“THE CAUSE of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that “A state half slave and half free cannot exist.” All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.” ― Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, Vol. 2
I have served my country, not just Red or Blue States or members of either major political party, or minor political party for 32 years. I have served and as a Chaplain have guarded the religious and free speech rights of Christians, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Atheists and Agnostics as a Chaplain for 21 of those years.
My family on my mother’s side came to the British Colonies in North America in the 1680s or 1690s from England and France. My father’s family came in the 1740s from Scotland. During the War for Independence much of my family fought for the colonies or was neutral and some were Tories. One of my direct relatives lived in Philadelphia and worked as a supply officer for the Colonial Army throughout the war. He is buried not far from Benjamin Franklin and other heroes of the Revolution in the Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia, something that get’s me free admittance to the historic site anytime that I am in the city.
Those that were Tories ended up in what is not Canada after the war. I even had distant relatives who were British Redcoats, one a Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas, later Major General Sir Thomas Dundas commanded one of Lord Cornwallis’ brigades at Yorktown and was one of two British Officers who arranged the surrender at Yorktown.
Thus said my family has a long pedigree in this country and when the war of the Souther Slaveholder Rebellion broke out in 1861 I had family on both sides of the conflict. Most served in the Confederacy, though the part of Virginia they lived in seceded from the Commonwealth because Virginia seceded from the Union.
All this being said I can claim my heritage as a Son of the American Revolution or a Son of the Confederacy.
Today I saw something that made my blood boil. As I said I have served this country for 32 years in both the Army and the Navy. Part of my service has included time in both the Virginia and Texas Army National Guard. In my time in Virginia or Texas the units that I served traced their linage to either the 1st or 5 Texas Regiments of Hood’s Brigade or the 2nd or 17th Virginia Regiments which fought under Jackson or Pickett during that war.
As I was saying I saw something today that made my blood boil. I saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck at the local Home Depot that looked a bit like the US Army “Army Strong” complete with the star featured on the Army bumper sticker. However this one was different. It said “Confederate Army Strong.” To be fair I have seen this sticker on a number of vehicles in Virginia over the past few years but this one got me. The man also has numerous other Confederate or neo-Confederate stickers as well as partisan political comments and conspiracy theory comments about 9-11 being an “inside job” as well as a sticker for the conspiracy theory nutcase Alex Jones’ “Info Wars” website.
What I find offensive about the “Confederate Army Strong” sticker is that it is a slap in the face to all who died to preserve the Union. Likewise it is the symbol of a political movement designed to promote, defend and expand an economic system built on slavery using the language of “States Rights.” That being said those states and their political leaders who claimed “States Rights” only cared about their own rights and in the decade leading up to the War of the Slaveholders Rebellion, now known as the Civil War used Federal statutes against non-slave States whenever they needed to and fought for tougher Federal laws to keep their “freedom” to maintain slavery.
Freed Union Prisoner at Andersonville
The fact is that the Confederate Army was responsible for the more deaths and other casualties than all other enemies of the United States before or after the War of the Slaveholders Rebellion. The real fact is that those “noble Confederates” like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and others that by the way included men from my family who owned slaves were rebels who when they did not like the result of an elected seceded from the Union and declared war on their fellow citizens in order to maintain their racist economic and political power. They were not about due process or the will of the people, but their will.
These were the same men who condoned the atrocities committed at places like Andersonville and Belle Isle and when they invaded non-slave states had no qualms about taking any black men, women and children from their homes and sending them to the South, even if the were Free Men and not escaped slaves.
However it is now impolitic to say this. But that is the case and whenever I see such displays of hatred against the country, constitution and citizens who I have sworn an oath to support and defend “against all enemies foreign and domestic” for 32 years I get angry.
I saw the man get into his vehicle and almost confronted him, but in the current climate had I done so I would have been the person condemned in the hate filled right wing media and blogosphere which wants nothing more than to have anyone connected to the Federal Government look like they are being intolerant. Such is the victim culture of many on the political right.
So I held back, took a picture of his stickers and went on my way. I have been far too busy trying to catch up on things left unattended by the past 7 years of service to this nation which has cost me much of my mind, my health and finances being away from home, deployed to Iraq or serving as a geographic bachelor, the latter alone which has cost me over $50,000 that I will never get back. Likewise I figured out that the last 17 years of my military career I have been away from home for 10 years. Since I returned from Iraq I have had to deal with the “Mad Cow” of PTSD.
Thus when I see some old fat codger running around spouting hate who probably has not served a day in uniform, or if he did served an enlistment and then got out I get pissed off. To tell the truth I think that I have good reason. There are times that I think that maybe William Tecumseh Sherman was too gentle on the South and that maybe the Radical Reconstructionists like Thaddeus Stevens were right about the South and what needed to be done to eradicate slavery and restore the Union.
Now that is not me, I am more of a Lincoln “with malice toward none and with charity toward all” kind of person. As a soldier I can be gracious toward a defeated enemy. But when I see that thrown back in my face by the neo-Confederates of my day I wonder if maybe I and men like Sherman, Grant, Hancock and Chamberlain were wrong. Maybe the rebels should have been tried, executed, exiled or imprisoned for their crimes against the Constitution and their fellow citizens.
That being said Grant noticed how the landed elites of the South not only enslaved the blacks but used poor whites who had nothing to gain from their economics or slavery. The sad thing is the descendants of those who enslaved blacks and used poor whites as their political and later military fodder are at it again. Grant noted:
“The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre–what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.”
It really is a sad state of affairs and I grieve for the United States. To think I swear on my life an honor to ensure that all citizens have their right to freedom of speech including the man with his message of hate. However I don’t think that he or others like him would do the same for me.