Unreconstructed rebels weren’t much for celebrating Independence Day.

Mike Staton

This post was written by Mike Staton.

I have a Civil War novel – Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep – debuting on October 1. I’ve decided to make it a series and am now about to start writing chapter 12 of Deepening Homefront Shadows.

I find myself enmeshed in the Civil War as Americans of 2017 get ready to celebrate our 241st Independence Day Celebration.

I plotted one chapter of Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep around an actual historical event. In early July 1863 Union Cavalry raided Kenansville, North Carolina, and burned down a sword factory on the town’s outskirts. After withdrawing to neighboring Warsaw, the troopers wrecked railroad track on the way back to New Bern, under Union control. That was the Fourth of July for the folks of Kenansville whose sons and husbands were away fighting the Yankees. Their fireworks were bitter with flames engulfing the sword factory.

Good Old Rebel

In the decades after the Civil War, many Southerners stayed rebels with little desire to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Twenty-one months later the Confederacy surrendered. The North enforced a reconstruction policy on the former states of the Confederacy that lasted 12 years, and might have lasted longer had the Republican Party not had to strike a deal with those unreconstructed Southern States to get a former Union general, Rutherford B. Hayes, elected President of the United States. The election was mired in the Electoral College, and Hayes and his people got the necessary delegate votes from the South by promising to end Reconstruction.

Needless to say, white Southerners were in no mood to celebrate the Fourth of July through rest of the 19th Century. They enacted separate but equal laws, kept blacks from voting, and erected monuments to the Lost Cause in city parks, capitol grounds, and on battlefields. A Southern folk ballad, “I’m a Good Old Rebel,” sums up the feelings of many of the Confederate veterans and their families throughout the decades that followed the end of the Civil War.

I followed old Mars’ Robert For four year, near about,
Got wounded in three places,
And starved at Pint Lookout.
I cotch the roomatism A-campin’ in the snow,
But I killed a chance of Yankees —
And I’d like to kill some mo’.

Three hundred thousand Yankees Is stiff in Southern dust;
We got three hundred thousand Befo’ they conquered us.
They died of Southern fever And Southern steel and shot;
And I wish it was three millions Instead of what we got.

I can’t take up my musket And fight ’em now no mo’.
But I ain’t a-goin’ to love ’em,
Now this is sartin sho’;
And I don’t want no pardon For what I was and am,
And I won’t be reconstructed,
And I don’t care a damn.

2nd SC String Band2

The Second South Carolina String Band plays authentic Civil War era music including “I’m A Good Old Rebel.”

For anyone who wants to actually hear this unreconstructed ballad, here is the Second South Carolina String Band playing the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKih6b7IssA

Back about 2011 when I worked for a North Carolina weekly newspaper, I went to a library in Pender County and looked for any books covering Fourth of July celebrations in the late 19th Century. I couldn’t find any.

From what I can determine, it was with the Spanish-American War in 1898 that Southerners began to think of the Fourth of July as their holiday too. That’s because some Confederate veterans joined up and fought the Spanish in Cuba.

1912 Frederick Maryland parade

Fourth of July parades were huge in the North and out West at the turn of the 20th Century including this one in Frederick, Maryland.

I think the true reunion occurred after World War I when North and South together fought the German Kaiser and his troops.

# # #

I’m an author with three fantasy novels to my credit – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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18 Responses to Unreconstructed rebels weren’t much for celebrating Independence Day.

  1. Gayle Irwin says:

    A very interesting and educational post, Mike — I hadn’t thought of the south as not celebrating the 4th of July…. but I can understand why, since they really didn’t consider themselves part of America for many years, decades, it seems. Such a shame — I see a tearing apart of the country happening again now, and it makes me very sad. Sometimes people truly don’t learn from history. Thank you for a great enlightenment. Happy Fourth of July!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike Staton says:

      The mountain people of North Carolina, the Unionist or pro-Union folks, they never cottoned to secession. On reflection, I’d say there were people there who loved the Union and no doubt celebrated the Fourth of July with picnics, parades and fireworks. Mountain people didn’t like the Eastern Seaboard Tar Heels and their secession ways.

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  2. Nancy Jardine says:

    thank you! I learn a lot about the American Civil War from your posts, Mike. I didn’t know any of that about the south and the 4th of July. As to the String Band- I like the kind of ‘upbeat somber’ music, the pipes and the banjos – but the words are something else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike Staton says:

      I first heard that song in about 1977 when I was still re-enacting. Those words shocked me. But I think they do reflect the sentiments and feelings of lots of late 19th Century Southerners who erected all those monuments and statutes that are so controversial nowadays.

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  3. Wranglers says:

    Ballads used to be so mean or straight forward. Nice holiday post, thanks. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Doris says:

    Your thoughts on the subject of celebrating the 4th in the South seem spot on to me Mike. Isn’t it funny how we so easily forget what happened back then. *sigh* Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike Staton says:

      I agree, Doris. That’s why so many of the repercussions of that war are still with us. Southerners before the war argued that slavery was permitted by God as shown in the Bible.

      Like

  5. Thank you for the history. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How interesting. I knew the South wasn’t up for the celebration for many years. I still feel it when we travel at times through the South. Where on earth did you ever find that photo? Wow! Happy Fourth of July, Mike!

    Like

  7. Mike Staton says:

    I was perusing Google and Pinterest images for the Fourth of July. Lots of great historical photos are out in the public domain.

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  8. S. J. Brown says:

    Interesting how people from different regions thought differently about national holidays. Thanks for the history lesson.

    Like

  9. Neva Bodin says:

    Interesting blog and I always enjoy your historical sharings. I didn’t realize the continuing negative feelings between north and south until we visited the SE in 2001 and heard murmurings. A lady visiting a civil war battle site then told us she grew up there, had lived in Boston a while and acquired some of that accent and was sometimes not treated well in stores in the south anymore. Seemed to point out how wrong we can be in our assumptions sometimes. Interesting song, no one worried about being politically correct then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike Staton says:

      You’re so right about how our views of political correctness has changed over the years. People excuse boorishness, calling it Okay because we should not be politically correct. My view? If what you said would get your mouth washed out with soap in you were young, you should think twice about saying it or writing it

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  10. M. K. Waller says:

    I didn’t know Independence Day wasn’t always celebrated in the South, but it makes sense. In Texas, we wave the Stars and Stripes and have fireworks on July 4th and wouldn’t think of doing anything else. Texas is interesting. It was a divided state–it impeached Gov. Sam Houston because he refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. The saying goes that East Texas is really Louisiana, but the farther west you go, the less of the Southern influence you see. In the middle of the state, with ancestors from Tennessee, Mississippi, and northern Georgia (Tennessee influence prevailing) I felt Southern, but not very. Three of my great-uncles, however, drawled in the same accent their father, who immigrated from Georgia after the war, did, even the son born after my great-grandfather died. Their sisters talked like the rest of us. I loved to hear the men. It was music.

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