". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, June 26, 2014

U.S. Civil War and CSA Gun-runners 2

War provides the best opportunities to make a fortune and make it fast, for those positioned to do so. So much money, available in so many ways, including government contracts, sloshing around under the pressure to get everything done as fast as possible, i.e. lack of oversight. See: the war in Iraq 2003 - 20?

Some lowly troops manage to be war profiteers too -- recall Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer of Yossarian's squad in Catch-22. 

What needs to be factored into the history of blockade gun-running to the CSA:
most of the goods brought through the blockade were aimed for the elite who could pay for them. In the earlier years, when the blockade was still porous, goods for the southern belle market such silks, perfumes, lace, and for their mothers and fathers such as fine tea and coffee were the staples brought in by blockade runners. They brought far less of armaments or anything else to supply to the war effort -- not food supplies such as flour, even in in the dark desperate period in the last 18 months of the war. For this greed, the CSA opinion-makers chided the blockade runners in the press.* The reason for not bringing in essentials was there was nott enough money in it to make the dangerous runs profitable. The capitalist free market self-regulation at work....

Very quickly the CSA had nothing dependable with which to pay for arms -- like prostitution the arms trade is a business of cash on the barrel head, not credit. Running the blockade for most privateers was about making shyte loads of money**. They demanded payment in gold or other dependable currency, and did not accept the worthless confederate currencies. This is in Gone With the Wind via Rhett Butler's blockade running phase. He talks with Scarlett about why he trafficked in luxury goods***He made sure, too, to get out of blockade running before the operation got too dangerous and difficult.

The only port that seems to have brought in armaments regularly, and right up to the Surrender at Appomattox, was Galveston.  Galveston, however, was outside of the Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast to New Orleans and up the Mississippi through Tennessee encircling blockade of the CSA. The Federals had even reoccupied the great Virginia port of Norfolk in the dark days of 1862, and had occupied it ever since. Even via Galveston, according to the southern  De Bow's Review's carefully compiled statistical complaints, more ships brought in luxury goods than arms. When shipments of essential, disappeared commodities such as flour were brought through, only the very wealthy could afford to purchase them -- see: food riots, CSA.

It has been noticed among historians and critics that Brit historians, for whom this era of our history is not their historical speciality, frequently get wrong the matters of the  U.S. Civil War.****   John Keegan's  The American Civil War (2009), focused on the battles, which, according to those who are obsessively detailed in their life-long study of the Civil War battles say his book is filled with glaring errors.  Evidently he never even visited the battlefields of which he wrote. What the man who wrote  the brilliant The Face of Battle, all about leading from the front, thought he was doing with this one is a mystery, because the other parts of his The American Civil War,such as the foundation causes for the War, are also poorly researched, or at best, mistaken, drawing far too much on 1960'sGlorious Lost Cause revisionists.

However, one place in the Americas where British and French armaments did go in quantities during the Civil War -- and many of them via CSA ships -- was to Mexico.***** Even in the latter days of the Civil War, there were secessionist fire eaters who still dreamed the filibuster dream of taking all of Mexico as the gate through which they would expand their slavery system throughout the hemisphere. They were willing to cooperate with the French and British in this operation, particularly for gold, fully expecting that when the time came it would be a simple matter for the CSA to take over all the territories for itself.


* While the rebel states still had paper for a press; there were no paper mills in any of the CSA states.

They'd imported paper, as so much else, from food, clothing, buggys and hoes, from the northern and western states while concentrating their resources on expanding into more land and more slaves for raising cotton.

** There were some notable CSA patriotic blockade runners, but so few they can be enumerated on one hand, probably.

*** However, in Gone With the Wind's New Orleans chapter, soon after Appomattox, there are hints that Rhett was still involved in gun-running to Mexico, as part of a fairly cosmopolitan syndicate of lowlifes, entrepreneurs and fortune-hunters. This made him so much money he could finance an up-scale brothel in Atlanta (of course run by a madame with a heart of gold who loves him), as well as finance a bank, when every bank in the former CSA had pretty much collapsed.

**** Not all British historians by any means are guilty of this.

*****  The mid-nineteenth century War of Mexican Independence (a/k/a Guerra de Reforma) (from whence comes the commemoration of Cinco de Mayo, 1862), and the nationalists' resistance to the subsequent French invasion and occupation, are treated as sidebars to the U.S. Civil War -- much as slavery was during the era of Jim Crow up until the Civil Rights era.

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