Wednesday, April 16, 2014

James Lusk Alcorn’s Role in the War Between the States, The Early Years

This post constitutes the third in a series dealing with James Lusk Alcorn, Mississippi Whig, Union Whig, and Republican Reconstruction governor/U.S. senator from Mississippi. An ardent Whig who rose to power and wealth during the decades leading up to the War Between the States, Alcorn successfully thwarted the forces of secession in 1850 and argued passionately against secession in January 1861, succumbing to the tide only when secessionist sentiment had become so strong he knew there was no way to curb it. During the fateful roll call vote at the Mississippi State House in Jackson on 9 January 1861, he finally capitulated and to the jubilant hurrahs of gallery observers, he cast his lot with Dixie and signed the Mississippi Ordinance of Secession. All but one of his fellow Union Whigs, John W. Wood, followed suit. Wood proved to be the lone dissenter of all the delegates. 

Almost immediately, the Secession Convention offered Alcorn a commission of Brigadier General with a post on the State Military Board, and believing the position merited political capital in case war ensued, he declined a seat in the Southern Congress at Montgomery and accepted the commission. Major General Jefferson Davis headed Mississippi’s military board. Alcorn’s fellow brigadiers included Earl Van Dorn, Charles Clark, and C. H. Mott. All these men, with the exception of Alcorn, had served in the Mexican War. 

Alcorn took his position to heart. He, along with Van Dorn, believed war was imminent; however, it appears, they were the only two on the board to believe the state’s number one priority, while the winter of ’61 waned, was war preparedness.  Davis’ tenure as head of the board, of course, was short-lived, for he left to become the Confederacy’s only president. Van Dorn, Clark, and Mott left shortly thereafter to accept commissions in the Confederate Army. From the moment of his capitulation to the forces of secession and his “crossing the Rubicon” speech, Alcorn coveted a commission in the regular army, but his request to Richmond was met with silence.  

Worse, with the departure of his four fellow board members, Alcorn should have been promoted to head Mississippi’s State Military Board. Instead, Governor Pettus appointed Reuben Davis to the senior slot. It was Reuben Davis, a man who was, or would become, a friend, who dissuaded Alcorn from resigning his commission and returning to his Yazoo Pass plantation home. Alcorn is on record for reviewing recruits in Corinth during this early period.  

Throughout the war, at times more vehemently than at others, particularly after his worse fears of invasion had been realized, Alcorn argued that we should go out and meet the enemy, not wait until the enemy was on Mississippi soil. He had no qualms about voicing this strategy with his initially unconcerned leaders. In addition to being snubbed for head of the State Military Board, Alcorn’s attempts to raise and outfit individual units under his own command were rebuffed. One such request was returned by President Davis’ Secretary of War, L. P. Walker, annotated “No Brigades auth.” [auth.=authorized] It is fairly easy for the uninitiated such as me to make a wild-ass guess as to what was happening here—one of two things or a combination of both.  

(1) James Alcorn’s lack of military experience, compounded with his political opposition to military hero and former U.S. Secretary of War, Jeff Davis, determined Alcorn to be a military officer of unknown quality, and/or  (2) the Confederate government might have considered independent units under the command of aggressive, autonomous leadership as the metaphorical loose cannon, particularly egregious to a man convinced that by announcing to the enemy “we only wish to be left alone” that he would ensure the enemy would indeed leave us alone. Certainly Jeff Davis would not have relished the likes of James Alcorn charging up the Mississippi Valley, untested saber raised high and glinting in the sun. 

You know, ever since I was a kid (and I am not a young woman), I’ve looked at maps of Mississippi highlighting Yankee incursions into the state during 1863-1864. And ever since I was that kid I’ve noted there sure were a lot of Yankees running around loose and unconstrained by their own seniors, much less the Confederate Army. Okay, perhaps I’m being too kind to those U.S. military seniors given that the behavior of their men was a matter of policy, but that’s another story. The point I’m trying to make is that the barbarous behavior of the Union Army was not countered in the manner to which I believe they deserved while a Confederate army of 30,000 men remained holed up and starving in Vicksburg. And please don’t, “oh duh” me. I know this observation is not original. My point is that even to a child a hundred years after the fact, it was obvious something was missing in our grand strategy. I don’t know how far up the Mississippi valley Alcorn (and he wasn’t the only man using his head back then, either) may have gotten before he was stopped; certainly his effort should have been directed, but I do think his grand strategy was right—and the best part is that it wasn’t twenty-twenty hindsight. It was foresight. 

More on Alcorn and the war years in my next post. Thanks for reading.






Monday, March 24, 2014

James Lusk Alcorn, Prelude to War

This post is an outgrowth of my decision to correct historical mistakes I’ve discovered in my work over the years (see my post of February 10, 2014). I find the subject of J. L. Alcorn interesting and relevant to my future work, so I’ve decided to continue blogging about him for several more posts, highlighting his actions during the War, Reconstruction, and finally the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1890. Before I get off the subject of confessing my historical mistakes, the implication made in my 17 February 2014 post that Alcorn was too cozy with the enemy during the War may have been hasty (I’ve been doing a lot of research during the past month). The term double agent could hit closer to the mark. 

James Lusk Alcorn was a Whig. The Northern wing of the American Whig Party became the Republican Party. Mississippi had, at the time of the War Between the States and for decades prior, been a Democratic bastion. At no time in the state’s history was its legislature comprised of more than one-third Whigs—the remaining two-thirds being Democrats. Jefferson Davis was a democrat.  Democrats and Whigs hated each other. These last two sentences are important to remember. 

There were states in the South fonder of Whigs than Mississippi—Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia represent the best examples. But all the Southern states had viable Whig parties comprised of large land owners, but also successful business people. If you think Republican of today (or even yesterday), you’ll have a general feel for Whigs. But like the Democratic Party, the Whig Party had Northern and Southern wings and the great divide—I’m sure you’ve guessed it—was slavery.  

The Whig Party began life (metaphorically speaking) in 1833-1834 dispassionate toward slavery, and the Northern and Southern wings managed to work together until the 1840s when the more adamant Free Soil Party, ineffectual on its own, began to sell its votes to the highest bidder (Democrat or Whig) in the Northern state legislatures in return for senate seats. State legislatures couldn’t change slavery; that had to be done at the Washington level. So in return for Free Soilers’ consolidation with either the Democratic or Whig legislatures, in whatever state we happen to be talking about, the victorious party would reward the “spoilers” by sending a Free Soil senator to Washington. [This was before passage of the 17th Amendment.] Too often, Northern Whigs ended up making their beds with Free Soilers, which did not rub well with their fellow Whigs in the South. 

The sectional divide was further exacerbated by all that new territory that came with U. S. victory in the Mexican War (i.e., whether slavery should be allowed or not) and the subsequent Compromise of 1850. Controversy over said Compromise led to the founding of the Union Party, put simply here, the brain-child of Georgia Whigs, Alexander Stephens and Robert Toombs, and Georgia Democrat, Howell Cobb who teamed up to offset the sectional strife between the Northern and Southern Wings of the Whig Party and counter the State Rights Southern Democrats who were calling for secession. The “State Righters” were themselves offset by moderate Democrats who did not advocate secession. The “Union” movement also proved popular in the North, but its most secure foothold, though brief, was in the South and represented a moderate, pro-Union fusion of Whigs and Democrats. In Mississippi, J. L. Alcorn, along with many other influential Whigs in the state, became members of the Union Party and that party elected Henry Foote, a Union Democrat, governor in 1850. In my humble and admittedly academically limited opinion, the Southern Whigs did more to curb the secessionist movement in 1850 and get the Compromise through Congress than anyone else, North or South, because everybody had problems with it.  

Needless to say, things continued to degenerate between the North and South and both parties skewed along sectional lines. 

You know, sometimes I think it was really the political parties that, in their need for dissension in order to gain adherents, created the sectional rift, then dragged their constituents along with them into war. That would mean Calhoun of South Carolina was right. But I wax philosophical here (plus, this is hardly an original concept), and I will now desist, leaving that thought as fodder for another post. 

Officially the Whig Party fell apart. The subsequent split in the Northern and Southern wings of the Democratic Party in 1860 resulted in the election of the (it’s just my opinion, but hemlock by any other name is still hemlock) Republican Abraham Lincoln, and we all know what happened next. And yes, Lincoln was a Whig. 

James Lusk Alcorn never stopped being a Union Whig and better informed historians than I agree. I think we can safely assume his dislike of Jeff Davis and the Democrats was reciprocated and subsequent slights by the Confederate government possibly reflect this. But most importantly, and I’m believing this more and more as my research continues, James Lusk Alcorn never stopped being a Southerner and a Mississippian. In my 17 February post, I quoted Alcorn’s speech right before he voted for the Ordinance of Secession. It was the overtly dramatic statement that ended “...I  enlist in the army that marches to Rome.”  

This, after he and a handful of fellow Union Whigs’ had spent two days arguing against secession! I don’t know if he’d prepared his allies for what he was about to do. It was a roll call vote and his was the first name called (A-lcorn—I’m assuming the delegates names were listed alphabetically). The subsequent applause brought down the house and all but one of those Union delegates voted for the Ordinance, then consecrated their “yea” vote with their signature. Alcorn, no doubt, had seen the handwriting on the wall; it was as if he thought, well, hell, they’re going and they’re not going with out me. He might have guessed he’d be on the wrong side of history, but (at least at the time) he wasn’t going to be on the wrong side of Mississippi. 

And another thought: One has to wonder what might have happened had there been an Alcorn in Richmond who realized that the army needed to march on Rome and it needed to be quick about it.  

Despite Alcorn’s dramatic capitulation in support of secession, his words qualified how he thought the coming war should be fought. It also says a lot about how well he understood the hate-filled enemy residing above the Mason-Dixon line, and I believe it explains his actions during the War, into which I will delve in my next post.


Thanks for reading.


Monday, February 17, 2014

James Lusk Alcorn’s Role in Secession

     This post is the second in a series correcting historical errors that I have discovered in my work. Divulging the embarrassing finds are, I humbly propose, to my credit because they show that I continue to research and grow as an amateur historian. As my time on this planet wanes, I intend to focus my study on the history of the Southern states from their earliest exploration by Europeans through colonization, the Revolution, the Confederacy, and beyond. Okay, studying the present is pretty convoluted. Yoda was wrong. It’s not the future that’s hard to see because it’s “always in motion.” It’s the present, which is a darn cyclone, but I digress.

Following up on my February 10, 2014 post, the next misspeak I’d like to set right is that regarding James Lusk Alcorn in the introductory “Historical Note” to my novel Wolf Dawson. This historical suspense, replete with romance, mystery, and its touch of the paranormal, is set near the close of Congressional Reconstruction in Mississippi. To give the reader a perspective of the setting, I provided a brief outline of the conditions in post-war Mississippi. I wrote the paragraph below in respect to the 1873 gubernatorial election pitting two Republican candidates against each other, Adelbert Ames, ex-brevet General U.S. Army and Maine native who’d never stepped foot in Mississippi before the war, and Mississippian J. L. Alcorn. In the second full paragraph on “page ix,” I stated:

“J.L. Alcorn, the man Ames defeated, was a Mississippian. He was intimately familiar with Southern politics in general and Mississippi politics in particular. Since the arrival of Federal troops during the war, this man who had passionately supported and voted for secession had accepted reconstruction and urged white Mississippians to embrace the Negro. He warned that otherwise the Negro electorate would fall under the influence of corrupt Republicans.” 

Most of what I say is correct—at least as the record shows—but there is a misrepresentation—that being the implication Alcorn was a zealot on the subject of  secession. James Lusk Alcorn was a Whig, as ardent, according to Hodding Carter (The Angry Scar) as Henry Clay himself. Kentucky-born of hard-working common folk, Alcorn attended one year at Cumberland College, taught school in Jackson, Arkansas, and in 1838, became a member of the Kentucky bar. Between 1839 and 1843 he served as a Livingston County, Kentucky deputy sheriff from where he resigned and served one term as a member of the Kentucky legislature. In 1844, he migrated to Mississippi’s Coahoma County where he practiced law and established a small plantation, dubbed Mound Place, on the Yazoo Pass. In time he became a very wealthy cotton planter with land holdings of 12,000 acres.  

Two years after coming to Mississippi he was elected to the state legislature on the Whig ticket. He was always a Union man and ardent anti-secessionist. On 7 January 1861, a hundred delegates gathered at the capitol building in Jackson to vote on secession. William Barry, a secessionist from Lowndes County, defeated Alcorn to become president of the convention. Barry then appointed a committee of fifteen to draft an ordinance of secession. L. Q. C. Lamar chaired the committee—and he just happened to have brought the draft of a proposed ordinance of secession with him. Judge J. S. Yerger (like Alcorn, a Unionist Whig) proposed approaching the North for concessions [in return for shelving secession] and thereby wait before taking a vote. When the committee voted down Yerger’s proposal, Alcorn proposed waiting until Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana voted to secede, then follow them out. Alcorn’s proposal was also voted down at which point Walter Brooke requested the vote be taken to the people in a referendum to be scheduled for 2 February. This proposal was also voted down, but a proposal to have the people vote on the ordinance as part of the state elections in the fall was floated by some on the committee—a proposal not formally voted down. War intervened and that vote never took place. 

In The Angry Scar, Carter states there were four committee votes against and eleven votes in favor of secession (Lamar’s Ordinance of Secession). The convention approved the committee’s vote and as Coahoma’s representative to the convention, Alcorn, as well as Yerger (Washington County) and Brooke (one of two representatives from Warren County) signed the Ordinance of Secession on 9 January 1861 along with ninety-five other county representatives. Regarding that decision, I quote Alcorn from Hodding Carter’s The Angry Scar:
“I have thought that a different course...should have been adopted and to that end I have labored and spoken,” Alcorn told the convention. “But the die is cast—the Rubicon is crossed—and I enlist in the army that marches to Rome.”  

And he did (join the army, I mean). Actually, his avowed proclamation above is a double entendre. Ultimately, he “served” both armies, to the detriment of the reputed “initial” commitment he made above and to the benefit of both the “Union” and himself once Grant and Sherman started stomping around, first plundering, then burning the state. But I would argue that his “first” loyalty was fomented as a Whig and that his subsequent two-faced double-cross when the going got tough (or the advantages became clear) was such a Whig thing to do. 

But I will grudgingly submit that there was more to Alcorn than greed and self-aggrandizement—even though that “more to” in reference to the State was to his own good—and believe me, he saw it. Vis-à-vis the likes of Adelbert Ames I can bring myself to side with the man. On that, there’s more to come. 

Thanks for reading. 





Monday, February 10, 2014

Historical Mistakes

Sure, there’s been many, but without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. Yes, I speak tongue in cheek. Indeed, one person’s mistake is another’s success (or boon or just good fortune depending where the individual stood on the “mistake” at the time). But that’s not what I’m referring to. I make reference here to my content—specifically historical errors in my books. Some I caught in time, some I didn’t. They can be fixed, of course, with a small effort and a little money since all my books are now at Lightning Source, Smashwords, and Amazon (Kindle). For the former I need only $40.00 to re-upload and the last two platforms require only an expenditure of time.

Research in conjunction with the upcoming sequel to my latest novel Camellia Creek has uncovered several errors in previous works I now feel compelled to correct. Students of history will be quicker to pick up on them than the general reader (no one has pointed anything out to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean folks haven’t noted them). The mistakes are painful to me because I know I was wrong in my assumptions and that resulted in my documenting an incorrect “fact.” The errors appear primarily in the Historical Notes to my novels, but one in Camellia Creek proper has caused me to make an alteration to its sequel, Honor’s Banner. That error is something I can work around, but things would have been a little simpler had I checked rather than assume the obvious was correct. Remember the old adage? “To assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and an “ass” out of “me.” [My marine-corps husband told me that one a lifetime ago. Personally, I don’t believe the navy—that would be an oblique reference to myself—has to take much of an individual effort to make an ass out of a marine since he is so capable on his own.] But, alas, I am talking about me here, am I not? And I messed up.

Except for my misspelling of the name of the freshwater fish bream, a Southern-staple, as brim in The Devil’s Bastard, all my (known) errors deal with the era of the War of Northern Aggression and the tyrannical period that followed, euphemistically called Reconstruction. And, hey, in my defense, that misspelling is not really a “historical” error, and I wrote the name of the darn fish just like it sounds—“brim.” Of course, one might think that in fifty plus years of eating the thing I’d have seen the word in print, which I did after printing up 2,000 copies with an offset printer. That was long ago. The upload to LSI is correct and as disgusted as I was with myself at the time—I’m a Southerner, I really should have known how to spell the name of the fish—I’ve learned to take such embarrassments in stride.

I recently discovered another particularly egregious error in Camellia Creek. In Chapter Twenty-nine my hero, teasing his young wife regarding her belief in ghosts, makes reference to Irwin Russell, who linked the old darkies’ ability to commune with the dead as a gift given the ignorant and childlike.

Born in Mississippi in 1853, Irwin Russell became a renowned author in postbellum days, but though he was alive and kicking at the time of Eli Calhoon’s 1865 reference to him, he would have been only twelve and the work containing Russell’s observation, Christmas in the Quarter, yet to be written. Like the misspelled brim (and believe me, I searched for an alternate spelling) there was no getting around the screw-up short of a revision. Fixed it is, but that doesn’t change the fact there’s probably a hundred copies of Camellia Creek in circulation with that anachronism.

Ah, now space grows short, and I’ve other “mess-ups” to confess. Those I plan to address in upcoming posts. Not only does that afford me the opportunity to acknowledge my mistakes, it will allow me to introduce readers to my work without shoving the books down their throats—part of my non-obtrusive marketing strategy—see my two preceding posts below. It is hoped that, if nothing else, readers will enjoy my take on the history.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be discussing John Lusk Alcorn and his role in secession (“Historical Note,” Wolf Dawson); President Andrew Johnson (“Historical Note,” Camellia Creek); and Kentucky’s economy prior to and during the War (Camellia Creek proper). I’ll also throw in one or two near misses that I did have the good sense to check before I went to print.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Social Media Marketing Part 2

This is my second consecutive post on my most recent social media marketing initiative, and it picks up where my 30 January (2014) post left off.

I started this blog...goodness, it’s been over two years ago now. Rarely do I receive a comment, but I do get visitors—this I know from the stats Blogger provides me.

Shortly after starting my blog, and in keeping with popular social media marketing strategy, I signed up for a Twitter account. For a long time, the account just sat there, primarily because I didn’t know what to do with it. I kept writing my blogs, writing my books—publishing my books and going more and more in debt and occasionally visiting Twitter to look at the tweets. Rarely did I respond to anything because I wasn’t sure I should. But people did follow me—based on my profile, perhaps? Certainly not because I was an engaging individual, but I followed those folks back. I attracted and was attracted to conservative, state rights, tea party folks. Every once in a while a well-meaning Republican/conservative "type" would state how Black folk should abhor the Democratic Party since that was the party of disfranchisement and racism and the KKK, and the Republican Party was the party of freedom. I think to myself, "The bane of our founder’s Republic was the party of freedom?”

Okay, I’ve digressed a little here, but I do have a point. Regardless of how you feel about the Democratic and Republican parties of today, there’s a lot of history between then and what those posts imply, and I do have a basic knowledge of that history and an unfailing prejudice when it comes to the South (I’m pro—and I wonder if those people realize there was a Northern wing to the Democratic Party, which was....) Oh, never mind; that’s not my point. My point is that I comment when I see such. And guess what I have discovered? Anytime I interact: favorite, re-tweet or comment, whether folks agree with me or not, my Blogger stats go up. So, take note you budding internet marketers, there is a definite correlation between participation on one social media platform and its impact on those it’s linked to.

Based on that long, drawn-out “analytical” discovery, I decided even more social media interaction was in order, hence the internet marketing course thru Education 2 Go (Ed2Go) discussed in my last post.

The course covered the five big social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Google+; I have fledgling accounts at all. I have finished the course, but I’ve just started honing my “social media” plan. My intention is to go back through the course notes and flesh out each platform vis-à-vis Loblolly Writer’s House. I’ve started with Google+ (see the sidebar?), and I’ve added reciprocal buttons to several pages on my website. I’m supplementing the bare-bones Ed2Go course with a copy of Jesse Stay’s Google+ Marketing for Dummies. I’m in the process of going through his book page by page building my platform, using what’s relevant and cogitating what I don’t understand. I’ll figure it out; I’m only halfway through the book. Besides, I think I should have read Google+ for Dummies first and learned the mechanics before attempting to master exploitation.

I will follow up with my Google+ progress and eventually the other platforms. So far, I've created some Google+ circles and been placed in circles and joined a handful of communities—I even found one on secession! I’m interacting and seeing activity in my blog stats. Maybe one day I’ll even get a comment. In the meantime, I’m going to continue my base strategy of weaving writing and publishing content as well as history notes into this blog. Hope you’ll be back and thanks for reading.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Social Media Marketing Part 1

This past November (2013), I completed an online social media marketing course offered by my local community college through Education to Go (Ed2Go). I’ve made reference to this learning source over the years on both my website and in these blog posts. For you struggling self-publishers out there with empty pockets, shallow pockets, or no darn pockets, I highly recommend learning to do many of the otherwise cost-prohibitive tasks yourself. Those would include typesetting, website design, cover design, and ebook formatting for starters. Unless you’re publishing only one book, purchasing good typesetting and graphic design software such as Quark or Adobe Indesign will pay for itself in just a couple of books. Granted, you don’t need a typography program if you intend to publish only digitally, but you still need to format a good-looking ebook. At the very minimum learn “.html” formatting (hypertext markup language) and download a free copy of the word editor program Notepad++

I learned the bare minimums of .html years ago by taking a “Create Your Own Website” course through Ed2Go. Later I took a course on cascading style sheets (CSS) from the same source. I intended to upgrade my website using CSS, but I still haven’t gotten around to it. I did, however, grasp enough CSS to incorporate it into the format of my Kindle books. All other formats for my digital books are produced by Smashwords. Smashwords also distributes them. But creating the physical book (or the digital book) is only half the equation, and with that I return to where I started this post—book marketing.

Last fall, I carved out time and eighty-nine bucks and enrolled in “Using Social Media in Business.” I’d been looking at the course syllabus for over a year, and with the craft-fair season winding down, I decided to go for it.
Note: From the start, my primary sales outlet has been the “craft fair.” This was the case before there was an Ingram-owned Lightning Source (LSI) print-on-demand printer and its accompanying promise of distribution. Craft fairs are ubiquitous, most relatively cheap, and they take me to the nooks and crannies of my beloved Mississippi, where I reaffirm that, yes, the South is alive and well. But despite the fact I meet with a generally favorable audience, that audience is limited in number, and depending on the distance from home, nightly accommodations, gas, and dining out sometimes nullify my sales. Coming out in the black or not, each fair’s expenses take a bite out of profits. On top of that, I have to load and unload a tent and tables and books and deal with the fickleness of the weather. Those factors produce wear and tear on a woman passing (all too quickly) into her golden years. Selling via craft shows is a tough row to hoe.
I realized some time ago that to reach a national audience, maybe even an international one, I needed to take advantage of the online marketplace. Reaching out to/or diving into this potential market is applicable to both my physical book as well as the digital version, but I do believe the digital format holds the greatest potential for sales over the internet. It’s just so easy to find and download a book to a reader. The effort can be accomplished in seconds, and ebooks, in most cases, are significantly cheaper than their paper counterparts.

So, from a basic website highlighting Loblolly Writer’s House, Charlsie Russell, and my first book, The Devil’s Bastard, seven plus years ago and a link to my Amazon Advantage Page where readers could purchase my paperback book, I ventured into digital editions with the appropriate links to online stores where readers could, if they desired, purchase my digital books.

Not sure what to do next, I went back to writing my next book. You can guess that not much happened—except for a new book to sell at craft fairs and subsequently put in digital format for upload and..., well, you know the drill. Now, enter the blog rage. I paid only cursory heed, unconvinced my time would be well spent putting forth opinions on anything folks would find remotely of interest. Okay, I had learned some stuff about self-publishing, and I’d listened for the past forty years to an increasing montage of liberals and the ignorant bash the South, their outrages becoming less and less congruous with historical fact, primarily because they neither know nor are they interested in history. [If you're looking for some sort of mutual compatibility between those two, stop. They're two different subjects, but both dear to my heart.] Maybe I could contribute something others would like to read. Not all folks mind you, but some, and that same “some” might like the kind of books I write.

With few sales garnered via Amazon and my website, I found an Ed2Go blog course that led me through the building of a blog on Google’s Blogger (that’s what you’re reading here). Then I got wind of a new ploy—tying Twitter to my blog and driving like-minded followers to first the blog and from there to my books. Proselytes professed to have made millions! I never believed I’d make millions, but I did believe I might find a readership.

More on my social media marketing strategy next week.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The “Present Legacies” of Reconstruction

I recently read Hodding Carter’s The Angry Scar, an easy-to-read overview of Reconstruction written by a moderate Southerner with a knowledge of history and obviously possessed with an interest in the “whys” of what happened—particularly after Reconstruction—and into the twentieth century. I’ve had the book for several years, but about to delve into the sequel to my most recent novel, Camellia Creek, I finally took time to sit down and read it. One book in THE MAINSTREAM OF AMERICA SERIES published back in the 1950s, the entire set sweeps American history from the discovery of the New World up to, well, the 1950s. I intend to ferret out other books in the series to see if they are as good as this one. Then again, perhaps it is simply Hodding Carter’s writing I like.

An editor of the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi), Carter wrote a slew of books. This particular work comes replete with an extensive bibliography for further reading. Yes, I like older works, written before the revisionist has polluted the record by the mores and values of his present day (and yes, I know that same revisionist would argue the older works are polluted by the heat and passions of times too close to events). But it is the heat and passions and truths, such as the people living during those times perceived them to be, that I’m trying to capture in my insignificant works of escape fiction.

Hodding Carter ends the forward of The Angry Scar thus: “...; and my overriding purposes have been to separate truth from myth and to link significant past events with the present legacies of those events. In attempting to do these things I have become convinced that it has been almost as unfortunate for our nation that the North has remembered so little of Reconstruction as that the South has remembered so much.”

Today, so much of the myth is irrelevant to where the focus of the argument should lie, and spouting it undermines the rightness of the South’s cause. It simply is not needed; substantiated truth more than fulfills that goal. For all the right reasons the South was right, and in my opinion the “present legacies” prove it.

During my pre-teen years, through high-school, college, and even into my early days in the Navy, I was a football fan. One might even say that football was the man in my life. (Bear with me here. I do have a point.) In late summer, I could “smell” football in the air and see it in the changing blue of the sky. Yeah, it was really the approach of fall, but to me it was football. The demands of the Navy interrupted my weekend-long sojourns in front of the television. Then I got married and had a real man in my life, followed by his children. My interest in football, if not the unrequited love, faded away. Occasionally, when talking with my oldest son, I’ll slip and place the Colts in Baltimore. Hell, Johnny U is still the quarterback.
Now, to my point:

In the last chapter of The Angry Scar, Carter highlights all the old “myths” I grew up with regarding the South’s fight for independence and the degradation and humiliation of Reconstruction and the justification for all that came after. It’s easy to read between the lines and suspect he’s putting forth those old arguments tongue-in-cheek, as if maybe he doesn’t quite believe them himself, or more likely that he does and they simply don’t matter anymore (the book was published in 1959 at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, and he was a Kennedy man). When I read those arguments, as real to me today as when I learned them growing up, I ask myself, “Are you in as big a time warp on this subject as you are in regards to the Baltimore Colts?”

Maybe, but I really do know that the Colts are in Indianapolis and Johnny Unitas is a football legend passed on to Glory. I’ve been out of the Navy and back home now for as long as I was in. I don’t live in a vacuum. I’m very much aware of the party that controls the White House and who or what controls the Congress of the United States; of universal suffrage and an electorate that votes into office corrupt men and women who pilfer the earnings of working Americans to feed their dissolute government handout programs and perpetuate the cycle of non-working recipients voting them back into office; of costs driven so high by the perverse injection of tax-payers’ dollars and federal regulations into private programs such as healthcare and higher education that even younger, working tax-payers are forced to accept government support in order to make ends meet.

I heard it said not long ago that public memory was around five years. So, theoretically, in five years people will struggle under the onerous weight of Obamacare as if it’s always been part of us, just like the huge socialist programs and federal interference enacted by LBJ fifty some odd years ago have “always” been part of us as has the misinterpreted “retirement plan” known as Social Security inacted under FDR and the income tax under Woodrow Wilson. Those programs are all twentieth- and, now, twenty-first-century Constitutional violations attributed to democrats, but the republicans have done nothing to eliminate them. This huge expansion of Federal control links directly to the South’s defeat a century and a half ago. That concept is regarded as a joke these days, yet things just keep getting worser and worser.

This brings me back to Hodding Carter’s forward—the North’s remembering so little, the South’s so much. It’s good to remember for the sake not only of the South but even more so for the Republic. As critical as the delegation of powers between the three branches of the Federal government, so too was the delineation of powers between the federal government, clearly limited by the Constitution, and that of the States—broadly interpreted by the Tenth Amendment and insisted upon by the states upon ratification of the Constitution. No, I do not believe the War was over slavery. I do believe people use such lofty arguments to excuse the things they do, but I do not believe populations kill and sacrifice their lives for philanthropic purposes. Economic self-interest, offensive or defensive, couched as such, yes. I do believe the South seceded to protect its economic interests in the face of a hate-filled section of the nation that enacted repeated threats to Dixie’s interests (not to mention darker, more nefarious threats to her people) for the betterment of its own. And yes, I do believe the South had a right to secede to protect its interests, its way of life, and its people. No, I do not believe the South started the War, despite the provocation at Sumter—Lincoln, not Jefferson Davis, chose war. And yes, I do accept Lincoln prosecuted the War better than did Davis (oh duh).

And finally, yes, I do have lofty dreams, which any of you who know the history of then and of the time since can understand, if not necessarily appreciate. Those are no less than the nullification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the striking of paragraph 2 from the Fifteenth, and repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment. That should put the correct powers back into the states where they belong, end that “anchor baby” bullshit, and cut off the exorbitant capital the Federals require to fund their give-away programs and the corresponding bureaucracy to operate them, while at the same time holding the States hostage for taxpayers’ dollars. Of course, to be on the safe side, the sixteenth amendment should probably be replaced with something else clarifying that income tax is not apportioned—it wasn’t in 1789 and it isn’t today—to keep Congress from continuing to pilfer the working man’s dollars by perverting Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. And just another little point regarding the sixteenth amendment—the controversies regarding the actions of way too many state legislatures reported to have ratified that thing makes it, in my humble opinion, worthy of nullification vice repeal—can states nullify what they passed in violation of their own constitutions? I don't know the answer.

Good luck with all that, right? Tongue-in-cheek aside, I wonder what Hodding Carter would think of the looming power of the Federal government, fueled by a corrupt democracy, today?
Yep, those “present legacies” just keep getting worser and worser.