I’ve been poking around courthouse squares lately, and I have to say that it is gratifying to see the Confederate markers that I am seeing displayed there. Now, before you faint and fall over and proclaim me totally non-PC, hear me out because I say this knowing that many, many of you disagree with me.
First of all, as a historian I abhor even the slightest hint of rewriting history whether that history be good or bad. I also think it is a bit childish to refuse to acknowledge certain events simply because they represent a dark time in the history of our country. We need to know, and we need to learn from knowing.
So, let’s start our discussion by jumping right in and hitting the nail on the head. The institution of slavery that existed for many, many years in this country is one of those dark periods that I can barely comprehend. From the porch swing where I write tonight, I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the fact that there once existed people who dared, who had the unmitigated audacity to believe that they had the right to own another person…a right that gave them total control over another human being. And that is all I’m going to say on slavery in this article.
Now, with the issue of slavery out of the way, let’s start over and look at the other issues that actually drove the war: states rights, westward expansion, railroad expansion, trade, industry, taxes. These topics don’t get the press and they don’t raise the emotions that slavery does, but without heated disagreements over them, there would have been no war.
So, through the years politicians used the above to fan the flames hotter and hotter, pitting one part of the country against the other because that is what politicians do…and they beat the drums of war, and they called for volunteers to fight their war, and finally the first shots were fired by boy-men who were simply doing what boy-men do today when their country calls them…they go; they serve; and some of them die. In this particular war, most of them died.
From our perch here in the twenty-first century, it is easy to have harsh things to say about the Civil War and those who fought it. Apparently, it is easy for many to want to pretend it never happened and to remove it from the history books; however, it is not that easy for me because I realize that like every other war, men simply answered the call when their country issued it…just as they do today, and just as they will tomorrow.
Maybe it comes from the fact that I grew up during the Viet Nam era, and I saw first hand what happens when a country dishonors those who serve. I don’t know, but I do know that I would like to see a marker on every courthouse lawn across this country, honoring every single veteran of every single war that ever took an American citizen from his/her home in the name of service to this country.
And, yes, that means even including those men of the 1860s who answered the call…judge the war if you please, that is the duty of history and historians, but honor the service of those who gave up so much in the name of country and honor and duty.
When you have a moment, slip on over to Dublin, Texas and ask them about their Memorial that honors all veterans of all wars. We all should all do such a thing!