WHISTLING DIXIE

December 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MUSEUM – “This is a map showing the North and the South in 1861,” I say, pointing to a large map on the wall.

“Where’s Disneyworld?” I can see it is going to be a most interesting visit to this museum which is currently featuring a large and well-done display of artifacts, maps, guns, photos and everything else having to do with the Late Unpleasantness. I am the Natty Bumppo to my three grandsons, and shall show my unworthy and unappreciative descendants my deep knowledge of American history. “Here is….”

“Abraham Lincoln,” interrupts one of my flock. “When he was assassinated, his wallet contained a Confederate five-dollar bill. The Grassy Knoll Society says this proves Lincoln was a Southern spy.”

So much for my Lincoln speech. We come to a photo of Robert E. Lee. “In 1859, Lee was visiting his family in Virginia when John Brown, that’s him there, seized an armory at Harper’s Ferry and tried to free the slaves. Lee was ordered to arrest Brown, so Lee led a group of US Marines up to Harper’s Ferry and took him.”

“If the US Army was trying to free the slaves and John Brown was trying to free the slaves, why did they arrest him?”

“Let me get back to you on that. Anyway, Lee spent more time in Texas than in the Confederate Army. His last US Army command was at Fort Mason northwest of Austin. He had an astute observation: “We made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.”

“Gramps, you’d make a terrible general. Grandma says you weren’t even a very good lance corporal.”

“Shut up,” I explained. “Now, keep an eye out for a picture of your ancestors, General Turner Ashby and his younger brother, Captain Dick. Known as the Brothers Ashby, they were cavalry officers in the Army of Northern Virginia. No, they were not responsible for Ashby’s Rout and Ashby’s Humiliation. That was another ancestor, Major AWOL Ashby.”

“Did you know him well?”

“I’m not that old. Moving on, here is a display of the POW camps of both sides. Everyone knows about Andersonville, but what about Camp Douglas? It was a Union camp for Confederate POWs on the edge of Chicago. A trolley line was built out to the camp and bleachers set up so Chicagoans could go out and watch the Confederate soldiers in rags behind barbed wire stumbling around in the mud. A class act.”

“Never heard of it.”

“History is written, or not written, by the victors. Next we have this banner which is commonly called the Confederate flag, but actually it is the Confederate Battle flag. You see it displayed by the Ku Klux Klan which is why it is no longer displayed anywhere else, especially on Texas license plates. What’s that? Yes, you can change history. Indeed, a lot of our history is changing. There used to be sports teams, like UT-Arlington, named the Rebels. No more. When was the last time you heard a band play ‘Dixie’? Wonder what would happen today if someone tried to name an army base Fort Hood, Fort Lee or Fort Polk? As Grant told Lee at Appomattox, fugetaboutit.”

“Did the Union Army ever come to Texas, like in a battle?”

“Yes, they attempted to invade from the east, at the Sabine Pass. But a Houston saloon keeper named Dickey Dowling and a bunch of his Irish buddies beat them back in the most lop-sided battle of the entire war. Just think of the outcome if they had been sober. And Yankees took over Galveston for a couple of years, but got tired of the crowds at spring break, and surrendered.”

We come upon a glass case holding medical instruments, and photos of soldiers on both sides missing arms and legs. One lad asks: “Is that where the term ‘disarm’ came from? But nobody says ‘disleg.’ And why did they call the North the ‘Union’ when they never went out on strike?

“You ask too many questions.”

“Why was it called the Civil War?”

“Not everyone did. Your great-great-grandmother called it the War of Southern Independence or the War of Northern Aggression. Of course, she also thought damnyankee was one word. This is a picture of Sam Houston. He wanted Texas, which had only been a state for 15 years and still had the same leaders, to go back to being an independent country and sit out the conflict. Sort of like: ‘You two go ahead and war. We’ll just watch from over here.’ Texas joined the Confederacy, but its draft laws exempted any male who owned 15 or more slaves. Talk about a rich man’s war.”

“What about slavery? It was legal in New York until 1827. Kentucky didn’t ratify the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery until 1976.”

“Next question. Actually, slavery was all a matter of economics. If they could have raised cotton in Boston, we’d never had the war. By the end of the conflict in 1865 the South was more devastated than either Germany or Japan after World War Two. Reconstruction, an ill-fitting word in this case, gave us the expression, ‘Yankee go home.’ It didn’t work. They’re still here, and more are coming every day.”

“What happened to the Brothers Ashby?”

“They were both killed by Yankees.”

“And AWOL Ashby?”

“He, too, was shot….by his own troops.”

 

Ashby rebels at ashby2@comcast.net

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