Is there a Southern movement in 21st Century America?
Written by Mark Vogl
Is there a Southern movement within the complex diverse cultural quilt that is America as we head towards November of 2012? Is there any reason to think the South is what it was, a region of its own values, and political, social and economic interests?
I define the Southern movement as people who see present day value in;
both the original Constitution, as written by the Founders, and in the actions of the people of the South to try to maintain the original political structure of their nation, and a desire to bring those elements into today’s political discourse,
loyalty to the South second only to a Christian God.
the concept of republic, and the legal, accepted right of secession.
To be a movement it must be concerned with today; with the challenges of today, with the politics of today, with the future. This is an essential part of the question and is the standard by which we will measure whether there is a present day movement.
The movement may be enhanced and, to some extent, evidenced through culture, and music. The Southern tradition is about a love of the land, and the place of Christ in daily living. Any Southern movement would not be about the dust of history, but about the needs of today, and the application of the principles, values and character of the men who were the South of 1860.
This article is intended to explore the size and condition of the Southern Movement, if there is one. Is it coordinated or operating along separate and uncooperative avenues? Is the Southern movement engaged in the Culture War? If so, how? Is the South ashamed of its history? Has the most recent invasion of Yankees to the South, in the Post Air Conditioning era, overwhelmed Southern identity? Or is the South resisting the homogenization of regions within the United States into a sort of a “milk toast” Americanism?
Is it coincidence, or part of a divine plan that the United States of America is experiencing the Sesquicentennial (150th) Remembrance of its Civil War at the same time the nation is at a crossroads as big as the one at Fort Sumter?
It’s important to note here that Southern symbols, icons, and culture were still alive and well as late as the 1970’s. Confederate naval ensigns would fly at high school and college football games and decorate cars burning gas on the various NASCAR tracks throughout the South. The Rebels was a common name for high school or college sports team. Dixie would play as often as the national anthem. And Southern icons like Lee and Jackson were still hung in portraits over the bed of a family’s son(s).
Southern bands like Alabama continued into the late twentieth century. Groups like Shenandoah offered hope that Southern music would survive. But modern country just isn’t what it was. Southern rock and roll doesn’t dominate the radio stations of Dixie any more.
Somewhere, and somehow, these regional trademarks were erased or marginalized. The culture war of the sixties continues to this day. Inclusion of some has meant exclusion of others. This has not been about making room at the table for more, but about pushing some out of their seats, so that others could occupy them.
As I researched this article, I tried to look at the widest possible view of what could be considered a part of the Southern movement. One commercial business seemed a real possibility as a participant in the movement. This business uses the Confederate naval ensign and the words Dixie and Southern in its name. Yet, when I contacted them for an interview, the reply was startling. They did not want to be interviewed or mentioned in this article! They did not want to offend anyone’s feelings. I found it confusing that they would so blatantly use Southern symbols to adorn their business, yet refuse an interview for this article.
Let me close the introduction by saying that just because a group or person is mentioned in this article, does not indicate they are a part of a Southern movement, but rather that through my experience and knowledge I felt addressing them in this paper was important. And there may be groups dedicated to modern application of Southern values which are not mentioned because of my limited knowledge. Should those groups see this article and wish to be included in any further work in this area, I hope you will contact me.
Let’s begin this article with a little known, but very talented musician and song writer whose upbringing was in Boston, Massachusetts. Jed Marum moved to Texas for employment reasons. But as things turned out, he has gone farther and farther down the road of song writer and entertainer. His music is Celtic and also Southern. Yes, that’s what I said, Southern.
One of Jed’s best songs is titled “I Didn’t Know I was a Yankee, ‘til I Moved to Texas!” Jed is fascinated by the South, its story, and the tragedy that it has endured as a result of Yankee invasion and occupation. Jed’s music tells the story of the South from the Southern view. He is operating in the underground that is the Southern movement. He performs for living history and reenactment events, and at meetings of heritage organizations. He has written songs and music for movies about the Civil War.
Jed is unique, both in his talent, and in his vantage point. Because he is not Southern, Jed appreciates the South as only a foreigner can.
The Heart of the Movement’
The very heart of what is the movement, if there is a movement, is an ill-defined but beautiful concept known as “the South.” This concept, to my knowledge, has never been succinctly described. But attempts have been made.
One attempt dealt solely with the contest in Virginia, and two of the South’s icons, Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan Jackson. This effort was a video program produced by New Liberty Videos www.newlibertyvideo.com of Missouri titled “Warriors of Honor.” This story paints a picture of the martial South, which wraps together a deep and shared Christian faith that pervaded the leadership of the Army of Northern Virginia with a devotion to duty, a conduct of honor, and brilliance on the field unparalleled in American history.
The South is more than the Army of Northern Virginia. The South’s ideals and essence were described through the creation of the Confederate Constitution, and the great courage and sacrifice made by so many. Alas, there were lesser beings in the South white population, and these men’s blood flows today, just as that of the nobler men. The great individualism, which is a Southern trait, also created fissures and fractures that divided the South through crisis, as it does today.
Still, there was a higher South - a land before heaven, on earth. The Confederate naval ensign is a symbol of this South. It is a rally point for Southern pride, for Southern nationalism, and a reminder of the Constitution of Madison’s hand, and Jefferson’s Declaration. The Confederate naval ensign is an internationally known symbol of the South. With respect to its value as a regional trademark, it would be impossible to estimate in terms of dollars. This flag represents the defiance of the South as it left the union, and could be the symbol of a modern Southern movement.
Any exploration of a Southern movement would be incomplete without consideration of the various heritage organizations which trace themselves back to the Confederacy. These are the largest identifiable groups connected to the South. The largest of these organizations, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (S.C.V.), is somewhere between 25 and 28,000 members. Headquartered in Columbia, Tennessee, its membership extends overseas to Brazil (where a Confederate colony was established after the war) and in Europe. Though their Charge (purpose) is to vindicate the Cause, they are not organized, nor do they conduct activities which would do so. They have no political arm, and their fund-raising efforts are anemic. Their sole strength is at the local level in towns and hamlets across the South.
As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans since 1994, I first became aware of the different heritage organizations of the South. Foremost among these is the United Daughters of the Confederacy (U.D.C.). It is not difficult to say that this group, more than any other, is responsible for most of the monuments, and preservation of many of the battle colors and documents of the Confederate South. However, in recent times, the U.D.C. has established a series of hurdles to membership that would fatigue most marathon runners. Similar to the S.C.V., a genealogical connection from a Confederate veteran to a potential member is required. But, proof of that reality is in some sense beyond normal standards, and other personal information requested could cause potential members to hesitate in their application.
Another organization, much smaller, and of dubious commitment to the Southern Cause is the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. The MOS&B is not large and seems to have a belief in the genetic properties of leadership, whereby the descendants of the great Southern leaders of one hundred and fifty years ago have somehow secured the leadership traits of the South’s most renowned heroes and will exercise them to control today’s lesser beings.
Other auxiliary groups like the Descendants of Confederate Veterans and the Order of the Confederate Rose are more evidence of fissures and fractures within established heritage organizations, than a rush by the general public to join the Southern movement. Recruiting efforts by these organizations have targeted existing heritage organization memberships rather than break ground into new, untilled areas for membership.
Of course, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is the premier Southern heritage organization with membership just under thirty thousand. (It is not growing despite the Sesquicentennial Anniversary.) Disappointing, given that a genealogical formulae developed by Dr. Ray James of Texas A & M and some of his colleagues, indicates there may be as many as 80 million living American descendants of the Confederacy.
Across the South, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is probably the most active group concerning Southern heritage. While they do not participate in influencing government policy, they are very active at the camp (local) level in parades, classrooms, and conducting ceremonies honoring their Confederate ancestry. They do maintain a presence, a Southern presence in thousands of cities and villages across the South. Many of their members, and some of their leadership, are devoted to the Charge and the Cause. So the verdict is still out. They do much, but with the right leadership, a change in attitude of a segment of this organization and a modernizing of their Constitutions, they could become a real force in the movement.
The Internet’s Role in the Southern movement
The internet plays a big role in the modern 21st Century Southern movement. It provides a whole new, international means to link people of a Southern attitude. Interestingly, if you were to use Google to search the internet for the word “Dixie,” you would find 103,000,000 hits. If you search for the term “Yankee”, you find 23,000,000 hits! A startling discovery.
The most common use of the internet in the Southern movement is for websites. These sites normally act as advertisements for the local organizations, “camps” of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. There are also sites for museums, battlefields, re-enactor units, etc.
Other communication devices used on the internet are email lists. Individuals or groups become news-gatherers for events and issues occurring in the south. Some of these lists can have thousands of members, and are a means for quickly distributing information across the South. The Sons of Confederate Veterans Telegraph is an email list run from their national headquarters in Columbia, Tennessee. In addition, a blog is also operated by the S.C.V.
The Southern Heritage News and Views is both a website and a news distribution point with more than 3,500 subscribers. Charles Demastus, the owner, has been operating this outlet for fourteen years and reports subscribers from all over the world. Mr. Demastus reports that the subscriber list for Southern Heritage News and Views has leveled out over the past couple of years. Given we are in the second year of the Sesquicentennial, one has to ask if the poor economy has cooled enthusiasm? Or does the leveling off reflect reaching the ceiling of people interested in Southern or Civil War history?
One of the venues featuring Southern culture on the internet is a new brand of radio. This “radio” operates strictly off the internet.
One of those radio stations is Dixie Radio, http://www.dixieradio.net/ owned and operated by Winston Boulware of Millbrook, Alabama. Winston says: “I do it for the fun of it.”
Social media like Facebook has created a national network for people who enjoy Southern culture, and/or participate in Civil War re-enactments, cotillions, balls, and living histories. There are a number of Southern Facebook pages set up, each with hundreds or thousands of members.
It is a theory of mine that the personal computer has done a lot to create a whole new wave of authors of varying talents, intellectual skills, and academic training. You need only attend S.C.V. reunions each year to see new authors with new stories and theories. While much of this is probably not central to the development of a Southern movement, some seed may sprout from this wild garden which could ignite increased interest.
African American Confederates
When asked about the diversity of the subscribers connected to Southern Heritage News & Views, Charles pointed to “HK Edgerton, Al McCray and Bob Harrison” as long-time subscribers of African American descent.
Mr. Edgerton is especially well known as a spokesman for his Pro-Confederate views. Recently his brother, Lee, sent out an email announcement about a book he had just completed concerning HK’s famous walk. “ On Oct. 14th, “2002 H.K. and I set off to bring attention to the wrongful removal of the Confederate plaques from the G.S.A. Building in Austin, Texas. This endeavor is now known as The MarchAcross Dixie. We covered seven states and dozens of cities in this endeavor.”
Lee Edgerton refers to a despicable act by then Governor George Bush in ordering the removal of plaques acknowledging the financial contributions of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to build a state building. Bush’s orders were executed in the dark of night to prevent public notice or action. As is the S.C.V. modus operandi, they took the state to court, but failed to get the plaques restored to their original location. However, Mr. J. K. Edgerton’s heroic efforts made him a hero within the Southern movement. For more information about the book, The Historical March Across Dixie, 2002-2003 (Copywriter 2011), call 828-505-1385. This coffee-table-sized book is filled with colorful photos of the march.
In a telephone interview with H. K., I found him impassioned, highly educated, articulate, experienced in celebrating Southern culture and history, and committed to his purpose. H. K. said the enemies of the South “divided the South white and black. The whites who owned my ancestors were not just called master, but family and friend.”
H.K. said he had been invited by a Black and Latino student organization at Wright State University to speak to them. In response to my question what was he going to speak about, he said, “I am going to talk about the African-American contribution to the war effort, as soldiers, teamsters, and operating the plantations and the rest of the home front while the whites were off to war.” He went on, “They are trying to erase the memory of what we did to help the South, and to take away our position of honor in the South.” H.K. mentioned a black soldier who served with Confederate Cavalry leader, Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Some within the Southern movement talk about secession and the creation of a new Southern nation. I asked H.K. how that fit into his work and thinking? “That is not my part of my agenda,” he said. “It’s scary to think about that. But people are tired of the tyranny. The South is still under Reconstruction, each time they attack the Confederate naval ensign, or like Governor Bush taking down the plaques, we see occupation.” H. K. made a point to thank the League of the South for the many times they have helped him on projects.
H.K. was 55 years old when he did his march across the South. But that wasn’t his last walk. H.K. mentioned leading a Martin Luther King Parade carrying the Confederate flag and walking with the Sons of Confederate of Veterans in Cross City, Florida.
For more information on H.K. Edgerton go to www.southernheritage411.com H.K. calls himself a “seven-day-a-week Confederate!”
Another African American very active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans is Nelson Wimbush who has attended many national reunions. I first met Nelson in 1995 in Richmond at the 100th Reunion of the S.C.V.
Race is not the issue reported in the mainstream media. The present modern-day Southern movement accepts the equality of civil rights. The League of the South, the most ardent of the groups within the Southern movement, states: “ The LS disavows a spirit of malice and extends an offer of good will and cooperation to Southern blacks in areas where we can work together as Christians to make life better for all people in the South. We affirm that, while historically the interests of Southern blacks and whites have been in part antagonistic, true Constitutional government would provide protection to all law-abiding citizens…”
In fact, serious research and academic work focused on the contributions to Southern war effort b African Americans are sought after and highly prized. Whether it be on the battlefield, serving as soldiers, or as combat support and combat service support troops constructing trench lines, or driving the supply wagons operating with the armies, or at home, running the plantations, it is becoming more evident each year that the South’s African-American population was essential to sustaining the war effort.
Abbeville Institute http://abbevilleinstitute.org/ in South Carolina is certainly one of the intellectual centers of the Southern movement. Annually, the Institute holds conferences on various aspects of the politics of regional difference, and events that led to secession. Every year, a summer program for college and graduate students is conducted at the Institute. Members see their charge as that of illuminating vast areas of history that clearly indicate the vindictive and aggressive actions of the North against the South;
Dr. Don Livingston wrote me after a telephone interview to say: “The Institute was formed in 2003 by 12 academics at the University of Virginia concerned that the Southern tradition is no longer being taught in colleges and universities across the South, except as fuel for political correctness. The task of the Institute is to critically explore what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition. To this end it holds an annual week long summer school for college and graduate students and an annual scholars’ conference for academics and other thoughtful people. To examine what is valuable in the Southern tradition is at the same time to present a critique of much of American modernity.
The Institute, from its small beginning, now has over 120 academics associated with its mission. These scholars, over the past decade, have produced over 40 scholarly books on all aspects of the Southern tradition. The scholarship of the Institute is necessarily thought provoking. Readers are invited to rethink the nationalist and other paradigms that determine so much of American culture.”
As an example consider this from a recent conference on the topic of Northern dissent from Lincoln’s war:
“Nationalist historians for 150 years have protected Americans from confronting the stark immorality of prosecuting what French philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenel called, “a war such as Europe had never yet seen” to force eleven States into a federation from which their people had voted to secede. Should eleven American States secede today and form a federation of their own, such a war would be judged criminal.”
In a telephone interview, Dr. Donald Livingston described the Southerners of Sumter as “bearing witness to the Jeffersonian view of the Constitution. We see the Southern tradition as looking all the way back to the original Constitution. The South is older than the United States. It had an identity that was recognized before the Constitution was written.”
The Institute’s goals express an understanding of present bias, and establish an over the horizon objective; “This condition in higher education is not going to change overnight. Those who created it are tenured, and will dominate in higher education for at least a generation-- and even longer since they are disposed to hire and tenure only their own. Even so, there are many scholars in America and abroad who take inspiration from the Southern tradition, and many others who are open to what it has to teach. Students too are open. Many feel they are somehow encountering on campus a profound intellectual and spiritual disorder, but they do not know how to think about it.”
Dr. Donald Livingston described the Southerners of Sumter as “bearing witness to the Jeffersonian view of the Constitution. We see the Southern tradition as looking all the way back to the original Constitution. The South is older than the United States. It had an identity that was recognized before the Constitution was written.”
The Institute’s goals express an understanding of present bias, and establish an over-the-horizon objective: “This condition is not going to change overnight. Those who created it are tenured, and will dominate in higher education for at least a generation-- and even longer since they are disposed to hire and tenure only their own. Even so, there are many scholars in America and abroad who take inspiration from the Southern tradition, and many others who are open to what it has to teach. Students too are open. Many feel they are somehow encountering on campus a profound intellectual and spiritual disorder, but they do not know how to think about it.”
The Abbeville Institute is on the cutting edge of bringing the Southern view up to today. Formed in 2003 by a small number of professors at the University of Virginia, the institute now has 120 associates. Its most recent book is Rethinking the American Union for the 21st Century. (Pelican Publishing, 2012). It can’t get more challenging and timely than that.
The Institute also conducts Jefferson Seminars. These are local gatherings of folks to explore a topic guided by an Institute scholar. If you would like to fund one for your community, contact the Institute at
The Grady McWhiney Research Foundation http://www.mcwhiney.org/mission.html
This not-for-profit foundation is focused on the study of the history of the mid 19th- century United States, Civil War and American military affairs and Texas history. Dr. Grady McWhiney, the founder of this foundation, had a very pro-Southern reputation.
“A well-known and respected scholar, McWhiney served as head of the Southern History Institute at the University of Alabama for many years. His published work, in the form of several books and numerous articles, has been both ground-breaking and provocative. In the course of his nearly forty years as a professional historian, McWhiney earned a reputation for impeccable scholarship that often led to unconventional insights into our nation's history.” Dr, McWhiney earned his PhD, at Columbia University in New York.
Dr. McWhiney did serious work in the study and consideration of General Braxton Bragg, CSA and also Southern history. “His most path-breaking and provocative work, Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South,” is directly taken from the website page describing Dr. McWhiney. So one would think the Foundation is deeply involved in the preservation of a positive Southern history.
Dr. Don Frazier, President and CEO of McWhiney, has been with the foundation for 20 years. He says that the “foundation is open to more interpretation, advancing investigation and scholarship in Southern history,” and went on to say that they had published a lot of Civil War books over the years.
Dr. Frazier said that McWhiney’s work in Cracker Culture focused on “the Celtic influence in the formation of the Southern culture.” Frazier went on to say more work is needed to continue to develop that theme.
Dr. Frazier indicated that the South had been a brake on evolving the Constitution away from a Republic towards centralization. He used the term “obstructionist” to describe how the Southern senators and congressmen had slowed the process until secession. Once their chairs were empty, Lincoln and the remaining Congress were able to begin the process, which has brought this nation to its present condition.
20 years as a professor in the field, Dr. Frazier believes the Southern movement may have “reached its crest and is now subsiding. Part of what they are arguing for has been coopted by the Libertarian movement and other groups nationally. In many ways, what they had been saying were regional (Southern) concerns but now are becoming national concerns. There is a general uneasiness with what is occurring at the national level.”
Lastly, Dr. Frazier said Southerners had made a huge tactical mistake by not condemning racism. Because they would not separate themselves from racism in the post war years, their credibility on other issues and the future of the American society was suspect.
The Stephen D. Lee Institute
The Stephen D. Lee Institute http://www.stephendleeinstitute.com/ is part of the educational arm of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The purpose of the Institute is described on its website: “The Institute’s goal is to organize accomplished and distinguished professional scholarship to inform our members and the general public of the Southern side of the war. To that end the Institute makes available recognized scholars to present such subjects as states' rights and the Constitutional aspects of the war; economic motives for invasion of the South; the dubious benevolence behind the slavery issue; Union Army war crimes and other unsavory aspects of the war against the South in 1861–1865; and other aspects of the true causes and nature of the war.”
Brag Bowling, current Chairman of the Stephen D. Lee Institute, said “We are trying to give a solid academic foundation to the cause of the Southern secession. A lot of people realize that the Stephen D. Lee Institute is becoming an educational force.” Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an arch enemy of the South, called the S. D. Lee Institute the “Confederate think tank
The Stephen D. Lee Institute convenes in locations around the South bringing academic expertise of great renown together to address questions important to the Constitutional crisis of 1859-1860. Many leaders within the SCV believe that the past struggle has great relevance to what is occurring within the United States today. The next session of the Stephen D. Lee Institute will be conducted in Savannah, Georgia, February 3 - 5, 2012.
The Kennedy twins
Intellectual pursuits are not just the possession of institutes. Two of the most powerful intellects in the Southern movement are the Kennedy brothers, Donnie and Ron. Their book , The South Was Right, has sold thousands of copies, and is must reading for many in the Southern movement. With this book, sold on the shelves of Barnes and Nobles, the South crossed sabers with the politically correct version of history. And if the Kennedys’ writings are electrifying, their ability to communicate from the “pulpit” is an even stronger weapon.
Donne Kennedy said, “I wonder is there a Southern movement? But as compared to the past, there is so much more now…in a broad sense, there must be a Southern movement. The Abbeville Institute is an excellent example of the growth of it in my life time. It’s hard to define, hard to prove it. The Southern movement is in the heart, but not in the Yellow Pages.”
Donnie and Ron became Southern nationalists in the late sixties.. But today Donnie says that Facebook is filled with references to a “Southern movement.” In the sixties we felt like we were by ourselves, but today we see a lot more evidence of people who feel as we do.
Don Kennedy sees the same trends as Dr. Frazier, but from a much more optimistic perspective. Kennedy believes that because Southern views have become more popular at a national level, this should encourage local people in the South to coalesce around a Southern identity. “Now at last we are seen as the wave of the future. Everything that we have said as Southern nationalists is coming to fruition. We have allies now! We are celebrating!”
Ron and Don are looking for a “Ron Paul” for the Southern national movement. That was the whole reason for the Kennedy effort to get into the Republican Primary movement four years earlier. “One day there will be a standard bearer for the South. Ron Paul is setting an example for the future. Just as the Libertarians have had to wait their turn, but it came, so will the turn of the South!”
Kennedy sees the Southern movement as the best answer for America when it collapses under the great financial strains being created by the socialists in Washington and at the state capitals. “We must have a plan, a vision of where to go when the United States collapses.”
Many museums in the South have had to redefine themselves in order to qualify for money. In Columbus, Georgia, a museum dedicated to the Confederate Navy had to reorganize itself as the Civil War Naval Museum in order to qualify for federal monies. Jefferson Davis’ prediction that the winners would write the history seems even truer today than it did in the years immediately following the war. Many Southern leaders wrote memoirs and histories. These writings could not be twisted by the victors. But they are less and less available.
Sea Raven Press
There are a number of publishers who seem to have a connection with the Southern movement. Pelican Publishing in New Orleans, Louisiana, may be the largest and most recognizable; but they are not the only ones. Eastern Digital Resources on the East Coast, and Sea Raven Press in central Tennessee are two small publishers who seek out and publish less well-known writers.
Cassidy Ravensdale, is the President of Sea Raven Press, http://www.searavenpress.com/index.html. Ms. Ravensdale said they “ believe that Sea Raven Press is the world’s number one pro-South publisher.” Lochlainn Seabrook is their primary author and has been writing for over fifteen years, averaging about one book a year. He is presently working on a children’s book. A Rebel Born a defense of Nathan Bedford Forrest was awarded the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
When I asked Ms. Ravensdale if the term “Southern movement” meant anything to her, she immediately became animated in her voice. She responded, “ Over the past 150 years there have been a lot of northerners and misinformed Southerners who know little about Southern culture, the causes for secession and the war. Mr. Seabrook is a truth teller who wants to get the truth out through his writings.” She went on to say that the Southern movement is about preserving the Southern culture in all its truth and beauty.
Sea Raven Press is associated with the League of the South, and Mr. Seabrook’s work has been commended by Michael Givens, present Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. .
Sea Raven Press is located in Middle Tennessee in Franklin. They sell their books through a wide variety of local vendors, which include both gun shops and hairdressers, and through a variety of larger distributors and book store chains. When asked about the Southern movement in relations to book sales, Ms. Ravensdale said; “Our sales our doubling every six months!”
Mr. Seabrook also writes both country and blue grass music and is related to Elvis Presley and other country and blue grass artists.
One very large group of men, who could comprise sizeable elements within the Southern movement, are re-enactors. These men are mostly formed in small company-sized units, and have invested money and time in developing themselves as re-enactors. They practice the skills necessary to perform as period correct re-enactors. Their kit, uniform, weapons, tentage, and accessories can easily run more than a thousand dollars. Then there is the cost of travel to far-off places, and possibly the expense of taking off work, or at least using vacation days. Re-enactments are not weather sensitive. Rain or cold, wind or extreme heat can be the environment one could be exposed to for days. So there is a level of commitment to being a re-enactor.
For the larger battles, like Gettysburg, Shiloh and others, thousands of men will travel hundreds of miles. Some will bring horses and cannon. At Gettysburg it is not unusual to have more than 10,000 re-enactors, sometimes as many as 20,000, to refight the famous campaign.
However, the motives for re-enacting are diverse, and because there are literally hundreds, possibly thousands of Southern re-enactor units, it would be impossible to say that even a good sized segment of the men are members of the Southern movement.
A lot of the re-enactors have an interest in history, and probably, a majority do it because brothers, friends, etc. do it, and they love the camaraderie. Les Pettigrew, Captain of the 15th Texas: “Camaraderie is the glue that keeps it all together. Taking care of each other is a large part of the experience, and does help to meld you into a cohesive unit.” Les expects to put 30 rifles in the field at the 150th Anniversary of Shiloh.
“We sit around campfires at night and talk about the history of the war.” In a way, a lot of re-enactors do it for patriotism of the South. Do some have political preferences? All re-enactors have their own opinion, but everybody is still for the Southland.
In response to a question about the Southern movement, Captain Pettigrew said; “Regarding the Southern movement, I think most Southern re-enactors would like to see preservation of Southern values, but there are many ways to do that.”
Museums, Churches, odds and ends
Some not sensitive to the nuances of social intellectual fashion might think the many Civil War Round Tables that are scattered over the nation are an element within the Southern movement. But alas, they are not. While they do have Southerners as a portion of their membership, the Round Tables are more a market for college professors peddling their propaganda, than they are expression of Southern culture.
Modern American academic fashion has swung obscenely to the side of minorities, placing huge amounts of emphasis on the abstracts of history, rather than focusing on its main elements. Diversity has shattered reality as kids learn more about the eccentricities of a time than they do about the major philosophical and political developments of an era. This is most evident in Civil War museums where more and more space is being occupied by the sideshows of the era. Titanic figures like Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jackson and so many others are pushed aside to make room for the stories of slaves, or women, or other novelties of the era. And while the story of slavery is an essential part of the era, and of the story, the story is broader than the fashion of today. For example, there were 3.5 million slaves in a South where the population was around 9 million. Had the African- American slaves revolted at any point between 1860 and 1865, the war would have come to screeching halt. But they did not. Yet, in what museum will you hear the story of how Southern blacks sustained the home front of the South during the war?
Today’s stories in museums are more about victimization than they are about life and relationships, and the whole South, black and white working together.
While some privately owned museums could be considered part of the Southern movement, only a keen inspection with a vigilant eye could discern that. I remember personal disgust when visiting Stonewall Jackson’s home in Lexington, Virginia, to hear an employee authoritatively spew Yankee history while standing in the home of Ole Jack. My heart broke knowing how many ears this poison had infected.
There are few known national figures who speak for the Southern point of view. Shelby Foote, a wonderful author of the great conflict may be the last Douglas Southall Freeman-type storyteller for the South. These two men wrote the war from a perspective that gave the Southern point of view legitimacy and for a long time, almost the entire second half of the twentieth century, their interpretations of history had great affect on professors and teachers all across the nation. (I have read more than twenty-five thousand pages of history of this era, and no modern historians came close to these two in their ability to relate the Southern perspective of the era, and the war Only the words of Davis, Lee, and other first person accounts are superior to these two men in telling the story.)
Dr. Thomas Di Lorenzo of Loyola College in Maryland may not be a part of the Southern movement, but his work has articulated the Southern view of democracy as no other in modern times. In an article titled The Great Centralizer: Abraham Lincoln and the War between the States http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_03_2_dilorenzo.pdf, Dr. Di Lorenzo follows up on a theme about President Lincoln developed in his book. Di Lorenzo talks at length about how Lincoln undid the Republic to save the Union. For the modern Southern movement, this theme is central to its existence.
Another place you don’t see the South as it once was is in the Christian churches of the South. Here should be fertile ground for the South of old. In the Preamble of the Confederate Constitution, Southerners called on God for His wisdom and protection. Christianity was a large part of the South, and is still. But the connection between the tattered Confederate gray and the Cross is no longer there. Few pastors of the South have read Christ in the Camp, the story of Christian revivals in the Southern armies. And there seems a division or distance between the Southern movement and the great majority of churches in the South.
Political elements within the movement
There are political elements within the Southern movement. One of them, the Southern National Congress, http://www.southernnationalcongress.org, has been active for about five years. This group’s purpose is to formulate and articulate a Southern view point that can echo in the halls of Congress. The group meets annually to discuss issues, and address resolutions brought to the Congress by delegates from all the Southern states. Many of the attendees are writers and thinkers of different disciplines struggling with the America of today.
The Southern National Congress is representative of the people of the South, its views more populist in nature. The Convent of the Congress http://www.southernnationalcongress.org/southernnationalcovenant.shtml is fairly specific in its condemnation of present U.S. policies and its expression of the concept of a Southern nation.
Mark Thomey has been a member of the League of the South and also the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He is the present Chair of the Southern National Congress. Coming from Louisiana, Mark Thomey is an unreconstructed Southerner. “There have always been two America’s, one Yankee and one Southern.” Thomey talks a lot about secession, and about a Southern nation. He believes there is very much a subdued Southern nation. Thomey believes that many Southerners have been hobbled by Yankee occupation and brain washing.
Mark said, “Yes, there is a Southern movement, among the people of the South, something is really wrong, and we have to fix it. Southerners believe we are not the same as the rest of America. But this feeling is deep inside, and has been covered over. There is a constant internal struggle.”
“The movement is those of us who have finally decided to look at the U.S. regime for what it really is. Evil people are bent on our destruction as a people.” The Southern National Congress is the tip of the spear. Other organizations are lagging behind in seeing a modern Southern nation.”
Mark Thomey saw recently that a poll indicated as many as one in five people support the idea of secession as a political alternative in today’s world. The SNC is shifting gears so as to try to become an umbrella organization for the movement. “Our first couple of years we were a debating society, but now we are trying to set ourselves up as a more legitimate political alternative to what presently exists.”
Chairman Thomey announced, “The SNC is planning to put together an international conference on secession.”
It is their hope that as Americans, descendants of men who separated themselves from an oppressive monarchy, and as the heirs to Southern secession, they will be able to help Americans understand the position of foreign peoples who wish only for independence and liberty.
In addition, the SNC has set a course for its delegates to engage state legislatures in legislation endorsed by the SNC. This is a tremendous first step toward real political activity on behalf of Southern movement. It begins the process of practicing citizenship and learning how to influence government policy.
Another political group, the League of the South http://dixienet.org/rights/index.shtml, is more concerned with the principle of secession. Formed in June of 1994, the League’s stated purpose is to organize the people of the South to pursue an independent nation. However, the League clearly states it does not seek armed revolution, but rather a peaceful, and legal means of secession.
The League does believe in the absolute connection between the Southern culture and Christianity. They state: “As an organization we do recognize the legacy of Christianity and the universal sovereignty of the triune God. Most League members are Christians, and we base our movement on Christian principles. Trinitarian Christianity cannot be separated or removed from Southern society or culture without both ceasing to be Southern.”
For the most part, each element or organization within the Southern movement operates without cooperation or even contact with the others. And from my viewpoint, this inability to cooperate epitomizes the Southern failure in the War for their independence, and the present plague of combat ineffectiveness in both the Culture War, and the political course the United States has taken.
While individuals across the South share many hopes, aspirations and values, fissures and firebreaks have been created by leaders in some of the Southern heritage organizations to prevent the formation of political efforts on behalf of the South and its culture. Censorship is used to keep the movement divided. The internet has helped to challenge this censorship, but it has not eliminated it. Leaders decide what they want their people to hear about, and what they don’t. They then censor messages based on those calls.
For some who think about the internal dynamics of the Southern movement, they see censorship as a question of ego and control. But, I think the overt efforts to limit communications, and thus cooperation between the various elements within the Southern movement has a more devious objective - to limit the combat effectiveness of all Southern movement organizations in the Culture War.
THE CONFEDERATE WAR COLLEGE
Some leaders in the South are interested in facilitating communications between the organizations. Some leaders want free speech and the free exchange of ideas. THE CONFEDERATE WAR COLLEGE will be a new addition to the Southern movement. Privately operated, this site will publish articles submitted from whomever. Controversial ideas will be encouraged. The idea is to strengthen the South and expand the cooperation of the different elements. We hope to live by the very virtues of Southerners like Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
Is there a Southern movement?
Regretfully, I must conclude that there is not. A movement, in political terms, would have a purpose, direction, and degree of unity not present in the disparate groups we have identified. The Southern National Congress does express political ambitions, but it has not grown, and not connected with other elements within the movement.
The heritage organizations, and, specifically, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, are impotent in terms of political power. Despite their membership size and century- old organization, they are combat ineffective in the Culture War. The SCV does not lobby Congress or the state legislatures for their Cause. They do not create a legislative agenda as other similar type organizations do. And efforts to create political action committees (PACs) floundered because of a lack of persistence reflecting a lack of interest at the leadership levels.
In part, the South is dying because her “guardians” are not organized to defend her.
Commercially, the South has failed to take advantage of the thousands of historic sites it is home to. Gettysburg, a small town in southern Pennsylvania, annually nets more than 300 million dollars in tourist revenue, employing more than 6,000 persons. In the South many political leaders/bureaucrats have gone to great lengths not to preserve Southern battlefields, or promote Southern culture as a tourist attraction. The Civil War may well be the most-read American history, creating the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of books, but Southern investors have not seen fit to take advantage of a “prepared” market to develop the historical properties, which would enshrine Southern culture..
Agriculture is still a large part of the South’s economy, but growing cities and a densely populated coastline have overwhelmed traditional Southern views of life. Christianity still survives in much of the South, but more so in the rural areas where there is less population..
It may be more accurate to say that there is a Southern tradition. This tradition shows itself at fairs and parades and cemeteries. You can hear the tradition on the internet from time to time. But the tradition is not reflective of the tens of millions of Americans whose roots go back to Dixie. Listen carefully, you may be hearing its dying breaths.