Confederate Remembrance… a right or a privilege?

Posted on September 26, 2008 by

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I was going to post something else about layers in flags, but I just lost interest in that. Instead, I’m going to pose a question…

Is Confederate remembrance a right or a privilege?

No, seriously… (and this demands serious and thoughtful answers… not rants).

At what point did some of those who partake in Confederate remembrance forget a very generous postwar policy (or why is it that some who partake only remember what they want?) On a side-note, anybody want to tell me who made that policy possible? Anybody want to tell me who denigrates the key person made that policy possible?

Let me bring to light some comments from a person who earned the right to voice an opinion about Confederate remembrance (by the way, I’ve used this quote before in a post several months ago)…

… regarding the war from a moral and political standpoint, it sometimes seems as if the war did not last long enough. It took years of the terrible scourge of war, it would appear, to convince the people of the seceded states, and to wring from them the acknowledgement that they were better off without slavery than with it. And perhaps if the war had lasted a little longer, and the Rebels had felt still further the scourge of war, those who now have so much respectful regard for the flag of treason, and the Lost Cause and their defenders, might have finally become convinced that one flag and one cause and its defenders are enough to honor; and that there should be no place in the patriotic regard and affection of the people in this free land of ours for the Rebel flag, the Lost Cause or their defenders. Big as this country is it ought to be too little to give room for any display of honor to the Rebel flag, the Lost Cause, or their champions, dead or alive. Therefore, no soldier who would be faithful to his country and the cause for which he fought should join in any ceremony of decorating Rebel graves, of holding reunions with Rebels, or of putting up monuments to them.

     A few years since Gen. Sherman, at a Soldiers’ reunion said that it was commendable to decorate Union soldiers’ graves, to encourage reunions and to put up soldiers’ monuments, as to do these things was to create and nurture a patriotic sentiment. Granting the truth of this, it follows then as the night follows the day that to take part in these or similar ceremones, when done in honor of or with Rebels distinctively as such, in contradistinction to being Union soldiers or citizens, is to engender and to nurture disloyalty. No Union soldier should do it. The reason given by those of them who do so, is that they wish to remove the animosities of the war, and to cultivate a fraternal feeling between the sections. The motive is good, but is it not paying too dearly for kindly feeling and fraternal regard when they are obtained at the cost of the inculcation of disloyalty?

     The people of the late seceded States claim to be now as loyal as those of the rest of the Union, but while there is a growing improvement in respect to the loyalty of the former, there is too much of the old disloyal spirit among them yet. Many instances might be given; but only that of the utterance of the following sentiment by Gen. Early at the unveiling of the monument erected in 1891 to the memory of “Stonewall” Jackson, and the manner in which it was received, is given: “If I am ever known to repudiate the cause for which Lee fought and Jackson died,” said Early, “may the lightning of heaven blast me, and the scorn of all brave men and good women be my portion.” According to the Charlottesville, (Va.) Chronicle, from which the above quotation is taken, this sentiment was cheered by twenty thousand throats. The fair inference is that Gen. Early and those cheering his sentiment are as much Rebels as they ever were.

     The same newspaper above named says that there were ten thousand Union soldiers present at the unveiling of this monument. While the loyal sentiment of the land thus suffers the inculcation of treason, and itself to be insulted by demonstrations like that of the unveiling of the monument referred to, and others of similar character in honor of late Rebels or the cause for which they fought, by those who lately bore arms against the government – there is no obligation of good feeling or of fraternity that demands of Union soldiers the countenancing and aiding of these traitor-breeding demonstrations, by their presence at them. It is to be hoped that the country is to be spared the humiliating spectacle of many more such disgusting manifestations of falsity on the part of the Union soldiers to the cause for which they fought, as that it had to witness at the unveiling of the monument erected to the memory of “Stonewall” Jackson at Lexington, Va.

This is a quote from William Hewett, a veteran of the 12th West Virginia Infantry.

Clearly, some had issues with the remembrance movement. Some were even more extreme in their views, calling for the blood of the Southern leaders. Yet, even Hewett acknowledges (though he clearly had issues with it) that former comrades-in-arms were forgiving and participated in tributes to (and alongside) their former foe.

So, the point of this is to say that the worst case scenario did not happen… and a generous, yet unofficial, privilege was extended to the South that they might remember, with honor and dignity, their veterans, living and dead. There was nothing wrong with honoring the dead (in our society, some might say that this is a right); but was it wrong to allow some to honor the “Cause?” After all, to Hewett, honorable remembrance of the “Cause” presented a “traitor-breeding” scenario. Was Hewett justified in his concerns for the future… and the past?

Is it possible to honor the dead, but not the “Cause?” Are the two joined so tightly as to present the belief that honoring both is a right? Can we not honor the Confederate soldier without honoring the Confederate “Cause?” Are there not things worthy of honor in the Confederate soldier, without honoring the “Cause?” Why should we honor the “Cause?” Would taking away the “Cause” as an element of “honoring” equate to only partial honors to the Confederate soldier? The people are unmistakably our people, but is the “Cause” our “Cause?” The “Cause” is dead, therefore it is a “was” and not an “is,” and therefore, the “Cause” cannot be ours.

In any case, is not the honor of the Confederate soldier, and the very code of honor itself, slighted if we forget that any Confederate remembrance in which we partake is only the result of a long-ago honorable gesture of peace and reconciliation? Forget the fact that reconciliation forced other things to the back-burner… oh wait, for the fact that other things were put on the back-burner, perhaps, in the process of Confederate remembrance, we should be more mindful of the sacrifices of others. Just as freedom isn’t free, perhaps Confederate remembrance isn’t free either. Yet, those who made the sacrifice so that Confederate remembrance could thrive… were not Confederates at all. Now that’s just ironic.

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