Confederate Memorial Day: What It Means To me
Why observe Confederate Memorial Day? After all, they lost the war, right? A bunch of losers. Oh, and didn’t they wage war against the U.S.A.? Traitors to their own country. Should have all been hung like the criminals they were, right? And, sin of all sins, they fought to keep slavery, to continue to use whips and chains on those poor and abused Negroes. And, because of them, more than 600,000 Americans died on the battlefield and because of disease in a fairly short four year period. Why, indeed.
This subject has been discussed many times over. This writer has decided to offer his two cents worth.
A majority of the Southern men of the mid 1800’s held a very strong regional identity. A larger portion of the average person was better educated than in any time in previous history. At least as far as we know. The number of letters home, the number of diaries kept, those by the "Private" soldier, tell us this. They also tell us his reasons for joining the fight. And his reasons were many. But, almost to a person, the most common reason was Honor.
Honor is truly a mysterious thing. It is not easily defined. In the South, what might be defined as honor was different in the north. Or anywhere else in the world. Southern Honor was first defined as defence of self and family. If ever someone was even perceived as having insulted their fellow man or his family, Honor was at stake. Fights and duels have been caused this way. The famous Hatfield and McCoy feud was about Honor.
A man’s state or region was next in line. And this is where the huge, four year long duel takes place. Ever since the Colonies gained their independence from Great Britain, there have been men who were trying to set up a centralised gov’t. similar to the ones that were in Europe. Some even wanted George Washington, that great Southerner, to make himself king. The very style of gov’t. that was so detested over here- at least in the Southern states. And those who would establish a kingdom were from the north. The average Southern man of the 1860’s knew enough about this. He had studied his history.
The Southern states had been supplying the "common government" with most of the revenues for decades. Yet, had received proportionally very little in the way of benefits. The northern states had deviously worked things to its advantage while the South, naively, kept turning to that very same "common government" for redress according to the rules that both sides had originally agreed to abide by- the Constitution. Insult after insult had been hurled Southward by an increasingly dictatorial and arrogant north. It was they who annulled the Constitution in deciding which set of rules to follow. In order to keep the Union together, the South kept giving in and giving in. Finally, with the election of lincoln, the Southern states felt the life of the nation was at stake and decided to leave and take the Constitution with them.
According to the Declaration of Independence, it was assumed that they could leave peacefully. The South never wanted war. But once the lincoln regime came to realise that with the South went their money, they embarked on war, invasion, to go after their money. And, actually, it was the South’s money. But the north didn’t see it that way. More than 600,000 lives later, the north had its money and more.
But it wasn’t because the Southern men didn’t try. Vastly outnumbered, inferior industrial capacity, blockaded at sea, the Southern men, nevertheless, answered the call for the defence of their families, homes and country. Many of these men were family men. This writers own Confederate ancestor, William B. Russom, 24th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Company B, was 30 years old with three young children when he answered the call. He left the comforting arms of his wife and the adoring looks of his young’uns to put his life on the line in their defence.
HOW COULD I NOT HONOR AND REMEMBER THIS?
And remember the sin of slavery? This writers research has led him to conclude that the abolitionists were all wrong. The Southern Negro was much better off in the South than in the north. Generally, he was well regarded. If he had proven himself, he could, sometimes, go and come as he pleased. He could earn money and buy things as he pleased. And, this is the big thing, slavery would have gradually been phased out on terms that would have been beneficial to both the Negro and the owners. This would have had the desirable effect of paving the way for much better race relations today. It was the post-war occupying northerners who stoked the fires of ugly racism that has stigmatised the South ever since. The whole mess this nation has found itself in, from social issues to out-of-control government, can be laid at the feet of the northerners, who lusted after the prosperity of the South and finally waged war to take it. And, take it, they did. As a result of the Reconstruction Act of 1867, all duly elected Southern officials were removed from office, the South was divided into 5 military districts, the white Confederate male was disfranchised (had no rights), and uneducated Black men and dishonest, thieving White men (carpetbaggers, scalawags) were voted into office by uneducated, enfranchised Black men and union loyalists of the South. They proceeded to embark on a 10 year long orgy of theft and corruption that has not seen its equal in gov’t. in the U.S.A. since. Land was stolen, taxes were raised to astronomical levels, graft was common place, elections were fixed, etc. These things left the South prostrate and poverty ridden for more than 100 years. 100 years!
Learning the truth about these things has caused me to hugely respect, admire and understand sympathetically what my Southern forebears went through. I will honor my Southern Heritage for the rest of my life and will do what I can to restore the honorable place in American history they so richly deserve. I can do no less. It is a matter of honor.
Jimmie L Shirley Jr.