June 3rd 1808: Jefferson Davis born

On this day in 1808, the future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was born in Fairview, Kentucky. Davis spent much of his youth at the family cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana, which contributed to his ardent support of slavery. He graduated from the West Point military academy (though not without causing trouble - being implicated in the 1826 Eggnog Riot) and entered the army, during which time he fought in the Mexican-American War. Davis entered politics in 1845, and worked his way up to Senator for Mississippi and US Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. While initially voting against secession at the outbreak of the American Civil War, Davis went with his state and supported the Confederacy. In 1861, at the start of the war, he was elected president of the Confederate States of America unopposed, having been sworn in as provisional president that February. Davis served as President until the demise of the Confederacy as the seceded states prepared to rejoin the Union after the North’s victory in the Civil War. Despite his success at keeping the Confederate war effort going for longer than was initially expected, he is generally considered ineffective compared to the Union President Abraham Lincoln. Davis failed to secure international support for the Confederacy, and caused rampant inflation when his administration printed money to cover the war costs, which led to violent protests in Richmond. Davis was imprisoned after the war but was never tried and was released after two years, being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in December 1868. Davis died in 1889 aged 81, after having popularised the ‘Lost Cause’ interpretation of the war which praised pre-war Southern society, and condemned the following period of Reconstruction.

The Second Confederate Jack (1863- 1865)

Most people look at this flag and think it is a symbol of racism due to the fact that the Confederate States of America practiced slavery. What they fail to realize is that it is also called the “Rebel Flag,” and it’s called this for a reason.

The Confederacy was formed because the people in those states felt that they were being made second-class citizens by the existing government. Just because slavery was part of the Confederate way of life, it doesn’t mean that the nation was representative of racism. The Confederacy and its flag were, and still are, a symbol of rebellion against an unfair, intrusive government.

Just one-in-ten Americans have a positive reaction when they see the Confederate flag displayed

The Confederate flag is a controversial symbol for many Americans today. A 2011 Pew Research poll revealed that nearly a third of all Americans, or 30%, have a “negative reaction” when “they see the Confederate flag displayed." 

In the same poll, a plurality (44%) of those asked viewed the flag as a symbol of racism, with 24% viewing it as exclusively racist and 20% viewing it as both racist and symbolic of pride in the region

  • Far more African Americans than whites have a negative reaction to the Confederate flag (41% to 29%) 
  • Still, about as many blacks have no reaction (45%) as a negative reaction to the Confederate flag. 
  • College graduates (46%) are more likely than those with some college (33%) or a high school education or less (18%) to have a negative reaction. 
  • Partisan differences exist as well. Many more Democrats (44%) have a negative reaction to the Confederate flag than do independents (27%) or Republicans (21%). 

Supporters of the flag’s continued usage view it as a symbol of Southern ancestry and heritage as well as representing a distinct and independent cultural tradition of the Southern United States from the rest of the country.

THE FACTS:  The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southerners during the 1948 presidential election-  Martinez, James Michael; Richardson, William Donald; McNinch-Su, Ron (2000). Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South


In May 1863, when W.T Thompson discovered that his design had been chosen by the Confederate Congress to become the Confederacy’s next national flag, he was pleased. Writing for Savannah's Daily Morning News, Thompson stated: “ As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. Another merit in the new flag is, that it bears no resemblance to the now infamous banner of the Yankee vandals.”


Preble, George Henry (1872). Our Flag: Origin and Progress of the Flag of the United States of America. Albany, New York: Joel Munsell. pp. 414–417


This unassuming house in Petersburg, Va., has an odd history. It was constructed from the tombstones of Union soldiers who had besieged the city in 1864. The Union soldiers who died while attacking the Confederate-held city were buried near where they fell. Apparently to save on maintenance, nearly 2,000 marble headstones were removed from Poplar Grove Cemetery and sold to a Mr. O.E. Young, who assembled them into a two-story house in the 1930s.

The tombstones face inward, so “as the owner lay in bed the names of the dead stood about his head,” Headley wrote in Architectural Follies in America (1996). Later they were plastered over so visitors wouldn’t be freaked out – or accidentally see their great-grandfathers’ name.

The last word must be left to the lady living next door to the Tombstone House, who confessed “Ah dont rightly see what all the fuss was about. They was jist Union boys.”

October 12, 1870: Robert E. Lee Dies

On this day in 1870, Robert E. Lee, the leading general of the Confederate Army, died at 63 in Lexington, VA after suffering a massive heart attack . Lee was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War (1861-65) which was the most successful of the Southern armies.

His surrender to Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865 signified the end of the Civil War in the Union’s favor.

Browse American Experience’s “Lee the Man” photo gallery for a timeline of Robert E. Lee’s personal history.

Photo: Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army (1863) (Julian Vannerson/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons).

The Confederacy Voted For Secession? Think Again

The Confederacy Voted For Secession? Think Again

In the wake of the southern states’ secession, many around the world put pen to paper covering the causes of the Civil War. But in writing for the German newspaper Die Presse, Karl Marx, yes, that Karl Marx, hit upon a cause which had been overlooked. In his coverage, he struck upon something overlooked by many others during the same period.

The south didn’t vote to secede at all.

Instead, in his…

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The Confederates of Brazil,

Every year in the State of Sao Paolo, in the City of Americana, Brazil, the locals host a festival called the Festa Confederada.  The women wear American Antebellum style dresses while the men often dress as Civil War Era Confederate soldiers.  They eat Southern food, they dance to Southern music, and they fly the Stars and Bars (Confederate flag).  On occasion they may even have a Civil War re-enactment.  The only thing they lack is a heavy Southern drawl as most of the people are native speakers of Portuguese.

An oddity to find in South America for sure, there is a logical explanation to this madness.  It all goes back to April of 1865, when Union forces occupied the South and forced the Confederacy to surrender, there were many who were not willing to give in to the Union.  Many others had their land confiscated or their property totally destroyed by the war.  Many had nowhere to go.

That year Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil wanted to encourage the cultivation of cotton in Brazil, and he knew of thousands of people with the resources and expertise to do it.  He began to offer special insentives for immigrants from the former Confederacy to move and settle in Brazil.  This included subsidies on travel, cheap land, and tax breaks.  More importantly in Brazil slavery was still legal and would not be abolished until 1888.  

Between 1865 and 1875 ten to twenty thousand former Confederates made a home at Americana, Brazil.  There they set up a community that was an almost exact copy of the pre-Civil War antebellum South.  Because of their culture and heritage, they became known as the Confederados. At first the Confederados were a very insular group, interacting little with the Brazilians and fiercely maintaining their own culture.  However the third generation descendants of the Confederados began to break with tradition, intermingling with the Brazilians and eventually intermarrying with them.  Today Confederado decedents are little different from regular Brazilians, except perhaps when they host their Festa Confederada.  

Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida, home to the fighting Confederate Rebels, is named after a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and confederate general. It has been since 1959, when administrators changed the name to show their defiance to school integration laws enforced by Brown v Board of Education. But town residents, fed up with kowtowing to racial extremists, are looking to change that.

One Jacksonville resident launched a Change.org petition that has so far garnered over 150,000 signatures, asking the Duval County School Board to change the name.

A Manual of Military Surgery, Confederate States of America, Surgeon General’s Office, 1863-National Library of Medicine

 25,000 Southerners returned from the Civil War permanently disfigured from the amputation of a limb. There are relatively few historical works that address the meaning of amputation following the Civil War. When veterans returned home from the war, they faced a new set of challenges, especially for those who returned home physically and emotionally scarred. Chiefly, although the war became a venue wherein Confederate men could find new definitions of individual and societal worth based on their performance in battle, it also produced new challenges to the older definitions.

It is reasonable to assume that Southerners would view the actions of their soldiers as honorable. Circumstances required that Southern men and women incorporated the imperfect Southern male body within their traditional notions of manhood. They did so by blending traditional gender models with their celebrations of veterans’ sacrifices in remembering the Civil War as an honorable defeat.




Civil War Mercenaries in Egypt, 1870’s

In 1869 a representative of the Khedive of Egypt met with Gen. William T. Sherman for advice in hiring three experienced American officers to serve in the Egyptian Army.  The Khedive of Egypt was Isma'il Pasha, son of the Ottoman Emperor and a man who was on a quest to modernize the Egyptian military.  Sherman recommended to Pasha three names, all of whom were experienced Civil War officers; Maj. Gen. William Loring (Confederate, pictured top left), Brig. Gen. Charles Pommeroy Stone (Union, bottom left), and Brigadier Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley (Confederate, top right).  The three men in turn recruited another 50 officers and NCO’s, all of whom served either the Union or Confederacy during the Civil War.  Once in Egypt they were met by another American, a former Union Colonel named Thaddeus P. Mott (pictured bottom right).  An adventurer, globetrotter, and soldier of fortune who was a veteran of wars in Italy and Mexico, Mott had been recruited by Pasha earlier in the year.

The purpose of hiring these men was very clear.  In the 19th century the mighty Ottoman Empire had declined significantly.  Isma'il Pasha believed that in order to survive the empire and Khedive of Egypt had to modernize its military, which was decades behind the West in terms of doctrine, tactics, and technology.  Pasha believed that outside help was needed.  He chose Americans because after the American Civil War, there were many unemployed veterans who were experienced in modern warfare.  Furthermore, the United States had little interest in the empire, and thus were a neutral party.  It was Pasha’s intention as Khedive (viceroy) to use these men to modernize the military forces under his command in Egypt.

Once in Egypt the American mercenaries set to work supervising the reformation of the Egyptian military.  This included the construction of new coastal fortifications, training of the army, and the founding of an officers school headed by American officers.  During the years the American advisers made great strides in reforming the Egyptian military, however progress was often shaky at best.  Many Egyptian officers and soldiers were offended by the American’s arrogant and/or racist attitudes towards them.  Many of the Americans refused to learn Arabic, creating a linguistic barrier between themselves and the men they commanded.  Finally Union and Confederate rivalries also flared up resulting in fist fights, brawls, and even duels among the mercenaries.

By 1874 Isma'il Pasha began to have dreams of conquest and glory with his new army.  In 1875 he annexed Darfur, then he turned his attention towards the conquest of Ethiopia.  The Americans expected Pasha to give command of the expedition to William Loring, who held the rank of fareek pasha (Major General).  However command was given to Ratib Pasha, an ex-slave who served the former Khedive of Egypt.  The was an incredibly foolish move as Ratib had little military qualifications.  The Ethiopians, however, were fully prepared for war and had raised a massive army.  After purchasing modern weapons and receiving military training from British military advisers, the Ethiopians were ready to do battle.   At the Battle of Gurwa the poor leadership of Ratib Pasha caused the outnumbered Egyptian Army to be slaughtered.  Many Egyptians pointed the blame at the Americans despite the inept leadership of Ratib.  Eventually the disillusioned Americans returned home.  Those who remained were eventually dismissed due to budget cuts.  Only Thaddeus P. Mott remained.  He moved to Turkey and served in the Ottoman Army, fighting against the Serbians and distinguishing himself at the Battle of Shipka Pass during the Russo Turkish War.