Civil War was about more than slavery

Darrell Huckaby

So now we have a full-blown brouhaha brewing in the General Assembly over a proposal by Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis to set the month of April aside as Confederate History and Heritage Month.

Holy 1950s, Batman!

Now when I first heard about Senator Mullis’ proposal my very first thought was, “Good luck with that.” Honesty compels me to admit that I thought — and said aloud — that O.J. would have more luck finding the “real killer” on the golf courses of America than Jeff Mullis would have getting the Georgia Legislature to admit that there had ever even been a Confederate States of America — much less set aside an entire month to honor its heroes.

That is just so out of date, don’t you know — not to mention politically incorrect. The trend, in fact, has been heading in the exact opposite direction for a long time now, and any mention of the recent unpleasantness between the North and South can have only one connotation in the 21st Century. We all know what that connotation is and it has nothing to do with courage or valor or honor or any other high-sounding, idealistic descriptive words that my generation was taught to associate with the men who wore the gray and butternut.

No. The words more likely to be associated with those people in today’s politically and, dare I say, racially-charged climate, are misguided and unenlightened, to those who are trying to walk a tightrope stretched high above a chasm of misplaced sensitivity.

Those who don’t know any better or simply don’t care about truth and accuracy and history, in fact, call them much worse names — like misfits and traitors.

You see, at some point over the past 40 years or so we have allowed society to rewrite history and make the entire War Between the States about slavery — pure and simple. If you believe what people want you to believe, the only reason the South declared her independence from the North was to maintain the peculiar institution of slavery. The only reason Lincoln resisted was so he could free the slaves. Every southern soldier who fought and died was fighting and dying so that he could continue to own other human beings. Every Union soldier who fought and died fought and died to free slaves.

The people who espouse these views generally campaign for the removal of the names Lee and Jackson and Stuart and Davis from all streets and boulevards and would probably favor legislation to remove all Confederate monuments from public display. I have known people who refuse to attend Stone Mountain Park because of the carving displayed there.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it is based on historic inaccuracies. The people who preach this gospel don’t know, or choose to ignore, the facts of history, and either can’t or won’t allow themselves to examine the myriad of very complex issues that surrounded the tragic period in our nation’s past that historians call the Civil War.

And politicians and business leaders and other public figures — scared to death of offending someone — just cower and back down and avoid having any dialogue about the issue whatsoever, in fear of being painted with the same brush previously reserved for Ku Kluxers and other hate mongers who hijacked the Confederate battle flag and made it their own 50 years ago.

Well, the fact of the matter is that a lot of Georgians and a lot of Southerners are proud of the fact that their forefathers had enough courage to follow the advice of Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve their political bands which have connected them with another . . . they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.”

Slavery was one of the issues that impelled them to separate — but it was only one. A full 90 percent of the men who served in the Confederate Army never owned slaves. Union commander U.S. Grant, on the other hand, did.

To say that we should ignore the efforts of the brave sons of the South because slavery existed in the Southern states is as ludicrous as refusing to honor Washington or Jefferson or even Grant because they owned slaves.

Really, y’all. Everything isn’t about slavery — and it hasn’t existed in Georgia for 142 years. So while I still don’t think there is enough political courage left in our state Legislature for Senator Mullis’ bill to pass, at least perhaps it will open some healthy dialogue — and perhaps a few eyes along the way.

And by the way, it has made it out of committee, which is a start.

Maybe there is hope after all — and maybe my son, Jackson Lee, won’t be forced to undergo a name change, at least not for another decade or so, anyway.

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