The blog for Charlsie Russell's Loblolly Writer's House. Love and romance, sex, violence, mystery, suspense, and happily ever after from the deepest of the Deep South. Subjects include writing, independent publishing, book marketing, and history.
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Ilario Pantano’s Grand Theft History and Skewing the South’s Role
I have a friend, a fellow indie writer, who within the last
couple of years has written an award-winning contemporary romance set in Mississippi.
The heroine of the story is a history teacher at a local high school who can
trace her Southern roots back through a Confederate ancestor, a Revolutionary
War hero, and farther still—all the way back to the Mayflower.
It is such innocuous slights to the South that fueled my
resolve a number of years ago to concentrate my reading on Southern history. I
don’t mean writings produced over the last fifty years, a proliferation of
anti-Southern bias designed, at its most benign, to marginalize the South’s role in this nation to the malicious portrayal of Southerners as violent, murderous
opponents to liberty, freedom, and civil rights, supposedly making the South
upside down and backwards to what this nation is supposed to stand for. Such
portrayal serves a liberal agenda that does, in fact, reject the Founder’s Republic.
A child of the sixties, during which I witnessed the
purposeful destruction of the Southern wing of the Democratic Party, I
understand the agenda driving revisionist history. What is inexplicable to me
is why so many tax-paying Americans,
who more and more find themselves under the thumb of government, fail to make
the correlation between the skewing of that history and what is happening to this
Let’s return to the ancestry of my friend’s Southern
heroine that introduced this post. Though not impossible, the ancestral migration cited is improbable.
More significantly, when one has the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607,
or more convincingly, the great migration to Jamestown in 1609-1610 to draw
from, why establish the woman’s historical bona
fides via New England? Jamestown predates the Pilgrims by a decade.
I do not believe the author’s oversight was intentional, rather
an honest belief that the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth was the iconic moment
in colonizing what would become the United States. Maybe it’s the Thanksgiving
thing—the turkeys and pumpkin pies and the brief “kumbaya” interlude with the
friendly natives. I’ll give the Pilgrims that—I like Thanksgiving, too—but as
for being the forefathers of fine Southern lineage, no.
Imagine my pleasure, then, when on one of my visits to Barnes and
Noble, a book bearing the uniformed chest and strong hands of a Revolutionary
War soldier cradling his long rifle jumped off the shelf at me: Ilario
Pantano’s Grand Theft History. Admittedly,
it’s the kind of cover that catches my eye and a quick perusal of the subtitle
told me the volume was one after my own heart. Pantano is himself a
transplanted Southerner and former U.S. Marine with an understanding of
military history, an interest in research, and a talent for writing.
Grand Theft’s theme
deals with the steady disappearance of the South’s role in the history of this
nation. He supports his argument by taking a slice of that history, the
Revolutionary War, in which the South’s role proved crucial, and shows how that
participation has been buried. He presents his argument in the form of a
criminal trial in which evidence is presented to a jury to support a case of
dereliction on the part of modern historians to give the South its due for the
victories in the Carolinas in 1780 and 1781, which led to Cornwallis’ retreat to
and subsequent surrender at Yorktown. In school, I learned about Lexington and
Concord, the Declaration, Trenton, Saratoga, and Benedict Arnold, and, of
course, I knew Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown bringing it all to an end. I
knew there was fighting in the South, but nothing I learned emphasized the
strategic importance of the Southern theatre. As I grew into an adult, I
learned that the war was particularly vicious in the South, while ancillary
reading about events to the north left me with the feeling that there was too
much pragmatic intercourse going on between the antagonists. Today, I wonder if the
British wouldn’t have been better off if they’d dealt with their Southern
colonists with equally kid gloves. But then, perhaps, their Southern colonists
simply wouldn’t have it.
Have you ever asked yourself how Cornwallis managed to get
himself surrounded in Yorktown, Virginia
or what he was doing there to begin with? Personally, I can’t recall ever
studying that in school, but I’m no spring chicken and “school” was a long time
ago. To make a long story short, for those who don’t know, he was there because
he’d hauled his ass out of the Carolinas before he’d lost his entire army. The
British had, since his victorious landing at Charleston in the late spring
of 1780, met with several resounding defeats at the hands of some very pissed
off frontiersman—those being, to hit some of the highpoints, Huck’s Crossing, King’s Mountain,
Cowpens, but there were more—all crowned by Cornwallis’ Pyrrhic victory at
Guilford Courthouse. Not only was Guilford costly, the Patriots got away to
boot. That’s when Cornwallis decided it was time to get out of the Carolinas.
Things were a little more stable in Virginia, so that’s where he headed. He
holed up in Yorktown on the coast and waited for General Clinton, cozy in New
York, to come move him to safety. Clinton promised to come, but dawdled, and the
Americans and French beat him to Cornwallis. Pacification of the South had
failed and renewed hope swelled the Patriot ranks stalemated to the north. In a
blink it was over (at least according to the history books) and the final
decisive victories had been won by hard fighting Southerners who were fed up
being violated by British regulars, irregulars, and colonial loyalists recruited
not only amongst their neighbors in the South, but in New England.
But you know something I learned specifically from Pantano’s
book? On February 27, 1776, Carolina patriots defeated a much larger force of
Carolina loyalists at a place called Moores Creek Bridge in North Carolina. The loyalists were on
their way to augment British naval forces for the planned assault on Charleston
in June of that same year. Turns out they really needed those ground forces, because
a few months later the British naval bombardment of Sullivan’s Island,
defending Charleston Harbor, failed. The British ships took a licking and
sailed away, delaying the main offensive against the Southern colonies four
years. That failure to bring the Southern colonies to heel would ultimately cost
Britain the war.
In 1781 Mother England knew where the final gambit had been
played...and lost. As cited above, she’d already prudently postponed a second
invasion of an area (South Carolina) where she’d already been thwarted once. In
addition to unfriendly colonists, there was the environment which was hostile
to conventional armies. Okay, it was hostile to just about everybody, but the patriots
there had struggled long and hard to build what they had. They had adjusted to
not only the environment but the native inhabitants born and bred in that briar
patch; they had, themselves, become indigenous. Now, with the north at a
stalemate and the promise of Southern loyalists (also indigenous, which is what
made the war there so nasty) who would rally to the British cause, she decided
the time was ripe to subdue what remained of the rebels. At the time, a great
deal was made by Mother England’s intent to invade the South. Immediately
after, a great deal was made of her decision to have done so and who was to
blame for the failure. Today that has fallen out of the mainstream histories.
Oh, books are written by Southerners, but the television documentaries and the
academic histories, and the curriculum taught in the prestigious, left-leaning
universities, which for some reason I am unable to fathom, have been dubbed the
torch-bearers of American history, gloss over the Southern role. These people
have the market, leaving no room for the Southern presentation, something
Pantano points out along with a detailed list and description of the
miscreants. It’s not that the South’s role was more important, but certainly it
was as important and the strategic
picture for ultimate victory needs to be studied overall, from start to finish.
There is plenty of room for the recognition of all. Two-hundred and thirty-six plus
years ago we all worked together..., but we were a different nation then.
I am a Southerner. This theme of promoting the South’s role
in this nation is dear to me. I’ll never be an academic and I’m never going to
make a movie or a television documentary, but I do intend to fight back against
the forces undermining not only the South, but our Founders as