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The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition

8/28/09 6:09 PM

Grasping Reality with Both Hands The Semi-Daily Journal of Economist Brad DeLong: A Fair, Balanced, Reality-Based, and More than Two-Handed Look at the World J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley #3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880; 925 708 0467; delong@econ.berkeley.edu. Weblog Home Page Weblog Archives Econ 115: 20th Century Economic History Econ 211: Economic History Seminar Economics Should-Reads Political Economy Should-Reads Politics and Elections Should-Reads Hot on Google Blogsearch Hot on Google Brad DeLong's Egregious Moderation August 18, 2009

The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is not repeat not repeat NOT a reconstruction-era southern lament. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is a song written in 1969 by a Canadian--never mind that Ralph J. Gleason (in the review in Rolling Stone (US edition only) of October 1969) wrote "the rhythmic structure, the voice of Levon and the bass line with the drum accents and then the heavy close harmony of Levon, Richard and Rick in the theme, make it seem impossible that this isn't some traditional material handed down from father to son straight from that winter of 1865 to today. It has that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity..."

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Thus Robbie Robertson incites the ire of Ta-Nehisi Coates, who believes that we have very different memories of the Winter of '65, and don't need to invent Robertson's particular one:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: What you see above is the train of Rebels fleeing the city, as the Union troops enter from the other side. I was thinking about the Richmond yesterday, and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."... I'm told that it's a great song, and I don't so much doubt this, as I doubt my own magnanimity. I'm reminded of one of my father's favorite quotes, "The African's right to be wrong is sacred." Or Aaron McGruder's line, "I reserve the right to be a

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African's right to be wrong is sacred." Or Aaron McGruder's line, "I reserve the right to be a nigger." I can no more marvel at The Band then a Sioux can marvel at the cinematography of "The Died With Their Boots On." I wouldn't fault the man who could, but it's not me My empathy is a resource to be rationed like all others. My right to be wrong is sacred. My right to be a nigger is reserved. I started to play the song yesterday, and stopped myself. Again, I was angry. Again, another story about the blues of Pharaoh, and the people are invisible. The people are always invisible.... The expectation that someone else will tell your story for you, will write your ballads for you, will reconcile your history for you, is foolish and vain.... I'm no Robbie Robertson, but I do carry the words of my old, magical people: I have just returned from the city of Richmond; my regiment was among the first that entered that city. I marched at the head of the column, and soon I found myself called upon by the officers and men of my regiment to make a speech, with which, of course, I readily complied. A vast multitude assembled on Broad Street, and I was aroused amid the shouts of ten thousand voices, and proclaimed for the first time in that city freedom to all mankind. After which the doors of all the slave pens were thrown open, and thousands came out shouting and praising God, and Father, or Master Abe, as they termed him. In this mighty consternation I became so overcome with tears that I could not stand up under the pressure of such fullness of joy in my own heart. I rested to gain strength, so I lost many important topics worthy of note. Among the densely crowded concourse there were parents looking for children who had been sold south of this state in tribes, and husbands came for the same purpose; here and there one was singled out in the ranks, and an effort was made to approach the gallant and marching soldiers, who were too obedient to orders to break ranks.We continued our march as far as Camp Lee, at the extreme end of Broad Street, running westwards. In camp the multitude followed, and everybody could participate in shaking the friendly but hard hands of the poor slaves. Among the many broken-hearted mothers looking for their children who had been sold to Georgia and elsewhere, was an aged woman, passing through the vast crowd of colored, inquiring for one by the name of Garland H. White, who had been sold from her when a small boy, and was bought by a lawyer named Robert Toombs, who lived in Georgia. Since the war has been going on she has seen Mr. Toombs in Richmond with troops from his state, and upon her asking him where his body-servant Garland was, he replied: "He ran off from me at Washington, and went to 'Canada. I have since learned that he is living somewhere in the State of Ohio." Some of the boys knowing that I lived in Ohio, soon found me and said, "Chaplain, here is a lady that wishes to see you." I quickly turned, following the soldier until coming to a group of colored ladies. I was questioned as follows: "What is your name, sir?" "My name is Garland H. White." "What was your mother's name?" "Nancy." "Where was you born?" "In Hanover County, in this State." "Where was you sold from?" "From this city." "What was the name of the man who bought you?" "Robert Toombs." "Where did he live?" "In the State of Georgia." "Where did you leave him?" "At Washington." "Where did you go then?" "To Canada." "Where do you live now?" http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/the-night-they-raised-america-up-the-invention-of-memory-and-tradition.html

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him?" "At Washington." "Where did you go then?" "To Canada." "Where do you live now?" "In Ohio." "This is your mother, Garland, whom you are now talking to, who has spent twenty years of grief about her son." I cannot express the joy I felt at this happy meeting of my mother and other friends. But suffice it to say that God is on the side of the righteous, and will in due time reward them. I have witnessed several such scenes among the other colored regiments. Late in the afternoon, we were honored with his Excellency, the President of the United States, Lieutenant-General Grant, and other gentlemen of distinction. We made a grand parade through most of the principal streets of the city, beginning at Jeff Davis's mansion, and it appeared to me that all the colored people in the world had collected in that city for that purpose. I never saw so many colored people in all my life, women and children of all sizes running after Father, or Master Abraham, as they called him. To see the colored people, one would think they had all gone crazy. The excitement at this period was unabated, the tumbling of walls, the bursting of shells, could be heard in all directions, dead bodies being found, rebel prisoners being brought in, starving women and children begging for greenbacks and hard tack, constituted theorder of the day. The Fifth [Massachusetts] Cavalry; colored, were sfill dashing through the streets to protect and preserve the peace, and see that no one suffered violence, they having fought so often over the walls of Richmond, driving the enemy at every point. Among the first to enter Richmond was the 28th U.S.C.T. better known as the First Indiana Colored Volunteers. . Some people do not seem to believe that the colored troops were the first that entered Richmond. Why, you need not feel at all timid in giving the truthfulness of my assertion to the four winds of the heavens, and let the angels re-echo it back to the earth, that the colored soldiers of the Army of the James were the first to enter the city of Richmond. I was with them, and am still with them, and am willing to stay with them until freedom is proclaimed throughout the world. Yes, we will follow this race of men in search of liberty through the whole Island of Cuba. All the boys are well, and send their love to all the kind ones at home." Chaplain Garland H. White, 28th USCI, Richmond, Virginia, April 12, 1865; CR, April 22, 1865 White's letter can be found in the book A Grand Army Of Black Men (p. 175.) For the serious civil war nerd, this book, a massive collection of letters written by black soldiers during the War, is indispensable. Then again, maybe Robbie Robertson is saying something else. Virgil Cain may say so, but we all know that the real killer of Cain's brother Abel wasn't no Yankee stranger from afar, was he? RECOMMENDED (4.57) by 4 people like you [How?] You might like:

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2 more recommended posts Âť Brad DeLong on August 18, 2009 at 04:25 PM in History, Music | Permalink TrackBack TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e551f0800388340120a559a510970c Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition:

Comments You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. hmm one of my very first blog posts ever considered that very song http://rjwaldmann.blogspot.com/2002/12/virtu-in-rags-is-virtu-in-rags-virtue.html Posted by: robert waldmann | August 18, 2009 at 04:45 PM I respectfully suggest that the properly parallel title would be "The Night We Raised Old Glory Up"; scans better, too. Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | August 18, 2009 at 04:50 PM I think Coates errs in thinking that Robertson completely identifies with the narrator. The song seems to me to be an example of Southern grievance like Randy Newman's "Lousiana 1927". There are no mentions in the song of black people or slavery, and I don't think that's accidental. It's the dog that didn't bark. Incidentally, Coates brings up "They Died with Their Boots On" and doesn't mention that Robertson's a Native American and probably reserves the right to be an injun. Posted by: Jeffrey Davis | August 18, 2009 at 05:28 PM Here's a website with a lot of background information on the song. I think this section is somewhat relevant to TaNehisi Coates' antipathy towards the song. "But in 1969, this paen for the departed old South seemed radically conservative to Americans. However, Robbie had subtlety and detailed historical knowledge on his side, that gave the song a contemporary anti-war dimension with quotable lines like They should never have taken the very best', with its immediate application to Vietnam, and the careful placing of Virgil's home, 'Back with my wife in Tennessee'. Civil War Tennessee conjured up sympathetic images of sturdy self-reliant farmers, rather than pictures of wealthy slaveholders in white pillared mansions among the cotton fields further south. East Tennessee - and the Appalachian mountains in general - were not major slave-holding areas. Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky were wavering between the Confederacy and the Union in 1861, though Tennessee seceded promptly in a second group of four which included Virginia. The dirt farmers in West Tennessee were too far away to identify with the federal government and slavery was part of the local economy. The hill farmers in the east lived on small farms where slavery was neither established nor economically viable, and there was a bias against slaveholders. Levon's home in Arkansas is in the hinterland of Memphis, Tennessee. You'd look across the river at West Tennessee. But the comments about Lee (and the progress of Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson's lives) would indicate to me that Robertson was making a subtle point by choosing Tennessee rather than Georgia or Louisiana. Note that Virgil and his brother took a rebel stand as if there was some choice in the matter. The word "rebel" (as in Johnny Reb) sounds (a) Northern (b) slightly perjorative. From the North's perspective it was a rebellion, from the South's point of view it was secession. Would a Southerner have called it "a rebel stand" (or himself a "rebel")? I guess Virgil is speaking after the war, so is accepting the view that it was a rebellion (only the winners write history). But mainly it reinforces the point about Tennessee being a state that had to make up its mind - Virgil had a choice about which stand to take. I see him as a small hill farmer. From (say) Louisiana I don't see there'd be choice or thought in the matter. http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/the-night-they-raised-america-up-the-invention-of-memory-and-tradition.html

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Note Virgil's age. His brother "above him" took a rebel stand, and that brother was just eighteen when he was killed. If "above me" means older brother, that puts Virgil even younger when he joined the cause. In 1864 the Confederate Congress extended the age of military service so that it ran from seventeen to fifty. Virgil is singing it after the war, but that can't make him more than twenty / twenty one at the end. That again relates to Vietnam, where the average of those killed or wounded was nineteen.[34] An alternative interpretation to "my brother above me" (see Mike above) is that his brother is in heaven. Taking the anti-war theme (They should never have taken the very best) a little further, it was said that the impact of the film Gone With The Wind with its graphic depiction of the emotional and physical horrors of war, was a major factor in delaying the US entry into the Second World War. Popular art can change politics and therefore history. We're in the same territory. Helm has identified most strongly with African-American musicians from an early age, and the song has the power to envoke the tragedy of the South without ever condoning slavery." http://theband.hiof.no/articles/dixie_viney.html Posted by: Mark | August 18, 2009 at 05:32 PM I think the song is anti-war, not pro-Confederacy. Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | August 18, 2009 at 05:34 PM Mark, You give a thorough analysis, but some of it needs clarification. Cain clearly lived in West Tennessee, near the Mississippi. How else could his wife have seen the Robert E. Lee going down the river? And West Tennessee is the most "southern" part of the state. Memphis was a center of the cotton trade. East Tennessee is Appalachian, and was pro-Union. Middle Tennessee was a mix. Still, as noted above, I think you are clearly right that this is an anti-war song. Virgil's lament for his brother does not reflect hatred for the Yankee, but sorrow for the implicitly futile loss. Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | August 18, 2009 at 06:48 PM OK, now you made me tune into Joan Baez. Posted by: Mattyoung | August 18, 2009 at 07:28 PM It's always struck me that whoever wrote this song was well aware that "Old Dixie" was not a term that would have been used in 1865 but smells of the subsequent Confederate revivals. Stoneman's raid was from Eastern Tennessee into Southwest Virginia. And I always thought that Ralph J Gleason was a self-impressed, rather damaging fool, and the quote in Professor DeLong's piece is just another bit of evidence. you know, if he'd taken the effort there are plenty of recordings of Southern country musicians, black and white, from the early 20th century, and they don't sound a thing like Robbie Robertson. Posted by: Gene O'Grady | August 18, 2009 at 07:53 PM Whatever Robbie Robertson's intentions might have been, if his music provides aid or comfort to secesh, even through casual misinterpretation, then Ol' Robbie's going to have to burn in hell with the rest of those rebel bastards. Posted by: Post-partisan person | August 18, 2009 at 08:05 PM The song is not anti-war, except in the sense that misfortune and suffering befalls a poor naif on the losing side. It's fundamentally about class. There is no hint of support for anything confederate except sectionalism itself (us agin' them) -- the lowest common denominator. Nothing about slavery. What a marxist might call primitive class consciousness pervades the music of The Band. Their most common song is the dirge, sung by losers (often in ironic, even jocular terms). White guy blues.

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Posted by: Miracle Max | August 18, 2009 at 08:10 PM Nobody is saying this song literally is a Reconstruction-era lament (and only Gleason claimed it sounds like one). Coates didn't even connect it to the Lost Cause -- I did, at Edge of the West. (I'm surprised Brad chose the same YouTube link I did; there are better ones if you don't want to tar the song by association with re-enactors.) The discussion has been great, because there's clearly no reconciling all the versions and interpretations. Posted by: Vance Maverick | August 18, 2009 at 08:18 PM Coates is correct but the response is that this is just a song and there is plenty of history of all sorts about the Civil War and this one song isn't a call to take up arms or to join the Klan. As I'm sure you know, paintings of the Southern side sell but not those of the north. There's a romance in the Lost Cause and some of it is sick - meaning racist - and some is more romantic claptrack that emphasizes chivalry and dancing at Tara with all the evils of slavery (and the South's abject poverty) shoved into the background. I have no idea what the song means. I thought it was an attempt to write an American folk song, like John Henry. Posted by: jonathan | August 18, 2009 at 08:37 PM I love The Band but I'm less of a Robertson fan than just about any of the rock critics I've ever read (excepting Dave Marsh). But I do think there's considerable ambiguity in those lines. Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me "Virgil, quick, come see, there goes Robert E. Lee!" Now I don't mind choppin' wood and I don't care if my money's no good You take what you need and you leave the rest But they should never have taken the very best Those lines could obviously apply to the singer's feelings that the North raped and pillaged the land and killed so many of his fellow Southern brethren. But coming right after he's seen Lee, as they do, I think it's at least as likely that the singer's talking about Lee himself and the rest of southern forces being the ones who laid waste to the south with their actions. Posted by: scott (the other one) | August 18, 2009 at 09:02 PM I don't think anyone is saying that this song is a pro-slavery racist hymn. The objection is more that its the sad lament of a man who's lost a war and his prosperity and a family member and a country, and the song wants you to sympathize with him. But when you really stop and think about it... dude was a confederate. He lost a war in which he chose a side that was plainly evil. His prosperity wasn't deserved. His family member died in the service of a worthless cause. And the country he lost was a wicked nation founded on the ideals of slavery and white supremacy. So I mean, good. Its good that he lost. We're all better for it. The writer isn't calling on people to rise up and reinstate the confederacy, or join the klan, no, but the writer is romanticizing and mythologizing a cause and a faction that were in reality ugly and worthy of contempt. And scott- listen to the song as its sung. "But they should never have taken the very best, the night they drove old dixie down." Its mourning war dead. If its not intended that way, the writer failed. Posted by: Patrick | August 18, 2009 at 10:50 PM A few points: 1) Mark, the website you cite has its share of pro-Confederate bias. Thus, while complaining about the alleged brutality of Union General Stoneham and his cavalry, Georgian David Powell virtually shrieks: "Even after the shooting war ended, they assisted in chasing down and capturing Confederate President Jefferson Davis." Perhaps someone could point out to Powell that Jefferson Davis was fleeing in an attempt to continue the Confederate War effort. Hence, the Union forces should have tried to capture him. (I await Powell's condemnation of the Allied military for arresting Nazi war criminals after Germany had surrendered.)

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2) Immediately before complaining about the role of Stoneham's cavalry in catching Jeff Davis, Powell wails that as the end of the war neared "Stoneman's forces plundered & destroyed tons of supplies, including foodstocks & grain, along with miles of railroad supply tracks." Oh boo-hoo. Presumably, Powell is referring to the tracks of the Danville train, actually the Richmond & Danville Railroad ("R&D"). On April 5, 1865, Union cavalry cut the R&D, thereby denying the then-retreating General Lee supplies for which he had been waiting for about 24 hours. Frankly, it is not clear from the sources that I am using, but seems to have been when "Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again." Therefore, the R&D was a legitimate military target. (Prior to Lee's evacuation of Richmond, the R&D had been the last major supply line into Richmond. The R&D originally ran from Danville to Richmond. During the Civil War, it was extended to Greensboro, NC.) 3) One final Powell comment: "Even though Stoneman, on the surface, may appear to be just a footnote in the history of the Civil War, in that part of the U.S. where the borders of Tennessee, North Carolina & Virginia meet, his name lives in infamy. The exploits of his plundering cavalry troops in the last days of a defeated Confederacy are still a part of local legend. In this respect, I feel that Robbie Robertson succeeded in capturing this sentiment accurately in the song." Of course, Stoneham was stationed in East Tennessee, which remained pro-Union throughout the Civil War. In fact, it tried to secede from Tennessee. Instead, it suffered under a brutal Confederate occupation through much of the Civil War. As a result, since the Civil War, East Tennessee has generally voted Republican. During the Civil War, East Tennesseans often approved of harsh actions against the Confederates. Some of them joined guerilla bands to fight the Confederacy. Others joined the Union armed forces. Oddly enough, Powell does not seem to be disturbed by the Confederate occupation of East Tennessee. No doubt, he merely forgot to mention it. (Much in the same way he forgot to admit that it was wrong to fight to preserve slavery.) 4) Fairness to Stoneham requires me to make another point. In 1865, he led other raids from East Tennessee into North Carolina and Southwestern Virgina. He captured some Confederate towns and destroyed a Confederate foundry (another legitimate target). At Salisbury, he freed approximately 1400 POWs (the brute). 5) Certainly, it is not difficult to trash Powell's whining, but that is the point. His garbage deserves no respect. 6) Mark, despite the claim that you quote from the website, I see no evidence of "subtlety and detailed historical knowledge" by Robertson or those cited on the website. 7) As I commented on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, I can appreciate the song, but I cannot like a song that arguably romanticizes the Confederacy. At a minimum, there is no recognition that Virgil Caine fought on the wrong side for an evil cause. However, reading the garbage on the website that Mark cited has made me less tolerant of the song. Nevertheless, I eagerly await Robertson's anti-war song written from the point of view of an officer in the Waffen SS. I hear that it is particularly moving when that Nazi first describes the damage the Red Army did to Berlin and then admits how unhappy he is about all those untermenschen who escaped the camps as a result.

Posted by: Bill | August 18, 2009 at 11:17 PM My whole take on the song and Confederacy is colored by the fact that some of the most prominent advertisements in the NRA magazines have to do with bric-a-brac comemorating "the heroes of the South". You too ccan have a set of shot glasses with all of the Rebel generals on it. http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/the-night-they-raised-america-up-the-invention-of-memory-and-tradition.html

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God, guns, lost Confederacy, rebels, secession, and a "black" guy in the Whitr House. Ever wonder why there is trouble? Virgil can very well represent the ignorant masses who buy the swill that NRA and similar outlets continues to spill out every week. Posted by: Neal | August 19, 2009 at 05:56 AM I'm cheered to see secesh lies rebutted here. When are my American cousins going to finally get up off their collective behinds and win the Civil War?

Posted by: Post-partisan person | August 19, 2009 at 06:41 AM I've wondered if Joan Baez's substitution of "so much cavalry" for "Stoneman's cavalry" in her rendition of the song was an attempt to divest historical particularity and thus make it into a clearly anti-war song. If so, I think she failed. Posted by: bob | August 19, 2009 at 08:49 AM " But coming right after he's seen Lee," I think the original lyric refers to "the Robert E. Lee," not "Robert E. Lee." She saw the riverboat, not the general. Google tells us that Baez left out the definite article, but it was in the Band's version. Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | August 19, 2009 at 08:55 AM Joan Baez' substitution of "so much cavalry" for "Stoneman's cavalry" was an accident. She learned the song by listening to it instead of reading the lyrics. Therefore, she recorded what she thought she heard as opposed to the lyrics as written. On another point, I just realized that I referred to General Stoneman as Stoneham in my comment above. I apologize. It is particularly bad because in some spots, I have the name right. I can only plead a combination of anger and lacl of sleep in my defense. Posted by: Bill | August 19, 2009 at 09:19 AM That should have been lack of sleep. I am still tired. Posted by: Bill | August 19, 2009 at 09:20 AM @Bernard Yomtov, In the orginal song it was the General and not the riverboat that was being referred to. Joan Baez inserted the article. Thus it is unclear what part of Tennessee Virgil lived in. The website I referred to earlier says the following of the matter: "Lee was idolised in the south, and toured around Virginia setting up education for veterans until his death in 1870. Lee had also ensured that the peace treaty included a binding pledge that former soldiers 'would not at any time be disturbed by Federal authority, provided they lay down their arms and returned home.' Lee personally disbelieved in both slavery and secession from the Union, but felt that his people and his honour came above his personal opinions. Clement Eaton Robert E. Lee expressed this feeling in a letter of 1856 in which he wrote that the holding of slaves was an evil, but he added that their emancipation would result sooner from the mild and melting influence of time than from the storms and contests of fiery controversy.[19] During the war, Lee freed quite a few of his family's slaves. Lee felt that the war was God's instrument to end slavery. Lee has also been praised for ordering his troops to surrender once and for all, thus avoiding a protracted guerilla war that could have gone on for months and years. Joan Baez had a cover version which was a major hit (US #3). She added one little word - 'the' - which changed the general into the Mississippi steamboat of the same name. This word is neither in the official sheet music nor in the http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/the-night-they-raised-america-up-the-invention-of-memory-and-tradition.html

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general into the Mississippi steamboat of the same name. This word is neither in the official sheet music nor in the original studio version by The Band. Even worse, 'Stoneman's cavalry' became 'so much cavalry'. To be fair to Baez, on some live versions Levon gets pretty close to adding a 'the'. Even as early as Rock of Ages it sounds like: There goes -a Robert E. Lee. The question of whether it's "the" Robert E. Lee (a steamboat, or even an army unit with that name) or the General himself has caused some discussion, but I think the quote from Levon's autobiography closes the matter: Levon Helm Robbie and I worked on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" up in Woodstock. I remember taking him to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect.[20] In fact Lee never actually visited Tennessee after the war, but moved to Lexington, Virginia as president of Washington College, so it could be argued that Mr and Mrs Kane had a better chance of seeing the riverboat. But Levon's autobiography quoted above makes it sure that he meant the general, not the boat. A comment on the website was: Bones … the fact that Robert E Lee was never in Tennessee after the war doesn't mean that people didn't think they saw him. People in the South after the war constantly thought they saw Lincoln and General Lee, even though they couldn't have, and it would be passed down to generations even though it was historically incorrect.[21] Pat Brennan added this comment. Pat Brennan Lee never went to Tennessee after the war. The closest he got was probably Charlotte, NC. However, many people-… especially ex-Confederates…claimed to see him all over the country, just as many ex-slaves claimed to see Lincoln after the war. That sort of public hysteria is common; you know, Elvis in Kalamazoo. Since Levon claimed to point Robbie to some books at a library when the song was forming, perhaps he clued Robbie into the phantom sightings. Or, perhaps, Robbie just thought it would be a cool image, whether it had historical weight or not.[22]" @Bill, The website may indeed be biased and missinformed about the war as you argue. I only referred to it because it seems to have so much detailed (and referenced) information on Robbie Robertson's lyrical motives. I think you have to give Robbie some credit (he was Canadian after all) for getting at least a few of the details correct (try looking up General Stoneman and the Richmond and Danville RR in any short history of the Civil War for example). In any case it's a song and not a history lesson. It's a story told through the lens of one man's romanticized, albeit depressing, memories. In any case, I'm not sure that a Waffen SS officer is really analogous to Virgil Caine. Frankly I think it makes light of what went on at Birkenau etc. (even if in the unlikely event that Virgil had served at Andersonville). Posted by: Mark | August 19, 2009 at 12:20 PM " Lee has also been praised for ordering his troops to surrender once and for all, thus avoiding a protracted guerilla war that could have gone on for months and years. " This has been hashed over on the old Usenet groups. There were several factors which would have really made it hard going for a generalized Confederate guerrilla force (what we actually had was a more specific Confederate guerrilla force, which was quite succesful): 1) Agriculture was seriously disrupted; note that at Appomattox Grant allowed Confederate troops to take home mules and horses. This was to get the planting done (it was in April). Any guerrilla/counter-guerrilla operations would have disrupted agriculture, turning hard times into famine. 2) Re (1) - the US forces seemed to be aware of this, and quite willing to trash areas if resistance was offered. Guerrillas can inflict minor casualties, and wipe out small detachments, but cavalry battaltions and infantry brigades would be unstoppable. All that they'd need to do would be to burn all buildings and stores, and lay waste to http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/the-night-they-raised-america-up-the-invention-of-memory-and-tradition.html

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The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition

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brigades would be unstoppable. All that they'd need to do would be to burn all buildings and stores, and lay waste to fields, and then leave. (I sometimes wonder if the standard successful anti-guerrilla method is to create a famine). 3) There was quite a bit of anger in the north; if significant resistance continued after the official surrender, savage retaliatory attacks should have been politically palatable. The US was already in the process of waging a harsh war; continuing that would have been quite easy. 4) Support for the Confederacy was positively and significantly correlated with the slave population. This meant that the areas with the most die-hards would also have large, available and politically reliable pro-US forces. And if they needed to be unleashed to biblical methods, well, photos were hard to take back then, and see (3). Posted by: Barry | August 19, 2009 at 12:48 PM Mark, Since you were involved in writing the song, I suppose I'll take your word. But are you sure? The version I have on the (LP) album "The Band" has the article in it. I just invested $.99 to buy the song from that album on iTunes and it too has "the." The sentence is slurred a bit. It says "there go the Robert E. Lee." Maybe that sounds like "There goes Robert E. Lee." Googled references (perhaps inaccurate) also have "the" in the Band's version, and not in Baez'. Also, the lyric seems to scan better with two syllables instead of one. Not that any of this matters a lot. Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | August 19, 2009 at 02:12 PM @Bernard Yomtov, I hope you're being sarcastic as I certainly never meant to imply that I had anything to do with the writing of the song. I'll take your word for what the google says (I haven't tried to replicate it) but I went and listened to my old Joan Baez and Dylan/The Band LPs (yes I have a turntable) and they're responsible for what I believed. However, Just to muddy up things a bit I found versions of both The Band and Joan Baez singing it both ways in a video search: With article (the riverboat): http://vodpod.com/watch/1277890-the-band-the-night-they-drove-old-dixie-down http://video.yahoo.com/watch/161151/1222643 Without article (the General): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EiHgz7NNn0 http://vodpod.com/watch/1414146-joan-baez-the-night-they-drove-old-dixie-down So go figure. There are evidently two versions depending on the performer's mood. Now I'm not sure what Robbie intended. The website I quoted might be right or wrong. Who knows? (Seriously, anybody have an opinion?) Posted by: Mark | August 19, 2009 at 02:53 PM Mark: Let me respond to your latest response. 1) Although Nazi Germany was worse than the Confederacy, the Confederacy bears comparison with Nazi Germany. Here are some points largely borrowed from comments that I made elsewhere. (I am using these comments not because I feel they brilliant, but because I am a slow writer and a slower typist.) a) Ideology - The southern ideological defenses of slavery and white supremacy began the development of an early "Blood and Soil" ideology. The frequent murder by Confederate soldiers of captured Black Union soldiers strongly suggests Confederates believed and acted upon that ideology, even if they could not articulate it. I am not arguing http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/the-night-they-raised-america-up-the-invention-of-memory-and-tradition.html

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The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition

8/28/09 6:09 PM

suggests Confederates believed and acted upon that ideology, even if they could not articulate it. I am not arguing that the Confederate version of "Blood and Soil" had advanced as far as the Nazi version, but it was developing. However, I am not arguing that they would have been identical, just recognizably related. Some of the Southern apologists for slavery later influenced the scientific racists. The scientific racists in turn influenced Nazi ideology. (Here I must apologize for missing citations. My wife & I live in a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan while most of my books; back issues of the New York Review of Books; and other sources are packed up in boxes located in several locations in New Jersey.) b) Racist Practice - Certainly, the South did not intend to exterminate Blacks the way that Germany exterminated Jews; Gypsies; and some others. However, the Nazis did not intend to exterminate every ethnic group or people whom they considered inferior. Instead, they intended to enslave some (primarily certain Eastern Europeans) as agricultural helots. Both societies believed in racial slavery. Both societies were willing to wage war; kill; and murder to support that belief. Both societies were willing to live off the fruits of slave labor. Both produced vile racist ideologies. Nazi Germany was worse, but the two societies bear comparison with each other. Since you brought up the Holocaust, let comment that although I am Irish Catholic, My wife is Jewish. Most of her mother's family in Hungary died in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, my wife enjoyed my Waffen SS remark. Then again, she married me, so she must be self-hating. (Normally, I would not have brought that up, but your Birkenau remark allowed me to overcome my restraint.) 2) Clement Eaton - People tend not to quote Clement Eaton much today because he is seen as rather proConfederate. I will be polite and just say that his work suggests questions regarding his view of race. 3) Robert E. Lee opposed slavery - Really? Assuming that he did, what does that mean? And did he really? a) What does it mean? - There is a great book by Bruce Levine, "Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War" (Oxford, 2006). Levine examines that some Confederates plans developed to "free" slaves who fought for the Confederacy. Lee was a strong supporter of the plan. There was one catch. The plan offered very little freedom, which was one of the reasons that its supporters, including Lee liked it. As they saw it, they could emancipate the slaves, but still control the former slaves and their labor. In fact, because the former slaves would now be free, they would be a cheaper labor force because the the former would no longer have to maintain them when they were injured; ill; or old, etc. So how did this work. The former slaves would get their marriages recognized by law. Perhaps they might learn to read. Unfortunately, whites could still physically punish them. The former slaves would still have to work for whites. If they did not work for whites, they could be arrested for vagrancy. Forget about voting or serving on a jury. Essentially, Lee's form of Emancipation did not give someone freedom, let alone anything approaching equality. (If you google Bruce Levine and his book, you should be able to find a great by him on youtube.) b) Was he against slavery? - Against one letter, written when emancipation was not on the horizon, we can judge Lee's actions. During the Gettysburg campaign, Lee's army kidnapped northern blacks, then dragged them South into Slavery. Gee, Lee sounds as if he supported slavery. He was also a kidnapper and a war criminal. As you are no doubt aware, the Confederates often murdered Black Union troops who surrendered. I am unaware of any actions that Lee took to oppose it. In fact, at the seige of Petersburg, men in his army murdered Blacks troops who were surrendering. Lee did not discipline the murderers. Finally, Lee fought a war to save slavery before, in desparation, he turned to a phony emancipation.

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The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition

8/28/09 6:09 PM

4) I want to agree with Barry's comment. Historian Bill Barney explained the lack of post-Appomattox Confederate guerilla warfare by citing Mao's statement that guerillas are fishes swimming in a human sea. The areas in the South in which the white population was the most pro-Confederate had the largest slave populations. As Barry points out, the freedmen in those areas would have been pro-Union. However, this gave the Union another advantage. If you were looking for Confederate guerillas in an area with a Black majority, you could be reasonable sure that guerillas were the white guys. Posted by: Bill | August 19, 2009 at 05:49 PM @Bill, I still think you're picking a fight with the wrong person. I'm merely defending a song, not a way of life nor even a political point of view. And I still think you are belittling what went on at Birkenau. Have you been there? I have. The memories of the still existing giant pond of human fat are burned in my memory forever. In any case the song is about perceptions and not necessarily reality. Posted by: Mark | August 19, 2009 at 06:37 PM I think it's pretty clear from evidence such as Milgram's Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) that a decent person may serve an evil cause. And that people serving a good cause can do evil, too. Posted by: Doctor Jay | August 19, 2009 at 08:55 PM

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The Night They Raised America Up: The Invention of Memory and Tradition

8/28/09 6:09 PM

John Holbo and Friends

Civil War Find enlistment records, gravesites regimental histories and more. Ancestry.com/Military

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The Night They Raised America Up_ The Invention of Memory and Tradition