One of my first memories as a little kid was sitting on one of the big Civil war cannons at Chickamauga National park and having my picture made. I have no idea if it was a Yankee or Rebel cannon. It really didn’t matter. Since that day I have been at or riding through that park hundreds of times. It has always been with a sense of awe and reverence.
My great grandfather fought there. North Carolina 39th I believe. He and his brothers joined the Confederate army in order to get away from a dirt poor pitiful farm and back breaking work. They joined because that’s what all the other boys were doing. They joined because it might give them a chance to better themselves. I also had three great great grandfathers at that battle. Two from the mountains of Blue Ridge, Ga., and one from Pickens county. They were all dirt farmers too. They joined for essentially they same reasons as Great grandfather. They took their orders from their officers, and fought bravely. My great great Uncle Larkin German had his cousin killed by a sniper right next to him, then shot the sniper dead by centering in on where the gunsmoke came from. He was cited for saving lives. This was war, war is hell. They were fighting for the wrong cause in a losing war, but they didn’t know it. They were fighting where and when the political forces of the day told them. They were fighting on the side they were fighting on, due to the circumstances of where and when they were born.
I say this because I still go through that park occasionally. I’ve gone to other Civil War parks, such as Gettysburg, and I feel the same sense of awe and reverence…and a deep sense of melancholy. So many lives lost, all Americans. A war fought by the common men as surrogates for the politicians and for the rich…on both sides. The last great war fought with Napoleonic tactics, which produced mind numbing casualties. Rivers of blood. Loss of limbs and other horrible injuries on both sides. The loss of “a way of life” at the war’s end was something suffered mainly by the rich Southern plantation owners. My ancestors who survived went back to a life of hard work just the same as before the war. I am not sure if any of them hated black people. I have nothing to indicate to me they did. I have nothing in writing to indicate they rallied around the “stars and bars”, and it was more likely they rallied around their own particular state flags.
I am not certain what type of heritage they brought back with them. My Uncle Curly had my great grandfathers gun and uniform in a closet and it got burned up in a house fire. My great grandpa Davenport became a preacher. My grandparents never spoke of any sentimentality they had held over from the war.. indeed I believe they wanted to forget it.
Even though they fought for the South I do not like to read posts disrespecting them, and all other Southern soldiers. There were a lot of disrespectful and heinous crimes done by people on both sides during that war. I respect all the American people who had to give their lives.
I think the idea of Southern heritage is a complex issue. It’s one that does not simply revolve around a certain flag. It revolves around hunting and fishing and certain kinds of foods. It revolves around people who live on the back country roads. It revolves around people who had to become self sufficient in a rural culture, not in the big cities. Was there discrimination, and racial hatred? Yes, of a certainty there was and some of it still lingers. But there were also black people and white people working together in the cotton fields and cotton mills, and cooperating with each other for the common good of their families. Certainly not all racism and white supremacy came strictly from the South. It came from all parts of the country.
Now we again have uneasy situations going on in this country. Police shootings, the Charleston murders and it’s continued divisive aftermath. A media which continues to want to divide and subtract instead of multiply and divide. Overreaction by businesses and personalities who want to jump on the bandwagon for their own personal gain. People feel as though they are being told what they HAVE to do, by people they don’t believe have the authority to tell them “what to do.”
As for me, I just want a sense of reasonableness and calm to prevail. I hope this weekend as we celebrate the 4th of July, we can remember that we are all Americans and this is one country “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equally”