Many thanks to Al and Dan for inviting me to visit the Lounge—something I do almost every day anyway—and an invitation I value very much. The invitation was triggered by many posts by Al concerning Southern Civil War monuments and statues. Those posts intrigued me, especially the monuments to the soldiers (but not to the generals!). Eventually, however, I was led to question the Rebel focus of Al’s posts, and he suggested that I join in. That led to deeper reflection about why Al’s Southern focus bothered me. So here goes:
I grew up in rural Baltimore County (outside the City) in the 1950s, a border state and city in every sense of the word. Hard as it may be for youngsters today (like my junior colleagues) to understand, the Civil War was then still played out at school and elsewhere. (In third grade, I remember singing: “We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree…”, although we had no idea what that meant.) The South was very popular in the war games played out by the kids, and, being the contrarian I am, I chose to be on the North’s side, without knowing anything about either side.. Eventually, I began to think vaguely about the issues. In high school we were taught that the tariff led to the “rift”; it took many years—thank you James McPherson—to realize that the tariff and related issues were merely a cloak.
The truth is that the Civil War was about race. The fabled land of the South was built on the bloody backs of slaves. That is the critical fact to remember about the Civil War. That is not to downplay the valor of the Southern soldier, or the genius of some of its generals (although Lee and Jackson had their tactical weak spots, and Forrest was a prominent early KKK member—something that the South seems to have forgotten, along with his massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow).
I plan to offer a few posts on this topic. Unlike Al, I do not have photographs of mine own to post; but the North is full of haunting statues of its own. Anyone who has been in rural New England knows the classic picture of an infantryman, often wearing a greatcoat and holding a rifle, standing at the edge of a now forlorn village green. Here are two examples (Unlike Al, I lack good lead-ins to let the reader guess as the picture.)