Thursday, November 02, 2006

Confederate Memorial Service

First and foremost I am against slavery. I am totally opposed to the subjugation of people anywhere at anytime. Unfortunately slavery is a part of the history of the south, and oftentimes the focus of southern history. I struggle with that history as I write this entry. I encourage you to read through this completely and not dismiss it based on prejudice.

My father discovered some time ago that we have an ancestor that fought in The Civil War... for the Confederacy. Private Sanford Marion Davis was a part of Company A, 42nd Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.

Being a military man himself, my father researched Pvt. Davis' military record and this is what he found. Davis was a farmer with a wife and three children and lived in Lawrenceville, GA. He received a $50 bonus when he enlisted with the Confederate Army at the age of 31. During the 18 months of his service he fought in battles at Tazwell, Tennessee; Cumberland Gap, Tennessee; and Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi. Union forces captured him in 1863 at the Battle of Champion Hill, Mississippi. At the time of his capture he was already suffering from dysentery and malnutrition. He was later swapped in a prisoner exchange and was allowed to go on a 30-day furlough. He returned home to Lawrenceville, GA and died 25 days later.

Sanford Marion Davis never owned any slaves. In fact 99% of Confederate soldiers never owned any slaves. Why would Confederates fight in the Civil War if they didn't own any slaves you might ask. That's because the Civil War wasn't initially fought over slavery.

The reason the South wanted to succeed was unfair taxes. Often times it is referred to as "The Tariff." This site does a good job of explaining the economics between the North and the South and what truly led America into a Civil War:

I find it interesting that the author has to validate his statements on one page of his site by saying:
I am [sic] born and raised in the North; I have no moonlight-and-magnolias sentimental attachment to the ante-bellum South. I live in an urban neighborhood, and I teach my child to judge the people around him by their deeds and character, not their pigment. I have no moral argument to make in favor of American slavery, though, unlike some, I won't condemn every slaveowner [sic] in history as a monster.

These sort of disclaimers must be made. Anyone, even the most respected historian, who defends or even speaks objectively about the Old South or the Confederacy is liable to be shouted down.
Now certainly the abolition of slavery was a good thing. I certainly must make my own disclaimers. I simply think we are spoon-fed slavery as the cause of The Civil War because the economic reasons are too difficult to understand, and takes more than a single word to explain.

I think this is best exemplified in an episode of the satirical television show “The Simpsons” entitled "Much Apu about Nothing". In this episode Apu, an Indian convenience store clerk who immigrated to America, decides to take his citizenship test. He studies hard and then has an interview with a test administrator.
Test Administrator: All right, here’s your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?

Apu: Actually there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists, economic factors both domestic and international…

Test Administrator: (Interrupting) Hey, hey.

Apu: Yeah?

Test Administrator: Just say slavery.

Apu: Slavery it is, sir!
So basically what I am trying to say is that not every single soldier that fought in the Confederacy was a bad guy. My great-great-great grandfather likely fought in the war for the reason most wars are fought: money. He fought against the north because he believed that they were unfairly taxing the south… and that fifty bucks probably didn’t hurt either. My great-great-great grandfather fought for what he believed in, and lost. But he still fought for what he believed in.

To honor this, my father contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and ordered a military headstone to sit next to the original weathered marker. The new headstone lists his military affiliation while the old one does not. Dad even organized a memorial service to honor Davis, which was held on September 24th. A local color guard from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans was also involved and performed a 21-gun salute with muskets and a cannon! Women from the United Daughters of the Confederacy also participated and dressed in period clothing. It was quite a memorial. See the pictures on my photos page.

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