Saturday, January 11, 2014

Open Letter to Miami Herald Editor Regarding Florida Confederate Heritage and Nathan Bedford Forrest

Mr. Fred Grimm,
Your column the end of December regarding the Duval County School Board renaming Nathan Bedford Forrest demonstrates astounding ignorance and bias toward a progressive agenda.  I loved the way you attempt to diminish the position of those defending an accurate accounting of the country’s history and defending their family, community and state heritage as neo-Confederates.  That will surely put all those folks in their place eh?  But it isn’t surprising as the vast majority of Americans today are a product of their environment and the very progressive educational system which seeks to rewrite history shaping their knowledge, understanding and comprehension of the topic.  

It is an accepted tradition to actually appreciate history and heritage and recognize it in public places including state buildings and museums, for instance to fly flags displaying those nations under which a territory presided.  Accepted until the progressives decide they want to ignore or rewrite history.  In his The Life of Reason Vol.1, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."  This is why we remember.  And to honor our great grandfathers who fought and died to defend their homes and families from an invading army much as their forefathers fought in the Revolutionary War to defend their newly claimed independence from Britain.   We remember those Revolutionary patriots with honor and celebration but you remember the Confederate patriots with derision although their Constitution was framed to more exactly and specifically pattern itself after that which the founders of our country established in a Jeffersonian model with power, liberty and freedom in the hands of the individual and the states, not controlled and bestowed by an all-powerful centralized federal government. 

How prophetic was Confederate General Patrick Cleburne’s warning, “If the South should lose, it means that the history of our heroic struggle will be written by the enemy, that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers, will be impressed by all of the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision."  How true.   And today, we see the product of the federal control of our very lives and the nation we have become, a nation with a growing culture of entitlements, a nation with a primary education system trailing most other industrialized countries, and a nation teetering on the brink of economic catastrophe with a seventeen trillion dollar debt.  Our Southern heritage embodied in ideals of self-sufficiency and responsibility and a Biblical morality are very much pervasive today despite the stranglehold of the federal government and the slow descent into mediocrity including bankruptcy and crime into which much of the United States slips.

At any rate, on to refuting the points of your editorial (  As you correctly maintain, there is no factual basis for Nathan Bedford Forrest ever being affiliated in any way with the Ku Klux Klan and Congressional investigations and testimony in that regard by Forrest at that time substantiate this.  One could rationalize that the KKK sought a symbol of undying Southern greatness and virility and Forrest, as one of the greatest cavalry officers of the Confederacy and of all history whose tactics have been studied by military experts ever since provided such a model but, your bias and agenda would not allow you to simply state the facts and rationale there.  Similarly, there is no basis in historical fact that Forrest was present or witness to any atrocities at Ft. Pillow and amongst other evidence, the simple fact that Forrest was never indicted of any war crimes would bear testimony to this.  

Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, imposing martial law, imposing the draft and, invading what he claimed was still states of the Union using federal troops were all unconstitutional acts.  The Total War scorched earth strategy employed by Grant and Sherman, indiscriminately lobbing artillery shells at civilian targets, allowing the rape of black and white Southern women, pillaging civilian farms and stores and homes, withholding basic food and clothing and provisions for prisoners of war resulting in unprecedented death rates in Union POW camps, blockading Southern ports to starve the populace of food and medicine, deporting civilians to Northern prisons – these are just some of the war crimes which Lincoln and his commanding officers would likely have been held responsible had the CSA sought to and were successful in defeating, capturing and subjugating the United States government instead of the manner in which history played out.  

In your analysis over the  recent “skirmish” revolving around the Olustee Battlefield State Park and the fight to erect a monument to Union soldiers on the grounds there, I found it interesting you conveniently neglected to mention that the United Daughters of the Confederacy bequeathed this historic property to the State Park system in 1949, the same UDC who you admonished for commemorating a great Confederate General by naming a Jacksonville high school after this historic figure in 1959. Your hypocrisy in selectively presenting historical evidence is astonishing.   

The minimal Florida Confederate history you speak of was not minimal to the thousands of soldiers killed and wounded in the War and apparently is significant enough to prompt the Sons of Union Veterans to seek to memorialize the Federals killed at the Battle of Olustee.  The Confederate casualties in excess of 1100 souls representing almost 1% of the population of the state of Florida may contradict your minimizing the relevance not to mention the strategic importance of the state in the economy and trade of the Confederacy.  So because “ancestors of (those) who lived in Florida at the outbreak of the War have long since been overwhelmed by immigrants and their offspring from Yankee states and foreign nations”, we should disregard our history and those of us who do share in this Southern heritage should be silenced, belittled and marginalized?  

I was going to wrap up my response to your editorial at that point but then I looked further at the very next sentence and you dismissively and derisively suggest that “Confederate troops considered the use of black soldiers beyond the pale”.  The black members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans would correct you on that suggestion.  The very same Confederate General who you lambasted as a symbol of the “inconvenient past”, Nathan Bedford Forrest had 45 of his slaves serve under his command until the very end of the War testifying to their allegiance to him and the care he demonstrated towards them. After the War, contrary to your conceived notion that Forrest roamed the country lynching and burning crosses, Forrest was a leader encouraging blacks to vote and reconciling blacks and whites in the Reconstruction period in the South.   Suggested reading -

Sincerely, Stuart Forrest Waldo, Commander Camp 1524 Sons of Confederate Veterans

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