Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 1998-02 > 0886927233
From: Burnside< >
Subject: Re Founder of KKK
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 1998 03:40:33 -0500
My gr-gr-grandfather Robert and several brothers came up
here to Michigan in 1832 from (West)Virginia near the
Virginia border. We've been Michigan farmers ever since.
It has been sometimes said that slavery was not prominent amongst the Scots
Irish. Not true from my research. Roberts father and grandfather had a
handful of slaves in those mountains. The same is true of other S.I.
families in the area. I'm not sure yet what slavery was like there. I have
read of master and slaves working together in the fields,
and fighting the Indians and dying side by side. Robert's grandfather
stipulated in his will that his slaves were not
to be sold out of the family. I don't know if this was some sign of consern
for their welfare. Still, I agree with Lincoln that, as I wouldn't be a
slave I wouldn't be a slave owner.
I find the whole idea of owning people to be disgusting.
Robert couldn't keep his two elder sons from joining the
Union Army. He wanted to pay other men's sons to go, as was
a common practice. I don't know that it had anything to do with slavery. He
finally gave his consent on the stipulation that the two join different
units,one Indiana Cavalry, the other Michigan Infantry. It was not uncommon
for a man to lose all his sons in one battle if their unit was wiped out. As
it was, one of Roberts sons died of tuberculosis contracted
in an Army hospital after being wounded outside of Nashville. He left a
young wife and three children orphans.
Ambrose E. Burnside, the Union general (yes, he invented
"burn-sides" or side-burns) was from a South Carolina slave owning family.
In fact his imigrant ancestor was a British officer who had a large
plantation in Jamaica. He had family in both Northern Ireland and in
Glasgow. He remained a Tory during the Revolution. His sons however rejected
his postion and fought on the Patriot side, one behind General Marion, "The
Swamp Fox" and two others migrated up to Kentucky and fought the British and
Indians there. They were all written out of his will. I believe it was
Ambrose's father who migrated to Indiana from South Carolina.
One can only wonder which side of "The War" these men would have fought on
if their families hadn't have moved north.
In the border states the War tore families and neighbors
(including ours) apart and "Reconstruction" sparked local grudges and
political rivalries which bloodied that ground well into this century.
One Burnside, I believe his name was John, a penniless bastard child came
from N.Ireland, stayed with some of my distant relation in (West) Virginia.
He went into business, migrated to Louisiana where in time he became the
largest sugar planter in that state with several plantations and literally
thousands of slaves. The Union army didn't torch his property because
he claimed to be a foreign national. After the war, and the loss of his
slaves, he was amongst the first to try large scale production with paid
employees. It is said that he was largly responsible for pulling the deep
south out of its economic tailspin after the war.
Real history is far more interesting than platitudes and propoganda. My
mother's family (English in origin) was from New England. My ancestors there
also owned black slaves. One of them was a patriot officer from
Connecticutt, in the Revolutionary War, who, it is said, went into battle
with a black slaveboy behind him on his horse. Don't know for sure what that
was about. Perhaps he feared his own men shooting him in the back. Anyway,
this is a little known part of American history. Not only did many New
England ship owners participate in the slave trade, Black slavery was not
uncommon in the North. However, many were offered their freedom if they
would fight the British. I am given to understand that even during the war
between the states,while slavery no longer existed in the North, there was
I enjoyed the movie Amistad and plan to see it again when it comes out in
video. But, I had to smirk at the British naval officer so high and mighty
about this institution of slavery in America. Who do you think perpetuated
the practice in colonial America? This is one of the complaints in the
Declaration of Independence, that the states wanted to pass laws to curtail
the slave trade and the British government
would not allow them to do so. Read it. The British freed many slaves to
build their fortifications at Yorktown, but, during the seige, when they
found their provisions low, they forced all these slaves out of the
fortifications and most died in the cross-fire. Not exactly a glowing
example. Besides the fact British citizens here and in the islands obviously
were slave owners before the British government apparently made
it illegal. So, even though the South was slow in giving up slavery, none of
us should get all high and mighty about it.
The War had more to do with national politics and the tussle for power
between northern and southern interests than it did with slavery in
particular. Even Lincoln had his bottom line when he said that his object
was to preserve the Union.
He said that if he could do this by freeing all the slaves he would. If he
could do this by freeing none of the slaves he would do that. And if he
could preserve the Union by freeing some but not others, he would do that.
It was a fight over larger issues of State's rights and whether America is a
republic or a nation. Considering how far we've strayed from the goals of
our Revolution, if it weren't for the sickening institution of slavery, I
think I would have suited up in the gray.
Everyone in America suffered from the War. I remember my mother's mother
relating stories of that time told to her by her grandfathers, both of whom
served for the Union. I remember the sombre tone in her voice as she told me
these stories, showed me portraits and memoribilia from the war.
One was a large framed lithograph of Lee's surrender to Grant. One of the
faces in the crowd was circled and it was said to belong to one of the
grandfathers. Another was with Sherman in his march through Georgia. I
remember reading somewhere, and I don't know if its true, that more American
men died in that war than in all the wars before and since combined. Often
the deaths were totally meaningless, like all those who died of disease
contracted in hospital and camps. One of my mothers distant cousins died on
his way home from the war. It was wintertime and the train station was miles
from his farm home in Indiana. He was in sight of home when
he started to run towards it across the fields. He stumbled and fell on a
frozen corn stalk which impaled and killed him. Even with those who died
"honorably",it was a bloody and sad conflict where Americans stood face to
face, muzzle to muzzle and slew each other in a repulsive orgy of death. I
pray we never see such a war again.
What I find here in the North and in the media is a huge anti-South
prejudice that cares little for inconvenient facts of history. We seem to
forget our own complicity on one hand and the contributions made by the
South to our common liberty both in intellectual leadership and in fighting
the wars of this country. I hate blind racial prejudice as much as anyone
else but I find as much of it comes from Northern as from Southern lips.
Race relations, even in the small town I live in here in Michigan, have been
something less than cordial.
It is all stupid and unnecessary but it exists right under Northern noses so
often stuck in the air. We should remove
the beam from our own eye before being presumptuous to our Southern countrymen.
I believe it was last year that a KKK rally took place in Ann Arbor, near
Detroit Michigan. The counter demonstrators had one of the KKK guys on the
ground and were kicking and beating him with their pickets. He was an old,
bald, overweight, biker-type clown who probably didn't expect a good beating.
Anyway, a black woman forced her way through the crowd and covered the KKK
guy, sheilding him from the blows with her body. When asked why she did this
she said: "You can't change someone's mind by beating him." Amen