Confederate Connections

Jackson at manassas

A friend of mine, a scholar of international reputation and a Tar Heel by birth, was visiting professor at a very prestigious Northern university a few years ago. In idle conversation with some colleagues, he happened to mention that his mother was an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

His colleagues were shocked with disbelief. Their families had come from remote parts of Europe long after the War for Southern Independence. Their understanding of American history went like this: America had been founded by noble, freedom and equality loving patriots, and then that noble founding had been saved by other great patriots against a wicked rebellion of traitors seeking only to preserve the un-American institution of slavery. How could one celebrate both the founding and the treason?

Of course, these distinguished professors’ view of American history is absurd. But it illustrates the dilemma that Southerners face when they try to give correct accounts of their history. The wrong view has been taught as gospel truth for generations. It has been taught to generations of later immi­grants who regard it as the true story of America. It promotes the self-esteem of Northerners. Many Northerners (not all) have no felt historical connection with America, which they regard in abstract terms as “a proposition nation.” They literally do not know what Southerners are talking about when they defend their heritage, the real experience of their own families, because they do not know what a real heritage is.

The false view of history is a very powerful tool in its emotional appeal to centralized government, to unthinking nationalist fervor, and to the eternal mis­sion for correcting the world that motivates leftists. It is also the same type of mentality that thinks bombing women and children in the Balkans is OK because it is done in the name of “‘human rights,” “democracy,” and American righteousness.

You know your Confederate ancestors were not fighting for slavery. But the people you are arguing with have no relevant ancestors. Their minds deal in abstractions, not lived human experience. They know what has been prom­ulgated as the national mythology—that Lincoln saved government of, by, and for the people and the ideal that “all men are created equal.”

So, our Confederate forebears, who were in both blood and principle liter­ally sons of the American Revolution, go down as traitors, while those who destroyed the work of the Founders and reconstructed America on a new cen­tralized basis, are considered its saviors!

As a small contribution to correcting historical views. I have compiled, from ordinary reference sources, an account of the kinship relations of Confederates to the patriots of the Revolution (and to other important figures in the founding and early development of the U.S.). The connection of the Confederate effort for independence with the principles of self-government of peoples expounded by the American Revolution has been well-defended and is or rather ought to be) obvious. I want to show the actual connection of fami­lies. It is true that descendants sometimes lose or mistake the principles of their sires, but that is not the case in the three score and eleven years from the found­ing of the U.S. to the founding of the C.S.A. Do we really believe that the lead­ers of the North, few of whom had an significant family connection to the founding patriots, better represent the American Revolution?

(After the discussion of how Confederates relate to the Revolutionary War, 1 have added sections describing the Confederate contributions to settling the West and to democratic, popular movements after the War. and a section on minority group Confederates.)

Confederate Connections to the American Revolution and the Early History of the U.S.

CSA President Jefferson Davis was the son of a soldier in the American Revolution.

Vice President Alexander H. Stephens was the grandson of a soldier in the Revolution.

Gen. R.E. Lee was the son of a cavalry general in the Revolution and the nephew of two signers of the Declaration of Independence. His wife was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington.

Samuel Cooper. Jr.. ranking general of the CSA. was the son of a Revolutionary officer from Massachusetts. He was born in New Jersey and appointed to West Point from New York. His wife was the granddaughter of the Virginia Revolutionary statesman George Mason. Her brother was the Confederate minister to Great Britain. James M. Mason.

William Henry Chase. who commanded the Florida state forces in the early days of the Confederacy, was a native of Maine and was the great-nephew of John Hancock, famous signer of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts.

Brig. General Hylan B. Lyon, CSA. was born in Kentucky, but his grand­father. Matthew Lyon, was a congressman from Vermont who was one of the few strong supporters of Jefferson in New England and was famous for having been prosecuted under the Sedition Act.

Brig. Gen. and Secretary of War George W. Randolph was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson.

Gen. James E. Slaughter was the grand-nephew of James Madison.

Maj. Gen. Daniel S. Donelson was the nephew of Andrew Jackson.

Brig. Gen. Lucius M. Walker was the nephew of President James K. Polk.

Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor. CSA. was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor and the grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk’s father was a Revolutionary colonel as was his maternal grandfather.

Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Butler was the nephew, on his mother’s side, of the great Connecticut naval heroes, Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew Calbraith Perry. Butler’s wife was the great-granddaughter of the Revolutionary Gen. Andrew Pickens.

A number of the early heroes of the U.S. Navy were Southerners like Stephen Decatur. Most of the rest of the outstanding Naval officers were from the Middle States and almost none from New England, though New England was supposedly the most seafaring part of the Union. The U.S. Marine Corps from its beginning to the War was mostly led and manned by Southerners. After his experience before the mast, Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, con­trasted Southern navy officers very favorably with others for their decency and fairness to lower ranks.

Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs was the son of Gen. John Twiggs of the Revolution.

Brig. Gen. Hugh W. Mercer was the grandson of Revolutionary Gen. Hugh Mercer.

Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. CSA, was the son of a Revolutionary army colonel.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger’s grandfather was a Revolutionary officer and a friend of Lafayette.

Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton was descended from one of the prominent first settlers of Pennsylvania.

Brig. Gen. William Nelson Pendleton’s forebears included Thomas Nelson, Revolutionary governor of Virginia and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Virginia patriot Edmund Pendleton.

At least two grandsons and many other relatives of Patrick Henry served in the Confederate Army.

President John Tyler was a member of the Confederate Congress and his son Robert was Treasurer of the Confederate States.

Lt. Gen. Richard H. Anderson. CSA. was a grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

Lt. Gen. D.H. Hill was the grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

Lewis A. Washington, a grandnephew of George Washington, was one of the people slaughtered by John Brown on his raid on Harpers Ferry. (Brown stole a sword of George Washington’s which he regarded as a talisman.)

The father of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, CSA, was a distinguished War of 1812 officer from Connecticut, and his brother, a colonel, was killed in action in the Mexican War.

Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw was the grandson of a Revolutionary offi­cer.

Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton’s grandfather was a Colonel in the Revolution and a general in the War of 1812.

Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall was grandson of the first U.S. Senator from Kentucky.

Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, besides being Vice-President of the U.S., had a grandfather who was an early Senator from Kentucky and a member of Jefferson’s cabinet.

Brig. Gen. Turner Ashby’s grandfather was an officer in the Revolution. The father of Brig. Gen. William Carroll, CSA. was a general in the War of 1812.

Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise was the son-in-law of John Sergeant, distin­guished Pennsylvania political leader and candidate for Vice-President of the U.S.

Brig. Gen. William Preston, CSA. was the grandson of two Revolutionary officers.

Brig. Gen. Bradley T. Johnson, CSA, was the grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

John P. Maclay, Gen. of Louisiana state forces in the Confederacy, came from a family who were the leading Jeffersonians in western Pennsylvania, including an important Senator.

Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead had a father and four uncles who fought in the War of 1812.

Robert W. Johnson, member of the Confederate Congress from Arkansas, was the nephew of Richard M. Johnson. Vice-President of the U.S.

The father of Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Drayton was born in St. Augustine, where his family had been exiled because of Revolutionary activities.

The New York Revolutionary War Gen. William Henry’s son, Gustavus, was a member of the Confederate Congress from Kentucky and his grandson a Confederate colonel.

William R. Caswell, Confederate officer from Tennessee, was the grand­son of North Carolina Revolutionary War general and governor Richard Caswell.

The great American painter James McNeill Whistler, though born in Massachusetts, was a Confederate sympathizer, which partly explains why he spent his life in Europe, according to a recent biography. His brother was a Confederate surgeon.

The words to the U.S. national anthem were written by Francis Scott Key, as is well known. Less well-known is that his grandson, Francis Key Howard, was one of the Marylanders imprisoned by Lincoln for Southern sympathies. Howard was also the grandson of Col. John Eager Howard, commander of the famous Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War. Another Francis Scott Key grandson was Richard Hammond Key, Confederate soldier who died in a Yankee prison camp.

This is just to scratch the surface. This list of Confederate family connec­tions to the American Revolution and to the early development of America could be expanded for many pages. This is not even to touch on the political and military leaders of the Confederacy who were themselves or whose close relatives were leaders in the 19th century prior to the War. Senators, Congressmen, cabinet members, jurists, diplomats, soldiers, educators, clergy and many others.

The South and the Frontier

Let’s look at another area of Southern and Confederate contributions, the West, the frontier. According to the Northern mythology (which in this as in so much else is exactly opposite of the truth). Southerners were effete slave-own­ers and not sturdy pioneers like Northerners. In fact, most acquisition, explo­ration, and early settlement of the frontier before the War was by Southerners. Nobody from Boston, despite the movies, ever went west in a covered wagon. The Philadelphia gentleman Owen Wister had it right when he called his Wyoming novel The Virginian. Here are some connections, just a few of many that might be cited.

Nearly all of the Mountain Men who opened up the Rocky Mountains and beyond, were Southerners —Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Charles Bent.

Sons, grandsons, and nephews of the following great pioneer figures served in the Confederate Army: Daniel Boone. David Crockett, Sam Houston, William Clark of Lewis and Clark. Isaac Shelby.

William Clark’s son. Meriwether Clark, was an acting general in the Confederate Army. More distant relatives of David Crockett and Daniel Boone: John W. Crockett, member of the Confederate Congress, and Andrew R. Boone, secession leader and Confederate Congressman from Kentucky. Confederate Gen. Joseph O. Shelby was Isaac Shelby’s grandnephew. Sam Houston’s initial “‘Unionism'” is well-known: Sam. Jr. was severely wounded in the Confederate Army.

The national mythology treats Texas as “Western” when it is to be praised and “Southern” when it is not. The whole historical glory of Texas is Southern. It could not have existed as it was except as an extension of Southern culture. (Think about South Dakota.) Consider the heroic Texas frontiersmen who were Confederate soldiers: Tom Green, Ben McCullough, “Rip” Ford, Sul Ross (and many others).

The Southern badmen (the Jameses, the Youngers, John Wesley Hardin) were driven to their crimes by the oppressions of Reconstruction. The Yankee Western heroes (Earp. Cody, Hickock) were in real life criminals and frauds who got their fame by killing for the winning side in Reconstruction.

The cattle kingdom in the North was opened entirely by Texan ex-Confederates, although wealthy Yankee and English capitalists and eastern playboys like Teddy Roosevelt moved in after the real pioneering work had been done.

The Confederacy, Immigrants, Catholics, and Jews

As is well-known, or ought to be, the antebellum South was much more ethnically tolerant and open than the North, where the predominant elements can truly be described as bigoted. The South was electing Catholics and Jews to office when Bostonians were burning down convents.

The flourishing critics of the Old South like to paint it as a narrow society that could attract allegiance only from slave-owners and slavery defenders. One of the many falsehoods that are becoming accepted as fact among academic historians is that only slave-owners were for secession and Southern inde­pendence. Currently fashionable interpretations rely on unrepresentative snip­pets of information to declare that non-slaveholders and women did not support the Confederacy — patent misrepresentations of plain historical facts.

To the contrary, consider that nearly one-fourth of general officers in the Confederate Army were born in Europe or the North and many others had northern connections. In fact, almost every Northerner and foreigner who had lived in the South for any period of time was a loyal Confederate.

Furthermore, many Southerners came home from the North and West where they had successful careers in order to share the fate of the Southern peo­ple in war. Let mc mention just a few: Simon B. Buckner of Kentucky gave up a fortune in Chicago real estate: George W. Rains of North Carolina left a pros­perous iron foundry he had established in Newburgh. New York: Alexander C. Jones of Virginia resigned a judgeship in St. Paul. Minnesota, where he had lived twenty years: Joseph L. Brent of Louisiana gave up a lucrative law prac­tice and leadership of the Democratic Party in Los Angeles.

The same solidity of support for the Confederacy among immigrants to the U.S. in the South can be shown. Some good recent books on immigrants to the South: Robert N. Rosen in The Jewish Confederates documents how nearly all Jewish Southerners were loyal Confederates who sacrificed and bled as readi­ly as their neighbors and also shows the anti-semitism rife among abolitionists and Republicans. Kelly J. O’Grady in Clear the Confederate Way: The Irish in the Army of Northern Virginia does the same for Irish Southerners. The book really covers a good deal more than just the ANV and among other things shows how Irish allegiance to the Northern cause has been exaggerated.

There is a large literature about Yankee prejudice against everybody who was not WASP (except they liked North Germans, i.e.. proto-Nazis). Nancy Lusignan Schultz in Fire and Roses: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834 tells the story of Massachusetts’ anti-Catholic rioting, encouraged and protected by the Yankee authorities. I am displaying all these biographical details because hard facts about real people are useful to measure against the abstractions and the slanders against Southerners that are common currency in the usual retailing of United States history.

Confederates After the War

Let me introduce another category: Ex-Confederates who became postbel-lum leaders. Many, of course, held political offices, college and corporation presidencies, and the like. I want to illustrate first a particular type. Through the clever writings of the late C. Vann Woodward, it has been established as fact among academic historians that Southern leaders after the War were reac­tionary servants of Northern Big Business interests. This is convenient for left-wingers to believe, and some examples can be found, but as a generalization it is not true. (For establishment historians, of course, anything that Southerners do is evil: Southerners are more evil for collaborating with the evil system in power than are the Northern creators of it who had conquered them. That is, Northern sins are fobbed off on Southerners. This is the implicit assumption of academic historians.)

Southern Democrats after Reconstruction remained, by and large, much more Jeffersonian than Northerners, even Northern Democrats. It was Ben Tillman who wanted to take a pitchfork to Grover Cleveland for his monetary policy. The strongest anti-Big Business Populists came from the South. Tom Watson learned his politics from Alexander Stephens and Robert Toombs. Leonidas L. Polk, who died in 1892 shortly before being nominated by the Populist Party for President, had been sergeant-major of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, famous for its two charges at Gettysburg. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, Populist governor of Oklahoma, was the son of a Confederate soldier.

Jim Hogg, noted populist governor of Texas, was the son of a Confederate general. Roger Mills, another Texan leader of the more “liberal” wing in Congress, had been a Confederate officer. Sam Jones, noted progressive mayor of Toledo, Ohio, came from a Southern family. Ewing Cockrell, noted as an anti-big-business judge in Missouri, was the son of a Confederate general.

Harry Truman’s mother came from a staunchly Confederate Missouri fam­ily. When it became widely known that Truman’s mother refused to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom, leftists put out the story’ that it was because Lincoln was a Republican, that is. not a New Dealer. The fact was that she despised the leader of the Yankee invaders. Truman himself picked a well-known picture of Lee and Jackson for the entrance lobby of his presidential library.

John H. Reagan. Postmaster General of the Confederacy, was a pioneer member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. J. Allen Smith, a leading Progressive scholar, though he made his career at the University of Washington (state), came from a Missouri Confederate family. Representative Henry D. Clayton, Jr.. of Alabama, author of the Clayton AntiTrust Act, was the son of a CSA general. Even one of the “anarchists” judiciously murdered by Chicago Republicans after the “Haymarket Riots” was a former Confederate soldier, Albert Parsons. A number of Southern progressive and populist leaders opposed U.S. entry into World War I on anti-imperialist grounds, notably Claude Kitchin of North Carolina, a stand which took considerable courage.

Many Southerners succeeded in the north and west after the War: a chief justice of Washington State: OP. Fitzgerald, founder of Methodism in California: John A. Wyeth. who rode with Forrest, president of the American Medical Association. These are just a few that readily occur to me. And it is interesting that all the supposedly Unionist border states, Maryland. Kentucky, Missouri, and even West Virginia, readily elected ex-Confederates to high political office after the War, that is, as soon as the occupation forces were removed. H.L Mencken wrote that his native Baltimore was less corrupt than other big cities because of the influence of honorable ex-Confederates.

Finally, let me mention a few more contributions of the Confederacy to American life. Sons of Confederate soldiers: D.W. Griffith, central figure in the creation of an American cinema; Will Rogers, beloved humorist; Archibald Gracie. Jr.. who died heroically in the sinking of the Titanic; William C. Gorgas, credited with controlling yellow fever; William G. McAdoo. Senator from California and Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of the Treasury who almost received the Democratic presidential nomination in 1920; financier Bernard Baruch. who delighted in showing to guests at his New York townhouse his father’s Confederate uniform and Klan regalia—it is said that the internation­ally famous Baruch would stand up and give a Rebel Yell whenever he heard “Dixie”; Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest. Jr.. and Simon Bolivar Buckner. Jr.. U.S. Army, killed in action in World War II. Gen. George S. Patton. the fight­ing general of World War II, was the grandson of a Confederate officer killed in action.

Herbert Lehman, noted New Deal Senator from New York, was the son of an Alabama merchant who was sent by President Davis on a relief mission to Confederate prisoners. He was repulsed by General Grant. Adolph S. Ochs. founder of the New York Times, came from Chattanooga. Although his father was a “unionist,” his mother was an active Confederate sympathizer who smuggled medicine across Yankee lines and had a Confederate flag on her cof­fin. And not least Helen Keller, granddaughter of a general of Arkansas state troops in the Confederacy.


The thrust of the concerted anti-Southern campaign which dominates our time, even being officially enforced by Southern public authorities, is to segre­gate the Confederacy off from American life as an inhuman Nazi-like thing based only on slavery. (This gains impetus, among other reasons, because of a totally dishonest linking of the domestic slavery of the Old South with modern totalitarianism. It was the Union invading forces who most resembled modern totalitarians in every way.) What is presented here is. it is hoped, something of an antidote. The suppression of Confederate symbols has no justification in his­tory, even when promoted by alleged academic experts. It is not motivated by historical understanding. It resembles, rather, propaganda labels used by Communist and Nazi zealots to intimidate and control. (See the Hate Sessions in Orwell’s 1984.)

We really cannot blame Americans too much for holding on to their myths, even though they can only achieve pride by putting us down. If Americans had to take a look at the real Constitution, the real Declaration of Independence, the real Abraham Lincoln, the real war for Union and emancipation, which was neither noble nor necessary, their whole national morale would start to fall apart. That is why the anti-South people have been talking less about slavery lately and starting to dismiss the Confederacy with nasty and summary charges of “treason,” as if the right to secede was not what the War was all about. What else have Americans got to sustain their society which has pretensions to world domination while disintegrating from within. The Melting Pot? —only a half-truth at best. Global Democracy? —a pernicious abstraction.

Still, it is true that until a very few years ago, the Confederacy was an accepted and honored part of the American national heritage. The current jihad against our forebares indicates a radical forward step in the movement toward suppression of free thought and expression.


Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books.


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