A CNN poll found that, 150 years after the Civil War, 40 percent of white Southerners sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union.
Didn’t surprise me. I grew up in Georgia in the ‘40s and ‘50s, where they said, “We weren’t defeated; we were outnumbers.” The monument downtown read, “No nation rose so white and fair.” And yes, some of us boys bought a Confederate flag at a Billups gas station.
I didn’t switch sides in the Civil War until my missionary years, far from Georgia. Living closely with people of another race taught me that white supremacy was ridiculous. And white supremacy underpinned Jim Crow segregation of the time – and the Civil War. That switched me.
Since then, I’ve come to understand that the Confederacy was not just wrong. It was stupid, really stupid.
Get this picture: The South was run by men with enormous wealth in slaves and what slaves produced. Per capita wealth in the South was twice that in the North.
Now add this: For 200 years, U.S. states and almost all countries had been abolishing slavery. In 1807, the U.S. Congress banned the importation of slaves. By 1860, the U.S. South stood virtually alone.
What would a wise person, like you, have done? Time to rethink, right? Isn’t there another way to grow cotton besides slavery? But slaveholders had tunnel vision. For decades, they maneuvered to retain slavery.
In the campaign of 1860, Abraham Lincoln promised not to intervene where slavery already existed. But even before the election, Southerners warned that they would secede if Lincoln won.
Back to you. Wouldn’t you have waited to see if Lincoln kept his word? Not these guys. They’d rather put everything at risk than be reasonable. The seven Deep South states seceded after Lincoln’s election. Super-rich, super-dumb.
In his Inaugural Address in March, Lincoln was clear that if the South took up arms against the U.S. government, their action would be answered with force.
Warnings against war were everywhere. Sam Houston spoke eloquently in Texas (“If they do not whip you…they will starve you”). William Tecumseh Sherman, living in Louisiana in 1860, exactly predicted the course of a war against the U.S. But again, rather than wait or compromise, Jefferson Davis ordered Fort Sumter seized.
Then it was N.C.’s turn at dumbness. The General Assembly and the governor opposed secession, and voters nixed a referendum on a secession convention. But when Lincoln asked for troops to put down the “insurrection,” instead of a “Sorry, Abe” letter, N.C. seceded!
Yes, Southern generals were superior, and yes, Johnny Reb fought like none before. But Johnny should’ve been home plowing.
What’s so glorious about the Confederacy? Not much.