Reply to Freeman Letter of 3 May
From: Jessie H.Riggs Jr.
Sent: Thursday, May 04, 2006

After reading Mr. Harry Freeman’s letter in the 3 May edition and as a person who was actually AT and participated in the Confederate Decoration Day ceremony at Friendship Cemetery, I felt the need to reply.

Indeed, as he says in the first line of his letter, ‘It just never stops’. The Dispatch has the unmitigated gall to report on what actually happened at our dignified and respectful ceremony and here comes one of the frothing-at-the-mouth, Ken Burns-educated, ‘new Southerners’ who, as Freeman himself says, don’t understand what the term ‘heritage’ means. I’m not surprised, the way history is distorted in public schools and universities today. People who can’t find their own state on a map seem to know all about what caused the War Between the States.

For the umpteen thousandth time, yes, slavery was one of the underlying causes of the war – but mixed in with larger issues of state’s rights, unbalanced tariffs, the Constitution, and cultural differences brought over from the Old World. It was not the overriding cause of the war, and wasn’t even a military or political concern of the North until midway through the conflict. Iowa farm boys and Maine fishermen did not go to war in 1861 to end slavery. If it came down to preserving the Union or freeing the slaves, the slaves usually lost out. Read the entire Emancipation Proclamation sometime, not just the parts you like.

The ceremony on 25 April honored the citizen-soldiers from all over the South who sacrificed everything for their home states. It was their love of home and freedom as they saw it – not slavery, or Jefferson Davis, or any obscure political idea – that made them fight. They fought for their state, because back then the state was their country. The South lost the war, and paid for it with over 480,000 killed and wounded. Every time a letter such as yours appears, Southerners are expected to don sackcloth and ashes and beg forgiveness for being Southern. I believe one day a year can be reserved honor fallen ancestors – other segments of the population get an entire month to celebrate their moments in history, warts and all. And the Nazi/Jewish comparison to Southern history was grasping, in bad taste, and shows a lack of knowledge on both subjects.

Terry Lee Edgerton’s quote that blacks should be flying the Confederate flag was related to the common bond that black and white Southerners have as a result of surviving the war and the rough period of so-called Reconstruction afterwards. H. K. Edgerton noted that in light of everything happening in the country lately, blacks and whites must stand together now or lose everything that successive generations have fought for. Respect is the watchword – respect for everyone’s unique heritage – from all sides – as well as respect for the shared heritage of the Southern experience.

Jessie Riggs
Caledonia, MS

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