Who Were those Crazy Rebs?

We think of the Confederates as being rebels. It is trendy these days to consign them all as “traitors.”  Well, yes and no. Many of those Confederates truly believed they were part of a second American revolution. In fact, many confederates were direct descendants of Revolutionary heroes and patriots. Clyde Wilson at the Abbeville Institute has compiled a list of such descendants. Here is a brief list:

CSA President Jefferson Davis: son of a soldier in the American Revolution

Vice President Alexander H. Stephens: grandson of a soldier in the Revolution.

Gen. Robert E. Lee: son of a cavalry general, “Lighthorse” Harry Lee, in the Revolution and the nephew of two signers of the Declaration of Independence. His wife was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. Robert’s father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis was the adopted son of George Washington.

Brig.-Gen. and Secretary of War George W. Randolph: grandson of Thomas Jefferson.

Gen. James E. Slaughter: grand-nephew of James Madison.

Lt.-Gen. Leonidas Polk: his father was a Revolutionary colonel as was his maternal grandfather.

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston: son of a Revolutionary army colonel

Brig.-Gen. Hugh W. Mercer: grandson of Revolutionary Gen. Hugh Mercer

Patrick Henry: he had at least two grandsons and many other relatives in the Confederate Army.

Gen. David E. Twiggs was son of John Twiggs, a General in the Georgia militia during the American Revolution. A great-grandson of John Twiggs was Marine Corps Gen. John Twiggs Myers, holder of the Marine Corps Brevet Medal.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger’s grandfather was a Revolutionary officer and a friend of Lafayette.

Lt.-Gen. Richard Taylor was the son of former President Zachary Taylor and the grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

Lt.-Gen. Richard H. Anderson was the grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

Maj.-Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw was the grandson of a Revolutionary officer.

Lt.-Gen. Wade Hampton’s grandfather was a colonel in the Revolution and a general in the War of 1812.

See Abbeville Institute for Dr. Wilson’s complete list here.

Other names include:

Thomas Garland Jefferson was a great-nephew of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration. Thomas Garland Jefferson was a VMI cadet when the cadets were called on to support Confederate forces at the Battle on New Market on May 15, 1864. Thomas Garland Jefferson  was shot in the lungs and died three days later.

3 thoughts on “Who Were those Crazy Rebs?

  1. your list although most likely historically accurate was compiled by a writer/ editor for the Southern Partisan magazine. I don’t believe these men thought they were contributing to a second “revolution” but were defending the right to own slaves clear and simple.


  2. The generally accepted definition of revolution vs. civil war is as follows: A civil war is a conflict between citizens of the same country, while a revolution involves the forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

    Both France and Mexico transitioned from revolution to civil war in rapid succession. In both instances, the conflict involved substantial differences among participants about the form of the newly created government. In contrast, the American Civil War occurred three generations after the American Revolution. At that time, Americans had time to see how that newly created government was working out — and they found it lacking. Southern states were happy to withdraw from the Union according to the perfectly rational argument called nullification. Had South Carolina not initiated hostilities, the Union would likely have been the aggressor — an issue Lincoln carefully considered before giving finger-shoves to the southern states. He wanted the south to initiate hostilities, much like Roosevelt pushed Japan to its breaking point.

    One could argue that the American Civil War was more “revolution.” Whatever one chooses to label the conflict, I do not believe that many beyond Mr. Lincoln and Justice Taney understood its implications. When the union was reformed, the new nation would reflect Lincoln’s view of the central government rather than the founder’s views. There would be no further discussion of nullification. The central government would reign supreme in all things — and the states (and the people) could piss off. There may be a 9th and 10th Amendments on record, but both were rendered moot from that time forward. Thus, the real reason for “Reconstruction.”

    The pity was that slavery was already recognized by plantation owners as self-defeating. They just didn’t know what to do about it. But no one should smirk now about how great the Union’s purpose was in freeing the enslaved people. Doing so only emphasizes the speaker’s or writer’s ignorance. Make no mistake, slavery was a blight on humankind — globally. Reconstruction in America caused much more suffering among whites and blacks — and — if one cares to extrapolate, among Native Americans. America’s white army was in no mood to put up with any silliness from the Indians.

    In essence, the war (whether you wish to call it a revolution or a civil conflict) was a lose-lose situation from the beginning, and everyone back then owned a share of the blame. No one today deserves any blame. And whether those participants “wanted to maintain slavery as an institution” or were instead defending their states’ rights is no longer a worthwhile conversation. Why? Because it doesn’t matter.

    I agree with Tom and others that southerners viewed the conflict as a second revolution. They wanted to throw off the shackles of an oppressive government. Moreover, I think most southerners may have considered the battles as defensive measures — because, beyond the rhetoric of the “War of Yankee aggression, not many confrontations took place in the North. Until 1865, one-third of the states considered themselves equal in sovereignty to the federal government — no state could make that argument after 1877.

    Tom, I apologize for this “too long” comment.


  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. My only quibble would be that the South did not start the armed conflict. The North did. Certainly, the South fired on Ft. Sumter and laid siege. But, when/if you decide to start a new country, no one would allow a foreign power to maintain a military installation within your contiguous boundaries. When Ukraine and others withdrew, maybe we could say “seceded” from the Russia federation, they did not allow Russia to maintain military bases within their borders. There was no reason for the Lincoln administration to believe the South would continue with a shooting war – after Sumter fell. And, it was after Sumter that the Lincoln administration called for a 75,000 man army, with the obvious intent of starting a war. At the same time it called for those 75,000 soldier, it also announced a naval blockade of all southern ports. Naval blockades are always seen as an act of war, back then and today.
    Mustang, your thoughtful comments are never too long.


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