We are NOT “Rebels”

Here is how Webster’s dictionary defines “Rebel”:

1 a : opposing or taking arms against a government or ruler b : of or relating to rebels <the rebel camp>

I have long had very serious reservations about applying the term “Rebel” to the Confederacy, Confederate soldiers, and all things Southern. “Rebel” is a term that governments use to describe those who oppose them, and I understand that it was turned around and used as a matter of pride by some Confederate soldiers. That said, it still does not change the fact that those who defended their Southern homeland against invaders from the North were not rebels. Had the War for Southern Independence been a true civil war in which the South tried to overthrow the existing Federal government, then the definition would fit; however, that is not the case.

Respect for legitimate authority is a cornerstone of civilization, and thus a cornerstone to what makes up a Southern Gentleman. Certainly, Robert E. Lee would not condone rebelliousness among his troops or officers. Respect for, and obedience to, legitimate authority is the mark of a gentleman – especially a Southern gentleman. For that reason, I no longer accept the term “Rebel” as a legitimate word for those who fought for the Confederacy – and especially for Southern Gentlemen.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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6 Responses to We are NOT “Rebels”

  1. Michael Yoder says:

    Thank you for your excellent website.

    And an additional thank you for your stand against the use of the word “Rebel” in relation to the cause of the Confederacy. The defenders of their homes and altars were definitely not “rebels”. They were defenders of legitimate government against usurpers and against those that would destroy them and all that they knew and loved.

  2. Thank you, Mr. Yoder. Too often, we just go along with things like calling Southerners “Rebels” because it has become an accepted practice. We need to stop and think about the meaning of words before we use them. I suspect that most folks who think of themselves as “rebels” really haven’t taken the time to think about it and would find a better word if only someone took the time to point that out to them. I need to pay more attention to that and tactfully and gracefully point it out to those who incorrectly use the word to describe Southerners.

    Thanks for stopping by – I hope we hear from you on a regular basis, sir!

  3. Tyler Brock says:


    As a young, 23 year old man, born and raised in Florida, I never took much thought to the term “rebel.” I’ve always taken pride in my Southern heritage, and grew up accepting the “rebel” label. It never crossed my mind that the term does appear to be derogatory. After all, as you pointed out; we rebelled against no one. We simply wished to remove ourselves from a government that sought to trample our rights as they continue to do to this very day. Thank you for this educational post. It was a real eye opener.

    I had a couple questions for you as well. Where in Florida do you live? And can you explain why so many prominent Republicans take such pride in Abraham Lincoln? I know President Lincoln was the first Republican president, but in my opinion Lincoln doesn’t represent a single aspect of the GOP today; which is supposed to be rooted in conservatism and preservation of the Constitution. I don’t believe most republican leaders, television anchors, and talk show hosts are ignorant, but why have I never heard a single public figure rebuke Lincoln and praise President Davis for his conservative stances. Is it simply political correctness that keeps them silent or something else? I would like to hear your opinion. Thanks so much.

    Tyler Brock
    Palm Bay, FL

  4. Hello, Tyler. Welcome to Confederate Colonel.

    I live on the west side of Volusia County – a bit north of DeLand.

    I used to be quite active in Republican politics. I was a state convention delegate, VP of the local Republican organization, campaign treasurer for the state rep in this area – the whole deal. I have made my living selling software and data services to political candidates since 1995. I say that to show that I have a bit more than just a passing knowledge of the way political matters work. It used to anger me to no end to participate in their annual “Lincoln Day” dinner and all the other praise and adoration that the tyrant still has among the party faithful. My opinion is that it is just part of the mythology that has been built up within the Republican Party. Lincoln is a symbol that must not be tarnished under any circumstances, so no questions are asked and no public doubt is permitted. To do so would bring immediate repudiation from others in the party. If someone has worked their way up the political food chain to a position of some bit of power and influence, they will not risk that power in order to question the party’s chief symbol.

    It is important to understand that political parties are little more than opposing teams in a high-stakes game. They change into whatever they feel they need to get and maintain power. The Democratic Party of 150 years ago is very different from today’s version. The same goes for the Republican Party. What they claim to believe is entirely based on how it will affect their chances of winning. It has very little, if anything, to do with taking a principled stand. Individuals, of course, will have principled beliefs, but that is merely the result of their being attracted by the stated platform – that was designed to lure them into the party.

    If it sounds as though I have left the Republican Party, it is because I have – or, as I prefer to say, the Republican Party has left me. I now have very little to do with politics other than as customers and clients for my business. What involvement I do have is with the Constitution Party – something I do on principle rather than pragmatism.

    Thanks again for stopping by!

  5. James says:

    Dear Sirs,
    Yours truly, agrees that the word “rebel” tends to imply negativities. Therefore, how should we view Southern songs on cd, like “I Am a Good Old Rebel” by Unreconstructed and others, and “I am a Rebel Soldier” by Lisa Meyer?
    Thank you.
    A New Jersey Copperhead

  6. If we could somehow dictate the use of words, then I would hope that we would banish the word “rebel” from use when referring to the Confederate soldier. Since that’s not the case, we are left with trying to make the best we can of what we have.

    The Yankees referred to Southerners as “Rebels”, and those same Southerners then thumbed their noses at the Yankees by adopting the word for themselves. Although I hesitate to use this example, it is not unlike Blacks using “the N-word” among themselves, while the use of that same word is quite offensive to them when used by others outside the Black race. The use of the word “Rebel” by Southerners to describe unreconstructed Southerners is just fine, as far as I am concerned. I try not to ever use the word myself, for the reasons laid out in the original post, but I don’t fault others for doing so. I just hope that those who use the word that way fully understand the meaning and the history of the word.

    Artists like Lisa Myer and others are a real blessing to our Southern heritage, and I would never fault them for their use of “Rebel” in their songs. (As an aside, Lisa Myer is one of my favorite performing artists. If someone is not already familiar with her work, I would strongly encourage them to do so. She is a true Southern treasure.)

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