Posted By:Ishmael Williams
Subject:Re: Good Guys and Bad Guys
Post Date:January 13, 2004 at 05:57:41
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Forum:Southern Unionist Forum
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Mike - Perhaps this is a question for the Civil War forum rather than Southern Unionist forum, but I will try to give you an answer here. As the descendant of southern confederates (and one or two who avoided enlistment and one who was a unionist) who grew up in north Georgia where Sherman also marched and burned and where battlefield sites dot the landscape, I too find it difficult to explain the Civil War to youngsters and even teenagers who have a hard time understanding the ambiguities of the war and their ancestor's sacrifice for what was a lost cause. If they are not totally disinterested (most often the case) in what happened before they were born, they either seem to take the "good northern pro-union -- bad southern slavers" perspective which I guess is taught in school these days or the opposite unrepentent stars and bars flag waving "forgit hell no" attitude which is popular among some in the south these days who focus more on the "heroic" sacrifice of southerners for the lost cause of liberty against northern aggression and evade the issue of the awful policy of slavery and the use of the flag in the 20th century in the service of racism.

These issues are way too complicated to debate here or discuss with a pre-teen, but I'll just say that I try to make sure my youngsters understand that the war was a national tragedy and that no one is a good guy or bad guy; that our southern ancestors enlisted because like the generation before them who fought for the revolutionary cause of a free America, they believed they were protecting their state, their communities, and their homes from a threat to their liberty; that back then folks held loyalty to their native states and states rights higher than duty to country and centralized government; that while slavery was a big political issue in the war, that our ancestors didn't own them but rather (like most soldiers were not that political) fought out of duty for patriotic reasons and that they and their families sacrificed and suffered much both in the army and at home; that they fought hard and bravely for many years often under difficult odds; but when the war was over, they accepted defeat honorably, came home weary and tired from war and suffering, and picked up the pieces and worked very hard to rebuild their communities and care for their families and start new lives as citizens of the US which their sons and grandsons protected bravely in subsequent wars.