Archive

Tag Archives: Civil War

   I’m not sure that this is an acceptable blog but it’s something that has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks.  During class introductions I stated that I am steeply indoctrinated into the Lost Cause vision of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Later I was deeply offended by Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic because he seemed to find nutcases and fanatics in the South and seemed to portray them as representative of most southerners.  But I have to admit he forced me to consider the impact of the Lost Cause upon my own attitudes and opinions and how they have effected my life.  In working on defining/identifying the Lost Cause for our final, I have struggled to define this in myself.  What do I consider to be the Lost Cause?  How did I become indoctrinated?  How has it impacted me?

The Lost Cause, as we have learned, has meant different things to different times and places and even to individuals.  I have never held to the Lost Cause belief that slavery was a positive situation for southern society.  The idea that slavery was moral and appropriate seems outrageous and ignorant (yes, I used that word).  Slavery is an embarrassment to me and my ancestors.  (I do know that in the 1790s my forefather included his slaves in his will.)  Nothing can justify slavery.  It is something that one must acknowledge,accept, and deal with as an ancestor of a slave holder.  Nor do I adhere to the racism that accompanies the Lost Cause.  Unfortunately, I was raised in an environment or racism, something I have worked hard to overcome.  I still must guard my thoughts and attitudes at times because those early learning experiences become deeply rooted in our pysche.  My parents and many adults (and a few peers) exhibited racist attitudes and expressions as I grew up and through High School.  However through education and experience, that racism does not live on through me and my sons faced little exposure to those attitudes.

The aspects that I carry with me of the Lost Cause consist of the admiration for the courage and determination of the Confederate soldiers and the military leadership of the South.  My middle name is Lee which is very common among southerners. (This was left out of how we remember)  However I never viewed Lee or Jackson as some kind of superhero or idol.  My admiration for Lee resulted from his successes on the battlefield.  I agree with Gallagher that the military superiority of Lee was not a myth.*  He really was a remarkable military commander that achieved some pretty impressive victories over superior numbers.  That admiration toward Confederate courage and intelligence provides a sense of pride in my southern identification.

A second influence of Lost Cause indoctrination has resulted in my prejudice toward “Yankees.”  I still catch myself being critical of people from ‘the North.”  I’m not even sure what I exactly mean by “the North.”  The concept of the aggressive, intrusive, “nosey” Yankee comes from the Lost Cause influence that presents the North as a society of hypocrites that wanted to remove the “splinter from the eye of the South, but could not see the plank in their own eye.”  This comes from southern responses to the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the enforcement of desegregation (something I strongly support).

I’m not sure how I was indoctrinated.  I think it was more informal rather than being miss-taught  at school.  I heard of the heroics of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart through my parents.  The brief mention of them peaked my curiosity and I became an avid reader of Civil War material.  I did have a Civil War  professor from Mississippi that definitely taught the Lost Cause filled with great admiration of the Confederate cause.  But that really reinforced what I had already accepted.

I guess by accepting some of the Lost Cause I still adhere to it as a historian and teacher.  Through this class I have recognized my bias and the need to be careful how that impacts my memory of the past and how I present that view.  But I am not convinced that admiring the valor and the superior military leadership of the South somehow is demeaning.  I still identify myself as a southerner and that heritage is something of which I am proud.  I resent being looked down upon by some because I speak with a twang or am not quite sophisticated as others.  I enjoy a simpler, less complicated life.  I would rather attend a BBQ than a ballet production. (Sorry, Dr. Epps).

The only other thing that I can think of that may be a result of the Lost Cause doctrine is my conservative political views.  But those came as I got older and being opposed to a larger more powerful federal government doesn’t seem to be a uniquely southern view.

* Gary Gallagher, “Sharing Public Memory of the Civil War,” in The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture, ed. Alice Fahs and Joan Waugh (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 58.

Advertisements

Unfortunately, most people who study the American Civil War and how it is remembered often overlook the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Even as I typed this last sentence, the program that I am using to type does not recognize the word Glorieta, but it does recognize the word Gettysburg. Sadly, most of the people who have heard about the Battle of Glorieta Pass only recognize it as being referred to as “the Gettysburg of the West.” This title that the battle has been coined into, is what mainly caught my attention to the subject. I decided to research the Battle of Glorieta Pass and eventually came across the National Park Service (NPS) website.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass

Southwest United States 1862 – Click on Image for Larger View

Once on the NPS website, I found a summary of the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Within the summary, the description of the battle states the following, “Glorieta Pass was a strategic location, situated at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, southeast of Santa Fe, and on the Santa Fe Trail. In March 1862, a Confederate force of 200-300 Texans under the command of Maj. Charles L. Pyron encamped at Johnson’s Ranch, at one end of the pass. Union Maj. John M. Chivington led more than 400 soldiers to the Pass and on the morning of March 26 moved out to attack. After noon, Chivington’s men captured some Rebel advance troops and then found the main force behind them. Chivington advanced on them, but their artillery fire threw him back. He regrouped, split his force to the two sides of the pass, caught the Rebels in a crossfire, and soon forced them to retire. Pyron and his men retired about a mile and a half to a narrow section of the pass and formed a defensive line before Chivington’s men appeared. The Yankees flanked Pyron’s men again and punished them with enfilade fire. The Confederates fled again and the Union cavalry charged, capturing the rearguard. Chivington then retired and went into camp at Kozlowski’s Ranch. No fighting occurred the next day as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Lt. Col. William R. Scurry’s troops swelled the Rebel ranks to about 1,100 while Union Col. John P. Slough arrived with about 900 men. Both Slough and Scurry decided to attack and set out early on the 28th to do so. As Scurry advanced down the canyon, he saw the Union forces approaching, so he established a battle line, including his dismounted cavalry. Slough hit them before 11:00 am. The Confederates held their ground and then attacked and counterattacked throughout the afternoon. The fighting then ended as Slough retired first to Pigeon’s Ranch and then to Kozlowski’s Ranch. Scurry soon left the field also, thinking he had won the battle. Chivington’s men, how-ever, had destroyed all Scurry’s supplies and animals at Johnson’s Ranch, forcing him to retreat to Santa Fe, the first step on the long road back to San Antonio, Texas. The Federals had won and, thereby, stopped Confederate incursions into the Southwest. Glorieta Pass was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory.”[1]

The Battles of Glorieta Pass and Apache Canyon – Click on Image for Larger View

In addition to the summary, I was delighted to find that the NPS website also has a section titled “Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plans.” Within this section is a lesson plan titled, “The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream.” I believe that this lesson plan has the potential of being an excellent tool for teachers to use in educating students about the importance of this battle. The reason that the Battle of Glorieta Pass has been termed “the Gettysburg of the West” is for the fact that it was this battle that prevented the Confederate Army from advancing further west with the hopes of attaining the Confederacy’s much needed economic resources (gold, silver, access to seaports,etc.)[2]

In closure, I hope that teachers not only in the West, but that all American Civil War teachers study and in turn teach about the Battle of Glorieta Pass. This battle is highly important to the studying of the American Civil War because it was a major loss for the Confederacy. As a result of this loss, the Confederacy was denied advancement to the West and the economic resources that they needed to finance the Battle of Gettysburg and other battles that were yet to happen in the great American Civil War.

 

[1] National Parks Service, “Battle Summary: Glorieta Pass”

http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/nm002.htm (accessed June 28, 2012)

[2] National Parks Service, “The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream”

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/91glorieta/91glorieta.htm (accessed June 28, 2012)

In reviewing the book, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration by Thomas J. Brown, I became very intrigued with the preservation of Confederate culture in the form of monuments. This led my curiosity to look for more images of Confederate monuments that I would consider being grand in scale. I performed a simple Google search on “Huge Confederate Monument” and it resulted in me finding an image of Stone Mountain, Georgia. From here I decided to perform a search on “Stone Mountain, Georgia” and found the website for Stone Mountain Park.

Stone Mountain – Georgia

Once on the Stone Mountain Park website, I was shocked to find out that this Confederate monument was not just the largest bas-relief in the World that I had come to know, but had now become a twisted version of Disneyland meets the Ku Klux Klan. The website states, “Serious fun. Endless adventure. It’s all waiting for you at Georgia’s #1 attraction. Just 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta and home to the world’s largest piece of exposed granite, this natural wonderland offers 3,200 acres of excitement for every member of the family. A mountain of memories awaits you.* I was shocked because I had just recently read that “Thirty-five-year-old William Simmons, an organizer and insurance salesman for a fraternal society, linked this initiative to the local excitement over director D. W. Griffiths’ enormously influential film Birth of a Nation (1915), in which the rise of the Ku Klux Klan enabled ex-Confederates to regain control of the South and effect a sectional reconciliation cemented by white supremacism. On Thanksgiving night in 1915, Simmons led sixteen men, including the owner of Stone Mountain, to the crest of the monolith to reestablish the Ku Klux Klan by the light of a burning cross. Stone Mountain thereby became sacred ground to the Klan at the same time that Borglum’s project benefited from the national veneration of Lee.”** And now here I was browsing at a website that was promoting this KKK holy land as a theme park to the masses.

KKK member in similar pose as Mickey in image below.

Mickey Mouse just needs needs to bleach his apparel.

 
I immediately began to wonder, if the people who had developed this theme park and the accompanying website had really believed that it was fun for the whole family? And if so, what families? White families, I would have to guess. Because I have a hard time believing that a black family would have the same wonderful experience, given the sites true history. This I feel, even with all of the additional attractions that have been added to Stone Mountain Park, such as the Summit Skyride, Sky Hike, Yogi Bear 4-D Adventure at the 4-D Theatre, Geyser Towers, and the self touted Atlanta tradition of the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision.***
 
Oddly, the website didn’t seem to have any historic information about what the site actually is, an extravagant monument that was built to honor the memory of the Confederacy and their ideals. In a twist of irony, it did however claim to have the best Fourth of July fireworks display in all of Atlanta.****But then again, they did refrain from the use the term Independence Day. 
 
In closure, I believe that all of the above mentioned attractions that have been added over the years to Stone Mountain were actually added to distract from the sites true and disturbing history and that it is just another example of a Lost Cause fantasy.      
 
 

*Stone Mountain Park, “Things to Do”

http://www.stonemountainpark.com/attractions-shows/attractions.aspx (accessed June 21, 2012)

** Thomas J. Brown, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration: A Brief History with Documents (Boston:Bedford /St. Martin’s, 2004) 102. 

***Stone Mountain Park, “Things to Do”

http://www.stonemountainpark.com/attractions-shows/attractions.aspx (accessed June 21, 2012)

****Stone Mountain Park, “Festivals and Events”

http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?id=37 (accessed June 21, 2012)