Friday, April 9, 2010

One Nation Once Again

Magnet # 213:  Union Flag and Cannon

Material: Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Today marks the 145th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.  Yep, it was on this day in 1865 that Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to Ulysses Grant in Appomattox County, Virginia.  The pair signed their official documents in the home of Wilmer McLean, a wholesale grocer who had the bad luck of being able to claim the Civil War "began on his front lawn and ended in his front parlor."  He lived in Manassas, Virginia when the First Battle of Bull Run broke out and his house was commandeered as a headquarter for the Confederacy.  His home was fired at and a cannonball even fell into his kitchen fireplace.  Hoping to get away from the fighting, McLean moved his family south to Appomattox County, only to have the Union and Confederate armies catch up with them years later.  After Lee and Grant had gone, he suffered the further indignity of having much of his furniture taken away by Union soldiers who wanted to keep it as souvenirs. When he protested, some gave him money, but they refused to leave his belongings alone.  He later fell on hard times and had to sell the home.  Eventually, it was torn apart with the intention of being moved to Washington, D.C. to be displayed at the Civil War Museum.  However, the plan fell though and the materials sat dormant for about fifty years.  Finally, some of the parts were used when the McLean house was reconstructed.  In this second life, it has become part of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument and is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

The war may have ended, but it's still not over here in the South. Although I consider myself a Southerner - heck, I've lived here since I was five - I must admit, I've never quite gotten how Confederate sympathy has persisted here for so long. I've never flown a Confederate flag or participated in a reenactment of a battle, but there are plenty of Southerners who have. "The South Will Rise Again" is a phrase that's used pretty often around these parts. And I don't think it has much to do with slavery - it's mainly tied up in the rivalry with the North and the anger that has been left over since then. Also, plenty of folks down here are still livid about Sherman's destruction of beautiful Southern cities such as Atlanta and Columbia during his infamous March to the Sea. I can hardly blame them. Then there's the further insult of Reconstruction and all the Yankee carpetbaggers who took advantage of people who had already lost a war. In fact, it's a pretty serious insult to call someone a Yankee in the South. I found this out when I moved here without a Southern accent and some of the kids used the term on me. But a few years back, a woman from Michigan flew in for some job training here in Savannah and I was once again reminded of this fact. She thought it was charmingly eccentric that folks down here hated Yankees and used to laugh about it condescendingly. Those of us who knew better tried to warn her, but she just wouldn't listen. So when were were out at dinner at an Italian restaurant, she called herself a Yankee jokingly to our waiter. You would have thought she slapped him - or his momma - across the face . He jerked back, very clearly offended. I started assuring him I'm from the South, because I didn't want any part of what he was going to do to her - or her food (hey, I tried to tell her). I don't know if there were any extra additions to her meal that night, but she never referred to herself as a Yankee after that. Calling yourself a Yankee in the South isn't as dumb as calling yourself a Nazi in Germany, but it's just about that bad.  So if you're a Northerner planning a trip down here anytime soon, please be warned.

All of these years later, the nation is whole and the ugliness of slavery has ended.  Most historians agree that the agricultural South never really stood a chance of defeating the industrial North, especially considering they were never able to enlist the aid of a European nation.  And if they had overcome nearly all odds, it's debatable as to whether they would have succeeded as a nation on their own.  One fact is certain - by reuniting, the United States has been able to become one of the most powerful nations in the world.  Yes, tensions still exist but we have been able to achieve greatness in the time since the Civil War ended.  I sincerely hope our nation can remain united and strong, achieving even better times than those we've had in the last 145 years. 

No comments:

Post a Comment