(reprinted from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProudOfMyConfederateAncestors/posts/291876444287216)
Let me introduce another category: Ex-Confederates who became postbellum 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 leftwingers 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 US 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; O.P. 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., US 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.