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History – Black Spies in The Confederate White House

One of my distant ancestral family members was a man named James Armistead Lafayette, related by marriage. During the Revolutionary War, he worked as a double-agent providing false information to the British Lord Cornwallis, and sending British War plans to George Washington. He worked as a servant, and was ignored as a threat because he was a slave. He was one of the most famous of American spies during the war as over dinner, British Officers blithely ignored the slave in the corner, believing him part of the furniture.

The confederates apparently didn’t learn that lesson. Black women were particularly effective in running spy rings, and collecting information even in the Capital of the confederacy.

The Black Spies in a Confederate White House

How a secret intelligence network successfully spied on Confederate leader Jefferson Davis in his own home.

The servants knew. The Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia, was not a happy home. The coachman had heard Varina Davis, the first lady of the South, wondering aloud if the rebellion her husband led had any prayer of success. It was, he heard her say, “about played out.” Less than a year into the war, she had all but given up hope. And the president himself, Jefferson Davis, gaunt and sere, was under tremendous strain, disheartened and querulous, complaining constantly about the lack of popular support for him and his policies.

What the servants at the dinner table heard could be even more interesting: insights into policy, strategy and very private lives. They could glimpse up close the troubled emotions of Varina, who was much younger than her husband. She was in her mid-30s, he was in his mid-50s, and her energy, even her sultry beauty, were resented by many in that small society. She had a dark complexion and generous features that led at least one of her critics to describe her publically as “tawny” and suggest she looked like a mulatto.

Varina’s closest friend and ally in the cabinet was Judah P. Benjamin, the cosmopolitan Jewish secretary of war and then secretary of state. He was a frequent visitor to the Davis residence. He shaped Confederate strategy around the globe. And over port after dinner, what intimacies might have been revealed about this man, whose Louisiana Creole wife lived in self-imposed exile in Paris, and whose constant companion in Richmond was her beautiful younger brother?

As in any of the big households of yesteryear (one thinks of Downton Abbey, to take a popular example), what the servants knew about the masters was a great deal more than the masters knew about them. And in the Davis household the servants were black slaves, treated as shadows and often as something less than sentient beings. The Davises knew little of their lives, their hopes, their aspirations, and they certainly did not realize that two of them would spy for the Union.

History is almost equally oblivious. When it comes to secret agents, or servants, or slaves, all learned to tell the smooth lie that let them survive, and few kept records that endure. When it comes to the question of the spies who worked in the Confederate White House, where solid documentary evidence has failed, legend often has stepped in to fill the gaps and, to some considerable extent, to cloud the picture.

The one slave-spy we know the most about is William A. Jackson, the handsome coachman who appears to have been hired out by his owner at one point to work as a waiter in a Richmond hotel before being rented to the Davis family to drive them around the city.

In early May 1862, soon after New Orleans had fallen to the Union and as the Federal army under Gen. George McClellan was inching its way up the peninsula from Yorktown toward Richmond, the slave William Jackson crossed the lines into the Federal camp and began telling his story to the officers, who debriefed him at length, then to a handful of reporters. Over the next several weeks, tales about his revelations were printed and reprinted in papers all over the country.

Thus, one could read in the The Liberator, an abolitionist paper out of Boston, an article picked up from Horace Greeley’s Tribune in New York that was a paean to the escaped slaves making their way to Union encampments. Typically they were called “contrabands,” not yet entitled to their freedom (the Emancipation Proclamation was not announced until later that year, and did not go into effect until 1863).

“The fact cannot be questioned that the most important information we receive of the enemy’s movements reaches us through the contrabands,” the author of the Tribunearticle proclaimed.

When Jackson made his appearance in the Union camp, we are told, generals, colonels and majors flocked around him and the commander, Gen. Irvin McDowell, telegraphed the War Department with some of Jackson’s revelations.

If he brought useful tactical intelligence, however, it didn’t make it into the Northern newspapers, which focused on the gossip he passed along.

Jackson described Jefferson Davis as “pale and haggard,” sleeping little, eating nothing, constantly irritable and complaining about his generals: ‘He plans advances, but they execute masterly retreats,’” Jackson is quoted saying.

Varina Davis, meanwhile, had become a terror to her servants. “Mr. Davis treated me well,” said Jackson, “but Mrs. Davis is the d–––l,” the word devil considered too fraught for the paper’s readers.

Jackson seems to have spent quite a bit of time driving Varina around, and listening closely to her depressed views of the “played out” Confederacy. In part, no doubt, Jackson was telling the Union officers and press what they wanted to hear, raising their morale by talking about the declining mood in Rebel Richmond. He said not only slaves but whites were looking forward to the arrival of the Union troops. The Davises kept their bags packed and ready to go, he said, and even Mrs. Davis couldn’t pass off Confederate money…Read the Rest Here, including the story of Mary Elizabeth Bowser the amazing woman who operated a spy ring in the confederate capital...

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Black History

 

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The Civil War…It Was About Slavery, Period

The Southern Myth has an entire alternate universe explanation about the causes of “The War Between the States”… COvering up the real reasons.

This is Col Ty Seidule, Head of the History Department at West Point

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in American Greed, Black History

 

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The Black Confederate Myth

One of the more interesting divergences of the Southern Myth – is the Myth of the Black Confederate Soldier. This one has popped up reliably since in was invented back around 1900, when southern writers tried to whitewash the brutality and savagery of the slave states, and deny that the war was really about slavery.At that time many of the soldiers who had fought in th Civil War were still alive,. The SCV campaigned for pensions for a few black men, All told, perhaps a half dozen black me were awarded pensions for serving in the Confederate Army, bolstering the claim at little expense. No record exists that any of these men ever carried a rifle.

Like anything to do with white supremacy, advocates have been able to dredge the sewers of black life and come up with black advocates – mot notably in this case Uncle Walter Williams.A few others discussed below wave the flag, and even dres up in confederate uniforms, espousing conservative causes.

The Myth of the Black Confederate Soldier

Lost Cause fanatics—including a handful of African Americans—insist that thousands of blacks fought for the Confederacy. Nothing in the historical record supports that claim.

On Sunday July 19, 2015 Anthony Hervey was killed while driving home on Mississippi’s Highway 6 after attending a rally in Birmingham, Alabama to protest the city council’s decision to remove a Confederate monument in Linn Park.

A fellow passenger who survived the crash claimed that she and Hervey were being pursued by another vehicle containing four or five black men. The accident is under investigation, but given recent decisions at the state and local level to remove Confederate flags and monuments and the resulting conflicts witnessed recently, the reported cause of the crash may not come as a surprise. What may surprise readers is that Anthony Hervey was African-American.

Hervey was one of a very small but vocal group of African-American men and women who identify closely with a narrative of the Civil War that celebrates the Confederacy. These so-called “Black Confederates” have been embraced by heritage organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). In the wake of the South Carolina shootings, they have been front and center in a campaign that dates back to the late ’70s to convince the general public that thousands of free and enslaved blacks fought as soldiers in the Confederate army.

A resident of Oxford, Mississippi, Hervey was no stranger to the often contentious debates surrounding the display of the Confederate flag and other iconography. In 2000 he led protests to keep the Confederate flag flying atop the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina and closer to home, challenged the University of Mississippi’s attempt to replace its mascot, “Colonel Reb” and ban the singing of “Dixie” during football games.

Hervey was often seen wearing a Confederate uniform and carrying a large flag in front of Oxford’s soldier statue. Among his many signs could be read: “White Guilt=Black Genocide,” “The Welfare State Has Destroyed My People,” and “Please! Do Not Hire Me Because I Am Black.” According to Hervey, it is the policies of the federal government that have fueled suspicion and deepened the racial divide in the South. In his final speech in Birmingham, just before his fatal accident, Hervey said, “I don’t like black people. I don’t like white people… but I love the hell out of me some Southerners.”

It should be no surprise that Hervey’s outspokenness in support of the Confederacy and his conservative politics endeared him to crowds at pro-Confederate heritage rallies.

H. K. Edgerton of NorthCarolina

Others like honorary SCV member H.K. Edgerton of North Carolina—arguably the most visible pro-Confederate African-American—also appeared at rallies throughout the South following the shootings. A one-time president of Asheville’s chapter of the NAACP, in 2002-03 Edgerton walked 1,600 miles with the flag and in full Confederate uniform from North Carolina to Texas in opposition to government policies that divide the races and in support of Confederate heritage.

At the time of his walk Edgerton asserted, “If we Southerners don’t stand together we will lose our culture, heritage, religion and region to outsiders who sadly have no appreciation of the unique culture of being Southern.”

In Virginia, Karen Cooper has maintained a close relationship with the Virginia Flaggers, which organized in 2011 to protest the removal of the Confederate flag at the “Old Soldiers’ Home” in Richmond on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Originally from New York and a former member of the Nation of Islam, Cooper identifies closely with her new home and with Confederate heritage. She was introduced to the Virginia Flaggers through her involvement in the tea party and quickly found a home for her views on limited government and her strong stand against a welfare state that she believes has seriously harmed the black community.

As for the history of slavery in the South, Cooper brushes it aside as having existed throughout human history and, curiously, that for every individual it was “a choice.”

All three believe that racial unrest in the modern South and the recent divide over Confederate flags and monuments is the result of failed government policies and a false view of the history of the Confederacy. In their view, it was the Confederacy’s embrace of states rights and its own steps toward the recruitment of thousands of black Confederate soldiers that offered the promise of racial unity and equality. The willingness of all three to don Confederate uniforms and/or wave the flag offers a powerful visual reminder for those who continue to embrace a Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War—a narrative that rejects the preservation of slavery as the central goal of the Confederate experiment in independence in favor of a scenario wherein loyal black soldiers stood by their masters on the battlefield.

The Lousiana Native Guard, a group of local free black and Native American Men who Organized a Brigade to defend their home, New Orleans from invasion by the North. The confederate Generals denied them the opportunity to defend their city, resulting in the entire Brigade, consisting of two regiments defecting to the NOrth to become the US Colored Troops. The distinguished themselves fighting in the west, and would form the core of what would become The Buffalo Soldiers.

In their initial statement following the violent murder of nine black Charlestonians while attending Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church and the publication of photographs of Dylann Roof holding the Confederate flag, the South Carolina Division, SCV offered the following reminder:

“Historical fact shows there were Black Confederate soldiers. These brave men fought in the trenches beside their White brothers, all under the Confederate Battle Flag. This same Flag stands as a memorial to these soldiers on the grounds of the SC Statehouse today. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a historical honor society, does not delineate which Confederate soldier we will remember or honor. We cherish and revere the memory of all Confederate veterans. None of them, Black or White, shall be forgotten.”…Read the rest here

 

A bit more about Hervey here.

 

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Black Conservatives, Black History

 

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How Slavery Built America

Saw this one on my Amazon Reading List, downloaded it – and have been reading through it the last week or so on my way to work on the subway.  Historian Edward Baptist’s treatise on how slavery made America has been greeted with both strong objection from the usual suspects as well as hailed for it’s detailed treatment of a complex historical subject, the ramifications of which still impact American Society today. What Baptist documents is what us students of American History have suspected for a very long time, but until this book – no one really documented it and brought it out front.

What Baptist succinctly points our and documents is the “capitalism” which grew this country from it’s founding in the early 1600’s to an industrial powerhouse owes it roots, and its foundation to slavery. Far from the oft repeated “land of economic opportunity”, slavery generated over half of this country’s economic might, and the worth  of slaves alone constituted over 1/6th of the total wealth of the nation prior to 1860. This one smacks the”Southern Myth” regurgitated by conservative right wingers dead between the eyes.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

 

Part of a book review by the NY Times. Follow the link for the whole article.

A Brutal Process

‘The Half Has Never Been Told,’ by Edward E. Baptist

For residents of the world’s pre-­eminent capitalist nation, American historians have produced remarkably few studies of capitalism in the United States. This situation was exacerbated in the 1970s, when economic history began to migrate from history to economics departments, where it too often became an exercise in scouring the past for numerical data to plug into computerized models of the economy. Recently, however, the history of American capitalism has emerged as a thriving cottage industry. This new work portrays capitalism not as a given (something that “came in the first ships,” as the historian Carl Degler once wrote) but as a system that developed over time, has been constantly evolving and penetrates all aspects of society.

Slavery plays a crucial role in this literature. For decades, historians depicted the institution as unprofitable and on its way to extinction before the Civil War (a conflict that was therefore unnecessary). Recently, historians like Sven Beckert, Robin Blackburn and Walter Johnson have emphasized that cotton, the raw material of the early Industrial Revolution, was by far the most important commodity in 19th-century international trade and that capital accumulated through slave labor flowed into the coffers of Northern and British bankers, merchants and manufacturers. And far from being economically backward, slave owners pioneered advances in modern accounting and finance.

Edward E. Baptist situates “The Half Has Never Been Told” squarely within this context. Baptist, who teaches at Cornell University, is the author of a well-­regarded study of slavery in Florida. Now he expands his purview to the entire cotton kingdom, the heartland of 19th-­century American slavery. (Unfortunately, slavery in the Upper South, where cotton was not an economic staple, is barely discussed, even though as late as 1860 more slaves lived in Virginia than any other state.) In keeping with the approach of the new historians of capitalism, the book covers a great deal of ground — not only economic enterprise but religion, ideas of masculinity and gender, and national and Southern politics. Baptist’s work is a valuable addition to the growing literature on slavery and American development.

Where Baptist breaks new ground is in his emphasis on the centrality of the interstate trade in slaves to the regional and national economies and his treatment of the role of extreme violence in the workings of the slave system. After the legal importation of slaves from outside the country ended in 1808, the spread of slavery into the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico would not have been possible without the enormous uprooting of people from Maryland and Virginia. Almost one million slaves, Baptist estimates, were transported to the cotton fields from the Upper South in the decades before the Civil War.

The domestic slave trade was highly organized and economically efficient, relying on such modern technologies as the steamboat, railroad and telegraph. For African-Americans, its results were devastating. Since buyers preferred young workers “with no attachments,” the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children was intrinsic to its operation, not, as many historians have claimed, a regrettable side effect. Baptist shows how slaves struggled to recreate a sense of community in the face of this disaster.

The sellers of slaves, Baptist insists, were not generally paternalistic owners who fell on hard times and parted reluctantly with members of their metaphorical plantation “families,” but entrepreneurs who knew an opportunity for gain when they saw one. As for the slave traders — the middlemen — they excelled at maximizing profits. They not only emphasized the labor abilities of those for sale (reinforced by humiliating public inspections of their bodies), but appealed to buyers’ salacious fantasies. In the 1830s, the term “fancy girl” began to appear in slave-trade notices to describe young women who fetched high prices because of their physical attractiveness. “Slavery’s frontier,” Baptist writes, “was a white man’s sexual playground.”

The cotton kingdom that arose in the Deep South was incredibly brutal. Violence against Native Americans who originally owned the land, competing imperial powers like Spain and Britain and slave rebels solidified American control of the Gulf states. Violence, Baptist contends, explains the remarkable increase of labor productivity on cotton plantations. Without any technological innovations in cotton picking, output per hand rose dramatically between 1800 and 1860. Some economic historians have attributed this to incentives like money payments for good work and the opportunity to rise to skilled positions. Baptist rejects this explanation.

Planters called their method of labor control the “pushing system.” Each slave was assigned a daily picking quota, which increased steadily over time. Baptist, who feels that historians too often employ circumlocutions that obscure the horrors of slavery, prefers to call it “the ‘whipping-machine’ system.” In fact, the word we should really use, he insists, is “torture.” To make slaves work harder and harder, planters utilized not only incessant beating but forms of discipline familiar in our own time — sexual humiliation, bodily mutilation, even waterboarding. In the cotton kingdom, “white people inflicted torture far more often than in almost any human society that ever existed.” When Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans in his Second Inaugural Address of the 250 years of “blood drawn with the lash” that preceded the Civil War, he was making a similar point: Violence did not begin in the United States with the firing on Fort Sumter.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in American Greed, Black History

 

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Tea Party Southern Myth vs 12 Years a Slave

Like the Holocaust Deniers scattered around the world in anti-Semitic clusters, America has its own peculiar breed of Denier of the unconscionable – The advocates of the Southern Myth.

Recognizing what they were doing as slavers was morally unconscionable from a Judeo Christian basis, the slavers sought absolution through first, perverting their religion to justify slavery, and second by attaching themselves to Chivalrous traditions creating a “Genteel” societal veneer. Indeed, in my State of Virginia Thomas Jefferson’s University, UVa – adopted the Cavalier as the school symbol. That wasn’t just because most slaveholders were Crown Loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Attaching themselves to the English Cavaliers was an attempt to gloss over, and add class to an evil society. No different than the Drug Lords of recent vintage using their ill gotten gains to project an image of respectability.

Post Civil War, this shifted into manufacturing a society’s existence under slavery which never existed. The brutality visited upon the slaves to force them to obey, which included torture, systematic rape of women and children, and murder became the “Good Old Days” of a slightly decadent but otherwise genteel society. The Civil War became the “War of the States” supporting the fiction that each and every Southern State’s Secession Articles didn’t list slavery as the “States Right” they were fighting for. These same stawarts brought America Segregation and Jim Crow.

The modern incarnation of this “Southern psychosis” is the Tea Party, the grandchild of the Second Klan of the 20’s, American Nazi Party of the 40’s, and Dixiecrats  of the 50’s and 60’s. Absorbing the Republican matra of blaming the victim. Like their poor, landless ancestors who marched off to be maimed and killed to [protect the rights of wealthy slave owners, today’s conservative confederate malcontents support the rights of the elite right who have eviscerated the American Dream, sold their jobs overseas,  and near destroyed the American Middle Class since Raygun. All under the banner of maintaining their fictitious racial superiority. It is OK with the modern Tea Bagger to take Food Stamps away from the poor, using much the same justification of the rapist that the “bitch deserved it”. It is OK to harass the poor, even though the economic condition of many Tea Parties would place them among the “white trash” – because in a country which has legislatively discriminated, at the Tea Bagger’s ancestors demand,  against minorities for generation – a higher percentage of minorities are poor. Despite class mythology, the only reason many of these white Tea Baggers aren’t scions of society has nothing to do with discrimination – and everything to do with their own personal, generational failures. no one has held them back, except their own ignorance and racism.

In front of the White House after disgracing th WII Memorial

Tea Party and ’12 Years a Slave’

“Twelve Years a Slave,” a movie based on the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841, is a powerful antidote to the Tea Party’s poisonous nostalgia for the era of “states’ rights” and “nullificationism,” which became code words for protecting the “liberty” of Southern whites to own African-Americans.

The movie, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup, reveals how lofty phrases about “freedom” often meant their opposite as Southern politicians developed an Orwellian skill for weaving noble-sounding “principles” into a cloak for covering up the unjustifiable.

And, for too many generations, it worked. Americans have romanticized the antebellum South, seeing it through the rosy haze of “Gone with the Wind” or learning from school history books that most slave-owners were kindly and paternalistic masters. Even today many Americans tell themselves that slavery wasn’t all that bad. To burnish their pride in the never-to-be-criticized USA, they whitewash one of the nation’s greatest crimes, the enslavement of millions of people based on the color of their skin. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Tea Party Social Cancelled Due to Shutdown

A Tea Party Social was cancelled as an unintended consequence of shutting the government down… One only wonders how long it will be before Republican Tea Baggers rush to Gettysburg to defend their “patriotic” kin…

KKK Rally At Gettysburg Canceled Because Of Government Shutdown

A Ku Klux Klan rally planned for Saturday, Oct. 5 has been canceled because of thegovernment shutdown.

On Sept. 26, officials at Gettysburg National Military Park granted a special-use permit for a rally to a Maryland-based KKK group. According to NBC 10 Philadelphia, the event was canceled when park officials rescinded all permits for special events because of the shutdown, which began 12 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

“Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed,” Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “And of course the communities and small business that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.”

But not everyone took the closing of national parks and monuments sitting down. A group of World War II veterans visiting the National Mall on Tuesday stormed the WWII Memorial — which is now technically closed to the public — to pay their respects.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Stupid Tea Bagger Tricks

 

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The Second American Civil War

Fascinating how the more things change – the more how some things never change.

If Mitt Romney gets elected President this election, and the Republican Party makes inroads into the Congress it will be almost all due to the politics of polarization of race in America by the Republican Party.

“Polarization”?

 “You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognises that while not appearing to.”

Richard M. Nixon as recorded in Richard Nixon’s chief-of-staff, Bob Haldeman’s diary

Since Obama won the Presidency in 2008, we have seen a steady drumbeat of racism from the GOP, which apparently, if poll numbers are to believed has borne significant fruit in terms of elevating Mitt Romney. As most minorities in America are well cognizant of – if you can hoist enough racism into the mix, you can convince a significant segment of the white population in America to go so far as to even cheer the sacrifice of their own children, in a war they were lied into, for objectives which, if achieved – will do absolutely nothing to improve their lives or the country they live in. Big difference between Heroes and Cannon Fodder…

They accomplished it during the Civil War where they convinced over a million Southerners to don the Grey and 250,000 to die – despite the fact that the vast majority neither owned slaves or profited directly from slavery. They ass reamed the same group again during and after WWI to disguise the fact of the massive wealth inequality which lead to the Stock Market crash, while hiding the fact by convincing the same victims that black folks were stealing their jobs and livelihoods…

Sound familiar? You bet…Welcome to 2012.

AP poll: U.S. majority have prejudice against blacks

Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49% during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

“As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57% in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison…

The result this time around?

The GOP’s Geography And The Confederacy

Screen shot 2012-10-28 at 3.36.50 PM

Current Electoral Projection

 

US_Secession_map_1861

Map of the Confederacy in 1861

Are you not struck by the similarities? (The yellow states were not part of the Confederacy but backed slavery. Kansas is an exception, and Maryland and Delaware along the border too). I am not saying (and in the conversation it’s a little garbled and I can see why Heroge might have interpreted me as saying) that that the only states that will switch from Obama to Romney this year were Confederate states. Indiana is the exception. I was saying that if Obama loses North Carolina, Virginia and Florida – which I suspect he will – then the 2012 map will more closely resemble the civil war map than 2008, when the same pattern was striking.

I think America is currently in a Cold Civil War. The parties, of course, have switched sides since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The party of the Union and Lincoln is now the Democratic party. The party of the Confederacy is now the GOP. And racial polarization is at record levels, with whites entirely responsible for reversing Obama’s 2008 inroads into the old Confederacy in three Southern states. You only have to look at the electoral map in 1992 and 1996, when Clinton won, to see how the consolidation of a Confederacy-based GOP and a Union-based Democratic party has intensified – and now even more under a black president from, ahem, Illinois.

 

The Second Civil War… Indeed.

Let’s hope this one ends the way the one against the communists did…

 

 

 

 

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