oped: Just for the record Note: The Congress of the Confederate States of America did not authorize African-Americans to enlist until General Order No. 14 was issued on March 23, 1865. However, prior to March 1865, each state in the Confederacy was sovereign and independent; thus, Confederate Officers were at liberty to enlist based on the Confederate legislation of their respective states. As an example, the Confederate legislature of Tennessee passed an act impressing all male free persons of color between the ages of fifteen and fifty. Thus, Confederate Soldier Service Records provide vital genealogical data for many family historians
[Yes there were black confederate soldiers and some were commissioned as officers] [Not so in the Union Army of the North..black soldiers could only become non-commissioned officers]
The latest Confederate flag controversy may be too difficult for flag supporters to resist, like a wave crashing on the beach, the tsunami of attacks against the old battle flag may be too much for many Southerners to bear. This isn't the first time that the flag has faced attack, but this time just feels different. This time feels like it really may be the last time. Sure, they may not be able to ban the flag, but they can turn it into a pariah, forcing anyone who flies the flag into second-class citizenship. I think that the battle for the Southern Cross may be a losing one, but a greater battle still rages, the battle for an untainted history.
Along with the attacks on the Confederate battle flag, the media and liberals have joined forces to attack any and all things bearing any connection to the Confederacy. War memorials, historical sites, cemeteries, highways, buildings, and on and on it goes. If something is named after a Confederate soldier or is in honor of a Confederate soldier, then it is in danger of attack.
The latest case in point comes from the US Military who have been inundated with demands that they change the names of military bases which were named after Confederate Generals! Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Hood in Texas, for example, are all named after Confederate leaders who were both respected and beloved throughout the South and in the military.
Thankfully it seems that the Pentagon and the US Army are ready to defend those bases and the honor of the men they were named after. The Army does not look at the men that these bases were named after as simply "Confederate" Generals, but as American military icons.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost said "Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history. Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. It should be noted that the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division."
There has to be a line drawn, hasn't there? I understand the reticence with flying the Confederate flag in public places, but these people are part of our shared history. They are part of the very fabric of our nation and they deserve a place in our story, because they did play an important, even vital, role in that narrative. Men like Nathan Bedford Forrest should be remembered – in spite of the fact that he founded the Ku Klux Klan. John Bell Hood, James Longstreet, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Braxton Bragg, and especially the great Robert E. Lee (who thought slavery an evil sin and a burden on our nation).
… In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former.
--- In a letter to Mary Anna Lee from December 1856
So, is it okay to honor Lee? Or is every Confederate soldier, even the anti-slavery ones, tainted with the sins of racism and slavery?
This is our history, and yes, some of it is very ugly – but there is no nation that does not own some ugliness in its past. Erasing it from memory serves no one; in fact it's only by remembering well our past that we can hope to avoid repeating those very same mistakes. In this case, the mistake we should fear repeating isn't necessarily racism or slavery (though we should avoid those), but the mistakes of considering some in our society lower than others. Many liberals look at those who might defend Southern culture as backwards and uneducated. They make a dangerous miscalculation.
The men and women who lived through the Civil War deserve more than to be erased from our history. They deserve to be remembered for their accomplishments and their contributions to the path we've all trod. Tear down the flag in public places if you must, but leave our history alone.