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The ‘Scots-Irish heartland,’ slavery & the Confederate Army

January 18, 2013

Born FightingFormer US Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy and author James Webb has written and spoken extensively about his own Ulster-Scots (often referred to by the rather confusing term ‘Scots-Irish‘ in the United States) ancestry. On page 211 of his book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America he writes about how US historians (such as Bruce Levine, for instance) often view the US war against the South almost strictly in terms of a Northern moral crusade against slavery. This lies behind much of their opposition to Southern symbols, the Senator notes. However, he points out that most of the men who actually fought for the Confederacy came from what he terms the ‘Scots-Irish heartland’ (centred around Appalachia). In this area slavery was not a dominant institution, though the region was influenced by the plantation system and culture of the Lower South. Webb argues that cultural and historical factors most strongly motivated Southerners from the Appalachian heartland of the South to resist US invasion. He writes:

What many historians miss – and what those who react so strongly to seeing Confederate battle flags on car bumpers and in the yards of descendants of Confederate veterans do not understand – is that slavery was emphatically not the reason that most individual Southerners fought so long and hard, and at such overwhelming cost. Slavery may have been the catalytic issue from a governmental perspective, and its moral dimensions may have motivated many Northerners, but other factors, some cultural and some historical, brought most of the Confederate soldiers to the battlefield. And that was particularly true among the communities in the Scots-Irish heartland that provided the bulk of the Confederate Army’s manpower.

Also see: The Ulster-Scots & our gun culture, Marching with our colours in Belfast, Forming the backbone of the Upper South and Media against Appalachia for rejecting Obama

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  • The New Silence Dogood

    He is absolutely right.

    A large percentage of those that fought in the western theater of that war and the eastern theater as well were hard scrabble, yeoman farmers, many of them mountain folks.

    They gave their blood for the plantation, gentry politician.

    However, that’s not why they fought.

    Senator Webb is absolutely correct in saying that they didn’t fight for the slave either.

    They fought to protect hearth and home from an invader.


    • Jim

      I read that General Grant bitterly quiped that there were a lot of Aristocrats in the Confederate Army. Many having given up everything they owned in order to serve in the ranks as private soldiers. In contrast, there were no abolitionists, Bankers, financiers or industrialists, or their sons to be found in the ranks of the Union Army. Lincoln’s own son spent the war at Harvard, out of harm’s way. Proles, led by Plutocrats, fought the war for the Yankees and knew enough to riot over this fact, in New York City. That having been said, Slavery has no relevance to the modern Southern Independence Movement. By arguing it, we let the Yankees define the nature of the debate, just as they did in 1861. Southerners need to stop pointing out facts about the South to Yankees. They don’t care that not all blacks in the South were slaves. They don’t care that the South was more diverse and tolerant than the “Great White North.” They couldn’t care less about General Stand Waite and the Confederate Cherokees, or Confederate Jews or French Huguenots in the Carolinas or Germans and Czechs in Texas. They don’t believe any of it, anyway. All they care about is power and domination over America and the rest of the World. They have a devine, historic mission to reform the World and save the savages from themselves by turning them into mindless, souless robots in the Yankee Borg Collective. That’s all that matters to them. Liberty and freedom from Yankee social and political policy should be all that matters to us.

  • Whitebird

    As a direct descendant of Ulster Scot heritage, it took me many years to finally understand exactly what that means historiancally. There are still millions of people in this country who are confused by their heritage, thinking that they are Irish, or Scot, or Scots/Irish, or Cherokee, or anything other than what they really are. I first read “Born Fighting” in 2005 and it opened up so many doors for me (and my family). It was like a lightning bolt of realization that answered so many questions and explained so many of our quirks. It also explained why my ancestors didnt hesitate to join the cause of American revolution and subsequently Southern independence.
    I have heard a lot of criticizism of James Webb and his books over the years, but as far as I’m concerned he has awakened a long dormant awareness in anyone with Ulster Scot blood in their veins.

    • Virginian Secessionist

      On my maternal grandmother’s side, I have Ulster Scot blood. Dean, Scott, and Hanes.

  • Dixiegirl

    @ “….Slavery has no relevance to the modern Southern Independence Movement. By arguing it, we let the Yankees define the nature of the debate…”

    Why don’t people just use quick talking points and deflect that?

    “Be that as it may,” and that slavery is not going to be reinstituted, IT’S CLEAR THEN that there is NO reason to not support secession (if that’s really what the war was about).

    But no one holds them to their word.

    They SAY it was about slavery—– yet their subsequent behavior PROVES THAT WASN’T TRUE.

    their own HISTORY proves they are not telling the truth.

  • Dixiegirl


    Given the highly documented Policy-Oriented Genocide against Southern People (the fact that a war was made on them, clearly makes clear they are a Group, in the way acknowledged by Genocide laws)—- and the fact that attacks were on Civilians “total war,” and things s/a General Order 11, etc., and that they did not end but became “soft” attacks (like media defamation)—

    And finally, given the precedent set by the Indians—- the Southerners, who can prove, their pre-1865 heritage, should be given A TAX SUPPORTED AREA IN WHICH TO LIVE, like a reservation.

    They question shouldn’t be “secede, yes or no” but that they should WANT to pay for an area, (out of guilt for Genocide, attacks on Civilians, and so on)

    • Virginian Secessionist

      If Yankees were logical, yes. But you’re forgetting one thing: Yankees aren’t logical. They feel guilt over their conquest of the Amerindians, but do not apply the same logic to us, because we’re sub-human. They liken us to Nazis without even realising that THEY are the ones with the Nazi-like attitude. They see “America” as the best thing ever. And anyone who wants to stop being a part of it is at best “stupid” and at worst “sub-human.” And a *Southron* who wants to stop being a part of it cannot possibly be human. We are simply creatures in their way, and the world won’t become a better place until we’re all dead. That’s Yankee reasoning.

      • http://confederatepapist.blogspot.com/ Confederate Papist

        I”d love to spit some Beechnut in that dude’s eyes,
        And shoot him with my old 45…

      • http://mybacksass.blogspot.com Connie Chastain

        The war was fought to bully the South back into the Union simply because people in the north knew they could not make it as a nation on their own. “Preserving the union” sounds lofty but the northern states could have remained united without the South, if unity was the major issue. But it wasn’t. They simply knew they did not have what it took to make it as a nation without Dixie.

        Think about what that means to a people as arrogant and narcissistic as the yankees were — the realization that their existence as a nation depended upon the inclusion people they despised and looked upon as inferiors. It was such an uncomfortable realization — and they did realize it, no doubt about it — that “preserving the union,” which was actually an admission of their inadequacy, was given a veneer of moral superiority by superimposing “free the slaves” onto it.

        Today, “yankee” is more an attitude than a people; it has spread to all regions of the country. But the USA still needs the South if it is to make it as a nation; and if Dixie secedes, it will survive and thrive simultaneously with the demise of the remaining USA.

        • Jim

          I believe that the South and the West could easily survive without the North. The North would cease to be “America” without the South and the West. But “America” would survive in the South and the West.

          “Today, “yankee” is more an attitude than a people”

          It’s New England Puritanism writ large. Had the Puritans been lost at sea, or New England had been an independent nation before 1800, we wouldn’t be in this situation. States like New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the old Northwest states, were part of the Virgina Colony Charter. They didn’t start to become hostile to the South until New Englanders moved there and “Yankeeised” them. Much like New Englanders “Yankeeised” Kansas in the 1850s. Yankees established enclaves in the Northern tier states, much like in the South, today. But the locals didn’t resist them to the same extent as we do now. Their thinking took over in Ohio, Indiana, etc, the way it hasn’t in the South. The South had a more developed culture than these other states. Most of which were a more unorganised frontier, than in the Colonial South. Their lack of a real, rooted culture made it easier for Yankees and Yankeeism to infiltrate and subvert them. Which has been a misfortune for all of us, since 1630. This also explains the Yankee’s war on Southern Culture and failure to totally Yankeeise the South. Virginia and the Carolinas were a far different thing than the frontier in Ohio and the Great Lakes region. Which were ripe for the New Englander’s picking.

    • Jim

      As soon as the South tried to make any claims on the North, based on U.N. law and conventions, the Yankees would start claiming that Southerners are Americans, too. They’d also whine that 1861-65 was a long time ago and we should all “just get over it.” They really didn’t mean to hurt us anyway, and besides, it was just a little “family argument”. We deserved the bloody nose we got in any case, so all is forgiven. Your cousin vinny and uncle guido love and forgive you.

      • Virginian Secessionist

        Exactly. Our forefathers, “racist bastards” all, got what they deserved. Such is the price of “treason.” Why on earth *wouldn’t* we thank Uncle Sam for murdering our fathers, raping our mothers, and burning our cities? I mean, he did us a FAVOUR! We are such ingrates! [sarcasm]


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