Not long after reading Ilario Pantano’s Grand Theft History, I came across the history of the Second Spartans, a South Carolina patriot militia regiment formed during the American Revolution. The beauty of the Second Spartans is that it was made up of men drawn from the northwest section of South Carolina (Union, Chester, Fairfield, York counties/districts to name a few) who were there during those critical years when the British initiated their Southern strategy against the colonies of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, and they were there at that last critical juncture beginning with Patrick Ferguson’s defeat at King’s Mountain, which Lord Clinton, commander-in-chief of British forces, said put in motion a “chain of events that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America.” This timely publication of Oscar and Catherine Gilbert’s True For The Cause of Liberty dovetailed sweetly with Pantano’s book.
The co-authors’ individual talents dovetail nicely, too, which, no doubt, explains this exceptional work; he at one time a Marine Corps artilleryman with an interest in battlefield history, she a genealogist. Together, their interests testify to hours upon hours of research required for deciphering the battle actions—some, such as Cowpens, with contradictory accounts—and the painstaking scouring of pension applications and family histories, letters, and diaries reiterated in the book to create a remarkable look at what proved to be the strategic scenario that convinced Lord Cornwallis he really did need to get out of the Carolinas and ultimately convinced mother England she’d be better served without this entire war.
I stated in an earlier post that I knew the war in the South to have been particularly nasty. This book, drawn from the statements of the men who actually fought it, leaves the reader with no doubt as to just how nasty. It also speaks of dedication, determination, and sacrifice. In their struggle against the king and his agents, these men had to leave their families vulnerable to their loyalist counterparts, British regulars, and Britain’s Indian allies, and there were many, many militias throughout the South, so take this sketch of the Second Spartans and magnify it a hundred times. It was no easy decision and no small sacrifice, and the bloody battles, skirmishes, revenge killings, retribution, hangings, tortures, rapes, and pillaging went on, constantly, for years—even well after the war.
For the purposes of this blog post—one in an ongoing series to do justice to the South’s role in the founding of this nation and in securing that nation in the aftermath, and to emphasize my unwavering belief in the Confederacy’s place as the true link to our Founders’ lost Republic, I direct readers to the “Author’s Preface.” There note is made of the systematic marginalization of Southern history since the mid-nineteenth century (before South Carolina seceded). After the secession crisis and the South’s defeat, the South’s role in the Revolutionary War was relegated to only a few lines of text in mainstream history books, and it’s been shrinking since.
To their credit, for it’s not the purpose of their book, the only place the authors point out the current injustice being fomented against the South is in the preface. [Pointing out the current injustice is my purpose in writing this post.] That said, general lovers of American history and of the Revolution—and I refer to those without an agenda either for or against the South—will find much of value in this well-written, fast-paced work. Truly, there is never a dull moment, and there is so much to learn and questions answered—like “How, when all the battles were fought and won in the north, did Cornwallis manage to get himself surrounded in Yorktown, Virginia? And why, with Cornwallis’ surrender, did the British just up and say, “We don’t want to play anymore, we’re going home”? I mean, really, our history books make that surrender of Cornwallis sound as if we’d razed London itself. He surrendered one army. Clinton was still alive and kicking in New York.
Yes, there’s a lot more to the Revolutionary story on, actually, both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s been missing from the mainstream for a long time now—and a big chunk of that missing narrative lies in the South.
Thanks for reading,
I'm not trolling, I promise. I wonder if part of the reason for the reluctance to write about the Southern campaign is that it fits awkwardly with the greater story of the Revolution as a story of liberty. Viewed in context, the Revolution in the south looks remarkably like a war for the preservation of slavery.ReplyDelete
What I mean is this: public support in Britain had been trending against slavery and the slave trade for some time. In 1772 the decision in Somerset v Stewart had said "The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged". Only 7 months after Lexington and Concord, Lord Dunmore had promised liberty to slaves who left their owners and joined the Crown's forces (Simon Schama writes about this in 'Rough Crossings'). Some sign of the difficulty for historians can be seen in Walter Edgar's 'Partisans and Redcoats'. Edgar goes to some length to describe the war in the South as a key part of the struggle for liberty, but makes only a single, fleeting reference to a single slave (a man named "Watt", who carried a message for his Patriot owner).
An interesting thought experiment is to ask whether Britain could have successfully divided the colonies by (a) doing nothing at all about slavery and (b) tapping into a cultural affinity with the agrarian, traditional South as opposed to the urban, mercantile North. My personal theory is that it could have done so, but it would have resulted in the Civil War happening much earlier (probably not long after Britain's prohibition of the slave trade in 1807, and certainly after the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire in 1833), and being fought between different parties (the Southern colonies vs Britain).
For the record: my own hypothesis is that, both during the Revolution and afterwards, the primary motivation for seeking to preserve slavery was economic rather than racial. That is, slavery ensured the availability of a desirable mix of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour and ensured that its costs were reasonably predicatable from year to year. Looking at it purely as a moral issue is to some extent asking the wrong question. Inasmuch as the War between the States fits a narrative, it's much more Greek tragedy than heroes-and-villains. Both sides had the law on their sides (See 'When everybody was right' in http://newciteaux.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/uss-philadelphia-hms-hydra-and-pax.html). The Confederacy was right, but the Union was not wrong.ReplyDelete
Hi Stephen, No, I don’t believe you’re trolling, but I am wondering about your deflection to that boogieman slavery as the rationale for marginalizing Southern history. For that to be the case, one would have to assume mainstream America is ashamed of the South’s role because of slavery and thereby ashamed to admit the importance the South played in the war and therefore the nation, but I do believe that’s the point you are trying to make. Perhaps that’s the way someone from outside looking in sees it, but let me give you my take on it.Delete
The South played an important role in winning the Revolution—and an even more important role in the Republic’s founding. We entered the “Union” based on the agreed upon contract (the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence) and slavery came with the bargain (some Northern states still had slavery, too). The alternative was our not ratifying the Constitution and either remain under the Articles or simply the South going its own way. We all needed the defense unity provided and the North needed us to fill the Federal coffer--the South was the money maker in those days. Those states benefited from the largesse slavery produced and some, like Rhode Island, thrived off the trade itself. Our Northern sisters agreed to slavery; deal done. Divergent economic interests eventually put the two sections at odds. Further, the North was determined the South would remain restricted within the growing Union. That growth, by the way, was bought with more than a fair share of Southern blood. The result was ever decreasing Southern representation in Congress while Northern representation grew, thereby ensuring the North’s economic agenda (Clay’s “American System”) which protected Northern interests at the expense of the South. The vast majority of Northerners, their politicians, and their industrial overlords would have been content, I believe, to have left Southern slavery alone—as long as the South was there to pay into the self-aggrandizing federal coffers earmarked for Northern interests. Secession cost those Yankees that. Worse, the existence of free-market/low-tariff Southern ports threatened Northern trade. The state rights narrative had become problematic. Centralization filled the North’s bill. The South wasn’t interested and chose to go its own way, but, you see, for more than one economic reason, the central government couldn’t simply let the South go. Instead of backing the state rights agenda inherent to our Federal Republic, the Northern states backed the centralists. I’m not sure how you can say the Union was not wrong—except by invoking the faux moral narrative of slavery as its reason for waging total war on the South. I argue the Union was both legally wrong IAW the Constitution and as morally wrong as modern Americans claim the South to be in its stance on slavery, because the rank and file were not necessarily opposed to it and many profited from it. Certainly the majority were bigots who did not want a significan Negro population in the North.
From your comments, I think you agree with the marginalization of Southern history, but I’m not sure you appreciate the true reason for it. For the mainstream—which I’m sorry to say now represents too many leftist/liberal elements—to be ashamed and attempt to portray the South as discrete from the rest of the nation in regards to slavery, one would have to assume they have a conscience and that they feel shame. These people have no conscience and they know no shame. What they do have is an agenda. More in my next comment.
“Viewed in context, the Revolution in the south looks remarkably like a war for the preservation of slavery.”ReplyDelete
I think you’d have to dig for that one. To whom? The opposition in Parliament to Liverpool’s slave traders? So, the abolitionists thought Parliament’s determination to hold onto the colonies was to promote the lucrative slave trade? I can see that argument from the British opposition to its nemesis, but you’re gonna to be hard-pressed to convince me the South’s reason for revolting was fear the abolitionist movement in England in 1776 was going to end slavery in the South. Ah, but I think you mean to imply, modern “thinkers” looking back are creating that scenario. Is this your thought or have you read it elsewhere?
I think everyone was giving thought to the institution during that period (for racial reasons, not moral ones, simply the fear of having too many Africans in America). Then came Britain’s loom and Whitney’s gin at the close of the century, making cotton production lucrative and putting manpower in demand. But as of 1776, I don't think MD, VA, the Carolinas, and GA were seeing that far into the future. What they did see was an England exploiting her colonists as she would a conquered indigenous population. They regarded themselves as British citizens. If it was fear of termination of slavery for the South, what motivated the North? Besides, if that were the case, those Yankees would have pounced on that argument about 1850. That narrative fits into the modern one of discrediting the South. I read your 2015 post on rule of law. Thanks for the link, but secession wasn’t declared illegal until after military conquest, not the law that established the Republic. That would make that 1869 ruling ex post facto—or, better, a non-existent law (I’m not a lawyer, but there’s nothing before the South’s defeat that makes secession illegal, but there is a 10th amendment that makes a state sovereign, enabling it to do anything it pleases as long as it’s not in violation of the Constitution. There was nothing in the Constitution prohibiting secession, so I do not agree that the Union was not wrong in accordance with the law.
As far as Britain’s Machiavellian gambit pitting potential enemies against one another, I would argue that’s what inducing slaves to turn on their masters was all about as well as forming alliances with the natives to attack the patriots. Pitting North against South? I think you’re too early. I say that because I’ve looked for it. I need to do more research on the colonial era as well as the Revolutionary period, but I’ve started a study on the Constitutional Convention, reading Madison’s notes, and I’m not seeing regional economic conflict. Madison does make mention of a difference in “interests” regarding the states, but doesn’t isolate those differences by region, so that point wasn’t a factor as of the Constitution’s framing. I deduce it wasn’t a point of discord during the Revolution either. I’m sure conflict can be found between colonies throughout the colonial period, but I don’t think I’ll find a sectional divide, rather ones between neighbors. The sectional divide came later and grew out of diverse economic interests. I think if Mother England could have created such a conflict during the war she would have done so. She was adept at such maneuvering. Farther down the timeline, I agree the field became fertile for such shenanigans. Are you aware there’s a school of thought here that Britain, tangled up with the Bank of England and the Rothschilds, fomented our Civil War? I don’t buy it—I know too much about what did happen to buy a British conspiracy. Still…as “an interesting experiment” one could ponder that a bit.
One more comment coming on your take on “liberty.”
Regarding your thoughts on the reasons the mainstream is reluctant to write about the Southern campaign during the Revolution, here are mine: My agenda is to defend the South and her role in what this nation once was, and perverted propaganda claims still is, the short-lived Republic that for a moment in time was truly exceptional. The sovereign state made it such, federalism as our founders famed it. Not “democracy.” The left’s role—and I reiterate the mainstream has been heavily infiltrated—is to remove all vestiges of that Republic from memory. The South/Confederacy was, in my opinion, the true link with the Republic. The mainstream’s antics toward the South validate that and, to my satisfaction, explain the marginalization of Southern history. I foresee more of the same as well as increasing attacks upon the Founders themselves, and not just the Southern ones. Keeping that ghoul of slavery rotting and stinking above ground is both a distraction and a hypocritical reason to condemn the South.ReplyDelete
Today’s mainstream adheres to the “democratic” narrative, the “all men are created equal” line from the Declaration—sometimes, I think that’s the only part of the history they’ve read and they don’t even understand that. But then again, the wisest among them do, for they wish the rest of the history obliterated. The left sells democracy as a politically correct social system, which being contradictory to human nature, must be directed by government—they and those of their ilk will be the government. Forced Utopia for the good of all. Control, actually, is what they want, indeed it is absolutely necessary to achieve their ends.
I think of “liberty” for the colonists not as pure democracy—the mob in action—but as sovereignty, and I think the writers of the Declaration believed that, too. Certainly the founders/leaders knew the pitfalls of democracy. Sovereignty meant home rule, representation in a legislature close at hand where needs and understanding were local and not meant to feed the agenda of the British Parliament thousands of miles away—a parliament that considered the concerns of the colonials irrelevant. Politicians could hardly fail to listen when the people putting them in office lived next door. That’s why sovereign states were so important and why centralization was anathema to what the South bought into over two-hundred years ago, and that’s what had been compromised less than three quarters of a century later when she decided to leave the Union.
The South lost an unwarranted war, the Republic was put to rest at the expense of the holy grail of “Union” during Reconstruction (and early American Utopian’s attempts at social engineering), and today the monster the South feared is proving insatiable—a centralized government also thousands of miles from the bulk of its citizens. The agenda driving the marginalization of Southern history is fear of what the South stood for, not to lessen the embarrassment of a nation drunk on its own propaganda. I really think you are giving those people too much credit for fair play.
I do remember reading this post now, but I didn't comment here. I said something about American Indians on our site "Confederate Appreciation". I would like to read this book. The South has been relegated to a non-participatory position in the Revolution by historians because, in my opinion, they would then have to explain why the South wasn't fighting merely to preserve slavery in the War for Southern Independence. They would have to acknowledge that the South had a very good "handle" on Constitutional principles, indeed.ReplyDelete
Stephen Tuck: At the time of the Revolution, the Northern States of Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island were heavily involved in the slave trade. You are assuming that the Northern States were against slavery from the time of the Revolution, it seems. On the contrary, the slave trade is how many of them made profit and grew wealthy.The South never engaged in the slave trade, nor did a Southern flag ever fly over a slave ship. It was, I repeat, Northerners who grew wealthy from the slave trade, and from producing rum, which they exported while traveling to pick up African slaves. The North "was not wrong" is highly incorrect and assumes the Northerners were against slavery on moral grounds, even though you say it was economic. The only reason the North agitated against slavery in the New Territories before the War is that Northerners, being mostly descended from British Puritans, did not want any Negroes, slave or free, in the New States. Many Northern States (such as illinois, Lincoln's home State) had laws prohibiting Negroes from settling in their States. They were repulsed by Negroes, unlike the South,which both lived with them and in many cases considered them family. Indeed, Northerners called Thomas Jefferson the "Negro President" and despised both him and all Southerners because they lived among Negroes and often were of mixed blood with both blacks and Indians. They considered Southerners to be "mongrels" because of this. The idea that the North was not racist is a very misguided idea. They were far more racist than the South. During Reconstruction, many Negroes, usually illiterate, voted in the Scallawag and Carpetbag governments which ruled the South, with the help of occupying federal troops, for ten years after the War. Further, these troops were often composed of Negroes, who greatly abused the Southern citizens. This resulted in a lot of enmity between blacks and whites in the South, not because of racism, which was peculiar to the North then and still is, but because of betrayal after the War.ReplyDelete