Apparently, there is still uncertainty among the masses as to what the Confederacy was really all about. According to former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, the general consensus in South Carolina was that the Confederacy represented “service, sacrifice and heritage” until Dylann Roof “hijacked” its meaning with his 2015 attack in Charleston, South Carolina. After that, the Confederate flag’s meaning became ambiguous, she opines.
The truth is that what the Confederacy represents has never been ambiguous. From its inception to its end, the Confederacy had only one motive: to preserve the institution of slavery within the United States. To understand that, one has to understand what happened before, during and after the Civil War. Quarrels over the institution of slavery can be traced back to even before 1820, when the Missouri Compromise was passed, but for the sake of this article, we’ll start with the election of 1860.
Abraham Lincoln, also known as the “Great Emancipator,” was a candidate in-and the victor of-the United States 1860 presidential election. Lincoln was known for speaking out against the institution of slavery and made it abundantly clear in the months leading up to his election that he would abolish it if he were voted into office. In fact, he made the following remark on September 17, 1859, six months before his inauguration:
“I think slavery is wrong, morally and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.”
This is what American southerners feared, and is unequivocally what started the Civil War. The Confederate States of America were a group of 11 southern states that seceded from the United States after Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election, and the reason behind their secession was that they feared the abolition of slavery. Cited by historian John M. Coski, one newspaper based in Richmond, Virginia during the Civil War stated it plainly:
“Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED.”
The Civil War ended 154 years ago, with the Confederacy falling to the Union. There is one major aspect that starkly contrasts the nation today from before the end of the war, which is the non-usage of slave labor. It’s clear, although it seemingly isn’t to some people, that the reason for the Civil War was a disagreement between the northern and southern states over whether slavery should continue to exist in this country.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, even once said, “African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social and a political blessing.” Even directly after the war, when the Confederacy had lost, the purpose of the four-year battle wasn’t unclear to anyone. “I’ve never heard of any other cause than slavery,” Confederate commander John S. Mosby said.
If the words of those who fought for the side of the Confederacy aren’t enough to convince someone that the Civil War was nothing more than American infighting over the institution of slavery, maybe the Confederacy’s actions during the war can clarify for them.
One of the most controversial “battles” to occur during the Civil War was The Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow massacre. In it, the Union soldiers present at the site had surrendered, which meant they were to be taken as prisoners of war, as is customary. Instead, Confederate soldiers killed estimatedly 300 of the surrendered Union troops- most of which were black soldiers who had been fighting for their emancipation. The Confederate troops that initiated the massacre were under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a man who later became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The remarks uttered by ambassador Haley, for the most part, aren’t true. The Confederate flag is not representative of sacrifice or service. The part she was correct about, though, was when she said that the flag represents heritage- the heritage of slavery in the United States, and the bounds the southern states went to in an attempt to preserve it. This is not a facet of American history that should be cherished, although it should always be remembered.
If anyone disagrees with that sentiment, then they’re probably a racist. The situation isn’t as complex as some people make it seem.
Photo courtesy of NBC News
Originally published at http://www.thelariatonline.com on December 19, 2019.