"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is stll time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago...."
William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust
William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust
The high water mark of the Southern Confederacy.
Why blog about this today? Because my emotions are running high with regard to the Confederate Battle Flag and the media frenzy and outcry against it and any commemoration of the Confederate Experience in America.
Two years ago, this was the scene at Gettysburg...
Americans came together to recreate a seminal moment in American History and to walk the field where today's America was born in blood and steel. Blood spilled by brave men on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The celebration just two years ago is muted today as even Civil War blog sites are currently shut down over the issue of the Confederate Battle Flag.
NASCAR is now banning them...as others pledge to paint over the CSA Battleflags on their General Lee cars...
Hollywood...it has a long history of exploiting Southern Stereotypes...from Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, the Beverly Hillbillies to the Duke Boys.
This despite the fact that Southerners since the end of the Civil War are over represented in service to this country in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps...defending the Stars and Stripes.
The National D-Day Monument resides today in Bedford, VA, which community lost the greatest number of its sons in the D-Day Landings at Omaha Beach. The grandsons of Confederate Veterans serving their country.
Now, while Hollywood gets its wrong much of the time today...Sweet Home Alabama...sort of a perfect example...
You know...cause isn't every Southerner reenacting the Lost Cause every weekend...!?!
Back in the "glory" days of Hollywood movie making...men like John Ford knew how to tell stories that honored North and South alike particularly in the post-war American West.
In She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, former-Confederates, now serving in the United States Cavalry pay their respects to a fallen comrade...Trooper Smith who died a US Private, but had been a Confederate officer. Ford captured the sense of respect Americans had one for the other despite which side the other fought on.
Two gallant American men...one who served the Union and one who served the Confederacy fighting together for a unified nation.
Over 700,000 Americans gave their lives in the American Civil War and our nation arose more united and stronger than ever. These men North and South deserve our remembrance and it is they who own the Confederate Battle Flag. It is they who gave the last full measure of devotion to Cause and Country...at a time in our country's history when a man's Home State was every bit his country.
The veterans of North and South reconciled and allowed this nation to heal. The war to decide the issue of this nation's Union was brought to an end.
The problem of racism in the American Heart is a much deeper one and as we already know will be the longest and hardest struggle that Americans ever undertake. It took African-Americans nearly 100 years after the Civil War to finally shake off Jim Crow and Segregation. 1965 is not that long ago...we are only 50 years past the time of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights era.
So we must be sensitive in acknowledging the darkest period of our shared history and continue to elevate the African-American experience in this country. That will mean the removal of Confederate Battle Flags from public spaces and we should embrace this as our Confederate Ancestors did in 1865, when they furled the flags at Appomattox.
At the end of it all...the Confederate Battle Flag belonged to these men. They shed their blood and sacrificed so much for it. Nearly 1 in 19 white southern males died in the American Civil War.
So in closing I would ask those of you who are most deeply offended by the Confederate Battle Flag to respect the 1st Amendment Rights of your fellow Americans who wish that flag to mark the resting places of their Great-Great Grandfathers who fought beneath it.
CSA Genera lPatrick Cleburne, who in 1864 famously called on the Richmond Government to free the Slaves in order to save the Confederacy. Patrick Cleburne was joined by many high ranking Confederate Generals in the Army of Tennessee who agreed with him
But in a moment that damned the Confederate Cause...Jefferson Davis rejected Pat Cleburne's proposal and in that moment certified what so many continue to believe was the central cause of the American Civil War. Even in the final days, men like Jefferson Davis could not step outside of their deep seated racism.
Patrick Cleburne would go on to die leading a final valiant charge at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee...an Irish Immigrant to this country and who fought and died for his adopted country.
Cleburne's words speak for many Southerners...
"Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late... It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision... It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties."
--- Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864, writing on what would happen if the Confederacy were to be defeated.
I include this picture to conclude my thoughts about the American Civil War. The man in the center is my Grandfather, who was a native of Philadelphia. My Grandfather's family fought for the Union. Flanking my Grandfather are my brother and myself...two young boys growing up in Bristol, VA-Tennesee. My Grandfather always referred to us as his Rebel Grandsons.
Traveling to see my Grandfather in Philadelphia always involved traveling up I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley and the heart of the American Civil War Experience.
And my Grandfather gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. He brought down a box of Britains Confederate Infantry. And yes, they came equipped with a Confederate Battle Flag. My Grandfather took great pride not only in his family's history, but also in mine and that of my fathers and their fathers...who were native Virginians and three of whom served in the Army of Northern Virginia. I am a son of the North and of the South and say to all Americans...that we are all born of our great and terrible Civil War.
May we always embrace and remember our shared history.