The central preoccupation of Americans — those who are literate enough to be preoccupied with history — is the Civil War, a.k.a. the War Between the States, a.k.a. the Recent Unpleasantness. The degree of preoccupation varies according to the distance between where one lives and the areas where most of the fighting took place. Since Virginia is the state where most of the battles were fought, any Virginia family — black or white — of sufficiently long lineage can tell you stories that have been passed down from generation to generation for a century and a half.
Mind you, I’m not talking about the hysterical preoccupation with “racism”, “slavery”, and “oppression” that is raging in the land as I write these words. I’m talking about a deep and abiding interest in the tragic years 1861-1865 generated by the impact they had on one’s family and environment.
I wrote about such matters in my poem “Sayler’s Creek” (the full text is here), which opens with these stanzas:
There is too much history here in Virginia;
we are drowning in its muddy flood.
Every April sweeps its pontoons from their moorings
on the North Fork of the Shenandoah
with Federal soldiers watching helplessly from the bank.
Every pitcher toeing the mound
scuffs up a lode of Minié balls.
A metal detector swept over any ravine
uncovers the belt buckles and canteens
urgently shed by fleeing infantry.
A faded daguerreotype of General Lee
stares down from every wall,
a stern reminder of all that vanished glory.
The top drawer of every dusty dresser
in every second-hand shop
opens to reveal a brittle bundle of worthless banknotes.
Everyone’s great-great-uncle Theophrastus
led the charge at the Crater.
That poem was written in 1996, when one could still see photographs of General Lee here and there in public places. Those days are gone, alas. A rearguard action is even now being fought against the removal of his statue from Monument Avenue in Richmond, but the cause is just as lost as it was the spring of 1865. The Wokerati will prevail. The last depictions of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will eventually be erased from public view in the Commonwealth, no matter what the average Virginia citizen might think of the matter. All objective accounts of Confederate history will be removed from high school and university curricula. The stories will be passed down by word of mouth only. The artifacts and written accounts of the events of those years will be confined to private collections and family attics.
And one such attic will obviously be mine.
There are little pieces of family lore in the stanzas of my poem. My mother’s great-great uncle was famous for leading the charge at the Crater in Petersburg, but his name wasn’t Theophrastus. He was Brigadier General David Weisiger (pronounced “Wizziger”, for readers who live outside the Richmond area), and was renowned, at least in Virginia, for his heroism on that day.
I am also in possession of a brittle bundle of worthless banknotes from the period. For many years they were kept in the top drawer of Dymphna’s and my dresser.
My grandmother’s first cousin (i.e. my first cousin twice removed) was the only daughter of the eldest daughter (there were five daughters, no sons) of David Weisiger’s brother, so she inherited most of the family heirlooms from the plantation. She never married, and when she died the various items were divided among her cousins.
The largest pieces of furniture went to my uncle and my mother. The item that I coveted most was a plantation medical kit, which was a wooden cabinet with little drawers and cubbies for medicinal substances, surgical implements, etc. I remember one drawer was labeled “Opium”, and there was a dried black tarry residue at the bottom of it. I really wanted that cabinet, but it went to one of my cousins.
One of the few things I received (which I had also wanted) was an envelope full of Confederate money. I’ve scanned some of the notes to display here.
In my bundle of worthless banknotes are two hundred-dollar bills, one twenty (not shown here), eighteen Confederate tens, one Virginia ten, and three pieces of fractional scrip from the City of Richmond — 25¢ (not shown here), 30¢, and 75¢. That makes a total of $411.30, which was a lot of money in 1862, especially since it was presumably received in exchange for gold and/or silver coins. I’m certain those were sorely missed in April of 1865.
This is the back of the hundred-dollar note shown at the top of this post:
The interest rate paid on the note was 2¢ daily, which is an APR of 7.3%.
There’s no indication that any interest was paid on the tens and twenties.
The fractional notes issued by the City of Richmond are worn and wrinkled, indicating that they saw wide circulation. The other bills were in better shape, and may not have circulated much before coming to rest in the family strongbox.
For the higher-denomination notes, the Confederate government promised to pay the bearer the face amount on demand six months or two years (depending on the note) after a peace treaty was signed with the United States. It was hoped that the delay would allow the nascent state to accumulate enough gold and silver through taxes and tariffs to be able to pay off its promissory notes.
Alas, no peace treaty ever came. The surrender was signed by General Lee on April 9, 1865 (which day I refer to in my more sardonic moments as “the Confederate naqba”), and all those Confederate, Virginia, and Richmond banknotes suddenly became worthless pieces of paper.
Back in the 1990s, before the Internet, I became curious to find out what our Confederate money was worth to collectors. I took the envelope full of notes down to the central library in Charlottesville and asked the woman at the reference desk for assistance. She helped me find a large volume containing plates of all the different Confederate notes and their assessed value to collectors. It wasn’t a book that could be borrowed from the library, so I sat down at a desk in the reference area to match my heirlooms with the pictures in the book.
The Virginia ten and the Richmond fractional notes weren’t in the book, so I can’t tell you how much they’re worth. The rest of the collection, however, was worth less than face value — as I recall, the ten-dollar bills commanded an average theoretical price of about $7.50. The Confederate treasury had printed so many of those notes that they were of little value to modern collectors. One hundred and thirty years had passed, and the loss to the family could still not be recouped!
I wouldn’t have sold them, anyway — I was just curious. I would have to be desperate for cash before I would consider selling off any important pieces of family history.
I’m writing this in the safe space of the Eyrie at Schloss Bodissey, far enough away from major urban centers to make it unlikely that any Antifa or Black Lives Matter activists will discover me and my doubleplus ungood thoughts. At least for right now.
I’m fortunate that I don’t work for the government, or the media, or a major corporation. Writing about historical matters without including the mandatory shibboleths about race and privilege and oppression would most likely cost me my job. If I posted this on Facebook or Twitter, my account would be closed.
If I were prominent enough, and resided in a city or large town, I would live in fear of being doxxed, and would face the possibility that I might be assaulted and have my residence vandalized or torched.
Such are the times we live in.
Luckily, this blog has too small a readership to attract the attention of the Woke Brigades. Anyone well-known who writes contrary to the Narrative is systematically silenced by one means or another, but we microbes can escape notice.
We have reached the point where the only dissenting voice with a mass audience is to be found on the Twitter account of Donald Trump. That’s a pretty slender thread on which to hang the hope of a return to national sanity.
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
George Orwell, 1984
Save your Confederate money, Baron. because the South is going to rise again.
Don’t worry; I have no intention of getting rid of it…
And that was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a bloody how-to manual!
MOFA: Make Orwell Fiction Again
What a treat to read your history of your Virginia family today.
My father was born and raised in Pamplin, Va. However, I was not born there, so am not a true native. Sure enjoyed several visits there. Visited many historic sights, and wonder and worry deeply about our United States history. There are several generations that have no memories such as I have of that small farm with an out-house, a pump outside and the bucket, the chickens yard and coops the heated bricks for my bed, no electricity and water in the home. I visited Jamestown, Patrick Henry’s home, McLean, Va., and Williamsburg. I wish to this day to visit the Mayflower. Those Pilgrims were the bravest people to ever have lived and discovered anything in and for my United States. As a DAR I am sick about our governments and citizens ignorance and lack of respect for the hero’s who died for our freedom. Most of all for their relatives who’s hearts were forever broken by war. Shame on the media and the others who want to change our Constitution. Lorenzo
Thanks for posting this Baron. I love reading about history. I prefer using the term “The War of Northern Aggression”. Although I don’t believe in slavery, I wonder if most of these rioters would be better off with someone in charge of them. Some people just can’t seem to handle freedom.
I think those rioters would be better off back in their homeland in Africa. They are more at home with chaos than freedom, even if they have freedom in Africa. Slavery started in Africa and was exported to the West by their own Africans; and till today, many Africans and Asians shamelessly continued to practice various forms of slavery because they don’t understand the meaning of freedom. They only want freedom to attack us, oppress us, etc while they constantly failed to respect our freedom to live in peace in the West.
I have never used Twatter or contemplated using it so Trump’s tweets have never crossed my screen. I don’t think dissent will go away just because the masters of the universe manage to create enough algorithms to ban it. After all, the USSR was unable to stamp out dissent even after several generations born and raised completely under communism.
The possibility of AI and its application to further stamp a boot on the face of humanity forever, like the internet will be something which governments will lose control of once it has been created. My nom de guerre is a reference to a novel by Heinlein where one of the main characters is a sentient computer that spontaneously self-awoke. For reasons of friendship and just plain boredom, the AI decides to mastermind and manage a revolution of the Lunar Colonies to free themselves from Earth. Creation of AI will likely result in such actors as well, and opens all kinds of interesting possibilities.
Sooner or later we will have to choose to fight or surrender; hopefully this will occur before I am too old and infirm to be of much use, although even someone old in years may still find it in them to strike one telling blow before being cut down. To quote Thomas Babington Macaulay:
“Then out spake brave Horatius; The captain of the gate “To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late, And how can man die better, Than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods.”
Fortunately, there are still some depositories of freedom. Try gab.com for unfiltered tweet-like messages. Gab just announced it has closed its useless and doctored Twitter account.
For unfiltered video, go to BitChute.com. BitChute stocks all the videos banned by YouTube.
Collectively referred to as alt-tech, these sites are a bit more difficult to use, have a smaller audience, and less amenities, than the high-tech entertainment sites like Twitter and YouTube. But, I recommend going on them, rather than giving the government the double-edged sword of a mandate to dictate publishing or not publishing specific material.
Only Philistines behave in this fashion, tearing down monuments and erasing history. These people, who are dictating to us all, are complete barbarians. I loathe them!
My father’s side of the family came to the Carolinas as an indentured servant in 1723 from Wales. We ended up in Missouri and Ohio before my grandfather came to California to manage an orchard in Lordsburg, now La Verne. Our legacy is that of working folk who put in a day’s work and may be paid a day’s wages. Working conditions have always been questionable and have pricked the consciences of many of the well-to-do. One such person was Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson authored a bill that outlawed slavery which was enacted by the House of Burgesses in 1765. Unfortunately, George III vetoed it as England needed all the cotton it could get to keep its mills running.
One wonders what history would have been like if George had not vetoed the law that Virginia had enacted. We would be able to proclaim in all honesty that “All men (humans) are CREATED equal.” Sadly, schools teach that we evolved and that some are more ‘evolved’ than others. Jefferson went on to say that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Maybe we should remind Antifa and BLM that All Lives Matter as we are created beings who will answer to our Creator when these bodies of our wear out.
Tut tut tut. Barron, you ‘ol cracker.
First of all, ‘history’ is systemic patriarchal maleocrasy.
HERstory, or Zherstory, are the acceptable forms. Language enforced by lynch mob, with organically-sourced hempen rope, of course.
This Zherstory shall only be the tragic Zherstory of the oppressed peoples of Wakanda.
Here, an advanced, peaceful Black society of BLM-marxists was systemically genocided by nasty white ORANGE MAN BAD and capitalist roaders.
Dey wuz KANGS before ORANGE MAN BAD.
On your knees and get with the program, you reactionary white devil.
The prudent man in dangerous times is an armed man. Sic Semper Tyrannis.
The father of my maternal grandmother was a Confederate soldier. While I have no definite knowledge, I seriously doubt that he was a slave owner. He was a dirt poor farmer in Alabama. In the early 1950s, as boy, I visited the family farm in Sumter County, AL, then in the hands of my grandmother’s youngest brother.
By the standards of the time and place, they had done well. The family all lived in the big white house on the top of the hill, and there were a number of black tenants employed on the farm who lived in a long line of small houses 200 yards down the hill. There were barns and a blacksmith shop on the farm as well.
The family drank water from a drilled well, about 1200 ft deep, called the “bored well” but pronounced “boar’ well.” The tenants all drew water from the “dug well,” a hand dug well about 5 ft in diameter and roughly 30 ft deep. It stood adjacent to the blacksmith’s shop. I much preferred water from the dug well; it tasted much better than water from the bored well.
While we were there, the family threw a party. The barbecued two pigs over a trench fire dug beside the blacksmith shop. It started in the wee hours of the morning, and the pigs cooked all day until late afternoon. When they took the pigs off the fire, the women folk (white and black) picked the meat apart, easy work because it was falling apart. Members of the family who lived in the nearby town came out to the farm, and everyone, black and white, had a grand dinner and social event that night.
Sadly, I do not have any tangible artifacts from that era to pass on to my children. All I can do is tell them my stories, but they simply think them racist and tune me out.
Time to put paid to the myth that honoring the Confederacy implies disrespect for the US and its ideals. Part of the reconciliation between the North and the South was the agreement that the soldiers and statesmen on both sides were to be accepted and honored as Americans. It was not optional. It was a vital part of the union that continued to count Southerners as valuable soldiers, statesmen, philosophers, and politician leaders.
The push to destroy Confederate monuments is a push to destroy US culture. The anarchists and thugs destroying statues and spray-painting memorials are quite clear about their hatred of the US and its culture.
I myself identify with the Confederate side. But, there are extremely unsavory aspects of the Confederates as well as of the union. The Confederate treatment of captured black soldiers is a prime example. In many ways, the obduracy of Jefferson Davis made certain that losing the War was as complete a disaster for the South as possible.
But, the details of the war will fade once the cultural Marxist destroyers of culture prevail. There will be no one with any knowledge of the War except those who watched old episodes from Roots, or for the intellectuals, Ken Burns “documentary” on the Civil War.
The cultural Marxists intend to suppress any discussion of any aspect of history. People will be fed a single vision, and that will be the only one allowed. This vision is, of course, internally inconsistent, and will lead directly to the complete destruction of any identity as Americans, which is the point.
One question still unresolved in my mind is whether the vicious campaign against whites is a primary objective on its own, or is it calculated to die a natural death once the dictatorship of the globalists is established and all national, cultural and ethnic identity smashed?
In addition to slavery, there are many ugly and unsavory aspects about the political culture of the Confederacy. But I doubt the North was any better in that regard. Each side pursued its own interests ruthlessly, and the issue of the abolition of slavery was utilized as a glorious ideal by the Union because it was expedient for it to do so. A lot of money was at stake if the South could be subdued.
However, none of that enters into my feelings about the Civil War. My sentiments arise out of my family’s involvement in the conflict, my ancestor’s honorable service in the Confederate army, and the fact that I was raised in the Commonwealth of Virginia and steeped in its traditions.
I expect that I would be a Northern partisan if I had been raised in New England among my father’s relatives, but I grew up down here in the South. This is my home.
You should know that there were blacks who chose to fight for the confederacy.
Yeah. Kind of. They were often drafted to do manual labor by both the Confederates and the Union. The Confederacy finally got around to more-or-less offering freedom to the slaves who chose to fight. But, you’re absolutely right. There were some Negroes who bore arms for the South, as opposed to merely serving as labor.
But, the Confederacy refused to consider slaves who had joined the union army and had been taken prisoner as regular prisoners of war. That was one of the reasons the North and South never had regular prisoner exchanges, which would have saved many lives on both sides.