Which History Do We Teach?
Which history do we teach our youth?
Do we teach the revised history of the victors? Do we teach the equally-revised fantasy proposed by some “heritage defenders” that portrays the Confederate military as a sea of white-only, Christian-only, native-born Southerners?
Do we teach real history and talk about the 10,000 Native American Confederates (including Brigadier General Stand Watie); the 6156 Hispanic Confederates (including nine Colonels and the Surgeon General of the Confederate Army); the 3500 Jews (one of them Confederate Secretary of State); the tens of thousands of foreign-born Confederates; the handful of Asian Confederates; the unknown number of Black Confederate combat soldiers; and (finally) the Amerasian sons of Chang and Eng Bunker (the original “Siamese Twins”) who served and were wounded while serving with the 16th VA Cavalry?
Maybe the words of one of those immigrant Confederates ring with some truth:
Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late.... It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision....
It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.
This by Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne from his January, 1864, letter that proposed the emancipation and enlistment of Black Southerners into the Confederate Army.
If we are going to call for the teaching of Civil War history it has to be the real history.
October 13, 2003
Michael Kelley is the Commander of the 37th Texas Cavalry, whose website may be found here.