The MSM’s Willful Ignorance of American History, More Anti-Southernism

-By Warner Todd Huston

A rather small section, one small paragraph, in a pretty straight forward story reveals the sheer absurdity and incomprehension that prevails in the Media today and serves to show the emptiness of what passes for thinking and logic about American history in what some feel are our cultural elites. It also shows the bias against things Southern in certain circles these days.

The story, “Confederate General’s Painting Sold”, is mostly a simple retelling of the facts around the $400,000 acquisition by Colonial Williamsburg of a painting painted by Robert E. Lee’s wife to be in the 1830s.

Measuring 4 inches wide and 5 3/4 inches high, the gold-framed watercolor on paper shows a somber girl with delicate features in a red dress with an apronlike white front balancing a wooden wash tub on her head. Trees and a split-rail fence are in the background.

Mary Anna Randolf Custis, daughter of George Washington’s only grandson, painted the portrait in 1830 on the grounds of what became Arlington National Cemetery, a year before she married Robert E. Lee, her distant cousin.

After Mary Custis became Mary Lee and while her husband Robert E. Lee was commandant of West Point, in the early 1850s she gave the small painting to a young student named James. E. B. Stuart. J.E.B.Stuart later went on to become one of the Confederacy’s most dashing generals. He was killed in action in 1864, ten years after the gift of the small painting. J.E.B.Stuart was only 31 years of age at the time of his death.

Stuart took the small painting and glued it to the back of a drawing that he might have created himself of a cavalry officer with a saber on horseback slashing at a watermelon. And this is the point the AP (and the gallery) ridiculously features in an otherwise straightforward story.

“Whether the attachment was a conscious act or whether Stuart was oblivious to its meaning, it fails to diminish the significance of pairing an innocent slave with the highly trained soldier a few years before the outbreak of war,” the documentation says.

“Significance”? There IS no “significance to the 1854 pairing of a drawing of a soldier and that of a slave girl.

How COULD there be “significance”? There WAS no Confederacy in 1854. There were no soldiers being used to either free, OR keep in thrall, any slave girls in 1854. There could have been NO “conscious act” in it because the concepts and situations that could have made it “significant” were almost a decade away from even being created.

Ironic, it could be. Interesting it certainly is. But there is NOTHING to this idiotic claim that there is “significance” to it or that there was some statement being made by a young J.E.B.Stuart with the “conscious act” of gluing the two pictures together. It is a meaningless trivia tidbit that reveals nothing about anything. It was a chance act by a man who was yet to even begin to reach the fame his last years would see, during an era that had yet to create the situations that would propel him to that fame.

Even yet, if J.E.B.Stuart had glued the two pictures together during the war, what real “significance” could there be in it but that in the fanciful imagination of the media and the cultural elite today? There is no record of J.E.B. Stuart writing or saying a word about them to hint at such “significance”. Further, Stuart was a childhood admirer of the dashing life of the cavalry, so it isn’t surprising that he might own a drawing of a cavalryman. It would be akin to a teenager today owning a photo of a cool car or airplane, or a fireman or policeman. It should additionally be remembered that when the drawing of the cavalryman was made it was of an officer of the U.S. Army being depicted not a Confederate.

Worse, by using their fevered imagination, the AP and the gallery owners place the concept of using military force to enslave people into the motives of a man barely out of his teenage years who merely thought cavalrymen were cool.

But, then, that is what these people think of everyone who lived in the south during the era, now isn’t it?

No, what we have here is foolishness passing for thoughtful historical commentary. A ginning up of emotion with imaginary motives grafted on to the innocent actions of someone long dead who is not here to defend himself. When Stuart likely put those two pictures together neither he nor anyone else had the slightest notion that a war would be fought over slavery or between the two sections of our country nearly ten years hence.

But this is the nonsense that we see in the media and in circles ostensibly populated by the elite of our society today.

“Significance”, indeed.

Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as,, men’ and among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a guest on several radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

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