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  • Harry Watson, Editor

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In this issue's Photo Essay, Rachel Boillot brings us music makers in Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau. Photo by Rachel Boillot, LaFollette, Tennessee, 2017.

My mother grew up in a small county seat in rural North Carolina. Once she told me that the most diverting thing to do there on a summer Sunday afternoon was to drive around the countryside and look at people's cotton. It was that kind of place.

Mother's family lived next door to a dear old lady and close friend I'll call Caroline. Her formal term of address was "Miss Caroline," but the families were so close she wanted to be known as "Aunt Caroline." During our annual childhood visits, the house was dark, still, hot, and redolent of an old house smell compounded of dust, mold, varnish, and the resin of aged heart pine. It was jammed with antiques, [End Page 1] and prim white doilies graced the armchairs. Framed family photographs covered every surface, featuring long-gone relatives frozen in old-fashioned clothing and postures. Years later, when I read Faulkner, I recognized the house immediately as a model for Miss Rosa Coldfield's home in Absalom, Absalom!, which was "peopled with garrulous outraged baffled ghosts."

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Zachary J. Lechner examines how President Gerald Ford tried in vain to counter the southern image of his opponent, Jimmy Carter.

Here, Ford shakes hands with a young woman dressed as a southern belle at a campaign stop in the South, 1976, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I remember one visit in particular, when I was ten or so. After perching endlessly on a sofa in the parlor's dimness, trying to frame polite but unrevealing answers to her relentless questions, it was finally time to leave. But before we did, Aunt Caroline called my brother and me over to her rocker and pressed into our hands two copies of a grey-bound pamphlet, one for each of us. A tiny red, white, and blue Battle Flag accented its cover, just below the title: "Some Things for which the South Did not Fight in the War Between the States." It's long out of print now, but you can find a copy on the Internet. It was dedicated "to the Public Schools of North Carolina."

The pamphlet had been published in the year of my birth by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, of which Aunt Caroline was an ardent member. I don't recall exactly what she said when she gave it to us, but I'll never [End Page 2] forget the flash in her eye and the urgency in her voice. She wanted my brother and me to read the pamphlet and learn its lessons. The cause of the South was right and just. We must never forget. All the ancestors in all the photographs were counting on us to preserve the truth and southern honor. We must never forget. We solemnly promised "yes, ma'am" at least a dozen times before she let us go.

I kept my copy for years, vaguely superstitious about discarding Holy Writ, but I never read past the title until nagging curiosity recently drove me to google it. There I learned that the author, a local minister, had written the pamphlet to impart "a clear-cut statement of the real causes of the great struggle that ended so disastrously for the South, and thus repel the false charges laid against our Fathers and our section." More specifically, he continued, assuming the voice of an actual participant, "when the attempt was made to force us to remain [in the Union], like all clear thinking, liberty-loving men, we fought for our right of choice. To do less would have been cringing and dishonor. But to charge that we fought to maintain slavery is to the last degree absurd." And so on.

The language, of course, was not unique. Fed by words like these, echoing from thousands of assembly programs and dedication speeches, the torch of the Lost Cause had burned bright for most...


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