Archive for the ‘history’ Category

So that happened 243 years ago. You’ve probably heard all the silliness about Paul Revere and so forth. The most stupid silliness I’ve heard today, however, was that the British went to those two places in order to disarm the colonials.

Uhm, no. The British mission was to confiscate military weapons and munitions *STORED IN THE TOWN MILITIA ARSENALS*. Not to confiscate firearms in the possession of individuals. They were especially concerned with some brass cannon that the colonial militia had assembled. They could have cared less about the rifles and fowling pieces that were owned by individuals, they were after military weapons.

Which is a point I keep making about those who claim that personally owned and possessed firearms were a Big Deal in colonial Massachusetts militias: they weren’t. Massachusetts had always had a collectivist streak when it came to firearms, likely because of their Puritan underpinnings where early Massachusetts communities were run more like cults than like anything we have today. Their militias were heavily armed, but the muskets and cannon were kept in town arsenals along with sufficient gunpowder and shot to make them of use, not in individual homes. Individuals may have owned rifles or fowling pieces (shotguns), but they did not have a musket at home because for personal use, muskets were basically useless. They were too inaccurate and too long and heavy to make good hunting weapons.

I’ve written long discourses on Colonial era military weapons and tactics elsewhere, but suffice it to say that most of what we “know” about the era is wrong when you study the actual military weapons, tactics, and science of the era. For example, there were no battles that were settled by colonials sniping from behind trees. Even Lexington and Concord wasn’t settled by that, the British soldiers achieved their objectives, then headed home. The sniping was misery, but the sniping was because they hadn’t brought their own skirmishers with them to counter-snipe — the British knew very well (having defeated the French and Indians) how to deal with that kind of thing. They just hadn’t realized they were going to war that day, rather than a modest police action to disarm some people who had illegal cannon.

And militia… there was a single (one) battle after that initial clash where militia made an impact. That was it, in the entire war. Everywhere else they were utterly useless, thus why George Washington inserted the militia clauses into the Constitution in some hope of getting militia that was actually useful (which turned out to be wishful thinking — in the War of 1812, the militia once *again* were useless). Yet this mystique about the militia somehow winning the war remains, when the actual cause of the British basically surrendering was that they ran out of money. Seriously. The British Crown was bankrupt by 1784. Couldn’t even meet interest payments on their national debt or pay the soldiers already on American soil, much less replace those surrendered at Yorktown. And the French and Spanish were threatening India, which was far more valuable than sparsely-settled American colonies. The British could have perhaps fought on by raising taxes but to do so threatened the loss of India. They ended the war to protect India, they didn’t get defeated militarily — even the forces at Yorktown were less than 1/10th of the British forces on American soil. Granted, most of those forces were in Canada or New York City, but there they were.

None of which is taught to American students in American K-12 schools, which instead are replete with jingoistic nonsense with no basis in fact. So it goes.

– Badtux the History Penguin


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And why did he leave so many of the vicious crackers that ended up forming the KKK alive rather than swinging from the gallows for treason?

Grant had two problems. The first was that Jefferson Davis had ordered the Confederate armies to disappear into the woods and hills and operate as guerillas. The Confederate generals disobeyed his direct order and surrendered instead, but if Grant had been more punitive than he was, they might have changed their mind, and the punitiveness might also have changed the mind of enough of the highly trained Confederate soldiers that they would have joined the Confederate generals in waging concerted guerilla warfare. People in the North were tired of war. He risked unrest and political repercussions in the North if war broke out again due to his actions.

The second problem he faced was that the majority of the electorate in the North wanted their boys back home. They didn’t want to continue funding a huge army of occupation in the South. Oh, they gave lip service towards the notion of equal rights for black people in the South, but they weren’t willing to put blood and money behind it to maintain a large army of occupation. So Grant tried to arm black people in the South and get them organized as an organized militia. Unfortunately most blacks were illiterate (a deliberate plan by slave owners) and had little knowledge of even the basics of being a soldier nevermind how to organize effectively and conduct tactical maneuvers efficiently, and they were faced with former Confederate soldiers who were highly trained in the only way that people knew to train soldiers back in those days — i.e., they’d actually fought in real battles, which the former slaves had not. It was a process similar to what we’ve recently undergone in Afghanistan, where we tried to train the locals to be effective soldiers, but the results have been … underwhelming. Well, the results of attempting to train the black militias were pretty underwhelming too. The few times the black militias got into a pitched battle with former Confederates, they got wiped off the field.

In short, Grant had some harsh political realities to deal with. I might wish he had at least hanged a few of the worst of the Confederate leaders as traitors — Jefferson Davis deserved to hang if only for that order he’d issued to conduct guerilla warfare, Jubal Early needed to hang because he was the only Confederate general literate enough to invent the “Lost Cause” myths that later replaced real history in the South, and certainly mean crackers like Nathan Bedford Forrest (founder of the KKK) needed to hang if only for the fact that they had executed surrendered black soldiers in violation of the laws of war. But Grant decided that executing these people would create too much unrest — unrest that the Northern population wasn’t willing to pay the price to put down. In retrospect it seems to me that he made a mistake. The rot spread from the South in the past 150 years, and now afflicts a large amount of middle America. But it was a mistake that was fundamentally based in the realities that he faced, not something that arose out of stupidity or drunkenness.

– Badtux the History Penguin

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Boomers typically react to millennials who point out their hypocrisy on things like jobs and student loans (where boomers could get good paying jobs with benefits with just a high school diploma, and could attend college for free or for very little money, while millennials need a college degree to find even McJobs that barely pay above minimum wage and must take out hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans to do so ) by saying, “but we led the civil rights movement and stopped the Vietnam War!”


The Civil Rights movement was led primarily by people born prior to 1945, the start of the “Boomer” generation. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929. Jesse Jackson was born in 1941. Genevieve Hughes, one of the original Freedom Riders, was born in 1932. John Lewis, another of the original Freedom Riders, was born in 1940. Diane Nash, another of the original Freedom Riders, was born in 1938. James Peck, who was beat up on the first Freedom Ride, was born in 1914 for crying out loud.

None of these people were/are Boomers. For Boomers to appropriate the sacrifices of these people as if they belong to their own generation is the ultimate in hypocrisy. It’s fucking evil, is what it is. These people fought and died for the rights of all Americans. To have their accomplishments appropriated is just wrong.

Regarding the Vietnam War, the largest anti-Vietnam War marches, those of November 15, 1969, attracted less than 500,000 people. Meanwhile, the number of Boomers who volunteered to fight the war in Vietnam was 70% of the total. Of the 2.5 million boomers who served in Vietnam, roughly 70% of them were volunteers — or 1.75 million of them. Most of those who actually saw combat were volunteers. Draftees were viewed as unreliable and were generally shifted to non-combat positions or stationed in Europe or Korea. If it wasn’t for boomers volunteering to fight in Vietnam, there wouldn’t have *been* a Vietnam War, because the U.S. military wouldn’t have been able to find enough reliable troops to conduct the war.

Funny how all Boomers seem to think they ended the war in Vietnam, when far more Boomers volunteered to FIGHT in Vietnam than volunteered to march AGAINST the VIetnam War! And you wonder why millennials view Boomers as hypocrites and roll their eyes when Boomers start ranting about how they were these great Civil Rights warriors and ended the Vietnam War? Really?!

– Badtux the Eye-rolling Penguin

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Oh wait….

From the Library of Congress:

“According to the Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference, 2002, page 860, approximately 70,000 books have been published on the Civil War over the years up to that date. The Library of Congress, though not owning every one of these books, most likely owns copies of a great majority of them. The shelf space taken up by the Civil War books just in the E call number classification in the closed book stacks is considerable. This does not include those books which cover Civil War related information and may be cataloged primarily under other subjects. One should also consider that the Library owns many thousands of photographs and illustrations, maps, and manuscript materials on the Civil War.
I hope this information proves to be of help to you. Thank you.
W. Elsbury
Reference Specialist
Main Reading Room
Humanities and Social Sciences Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20540-4660


It’s interesting that the same people who keep telling blacks to get over that whole slavery thing, already, seem to be the same people who want to keep all those statues of slave-owners on every street corner in the South because they’re still not over the Civil War.

– Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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As their very own secession statements and their very own Constitution point out, the Confederate States of America was founded in order to defend slavery. This is not controversial amongst anybody who has actually read these founding documents, all of which are available on the Internet for your perusal. Fuck, the CSA Constitution even forbade Confederate states from outlawing slavery. State’s rights my fine-feathered ass! It was all about the right to own human beings as farm animals, as livestock, to be treated the same way as any other livestock on a farm.

So here’s a question for anybody who thinks the Confederacy was “honorable”:

How honorable would someone be if they ripped your daughter away from you and sold her as livestock to some stranger to be used as a brood mare by a big strapping male buck? And how honorable would someone be if they sold your daughter’s children resulting from this breeding to other strangers as livestock to either work in the field as a farm animal or be used as breeding stock?

Would that be an honorable person?

Well, look: That’s every goddamn motherfucker who founded the Confederate States of America. It’s not just that they kept humans as livestock. They fucking fought a goddamned war for the right to keep humans as livestock. I don’t have a particularly high opinion of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they kept humans as livestock, but at least they didn’t fucking fight a goddamned war for the right to keep humans as livestock. That, at least, is a stain upon their character that they do not possess.

But Robert E. Lee? Jefferson Davis? Alexander Stevens? Those evil-ass motherfuckers can burn in hell, as far as I’m concerned. They’re no more honorable than a pimp or a gang-banger. Hell, they’re fucking *less* honorable than a pimp or a gang-banger — at least the pimp or gang-banger only wants to own women as property, not women and men both.

– Badtux the Honor Penguin

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.Slavery was “a greater evil to the white man than to the black race” in the United States. The “painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction.” — Robert E. Lee, defending slavery in 1857

So, was slavery on its death bed in 1860 when Lincoln was elected?

In a word: No. Slavery was an extremely profitable institution. At the time that the American South declared its independence, it was the 5th largest economy on the planet, and was the most prosperous sector of the country. I once worked with a historian who was going through the accounting books of pre-war plantations in Louisiana, and what he found was a) if you transferred all the numbers to modern accounting systems, there was a consistent 4% return on profit *just on the slaves*, never mind the products that they created — remember, plantations were largely self-sufficient in everything needed for slave’s subsistence (even the bricks used to build the slave houses were made on the plantation, as well as the clothing for the slaves), so very little actually had to be purchased from the outside world. And cotton was extremely profitable. All that cotton, once they paid for ginning it, was pure profit. There were a lot of plantations that failed, but they failed for one reason: their owners were terrible at math. Really. He reported that these books were atrocious. Apparently southern “gentlemen” got lots of education in manners and Greek literature, but they were too good for math, and usually if a plantation failed it was because the owner lost track of how much money he had, spent money he didn’t have, and ended up having to declare bankruptcy. Huh. Go figure.

In reality, the sharecropping system that arose after the Civil War was caused by the same thing that would have led to the continuation of slavery: the unique labor-intensive nature of growing cotton prior to modern herbicides and cotton picking machines in the late 1940’s. When my grandmother and grandfather married in 1942, they were sharecroppers in Red River Parish in Louisiana, growing cotton in exchange for a cut. My grandmother once pointed out the small one-room shack (without electricity or indoor plumbing) they lived in at the time, which was in the middle of what was now a cow pasture because it was too hilly too support mechanization, but back then it was a cotton field. The demand for labor was so bad that even white people ended up in the fields hoeing cotton and picking it at the end of the season. My mother clearly remembers picking cotton in the fields as a small child, it was not one of her treasured memories. It wasn’t until mechanization took hold in the 1950’s that the sharecropper system faded away, because cotton was really, really hard to mechanize. The cotton bolls don’t really lend themselves to being picked mechanically, being mostly fluff, and until herbicides there was no substitute for people with hoes scuffing the weeds that tried to grow among the cotton rows. Even today probably a quarter of the cotton doesn’t get picked by the mechanized cotton pickers, it’s just that even 3/4ths of the crop is cheaper than paying people to pick it.

Believe me, if the planters could have held on to their slaves, they would have done so, and would have continued doing so long after Brazil did away with slavery, at least until mechanization after WW2. The sharecropping system was a poor substitute for what they *really* wanted, which was free labor that didn’t have any rights and could be treated as livestock because they *were* livestock, legally. These were deplorable, deplorable people, as the quotes from Robert E. Lee above should make clear. They excused atrocity with the most transparent of self-serving excuses that they likely even believed themselves in the end. But these excuses were just a way to avoid the fact that they fought a war, and lost a war, in order to defend the right to own human beings as livestock. Even though all the historical evidence — every single secession convention, and the Confederate constitution itself — says that the South went to war to defend slavery, Southerners have written that out of their collective memory and created an imaginary pre-Civil-War South where slavery was dying out naturally and that was horribly economically oppressed.

Because the truth — that the South was tremendously wealthy prior to the Civil War, and managed to lose the war despite being one of the richest nations on the planet due to the incompetence and mismanagement of its leadership class (especially, their failure to get their new nation recognized by any European nations due to their arrogance that their cotton was vital to the world economy and thus assistance from the British, especially, required no special diplomatic efforts, and their failure to feed their armies and their population despite having the richest soil on the planet) — simply doesn’t stroke the ego like the notion that the South was poor and oppressed and that’s why the North won.

— Badtux the History Penguin

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Every Southern town, it seems has its memorial featuring a statue of some Confederate general or another. And whenever you point out that these were evil motherfuckers who fought a war to defend keeping human beings as livestock, I get the invariable whines of “but what if it was *your* ancestor there in the public square?”

Yeah? What if? I’d say the same goddamn thing: Tear the evil sonofabitch’s statue down. These evil motherfuckers killed more Americans than Hitler. You don’t see statues glorifying Hitler in every public square of America, do you? No?

And in fact, one of my ancestors did fight (and die) for the Confederacy. I tracked the family tree back to some dude who moved from North Carolina to the Cajun prairie of Southwest Louisiana in order to breed human beings as livestock. Yep, he had himself a regular business there, he had a big honkin’ stud, a fine collection of brood mares, and made his living renting his stud out to all the plantations in the area when he wasn’t selling the kiddos who popped outta his brood mares. Except these were human beings that he was breeding like livestock.

In short, he was one evil motherfucker. And for his sins, he condemned the next three generations of his family to bone-crushing poverty when he went out to fight to defend his right to own human beings as livestock and promptly got his ass capped by a Union bullet. (Or maybe he just died of dysentery in one of the unsanitary military camps of the area, whatever, all I know is that he never came back). He’d married a Cajun wife, who had been happy to marry this wealthy Anglo and escape her life of poverty. Guess what. She ended up back in the swamps with her relatives again, raising her kiddos, Anglo last name and all, as Cajuns. It always baffled me how my father’s side of the family for three generations back had spoken Cajun French at home as their native language and been raised in the Cajun culture despite their Anglo last name. Now I know. It was the family punishment for my great-great grandpappy’s sin.

Now, if I found out that my great-great grandpappy had been a high muckety muck in the Confederate army, would I want a statue in some public park commemorating his bravery? Fuck no. He was an evil motherfucker who went out to kill Americans in order to maintain the right to treat human beings as livestock. He no more deserves a statue in a public square than Adolph fucking Hitler does. Both wanted to kill Americans in defense of their right to do some evil, evil shit. If my ancestor had a statue on some public square, I’d fucking spit on the goddamn thing. Then pee on it for good measure. Because he was evil, evil, EVIL, and that evil does not need to be glorified in public, it needs to be documented in history books and in museums where that evil can be presented in its proper context.

Fuck these evil American-killing bastards. Melt down their statues for scrap. They were fucking evil, through and through, and deserve no statue, only disdain.

– Badtux the Southern Penguin

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