It’s the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, all this year and for the next four, and it started, really, really, with April 12 and Fort Sumter. Now we’re getting into the sort of thing mustachioed Southern men can actually re-enact, and be interviewed about while dressed up on the History Channel.
(Or rather, be interviewed about on the History Channel as it existed 15 years ago.)
This is the good part of the Civil War, the one everyone likes with its gallantry and troop movements, and “Oh, brother-against-brother; they had such courage on both sides, and who really knows who was in the right?”
The Union. The Union was in the right. The Confederacy was evil.
Of course the Union was pretty bad, but that’s always the case. The other “good guy” powers in World War II kept millions underfoot in colonies while they liberated Europe, and Jessie Owens couldn’t ride at the front of no buses in Alabama, even with all gold medals dangling.
So there are no good guys in history, but there are some bad ones. The Nazis and Imperial Japanese were very obviously bad. No one in this country would argue against that.
Yet many, many people in this part of the country make excuses for the Civil War, justify secession, and make the South the poor underdog in their review of history. Which is all kinds of balderdash, and I mean that in the place of a string of expletives.
Unlike the Germans, who fall over themselves apologizing for that whole Holocaust/Lebensraum thing, Southerners tend to be like the Japanese.
“Let’s not talk about the Rape of Nanking/institution of slavery, let’s frame the war as necessary for East Asia/for states’ rights, and then, really, we’re the victims in all this because the Americans dropped the atom bombs on us/Sherman burned our stuff.”
I mean this: the only war crime William Tecumseh Sherman ever did was stopping when he got to Savannah instead of using his army to draw Dixie flags up and down Dixieland.
I don’t hate Nazi Germany; it’s universally acknowledged as evil. I don’t hate the Soviet Union, although I might if I lived in Berkley. But, as a historian, I do hate the Confederacy.
The Declaration of Independence says you gotta list your grievances with the government to break away, and what exactly were the South’s?
Was it getting to count three out of every five slaves for representation in the House and Electoral College?
Was it the nine presidents and their 52 years of combined administration before 1860?
Was it the tariffs? Did the South heroically proclaim: “No taxation I don’t agree with, regardless of my amount of representation or how fair it is”?
Was it annexing Texas, or the war with Mexico to get its land?
Was it the North elevating John Brown’s death to martyrdom after he tried to start a slave rebellion in 1859 – three years after Southern Congressman Preston Brooks beat half to death Northern Senator Charles Sumner for criticizing Brooks’ uncles’ support of slavery and Southerners sent him more canes to break over Yankee heads?
Was it the poor, poor South so in danger of losing its states’ rights, while Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) and the Supreme Court decided (1857) Dredd Scott wasn’t a person, and slave-owners couldn’t be prevented from transporting their property?
Was it the assault on their liberty, these states that banned anyone from criticizing slavery and put bounties on Northerners that did the same?
Maybe it was when Abraham Lincoln won an election, didn’t do anything at all whatsoever except prove the North had united political power, and South Carolina left the Union then attacked a federal fort?
As it says in the Confederate Declaration of Independence:
“When in the course of human events you don’t get your way, whine, cry and pitch a fit, then take the ball home, and make up a game with rules you like better.”
Sons and daughters of the Confederacy: Your ancestors may have been gallant, but they fought for a cause as worthless and deplorable as it was petulant.
I thank God every day I wasn’t born a Southerner; only a few of us are lucky enough to meet the world in West Texas.
We should have listened to Sam Houston and let them sort out the whole mess without us.