Confederate monuments honor the common man
Oct 15, 2017
I am writing this letter in response to an editorial by Judy Baker. Like Baker, I am a proud Southerner. I was born in Burlington. I raised my family here. Both sides of my family have been in North Carolina for more than 300 years. I had ancestors who plowed a living out of the wilderness. I had ancestors who fought on the side of the Regulators at Alamance and later in the revolution. And yes, I had ancestors that fought for the Old North State in the so-called civil war. You might say I am vested in the community.
North Carolina was one of the last states to secede from the federal union. Twice prior to her actual secession she had declined to hold a secession vote because she did want to stay in the union. She only decided to leave (along with Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee) after shots were exchanged at Fort Sumter. When President Lincoln called for North Carolina to supply troops to suppress South Carolina, she refused. She felt that it was unconstitutional for the general government to coerce a state. She knew that remaining neutral was no longer an option. She was about to be attacked by the same government she had a hand in forming.
North Carolina was also one of the last states to ratify the constitution. She was afraid of trading that newly won freedom for rule by another tyrant close to home. She refused to ratify it until the bill of rights was added. She did not believe that ratification of the constitution meant relinquishing her sovereignty. The deed to the state had never been purchased by nor relinquished to the general government. The act of secession should not have resulted in a war to enforce a voided contract.
No state gave more to the Confederacy in supplies, money, or men. We supplied almost twice the men for the South as any other state. The conflict touched every community. Out of 125,000 men who left for war, more than 40,000 never came back. We lost 300 in Alamance County. Whether they volunteered or were conscripted matters little. When the state asked, they went. They did their duty for their state regardless of any reservations they may have had.
Baker and others make the assertion that our Confederate statue, as well as others, was erected as a symbol of white supremacy and not to commemorate our brave soldiers. I disagree. It was erected to remember the fallen and to honor all that served. While you can find evidence of racism throughout history, I find no ties of supremacist groups to our monument.
Our monument was raised during a time when hundreds of monuments were being erected across the South. That time was when most of the old veterans were dying and the younger people wanted to honor them, much the same as with WWII veterans today. The generation that lived through it did not need reminders. During Reconstruction (military occupation), any tribute to Confederate soldiers would have been impossible to erect. Also for the generation of the war there was no money for anything as frivolous as a monument. It took nine years of collecting pennies, nickels, and dimes to raise the $2,200 for our monument. The war broke the South and it has been a poorer region ever since. Any perceived correlation between the erection of monuments and white supremacy movements is purely academic and upholds the first rule of statistics: correlation does not imply cause.
We have been a divided country since our founding; Patriots vs. Tories, Federalist vs. Anti-federalist, Jefferson vs. Hamilton, North vs. South, not to mention our political parties. Some things cannot be reconciled. That doesn’t mean we cannot live together and agree to disagree. We are still fighting the war over the narrative. Obviously everyone’s perspective is different, but the victor always controls the history.
We fought for the Constitution as we understood it. We fought for what we thought was right. We fought to protect home and family. These things need no apology. The cause may have been lost, but that doesn’t make these reasons any less valid. People with no ties here may not understand or care. If it is not your heritage you are not vested in it. That being said, these men deserve honor of their service and sacrifice. If we do not honor our own it is for sure that no one else will.
Mitchell S. Flinchum