Civil War was about more than slavery

Darrell Huckaby

So now we have a full-blown brouhaha brewing in the General Assembly over a proposal
by Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis to set the month of April aside as Confederate
History and Heritage Month.

Holy 1950s, Batman!

Now when I first heard about Senator Mullis’ proposal my very first thought
was, “Good luck with that.” Honesty compels me to admit that I thought
— and said aloud — that O.J. would have more luck finding the “real
killer” on the golf courses of America than Jeff Mullis would have getting
the Georgia Legislature to admit that there had ever even been a Confederate
States of America — much less set aside an entire month to honor its heroes.

That is just so out of date, don’t you know — not to mention politically
incorrect. The trend, in fact, has been heading in the exact opposite direction
for a long time now, and any mention of the recent unpleasantness between the
North and South can have only one connotation in the 21st Century. We all know
what that connotation is and it has nothing to do with courage or valor or honor
or any other high-sounding, idealistic descriptive words that my generation
was taught to associate with the men who wore the gray and butternut.

No. The words more likely to be associated with those people in today’s
politically and, dare I say, racially-charged climate, are misguided and unenlightened,
to those who are trying to walk a tightrope stretched high above a chasm of
misplaced sensitivity.

Those who don’t know any better or simply don’t care about truth
and accuracy and history, in fact, call them much worse names — like misfits
and traitors.

You see, at some point over the past 40 years or so we have allowed society
to rewrite history and make the entire War Between the States about slavery
— pure and simple. If you believe what people want you to believe, the
only reason the South declared her independence from the North was to maintain
the peculiar institution of slavery. The only reason Lincoln resisted was so
he could free the slaves. Every southern soldier who fought and died was fighting
and dying so that he could continue to own other human beings. Every Union soldier
who fought and died fought and died to free slaves.

The people who espouse these views generally campaign for the removal of the
names Lee and Jackson and Stuart and Davis from all streets and boulevards and
would probably favor legislation to remove all Confederate monuments from public
display. I have known people who refuse to attend Stone Mountain Park because
of the carving displayed there.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it is based on historic inaccuracies.
The people who preach this gospel don’t know, or choose to ignore, the
facts of history, and either can’t or won’t allow themselves to
examine the myriad of very complex issues that surrounded the tragic period
in our nation’s past that historians call the Civil War.

And politicians and business leaders and other public figures — scared
to death of offending someone — just cower and back down and avoid having
any dialogue about the issue whatsoever, in fear of being painted with the same
brush previously reserved for Ku Kluxers and other hate mongers who hijacked
the Confederate battle flag and made it their own 50 years ago.

Well, the fact of the matter is that a lot of Georgians and a lot of Southerners
are proud of the fact that their forefathers had enough courage to follow the
advice of Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “When in the course of human events
it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve their political bands which
have connected them with another . . . they should declare the causes which
impel them to separation.”

Slavery was one of the issues that impelled them to separate — but it
was only one. A full 90 percent of the men who served in the Confederate Army
never owned slaves. Union commander U.S. Grant, on the other hand, did.

To say that we should ignore the efforts of the brave sons of the South because
slavery existed in the Southern states is as ludicrous as refusing to honor
Washington or Jefferson or even Grant because they owned slaves.

Really, y’all. Everything isn’t about slavery — and it hasn’t
existed in Georgia for 142 years. So while I still don’t think there is
enough political courage left in our state Legislature for Senator Mullis’
bill to pass, at least perhaps it will open some healthy dialogue — and
perhaps a few eyes along the way.

And by the way, it has made it out of committee, which is a start.

Maybe there is hope after all — and maybe my son, Jackson Lee, won’t
be forced to undergo a name change, at least not for another decade or so, anyway.

Associated Press content © 2007

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