Monday, November 25, 2013

Northern Sympathizer

Having lived in the south the past decade, I'd developed an interest in American Civil War history. Ken Burns' exceptional and very thorough presentation of the war in his documentary "The Civil War," really sparked my interest in the Antebellum era. One would be hard pressed not to find a Confederate flag or two still flying on many a southern front porch, and every other southerner seems to have a great grandpappy that lost a leg fighting "dem damn Yankees."

At some point, my curiosity could no longer be sated by history books or wikipedia, I needed more. So I started seeking out and attending civil war battle reenactments. 

But my interest and enthusiasm for this part of American history has put me at odds with many of my African American peers, which is understandable considering the race-based circumstances that brought about the war. Let's face facts, the war was about slavery. Many would argue states rights till blue in the face but seriously, what states rights were they fighting for exactly? Correct, the right to enslave another race. This unfortunate misunderstanding really just boiled down to "we keep our negroes or we're seceding from the Union" (but we all know how well that worked out). 

Truth be told, as much enthusiasm as I have for the Civil War, I have been unable to stomach the historical depictions of slavery I encounter. Many civil war-centric museums feature a slavery exhibit.....I skip those every time. I can withstand the sight of the thousands of dead at notable battles like Manassas, Bull Run, Antietam, Vicksburg,  Gettysburg, etc. The death and destruction depicted on such a grand scale leave me in awe. But show me one shackled negro and I'm sickened to my very core. 

The War was brutal but such brutality can be expected, such is the nature of war. Slavery was no war, but it was brutal nonetheless and I can never reconcile with that.

(You don't believe slavery was brutal? Try sitting through "12 Years A Slave" without flinching). 

But the more I try to keep slavery and the war separated mentally, the more people seem to enforce the connection. For instance, you won't often see many of "us" at battle reenactments, so when I show up I tend to become a bit of a novelty. I often get approached with all sorts of interesting facts and tidbits. 

During one trip to the Battle of Tunnel Hill, I found myself touring the museum after the battle. A gentleman approached me and said he knew of a civil war site not twenty miles from Tunnel Hill that he was sure I'd be interested in. It was Fort Hill, supposedly the only battle site in Georgia that featured "coloured troops" (yes he said coloured). 

On another occasion, I got invited to a reenactment at Ft. Wagner which you may or may not remember as the fort from the end of the movie Glory......(SPOILER ALERT), the battle where they pretty much killed the entire black regiment. 

So yes, my racial identity does often clash with my Civil War enthusiasm but so far I've been able to keep the two halves of me separate. I intend to continue going to the different battles and you all should expect to see those stories popping up from time to time. I'll soon determine a way to deal with the emotional toll, I'm sure of it. 



  1. You really shouldn't keep the two separate they go hand in hand... I saw the hat you brought Nicholas(well lets say my father saw it first) and he was so mad because it had the confederate flag on it he told Atiya to get rid of it. Lol anyway I think you should continue going and i also think that more black people need to go. Just so they can learn more about their history. You know what the white folks say if you wanna hide something from a nig.. put it in a book or museum.

    1. Yeah that's exactly the way I feel, we live in the south, it happened but we can't forget about the past or we'd be likely to make the same mistakes again.

      Take the confederate flag for what it is, a symbol of southern solidarity that got bastardized and turned into a KKK rallying symbol in the 60's. During the Civil War, it was quite simply a symbol of the south, nothing more.

      Now what the south stood for back then was something else entirely but people have to realize the south wasn't any different from the north. We were treated with the same hatred in the north as we were in the south so why hate on the confederate flag but big up the stars and stripes?

      Your father hates on the flag but I'm sure he has no clue why. It's because society told him to hate on it. The same people that were waving confederate flag as they burned crosses also flew american flags so why not hate on that too? Because the north won, that's why, so we're taught to hate the losers' flag even though those in the north were discriminating on us the same way.

      Don't hate, educate......if you hate the confederate flag, you better hate the american flag too because it's the same country, the same discrimination.

    2. And if you don't believe me, ask ole honest Abe Lincoln, he'll tell you, he said it himself..........if he could save the union without freeing the slaves, he'd do it.

      The north freed the slaves as a political move to get Europe to support the Union and not the Confederacy. It was also done to cause the slaves to rise up and cause commotion in confederate states.

      You want to hear something interesting about the "Abolition of Slavery?" The Amendment declaring the freedom of slaves only applied to slaves held in confederate states. Slaves in northern states and the western territories weren't who vex with the Confederacy now?