Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The South shall fall again. And again. And again.


Robert Gould Shaw memorial, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (National Gallery of Art)

     The South was never going to win the Civil War.
     If you consider the resources of the North, the moment the first Confederate cannon fired on Fort Sumter, the South’s doom was sealed. A week later, the Chicago Tribune ran a prescient editorial explaining why.
     “It is a military maxim of modern war that the longest purse wins,” it begins, outlining the North’s advantages in manpower, manufacturing, maritime strength and, most of all, money. “The little State of Massachusetts can raise more money than the Jeff Davis Confederacy.”
     The conclusion may have been foregone, but it took four years and 620,000 American lives to play out.
     It’s still unfolding. The Confederacy lost the war, but never gave up the fight — its baked-in bigotry, the proud ignorance required to consider another human being your property, marches on, from then to now. Manifesting itself plainly in the Trump era, his entire political philosophy being the slaveholder mentality decked out in new clothes, trying to pass in the 21st century. They even wave the same rebel flag. Kind of a giveaway, really.
    The Lost Cause marches on, as we will see Wednesday, when Congress faces another ego-stoked rebellion: Donald Trump’s insistence that his clearly losing the 2020 presidential election in the chill world of fact can be set aside, since he won the race in the steamy delta swampland between his ears.
     No way. Not as long as there are Americans, like the Chicagoans rushing to sign up to fight in April 1861, who are true patriots and willing to stand up for democracy.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Almost 80 years ago, history repeated itself, as it always does. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing itself into a war with the vastly more powerful United States, even though the man they sent to plan & lead the attack told them not to.
    Admiral Yamamoto had been Japan's naval attache in Washington 20 years earlier & had traveled the country extensively by train. That's where he saw mile after mile of steel mills for 50 miles from the South Side of Chicago well into Indiana & the same around Pittsburgh.
    He told them Japan would win for six months & then lose.
    They didn't listen & Japan won for five months until the Battle of the Coral Sea, where it was a draw, then two months later, Japan lost four aircraft carriers, to just one for the US.
    After that, it was nothing but losses for Japan until August 1945, when the ultimate weapon was used to force their surrender.

  2. Enslaved people it's hard for me wrap my head around. Seems impossible that for centuries europeans who came to the americas felt no remorse for exploiting and brutalizing people from Africa. Until you realize even today many americans continue to see blacks as less than. In so many subtle yet harmful ways , northerners and southerners. Conservatives and progressives.
    On this day I hope many of us acknowledge the brilliance and bravery of one of the most important people in our society. Stacey Abrams. A true hero.
    Her work turning a southern state with lingering vestiges of the racism that allowed for slavery and Jim crow to a majority progressive electorate no matter how slight is to be lauded. Georgia's first black senator brought to us with her diligence. Yay!

  3. 'Almost exactly 160 years ago, the smaller, weaker South thought it could impose its will on the whole country by military force.'
    Please quit describing the south as a monolithic block. That was not the case. Such broad brushing of everyone is not good journalism. You can do better.

  4. One cannot help but think of David and Goliath when reading about the inevitability of the North's eventual military victory over the South, but as Malcolm Gladwell makes clear in his book "David and Goliath," David actually had the overwhelming advantage in that fight, given David's skill with the sling and Goliath's handicaps of weighty armor and poor eyesight. Likewise, the South had advantages based on racial stereotypes commonly believed not only in the South, but also widespread in the North, that did not bring it military victory, but has prolonged the political battle to this day. Despite Democratic triumphs and the idiocy of President Trump, it's not over yet, the romance of "Gone with the Wind" and the Lost Cause may yet prevail, God help us!


  5. How can anyone take Trump's endgame antics seriously? I have a vision of Trump being the butt of an infinity of jokes hitherto undreamt of. I'd give anything to see sheriffs police escorting The Donald out of the White House in such a manner that the door hits him on the way out. Then seeing his personnel possessions piled at the curb getting picked over by homeless people, and then seeing Trump holding a self portrait engaged in a tug of war with a ravager.

  6. The North-South game was a bitter, brutal, hard-fought contest. The South had a fanatical roster and a superior coaching staff, and actually prevailed for the first two quarters and had a shot at slugging their way to victory. But their cause became a Lost Cause as soon as it became quite obvious that the North had a much deeper bench.

  7. "It took 159 years, but a mob marching behind a confederate flag has stormed the US Capitol."

    1. It’s heartbreaking. How low can he bring us?

  8. I’m reading this after the assault on our Capitol. This column could not have been better timed.

  9. Excellent history lesson — hopefully those who need to read it will. Well said!


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.