My Confederate Heritage: A Contrarian View

Steven Hale
5 min readJul 16, 2020
Confederate line advancing through forest toward Union troops at the Battle of Chickamauga, 1863. Alfred R. Waud (Library of Congress)

Not pride or admiration, just sadness.

A thoughtful reader responded to my story Nikki Haley’s Defense of Flaggers Doesn’t Make a Lick of Sense:

You are wrong on two of your three points. Service: in many cases, service to a cause — yes, often, ignorant service to a bad cause, but service. Hence, sacrifice. Southerners fought and died heroically for their bad cause, Descendants of those people can take pride in that part of their heritage, But not, of course, the heritage of slavery and White supremacy. You can admire service, sacrifice, and part of a heritage without being a racist…..

In my zeal to refute Haley’s defense of service and sacrifice, I unintentionally ignored those white Southerners who are not rebel flag wavers, which is probably most of us. But for me, it’s not that I have difficulty admiring “service, sacrifice, and part of a heritage” because I don’t want to be associated with racists, but because I don’t think pride or admiration is the proper response.

Before going further: I have no doubt that protecting racist domination over enslaved Africans was the chief (and essentially sole) reason the South went to war. If you feel otherwise, please read Tom Gregg’s excellent Medium article, “The Fateful Lightning.” Gregg is not pushing any particular political agenda; he writes with a historian’s dedication to analyze facts as fairly and objectively as possible.

The question is, even if you reject the Confederate cause for its racist motives, is it acceptable to admire or commemorate the “service and sacrifice” of those men who fought for something they believed in?

Of course, descendants of enslaved Africans are not likely to encounter such a dilemma. From a Black point of view, everyone who served the Confederate cause fought to keep their ancestors in chains. The more valiantly a rebel soldier or commander fought, the more injurious his actions were.

I’m not comfortable judging the attitudes of people about whom I know absolutely nothing (whether it’s Confederate soldiers or their modern descendants). I can only speak for myself. Here’s my take.

  • When I think of my own great-great-grandfather’s military service and sacrifice, I feel sadness, not admiration or…
Steven Hale

Music: Discovering the lost and forgotten. Politics: Exposing injustice. Screenwriting: Emotional storytelling.