Civil War Realities

August 13, 2019


Between 1840 and 1860 over 300 people were hanged or brutally burned alive by mobs in Texas. According to Pickering, “Texas was the most violent of all the Southern States,” and it was the home of the most vigilante crimes of any other state. Later, this violent cultural behavior would devour black people who were burned alive or hanged all the way into the middle 1900s. Numerous groups sprung up during and after the Civil War to protect the institution of slavery and to destroy Reconstruction. Many of these groups adopted names that attempted to present a picture of glory or of a sanctified noble character. They named themselves the “Sons of Liberty,” and the “Sons of the Confederacy,” and “Sons of Washington,” and “Sons of the South.” 


Many in these vigilante groups were white racist Masons who used secret rituals to spread hatred in secretive ways (examples: special hand grips, coded language, and hand signs).  However, and despite their best efforts, thousands of whites deserted the Confederate army after it became clear that wealthy plantation owners did not have to serve in the Confederate army under the “Twenty Negro Law.” This law basically exempted slave owners that owned 20 slaves from having to fight on the battlefield. When poor whites realized this they deserted and fled into the brush and often shot followers and supporters of Robert E. Lee.  In Texas, supporters of John Brown the abolitionist, calling themselves “Jayhawks,” ambushed pro-slavery from their hideouts in swamps, bayous, and wooded thickets in east Texas and the Houston area. 


The “Myth of the Lost Cause” was created to invent a false southern history that denied the centrality of slavery. The lost cause mythology turned Robert E, Lee into a saint. According to Gallagher and Nolan (2000), in The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, “The legend’s image of Lee is at odds with the facts. He was not anti-slavery . . . he was a strong believer in the institution.” Gallagher and Nolan went on to say, “Slavery was trivialized . . . in favor of such things as tariff disputes, cultural differences, and conflict between industrial and agricultural societies” as reasons for the Civil Warby the South. 


According to Tucker, the South tried to use the fact that a very small number of blacks fought for the Confederacy. One can still see them blow up the numbers on neo-confederate websites. Tucker put that number at roughly 3,000-6,000, while almost 200,000 fought in the northern Union armies. What is essential in this case is the question of what section of the black community actually fought for the slave owners? Tucker says, “. . . the largest number of these black men (the majority) served as body servants . . . .”  These would be the “House Negroes” who were treated better than the slaves in the field.


Tucker concludes that in this number, “. . . the vast majority of these servants never fought on the battlefield . . . .” Black servants and laborers in their service, many forced to serve, would have included cooks, personal grooming slaves, grave diggers, and others. They would have a vested interest in protecting their status. Slaves in the field would never be trusted with weapons, but house slaves, often the children of the master’s rape, would have had a higher status because of lighter skin, or a servile attitude—Uncle Toms of the black faced type to be quite clear. The southern stretch of the truth is always at work to deny the horrors of slavery with half-truths, omissions, lies, distortions, and erasures.



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