Confederate statues and symbols are being torn down and destroyed all over the country. Recently I read that some people are calling for the removal of Confederate monuments from the fields at Gettysburg. How sad. Do they wish to erase history? Was the Union army fighting against ghosts?
It is interesting that more and more of our citizens tend to label those Southerners who fought for the Confederacy as “traitors.” It is true that these men fought against the Union, their former government; but in 1861 many Americans felt a greater loyalty to their state than to the central government, and many if not most citizens believed that a state had an intrinsic right to secede. I am also convinced that most Southerners went to war primarily because of a sense of obligation to friends and neighbors; and, rightly or wrongly, they believed themselves to be under attack.
In an ideological sense they were also fighting to defend a way of life, and that way included the pernicious institution of slavery; but fewer than a quarter of Southerners actually owned slaves.
I do not believe the secessionists were more traitorous than the patriots who took up arms against the British crown in 1776. When we label someone a traitor it often depends on one’s point of view – and whether or not the rebellion succeeds.
(In all honesty, I must admit that I approach this subject with an inborn bias. My grandfather Jordan and his five brothers fought for the Confederacy, and grandfather was wounded in that famous charge on the last day at Gettysburg.)