I recently received my first bit of hate mail concerning my historical novel, The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou. I welcome constructive criticism as it will help me become a better writer. But this hate filled message, which came to my author's Facebook page, had little to do with my book and much to do with Southern apologetics and racial tinged hate that the Son's of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and other such Neo-Confederate organizations spew. I recognize the talking points.
I've tried to be a member of the SCV on two different occasions. The fist was in my home town when I was in my teens. The second in my adopted home during the early 1990s. I viewed it as a heritage organization to remember the four years of sacrifice our southern ancestors endured during the Civil War. Both times I was disappointed to find the leadership was more interested in making excuses for the Southern cause and denying that slavery had anything to do with the decision to go to war. I found few scholars, and many haters.
I don't know if Charles Wright is a member of the SCV, but his letter exemplifies the rhetoric that I heard over and over again during my time in that organization.
I'll post his letter below and my response. There were 35 other comments between Mr. Wright first message and the last comment. Mr. Wright's vitriol intensified as my supporters responded. It seems that he was bashing a book that I had not yet written. His complaints had little if anything to do with Wattensaw Bayou. If you would like to read the entire exchange you can find it on my author's Facebook HERE. Look for the Charles Wright's post under "Recent Posts by Others" on the right side of the page.
Sir: The terrible bias in your book, the Secret of Wattensaw Bayou, degrades an otherwise wonderful book. The Union army invaded a sovereign nation, committed war on civilians as a matter of strategy, raped all colors, stole from all colors, burned out all colors, killed for the fun of it all colors, salted ground, poisoned wells, etc. The Confederate army, always offered Confederate Script for anything they took, plus even rounded up men that didn't abide by these rules, and court marshaled them even putting them in front of a firing squad. The war was with the Godly South, vs the godless north, your story is a travesty to the memory of Good Confederate Soldiers. I would hope that you would study history, and be ashamed of shaming the memory of such good people, while sanctifying the aggressors, who committed these atrocities against our civilian people! Please study the history of these two people, and learn the truth! The war wasn't about slavery, and slavery was on it's way out. I enjoy even fiction work about this area, but don't enjoy someone putting such bias into it, and trying to damage the names of good people, states, and nations.
Mr. Wright, I think it is time that I chime in this discussion. I'm gratified that you took time to read my book, "The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou." Did you have ancestors in the DeValls Bluff area? If so, we might be cousins. The Jonathan Wright in the books is a real person - my G-G-G Grandfather. He was one of the first settlers in the White River valley, there long before statehood.If you did indeed read the book, you will know that the story is a snapshot in time for one family in Prairie County Arkansas between June 1862 and August 1863. I'm perplexed about your concern that I portrayed the Union in such a good light and did not describe atrocities committed by Union troops. Heck, I hardly portrayed Union troops at all! There is a second hand account of the Union Navy raid at DeValls Bluff half way through the book and then in the last chapter the US Army marches near the family's home. There were no Northern atrocities at those places on those days. I would have had to fabricate any atrocities to fit them into the story. In the interest of accurate history, I'm sure you would not have me do that.
I sense that you are actually more upset that I have portrayed the south and the CS soldiers in a negative light. I can assure you that all of the issues that the Wright family dealt with are actual problems that many southerners caught in the War, saw firsthand.
· Slave patrollers did search for, capture and mistreat slaves who were away from their homes without permission. This went on before and during the War.
· After the Conscription Act of 1862, men were indeed forced into the CS Army, sometimes at gunpoint.
· Men did desert in large numbers, and they did have the threat of trial and execution if caught.
· Slave owners were compelled to "lease" their slaves to the CS government for use in the War effort. The death rate from disease in those labor camps was just as appalling as those in the soldier's camps.
· The CS government did not protect their citizens from the lawless bands of men who terrorized the remote areas of the state.
· Slavery did exist, 4 million people were in bondage, and their lives and labor was being stolen from them. Many of them suffered terribly, physically and emotionally, at the hands of their masters.
As far as "dishonoring" CS soldiers. There was only one character in the book portrayed as a villain (Capt Campbell.) There are others who are treated neutrally or as honorable and loyal men of the community.
As far as your statement that the War had nothing to do with slavery, we cannot know the hearts of men who lived 150 years ago, unless they left their thoughts on paper. As a result, we don't know the motivations of the average CS soldier. However, we do have clear insight into the motivations of the decision makers who precipitated Secession and the War. This is the central point of a letter from Alabama's Gov Moore when he called the Secession Convention for Alabama in 1861:
"Who is Mr. Lincoln, whose election is now beyond question? He is the head of a great sectional party calling itself Republican: a party whose leading object is the destruction of the institution of slavery as it exists in the slaveholding States. Their most distinguished leaders, in and out of Congress, have publicly and boldly proclaimed this to be their intention and unalterable determination. Their newspapers are filled with similar declarations. Are they in earnest? Let their past acts speak for them.
Nearly every one of the non-slaveholding States have been for years under the control of the Black Republicans. A large majority of these States have nullified the fugitive slave law, and have successfully resisted its execution. They have enacted penal statutes, punishing, by fine and imprisonment in the penitentiary, persons who may pursue and arrest fugitive slaves in said State. They have by law, under heavy penalties, prohibited any person from aiding the owner to arrest his fugitive slave, and have denied us the use of their prisons to secure our slaves until they can be removed from the State. They have robbed the South of slaves worth millions of dollars, and have rendered utterly ineffectual the only law passed by Congress to protect this species of property. . .
All these things have been effected, either by the unconstitutional legislation of free States, or by combinations of individuals. These facts prove that they are not only in earnest and intent upon accomplishing their wicked purposes, but have done all that local legislation and individual efforts could effect.
Knowing that their efforts could only be partially successful without the aid of the Federal Government, they for years have struggled to get control of the Legislative and Executive Departments thereof. They have now succeeded, by large majorities, in all the non-slaveholding States except New Jersey, and perhaps California and Oregon, in electing Mr. Lincoln, who is pledged to carry out the principles of the party that elected him. The course of events show clearly that this party will, in a short time have a majority in both branches of Congress. It will then be in their power to change the complexion of the Supreme Court so as to make it harmonize with Congress and the President. When that party get possession of all the Departments of Government, with the purse and the sword, he must be blind indeed who does not see that slavery will be abolished in the District of Columbia, in the dock-yards and arsenals, and wherever the Federal Government has jurisdiction.
It will be excluded from the Territories, and other free States will in hot haste be admitted into the Union, until they have a majority to alter the Constitution. Then slavery will be abolished by law in the States, and the "irrepressible conflict" will end; for we are notified that it shall never cease, until "the foot of the slave shall cease to tread the soil of the United States." The state of society that must exist in the Southern States, with four millions of free negroes and their increase, turned loose upon them, I will not discuss--it is too horrible to contemplate.
I have only noticed such of the acts of the Republican party as I deem necessary to show that they are in earnest, and determined to carry out their publicly avowed intentions--and to show that their success has been such as should not fail to create the deepest concern for the honor and safety of the Southern States.--Now, in view of the past and our prospects for the future, what ought we to do? What do wisdom and prudence dictate?--What do honor and safety require at our hands?"Here is a link to the minutes of the Alabama Secession Convention. It is amazing how much the preservation of slavery is discussed during this convention