Thursday, March 31, 2011

SCV Wins Florida Tag Suit

Confederate Group Wins Florida License Plate Skirmish in Federal Court

Judge calls legislative interference in issuing specialty tags unconstitutional

By: Kenric Ward March 31, 2011

Florida Confederate license plate

In a decision that could affect the issuance of future specialty license plates in Florida, a federal judge overturned the state's rejection of a Confederate tag. Judge John Antoon said the state acted unconstitutionally in rejecting a specialty plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group had paid the requisite fees and complied with all conditions applicable to the sale of the tag, but the Legislature blocked its issuance.

"By placing unfettered discretion in the hands of government officials to grant or deny access to a public forum, section 320.08053, Florida Statutes, creates a threat of censorship that by its very existence chills free speech," wrote Antoon, a judge in the Middle District of Florida. "This threat of censorship is heightened when the speech at issue is controversial, as it is in this case. Indeed, the fact that the speech is controversial strikes at the very heart of First Amendment protections," the judge stated.

"Accordingly, because section 320.08053 (2009) implicates private speech rights and provides the Legislature with unfettered discretion to engage in viewpoint discrimination when declining to approve a specialty license plate application, it is unconstitutional under the overbreadth doctrine." Orlando attorney Fred O'Neal, who represented the SCV, said in an e-mail: "We had hoped the judge would have ordered the DMV to issue our plate directly (i.e., without legislative approval) or, in the alternative, to shut the door for everyone else by declaring the statute creating the approval process unconstitutional (i.e., if we can't get our plate issued, then no one should be able to get a plate issued). The judge went with the latter."

John Adams, head of the Florida SCV, said Confederate license plates have been issued in nearly a dozen other states, including two versions in Virginia. A survey by the SCV indicated that as many as 30,000 Floridians would purchase the plate. Adams criticized the Florida Legislature for "arbitrary and capricious" action in rejecting the SCV tag, which had received administrative approval from the Department of Motor Vehicles. A state report signaled trouble back in 2004 when it was suggested that legislative involvement could politicize the process -- a problem identified in Judge Antoon's decision.

"I'm working the phones to get this [plate] amended onto another license plate bill. Ultimately, the rest of this statute has to get cleaned up," Adams said.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Study on War Deaths

NOTE: Edwin Ray mentioned in the article is a member of the Virginia Division.

New Research Questions Who in the Confederacy Had the Most War Dead

March 27, 2011
The Wall Street Journal

Text Size Historian Josh Howard is playing with fire in the heart of the old Confederacy, with a scholarly finding that could rewrite the history of the Civil War, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

For more than a century, North Carolina has proudly claimed that it lost more soldiers than any other Southern state in the nation's bloodiest conflict. But after meticulously combing through military, hospital and cemetery records, the historian is finding the truth isn't so clear-cut.

Official military records compiled in 1866 counted 40,275 North Carolina soldiers who died in uniform. Though known to be faulty, those records have gone largely unchallenged. With most of his research done, Howard has confirmed only about 31,000 deaths. "It's a number we can defend with real documents," he said.

He expects to confirm a few thousand more by the time he finishes this summer, but the final tally will most certainly fall short of the original count.

Across the state border in Virginia, traditionally believed to have the fourth-highest number of war deaths in the Confederacy, librarian Edwin Ray has identified about 31,000 Virginia soldiers who died in the war -- more than double the Old Dominion's once-accepted number of 14,794. And he still has more to add.

"It's going to be close," said Ray, a 55-year-old air force veteran who works at the Library of Virginia. "Josh and I are sure of that. It's going to come down to a very small number."

With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War beginning in mid-April, that small number could spark a big controversy between two states with rivalries that date back to the great conflict. Some Civil War buffs in North Carolina have already accused Howard of attempting to diminish the state's heroism and the hardship it suffered. "Records were a whole lot fresher 150 years ago," said Thomas Smith Jr., commander of the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans, who is suspicious of Howard's new count.

"I don't care if Virginia has two people more who died, or a hundred more," said Michael Chapman, a 55-year-old videographer from Polkton, N.C., who used to head up the local Sons of Confederate Veterans camp. He calls the recounts "irrelevant."

The research by Howard and Ray has the potential to rewrite part of the history of the war that redefined America.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Land Purchased for Gettysburg

Salazar announces land acquisition at Gettysburg

GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Friday announced the addition of a 95-acre parcel at Gettysburg National Military Park, saying it caps nearly two decades of efforts to acquire the property.

What had most recently been a nine-hole golf course at the former Gettysburg Country Club will henceforth be known by its historical name — the Emanuel Harman Farm. Major fighting occurred there July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and a key victory for the Union forces.

"Gettysburg will always have a sacred place in the America's heritage for the pivotal role it played in our nation's history and for the enormity of the sacrifice that took place here," Salazar said in a visit to the central Pennsylvania park. With the latest acquisition, "we are able to include another important chapter in the story that helped shape our country."

The National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department, tried unsuccessfully for nearly 20 years to acquire property, which lies within the boundaries of the 6,000-acre park.

The property was part of a larger tract that was developed as a country club in the 1950s, but went out of business in 2008.

Salazar thanked The Conservation Fund and The Civil War Trust for helping make the acquisition possible.

"Visitors who are now free to explore this hallowed ground can give thanks for the contributions of both of these organizations to preserving our national heritage," he said.

The Virginia-based Conservation Fund purchased the land in February from a Maryland developer for $1.4 million. The developer retained the remaining 14 acres — including two clubhouses, two swimming pools, tennis courts and parking lots — and donated a height restriction easement for that parcel.

The golf course will be removed and the land restored to its original 1863 condition.

Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer said his organization is still pursuing the purchase of three other privately-held properties that are part of the battle site.

"We have been presented with the incredible opportunity to set aside some of the most blood-soaked ground still unprotected at Gettysburg," Lighthizer said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monument to West Florida Republic to be Unveiled


The "five-pointed star" mentioned in the article was a white star on a blue field. This flag is better know today as the "Bonnie Blue Flag" - it began as the flag of the West Florida Republic. A variant of this flag was also used in Texas' war for independence from Mexico.

The West Florida Republic was that part of Louisiana east of the Mississippi River, west and south of the Mississippi Territory and north of New Orleans - today called the Florida Parishes of Louisiana.

Chuck Rand

West Florida Monument to be Unveiled Saturday

ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is expected to unveil a new monument to the West Florida Rebellion of 1810 in a program Saturday on the grounds of the West Feliciana Parish courthouse. David Norwood, chairman of the parish's Bicentennial Committee, tells The Advocate that the program will serve as the closing ceremony for the Republic of West Florida Bicentennial.

The 800-pound granite monument has been placed in a small St. Francisville park and is topped with the five-pointed star featured on the republic's flag.

The republic was established in 1810 with the West Florida citizens' capture of Fort San Carlos at Baton Rouge, ending Spanish rule in the area. The republic existed until its annexation by the United States as part of the Louisiana Territory.

MOH Committee New Chairman

New Chairman for Medal of Honor Committee

Colonel Auston E. "Gene" Smith, USAF Retired, has been selected as Chairman of the Medal of Honor Committee, replacing retiring chairman PCIC Ed Deason. Commander Deason has done an outstanding job for the last two administrations but is stepping down in order to travel extensively. Please welcome Gene Smith into this new position.

James L. "Spike" Speicher
Sons of Confederate Veterans

Special Research Tool Available to SCV Members


It is my great pleasure to announce the following. We have a partnership with that allows you the members of the SCV to get this wonderful tool at a fraction of the cost, $30 off Annual Membership (regularly $79.95). With online access to original Confederate records, Confederate Amnesty papers, and much more, you can help potential members complete their paperwork in the comfort of your home or even at a meeting or event. Recruiting can be taken to an entirely different level with this research engine at your finger tips.

The other added benefit is that National SCV receives a percentage of every person who signs up through our organization. So it is a win-win situation. To take advantage of this great deal, go to and click on the Footnote Banner or and click Join. This is the only way you will be able to obtain this offer and for our organization to get credit.

Deo Vindice!
Charles Kelly Barrow
Sons of Confederate Veterans

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NAACP Attacks Confederate Rememberance

Civil War remembrance monument stirs up tension in community
Mar 05, 2011 9:09

BELLMEAD- A dedication ceremony for a Confederate flag and monument to honor soldiers who fought for the confederacy is sparking controversy among residents and community leaders.

Dozens gathered along Interstate 35 in Bellmead, north of Waco, for the ceremony Saturday afternoon. The dedication was meant to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Texas joining the Confederacy.

McLennan County residents who supported the Confederacy as well as members of the group, "Sons of Confederate Veterans" say the monument and the battle flag are meant to honor the legacy and past of the Confederate soldiers. However, others say all it honors is hatred.

"It represents slavery, it represents oppression, it represents hypocrisy. It represents everything that the union fought, or the nation fought to get rid of," said McLennan County Commissioner, Lester Gibson.

"Slavery was an issue, but the thing about it is only four percent of the soldiers that fought owned slaves, so my question back to those people is why did the other 96 percent put their life on the line? It all goes back to because someone attacks your homeland and you have a rifle in your hand, you shoot at 'em, simple as that," said Charles Oliver, Commander for Waco's Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Oliver says those who came out for the celebration all understand what the battle flag stands for and why those soldiers fought for the Confederacy. He says the flag should remind people of the Civil War and those who sacrificed their lives.

"My ancestors that fought died for this battle flag right here. If you cut open a vein on me this blood comes out of my wrist here. I'm a third generation Confederate soldier."

Still, others like Commissioner Gibson believe it's all a past that shouldn't be celebrated.

"I'm a descendent of slaves. I am 61-years-old and I understand what segregation and Jim Crowe is."

While the Confederate battle flag is often thought of as a symbol of hate, Oliver says it's simply just misunderstood.

"The Texas flag that you see here, that's a Confederate battle flag. Our people have the same feeling against that flag that they have against the St. Andrews flag, so you can look at it that way."

"We're supposed to be Americans under one flag. It's not representing America at all and especially not Texas," said Pastor Larry Brown of the Waco NAACP.

The group did have to get permission to fly the flags. Both the flag and the monument are on private property. Therefore, despite the division the two have already caused, community leaders say there is nothing they can do about it.

"They have a right to assembly, they have a right of speech, but at the same time it's a repressive idea that is bad for McLennan County," said Gibson.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans say they hope the display will raise questions by the thousands of people who drive by them every day. They want to teach others about their past and what the confederate soldiers stood for.

"Our main purpose as the sons and daughters is to keep alive the good name of the Confederate soldier and that's exactly what we are going to do," said Oliver.

The ceremony in Bellmead is also part of a much larger program called "Flags Across the South." The purpose of the program is to fly flags across the South on private properties. The organization says they also plan on putting up flags in different parts of Central Texas, including Fletcher Cemetery of Highway 77 and off Highway 281, south of Lampassas.

Confederate Heritage in Contemporary America

On Civil War Anniversary, Confederate Group Stirs Debate

CLAIRE SUDDATH Claire Suddath – Fri Mar 4, 2011

In 1867, former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of a newly formed organization called the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest had been a slave trader before the Civil War; he was also the commanding officer during a battle known as the "Fort Pillow massacre" in Tennessee at which some 300 black Union troops were killed in 1864. (Whether they died in combat or were killed after they surrendered is still a matter of dispute.)

Now, in honor of the Civil War's 150th anniversary, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) are seeking to put Forrest on a Mississippi license plate. But the state government opposes it. When asked to comment on the proposal, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, told the Associated Press, "It won't become law because I won't sign it." (See a history of photographing the nation's war dead.)

Barbour's reaction is just one sign that things have changed since the South commemorated the Civil War's centennial in 1961. Back then, much of the South was still segregated - and many people, including Mississippi's then Governor Ross Barnett, were fighting to keep it that way. State and local governments took an active role in Confederate celebrations, using them to promote their causes. When the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission, a group sponsored by the federal government, held its inaugural event in a Charleston, S.C., hotel, Madaline Williams, a delegate from the New Jersey legislature, was denied entry because she was black. For this year's anniversary, there is no such commission.

And in February of this year, when a Jefferson Davis impersonator was sworn in on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol for a re-enactment of the Confederate States of America's 1861 presidential inauguration, Alabama officials stayed away. Similarly, a December "Secession Ball" held in Charleston drew protests and a candlelight vigil by the NAACP. (See pictures of the Cold War's influence on art.)

This year's Civil War anniversary caps a decade in which Southern institutions have struggled mightily with the racial undertones of their Confederate monuments. In 2001 Georgia redesigned its state flag, shrinking the Confederate battle emblem that had adorned it since 1956. Six years later, it removed the symbol altogether. The University of Mississippi - the same school that endured riots when James Meredith became the school's first African-American student in 1962 - ditched its mascot Colonel Rebel, a plantation owner, in 2003. And last November, a federate appellate court upheld a Tennessee school district's ban on Confederate-themed clothing.

As much of the South continues to distance itself from its racially divisive past, the organizations fighting to maintain the prominence of Confederate symbols are pushed further right of the mainstream. Nonetheless, the SCV plans several highly publicized events over the next four years, as various Civil War–related anniversaries come up. The club has 840 local chapters across 29 states, plus Europe and Australia. It was founded in 1896; aspiring members must prove direct relation to a former Confederate veteran in order to join. The SCV openly denounces the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups that use the Confederate flag as a racist symbol. Former President Harry S. Truman and Clint Eastwood are often cited as members. (See a TIME Q&A on how America fights its wars.)

But even as the SCV rejects traditional symbols of racism, it provokes debate with its promotion of contentious Civil War leaders like Forrest. "Robert E. Lee has been replaced as the great [Confederate] hero by Nathan Bedford Forrest by these Southern white heritage groups," says Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which investigates extremist groups. Lee owned slaves, Potok says, but "he was very much a statesman, and at the end of the Civil War, he encouraged Southerners to rejoin the Union in heart and soul. Forrest was very much not like that. The fact that they want to honor him specifically says a lot about what they stand for."

Chuck Rand, a member of the SCV, calls any assumption that the Forrest license plate is racist a "knee-jerk reaction" by people who don't understand the "real causes" of the Civil War. Or, as he calls it, "The war for Southern independence." But critics point out that slavery isn't addressed in these commemorations. The group's re-enactment of Davis' inauguration took place near Martin Luther King Jr.'s old Montgomery, Ala., church and the spot where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in 1955. But during the event, there was no mention of the South's racial history.

The SCV's controversial events often make the news, but its perspective on the war and its causes doesn't get much traction. In December, the History Channel refused to run one of the SCV's commercials, which blamed the North for slavery, claiming that slaves were essentially forced onto Southern plantation owners. Another commercial, also refused by the History Channel, claimed that the Civil War was "not a civil war ... [but] a war in which Southerners fought to defend their homes and families against an aggressive invasion by federal troops." (Comment on this story.)

"Lincoln waged a war to conquer his neighbor," Rand explains. "In our view, he was an aggressor against another nation, just as Hitler was an aggressor against other nations." Most people, Southern or otherwise, are not likely to agree with such an inflammatory statement, but the sentiment underlying Rand's assertion has deep roots. "Coming out of the experience of the Civil War and Southern Reconstruction, there was a sense of wounded pride and grievance," says James Cobb, a history professor at the University of Georgia and the author of Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity. But even if racism, intolerance and discrimination still plague the South - as they do the rest of the country - the sense of regional separateness on those issues has largely diminished. "Time has passed," says Cobb. "To uphold the Confederacy in this way has become a fairly extreme position."

Extreme or not, the SCV isn't giving up the fight. The group pledges to advance its cause through parades, advertisements and the battle for commemorative license plates. The South may never rise again, Rand admits, but that doesn't mean it has to disappear completely. "The North is a direction," he says. "The South is a place."

Forrest: Fighting General

Wilbur Snellings: Forrest, America's greatest fighting general

Mar. 3, 2011
Guest Columnist
In rebuttal to Leonard Pitts Jr.:

A wise historian once said "you have to judge people by the times in which they lived, and the customs of that day, not by yours." Nathan Forrest was born on the frontier; the family was impoverished. His father, a blacksmith, died at an early age; and Nathan supported the family.

Although illiterate, he had a good mind for business and did eventually trade in livestock and slaves, which was lawful at that time. He did not break up families or sell to people he knew to be cruel. He got out of the slave trade and became a planter. When war broke out, he enlisted as a private and rose to lieutenant general, owing to his military genius and fierce courage.

In western Tennessee, the 6th Tennessee & 13th Tennessee Cavalry (U.S.) — comprised of deserters, outlaws and unionists — extorted, plundered and murdered civilians and soldiers, settling old scores and feuds. Most were families of Forrest's command. Forrest wanted Col. Fielding Hurst, 6th Tennessee command, declared outlaws.

The 13th Tennessee, 2nd U.S. Light & 6th U.S. Heavy Colored Artillery occupied Fort Pillow (450 to 500 men), which was loaded with supplies (and barrels of whiskey the federals had been drinking all day) that Forrest needed. Forrest, with 1,500 men surrounded the fort and posted 250 sharpshooters on bluffs to pin down the federals. He demanded the surrender of the fort three times.

In his report, Lt. Dan Van Horn (6th Colored Heavy Artillery) wrote that Forrest guaranteed them (black and white) prisoner of war status. It was refused. Two battalions (400 men) were sent down behind the fort on either side of Coal Creek to defend against reinforcements and gunboats. The assaulting regiments (about 600 men) with pistols and muskets held their fire until they topped the parapet. They fired point blank into the defenders, inflicting massive casualties. The federals broke and fled out the back of the fort into a crossfire from the two battalions.

Col. Barteau reported, "They made a wild, crazy, scattering fight like a bunch of drunken men. One moment they would yield and throw down their guns and seize them again and renew their fire. It was soon discovered that they could not be trusted as to having surrendered. At first opportunity, they would break loose and engage in the contest. Some of our men were killed by Negroes who had once surrendered." Some of the panic-stricken federals dove into the river and drowned.

Lt. Horn reported there was no surrender of the fort, the officers and men declaring they would never surrender nor ask quarter. He never mentioned a massacre either, although he was there from start to finish. There were probably some revenge killings, but not en masse. There were prisoners taken, black and white (200-250). The federals buried all the dead. The federal wounded (black and white) were loaded on the steamer Ville Platte by Confederate and federal soldiers.

The Memphis Bulletin newspaper, which started the "massacre" story, said two years later in May 1865 "there was much misrepresentation about Fort Pillow. It is not true that the Rebels took no prisoners. On the contrary, about 200 were taken prisoners and carried South."

In 1871, a congressional committee found Forrest was not a founder, member or adviser to the Klan and had actually worked to disband it. Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, America's greatest fighting general.

Lincoln's Hope to Colonize Central America


It seems the ugly truths about Lincoln are hard for many to accept. The comment section for this article was taken off-line on Sunday morning March 6. What are they afraid of?

New book sheds new light on Lincoln's racial views
MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press
Fri Mar 4, 2011

McLEAN, Va. – Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address has inspired Americans for generations, but consider his jarring remarks in 1862 to a White House audience of free blacks, urging them to leave the U.S. and settle in Central America.

"For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people," Lincoln said, promoting his idea of colonization: resettling blacks in foreign countries on the belief that whites and blacks could not coexist in the same nation.

Lincoln went on to say that free blacks who envisioned a permanent life in the United States were being "selfish" and he promoted Central America as an ideal location "especially because of the similarity of climate with your native land — thus being suited to your physical condition."

As the nation celebrates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's first inauguration Friday, a new book by a researcher at George Mason University in Fairfax makes the case that Lincoln was even more committed to colonizing blacks than previously known. The book, "Colonization After Emancipation," is based in part on newly uncovered documents that authors Philip Magness and Sebastian Page found at the British National Archives outside London and in the U.S. National Archives.

In an interview, Magness said he thinks the documents he uncovered reveal Lincoln's complexity.

"It makes his life more interesting, his racial legacy more controversial," said Magness, who is also an adjuct professor at American University.

Lincoln's views about colonization are well known among historians, even if they don't make it into most schoolbooks. Lincoln even referred to colonization in the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, his September 1862 warning to the South that he would free all slaves in Southern territory if the rebellion continued. Unlike some others, Lincoln always promoted a voluntary colonization, rather than forcing blacks to leave.

But historians differ on whether Lincoln moved away from colonization after he issued the official Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, or whether he continued to support it.

Magness and Page's book offers evidence that Lincoln continued to support colonization, engaging in secret diplomacy with the British to establish a colony in British Honduras, now Belize.

Among the records found at the British archives is an 1863 order from Lincoln granting a British agent permission to recruit volunteers for a Belize colony.

"He didn't let colonization die off. He became very active in promoting it in the private sphere, through diplomatic channels," Magness said. He surmises that Lincoln grew weary of the controversy that surrounded colonization efforts, which had become enmeshed in scandal and were criticized by many abolitionists.

As late as 1864, Magness found a notation that Lincoln asked the attorney general whether he could continue to receive counsel from James Mitchell, his colonization commissioner, even after Congress had eliminated funding for Mitchell's office.

Illinois' state historian, Tom Schwartz, who is also a research director at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill., said that while historians differ, there is ample evidence that Lincoln's views evolved away from colonization in the final two years of the Civil War.

Lincoln gave several speeches referring to the rights blacks had earned as they enlisted in the Union Army, for instance. And presidential secretary John Hay wrote in July 1864 that Lincoln had "sloughed off" colonization.

"Most of the evidence points to the idea that Lincoln is looking at other ways" to resolve the transition from slavery besides colonization at the end of his presidency, Schwartz said.

Lincoln is the not the only president whose views on race relations and slavery were more complex and less idealistic than children's storybook histories suggest. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both slaveholders despite misgivings. Washington freed his slaves when he died.

"Washington, because he wanted to keep the union, knew he had to ignore the slavery problem because it would have torn the country apart, said James Rees, director of Washington's Mount Vernon estate.

"It's tempting to wish he had tried. The nation had more chance of dealing with slavery with Washington than with anyone else," Rees said, noting the esteem in which Washington was held in both the North and the South.

Magness said views on Lincoln can be strongly held and often divergent. He noted that people have sought to use Lincoln's legacy to support all manner of political policy agendas since the day he was assassinated. And nobody can claim definitive knowledge of Lincoln's own views, especially on a topic as complex as race relations.

"He never had a chance to complete his vision. Lincoln's racial views were evolving at the time of his death," Magness said.