John Savage at Politico has an in-depth article about the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who not only continue their constant fight to keep confederate statues, symbols, and flags in place and protected, but are now planning a massive confederate monument, at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Orange’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, in the town of Orange, East Texas. Nothing subtle about that.
…Throughout this tempest, the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an aging army of deeply religious, federal government distrusting, neo-Confederate true believers, has emerged as a steadfast defender of Confederate iconography. The Texas SCV only claims about 5,000 members, but their ideology carries significant weight in the state. SCV members sued the University of Texas in an effort to stop the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue. They distributed more than 1,000 Confederate flags in Fort Worth after the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo banned the Confederate battle flag. Wherever someone wants to rename a school or remove a statue that honors the Confederacy, the SCV’s members soon follow.
But the Texas SCV is not only fighting against the disappearance of Confederate symbolism, they are behind the construction of what is likely the largest Confederate memorial built in a century — a multi-ton shrine nearing completion in an east Texas town near the Louisiana border. For the SCV, this battle is not just about protecting a Confederate heritage, it’s about resurrecting it, restoring that heritage so that they will continue to have something to protect.
Jim Toungate is the adjutant of the Williamson County chapter of the Texas SCV, and Savage had a long interview with him at his residence.
…”I had five grandfathers who fought for the Confederacy, and they were religious people who didn’t treat black people badly,” Toungate said, earnestly, his Southern drawl growing thicker as he spoke. “They were fighting for states’ rights, not slavery.” According to Toungate, before secession, the federal government mistreated Southern states by issuing unfair tariffs. “Thirty thousand blacks fought for the Confederacy because they loved their masters,” Toungate argued, offering the fact as proof that “slavery could not have caused the war.”
Toungate led me into a walk-in closet filled with Confederate uniforms. He opened a shiny black gun safe and handed me a black-powder rifle and six-shooter. “The weapons are replicas of guns made around the time of the War Between the States,” he explained.
Toungate collects the flags and guns because they connect him to his ancestors. “It’s my family’s heritage,” he said. “It’s important to me.”
While I personally find that to be in questionable taste, I think most people would agree on you being able to collect whatever objects you like. I collect old medicines and other oddities, but I don’t go insisting that my old bottles of Henbane or Aconite be turned into a monstrous public monument, because, hey, poisons are cool (they really are) and everyone should feel the same way.
Despite the sincerely held historical views of Toungate and his ilk, almost all professional historians agree on the cause of the Civil War. “The Confederacy’s agenda was about expanding slavery,” says Kevin Levin, founder of the popular blog Civil War Memory and author of the forthcoming book, Searching for Black Confederate Soldiers: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.
As I related the arguments that Toungate had told me — the claim that Southern states seceded to protect their rights from a tariff-imposing federal government, for instance — Levin exhaled a knowing sigh. He often hears this claim from SCV members, he said, and it is simply not true. What about the 30,000 African-Americans fighting for the Confederacy? “Another myth,” Levin says.
Levin pointed to the words of Confederates themselves, particularly Texas’ Ordinance of Secession. The document, which officially separated Texas from the Union in 1861, declared that African-Americans were “rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.” It says that Texas seceded because non-slave-holding states “demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy.” The document does not mention tariffs or any state right other than the right to own black people.
Toungate waved off the document when I show it to him later. “People have a distorted view of the Confederacy because liberal Northern historians wrote the history books,” he insists. But these are primary sources, I noted, the words of the Confederates themselves. Toungate went silent for a beat, and then changed the subject. “I’m sick of the federal government wasting money,” he said, and “people living off welfare.”
The whole article is excellent, and it also provides another look at yet another faction who supports Trump.