Recently, we have heard a lot of talk about the Civil War and who the heroes are of the Civil War. Some folks call the Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression” or the “War Between the States” and even “The Recent Unpleasantness.” It was a war that divided our nation, and it seems it still does.
I am going to reveal a bias, so please stay with me on this. I am, or at least was, a Civil War Reenactor. I am proud of it! My family had folks who fought for the Union (the North). They were from Minnesota. My son and I wore Union Blue. I have met a number Reenactors who are profoundly patriotic and thoughtful men and women who are lovers of history and committed to teaching it. Some of them had biases as well.
This all being said, I think it is important that we know just a bit of our history - the good, bad and ugly. The North did not start the war. South Carolina militia fired first on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Many forts, military installations and weapons were taken by Confederate States, even before the Union military could react. A number of officers in the United States Military resigned and joined the Confederacy. This included Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart and many other prominent officers who originally swore an oath to defend the United States from all enemies both outside and inside our country.
Yes, the vast majority of the Eastern battles of the Civil War were fought in the Southern states. In the west it was the struggles in Kansas and Missouri that brought guerilla warfare to a new low. Black soldiers, when captured by the Confederates, were either hanged on the spot or sold into slavery, even if they were a freeman before. White officers who commanded Black Troops were often times shot as traitors. The myth of the noble rebel and the evil Yankee is just that a myth.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women on both sides were killed, from 1861 to 1865. Many brave soldiers gave their lives for what they believed in, however, if what you believed in is just plain wrong, you are not a hero. Going to war to preserve a culture and way of life that enslaves one group, judging them as inferior for the color of their skin. This is evil. The vast majority of confederate soldiers believed they were fighting to protect their home, when in fact they were being sold a bill of goods by the southern aristocracy, a lie that theirs was the “Glorious Cause!”
Our country today is in a debate or better said, a struggle over race, at times an ugly struggle. The KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists are telling our nation a lie, they tell it loudly and with conviction, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it is a lie.
For we are all created in the image of God, Jesus died on the cross for all the world. God shows no partiality, but loves all of us, no matter the color of our skin, economic status, political or cultural background and, yes, even different religious beliefs.
The issues raised by the Civil War are not about the battles or generals or monuments, but about racism, bigotry, and hatred. The Civil War is over, the Union is preserved, but we still have a long way to go. People of Faith, Followers of Christ and every American citizens should answer the call to fight hatred with love, racism with inclusiveness and bigotry with forgiveness. This is our mission. This is our goal. This is our victory!