and racism where it belongs...on all areas of the country.

So, let's stop finding fault with Southerners' parks and monuments named in honor of their Confederate heroes and leaders, and acknowledge their right to exist. The Confederacy existed, and was part of our American History, just as slavery existed in both the North and the South. Our history is not very "pretty" and involves injustices against many groups of people, at one time or other. And when you think about it, slavery was not the worst of our sins. The practice of genocide against Native Americans gets that "honor," as horrific as it was. For the most part, slaves walked away from enslavement, but there was no walking away from genocide. Just think about it. And while we're "airing our dirty laundry," let's not forget about the less-than-satisfactory treatment of the largest segment of our population...women. When will women enjoy the same rights as men enjoy in our society? We've been waiting a very, very, long time, don't ya' think?

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Posted by Bluegoose on 03/15/2013 at 1:36 PM

Bluegoose

What a long dribble of BS you wrote. The south had a right to secede, as long as they did it in accordance with the constitution. They did not have a right to secede if they did not have the majority of votes nationwide to do it. They agreed to those terms when they formed this union.

Yes, the civil war was a lost cause. The south was doomed from the beginning. They had a limited amount of manpower. They were blocked westward by the mighty mississippi, blocked to the east and midwest by large populous industrialized cities, northern. Tehy only had limed movement, being blocked by the atlantic ocean and the gulf of mexico.

Wars are not won by heroic soldiers or by leaders with grand visions, they are won by the side that can produce the most war supplies and replenish there ranks with fresh soldiers. It was only a matter of time before the more populous and industrialized north with more available manpower would win. After Gettysburg, the south was depleted of war materials and manpower. The war, right there at Gettysberg was the beginning of the end for the south.

No one is trying to deprive you from your heroes of the lost cause. All we are saying is that it should not be at the taxpayers expense. You have the right to purchase property, name it, and build whatever monuments on it as you please. If you had done that and do it now, you would not get any complaints. Public property belong to all of the people, not just to a faction that want to erect something that is obnoxious to other factions of the public.

Your entire post is fiction and has no credibility because you start off with a false premise. The south, without the concurrance of the majority of the U. S., at that time, did not have the legal right to secede. So, they didn't secede, the rebelled, as a minority of the population, from their lawful government.

There is absolutely no comparison between the civil war and the war of independence from Britain.

Can Memphis secede from Tennessee without the concurrance of the super majority of Tennesseans? Answer that one truthfully and you will know why your civil war was a lost cause.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 03/15/2013 at 4:42 PM

OTP

Please tell me more about how a state secedes in accordance with the Unittes States Constitution. I know you can point to the section and clause that tells us how a state can secede. I am interested in knowing if those votes you speak of are popular votes, electoral votes, votes of either part of Congress, and if a simple majority or something else is required.

I await breathlessly for your learned reply, since you are a history expert.

I am also interested in knowing the constitutional basis for Memphis seceding from Tennessee, and how much of a supermajority it would take. Can you point me to that section of the Tennessee Constitution? Would that make Memphis an orphan, like an open city, or a country of it own, or what, exactly?

Because I think you are full of bullshit on both these ridiculous claims. Which s hardly new, but this sets a new odoriferous standard.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 03/15/2013 at 5:48 PM

ArlingtonPop

Another snarky question from you.

Article V, U. S. Constitution explains the way to amend the constitution. So, anything that is proposed and ratified according to this article would be legal.

Likewise, Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution is practically the same thing.

I know that you will not believe this, however, I conferred with my legal beagles and they all agree that it could be lawfully done, using these methods for federal an/or state.

So, before you disagree, please check with your legal beagles.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 03/15/2013 at 6:55 PM

"Likewise, Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution is practically the same thing."

OTP I am quite sorry but it is not at all. Sorry. Puerto Rico has a higher chance of maybe one day becoming a US state more so than the city of Memphis. Deep down inside I think you know that. Just let it go and move on in peace.

Here 'ya go...

Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution is about duels and such in case anyone was interested.

http://www.tncrimlaw.com/

"1. Clergy; eligibility to serve in legislature

Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

§ 2. Atheists holding office

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

§ 3. Duelists holding office

Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this State, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe."

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Posted by merlin on 03/15/2013 at 7:11 PM

ArlingtonPop

I knew that you would take that attitude.

The only case decided by the U. S. Supreme Court on secession was, Texas vs White, 1869. The court ruled that, unilateral secession is unconstitutional, while commenting that revolution or consent of the states could lead to successful secession. Of course, feel free to google the case yourself.

The states have a right to partition themselves and form as many new states as it wants. Virginia did in when thet partitioned their state and created West Virginia. Feel free to google that one also.

The act of secession would be highly impossible for all of the states would have to agree, but, it could be done.

So, again, you are srong and Merlin is also.

If the legislature of Tennessee agreed to partition Memphis from the rest of Tennessee, it could do so, however Memphis would still be the territory of the U. S. and thus can petition for statehood. That is exactly the way Virginia did it when West Virginia was Formed. It was also done to Tennessee. You see, Tennessee used to belong to North Carolina. Of course, feel free to google that one too.

You might be pretty good at business, but, you are no master when it comes to early american history.

I am not saying that either of these scenarios will happen, I am just saying that it can be legally done.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 03/15/2013 at 8:53 PM

OTP

"The states have a right to partition themselves and form as many new states as it (sic) wants."

Bullshit. Congress must give approval for the formation of any new states.

Your senario about Memphis is beyond laughable, it is just bullshit. Partition Memphis? A TERRITORY of the US? You think Tennessee legislature could legally partition Memphis away from the rest of Tennessee? Where in God's name do you come up with these fictions?

And your only rationalization is that "it could be legally done''?

Pitiful.

Why do you continue to embarrass yourself this way?

Under the senario of endless possibilities that might be legally done, we could repeal the 13th Amendment and put you into slavery. We could legally do that. Maybe change the Constitution to take away women's right to vote. That could also be legally done. Change the Constitution to curb the Supreme Court's power to interfere. Yep, all that could be legally done also.

You might want to take that American history expertise of yours and review the circumstances of how that part of Virginia that is now the state of West Virginia got partitioned off statehood and how State of Virginia approved that process, LOL!

Hint: The Civil War might have something to do with it.

Didn't get much schooling in American History over in Orange Mound? Or maybe American History wasn't part of your GED requirement?

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 03/15/2013 at 10:57 PM

ArlingtonPop

It does not matter about the civil war, but, it was done, also in Ma. Yes the legislature, federal would have to approve the partitioning and the formation of a new state, but it can be done.

Yes, the constitution can be amended to change the lwas, take away the vote from women, repeal the 14th amendment, etc. It is highly doubtful, but, it could be done.

I was not talking about what would be done, but the possibility of it being done.

Btw, I didn't ever live in Orange Mound, strictly lived and grew up in South Memphis, LeMoyne Gardens. The history I later learned was from other places, not the south.

So, no, not bullshit, but actually in the realm of possibility. It is you that have the embarassment of trying your gotcha questions, yet, when you find out that what I say is true, you can only say bullshit.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 03/16/2013 at 9:35 AM

OTP

The events you describe as "possible" are so remote as to be a practical impossibility.

Theorectical possibilities in no way equal truths.

The description of "Bullshit" fits perfectly.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 03/16/2013 at 10:29 AM

"So, again, you are srong and Merlin is also."

OTP: Once again, I am quite sorry but you truly did claim that Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution pertained to your argument but it just truly doesn't in any remote manner what so ever. It just doesn't. Duelists and such either being permitted or not being permitted to hold public office has nothing to do with your argument or lack thereof. I am sure a part of you would know that. Just let it go in peace, man, because that would be the healthiest thing for you to do.

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Posted by merlin on 03/16/2013 at 10:42 AM

Very good article. nice job

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Posted by juce on 03/17/2013 at 10:48 PM

An excellent premise in the article that, unfortunately, was missed by many (ArlingtonPop, Merlin, OTP...cough, cough)....that the creation of such parks or memorials is more a historical reflection on the group or societal mind sets of that time than an actual reflection of historical events. I think most educated people can understand that the significance of say Forrest Park has absolutely nothing to do with some historical event.....it does have significance in that it was and still is an indicator of the attitudes and prevailing thoughts of the power structure that existed at that time. Which is relevant in the fact that with knowledge and honesty, one can in hindsight point to that example and expose the ugliness that is part of our history.........both white and black.

History is history..... both the good and the bad. I'm sure the British have a different view of the Revolution of the Colonies. Just as the Native Americans have a different view of the Union and treatment at the hands of the "white man".

Only a fool would argue that the Civil War, slavery, Reconstruction, westward expansion, the War against Native Americans, Jim Crow laws and such weren't ugly periods in the history of our Country and the people involved.....but no amount of sweeping those periods under the rug will erase the fact that they were part of our history.

The cold hard truths are that even ugly periods of history have resulted in movements and changes of attitudes that can be directly linked to today. The sad truths are that there is still much progress to be made..........so back when Forrest Park was established,, the mind set was controlled by the predominately white power structure that was struggling to maintain its hold and control over a changing environment.....change that was beyond their control. Now we have a predominately African American power structure (City Government) holding the reins and we're seeing the same mind sets exhibited again. The only difference is the pendulum has swung to the opposite side. Same old story, just different players.

Helena seems to have discovered that history has many facets and they all deserve to be told.......the good, the bad, the ugly.......the forces that made us who we are today and we will be tomorrow...........Chris is right, Memphis could and should take a lesson from the movements in Helena.

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Posted by lifespalette on 03/20/2013 at 8:53 AM

@lifespalette
Your statements have an excellent point that needed to be made. The Parks were established to honor the perceived accomplishments of individuals as well as causes. The South could not have been racist in the 1860’s because the term was not invented until the 1930’s. The entire country except for a few abolitionist terrorist fanatics saw the Africans living here as just that. Africans.

They were probably hated more in the North because of the white immigrant labor force that was striving to upgrade their standard of living than in the South where everyone except for the plantation owners and merchants were at best struggling hand to mouth on small farms for survival but accepting that fiscal poverty as well as the plentiful bounty of freedoms in stride.

It would be a naive person indeed to imagine that any honored hero was pristine in his character. Heroes have always had dark pasts and unsavory associations just as ANY man that has achieved some level of greatness. MLK could not withstand much public scrutiny if the truth was told. His adulterous associations, connections to the Communist and Socialist Party, FBI criminal investigations, riots, violence and even murder in his name “peaceful protest” and a dossier of associates and unsavory characters he met “in the name of faith” with would insult the Christian and righteous man alike.

But those are all forgiven and ignored by the whole black community that for some reason sees the Confederate cause as solely racial motivated.

I for one see some good in both sides but I will never understand how a civil majority that was so incised over their “mistreatment” as a minority can so easily now wield the force of tyranny and expect it to appear justified to those that still revere heroes like Nathan Bedford Forrest, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the endless list of soldiers that fought, sacrificed and died for a cause of what was then considered “freedom” before political correctness redefined what courage was.

What goes around will come around and it is my belief that nothing that happens will ever be forgotten by the people that “feel” they have been betrayed by their government or the leaders they put their FAITH in. Let’s just say those people that honored the past Confederates NEVER felt those leaders betrayed them or their cause however it might now appear by progressives to be misguided.

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Posted by B_Broadhead on 03/20/2013 at 12:57 PM

Great article and extremely revealing comments...especially in light of the fact that it is 2013 and not 1913 or 1883.

Lost Cause Fans (Bluegoose & Broadhead), please know that the undisputed, undeniably main "cause" for which the "War of Northern Aggression" was fought was slavery...period! And, don't take my inferior, "African" word for it, read the articles of secession for each state of the doomed former confederacy and hear it from their superior, white mouths!

One more thing. If the Vice-President of the CSA can speak truth to power in his infamous "Cornerstone Speech"' why can't you?

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Posted by Bakeman90 on 03/20/2013 at 9:19 PM

@ Bakeman90,
If you want to hang your hat on a single speech from a single individual with a single opinion and a political purpose, feel free to do it.

I was born and raised in the Deep South. I know the people and I know the reasons the war was fought. The "right" to lawful ownership of human beings was certainly an issue and it was not a righteous issue but it was the LAW at the time and many felt they had no economic recourse.

I am not condoning slavery. I am condemning tyranny. I see the same tyranny today in the acts of the Democrats and I watch as the “progressive” Republicans cave in to that tyranny in our State capital for the sake of political correctness.

I said it once and I will tell you again. An issue like “gun control” is to the “progressive” as slavery was to the Radical Republican of the 1800s. An excuse to “control” an entire independent segment of American society that did not need “big government” to prosper. It was never a rebellion as much as a “protest” with teeth and the failure was a loss to every freedom loving American.

Slavery would have ended soon enough but it would NEVER have a happy ending in America. The nature of slavery cannot be erased because our progressive leaders NEED that memory to complete their agenda of guilt.
You are welcome to believe whatever you choose.

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Posted by B_Broadhead on 03/21/2013 at 6:47 AM

You are absolutely right, slavery was the LAW of the land in this great nation from its inception until 1865.

However, you are wrong when you assert that I hang my hat on one speech. I hang it on every single article of secession that was ever written and most speeches from pro-slavery politicos during the lead-up to the war.

Now, if your Southern heritage tells you that this war was faught because the CSA was attacked, I would ask you to remeber why it was attacked? Without getting into a longer history lesson, let's cut to the chase. The rich planter class was completely unwilling to give an inch on the slavery question. A. Lincoln was willing to let it stay in the South, but he did not want it to expand to the western territories. So, the rich planter class and their henchmen in Congress said "screw you Abe, it's on!" Badda Bing, Fort Sumter is attacked and we have our second revolution.

I also disagree with you that slavery would have faded away on its own. Without the abolitionist porttion of the Civil War (1863-1865), slavery would have continued for many decades because of its profitability.

Finally, let me be crystal clear. I do not need big government or the memory of slavery to keep prosperous. All I need is capitalism and the opportunity to make it happen for myself and my family.

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Posted by Bakeman90 on 03/21/2013 at 11:46 AM

God, I am going to regret getting in between you two, but here goes.

Both of you are half right.

Slavery was the driving force to Civil War, just not the proximate cause. Unless you believe that Lincoln was not telling Horace Greely the truth in his response to Greely's editorial "The Prayer of Twenty Millions". Of course, by the time Lincoln replied to Greely, he had already writtten the Emancipation Proclamation, just not issued it, so he was being a bit devious.

The proximate cause of the Civil war was secession. The southern states thought, with some justification, that the Constitution did not forbid a state leaving from what they thought was a voluntary association of independent states. Certainly they were correct that the Constitution did not forbid it.

Nevertheless, Lincoln's position that once in the Union, a state could not withdraw without causing grevious injury to the rest of the states was also an argument with merit. Lincoln could just not allow them to go. He could not have a hostile new country on his doorstep.

Slavery was the economic engine of the agrarian economy of the South. The South just could not give it up and keep a viable economy, and they knew it. Fewer than one Southerner in 20 owned slaves, but it was the underpinning of the entire economy. True, they tried to justify slavery in many other ways, ways that to us today seem ludicrous, but the economy was the bottom line.

By the 1860's the abolitionist movement had succeed in describing slavery, and slaveholders, as not just misguided and wrong, but evil as well. The South did not like to be described as evil any more than anyone else, and they got hot under the collar about it. More than anything, the fact that slavery became a MORAL issue without any middle ground (you were either on on side or another, no middle ground was possible) as well as an economic issue, made Civil War inevitable, and made it a war to the knife, too. Any other issue could have been settled by the normal give and take of politics. But not slavery. This was right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, with both sides having different definition about which side was good and which was evil. No compromise was possible. This was an issue that was going to be settled by force of arms because there was just no other way. And so it was.

Lincoln was not winning politically on the Union question alone in the Spring of 1862. It was a masterstroke of political thought to issue the Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of that year and make the Civil War about slavery as well as unification. It changed the purpose of the war and gave it a moral foundation as well as political. It also kept England, who was about to intervene, out of the conflict, and their intervention could have only resulted in the Confederacy winning. The South was doomed from that moment.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 03/21/2013 at 12:23 PM

I doubt serously you could provide me a history lesson worth listening to from what you wrote so far.

The South formalized their LEGAL secession with the U.S. and withdrew their minority votes from the U.S. Congress. Afterward, they requested the Union forces PULL OUT and vacate the NOW CSA property of Fort Sumter in SC and the baiting tyrant Lincoln refused because he knew it would cause trouble, FORCING a removal of Union troops by force. Think of Sumter as an unwanted tenant being lawfully evicted but Lincoln used it as his excuse to declare war and INVADE the South. The South just obliged the North and the conflict started in earnest.

Lincoln KNEW the new States would probably lean toward the more "liberal at the time" Southern doctrine of freedom and may join the CSA removing much needed capital in the form of taxes. Sound familiar?

The analogies are endless but my favorite is the typical wife beater that abuses his partner daily but demands his wife remain married rather than divorce because of their legal and binding contract.

The South knew slavery was ending due mainly to modern mechanized farming techniques that was being developed but the South DID NOT want 8,000,000 freed slaves concentrated in 6 Southern States just as New York, New Jersey and all the benevolent Eastern sea board States that cleverly and quietly sold and shipped their slave population south before banning slavery.

The Confederacy even BANNED the Atlantic Slave Trade in their written Constitution but I am pretty sure YOUR "history" knows that already.

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Posted by B_Broadhead on 03/21/2013 at 12:35 PM

Yeah, I knew I was going to regret it.

I respectfully sumbit that in 1861, whether secession was legal was a matter of opinion. As far as I know, it had not been tried before nor were there any court decisions on that issue. Lincoln certainly did not think it was legal, and was willing to go to war to validate his point.

Yet, in the interest of knowledge, tell me more about those modern, mechanized farming techniques you mention, the ones that existed in 1861? I am especially facsinated in knowing how those techiques applied to the production of cotton and tobacco, the two Southern staple crops.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 03/21/2013 at 12:59 PM
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