As I watched the Confederate statues come down I had the following thoughts.
It is difficult for us to appreciate the perspective of our forefathers. With our modern sensitivities we are often prone to denounce them for behavior that their contemporaries may have considered normal or perhaps even worthy of praise.
It is also well for us to note that in mid-19th century America there was much less sense of a national identity. There was often a greater attachment to a state or local government than to the Federal establishment. Powers of the central government were quite limited, and its influence on the lives of ordinary citizens was usually minuscule. Communications were primitive, and few people were well informed about persons and events in Washington and other areas of the nation.
When the Civil War erupted it was only natural that citizens flocked to their own state’s standard. In the eyes of many, it was not so much a civil insurrection based on ideological grounds but a conflict between the states. Perhaps most Southerners, even that great majority that were non-slaveholders, had no philosophical objections to slavery; but I am convinced that a defense of slavery was not the reason most of them fought. They could not imagine taking up arms against neighbors and kin.
Excepting the navy, all military units, North and South, bore the name of the state in which they were recruited. “War Between the States” was the name given to the Civil War by many Southern writers. It is probably a more accurate title.
Should we in our present self-righteous arrogance condemn those men who fought so valiantly to defend home and hearth?
If I am honest, I must admit that my own point-of-view is strongly influenced by the fact that my grandfather Jordan and his five brothers all served in the Confederate Army. In today’s climate there may be those who condemn me for that.
What about you?