Southerners “honoring” Southern heritage

Posted on February 20, 2009 by

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I just added a link to Greg Rowe’s blog because… he gets it. Through his words I can see that he is one of a growing number of Southerners who, after a long journey, is like me and is still learning to appreciate ALL facets of Civil War-era “Southern heritage” and is not caught up in “selective remembrance.” It’s good to see other Southerners with open minds… people who do greater “honor” to Southern Civil War-era ancestry by trying to understand the complex history of these people.

I’ve said it before… I’m a Southerner. I was born in Virginia, raised in Virginia and North Carolina, and can claim Virginia lines that go back as far as Jamestown. When it comes to the Civil War, and I’ve mentioned this before as well, I have eight direct Confederate ancestors and a long line of other family members who wore gray… as well as Southern Unionists (which is more difficult to explain and has more “tiers” than one might realize). However, I’m not so caught-up in focusing on the “Spirit of 1861 Confederacy” in defining my Confederate ancestors. Furthermore, among all of those Confederates… and those who were Southerners during the years of secession, I have a pretty good idea who was willing, who was reluctant, who was unwilling, who remained to the end, who became disillusioned, and who became disaffected… all being an accurate definition of what it meant to be a Southerner under the rule of the Confederate government. This is how Southerners and Confederates should be “remembered” in “remembrance.” I don’t find it acceptable to define my collective Civil War-era Southern heritage in terms of a heritage defined alone by the memory of the Confederacy. Doing so would be a pathetic display of discriminating (picking and choosing that which is worthy to be remembered) within my own Southern heritage, as the complexities of my Southern heritage are more accurately defined through the facts surrounding the lives of my people as Southerners. Why would I possibly want to “pick and choose” and misrepresent the diversity of truths that make up my Civil War-era Southern “heritage” and why would I want to selectively remember AND misrepresent Southern heritage to others as Confederate heritage? Is doing so a validation of my “Southerness?” The facts behind Southern history make it clear that it does not. So, because of my ability to see and appreciate the diversity of spirit in the four years of the Civil War South, perhaps I am in fact, more Southern than those who choose only to remember “Confederately.”

Does this mean that I am ashamed of my Confederate ancestors? Of course not, and any suggestion of my being ashamed of my ancestry is a reflection of the ignorance of any such person who makes such claims.  Furthermore, while my discussion of “Southern heritage beyond Confederate heritage” might be hard for some to swallow, and because I can see the complexities of the four years that made up the history of the Civil War South, by no means does it suggest that I don’t love the land of my Virginia ancestors (as well as the rest of my Civil War-era Southern folk, by the way, who lived in western Kentucky and western Maryland… ALL culturally Southern, but Unionists…) or that I have lost a “connection” with the land and my Southern ancestry. If anything, I have a greater appreciation for the land and the people who lived on it, knowing the varied sacrifices made by a variety of people during the war (and that, most certainly, includes the Southern Unionists and the disillusioned Confederates) to hold on to the land passed down to them from several generations and to continue to sustain that land for generations to come.  I’m able to look at the Civil War South and appreciate it for ALL that it was… and that it was far more complex than to wrap in one package (the “1861 Confederate package”) to be sold to others. 

Thanks for some interesting reflections as a Southerner, Greg. Obviously, your writing prompted some thoughts of my own. I look forward to being a regular visitor to the blog.

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