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Confederate PhoenixRebel Children and Their Families in South Carolina$

Edmund L. Drago

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780823229376

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823229376.001.0001

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The Last Phoenix: Conflicting Legacies, 1890–2007

The Last Phoenix: Conflicting Legacies, 1890–2007

(p.123) 11 The Last Phoenix: Conflicting Legacies, 1890–2007
Confederate Phoenix

Edmund L. Drago

Fordham University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the two conflicting legacies of Civil War and Reconstruction which competed for hegemony in South Carolina after the 1890s. The present conflict evolved out of the triumph of Racial Radicalism in South Carolina. Racial Radicalism, by establishing Jim Crow segregation, nurtured the growth of a black professional class who provided the leadership to establish the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). On the eve of the sesquicentennial of the firing on Fort Sumter, the issue of slavery seems to be the key to the reconciliation of conflicting legacies.

Keywords:   Civil War, reconstruction, South Carolina, Racial Radicalism, Jim Crow segregation, NAACP, slavery

Since the 1890s, two conflicting legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction have competed for hegemony in South Carolina. More than any organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) realized that children were central in preserving “Confederate Culture.” Racial Radicals who eviscerated Hampton's paternalism abetted them. The blow to the rights blacks had gained under Congressional Reconstruction became final when the general departed to serve in the U.S. Senate. D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, based on Thomas Dixon's The Clansmen, captured in 1915 the racist mindset of the period.1

Ironically, Racial Radicalism, by establishing Jim Crow segregation, nurtured the growth of a black professional class, including undertakers, physicians, and ministers, who provided the leadership to establish the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This black middle class, whose livelihood depended on a black clientele, fostered the dream of a promised land where multiracial democracy thrived. The NAACP prepared the way for toppling separate and unequal education in 1954. In the 1960s young people became the cutting edge of the civil rights movement.

The specter of white and black children attending school together (with miscegenation lurking in the background) provoked a backlash by whites. Their champion in 1948 was South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond of Edgefield County. In the 1970s and 1980s, Thurmond and likeminded conservatives blunted the forward thrust of the civil rights movement. Hostile to affirmative action and the intervention of big government on their way of life, some conservatives welcomed a revival of a Confederate Phoenix in the 1990s. For most blacks, the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol did not symbolize states' rights but the oppression of the past and the hovering possibility of another setback in civil rights. The issue precipitated a nasty debate about the legacy and what the flag should mean to future generations of the state's children.

The present conflict evolved out of the triumph of Racial Radicalism in South Carolina. It could not have happened without the support of the yeoman children of the war. White farmers and renters, hard-pressed by the severe (p.124) agricultural depression gripping the state, elected Benjamin R. Tillman governor of South Carolina in 1890. Sallie Chapin saw him as the embodiment of her fictional young gentleman, Fitz-Hugh St. Clair. The reformer urged Tillman, “Take Fitz Dear Boy as your model for your State sadly needs such men grown from such boys.” Uncomfortable when General Hampton's people reminded him that he had not shouldered a rifle during the war, the Edgefield farmer used his Red Shirt activities as a young man to legitimize his military connections to the “Lost Cause.” He proudly boasted of stuffing ballot boxes and murdering Republicans.2

In 1890 subterfuges to disfranchise blacks caused legislation to be introduced in Congress by Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts to supervise federal elections. White South Carolinians feared national Republicans would force another black Reconstruction on the state; Tillman and his lieutenants assuaged their fears by bashing blacks. The state constitution of 1898 severely limited the black franchise; the stringent requirements also led to a dramatic decline in the number of poor whites voting. Whether or not Tillman was a populist, a shill for business interests, or an opportunist is problematic. He failed to address the economic ills of the white farmers and renters who supported him. Antiblack rhetoric became the staple of successful gubernatorial campaigns; lynching flourished. Of the 173 lynchings in South Carolina between 1882 and 1950, 141 (81.5 percent) took place between 1882 and 1913.3

The Phoenix Riot of 1898 spread terror in the Upcountry. Riders carrying rifles murdered Republican organizers in that town. Blacks left the area in droves. One group of riders connected with the riot terrorized Benjamin Mays, barely five years old, and his father. The future civil rights leader noted that the mob remained his first memory of childhood. Racial Radicalism seared the psyche of children, white and black, throughout the state. In the Lowcountry, Mamie Garvin Fields remembered that black and white children playing together in her neighborhood abruptly ended their friendships. Children who once played marbles together now used them as missiles against each other. When Tillman left for the U.S. Senate, Coleman (“Cole”) Blease continued the legacy of Racial Radicalism in his quest for power. He was proud that he too had worn the Red Shirt as a child. Elected governor in 1910 and 1914, he expanded Tillman's base to include mill workers. In 1911 he attacked Benedict College, a private black Baptist school in Columbia, for employing white female teachers from the North. Blease was appalled that one of them, not bad looking, walked freely hand in hand with her black students, boys and girls, on campus. The Upcountry politician found Benedict foul and disgusting.4

While Racial Radicals were gaining the upper hand in South Carolina, the cultural pillars of the Confederate legacy were being built: the United Confederate (p.125) Veterans (1889), the United Daughters of the Confederacy (1894), and the Sons of the Confederacy (1896). The Confederate Veteran became the official organ of these three associations. The Daughters' involvement as an extension of their nurturing role as mothers, wives, and sisters was crucial in sustaining the vitality of their Confederate heritage. They ensured that generations of children would remember the idealism and sacrifice of their forebears. UDC President General Cornelia Branch Stone of Texas (1907–1909) and Historian General Mildred Lewis Rutherford of Georgia (1910–1915) were pioneers in children's educational activities. Between 1894 and 1919, the Daughters organized Children of the Confederacy (CC) chapters on the state and divisional level. The ages of members ranged from infancy to twenty years. In 1917 the CC became an official auxiliary of the UDC. In 1955 the CC held its first annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia.5

In providing symbols and rituals that children could embrace, the UDC resembled the Roman Catholic Church with its catechism, relics, saints, holy days, processions, and emphasis on orthodoxy and education. Women were active in preserving and donating family memorabilia and papers to state depositories. In a sense, these archives became temples of their testaments to the “Lost Cause.” A prime example of their efforts is the Palmer Family Papers, housed in the South Caroliniana Library on the campus of the University of South Carolina in Columbia. The Roman Catholic metaphor also holds for the proper education of children, particularly young men. During the Civil War, educators had proselytized the importance of instilling Confederate values in the future leaders and defenders of the New Republic. On the eve of the war, the Lancaster Ledger had published a series entitled “A Constitutional Catechism for Smart Boys.” In July 1861 the Charleston Daily Courier had announced the publication of “a short and easy catechism, designed for the use of Sunday Schools in the Confederate States of America.” The paper had perceived the catechism as part of an essential movement to cleanse the South of “teachings against our institutions.”6

Continuing this tradition, UDC state divisions, by the turn of the century, began compiling catechisms. In 1904, three years before she became president general, Cornelia Branch Stone authored a UDC Confederate Catechism for Children. In 1919 Mrs. John Alison Lawton, from James Island, South Carolina, published a catechism dealing with the state. Decca Lamar West of Texas revised and enlarged Stone's catechism in 1926. The following year the Confederate Veteran ran the final compilation in serial form. In October 1954, Mrs. Henry Allen Davis, from Memphis, Tennessee, compiled the Catechism on the History of the Confederate States of American. Despite additions and revisions between 1927 and 1990, the content of these catechisms remained similar. (p.126) Slavery in the South had been benign; the Northern states had annulled the rights of the Southern people, forcing them to secede. Their ancestors had fought in the War Between the States for a just cause.7

Victorian attitudes and gender conventions influenced the content of the catechism. Few Southern white women had experienced battles themselves. Therefore, the Daughters presented an interpretation of the “Lost Cause” that glorified war. This was especially appropriate during the era of World War I. What was missing from their catechisms was probably as instructive as what they contained. Divisions in society were ignored. As decades passed, generations of children, depending on their elders for war stories, were told nothing about the wicked side of the war or the ghastly way so many men were killed and crippled. Instead, under the guidance of the Daughters, they learned to honor the bravery of their forebears in famous battles as well as leading generals and the First Family of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis's daughter, Varina Anne (“Winnie”), who was born in the Confederate White House, became an icon for young women through the assiduous efforts of the Daughters. Winnie, living figuratively in a gilded cage, never married and died in 1898 at an early age. The Daughters, appealing to boys, held up for admiration the heroics of young soldiers like Sam Davis, who was hanged in Pulaski, Tennessee, as a Confederate spy. He had refused to divulge his source of information. In 1900 the proceeds of a card game based on Confederate heroes was donated to the Sam Davis Monument Fund.8

The Daughters saw themselves as educational reformers. Mildred Lewis Rutherford was the UDC Historian General in 1911. The Georgian was originally from Camden, South Carolina, where the abuse of citizens by Sherman's soldiers was still white hot in the folk memory. Understandably she denounced “The [Northern] Textbook Trust.” Her mission was to purge the schools of anti-Southern textbooks. It was Charleston's Poppenheim sisters, Mary and Louise, who extended the work of Rutherford to a wider women's network and consequently expanded the role of the Southern woman in the public sphere. The sisters were children of the war. Their father, C. P. Poppenheim, had served as a sergeant in Hampton's Legion. Their youngest brother, J. H. Bouknight, had been a cadet at the Citadel. Mary graduated from Vassar in 1888. Active in the UDC, she rose from president of the South Carolina Division to the rank of President General. Both sisters were also involved in the General Confederation of Women's Clubs. Mary established the Keystone in 1899, a monthly publication designed for the women's clubs. Louisa was its manager. It served as the official organ of the UDC in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Unlike Mildred Rutherford, Mary Poppenheim supported women's suffrage.9

(p.127) Sometimes the women deviated from Southern gender orthodoxy, especially a younger generation raised on the glories of the “Lost Cause” and exposed to liberating ideas in college. Between 1907 and 1909 veterans protested against the Daughters' adopting military terms such as colonel, general, and division to cement their organization. Some veterans found the illustration of an all-girl Confederate choir offensive. The veterans had no problem with pretty young women attending their reunions, but they were affronted seeing these girls in gray uniforms wearing pants. The old soldiers objected when they were asked to address the leaders as lieutenant or captain. In at least one case, college girls sported toy rifles. Even for some women, these girls went too far playing soldiers. One irate South Carolina woman branded such practices a deviation from the values of the old South.10

Such behavior did not reflect what was happening in most chapters. The minutes (1910–1915) of the UDC Black Oak Chapter of Pinopolis, South Carolina, exemplified how the guidance from the home office was carried out at the grassroots level. The Pinopolis ladies insured that their public schools would teach a Confederate-oriented history, which honored fallen soldiers. Many young men from such small towns had died in the Spanish American War. In 1911 the superintendent of education handed out leaflets to the children encouraging them to collect money for an Arlington monument. On Confederate Memorial Day (April 26), the youngsters laid laurel wreathes at the cemetery and viewed relics such as a palmetto feather from Fort Sumter, cockades, and a homemade ring from James Island. The Daughters distributed leaflets on Robert E. Lee's birthday. At one meeting a paper on the Confederate flag was read. The chapter was not wealthy. However, its members supported girls who wanted to further their education by sponsoring scholarships to Winthrop College for Women in Rock Hill and the Confederate Home College in Charleston. On the campus of the all-men Clemson Agricultural College, they had a drinking fountain erected as a tribute to Confederate soldiers.11

Children were always prominent in UDC processions. In June 1914 the Black Oak Chapter staged a ceremony to honor those who died in World War I by bestowing on them posthumously the Cross of Military Service. The presentation began with a procession of children filing into the hall. They escorted veterans to their chairs while the boys' choir sang “Bonnie Blue Flag” along with “Maryland, My Maryland!” and “S'wanee River.” The meeting began with a prayer by a minister, followed by addresses and then a dinner. The climactic ending was a roaring rendition of “Dixie.”12

The efforts of the Daughters of South Carolina, such as the Pinopolis women, ensured that generations of children would grow up surrounded by more than two hundred Confederate monuments and markers to help them (p.128) not forget their Confederate legacy. Many of these memorials were completed by 1919. In 1906 Lucy Calvert Thompson counseled an audience at a dedication ceremony in Abbeville to “protect and honor this monument, teach your children and children's children to cherish and revere the memory of those who knew their rights and dared to maintain them.” In 1908 the Samuel D. Barron Chapter of the UDC erected the Confederate Soldiers' Monument in Ebenezer, York County. Barron had entered the army at age fifteen, rejoined at sixteen, and was eventually captured and imprisoned Point Lookout, Maryland. The monument's inscription read, “Remembering How They Resisted Oppression And Injustice.” In 1911 Camden schoolchildren donated their pennies toward a drinking fountain honoring boy-soldier Richard Kirkland. “Christlike,” he risked his life to bring water to a wounded Union soldier.13

Condemnation of Congressional Reconstruction remained a cardinal principle for the Daughters and other proponents of the “Lost Cause.” Born in Pulaski, Tennessee, the birthplace of the national Ku Klux Klan, Laura Martin Rose argued that such a vigilante organization was necessary to preserve Law and Order and White Supremacy. In 1913 the UDC officially endorsed her primer for schoolchildren, The Ku Klux Klan or Invisible Empire. Succeeding Rutherford as Historian General in 1916, Rose lauded D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation as instructive for those who wished to understand the importance of the Klan to the South.14

Griffith captured on film the white Southern collective memory of Congressional Reconstruction in a storyline that used the appeal of young love and innocence to win the hearts of a national audience. The film emerged from Thomas Dixon Jr.'s books The Leopard's Spots (1902) and The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905). The Baptist preacher had received his training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1905 Dixon turned The Klansman into a stage play. Then, in 1912 he attempted to make the book into a movie but failed. A year later he sold the film rights to Griffith. Dixon wrote the script for the photoplay.15

The evolution of the man's works revealed the various modifications of his storyline to discover what worked best in justifying the activities of the Klan. Children and young people played key roles just as they did in the stories of Sallie Chapin and Uncle Fabian. Without them the humanizing appeal of the story would be lost. In his script for Griffith, the author finally found the right balance between the love story of a Confederate boy Ben Cameron and a Yankee girl Elsie Stoneman, on one hand, and the injustices of Congressional Reconstruction, which almost destroyed their young love. The story took place in Upcountry South Carolina, where the corruption of black Republican politicians (p.129) and the brutality of the black state militia were rampant. Elsie's youngest sister jumped off a cliff to escape the lust of a black militia leader. To make things worse, the black lieutenant governor tried to force Elsie to marry him. The Klan saved the day by routing the blacks and restoring law and order and white supremacy. Their triumph over black rule and ruin was the beginning of a new American nation.16

The film was an instant hit in South Carolina. David D. Wallace, the dean of South Carolinian historians, urged all Americans to see it. The Wofford professor vowed to take his baby daughter when she was old enough. In The Clansman Dixon praised the children who kept silent about Klan activities and the women who made over 400,000 disguises for the Klan.17

Racial Radicalism had within it the seeds of its own destruction. In arguing that education was harmful to blacks and placing all blacks in one category, the Racial Radicals unwittingly precipitated the emergence of a challenge to their system from within the black community. Segregation led to the rise of a professional class of black doctors, preachers, and educators with its own constituency. They were living proof of the limitations of Booker T. Washington's version of self-help; despite their success, they were not accepted into white society. Out of this group came the leaders of the first phase of the modern civil rights movement. The Charleston chapter of the NAACP was organized in 1917, the same year W. E. B. DuBois visited the city. The education of black children became its main mission. The group was determined to make a better world for black children. In 1919, the chapter and former Congressman Thomas E. Miller successfully undertook a petition campaign to put black teachers in the city's black public schools.18

By the mid-1930s higher education came under scrutiny. Precedents during Congressional Reconstruction haunted conservatives. In 1936 the University of South Carolina Alumni Association decided to award the oldest living graduate a “gold headed walking stick.” Much to the white members' chagrin, the cane went to Alonzo G. Townsend, a black who attended South Carolina College during Radical Reconstruction. The Charleston News and Courier was most concerned that school officials had given a whiff of legitimacy to an era when “aliens, carpet baggers, scalawags, the scum of the earth, bad negroes and many deluded negroes took over the state.” In 1938, Charles B. Bailey, a black man, applied for admission to the law school at the university. During the 1940s James Hinton of Columbia led the state NAACP's drive to insure that South Carolina would get a black law school. He also headed the campaign to mandate equal pay with whites for black public-school teachers. Simultaneously, Governor James Byrnes feverishly pumped more money into black schools to preserve segregation.19

(p.130) The legal efforts of the NAACP in South Carolina found a sympathetic ear in Federal Judge J. Waties Waring. In 1948 the Charlestonian struck down the state's whites-only primary. Two years later he headed a three-judge panel that upheld the segregation of schools. In his dissent, he urged the NAACP counsel Thurgood Marshall to make segregation rather than separate-but-equal the main issue in a Clarendon County school case. Marshall appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court, one of several challenging segregation. The Court chose a Kansas case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, to make its 1954 decision outlawing segregation in public education. In 1955 Robert F. Morrison, a former president of the Charleston NAACP, explained: “We older Negroes know that the only way for the future Negro children to get a chance to get an education equal to whites in this atomic age is for us to go to the same schools that teach the same things.” He concluded, “The Supreme Court and all well-thinking people realize that the separate but equal law has been given a 60 year test and failed.”20

In the 1960s a younger generation reenergized the civil rights movement to help bring about the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They were part of a worldwide “Youthquake.” Civil rights leaders agonized over using children in the movement, but their presence was crucial. In Birmingham, Martin Luther King reluctantly agreed to limit participation to children over the age of fourteen. Nevertheless children became foot soldiers in the movement. A children's crusade engulfed Birmingham. Hundreds of youths were arrested; the authorities used hoses and dogs on them. In September 1963 white supremacists exploded a bomb in Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls. Their deaths triggered a national revulsion.21

Benjamin Mays aptly described youngsters who took the lead in the desegregation of public accommodations as “Young Warriors.” In 1960, South Carolina student sit-ins began in Greenville and Rock Hill, and then spread across the state. Lunch counters were the primary targets. That same year, the Charleston movement to desegregate the city was propelled by youngsters. They defied their parents and school authorities in boycotting schools, so they could join protest demonstrations. Charleston teacher Ruby Cornwell acknowledged the lead the youngsters played: “In '63 I only joined in their demonstrations.” That year public school segregation ended in Charleston as students and their families braved crank phone calls at home and bomb scares at school.22

The United States was being torn apart by the Vietnam War in 1968; campuses were in turmoil. This was the national political background when on the evening of February 8, 1968, police shot into a crowd of twenty-eight young people attending a protest on the South Carolina State University campus. The issue involved the desegregation of a local bowling alley. Three students were (p.131) killed. Two of those wounded were only high school youths: Harvey Miller, fifteen, and Ernest Shuler, sixteen. The explosive incident became known as the Orangeburg Massacre. In a sense, Governor Robert McNair and other state authorities were unable to diffuse the situation because events on the ground moved so quickly; the students had lost faith in both these officials and their traditional black leaders. The civil rights movement in South Carolina reached a peak in 1969 when poorly paid black women at the Medical College in Charleston staged a successful 113-day strike. High-school students were prominent in the protest; they flooded the city's picturesque Battery. The strike brought a partial victory and an upsurge in the registration of black voters in Charleston, which resulted in the election of reform Democrat Joseph Riley as mayor in 1975.23

Led by Strom Thurmond, “the white folks” fought back. As early as 1948 Strom embodied white South Carolina's resistance to civil rights for blacks. His ancestors had migrated from Virginia to Edgefield District in 1784. His grandfather, George Tillman (d. 1904), lost an arm in the Civil War. He came home broke. In 1894 Strom's father Will was elected to the South Carolina Assembly. He nominated Benjamin Tillman for U.S. Senator and became Tillman's personal lawyer and campaign manager. Strom's childhood memories go back to the days of Tillman and Blease. The father took his six-year-old boy to visit Tillman. Strom remembered being impressed as a boy by a fiery stump speech Cole Blease gave in 1912.24

Thirty-four years later, in 1946, Strom Thurmond was elected governor. The South Carolinian attracted national recognition when he bolted the Democratic Party to run for President as a Dixiecrat in 1948. During the campaign he railed against race mixing, and six years later was elected U.S. Senator in a write-in ballot. Thurmond's opposition to the Supreme Court's decision for desegregating education struck a responsive chord among a broad swath of white South Carolinians. In 1956 the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina threatened, “The day the Negro steps into a white South Carolina School as a student will be the day we pick up our weapons.” White Citizens' Councils with a more affluent membership effectively managed to delay desegregation. The UDC immediately acted to insure the proper education of its members' children. The Confederate catechism was reissued, and in 1955 the Children of the Confederacy held its first annual convention. Today its organization mirrors the UDC, with a home page and national officers including a president general.25

In 1964 Strom Thurmond became a Republican and supported Barry Goldwater for president. Thurmond paved the way for the party's Southern strategy. In 1968 he aided Richard Nixon in dealing with the third-party challenge of (p.132) Alabama's George C. Wallace. Subsequently, Thurmond helped turn the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction. His political instincts served him well. He recognized that the black vote was hardly monolithic; Republicans needed a sizeable percentage of it in order to remain in power. He also knew how to disarm his critics. In 1974 the Senator appointed civil rights leader Matthew J. Perry to the United States Court of Military Appeals. Perry became a judge of the District Court of South Carolina and later the chief judge. Similarly, he added blacks to his staff and voted to strengthen and extend the Voting Rights Act. Thurmond's actions led the way for conservatives to accept blacks in the political system and thus remain powerbrokers. His career presages the Last Phoenix.26

A fire severely damaged the Confederate monument of Abbeville in 1991. This was the same memorial that Lucy Calvert Thompson had presented to the town and its children in 1906. On December 14, 1996, a refurbished monument was unveiled at a gala affair that included schoolchildren. An Abbeville school band played, and Phil Turner recited one of his own poems, aptly entitled “Phoenix Stones.” During the Civil War, Abbeville County had suffered one of the highest death rates of white males in the state. Echoing on this occasion was Thompson's exhortation to “revere the memory of those who knew their rights and dared to maintain them.” The political milieu provided the impetus toward another “Phoenix.” The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union witnessed the rise of nationalism throughout the world. Some Southerners saw themselves as an ethnic group victimized by a tyrannical federal government. In 1994 the League of the South (formerly the Southern League) was organized to preserve the Southern cultural identity; some members called for secession. That same year, the Republicans, promising a return to limited government, carried the congressional elections.27

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, some thirty thousand strong, were most vocal in espousing neo-Confederate values. In the 1990s Ken Burns's elevenpart series The Civil War aired, reaching forty million viewers. It raised the ire of some South Carolinians, who did not want their children subjected to a nationalist interpretation of the war. On May 20, 1991, South Carolina Educational Television's Cross Talk presented “A Southern Response.” The questioners in the audience were mostly members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The confrontation caused James Farmer, professor of history at the University of South Carolina, Aiken, to suggest that a more appropriate title for the show should be “The White Southern View.”28

Some dissident members believed that the Sons of the Confederacy was shelving its prohibition against partisan political activity. They wanted it to disassociate itself from extremists. In 2002 the head of the local chapter in Greensboro, (p.133) North Carolina, founded “Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans.” This group advocated “defending Southern heritage in a non racist way.” One of its organizers, from Eutawville, South Carolina, wrote, “If someone wants to attack the government and advocate secession, they can join the League of the South. If they find some sort of warped virtue in racism, then go to the Ku Klux Klan. But this organization,” he affirmed, “has rejected racism in the past, and it's time to do it again once and for all.” Leaders denied that the Sons of Confederate veterans had violated the prohibitions against political activity.29

The national enthusiasm for reenacting American Civil War battles precipitated interest in the war itself. By the late 1990s the United States had more than forty thousand Civil War reenactors. They enjoyed participating in “living history.” The Battle of Secessionville, fought on James Island on June 16, 1862, has become especially popular. Each year it has been reenacted in November at Boone Hall Plantation, east of the Cooper River, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. These reenactments, although not driven by politics, have had political and cultural implications. A four-year-old child at the reenactment of Secessionville in 2000 asked, “Daddy, who do we want to win?” Children also participated in the reenactment of the shelling of Fort Sumter. One nine-year-old boy served as a “Powder-Monkey.” By their nature, these nineteenth-century reenactments locked women in traditional roles; few featured women as uniformed soldiers.30

The Confederate flag became the central battleground for some in the heritage movement. In 1987 the NAACP led a drive to remove Confederate flags atop state capitols; it threatened economic boycotts. Pro-flag supporters in South Carolina viewed this as the beginning gambit to attack the state's Confederate songs, markers, and monuments. They feared that future generations of schoolchildren might forget their Confederate heritage. The successful legal effort to allow women into the corps at the Citadel, an icon of the Old South, only added fuel to the fire. In the 1990s the Confederate-flag controversy came to a head in South Carolina when a boycott had the potential to hurt seriously the economy of the state. In 1996 Republican Governor David Beasley suggested moving the flag from the capitol dome to a nearby Confederate Soldiers' Monument. A firestorm of criticism ensued. Some clergy proclaimed the flag a “sacred symbol.” A social conservative hypothetically wondered how many pro-flag clergy “marched in the South Carolina Pro-Life March and Rally the week before.” One irate person complained: “Our Land was illegally invaded; our homes were looted and destroyed. [We were] held captive, by our conqueror for 12 years. [The flag is] a symbol that reminds us of our brave sons who fought for the right of the state to choose for themselves.”31

(p.134) Children figured prominently in the controversy. A presentation on South Carolina Educational Television in 1996 featured a debate between Republican Attorney General Charles Condon and Republican Governor David Beasley. Condon best summed up the dilemma: “The root issue of this controversy is not where the Confederate flag flies. The issue is what the flag stands for.” He added a rhetorical question, “Are we to regard our state's heritage as essentially good and decent?” Beasley simply asked, “Do we want our children to be debating the Confederate flag in 10 years?” He pleaded: “We must sit down black and white, Republican and Democrat, to ask what is right. And then we must have the courage to do what is right.” In 1998, the flag issue, combined with the lottery and other concerns, cost Beasley his reelection bid. During July 1999, the NAACP announced a national boycott to begin January 2000. Democrat Governor Jim Hodges and the legislature reached a compromise that did not please many flag supporters or the NAACP. In July 2000 the flag came down from the dome and was placed alongside the Confederate Soldiers' Monument on the capitol grounds. At that time the legislature made Martin Luther King's birthday a paid state holiday.32

Today South Carolina is one of the most military-friendly states in the Union; it is the home of many active and retired military. In 2007 a gala was held aboard the World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, at Patriot's Point in the Lowcountry to celebrate the renovation of its museum devoted to the Congressional Medal of Honor. The state's antebellum warrior ethos has resonated with an American military culture that values duty, honor, and country. In 1995 Randolph W. Kirkland Jr. completed an exhaustive compendium of the thousands of South Carolinians who died for the Confederacy. In its scope and design, Broken Fortunes is reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. In both cases soldiers died in a losing war that was criticized as immoral. Remembering their sacrifice encourages closure.33

Likewise, the H. L. Hunley submarine has become an icon for gallantry and death that transcended the war itself. In 1999 when archeologists were searching for members of the Hunley crew who had drowned during trial runs, they discovered the remains of twenty-two Confederate soldiers and sailors under Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston. Draped in Confederate flags, the coffins of these remains were placed in eight-horse-drawn military carriages and carried in procession to Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery, where General Micah Jenkins had been buried. Women, acting as widows in period mourning dresses, were in attendance. The commander of the reenactor group, the Palmetto Battalion, solemnly told schoolchildren, “Remember this because you'll never see it again.”34

(p.135) A few years later another farewell to the Confederate dead occurred, with luck bringing more closure to the suffering of a destructive war. On Saturday, April 17, 2004, thousands of people participated in the final funeral for the eight-man crew of the Hunley. The caskets of the men had lain in state aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor. Some four thousand reenactors and thousands of others, including children, traveled the 4.5-mile route to Magnolia Cemetery. The crew was placed in a common grave. State Senator Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission, proclaimed: “We are here to give them the burial that fate denied them.”35

Some black and white male reenactors share a common bond; respect for the courage, sacrifice, and idealism of those fallen in battle. On April 18, 1865, Colonel Artemus Darby Goodwyn's “Home Guard,” composed of old men, young boys, and sick soldiers, tried to interdict Yankee troops. Seeing the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts advancing, the colonel ordered fifteen-year-old Burwell H. Boykin to shoot the white Union officer E. L. Stevens, who was leading the black unit. In 1995 the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Reenactment Unit placed a marker that honored Stevens and Boykin. The unit's Company I also joined with the Twenty-ninth South Carolina and the Tenth South Carolina in reenactments. What bound them together were a shared history and the desire for authenticity. Members of Company I routinely tossed down a few beers with Confederate reenactors after a day of events. In some respects, they were following the tradition of the antebellum South Carolina Militia. Similarly, policemen, including the black former police chief of Charleston, Reuben Greenberg, performed as Confederate reenactors.36

South Carolina remains paradoxical about its collective past. A granite and bronze African American History Monument (2001) graces the capitol grounds near the statues of Wade Hampton and Benjamin Tillman. The Charleston area will be the home of a Slave Museum and the Hunley Memorial. While there are markers honoring the “Gullah Heritage” and the “Stono Rebellion” (1739), there is little public awareness of the daily travails of the slaves themselves. The response to Essie Mae Washington Williams, the daughter of Strom Thurmond and Carrie Butler, a sixteen-year-old black family servant, has been especially paradoxical. Her name was added to the names of the other Thurmond children on his monument located on the state capitol grounds in Columbia. The Confederate State Mint, in Florence, featured a likeness of her on a commemorative coin, while South Carolina State University granted the former student an honorary degree. In 2004 Williams contemplated joining the UDC.37

In 2007 South Carolina boasted sixty active UDC chapters with more than fifteen hundred members. They were still telling the Children of the Confederacy that the war was not a rebellion and that slavery was not its underlying (p.136) cause. One of the most prized possessions in the Confederate Museum in Charleston is a punch bowl made from the boiler of the burned Palmetto State. Other Lowcountry institutions such as the Charleston Museum reinforce the educational philosophy of the Daughters. In the fall of 2007 the museum sponsored “Home School History Days,” which focused on important events and themes of the Lowcountry. The exhibit on the Siege of Charleston was particularly popular. The fall issue of Provenance, the museum's newsletter, featured a quiz for young readers on the Civil War, highlighting the exhibit. One question posed: “The ‘Swamp Angel’ was (A) A nurse who aided the dying and wounded on Morris Island; (B) An alligator who carried off several Union soldiers during the Siege of Charleston; (C) A Union artillery piece which fired on the city; (D) The gun that fired the first shot of the Civil War.”38

On the eve of the sesquicentennial of the firing on Fort Sumter, the issue of slavery may be the key to the reconciliation of conflicting legacies. On Saturday, January 18, 2003, a mass celebrating the Feast Day of the Confession of St. Peter was held at the Church of the Holy Communion. A. Toomer Porter had founded this church in 1848. The biracial assembly honored the memory of nine slave children advertised for sale at probably the last Charleston auction, held on January 18, 1865. Walter Rhett pleaded that these children and their tribulations are as worthy of remembrance as the crew of the Hunley. They are all God's children. However, the debate over the flag remains unresolved. In 2007, the Rev. Joseph A. Darby, the senior pastor of Morris Brown AME Church, called for a compromise on the Confederate flag that “affirms our shared history” and “respects our diverse heritage.” He conceded that there were black slaveowners, black Confederates, and Africans who sold other Africans into slavery, but he chided flag proponents for avoiding the central issue. Recalling what “[my] very Southern mother used to say, when I was trying to explain misbehavior on my part,” the preacher emphasized, “What you say may be partially right, but it doesn't change the fact you did wrong.”39


(1.) Karen L. Cox, Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003), 1, 121, 134–135.

(2.) This section is based on Ronald D. Burnside, “Racism in the Administrations of Governor Cole Blease,” in George C. Rogers Jr., ed., Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association, 1964 (Columbia: South Carolina Historical Association, 1964), 43–57; David L. Carlton, Mill and Town in South Carolina, 1880–1920 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982); Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations; Stephen Kantrowitz, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000); I. A. Newby, Plain Folk in the New South: Social Change and Cultural Persistence, 1880–1915 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989); Poole, Never Surrender, 173; Francis Butler Simkins, Pitchfork Ben Tillman: South Carolinian (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967); Joel Williamson, The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 108–110, 428–429, chapter 4; Orville Vernon Burton, “The Black Squint of the Law: Racism in South Carolina,” in David R. Chesnutt and Clyde N. Wilson, eds., The Meaning of South Carolina History: Essays in Honor of George C. Rogers, Jr. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), 161–185. See Mrs. Sallie [Sarah] F. Chapin, Fitz-Hugh St. Clair, reprint, 1873, autographed copy with MS presentation to Benjamin R. Tillman, SCL.

(3.) Burton, “Black Squint,” 173.

(4.) Benjamin E. Mays, Born to Rebel: An Autobiography (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 1, 26, 243; Mamie Garvin Fields, with Karen Fields, Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir (New York: Free Press, 1983), 47–50; Burnside, “Racism in the Administrations of Governor Cole Blease.” For a secondary account of the Phoenix Riot, see Kantrowitz, Ben Tillman, 257–258. According to John Hammond Moore, ed., South Carolina Newspapers (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), 130, Greenwood County was formed in 1897 from sections of Abbeville and Edgefield counties. The life span of Racial Radicals Benjamin Tillman (1847–1918), Coleman Blease (p.167) (1868–1942), and their spiritual heir Strom Thurmond (1902–2003) covers a century and a half.

(5.) Cox, Dixie's Daughters, 14, 35–36, 39–41, 121, 134–140; David Goldfield, Still Fighting the Civil War: The American South and Southern History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 112; Mrs. Henry Davis Allen, ed., Catechism on the History of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 (Richmond, Va.: UDC, 1954, reprint, 1990); Confederate Veteran, Nashville, vol. 23 (1915), masthead; 31 (1923): 193–194. See Cornelia Branch Stone, U.D.C. for Children Arranged for the Veuve Jefferson Davis Chapter (Galveston, Tex.: n.p., 1904). The author received valuable assistance from the Daughters Margaret Murdock and Brenda Latham at the UDC Archives in Richmond.

(6.) Lancaster Ledger, February 20, 1861–March 13, 1861; Charleston Daily Courier, July 16, 1861.

(7.) Confederate Veteran, Nashville, 28 (1920): 74; 35 (1927): 32; Cox, Dixie's Daughters, 138–139. The UDC Archives in Richmond has photocopies of some of the state catechisms. The 1954 version by Allen was reprinted in 1955–1957, 1972, 1974, 1984, 1987, and 1990. Another version, entitled Catechism of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865, was published in 1999.

(8.) Allen, Catechism (1990); Cox, Dixie's Daughters, 14–15; Confederate Veteran, Nashville, 8 (1900): 90. For a sophisticated account of Winnie Davis, see Joan E. Cashin, First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006).

(9.) “The State Reunion of South Carolina Volunteers, S.C., May 18–19, 1921,” in Benjamin S. Williams Papers, SCWRPL; Address, ca. 1912, by Mildred Lewis Rutherford, in Anna Louisa Salmond Papers, SCWRPL; Virginia L. Daily, ed., A Sampler of Women's Studies Resources, SCWRPL; Sarah H. Case, “The Historical Ideology of Mildred Lewis Rutherford: A Confederate Historian's New South Creed,” Journal of Southern History 68 (August 2002): 599–628; Joan Marie Johnson, “Sisters of the South: Louisa and Mary Poppenheim and South Carolina Clubwomen,” in Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association, 1997 (Columbia: South Carolina Historical Association, 1998), 77–95; Cox, Dixie's Daughters, 39–41; Confederate Veteran, Nashville, 15 (1907): 154–155; 25 (1917): 282; 29 (1921): 397–398; 36 (1928): 354–355. See also Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Address Delivered by Miss Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Historian-General, United Daughters of the Confederacy (Washington, D.C., 1912).

(10.) Confederate Veteran, Nashville, 15 (1907) has a picture of the choir; debates in 15 (1907): 154–155, 344 and 17 (1909): 7, 11, 138, 268–269. For illustration of young women in Texas with toy rifles, see Cox, Dixie's Daughters, 92.

(11.) UDC, South Carolina Division, Black Oak Chapter Minute Books, 1900–1915, SCWRPL.

(13.) Seigler, Guide to Confederate Monuments, 20, 24–25, 94–96, 298. Seigler documents the role of women in the monument and marker movements.

(14.) Cox, Dixie's Daughters, 107–108.

(15.) Thomas Dixon Jr., The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1905), 3–18, 29–35, 180–188. 190–191, 196–197, 205, 216–217, 284–285, 302–326; Williamson, Crucible of Race, 140, 153, 172–175; Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, 128; John Hammond Moore, “South Carolina's Reaction to the Photoplay, The Birth of a Nation,” in George C. Rogers Jr., ed. Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association, 1963 (Columbia: South Carolina Historical Association, 1964), 30–40.

(17.) Moore, “South Carolina's Reaction to the Photoplay, The Birth of a Nation.”

(18.) Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, 101, 128, 172–176.

(19.) Ibid., 197 (citation of Charleston News and Courier, March 21, 1937), 238–241; Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Broad of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality (London: André Deutsch, 1977), 334.

(20.) Kluger, Simple Justice; Ball, Slaves in the Family, 380–381; Charleston News and Courier, October 9, 1955, as quoted in Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, 273.

(21.) This section is based on William J. Cooper Jr. and Thomas E. Terrill, The American South: A History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991); David Halberstam, The Children of the Movement (New York: Random House, 1998), 51, 217, 255, 431–432, 438–441, 483–484, 491, 641; Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, chapter 6; Mays, Born to Rebel, chapter 21; Jack Bass and Jack Nelson, The Orangeburg Massacre, 2nd ed. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2002); I. A. Newby, Black Carolinians: A History of Blacks in South Carolina from 1895 to 1968 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973). See also Peter F. Lau, Democracy Rising: South Carolina and the Fight for Black Equality Since 1865 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2006); Mintz, Huck's Raft, chapter 5.

(22.) Mays, Born to Rebel, chapter 21 (part of the chapter title); Newby, Black Carolinians, chapter 8; Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, 272–280.

(23.) Bass and Nelson, Orangeburg Massacre, vi–xi, 16, 68–71; Philip G. Grose, South Carolina at the Brink: Robert McNair and the Politics of Civil Rights (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006), chapter 10; Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, 282–286; Fraser, Charleston, 428–429; Newby, Black Carolinians, 360.

(24.) Jack Bass and Marilyn W. Thompson, Ol' Strom: An Unauthorized Biography of Strom Thurmond (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1998), chapter 3.

(25.) Ibid., chapters 8 and 10; Charleston News and Courier, August 20, 1956, in Howard H. Quint, Profile in Black and White: A Frank Portrait of South Carolina (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Office, 1958), 40, chapter 4 entitled “The White Folks Fight Back.”

(26.) Bass and Thompson, Ol' Strom, introduction, 256–261, 281–282, 298, 308–309.

(27.) Seigler, Guide to Confederate Monuments, 23–28; Kirkland, Broken Fortunes, 411; Cartoon, Charleston Post and Courier, November 13, 1999; Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York: Pantheon Books 1998), 105, 112; Goldfield, Still Fighting the Civil War; K. Michael Prince, Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! South Carolina and the Confederate Flag (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004), 54, 57–62, 66, 85–86, 239.

(28.) Robert Brent Toplin, ed., Ken Burns's The Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), introduction; “The Southern Response” on “Cross Talk,” South Carolina Educational Television, May 20, 1991, video. For the numbers, see Charleston Post and Courier, March 23, 2003.

(29.) “Racial Agenda Splits Civil War Group,” Charleston Post and Courier, November 24, 2002.

(30.) Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, 10, 126; Charleston Post and Courier, April 13, 1997; November 12, 2000; Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons. The 2006 reenactment featured an all-women Home Guard.

(31.) Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, 105–106; Catherine S. Mangegold, In Glory's Shadow: The Citadel, Shannon Faulkner, and a Changing America (New York: Vintage Books, 2001); Goldfield, Still Fighting the Civil War, 312–314; Prince, Rally ‘Round the Flag, 133, 175–194; Charleston Post and Courier, December 12, 1996; February 2, 1997; July 29, 1999; February 26, 2000. On March 12, 2000, the Charleston Post and Courier highlighted “Dixie Divided.”

(32.) Charleston Post and Courier, November 27, 1996; Goldfield, Still Fighting the Civil War, 313; Prince, Rally ‘Round the Flag, 198, 246, chapters 5–6, postlude.

(33.) Charleston Post and Courier, May 23, 1007; David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), as discussed in Bertram Wyatt-Brown, “The Ethic of Honor in National Crises: The Civil War, Vietnam, Iraq, and the Southern Factor,” Journal of the Historical Society 4 (December 2005): 431–460.

(34.) Charleston Post and Courier, November 11, 1999; November 13, 1999; March 19, 2000; April 12, 2004.

(35.) Charleston Post and Courier, April 18, 2004; Mt. Pleasant Moultrie News, April 14, 2000.

(36.) Seigler, Guide to Confederate Monuments, 84–88; Charleston Post and Courier, April 18, 2004; communication from Marvin W. Dulaney, executive director, Avery Research Center, College of Charleston, Charleston, S.C., to the author, September 2006.

(37.) Charleston Post and Courier, May 8, 2004; May 13, 2004; item entitled “Adding a Simple ‘Essie Mae,’ Thurmond's Biracial Daughter Recognized on Monument,” July 2, 2004. Also see New York Times, July 2, 2004; Prince, Rally ‘Round the Flag, 251.

(38.) South Carolina Division, UDC, website, October 11, 2007.

(39.) Porter, Led On, 188–189; Walter Rhett, “The Confession of St. Peter and the Children of the Auction Block,” flyer, ca. January 17, 2003; Charleston Post and Courier, May 22, 2007.