Where the Confederacy Is Rising Again.


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.


  1. johnson catman says

    Marcus Ranum @1:
    EXACTLY! That is the prominent “right” that the states themselves mention in the secession documents.

    Toungate went silent for a beat, and then changed the subject.

    Because there is no argument that can be made when the documents from the confederate states explicitly state the reason for secession as wanting to own people as slaves. Too bad he doesn’t go silent permanently. Fuckhead.

  2. johnson catman says

    BTW, how can a person have “five grandfathers”? A person can only have four blood grandfathers, so I can only think he is counting at least one who is not one of his true ancestors. Or is that some kind of confederate math that I have not heard of?

  3. johnson catman says

    Ooooh. Bad math on my part. A person can only have TWO blood grandfathers. Maybe he is counting some great-xx in there.

  4. blf says

    Whilst trying to locate what the SPLC has to say about SCV, I ran across this article Once Again, Racism Rears Up in the Sons of Confederate Veterans (Feb-2011):

    For much of the last decade, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) has been roiled by an internal civil war between racial extremists and those who want to keep the Southern heritage group a kind of history and genealogy club.

    It’s beginning to look like the racists won.
    […N]ow, from the Mississippi Division of the SCV, comes this new gem: The group wants the state to issue a special license plate, keyed like the Montgomery march to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, to honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest — a millionaire Memphis slave trader before the war, an apparent war criminal who presided over the massacre of surrendering black prisoners at Fort Pillow, Tenn., during it, and the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan afterward, when the Klan’s terrorist violence paved the way to a Jim Crow South.

    Neo-Confederate apologists in the SCV and elsewhere claim that Forrest has been mischaracterized, that he was a good man who disbanded the Klan when it became violent. […]

    That is false. Forrest, for all the fawning attention he’s received from the historical revisionists of the neo-Confederate movement, was […] a homicidal bully.

    Before the war, according to a newspaper account at the time, he was known for personally bullwhipping slaves who were held stretched out in the air by four other slaves. Women slaves were reportedly stripped naked and whipped with a leather thong dipped in salt. Former slaves later backed up these accounts.
    It is false that he disbanded the Klan because it became violent. In fact, Forrest disbanded the Klan^ — after lying to Congress about his membership — only after its work was done and it had come under severe criticism. Klan terrorism had by then already made it impossible for blacks and Republicans to vote.

    I have no idea what happened to the license plate proposal, or for that matter, precisely how(if at all) the SPLC classifies SCV (my Generalissimo Google-fu is fued).

  5. Raucous Indignation says

    The right to slavery was the only reason cited as the cause for secession by any of the 11 Southern states that formed the Confederacy.

  6. blf says

    Raucous Indignation@8, Are you missing a common there? As in “the only common reason” — because slavery wasn’t the “only” reason mentioned in some of the succession documents, or by some of the principle individuals. Having said that, however, many of the other cited reasons have connections with slavery.

    As an example, Texas, in addition to slavery, also said: The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; […]

  7. Kengi says

    The southern states were actually primarily against state’s rights, not for them.

    The federal government of the time before the war started was not at all demanding the end of slavery in the southern states. The southern states were, in fact, insisting the northern states didn’t have the right to protect escaped slaves through state legislation, and demanded the federal government step in and send those former slaves back to their owners.

    The southern states were also demanding that all new states and territories should be forced (by the federal government) to be slave states and territories.

    And, as has already been pointed out, in as much as southern states wanted any states rights at all, they specifically demanded the right to own black slaves.

  8. blf says

    The southern states were also demanding that all new states and territories should be forced (by the federal government) to be slave states and territories.

    Related, one of the things that struck me about the confederate constitution (from @7) is that any states joining the confederacy had to practice slavery (lV 3(3)): The Confederate States may acquire new territory […]. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected […].

  9. opus says

    I have always thought that removing statues of confederate heroes wasn’t the right tactic, in that it feeds the idiots who complain about the winners/federal government rewriting history. What I’d love to see instead is a law that says that any statue on public property of someone who served the confederacy must have a plaque with the relevant paragraph of the Cornerstone speech* attached, in the same type size as the monument, as long as no tax funds are expended on the additional plaque. I for one would pony up some cash to add a plaque to the monument to southern traitors in the nearest town and I’d guess that I’m far from the only one who would chip in. Private funding would defuse arguments about tax funds being used to dishonor our southern traitors.
    *“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy

  10. blf says

    opus@12, A problem with that idea is it could easily be construed as supporting what Stephens said.

  11. that guy on the internet says

    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.”

    I think Savage is getting this subtly wrong. This isn’t a change of subject at all; it’s exactly the same subject. The confusion arises because Savage mis-identifies the original subject as “the historiography of the American Civil War.” It’s an easy mistake to make, the sort of thing that happens when you pay attention to the actual words people say. But it’s clear that Toungate neither knows nor cares about history of the Confederacy. So when he asserts that the Confederacy gets a bad rap because of biased Yankee historians, it is an error to understand him as making some sort of claim about history or historians — biased, Yankee, or otherwise. And when it becomes clear that Savage is missing the point, Toungate makes the same point again, in different language. And the point, again, has nothing to do with “government wasting money” and little to do with “people living off welfare.”

    All of these utterances are ways of expressing the same idea: that Mr. Toungate resents the [imaginary] position of social privilege occupied by black people and its [largely imaginary] role in creating his own [all too real] disadvantaged position.

Leave a Reply