MEMORIAL DAY IS ABOUT REMEMBERING WHY THEY FOUGHT

West face of the Civil War Unknowns Monument (click to enlarge)
For the unknown dead of the American Civil War (from here)

There is much energy spent these days trying to bury any attempt to honor the heroes who fought for the Confederate States of America.

We get blatantly inflammatory rhetoric from some.

In June 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine black parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. That hate crime prompted South Carolina to remove the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the state capitol, and communities throughout the country debated the continued presence of monuments to the Confederacy in the public square. That December, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed an ordinance to remove four monuments. These include statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as a commemoration of those who opposed Reconstruction. Over the past several weeks, after one monument was removed, a number of demonstrations and counterdemonstrations have rocked the city; at least five people have been arrested, and law enforcement has expressed concern over the number of heavily armed demonstrators. Landrieu says that he plans to take down the remaining three. (continued here)

Some tend to observe and wonder about the wisdom.

Police were on hand for each removal, often in the dead of the night, and residents on both sides of the debate frequently clashed. But despite the controversy, and despite a flurry of legal maneuvers to stop removal, the monuments are now gone, stored in secret until the city council agrees on their future use.

“The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity,” declared Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a speech the same day. “It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.” (from here)

Others remind us that the rebels who fought for the Confederacy are our brothers and sisters too. James C. Roberts, president of the American Veterans Center, the organization that produces the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C., retells a story in Memorial Day must honor all of America’s fallen. Here is how he introduces that story.

The Civil War was an interfamily war that not only divided the country, but which also set brother against brother. A story that personifies the tragic internecine split involves my alma mater, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A story told best by the late Philip Shriver, a former president of the university. Located only 37 miles north of Cincinnati, which is across the Ohio River from the slave-holding state of Kentucky, Miami was probably more affected by the Civil War than any other college. Twenty-five percent of the student body at the time came from below the Mason-Dixon line and the Civil War split the Miami faculty and student body (then male-only), many whom went on to serve in the military of both sides. Amazingly the alumni of this small institution produced 10 generals in the Union army, three generals in the Confederate army, two of three of the Union’s Navy’s admirals, two of Lincoln’s Cabinet members and six of the 33 governors. (from here)

It is worth remembering that the Civil War monuments scattered across our nation were built to honor the bravery and the devotion of dead. They were not constructed in devotion to slavery or in hatred. They were built because brave people fought, for good or ill, as best they knew how. Slavery split the nation, but slavery is not why people fought with such ferocity. The North fought to hold a fragile nation together. The rebels fought to protect to protect their homeland from what they saw as an invasion.

To settle the war, each side had to forgive the other. That is why Abraham Lincoln ended his 2nd Inaugural Address with these words.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. (from here)

Memorial Day is not just a time to remember. It is also a time to forgive.

Consider the nature of the memorial shown above (click to enlarge it).

U.S. Army troops were dispatched to investigate every battlefield within a 35-mile (56 km) radius of the city of Washington, D.C. The bodies of 2,111 Union and Confederate dead were collected, most of them from the battlefields of First and Second Bull Run as well as the Union army’s retreat along the Rappahannock River (which occurred after both battles). Some of the dead had been interred on the battlefield, but most were full or partial remains discovered unburied on the field of battle. None were identifiable. Although Meigs had not intended to collect the remains of Confederate war dead, the inability to identify remains meant that both Union and Confederate dead were interred below the cenotaph. (from here)

To give honor to their fallen heroes, the builders of this memorial also had to honor the fallen heroes of the South.  So they did. If they, with their loved ones freshly dead could forgive, what is stopping us?

42 thoughts on “MEMORIAL DAY IS ABOUT REMEMBERING WHY THEY FOUGHT

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  1. Amen Tom—
    it is absolutely mind blowing to me how we just want to rewrite or even erase what is simply another piece of the puzzle of what has made us us…
    It’s like I’ve said—be they Yankee or Confederate—they were fighting for a way of life that was what they knew…nothing more, nothing less.
    The Southerners were raised in a deeply agricultural way of living—long before the days of the grocery belt of California—the South provided the Nation with the majority of all things agricultural… from tobacco to cotton, to fruits, nuts and vegetables, plus it was a more readily base of import for the sugar cane from the Caribbean ….and laborers were required to keep that “machine” running—now whereas slavery is indeed a heinous wrong—man has been enslaving man since shortly after the Fall….so to think that our Confederacy had invented that notion of “evil” is ignorance—and the war was fought not merely as a means to end slavery–for it was a much deeper reasoning, with many facets besides the idea of slavery…slavery was just one aspect and yet over time it has become the seemingly only aspect.
    To think that we should now dismantle reminders of a particular time period, albeit a dark one at that, in the name of advancement and development, dismantling a piece from the growing of our democracy, is in itself a huge act of mis-justice.
    It is ignorance on our own part—a capitulation to the voices of a land enslaved to all things politically correct—
    For these monuments to the men who fought and who lead and who died, no matter what side they were leading, fighting or representing, is a part of our history and it would behoove us to know that Americans have always risen to the cause…their cause…be it misguided or virtuous…it is historical, it is not always a proud history, but it is our history and if we erase it now…will future generation have nothing as a reminder and therefore be apt to repeat what once was….makes me wonder…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. @Julie

      Thank you for a thoughtful comment.

      Why do people want to rewrite history? Is there anything noble about it? No, but some seem to think otherwise.

      Don’t we know that our memory, including what we remember of history, provides the data we use to make decisions? When we make decisions about what our government will do and how our government achieve its goals, don’t we all have to turn to history to understand what is needed and what will work?

      You were a teacher. Then you probably know better than I the controversies over what is taught in the classroom. To make certain that other people’s children learn what they think they ought to learn, activists campaign relentlessly. Yet parents, not activists, ought to decide such things. Is it not obvious that no one ought to be indoctrinating other people’s children to suit their own agenda? Still, it is so difficult to keep our government from running the school system.

      Time has shown we can rewrite the past, and we can teach that edited past to children and young adults. Time has also shown it does no good. We can the truth and substitute our own “truth”, but nothing good ultimately comes from lies. Someone may experience a moment of happiness, but that happiness fades. For awhile, for example, a new Socialist program will work, but sooner or latter, the money runs out.

      So what do those Civil War monuments have to teach us? Why memorialize rebels? What is true about those monuments? Each portrays a tragic hero. A brave man. Intelligent and even noble. With amazing perseverance these men and their ladies fought to make their land the home of almost four million slaves. Why? Why sacrifice so much? Why did they fail so miserably to honestly examine the wrongness of what they were doing?

      Black, white, yellow or red we can study the character of men like Robert E. Lee or “Stonewall” Jackson. We can admire the integrity of these men. We can also put ourselves in their shoes, and we can ask, “what makes me think I would have done any better than they did?”

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I have difficulty imagining being in Grant’s or Sherman’s shoes, but I think I understand why they did what they did.

          There is an old book written by a Chinese general, On War by Sun Tzu. One point he made is that you must do what you must do to get the war over with. The longer it goes on the more people die. As cruel as Grant and Sherman may have seemed, they forced an end to it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. My parents were from Wisconsin and Indiana, but I have lived most of my life in the South. So I have good idea how Southerners feel about the Civil War.

          These days I live close to the Mananas Battlefield Park. When people think about the Civil War, few focus on slavery. Most are just amazed by the conflict itself.

          Of course, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era and such followed on its heels, but I think the war stands apart as something altogether different.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. @marmoewp

          Most Americans are aware of the fact slavery split the North and the South. In that respect I am blessed. I have lived in Northern Virginia for years. I can drive in any direction, and without much effort I can find some relic preserved from the Civil War.

          So we know the war was about slavery. Try listening to a reenactment of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. It becomes obvious. The issue of slavery was all those two men debated, and it was for seven long debates.

          Without slavery the North became very different in character from the South. Try to imagine a Roman Empire without slaves. Would such a empire have been at odds with a Roman Empire with slaves?

          Slavery is an old evil. To wrest our nation from it, hundreds of thousands died in a bloody war. Yeah. Even after so many years we know what it was about.

          Most don’t realize just how much blacks suffered in the aftermath. The war, including Sherman’s March, wrecked the South. Men who have lived all their lives constantly at another man’s beck and call often don’t know how to run their own lives. And the whites in the South were more inclined to exploit than help. How many died just because of severe poverty? I don’t know.

          The whole thing was a bloody mess that still drags on. We have not changed very much. People are always trying to exploit someone. The latest in this country is illegal or poor immigrants for cheap labor.

          Still, you think it important to point your finger at those Southern gentlemen who fought as rebels. I suspect, like the rest of us, you would be better served if you examined your own imperfections first.

          Like

        4. Men who have lived all their lives constantly at another man’s beck and call often don’t know how to run their own lives.
          And were derided for trying, when they made the sensible decision to farm melons and chicken.
          https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/12/how-watermelons-became-a-racist-trope/383529/

          Still, you think it important to point your finger at those Southern gentlemen who fought as rebels. I suspect, like the rest of us, you would be better served if you examined your own imperfections first.
          I think it is important to point the finger at those who celebrate a whitewashed version of history. How many memorials are there in the South commemorating the valiant fighters defending their homes against the Nothern Aggression? How many are there to commemorate lynchings and slave sales? Remind me next time I commemorate the Polish attack on Germany that started WWII and the valiant self-defense my grandparents put up. I’m glad we have some Stolpersteine and other memorials as a constant reminder of the crimes of my ancestors. That does not mean I do not mourn the loss of most of these people and all those lives that were wasted. It does stop me from glorifying them, though.

          You are right: Memorial Day is about remembering why they fought … and what they faught for.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. @marmoewp

          Have you ever read Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville. Alexis De Tocqueville was a French aristocrat who rode around America on horseback for a couple years in the 1830’s. He saw the racism. He saw the differences between the North and South. He saw it would come to no good.

          When people think they are doing the right thing the right way, that does not mean they are, and that is true of any of us. You may wish to read the story behind that old Christian hymn by John Newton, “Amazing Grace”.

          When I was growing up, I went to school in both the North and the South. I was bussed to integrate schools. I watched the news during the civil rights movement. I saw how people reacted. What was the biggest problem with whitewashing history? Government-run schools. They don’t encourage children to read what the people of the time wrote. That would be too controversial. We get text books that tell us what to think instead.

          Like

        6. Here are a couple different versions of the tale.
          => http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1701-1800/john-newton-discovered-amazing-grace-11630253.html

          => http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/pastorsandpreachers/john-newton.html

          Monuments, until they fall apart, corrode, or are destroyed stand as the testimony of the past both for and against itself. Sometimes it is best to take a monument down; usually it best to leave it standing. I suspect the monuments that men build to honor an idea or people they admire are best left standing. Symbols of arrogance, such as the statue a “great” leader has built to display his glory, are probably best torn down. Such proud displays by men who are all too often murderers are probably too much to ask most people to bear in their sight every day.

          Monuments to war dead or to men that many regard as stalwart leaders are another matter. The point of such monuments is honor the virtues those people displayed. Never fear, their detractors will keep their faults alive too. Like a two-edge sword, monuments keep alive both the memories some cherish and the memories some do not.

          I seriously doubt John Newton was proud remembered as the captain of a slave ship. Yet he gave the glory to God.

          Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
          That sav’d a wretch like me!
          I once was lost, but now am found,
          Was blind, but now I see.

          To be right with God, Newton had to admit he was wrong. The same is true of all of us. Whenever we lose sight of the way, to see the way we must repent. Whenever we stumble and fall, to stand up again, we must forgive and ask for forgiveness.

          Like

        7. a great deal of what I ever say about the south is very tongue and cheek–for being someone who grew up my entire life in the south, I understand “south”…our humor, our mistakes, our mindset, our gifts, our curses…but as a well traveled, well educated, well read and lover of all things historical individual–I’m well aware of the egregious acts of human beings–you need to remember that as a person who grew up in the midsts of the civil rights movements—who was more child than adult—the unfairness and the outright hatred made a lasting impression on me—as in how could one human treat another human being in such a fashion…
          As a Christian I am even more aware of my own fallibilities….but I am aware also of forgiveness and grace—and that was what this post was mostly about—forgiveness…
          It is not for me to argue the monuments planners or their motives as that was a time long before my own—but I see each monument as a piece of what was—and I am an ardent believer in the importance of knowing what was…lest what was becomes the what is of a future generation

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Julie, “We” don’t want to rewrite or erase portions of history. It is just a limited group of powerful individuals crazed with political correctness. History is what it is, whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not. We must always learn from history–the good, the bad, and the ugly. No one should ever tamper with historical accuracy. There are many reason to resist tampering. Here’s just one:

      Liberals and Islamists destroy historical artifacts, effectively rewriting history. All cultures need to be sustained by their heroes. Cultural memory is an anchor. If Christians don’t hold up Christian history for others to see, on one else will. If we lose Christian history, our culture will lose Christianity and God’s blessings that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Many very well known people have made and repeatedly reaffirmed two very important observations:

      1) Freedom is a gift from God, not a grant from government.
      2) “The Constitution was written for governing a moral and religious people and is wholly unsuitable for any other.” The John Adams quote has been echoed by many others down through the centuries.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. @Dr. Lloyd Stebbins

        Thanks for adding your two cents. It is certainly worth more than that.

        There are way too many people who think government gives us our freedom these days, and there are way too many people who think if it feels good they ought to do it. What these people were taught and what they learned is not true.

        Like

  2. As much as I favored the Yankee cause and have always been terribly disappointed that the great Robert E. Lee went home to fight for his native state of Virginia…

    …the people of the South were Americans.

    And it should give all Americans pause how for the last couple of decades, the South has been invaded by northern leftists fighting their own civil war.

    And as with our entire country, the left is in the process of wiping out any memory of the real America.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @silenceofmind

      I suspect you will appreciate this reply. Whenever I get the chance — an excuse — I try to explain what studying history is really about. If we want to understand people long gone, we need to read the books they left behind, not just history books men and women alive today have written about them.

      Whenever possible, if we want the truth, we should question the witnesses ourselves.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. As someone who lived his entire life in the North I am conflicted about this issue.

    Part of me says this is none of my business. This is Southern culture. Let them figure this out for themselves. I don’t get a vote.

    The other part of me says these monuments should have never existed in the first place. We fought a war over this and THE SOUTH LOST…BADLY! Why on earth should the victors of any war allow a defeated enemy to erect monuments to themselves…in the victor’s own country!

    I defer to the former. These monuments are not threat to anyone, and in some ways promote healing. We cannot erase history. In the end it’s not my place to be telling someone half a country away what is an acceptable expression.

    Hopefully they can relocate these monuments to private property and come to some compromise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of the problem is that the monuments are often located in cities that are often run by blacks. Given the history and the indoctrination they have received in schools run by Democrats Liberals,….. Well, Democrat Liberals still behave like Democrats. Somehow, some way they never give up fighting the Civil War.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think, you may be in need of more “inflammatory rhethoric”, as you chose poorly on which hill you are willing to die on. The four monuments being removed in New Orleans were erected at a time, when revisionist history and racism were in power in the South. They were erected by white supremacists, in part as a reminder to the black population on who was in power, despite having lost the war. Most blatantly, the plaque commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place read:

    United States Troops took over the State Government and reinstated the usurpers, but the national election November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.

    Is that really what you want celebrated? Is that, what you think is worth commemorating? I would not think so.

    It does matter, what side in a conflict you decide to fight for. It did in the American Civil War, it did in WWII.

    Like

    1. @marmoewp
      I hate to say it, but it was only a matter of degree. Most of the country — most of the world — was and still is full of supremacists of some sort. Even most of the people who wanted to get rid of slavery did not think blacks the equals of whites. Given the Democratic Party still practices the soft bigotry of low expectations,…well, let’s get to your point.

      Given Reconstruction immediately followed the Civil War, and there was no wealth to spare to build monuments, those monuments could not have built much sooner than they were built. So cut the nonsense with the dates.

      During Reconstruction, two words were used to describe the people working with the Yankees: scalawags (=> http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=scalawag), and carpetbaggers (=> http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=carpetbagger). Let it suffice to say that the South was a mess during Reconstruction. Southerners did not believe they had done anything wrong. Still, instead of just freeing the slaves turning control of the government back to the people of the state as quickly as possible, Republicans tried to put people who had not rebelled in charge. That did not work well. The blacks were not educated. So that left, at least as far as the Southerners were concerned, three dubious groups in charge: blacks, scalawags and carpetbaggers.

      Effectively, three things were accomplished during Reconstruction.
      1. The North got the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments passed.
      2. Republicans gave up on the blacks and brought the troops home.
      3. Southern white men felt justified in thinking blacks incompetent.

      Three of the four monuments are for war heroes. In hindsight, it is easy to see those men picked the wrong side, but otherwise they were gentlemen.

      The Liberty Place monument is for an event that happened during Reconstruction. So it is not a Civil War monument, and nobody celebrates it on Memorial Day. However, the Democrats did drag it into the discussion. Do I really have to explain why?

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on WyldKat's Lair and commented:
    Another well written post by Citizen Tom.

    “Memorial Day is not just a time to remember. It is also a time to forgive.” ‘It is worth remembering that the Civil War monuments scattered across our nation were built to honor the bravery and the devotion of dead. They were not constructed in devotion to slavery or in hatred. They were built because brave people fought, for good or ill, as best they knew how.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have wondered why we hate the Southerners so much. Were they any worse than Julius Caesar or Augustus? We study the Romans in history. We seem to revere them. We know they had slaves, that they killed thousands of people in their quest to expand. We know they slaughtered Christians. What makes the Southerners so much worse that we tear down anything that shows them as humans?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and might I add those splendid Egyptian pyramids were built on the backs of Jewish slaves—seems we’ve been building monument on the backs of all sort of enslaved folks…
      but one thing about a monument—it makes us stop and think of days long past yet still very much a running thread to the history of human nature

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Familiarity breeds contempt, I suppose.

      Without much fuss apparently, Romans and the Greeks enslaved people like themselves. It may seem absurd now, but Southerners had themselves convinced that blacks were inferior. Truth be told that belief was common both in the North and the South.

      My mother was as gentle a soul as I have ever known. My father and mother both detested racial bigotry. Living in Mississippi they knew what it was. Still, neither was comfortable with the idea of interracial marriage. We can look at black and whites, compare and contrast, and point out distinct differences. Are those differences substantial? Well, they certainly don’t justify slavery, and that was far as most of the people in the North had gotten.

      The Bible may say race and sex does not matter, that we are all the children of God, but that is not something we accept without a struggle, one that never actually ends.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Saddam Hussein and Stalin statures were torn down. We cannot make history disappear by tearing down statues. History is supposed to record both the good and the bad so as not to repeat the folly and to emulate the wisdom of the past.

    Problem is when you destroy history, new generations keep appearing. Will they make the same mistakes in history as King Solomon observed, or will they be reminded not to repeat the past?

    No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. (Ecclesiastes 1:11)

    In my opinion, we should keep up all reminders of the good and evil and explain the truthful consequences of their wisdom and folly so we are reminded not to repeat the folly and hopefully learn and emulate their wisdom.

    The problem is to tell the truth of history which unfortunately somehow becomes distorted to promote agendas.

    What the world needs now in addition to love is wisdom.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree it says it “all”. There are no monuments to the slave history? What BS! Which museum did he mention? Visit a colonial era or presidential home in Virginia and you will find out about the slave quarters.

      He says a great nation does not hide its history and then he proceeds to hide the portion he does not like.

      Look at the history of the world. The Romans put rebels on crosses. They were brutal slaveholders. The Aztecs sacrificed people. Many of our ancestors — my ancestors — were quite capable of being vile monsters. Pogroms against Jews. Religious warfare. Sacrificing a woman at the death of a chieftain? Did you know the Druids engaged in human sacrifice?

      The Confederacy is part of the history of the South. It is part of the history of our country. Like it or not, those men were admired and they were admirable. Perfect? No. They didn’t play jazz.
      🙄

      Like

      1. Tom,

        I will refer you to my reply to Debbie L. on your newest post.

        As I said there, I think that in order to understand why these monuments were taken down, it is important to also understand the history of when and why they were erected in the first place. For example, even though he was slave holder and had a notorious reputation for oppression of native Americans, they did not take down Andrew Jackson’s statue in Jackson Square. Why? Because that monument was put up to honor Jackson’s victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans, not to honor slave holding and the genocide of native Americans.

        Also, as a Federalist who believes in local control, what is it to you that the people of New Orleans, through the democratic and representative process, decided that these monuments do not genuinely represent what their city stands for and honors, but are instead a dark reflection of mistaken past beliefs? Relics of monstrosities past have historical value and should be preserved, but we do not continue to treat them as examples to be admired and revered. Stonehenge is worth preserving for its archeological value, but we do not admire and honor the Druid human sacrifice. If these statues have the same sort of archeological historic value (unlikely though that seems) then by all means, place them in a meusum giving the sad context of when and why they were erected. In other words, let them tell their real history, not a made up one designed really just to cow the black people of New Orleans.

        Like

        1. @Tony

          Here is the relevant post => https://citizentom.com/2017/05/30/how-to-demonize-the-opposition-and-sound-inclusive-tolerant-liberal-progressive/

          Given what Democrat Liberals do to rationalizing their party’s history, their twisting the the Constitution, and the failures of their socialist programs, what would be the point of paying any attention to the mayor’s historical explanation of why he wants to get the rid of those monuments? The cult of the lost cause? Give me break! That’s in the same vein as the conspiracy theories about Trump colluding with the Russians.

          Why am I interested in the issue? I live in Virginia. I don’t want to see this idiocy catch on. Why are you interested?

          Like

    2. The quote from Abraham Lincoln was just twisted. Read the The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln did not condemn the dead Confederates.

      It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

      He said honored dead. He excluded no one.

      Like

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