Thursday, April 14, 2011
Fort Sumter Falls 1861-2011
Photo Credit Brian Hicks Charleston Post and Courier. More photos here.
150 years ago today Major Anderson of the United Stats Union Army lowered the flag with 33 stars and surrendered the fort to the CSA General P G T Beauregard and to the cheers of the South Carolina militia.
Today, re-enactors have again raised the Confederate "Stars and Bars" over Ft. Sumter to the cheers of many.
But there are a lot of people who think the whole commemoration thing is an insult. As you can imagine NAACP is one of those groups that are none too happy about today's events.
The NAACP believes the horrors of the Civil War and the barbaric enslavement of human beings that led to the war should never be celebrated. A press release from the NAACP South Carolina Chapter says: "We acknowledge that the Civil War observances should be a time to look back at the worst period of our nation's history with a clear-eyed view of the brutal reality of chattel slavery -- its causes and lingering effects on America today."
And so it goes, those who believe the war was over slaves and those, myself included, who think otherwise.
Many Carolinians have a passing interest in the war and just as many could care less. I've always been surprised at the lack of basic knowledge about the civil war. I doubt a random sample would prove me wrong, as I'm pretty sure most Americans don't know the year the war started or the year the war ended. (1861-1865)
Few understand that in 1861 the North had all the wealth and the South had nothing other than a few ports, a lot of farmland, and not much else.
At the start of the war the odds were overwhelmingly in favor of the Union due to the vast resources for guns and ammunition, railroad and manufacturing north of the Mason Dixon line and nothing more than farms to the south.
My great-great grand father John A. Edmonds, fought for the south. His occupation listed as farmer on his enlistment form and his rank that of private. In October of 1861 he joined Company "A" of the Alabama 26th infantry regiment.
Over the next 2 years he fought alongside his neighbors, and their sons. The names and places some remembered others forgotten.
Fort Donelson February 15, 1862
Yorktown, Virginia April - May, 1862
Williamsburg, Virginia Battle May 5, 1862
Seven Pines Battle May 31-June 1, 1862
Malvern Hill Battle
Boonesboro (South Mountain) September 14, 1862
Sharpsburg (Antietam) in Maryland September 17, 1862
Shephardstown Ford, West Virginia September 20, 1862
Fredericksburg, Virginia Battle December 12-15, 1862
Chancellorsville, Virginia Battle May 2-3, 1863
He fought and marched from his home in Alabama all way to Gettysburg where he was captured on July 3, 1863.
As a prisoner of war he forced to march to Ft. McHenry and then on to Ft. Delaware along with 3000 other Confederate prisoners.
Ft. Delaware was designed with housing for 200 men, but the winds of war made it more practical for a prison. So in 1862 the first Confederates were incarcerated, both soldiers and southern sympathisers were locked up, including the grandson of Francis Scott Key. But by the time the Gettysburg prisoners arrived, the fort was holding nearly 13,000 men.
The conditions were beyond understanding, typhoid epidemics periodically swept through the fort, death from starvation was common. Across the river at Finn's Point 2500 rebel soldiers are buried having died not in battle but in prison.
Apparently my grand father considered his options, and 3 days after his arrival he switched sides and uniforms by swearing allegiance to the Union. He spent the rest of the war wearing US Blue, and received an honorable discharge from the US Army, returning to Alabama in 1865.
Years later he would walk home from the post office having picked up his monthly Union Army pension check only to make a point of "flagging it" for his brother to see, often saying "Well I guess you had the misfortune to be on the wrong side".
Why then did he join the Confederate cause?
I haven't a clue, perhaps there was a promise of land should the south win the war, as his father had fought the Seminole Indians in 1818, and was given 40 acres of prime farm land as payment for his service.
I know one thing he wasn't fighting for the right own slaves, he didn't have any slaves, and there were few plantations west of Atlanta.
I suspect he marched north because everyone else did, they were called to serve their homeland and did so out of honor and duty. Most if not all fought for the right to self-govern, and in 1861 the feeling that Washington was out of touch with the south was as true then as it is today.
And so it is that I share with my Great-Great Grandfather more than just southern heritage but also the thought that we would be better off without Washington, and oddly enough we also have the same birthday.