Post by David George Post by Peter J Ross
In alt.arts.poetry.comments on Fri, 26 Aug 2011 00:21:56 -0700 (PDT),
Let us know when they start.
PJ, PJ, give me your answer do
I'm so crazy oh to read with you-
it won't be a stylish venue
but the work will be fresh and genu
and you'll look neat upon the seat
as the bowl quickly fills with ... .
David George, gotta run for a while put wanted to add this before I
go, while I have it on copy-paste mode:
Again, I'll point out that it goes deeper than "White vs. Black" on
racism, but really racism was manufatured, a fakery, created by the
rich plantation owners of the South in the years just before the Civil
War, to keep poor whites & black slaves from forming a possible, &
natural, solidarity. While racism thrived afterwards, the whole issue
is a matter of the hate being a /manipulation/ of the rich
intellectuals against the naive poor people. This book, "Rich Man's
War", makes it all very clear, from somewhat censored historical
facts: "Rich Man's War:
Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower
By David Williams
Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1998. $34.95
Reviewed by Thandeka
The importance of David Williams's new book, Rich
Man's War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the
Lower Chattahoochee Valley, cannot be overestimated.
Williams accomplishes this stunning feat by studying
the socioeconomic factors in the South that led first
to the Civil War and then to the defeat of the
Confederacy, focusing primarily on the thriving
industrial center of Columbus, Georgia, and its
surrounding area, which by 1860 was producing almost a
quarter million cotton bales annually. During the
war, this area became a center for war-related
industries because it was deep in the southern
heartland, far from major theaters of combat; had rail
connections to every major city in the South; and was
at the head of navigation on the Chattahoochee River.
Williams, who grew up in the area, uses photographs
and family history in the book, as well as archival
material. The result is a vivid depiction of the life
and times of a people who called the Civil War "a rich
man's war and a poor man's fight."
Williams begins by retelling how the southern planter
class created the white race for purposes of class
exploitation. Until then in Colonial America,
people's race was defined by their class, and there
was no distinction in law or custom between European
and African servants, all of whom were known as
"slaves." Not surprisingly, these bondservants lived,
loved, worked, and rebelled against their upper-class
But under the planters' new race laws, race was
defined by genealogy. Masters and servants who could
claim that all their ancestors came from Europe became
members of the white race. In truth, of course, the
"poor whites" continued to be viewed as an alien race
by the elite. As one Georgia planter wrote a friend,
"Not one in ten [poor whites] is. . . . a whit
superior to a negro." Privately called "white trash"
by the elite, the poor whites were publicly embraced
as racial kin by the planters, 3.7 percent of the
population who owned 58 percent of the region's slaves
and were dead set on keeping their exploited workers
divided by racial contempt. Because the antebellum
South's pervasive class exploitation depended on
fabricated white racial pride, any challenge to racial
solidarity among whites threatened to reveal the
hidden class system. Here lay the path to revolution.
Thus it's not surprising that writer Hinton Rowan
Helper's 1857 book The Impending Crisis of the South,
which exposed the race-class link, was publicly
burned; a Methodist minister spent a year in jail for
simply owning it; and three Southerners were hanged
for reading it. Here is some of what Helper said:
"The lords of the lash are not only absolute masters
of the blacks. . . . but they are also the oracles and
arbiters of all nonslaveholding whites, whose freedom
is merely nominal, and whose unparalleled illiteracy
and degradation is purposely and fiendishly
perpetuated." According to Williams, this work sold
more copies than any other nonfiction book of the era
and was called by one historian "the most important
single book, in terms of its political impact, that
has ever been published in the United States."
Having set the scene, Williams gives his account of
how most poorer southern whites dealt with the "rich
man's war." He begins this section of the book by
reminding us that Georgia's very decision to secede
from the Union was never put to a popular vote.
Rather, it was made by secession delegates, 87 percent
of them slaveholders in a state where only 37 percent
of the electorate owned slaves. These delegates knew
better than to heed antisecessionist delegates' plea
to submit the decision to the electorate for final
determination. After all, more than half the South's
white population, three-quarters of whom owned no
slaves, opposed secession.
Next Williams details the Confed-eracy's corrupt
impressment system. Georgia was one of the first
Confederate states to legislate the right to
confiscate, or impress, private property for the war.
Not surprisingly, corruption ran rampant among
impressment officers, of whom one Georgian said, "They
devastate the country as much as the enemy." Another
Georgian predicted that the widespread corruption
would "ultimately alienate the affections of the
people from the government." It did.
To add insult to injury, planters continued growing
cotton (rather than food) and traded with the North as
poorer whites and the army faced starvation. Williams
also tells us that all too often, funds that should
have been distributed to indigent families wound up in
the pockets of corrupt officials. Not surprisingly,
by 1863, food riots were breaking out all over the
South, led by the starving wives left behind as their
starving husbands, sons, and fathers died for the rich
men and their slaves.
And always, the racial degradation of the poor white
continued. As Williams reminds us, most of the South's
higher-ranking officers came from the slaveholding
class and treated those under their command like
slaves. One soldier thus complained in a letter home,
"A soldier is worse than any negro on [the]
Chattahoochee river. He has no privileges whatever.
He is under worse task-masters than any negro."
Soldiers were also punished like slaves, says
Williams: "whipped, tied up by the thumbs, bucked and
gagged, branded, or even shot."
Thus did the desertions begin. By September 1864, two
thirds of Confederate soldiers were absent without
leave. One hundred thousand went over to serve in the
Union armies. Thousands more formed anti-Confederate
guerrilla bands, of which one historian wrote that
they were "no longer committed to the Confederacy, not
quite committed to the Union that supplied them arms
and supplies, but fully committed to survival." These
bands, Williams tells us, "raided plantations,
attacked army supply depots, and drove off impressment
and conscription officers. . . . One Confederate
loyalist, a veteran of the Virginia campaigns, said he
felt more uneasy at home than he ever did when he
followed Stonewall Jackson against the Yankees."
Meanwhile, Williams writes, "One prominent antiwar
resident of Barbour County held a dinner honoring
fifty-seven local deserters. Though a subpoena was
issued against the host, the sheriff refused to
deliver it." The draft was by now difficult to
enforce, nor did disgrace attach to either desertion
or evasion. Indeed, Williams concludes that the
Confederacy would have collapsed from within if there
hadn't been a Union victory.
...the bands of poorer Southern whites who organized
against the Confederacy and who indeed were abused and
exploited by their overlords, first as wage-slaves and
then as canon fodder. Sadly, these Confederate
deserters never understood that not even the one thing
they held onto as their own—their self-image as
whites—actually belonged to them. Rather it was one
among many means used by rich men to exploit them.
The Rev. Thandeka is associate professor of theology
and culture at Meadville/Lombard Theological School.