Winston Groom: Review of Thomas Fleming's "A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War" (Da Capo, 2013)

tags: Weekly Standard, Thomas Fleming, Winston Groom, A Disease in the Public Mind



Winston Groom is the author of Forrest Gump and, most recently, Shiloh, 1862. His forthcoming book, The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight, will be published in November.

It is no news that the age of political correctness and revisionist history is upon us, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the subject of slavery and the American Civil War. In the past half-dozen years, literature has appeared condemning the Southern general Robert E. Lee as a traitor, slaver, and racist. In Memphis, the city council has voted to remove the names of Confederate leaders from its city parks, and similar efforts calling for the removal of statues and other symbols commemorating the old Confederacy are in progress across the South.

Recently, an op-ed column appeared in the New York Times insisting that Southern Army posts such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Polk in Louisiana, and five others—all named for Confederate generals—should be renamed, since their provenance might be offensive to black soldiers. Having served, in 1965-66, at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, and the Airborne School at Fort Benning, with both white and black soldiers, I believe I can say that there is a certain pride in having participated in those tough military programs. The very names of these bases inspires awe and reverence in Army circles. 

Clearly a move is afoot among a certain school of activists, including some historians, to expunge all vestiges of legitimacy, or pride, in the Southern Confederacy of the 1860s. In 2011, for example, when the city of Charleston organized a reenactment of the sesquicentennial of South Carolina’s secession from the Union, one activist told reporters that it was “almost like celebrating the Holocaust.” The movement has even developed a name for those who disagree with it: “Lost Causers,” whom they mock in the same manner as they do “birthers,” “truthers,” and the like. “Confederate apologists” is another frequent appellation for this race-baiting, for that’s ultimately what it is. By this movement’s lights, anyone who takes pride in his Southern ancestors is, by their definition, a condoner of slavery and de facto racist....




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