In the heart of the American rebellion

The main drawing room – what was effectively the “Oval Office” – of the First Confederacy White House in Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the twelfth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

You’re in the heart of the Jefferson Davis rebellion empire!

I had just walked up to the door of “the first Confederacy White House”, across the road from the Alabaman State Capitol in Montgomery. I wasn’t sure that the museum was open – the door was closed and there was no sign of it being open. So it was a bit of a surprise to open the door and be immediately confronted by a very excited docent, who was like a character actor from a John Wayne film. After the declaration above, I half-expected him to shout “Yee-haa!” and plonk a globule of his oral juices into a nearby spittoon!

The first White House of the Confederacy was, on one level, a very elegant mid-1800s house. On another level, this was where, for the first few months of the American Civil War, President Jefferson Davis of the rebel Confederate States of America, held his war councils.

I had a long conversation with the John Wayne character, who turned out to be a very fair-minded commentator on the Civil War.

We discussed the Confederate Battle Flag, and how it understandably offends African Americans. He said that the flag has the St Andrews Cross in it, indicating that many soldiers of the Confederate Army were Celts. Indeed, the Civil War was sometimes referred to as a battle of the Celts in the South against the English Puritans in the North.

The actual Confederate flag, for some reason, does not cause the same offence as the Confederate battle flag. Indeed, the State Flag of Georgia is virtually identical to it.

That is what the docent at the Jefferson Davis pad said to me anyway. I would no sooner venture into the world of Confederate Flags than venture an opinion about the flags of Ireland! Here’s some reading on the subject of Confederate flags.

Anyway, the docent did say that the shop of the First White House of the Confederacy was “rebelled up” with Confederate battle flags until a few years ago, but, conscious that the flag is the cause of offence, they have now “derebelled” the shop. The only Confederate battle flag they carry is part of a book which explains all the flags of the era.

What has all this, and particularly my digression into vexillology, got to do with African American history? – I hear you cry. Well obviously, the American Civil War was fought over the issue of the slavery of Africans in America. More specifically, it was fought over the question of whether new states and territories in the West of America should be able to have legal slavery. The Civil War ended, after huge bloodshed and pain, with the defeat of the Confederate rebels and the United States’ “Reconstruction Constitutional Amendments”, which were, as Wikipedia relates:

The Thirteenth Amendment (proposed and ratified in 1865) abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except for those duly convicted of a crime. The Fourteenth Amendment (proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868) addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws for all persons. The Fifteenth Amendment (proposed in 1869 and ratified in 1870) prohibits discrimination in voting rights of citizens on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The First Confederacy White House, Montgomery, Alabama, USA.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Oct '17 - 2:41pm

    Flags are for sharing or they are for nothing !

    The remarkable American performer and songwriter , and of celtic, Irish origin, George M Cohan, wrote a song , amongst others he wrote for the Allied cause in the era of the first world war, “it,s a Grand Old Flag !” He referred to the Stars and Stripes, often subject to burning in the anti War sixties.

    The same that I have said for a flag is true for a song. Another remarkable performer and songwriter , Irving Berlin, though Jewish, wrote the great Christmas song , White Christmas, for Bing Crosby, and Easter Parade, for Fred Astaire.He also wrote one of his countries unofficial national anthems, “God Bless America.!” And, having come to America as a tiny tot, with a love for his country, he was a liberal minded progressive man, who, and for black history month , its worth mentioning especially, refused , during the war, to perform to segregated troop audiences, and had an insistence on integration!

  • Christopher Haigh 12th Oct '17 - 8:46pm

    The British establishment supported the south and wanted the US divided in two. Lancashire cotton workers refused to work with slave picked cotton and were thanked for this by Abraham Lincoln after the war was over.

  • Kevin Maher 12th Oct '17 - 9:29pm

    Gladstone was on record as supporting the south. His father was a slave trader.

  • Simon Banks 5th Dec '17 - 6:21pm

    There are many myths about the Confederacy and the Celt thing is one of them. Scots (who, historically, are not necessarily Celts) and Northern Irish were spread reasonably evenly north to south. Welsh and Southern Irish were mostly in the North. The Irish were already a very large community in Massachusetts, the biggest of the New England states. One Union regiment from New York consisted of Highland Scots and had dress uniform incorporating the kilt. There was even a General Grant…

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