Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Civil War Memory

My grandparents remembered the South very differently from the way it is remembered today. Proud of their family's service for their Southern state? Yes. Were Northern people different enough to be called 'Yankees'? Yes.

But gaudy displays of flags and Lincoln bashing? No. The family was more concerned with being good American citizens than obsessing about all things Confederate. It was history for them- American history. It was the era when great grandparents were subsistence farmers. Life was about getting away from that and providing for your family. And they were very patriotic.

Don't get me wrong, I like seeing a battle flag waving, But I try to remain sober about it. I certainly do not want to trivialize it either. From Cenantua's Blog:

I find this particularly interesting considering the personalities of the persons honored by these displays. As Lee was one who survived the war and provided a window into his beliefs on the reflection of the war through his postwar words, the entire exhibitionism of the new era Confederate remembrance movement is considerably out of line with the very person who is front and center in the remembrance activities themselves.


8 comments:

cenantua said...

Good post. While I enjoy reflecting on the history of my Confederate, and even Union, ancestors, we need to be grounded in the here and now for the progress of our future.

cenantua said...

Noting your comment about the likelihood of your ancestors being kicked out the S.C.V.... I think the S.C.V. was different back then. It would seem that the introduction of reenactors and regular size battleflags and whatnot into the remembrance picture is quite a bit different. Other than the veterans, I wonder how many sons donned the uniform of the Confederate soldier at remembrance activities. If it wasn't done, why?

Justin said...

Fist of all, I think that it would only be natural for successive generations to memorialize things differently.

Regarding sons donning uniforms- I imagine it was too close in history. I've often thought of re-enacting an ancestor. But would I dress up like a Vietnam veteran to remember my dad? That would be plain weird. For sons veterans, it was probably as simple as that.

Also, I think the SCV is so decentralized that each region and camp take on a different character. It was a small affair where I attended, so there weren't large groups disagreeing about things. It was THE go to place for reenactors in a low population area.

The few re-enactors I've met do various eras of history and some do both sides of the WBTS. Its been very educational for me.

I am still a member, but in a different state and cannot be as involved. I am proud of my current camp. They truly represent the local memory and do an amazing job of maintaining cemeteries and locating forgotten graves. They've also been the impetus for bringing community groups together.

Unfortunately, no one wants to give Confederate descendants credit for community service to minority children or honoring slave graves. It messes up the paradigm I guess.

cenantua said...

"Regarding sons donning uniforms- I imagine it was too close in history. I've often thought of re-enacting an ancestor. But would I dress up like a Vietnam veteran to remember my dad? That would be plain weird. For sons veterans, it was probably as simple as that."

I agree, but I wonder if veterans would have found it distasteful to even consider in years after their deaths.

Incidentally, and I don't know if I mentioned it before, but a few years ago, I ran across something in some UCV papers that I have that stated clearly that the UCV actually established, as a policy, that the SCV should use the third national, not the battleflag. I also think that this went on to say something to the effect that the battleflag was exclusively the flag of the veterans. I'm going to have to make more of an effort to find that in my paperwork.

S. Campbell said...

As a Commander of a local SCV camp I would really like to see the UCV documents that you ar talking about that talk about the SCV using the 3rd national flag. If you find it, I would somehow like to get a copy if I could so that I could share it with others.

On the wearing of uniforms. Another local SCV camp commander reenacts both sides of the civil war, but for Veterans Day he marches in the parade as a WWI doughboy because his father marched in parades in the same uniform. His father was in WWII and was in the local VFW and friends with an old WWI vet. The old veteran gave him the uniform he wore in WWI on the condition that he would wear it in honor of the WWI vets. Now the SCV commander wears the uniform to continue the memorial that his father started on the wishes of the WWI vet.

I think that if any civil war veterans were alive today and saw a reenactment, a lot of them would probably want to get right out there with the reenactors. They seemed to have a good time reenacting Pickett's Charge themselves. The only thing is that somebody might come out with a bloody nose and it wouldn't be one of those veterans, you whipper snappers.

cenantua said...

Mr. Campbell,

I'm going to make the effort to find that particular item about the third national. Once I do, I'll post the info on my blog. When I found the reference some number of years ago, I know that I ambandoned the practice of using anything but the third national in relation to any Confederate remembrance activities.

cenantua said...

Mr. Campbell,

This is a very interesting point...

"I think that if any civil war veterans were alive today and saw a reenactment, a lot of them would probably want to get right out there with the reenactors. They seemed to have a good time reenacting Pickett's Charge themselves. The only thing is that somebody might come out with a bloody nose and it wouldn't be one of those veterans, you whipper snappers."

I think later in life, there is no doubt about how most veterans reacted to opportunities such as the reenactment of Pickett's Charge. However, closer to the war itself (say in the 1880s), I wonder of they would have done the same, the memory of the war (specifically the painful memories) being so much more fresh in the minds.

While he wasn't there for the recreated veteran's edition of Pickett's Charge in later years, one of my third great grandfathers attended the 50th reunion at Gettysburg in 1913 (he actually never served at Gettysburg and did not enlist until 1864). The local newspaper gathered "reunion recollections" of the local men who attended the reunion, but regretfully, those particular issues can no longer be had, even in the newspaper office itself.

S. Campbell said...

That's true about how the veterans may have felt about things only 15 or so years after the war. Since southern people tended(and still do in some cases) to be a bit more stubborn, hot headed and romantic, I would imagine they might have been more apt to wear their feelings on their sleeves sooner than later compared to nowadays. I guess it depends on the person too. My grandmother's brother was at Normandy, battle of the bulge and all the way to Berlin. When he was around 90 he still didn't talk about it.