Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Confederacy Misremembered

Confederate History buffs conveniently ignore these compelling facts of their "heritage."

Recently The Albany Herald has featured proposals for studying the history of the Confederacy in the letters section, guest editorials, and even news articles regarding Confederate History Month. The gist of the letters and editorials was to praise the courage, honor, and convictions of those who fought for the South during the Civil War-- perhaps proving that the Big Lie technique didn't originate in the 20th century. I wholeheartedly agree that we all could benefit from a better acquaintance with historical facts about the Confederacy and the Peculiar Institution which underlay the decision of Southern States to wage war on the government of the United States.

In March I was on Jekyll Island for a family event, and our group toured the homes of the rich and famous of the last century. One of the homes had been owned by the Captain of The Wanderer, the last known slave ship to leave Africa and unload slaves in the United States. Once aboard ship, they were packed below deck like cordwood, laying one on top of the other. Slave ship captains were referred to as “loose packers” or “tight packers” depending on how many African slaves they crammed into an available space during the six to eight week journey across the Atlantic. When the weather was bad, slaves were forced to remain below deck for weeks. Below deck, the areas housing the slaves were smaller than graves. The slaves had no sanitation and no ventilation. Many of them died en route to America, and the slaves stacked next to them had to endure laying next to or on top of the corpses for hours or days.

The Wanderer reached Jekyll Island, Georgia on November 28, 1858 and delivered over 450 slaves, unloading them at a dock near the old hotel. Before they were sold at auction, slaves were oiled to make their skin shiny. Scars from whippings were filled in with hot tar to improve the appearance and boost the selling price.

Slavery had been legalized in Georgia in 1751 after the Trustees of the Colony had petitioned the King to repeal the colony’s prior ban on slavery. The first slave code was introduced in Georgia’s General Assembly in 1755, and it provided that all offspring of “Negroes (people of African origin), mulattoes (people of mixed white and African origin), and mestizos (mixed Indian and white origin) who were slaves at the time of the act were assigned to slavery forever.”

By the 1860 census there were 462,198 slaves in Georgia- fully 44 percent of the total population of 1,057,286. The only state with more slaves was Virginia- 490,865, which was 31 percent of its population. There were just under four million slaves in the Confederacy at the onset of the Civil War. After the North prevailed, there were zero slaves in the United States. Had the Confederacy succeeded in its armed rebellion against the United States, millions of African slaves would have remained in shackles, and slavery would have endured for years or decades to come.

I look forward to the next Confederate apologist who manages to deal with reality and explain just how "noble" the Southern Cause really was.