Thursday, August 13, 2015

History According to Jim, Vol. 1, No. 14

     I feel like I should comment on a very popular video that is making the rounds right now on the Internet. Salon featured it August 10th and it has exploded since then with more than four million views that I know of. You can read the article and watch the video here: Was the Civil War about Slavery? 

    The video was produced by Prager University and features Colonel Ty Seidule of the US Army in full dress uniform delivering the commentary in a very forceful way. Prager University is known for their shall we say rather rightwing views on things which makes this video a big surprise in that Colonel Seidule is in it. The colonel states that he was unaware of their political views when he agreed to do the video and that it was part of multiple appearances he made to promote the release of the book, "West Point's History of the Civil War" last fall. Stars and Stripes has an article on this aspect here: Stars and Stripes

     Seidule delivers a no holds barred analysis of why the Civil War was fought. He says it was about slavery and explains why it was. He delivers this commentary in such as a way as to suggest that he is not going to tolerate the lost cause myths built on cherry picked evidence and outright and often deliberate lies. I found the video to be right on target. I especially loved the part where Seidule uses the words United States Army when talking about the US Army during the Civil War. He deliberately uses those words and stresses that it is the same army in existence today and that he is proud to have served in this army.

   Who is Colonel Ty Seidule? He is the Head of the Department of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was assigned to this position in 2013. The colonel has served for about 30 years in the military. Along the way he picked up a MA in History from Ohio State University as well as his Ph.D in History from the same institution. This is not just a regular army officer giving his opinion, but a trained historian capable of researching and developing legitimate interpretations from primary sources. In other words, this guy is a valid historian.

      I wish to point this out because the usual cast of characters will probably do one of two things. They will ignore the video because it doesn't fit in with what they want to hear about the Civil War or they will begin to bring up the same old lies and excuses for the Civil War, none of which stand the test of truth. I've seen some online comments already from people who repeat the usual bull about tariffs and invasions, in other words the same old tired lost cause lies.

     I'm sorry if the truth hurts, but the Civil War was over slavery. If you can't handle that simple truth, then just shut up. Do you have a degree in history? No? Why are you running your mouth then? You've got a man who is a colonel and a holder of a Ph.D in history and you choose to ignore him because he says something you don't like? Tough shit. Unlike politics history is not decided by an election. It is developed through a lot of research. I've seen what passes for research from lost cause and heritage types. My seven year old granddaughter can do just as well as they can.

     I just had a classmate of mine from high school tell me that he was taught in college that the Civil War was over state's rights. That was back in the 80s. I gave him the video, linked him to the secession statements from the states on the Avalon Project, and explained why the interpretation is what it is. He has not replied back yet, so he is probably doing a little digging which is good. A few historians piped in on that FaceBook thread to agree with me as well, one being a former soldier I served with 30 years ago.

     You know what the most interesting thing was about the video and Colonel Seidule? These words at the end of the video:  

"As a soldier I am proud that the United States Army, my Army, defeated the Confederates. In its finest hour, soldiers wearing this blue uniform, almost 200,000 of them former slaves themselves, destroyed chattel slavery, freed 4,000,000 men, women, and children from human bondage, and saved the United States of America."

    I agree with Colonel Seidule. I have a feeling that he would be more than happy to do so again. He would not be alone. Seidule Video 

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