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HappyWarrior  Dec 1, 2018 • 7:13:49am

Long article but this is an excellent profile of a prominent Neo-Confederate by the WaPo magazine. I think it really illustrates a lot of my thesis why people like this continue to exist. People like Frank Earnest, born after the death of the last Civil War veterans FWIW were brought up in this culture that glamorizes CSA ancestors. I mean I get it. No one wants to think their ancestor fought for a noble cause and although he did not know anyone who did fight for the CSA, he certainly had a grandfather who knew plenty of CSA veterans so I kind of get that but to me why it endures is the lack of introspection.

I’ve talked about my second great grandfather here on LGF. My second great grandfather, John Conrad Schmittdiel was a German immigrant from Raboldhausen, Hessen who arrived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania not long before the Civil War broke out. My great grandmother, my paternal grandfather’s mother lost her father when she was barely four years old so she never heard too much from her father about his Civil War exploits. I don’t know too much about John thus other than that he was a blacksmith, German immigrant, and a devout Catholic who sadly was murdered in 1883.

What I do know is this it is very unlikely that John Schmittdiel was either an abolitionist or a proponent of racial equality. And I know that even if he was the exception to the white men of his era, he was just that. However, where I judge men like him and Mr. Earnest’s ancestors is the decision they made in a young Republic’s critical hour. As news arrived that Fort Sumter had been attacked by rebels, men like my second great grandfather felt outraged enough to enlist in the Army of our country, men like his ancestor joined the rebels. Every state in the Union sent volunteers to protect the Union.

This isn’t to suggest that every Union man was a Saint or that every CSA man was a blood thirsty racist but the CSA’s cause and you can look at what their founders said was founded in the principle of protecting white supremacy in the South. And despite Southern lore calling our Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression”, 9 of the 13 states that joined the CSA joined the CSA before Abraham Lincoln became our sixteenth President in March 1861. For the legend of Robert E. Lee who stood by his state, men like George “The Rock of Chickamauga” Thomas who stood by his country in that difficult time is forgotten.

My father grew up in Arlington, Virginia not too far from a pass of highway known as Lee Highway. Even here in progressive Northern Virginia, Lee remains as did J.E.B. Stuart until recently. Confederate activists like Mr. Earnest want their ancestors sacrifices not to be forgotten but I would argue that CSA hagiography has caused the sacrifices of the millions of men and women who volunteered for their country in this time to be forgotten.

In the end, I feel we must learn from the CSA by being honest about it. We musn’t hate who our ancestors were but acknowledge what they were. And that includes coming to grips with that the CSA was formed to protect the interests of slavery and white people. When 12 Years a Slave, based on an actual memoir gets more outrage about its content from a vocal minority than Gone With the Wind, a fictional and romanticized vision of the CSA and Old South, then we see the problem with the culture of Southern whites.

2
ckkatz  Dec 1, 2018 • 10:54:40pm

Interesting article! Thanks for posting it.

It seems to me that a lot of the Germans who immigrated in that period to the US became “Free Soilers” and economic opponents to the slavery system.

They understood that the slave plantations sucked out all the air from the local economy of the black belt. (Areas where slaves, and plantations, were concentrated.) The plantations took all the best land, dominated the political leadership, actively drove out abolitionists and Free Soilers, and organized the economy to ensure its dependence upon them.

Certainly that was the case with my German relatives who settled in the Missouri-Kansas borderlands.

3
HappyWarrior  Dec 3, 2018 • 10:32:54am

re: #2 ckkatz

Interesting article! Thanks for posting it.

It seems to me that a lot of the Germans who immigrated in that period to the US became “Free Soilers” and economic opponents to the slavery system.

They understood that the slave plantations sucked out all the air from the local economy of the black belt. (Areas where slaves, and plantations, were concentrated.) The plantations took all the best land, dominated the political leadership, actively drove out abolitionists and Free Soilers, and organized the economy to ensure its dependence upon them.

Certainly that was the case with my German relatives who settled in the Missouri-Kansas borderlands.

Yes that’s my understanding as well about the Germans. Regarding my second great grandfather, it’s hard to say since he wasn’t a farmer but rather a blacksmith. It is interesting seeing how the different socio-economic groups of the time responded to slavery. Sad to say the other side of my family that were here at that point- the Irish while not reallly gung ho like Southern Christians on the morality of slavery, they weren’t prominent among the abolition nor free soil movement which I think is a shame given what many of them including my own family were fleeing while not outright slavery was pretty bad.


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