This week on Facebook, Manassas National Battlefield Park posed a really good question…
While I know a lot of folks would disagree with me, I don’t think we should look to give an answer to the question so quickly. One might feel confident in answering, based on ancestry, “heritage”, “patriotism”, etc., but keep in mind… your decision in answering this so quickly is a reflection of all of the modern day baggage you bring with you, not to mention the 150+ years that have literally buried the complexities faced by those who faced that decision in 1861. Hindsight is 20-20… right?
So, before you answer in the affirmative (“Yes, I’d serve, or “No, “I wouldn’t serve”) try… however difficult it might be… to cast aside that “baggage” and give thought not so much to what you think you might have done, but more along the lines of… well, “Do I really know how difficult such a decision was to make for them, at that time?” It’s not based on simply one person from the past, either. Consider the wide array of persons who had to make the decision, where they were living at the time, and the challenges that might be particular and representative to that locality (for example… say, Tidewater Virginia vice Shenandoah Valley). Consider that scrap of Virginia or Pennsylvania (just two examples, of course) soil you swear you’d defend to the death… and ask yourself… really?
Ask yourself why you responded so quickly… or even question your thought-based response. Is it missing something?
I think the question isn’t as valuable to see where one (making that decision today, in retrospect) would stand, but I think it has a lot more value when it forces us to really think about all that they faced in making such a decision at that time. The real value in this is learning or becoming more aware of the context of that time in which they lived, and the challenges they faced in making a decision.
It might seem like a simple question, but it’s not so simple, really.
Kudos to MNBP for provoking thought.