Friday, July 20, 2018

Patriarchs of Folk Nations: Gen Forrest of Tennessee and Sts Sava and Simeon of Serbia

Benjamin Alexander has written a wonderful piece about General Nathan Bedford Forrest and the South as a whole, ‘Nathan Bedford Forrest and Southern Folkways’.  In it, one may see both the strengths and the weaknesses of Southern life and Gen Forrest’s place in that life.  Of the first we find this:

Four principles govern the functioning of the Southern family: (1) A hierarchical structure as the basic government; (2) self-sacrifice of the individual members in fulfilling the demands of love; (3) identity of the clan that separates it from the otherwise faceless masses: and (4) the memory of past deeds, practices, and rituals that set standards for coming generations of the blood.

It is a stinging rebuke to the lonely, selfish individualism practiced and preached widely in the New South and all the States today.

Gen Forrest is presented as the head of the Southern family, a force giving unity to the whole:

 . . . Lytle sees in Forrest the heroic summation of nationalism and leadership; he shows both to be patriarchal and familial and, thus, reflective of the fundamental character of the Southern nation and the now obscure form of Confederate nationalism it represented.

By contemporary standards, the attributes of a “clan” nation, or as Lytle has recently remarked “a republic of families,” may be obscure or virtually inaccessible. The roots, however, of such a political hegemony are as old as Homer and Virgil and as relevant as the underground nationalism of contemporary Poland. Lytle reveals in his Forrest biography how a familial nation functions when faced with a formidable military adversary.

What separates Lytle’s narrative from the sometimes dry reporting of military historians is the image of a Southern “republic of families” that runs throughout and, indeed, that unites all of Lytle’s work. In the Forrest biography the family is concrete. “Blood brotherhood” in the connections of kin becomes a “national” brotherhood of Southern families in Forrest’s commands during the war. Lytle writes that Forrest’s rule “maintained the feeling that the South was a big clan, fighting that the small man as well as the powerful might live as he pleased.”

 . . .

 . . . The dynamics of Southern society were more complex than the much publicized tradition of the planter-gentleman. Forrest superseded this; his exploits made him into the mythic hero of a national family. The ascendency of this kind of nationalism could preserve the tradition of the gentleman, but without it the genteel society would become only a hollow social convention.

Source:  Alexander

But the weaknesses must also be spoken of.  They are the result of a few major flaws, which we have written of before in different places:  The lack of a truly acknowledged and empowered patriarch-ruler, the lack of a unifying faith for the Southern people, the lack of a higher Church authority rooted in holiness that transcends all other claims of earthly authority, i.e., a ghostly (spiritual) authority to which all pledge their submission.

Lacking such a faith and authority, we find in the War, when oneness of heart and effort above all was needed, division.  Clan law rather than the Church was the main spring driving men’s actions:

Clan rule, as Lytle described it “Has its feuds and other sins of pride.” And Lytle tells us that Forrest “would pay a great price for settling his bile-he would make the South pay a great price-for he had done the Southern cause such an injury that all his genius would be powerless to repair it.” In the quarrel with Bragg, Forrest assumed that his superior shared in the unwritten frontier code of honor that would make him accept his subordinate’s rebuke in a manly fashion. Instead, Forrest’s pointed criticism provoked a sullen resentment that led to a determination to remove Forrest from any position of influence.

Source:  Alexander

Brothers without a father will constantly fight, as Dr Matthew Johnson has said:  This is the tragic lesson of the War that was learned only when it was too late.  Gen Forrest, because of clan bickering, was denied the headship that could have led to Southern victory:

But by this late date [Reconstruction--W.G.], Southern military nationalism was virtually finished, but Forrest remained the patriarch of the clan nation. Only upon reflection was the vital nature of this rule recognized. At Forrest’s funeral, Jefferson Davis remarked to Governor Porter of Tennessee about his misunderstanding of the great cavalryman: “The generals in the Southwest never appreciated Forrest until it was too late… I was misled by them…”

Source:  Alexander

Any republic is inclined to break apart because of the self-interest such a form of government generates in the hearts of its citizens; the Southern ‘republic of families’ was sadly no different.

The clan model, though good in many ways, failed to provide the cohesion needed to guide the South through the War successfully and to preserve Southern folkways after it ended.  And a watered-down Christianity, present in Dixie in several Protestant sects and Roman Catholic parishes, could not provide what was lacking.

That said, what is needed for Southern vitality is only a slight variation of these two foundational principles.  And once again, we turn to Orthodox Serbia for a living ensample to learn from.

Serbia, like the South, is also a folk nation, a large clan.  But unlike Dixie she has retained much of her old tradition by avoiding the mistakes the South made.

First, rather than be a republic of families with only a figurehead patriarch of very limited power to guide the whole, Serbia established the unquestioned authority of a king over the nation, the king being the highest expression of patriarchy (and tradition and law, but we digress).

Second, rather than be satisfied with the weakened, fractured Christianity that came to be in the West (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) with the falling away of the Pope of Rome from the Orthodox Church in 1054, Serbia was established on the rock of the Orthodox Faith, the Faith of the Holy Apostles.  In the life of St Stephen-Simeon Nemanja (+1200) of Serbia, the founder of the Orthodox Serbian nation, we see both of these necessary qualities present:


Nemanja [8], the initiator and beginner of eight centuries of Serbian history, was also a great sufferer. If a great man is not a great sufferer, he is an opportunist, like Napoleon Bonaparte. Nemanja was a three-fold sufferer: for Christ his God, for his people, and for his soul.
Even before Nemanja, there were Serbian zhupans and saints who were sufferers. Caslav, Vojislav, and Bodin, and especially Saint John Vladimir, were all sufferers for their people [9]. Saint Prohor, Saint Joachim of Osogovo, and Saint John of Rila were all sufferers for their soul [10]. So also was the Serbian Saint Petka [11], and who knows how many sufferers there were in addition to these.
But Nemanja combined them all in himself. He was a three-fold sufferer, and a truly great sufferer. But as a result he also became a great victor and immortal.


One does not know who was greater: Nemanja the ruler or Simeon the monk, Simeon the monk or Simeon the myrrh-flowing, the man before death or the man after death [12]. He was several men in one man: a warrior and a statesman, a lover of his people and a lover of God, a wealthy aristocrat and a poor ascetic, a secular man and a saint.
Sava and Stevan, his sons and biographers, did not in the least exaggerate the rich and complex personality of their father. Deeds and facts justify any laudation of Nemanja, and do not permit words to surpass them. Only one word captures the whole Nemanja in all his aspects - Theodule - which means "servant of God".


Nemanja was a miraculous man: he had two baptisms, two names, two callings in this life, and after death two graves. First he was baptized a Catholic, and later after he grew up he renounced his Latin baptism and was baptized according to the Orthodox rite [13]. As a ruler he was called Nemanja after the Biblical name Nehemiah, and later as a monk he was called Simeon. He was a ruler and a sword-bearer, and in old age a monk and cross-bearer. His first grave was at Hilandar Monastery [14], the second at Studenica Monastery [15].
He was the root of the holy vine of the Nemanjic dynasty. He left behind not only blood in his descendents, but the sword and the cross as a program for serving the Lord. He was a Theodule - a servant of God - both as a sword-bearer and as a cross-bearer , as Nemanja the ruler and as Simeon the monk. And even after death, as a myrrh-flowing saint, he remained a servant of God and a helper of his people [16]. In him lies all the profound history of his dynasty as well as the ineffable destined history of the Serbian people up to the present day.


Nemanja was a lord; he was also a captive. He waged war against brothers and non-brothers. He fought with Orthodox and heretics. He had a traitor among his own natural brothers. Against the Orthodox Greeks he waged war in defense of his country and his national identity; i.e., in defense of the Serbian name, which the Greeks wanted to drown in Hellenism because of the sameness of faith. Against the Latin and Bogomil heresies [17] he fought in defense of the true and pure faith.

 . . .


All of Nemanja's struggles and all his aims focused on his desire to unite the Serbian people and create a single Serbian state - but not a secular people, as modern historians explain, but a Christ-loving people, which would serve Christ, and a holy state, which would also serve Christ.
It was all to serve Christ just as he himself served until his last breath on his reed mat at Hilandar Monastery [19]. His patriotism was an Orthodox Christian patriotism, and his state was a state that served God.
He set a seal on this fundamental concept of his by putting his sword into its sheath and by his death beneath the cross of Christ. For the sword is nothing without the cross, and the cross is ultimately victorious even without the sword. Nemanja never went to war with a mere sword without a cross, as the churches built by him to fulfill oaths testify.

Source:  St Nikolai Velimirovich,

In 1196, when Sava was 21 years of age, he received the greatest gift of his life: his father, Stephen Nemanja, decided to abdicate the throne ofthe Kingdom of Serbia and become a monk in Studenitsa Monastery on Mt. Radochelo in Rashka He took the name Simeon. To replace him on the Royal Throne, the Grand Zhupan appointed his second oldest son, Stephen, as the heir. This news thrilled Sava, as it was for him a spiritual blessing for his many prayers, ascetic efforts and even letters he had sent to his father urging him towards monastic life. Along with his father, Sava's mother Anna, on the same day—the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1196—also received the monastic tonsure and was given the name Anastasia, retiring to the Monastery ofthe Holy Virgin in Kurshumlija near Toplica.

 . . . Simeon's "conversion" and total acceptance of the monastic life marked a beginning once again, not only for the two saints, but perhaps more importantly, for the entire Serbian race. By this act, Simeon, the most powerful and influential man of the Serbian kingdom, was solidifying Serbia's ties with the treasury of spirituality of the Holy Mountain, as well as paving the way for all future royalty—rulers of the Kingdom of Serbia—to accept and acknowledge Orthodoxy as the way and ultimate criterion for the total christianization of the Serbian people. Simeon was like the Holy Byzantine Emperor of old, Constantine the Great (+337), paving the way for Orthodoxy to be the foundation and basis for all Serbian culture, history and civilization.

Source:  Fr Daniel Rogich,

Just as important to the foundation of Serbian life was the life of St Sava, St Simeon’s son:


Nemanja led his people on general courses against two powerful forces-the pan-Hellenism of Constantinople and the pan-theocracy of Rome. He, perhaps unconsciously, spontaneously, and semi-consciously, only traced the path for the future of his people.
Sava, his youngest son, had to come in order to completely clear and level that path, to crystallize the general ideas of his father and to make them work in one perfect internal organization of the Serbian people. Where the eighty year old elder Nemanja left off, the young monk Sava carried on consistently and brilliantly to the point of genius.

 . . .


Theodulia - service to God - is the main charateristic of all the Serbian rulers of the vine of the Nemanjic dynasty. "The slave of Christ God " - this is how they used to call themselves and sign documents, beginning with Stevan Prvovencani [24] (Steven the First-crowned) all the way to Tsar Uros [25].
And not just the Nemanjic dynasty, but rulers, princes, despots, generals and lords of other family trees would, like the descendants of Nemanja, refer to themselves and sign documents in this way; for instance Knez Lazar [26], the despot Ugljesa [27], the despot Stevan Visoki [28] (Stephen the Tall), the despot George Brankovich [29], the sultan 's wife Mara [30], the venerable Mother Angelina [31], and others too numerous to mention.
They were all slaves of Christ and of God; they were all theodules, servants of God. Thus Sava set them all on their path, Nemanja gave them all an example, and the Spirit of God strengthened them on that path.

Source:  St Nikolai

 . . . To all, he was a source of unity, healing, wisdom, joy, and spiritual strength, uniting the various tribes of Serbs into a cohesive nation of Orthodox believers. . . .

As time passed, the tremendous legacy of holy leadership on the part of the great Sava kept the Serbian people united under one flag: the royal kingdom of Serbia which avowed Orthodoxy and the way of Christ. He was the sole person who was responsible for the transformation of the Serbian people into a people of God. And their allegiance to the way in which he lived was to the Serbs the only true model and expression of religious, political and cultural life. Hence, as in the case of every great human being who inspires generations after him to even greater heights of civilized life, so too was it with Sava, for his ideal motivated the people of Orthodox Serbia to become, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, one of the most resplendent kingdoms the world has ever known. Religious life peaked as the monasteries in Serbia, the most beautiful being based upon the Byzantine style, were crowded with monastics who led an austere life, inspiring the Serbian people to greater heights of humility, while also leading them to exhibit the trait they were (and are to this day) most recognized for—hospitality. And, as mentioned, due to the astute ecclesiastical wisdom on the part of Sava in 1219 in Nicea, the Serbian Church was able, in 1346, to obtain her own autocephaly, i.e., her own Patriarch. Political and economic life also flourished, following the example of the Christ-like Sava, in the centuries following his repose in the Lord. A unity among the Serbs, based on their adherence to Orthodoxy and maintenance of the political ideals of their beloved St. Sava, allowed them to develop into a Balkan power to the point that in 1346 the Serbian King Dushan the Powerful was given the title of "Emperor of the Serbs, Greeks, Bulgars and Albanians."

In sum, after his death St. Sava was to the Serbs a type of ideal and measuring rod of what it meant to be a true Serb, which is, to be fully committed to Jesus Christ and the way of Orthodoxy. Religiously, Sava was thought of as an equal to St. Nicholas, the ideal and standard of bishops; as a humane politician, Sava was considered an equal to St. Constantine the Great, the founder of the Byzantine Empire; and, as a Great Martyr later in 1595, Sava was considered an equal to the humble St. Polycarp of Smyrna, the first Great Martyr to be burned to death (see April 27th, Burning of the Relics of St. Sava). Bless the Lord God! All these Christian traits and attainments manifested in one person! During the two centuries following his death, the person of St. Sava became the brightest star ever known to the Serbs, inspiring them to a way of life which succeeding generations have as yet been unable to recapture or match.

Source:  Fr Daniel

More specifically, though, what did Sts Simeon and Sava give to Serbia that the South lacks? 

The first is a spiritual center which imparts light and life to the nation:

The most wonderful element in the legacy of the monks Sava and Simeon—son and father—was their joint effort to bring to the Serbian nation a spiritual center in which prayer and committed Christian life would be the eternal flame and vigil lamp guiding the Serbian people to the Kingdom of God. This eternal torch and divine light was Hilandar Monastery.

Source:  Fr Daniel

Hilandar on Mt Athos is foremost for Serbia, but Studenitsa, built by St Stephen-Simeon, within the Serbian fatherland itself is also very important in Serbia’s life, as we shall see.

Aside from a unifying spiritual center, Sts Simeon and Sava gave to Serbia a holiness that would be able to heal the divisions that rose up from time to time, a holiness that even the kings would yield to, and which the South sorely needed during the War to keep Forrest, Bragg, and others from hurting the cause by fighting with one another rather than the Yankees:

When Sava entered his native land in 1204, he unfortunately found the country just as Simeon had informed him in his dream—in total disarray. The Serbian state was split in two. By secret negotiations with Hungary and Pope Innocent III, Vukan, the eldest of the three brothers, who was bitter over the appointment of his younger brother Stephen as heir to the throne, was able to amass troops and capture Zeta; he then was set to launch a campaign against Rashka, King Stephen's portion of the divided kingdom. This civil war was only a microcosm of a larger conflict instigated by the West—that is, the hostilities initiated by the Great Crusades of the Latin church. In 1204, the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople and much of the territory of Byzantium, including the Holy Mountain. In 1205, the Holy Mountain was officially placed under the authority and jurisdiction of a Roman Catholic bishop. It is believed that this occurrence was the most influential factor in Sava's decision to return to Serbia. Hence, the Saint returned home with his work cut out for him.

When he returned, Sava brought with him the medicine to heal the entire situation: the relics of his father, the Grand Zhupan and saint, Stephen Nemanja-Simeon the Myrrh-bearer and co-founder of Hilandar. Upon entering Studenitsa Monastery, St. Simeon's foundational monastery, Sava invited his two brothers to a proper and rightful Memorial Service for their father. As the casket was opened, before their eyes the body of their father was found to be sweet-smelling, exuding a fragrant oil and myrrh, warm and aglow, looking very much alive, as if he were only restfully sleeping. This act of veneration of their father was the first step in healing the fraternal schism between Vukan and King Stephen. Shortly thereafter, the civil war was halted and a peace agreement was drawn up, once again restoring the kingdom of Serbia as it was under the reign of the great King Stephen Nemanja-St. Simeon the Myrrh-bearer. In discussions with his reunited brothers, Sava also designed plans for an immediate, systematic and far-reaching missionary program to save the Orthodox soul of the Serbian people. Studenitsa Monastery, with St. Simeon's relics making it a national shrine, was chosen as the outreach station for all activities. St. Sava wrote the Monastery's Typikon, which strengthened Studenitsa's monastic life.

As newly elected abbot of Studenitsa, Archimandrite Sava personally went on several missions throughout the territories, preaching and teaching the Word of God in the churches as well as renewing and creating monasteries, building many churches, opening iconography schools, and in general establishing and confirming the populace in the Orthodox faith. Sava was concerned not only with the spiritual welfare of the kingdom, but also with the material condition of the people, as he constantly advised his two older brothers, especially King Stephen, on how to better feed, clothe and administer the people. It is believed that through the monasteries in Serbia at this time, Sava was able to put the kingdom's economy in order by raising to the highest level the production of food, wine, honey, fish, vegetables and livestock, not only sustaining the monastics but also benefitting thousands of Serbs: pilgrims, visitors, and especially the sick and aged. Truly St. Sava carried out and actualized the great commandment of Christ: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. These missionary efforts were for Sava, as always, ascetic exercises allowing him to be more fully immersed in the eternal grace, love and beauty of the Holy Spirit of God. These acts demonstrated his tremendous love for his people.  . . .

Source:  Fr Daniel

There is an icon that expresses deep truths about Serbia’s life (found at

And a note that explains its meaning:

On the cover is a copy of a 15th century icon from Hilandar Monastery on the Holy Mountain of Athos. It portrays two of the greatest saints in the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church - St. Sava, the Enlightener and first Archbishop of the Serbian people, and St. Symeon his father, who, after having ruled Serbia for years as the great Stevan Nemanja, abdicated his throne (symbolized by the crowns at the feet) and embraced the monastic life with the name Symeon. Together they built Hilandar Monastery (center), long considered the hearth of Serbian spirituality. The book in St Sava's hand symbolizes his work in religious education and spiritual enlightenment. The scroll in Church Slavonic held in St Symeon's hand is his testament to his descendants and to future generations. It reads: "My beloved children, magnify the Lord together with me" - as true servants of God.

We see in this icon, then, the beauty of the Orthodox Serbian folk nation:  her foundation in the Orthodox Church, the stable and respected authority of the patriarch-king, the spiritual center of Serbia (Chilandar), and the presence of a holiness that binds all the nation together, which rises far above politics and is therefore able to help guide it and counter its bad ingoadings (the healing of feuds, etc.). 

It is an icon that needs to be multiplied throughout the South.

Dixie has something resembling those first two, but not the latter two.  She cannot be sullen and stubborn and say that she has everything she needs in her own tradition.  It is not true; her present situation is proof enough of this.  In all four she has much work to do.  But thanks be to God that she does have some good traditions to begin building with.  With God’s help, through the prayers of the holy saints and angels like Sts Simeon and Sava, the South can establish the kind of Christian patriarchal nation that was foreshadowed in men like Gens Forrest, Lee, Lytle, Davidson, and others throughout the fore-War and after-War South.

Picture of Chilandar, from

Picture of part of Studenitsa, from


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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