The beginning of the Civil War had its 150-year anniversary this April. I saw a news story about Civil War reenactments recently, and they baffle me; who wants to keep reliving this?
Apparently, enough people. One man in the TV story said he doesn’t want to give up his pride in being a rebel.
What the Civil War was fought over remains an argued point. Some say it was fought because of slavery, others that it was fought for economic reasons. Since slavery produced a slave economy, each argument gets a point. Still others say it was about states’ rights.
A broad brush simply does not work. Poor white southerners were likely conscripted into serving in the Confederate Army under the banner of states’ rights, and we know from historical writings that there were Northerners who cared more about the great wealth of the slave-holding South than about the humanity of African slaves. Certainly because justice always has its warriors, there were those who joined the Union army to save their sisters and brothers of African descent. On the other hand, interracial marriages were against the law in 10 of the Union states at the start of the civil war, so clearly people of the South were not the only ones who felt people of African descent were not equal to whites.
I think another part of the appeal of Civil War reenactments is how it has the backdrop of the so-called grandeur and gentility of plantation life—a strangely romanticized part of our nation’s history. When I hear the phrase “Southern hospitality,” I wonder what makes it Southern and how welcomed I’d really be in some places. Since Gone with the Wind strangely remains the so-called best movie ever made, I wonder what all of this says about us.
What have any of you said to your children or grandchildren when Civil War reenactments come to either your town or your television? I want to know.