The flag of the United States, lowered in surrender

Posted on April 14, 2011 by

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I’m about 10 hours early on this, but it was on this day, 150 years ago, at 2:30 p.m, that Sumter surrendered…

After the garrison flag had ripped (a couple of days prior to the bombardment), this smaller storm flag was flying over Sumter. Hat-tip to reader Roderick Gainer (who passed along some background info about the flag, having learned about it through his colleague, Les Jensen)

… and the flag of the United States was lowered from atop a U.S. military fort.

Now, this is where I’m breaking-off from the type of posts that I’ve done for the past few days. I’ve kept it straight-forward, giving you images and little commentary. After all, it’s really a time of reflection, and sometimes some of us like a little quiet, without the commentary, at times like these.

You may have also noticed that I opted for a black backdrop over the past few days. Don’t worry, it will go back to the previous background color… but my reason for doing this type of background is to remember that the 150th anniversary of Sumter is no cause for celebration (or maybe, considering the resulting freedom to enslaved people, it is reason to celebrate) . While many of us are thrilled that we’ve made it to the 150th to see this time in our history, and to be a part of a time in which we can reflect on our history during such a major anniversary, the anniversary of the Sumter bombardment is a time, also, to remember that, at this time 150 years ago, nearly 650,000 Americans were still alive, who would not be around in a matter of 4 short years. Truly tragic. I had relatives from both sidesmost of them Southern, whether they wore blue or gray… who died in these four years.

So, what is it, about Sumter, that strikes something in us, and why do we react so differently, each of us, to the event? These are the types of questions that, I think, we should be conscious of during the Sesquicentennial. Sure, I enjoy hearing the straight-on history, a detailing of the facts… traditional history… but I think there’s more to it than this. I think it’s also valuable to understand how we see ourselves through the window of the past and/or how we see the past through us.

You may have taken notice, for example, of how I titled this post. I did it on purpose, to make a point.

I see the bombardment of Sumter as something more personal. No, I had no ancestors there. Still, I have ancestors who were, within months of this bombardment, wearing gray… and yet, I find it bothersome to think about a U.S. military installation being attacked, and the colors of the United States being lowered in surrender. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this because I was in the military myself. Still, I know perfectly well that there are others who have served, who may not see it this way… odd. Nonetheless, this is part of my point. How do we look at the past through our modern lenses… our modern perspectives… and how does that influence (taint?) the way we relate to others the story of the past, as filtered through us, by what has influenced us in the course of our lives? This is part of what I mean by asking, “how do we see the past through us?”

Add to that how some see themselves defined by a history in which they took no part. How do many folks define who they are through their ancestors who wore gray, or blue… or neither. Why do people do this? What drives this longing to connect with the past through this vision? How can someone who lived so long ago, influence someone, so much, today… especially when we can know so very little of these people of the past?

To some folks, all of this matters little (or none). Life has moved on, and history is just that… the past. But then, you wouldn’t be here, reading this, if it didn’t matter to you, in some way…

And so we begin our respective journeys… possibly very personal, and very individual… through the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Whether you’re a regular here, or new to the blog, thanks for making Cenantua’s Blog a part of your journey.

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