Southern History Month 2019: Swallowing The Dog

Here’s an excerpt from Debra and Thomas Goodrich’s excellent book The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation: 1865-1866 which our readers ought to really enjoy. I strongly recommend buying this book. It is one of the best ones that I own in my own personal library.

What is the meant by the phrase “swallowing the dog”? For Confederate veterans, the term “swallowing the dog” meant being forced to repeatedly pledge allegiance to the United States whose military forces were occupying the defeated Confederacy. It brought about the same feeling of alienation and disgust that so many Southerners are experiencing today living under the Clown World that is contemporary America. Were you ever taught to “swallow the dog” without realizing it?

“It was the most despised word in the South. A few took it “as if it was nothing more than a Glass of Lemonade.” Others refused as if it were arsenic. It forced people to reexamine their priorities: principles or bread? They reconsidered what it meant to give their word of honor. For loyal Confederates, it was likened to “swallowing the dog.”

The Oath of Allegiance to the United States became a staple of the Confederate diet. In exchange for the privilege to vote, to transact business, to acquire rations, to perform marriage ceremonies, or even get married. Rebels were forced to gulp down their pride and utter these words: “I do solemnly swear that I hereby renounce all countenance, support and allegiance to the so-called Confederate States of America.

For a people left crushed a crippled, the requirement of the oath was like pouring salt into an open wound. “I think the exaction of this oath cannot be justified on any grounds whatever whether as of admonition and warning for the future or as punishment for the past,” wrote Henry William Ravenel from South Carolina. “It is simply an arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of power.”

The Western Democrat in Charlotte summed up the situation for most ex-Confederates. “Those who expect to follow any occupation in the country have no alternative but to take the oath.” …

No matter how many times they swallowed the dog, the taste was always foul, and compelling Southerners to swear allegiance over and over required great ingenuity. There was seemingly no end to the inducements Federals contrived to coerce the oath taking. In Columbus, Georgia, ladies were initially required to take the oath in order to receive their mail. Elsewhere in Georgia, letters were opened, in order to test the sincerity of Rebels who had taken the oath. …

In the minds of Southerners, it was doubly insulting to exchange the oath for food. “It was most heart-rending,” observed Cornelia Spencer, “to see daily crowds of country people, from three score and ten down to the unconscious infant carried in its mother’s arms, coming into town to beg for food and shelter, to ask alms from those who had despoiled them.” One poorly educated woman in this circumstance went to the local provost and inquired if she could draw rations. The officer asked if she would take the oath. “Thank you, sir,” said the lady, “there is my cart – please put it in that.” …

Southerners were forced to swear the oath for spiritual food, as well. Even their God had been supplanted by a cold and distant Northern deity, at whose alter they resentfully laid sacrifices. At Richmond, ministers could not perform wedding ceremonies unless they had taken the oath. And couples could not marry without first swearing allegiance.

Given the situation, working in the ranks of the clergy became a high risk occupation. Reading of events unfolding in Missouri, Washingtonian William Owner was outraged that five Catholic priests were arrested and thrown into a cell “with burglars and a nigger ravisher.” Again, their only crime was refusing to swear the oath. …

Like their Catholic counterparts, when Protestant preachers in Missouri failed to pray for Lincoln, they were arrested and their churches were closed

In various denominations, the hierarchy took it upon itself to discipline those clergymen in its ranks who had chosen the wrong side. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church met in Pittsburgh and passed a series of resolutions “practically upending all … ministers until they had repented of the sin of rebellion.”

“As those in the South, almost to a man were strong supporters of the Confederacy,” explained a devout Tennessean, “this action declared every pulpit vacant and meant that the North had the right to take over our churches with their property.” …

Having the oath forced upon them was not the only form of humiliation suffered by former Confederates. Most melancholy to Southerners was the supplanting of their banner with the federal flag. “The saddest moment of my life,” recalled Myrta Avary, “was when I saw that Southern Cross dragged down and the Stars and Stripes run up … I saw it torn down from the height where valor had kept it waving for so long and at such cost.”

“Never before,” added another woman, “had we realized how entirely our hearts had been turned away from that what was once our whole country, till we felt the bitterness aroused by the sight of that flag shaking out its red and white folds over us.” …

Throughout the South, many deeply offended widows crossed the street rather than pass under an American flag, draped over the sidewalk. . .

For returning Rebel soldiers, the order to remove or cover CSA buttons from their uniforms seemed to be rubbing their faces in defeat. Just how strictly these rules were enforced depended upon the fiat of each commanding officer. At New Orleans, Gen. Nathaniel Banks was in charge. Confederates believed that the officer from Massachusetts was particularly vindictive in peace because he had “never won a battle” in war and had been derisively tagged “Stonewall Jackson’s Commissary.” Rebel soldiers in the city were not permitted to congregate in groups of three or more, and black troops were delegated to cut the buttons from their coats. “I saw squads of them dispersing gatherings of Confederates,” recalled a paroled prisoner,” and I saw coats from which the buttons had been cut.” …

Thus, one by one, the victors took possession – body and soul – of the vanquished. Forced to swear loyalty to a hated enemy, their private thoughts censored, their public thoughts punished, the symbols of their nationhood outlawed, their religion and prayers policed – there seemed no haven or sacred ground.”

Dixie became Poland.

The Poles eventually won back their independence though. We never really had the comparable ingredients of nationhood. We only had the potential to grow into a nation

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14 Comments

  1. “Stonewall Jackson’s Commissary.”

    Ha! J. E. B. Stuart said the same thing about the US Army.

  2. Very good article “sire.” It’s also another lesson in the need to plan better. Think things through real good before any big undertaking. Someone I know said, “software coding for financial companies is 90 % analysis 10 % actual tedious coding.” I think creating Confederacy 2.0 ( starting with The Confederate Party, ) would be the same analogy. Planning is almost everything. The south didn’t “plan” very well, however, had a few bungles not been made the south would’ve won !

    You may be winning back some Confederates you heiled away in the past ?

    Good show chap, I do say …

    PS : I hope you do a post about how and why The KKK was formed. Former Confederate officers who we’re tired of porch monkeys raping white southern women and strutting down the street bumping whites out of the way etc. Yyeeessss. Mm hmm. We don’t hear any of this in our far left class rooms.

      • You’re right. It’s not you … mostly commenters 2/3’s of which are likely trolls. You’re a good man sir. Our # 1 concern ( if we’re wise, ) is making it back home to Heaven. Personally I believe our # 2 concern should be saving what’s left of the real America which = the south, and is best “condensed into,” the south.

        Love your blog. Hope you hire GREAT internet marketers to build your audience.

  3. I was always favorable toward the southern separatists because it weakened the US government which is very evil. After reading that they threw priests into jail for not supporting an oath to a brutal American regime i was furious. I was surprised that they did that to fellow protestant ministers as well.

    Americans are a brutal society and they are not getting any better. However it is really the self-righteousness and moral hypocrisy of the States of the Union that really fuels their cruelty. Since Americans are not a people then all they have are ideas. And American ideas are warped to a large extent. Therefore, all the twisted justification for interfering and attacking other peoples.

    For instance Nicolas Davies in an article from 4/25/2018 estimates that the United States since 9/11 has caused the deaths of 5-6 million people. Is he right? He said the information is hard to get since the UN and the USA try to muddy the waters.

  4. There was a voting disqualification(?), called “persons not in rebellion” on the census forms. How it worked, or why it was worded that way I don’t know? Were Confederates disqualified, even though they had already thrown in the towel.

  5. The entire country is routinely compelled to swallow the dog from the time children enter grade school. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Socialist, Francis Bellamy, who was a former Baptist minister. Bellamy modeled his pledge on the oath of allegiance for the stated purpose of teaching Southern children that their fathers and grandfathers had been traitors. Written in 1890’s, the pledge didn’t take root in schools until the 1920’s; after most Confederate soldiers had crossed over the river. I ceased to recite it over a dozen years ago. But, trying to convince many of the supposed Southern men and women of the irrefutable facts surrounding the pledge is often an exercise in frustration culminating in weary resignation.

    The childhood indoctrination is extremely effective. Much of what many Americans regard as American comes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: the Pledge of Allegiance; the Statjew of Liability and “The New Colossus;” the Melting Pot (a play by Israel Zangwill); American Imperialism… et al.

    • @Cowtown Rebel

      I grew up in the Sherman/Denison area. Which you probably know where that’s at, being from Cowtown.

      In school, back in the 70’s and 80’s, we didn’t say the pol much. We only had Texas flags in the classrooms in elementary school. I remember that we sang “Texas Our Texas” and “The Eyes of Texas” quite a bit. Of course, we had to sing “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Kill that Yankee Soldier,” too.

      Except for thinking that George Washington was from Vermont, I never learned to conflate Yankeedom or Yankees with America. Quite the opposite, in fact.

      People who don’t know about horned toads, fireants, or okra, and who think that BBQ, fried chicken and enchiladas are “strange eats,” are foreigners to me.

      • @James,

        I’ve been meaning to go up to the Sherman/Denison area and have a look around. I’m actually sort of surprised that the Pledge wasn’t recited in the schools in that part of the State. There was a great deal of Union sympathizers in that region during the war, the Lee/Peacock feud continued for half a decade following the conflict, and there are still men like L. D. Clark that the media trots out on the anniversary of the Hanging in Gainesville to proclaim his guilty ancestor’s innocence. Funny thing is, I’ve got Clark’s book that he wrote in the 1980’s, where he brags about his Grandfather’s efforts to desert the Confederate army with the intention of joining the Union army. Clark’s Great Grandfather was encouraging his son to do this, and was widely known for his Union sentiments for which he was hanged. The only question seems to be the extent of his knowledge of, and involvement with, the Union League. I’ve locked horns with Prof. Dick McCaslin from U.N.T. over this on a couple of occasions and caused him some public embarrassment.

        My mother’s family settled in the area around Van Alstyne. Collin County and the County Seat are named for my Great x 4, Grandfather. He was 91 when Texas seceded and he was opposed to the dissolution of the Union because he feared that England would use the opportunity to invade and repossess North America. When he passed away, shortly after Texas voted to secede, his Grandsons hastened off to join the 6th Texas Cavalry.

    • Cowtown,

      In the Pledge of the Allegiance does one not also pledge allegiance to the Republic but also to a flag? If a person believes in America I can see pledging allegiance to the republic but to a flag???? That seems strange to me. Being loyal to a country I understand even if I disagree but to an inanimate object like a flag? I think not.

      Bellamy did create the Bellamy salute that the Fascists and the National Socialists used. I like that a lot. It is stronger than the wimpy hand over the heart. Mexico still uses the Fascist/Bellamy salute on occasion. This salute was used in America from 1892 until 1942. The Americans changed it because your enemies used it. That is illogical but typical. The national socialists also saluted in the American style with hand to cap. So I am surprised that America did not get rid of the normal military salute as well.

      • @Christina,

        The striped banner became a hated symbol in many places in the South. It had been torn down and, sometimes, shredded, burned or dragged around. Though, I doubt that any of this was still occurring during Bellamy’s time, I suspect that he included the flag in the pledge for that reason. But, I don’t know for sure.

        Few people seem to know about Bellamy or the original salute to the flag. Not many are aware that the Hakenkreuz is an ancient symbol found in both North American Aboriginal culture and in India. Even fewer are aware of the influence Henry Ford and Margaret Sanger had on National Socialism. Germans adopted many American ideas. Adolph Hitler was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938 and he was still highly regarded here at that time.

  6. For Confederate veterans, the term “swallowing the dog” meant being forced to repeatedly pledge allegiance to the United States

    The United States of Massachusetts.

    And the dictatorship of Boston, New York, and Chicago.

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