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Remembering Our History

The Forgotten Story of the Civil War

I grew up on the Mason-Dixon line just south of the St. Michaels, the town made infamous for outsmarting the Brits during the Revolutionary War. We have some Northerner traits, some southern hospitality, and our very own Chesapeake Bay culture. Even though we lived in an area that saw the most "brother against brother" situations, with the battle lines drawn less than an hour from my home, one thing we don't have is hate. We don't hate the North, we don't hate America, we don't hate the South, and we don't hate either flag. We respect them all.

My ancestors served on both sides. My grandfather would tell me the stories about how my great uncle fought for, and believed in, the South's right to be independent from on over-bearing, over-reaching government that did nothing to help many of the people from the South but would promptly take taxes and place tariffs on their heard earned crops. He didn't fight for, or against, slavery. He fought for independence. In fact, my family that lived south of the Mason-Dixon never owned any slaves. They were fishermen. 

My other great-uncle, who had migrated north to Pennsylvania after marriage, fought for his beliefs. He took pride in land under his feet where he had settled and bought a farm. He didn't fight for, or against, slavery. He fought for unification. He wanted the town he was born in, and where his family still resided, to still be a part of the great country that he now lived in. He wanted his wife's family, and his family, to be unified under one United States and all American flag. He did own slaves on his farm, but would have quickly given them up, if it meant a unified America.

Since the 1970's, the history of the Civil War has been twisted, distorted, misrepresented and even re-written. Children are being raised to believe, with only a public school text book in hand, that this was based on a notion that African Americans are less human than whites and that the entire war was fought to keep, or to abolish, slavery. While that may have been the catalyst, it wasn't the cause. These children grow up to hate the South based on that false, but wide-spread notion. I can't say I blame them. One look at the internet and it verifies exactly what they were taught. For those who are fortunate enough to go to college, and study history, they know that slavery was an after thought in the moments leading up to the civil war. But, dare they speak about it, it would make them a Nazi, a KKK lover, an extreme right-wing republican or simply be politically incorrect. 

In all of this, we have lost a fundamental truth. These were men of honor, beliefs, courage and integrity that fought on both sides of that war. You will never see a man that embraces his heritage under the confederate flag spew hate, spit on, stomp on or catch fire to, an American flag. We honor it, salute it, and respect it. On the other side, some people want to claim that to respect the confederate flag is somehow vile, traitorous, and racist. That couldn't be further from the truth. I respect the men who died protecting their land, their rights to freedom under a well-written constitution, and their families. I respect that there were men that so-loved their country, their towns and their people enough to die for their future. I respect that brother fought against brother, and after the war ended, they hugged one another and moved on. They weren't angered by some imaginary line of division. While they fought on different sides, they respected each other for standing for what they believed in.

What strikes me the most is how my northern ancestors owned slaves and were willing to give them up if the North won the battle in the name of unification. Also, how my southern ancestors did not own slaves, and never would, yet fought for the ideals and cultures of the South. And now, we have forgotten all of that and we want to strip the decedents of those brave and courageous men of the South from having any outward signs of remembrance, respect or honor towards a flag that once represented the blood shed of thousands of men standing for what they believe. 

We still honor the American flag. We don't ask that you fly or honor the confederate flag, the way we do with the American flag. We ask that you allow us our freedom to do so. We ask that you educate yourself on the Civil War, so that you realize this war had little to do with slavery, and more to do with the lack of government assistance from Washington, and the heavy hand of government regulation. And what we really ask, is that you allow us each to take pride in our heritage without hate. If the men that fought this battle, brother against brother, can hug and admire one another for the courage and honor displayed on the battle field, weeks after the war ended, why can't we do the same more than a hundred years later? 

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." - Abraham Lincoln in his letter to Horace Greeley

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