By Tad Wilkes
Starke Miller’s letter to the editor, titled “The Truth About the Confederate Monument” is an exercise in sugarcoated revisionism.
Miller’s long-winded fantasy, originating from the whitewashed version of “history” developed after the war, goes to great pains to align with the victim mentality of the post-war decades. It’s the continuation of a fiction that positions the soldiers as the true victims in all this and doesn’t mention the slaves they fought to own at all, as though the latter never existed.
It’s disappointing that in 29 years of researching and patting himself on the back as an “expert” on the Civil War, after scouring “primary documents” (created by revisionists after the war), Miller has failed to review the most primary of them all, Mississippi’s own words in its secession document, titled “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.”
Before the confederacy realized their cause was likely to be lost and needed revision and tweaking, Mississippi, like other Southern states, was unabashed in confidently letting the world know why they were seceding, as follows:
“In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course. Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery— the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”
Starke Miller would have us view the war just as the weeping bitties of 1906 saw it: poor young boys who died valiantly fighting for a cause that conveniently isn’t mentioned.
Imagine for a moment that your grandfather kidnapped someone and forced him to do all his work for him for decades. When faced with the possibility of not having this slave and doing his own work, granddaddy declared proudly that he was sticking with his situation. Then, when the cops showed up to rescue the kidnappee, granddaddy sent his son (daddy) outside to fight the cops, who then shot him. Over the next four decades, your story becomes that grandaddy and daddy were just “defending their home and, oh, by the way, that guy tied up in the basement enjoyed his stay and daddy gave him a warm can of Coke each time he cut the yard against his will.” Granddaddy, who lived on after the skirmish by sacrificing his son, raises you in this fiction, telling you it was all about “homeowner rights.” Then you want to raise a monument at the center of town on the basis that daddy “died”—in a vacuum.
How Mr. Miller has spun himself into this fantasy of his, I don’t know. I assume like most of us he’d rather not face the fact that his ancestors made a mistake. Mine fought for the confederacy, too. I forgive their mistake, but I don’t want a statue celebrating them as heroes.