Happy Confederate Heritage and Not-at-All Racism Day!

Ty Wright/Getty Images

by Ben Mathis-Lilley

After nine black Americans were murdered at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June by a white supremacist, a number of states removed the Confederate flag or images thereof from official display. Many official tributes to the Confederacy persist, though, and Monday government offices in Alabama and Mississippi are closed as those states celebrate “Confederate Memorial Day.” Several other Southern states hold the same celebration on different dates; state offices in Georgia are closed Monday as well, but per an order signed last year by Gov. Nathan Deal the occasion is now only identified in generic terms as a “State Holiday.”

A new Southern Poverty Law Center report identifies “at least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy” — monuments, statues, schools named after Jefferson Davis, etc. — in public spaces across the country. Contra the common argument that Confederate tributes are a celebration of ‘heritage’ rather than white supremacy, the SPLC’s press release notes that “the creation of Confederate displays spiked at the beginning of the Jim Crow era and again in response to the civil rights movement.”

Of particular note: 10 United States military bases are named after Confederates, including a fort named after a general named John Brown Gordon who is believed to have gone on to lead the Georgia KKK. Heritage, not hate!


Laws of the Confederate States [partial]

“511. That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate states, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate states, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished, at the discretion of the court.”

Voter Suppression — Nothing New


Alexandria Gazette, Volume 102, Number 14, 16 January 1901

Governor Aycock of North Carolina says that while the good of all the people of his state depends upon restricting negro suffrage to the intelligent members of that race and to those of them who have some material interest in the welfare of the State, it is just as requisite and necessary to secure that race all their natural and legal rights, and to treat them kindly and make all proper allowances for the delinquencies. And he is right.

From Wikipedia page of Charles Brantley Aycock:

In 1898 and 1900, Aycock was prominent in the Democratic Party’s “white supremacy” Solid South campaigns.[1] Aycock’s involvement with the Wilmington insurrection of 1898 is chronicled in official state commission report. “Planned violence to suppress the African American and Republican communities grew into unplanned bloodshed. The frenzy over white supremacy victory, incessantly repeated by orators such as Alfred Moore Waddelland Charles Aycock simply could not be quieted after an overwhelming and somewhat anticlimactic election victory.”[2] Aycock was reportedly not present in Wilmington the day of the insurrection.

In 1900, Aycock was elected Governor over Republican Spencer B. Adams,[3] as part of a sweeping Democratic victory which included a suffrage amendment. Aycock was a supporter of the amendment and campaigned on the issue.[4]

Indeed it has become the fashion among Republicans and Populists to assert the unfitness of the negro to rule, but when they use the word rule, they confine it to holding office. When we say that the negro is unfit to rule we carry it one step further and convey the correct idea when we declare that he is unfit to vote. To do this we must disfranchise the negro. This movement comes from the people. Politicians have been afraid of it and have hesitated, but the great mass of white men in the State are now demanding and have demanded that the matter be settled once and for all. To do so is both desirable and necessary – desirable because it sets the white man free to move along faster than he can go when retarded by the slower movement of the negro.

— Charles Aycock, Address Accepting the Democratic Nomination for Governor, April 11, 1900 [5]

Lincoln’s “Order of Retaliation”

Washington, DC
July 30, 1863

It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service.  The law of nations and the usages and customs of war as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies.  To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offense against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.

The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color,  the offense shall be punished by retaliations upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession.

It is therefore ordered that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed;  and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due a prisoner of war.

Abraham Lincoln

Negroes, Teamsters, and Dead Confederates

Alexandria Gazette, Volume 102, Number 10, January 11, 1901

“The republican administration did agree to take the remains of dead Confederates who died in Washington away from those of the negroes and teamsters alongside of whom they were buried, and to reinter them by themselves in one spot in the federal cemetery at Arlington,  but it refuses to disinter and send them to Richmond to be buried with their colleagues in the Confederate cemetery there.  And they will have to remain where they are until their survivors raise the required money for their removal.”

City Celebrates Unveiling of Confederate Monument

Alexandria Gazette,  Volume 90, Number 122, 23 May 1889

Tomorrow,the day of the unveiling of the Confederate Monument will be observed in this city as a partial holiday. After the morning hours the city offices will be closed, as will also most of the business houses, both merchants and clerks being anxious to either take part in or witness the ceremonies.  The schools, both public and private, will give holiday and there will be a general turn out of the citizens, and business in a measure will be suspended.

Robert E Lee Camp Moves to Honor Murderer

Alexandria Gazette, Volume 101, Number 287, December 4, 1900

R.E. Lee Camp – The regular monthly meeting of the R.E. Lee Camp, Confederate Veterans, was held in their hall last night, Commander Milburn in the chair. A communication relative to preservation of the rolls of the Confederate soldiers by the State, was read and action deferred. Steps were taken in reference to placing on the Confederate monument the name of Capt. Jas. W. Jackson who was killed in this city on May 24, 1861. The following were appointed to make arrangements for the proper observance of Gen. Lee’s birthday January 19 next: On banquet:  Comrades Thos. Perry, A.C. Wyckoff, E.C. Graham, F.J. Davidson, Henry Crump, P. Gorman, Edgar Warfield.  On speaker: Jno. M. Johnson, K. Kemper, and Dr. Harold Snowden.

Note: At the meeting of the R.E. Lee Camp the night before, meeting notes refer to Lieut. James W. Jackson.  I am at a loss to explain how Jackson is posthumously awarded the rank of Lieutenant — and literally, overnight promoted to the rank of Captain —  except as subterfuge for including his name on a monument, arguably for the purpose of honoring soldiers who died in service to their cause.  I’ve been unable to locate any records of the confederacy which indicate Jackson was enlisted before his death.

Lincoln’s Call for Troops



WHEREAS the laws of the United States have been, for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.

Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured. I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to repossess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days from this date.

Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at twelve o’clock, noon, on Thursdays the fourth day of July next, then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.

By the President:ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Secretary of State WILLIAM H. SEWARD

Alexandria’s Delegate to the Convention of 1861

George William Brent (1821-1872) was elected by the citizens of Alexandria to represent them in the convention to consider secession from the United States.  Originally a vocal supporter of the pro-union faction, Brent twice voted against secession in convention.  He ultimately signed the Ordinance of Secession.

Brent warned his fellow delegates that civil war would lead to the end of slavery.  Read more about Brent at the Library of Virginia’s website.

Brent later served in the Confederacy, beginning his military career obtaining a commission as a major in the 17th  Regiment Virginia Infantry.