Monday, June 29, 2015

I Don't Fly The Confederate Battle Flag But....

Truth is I don’t fly the Confederate Battle Flag in my front yard. But I have many friends who like to hoist it at gatherings of the “Red Neck” yacht club all summer long. They raise it in Camden in April and again in November. It flies proudly during Memorial Day from their $100,000 motorhomes at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. As best I can tell not one of them is a racist bigot or mass murderer in the making.
Yet, I fully support the gesture of removing the Battle Flag from the South Carolina State Capitol.

It is unfortunate that skin heads, the KKK and the white supremacy movement have hijacked the flag in support of their cause.

I understand that many people see it as a sign of racial intolerance and there are those who claim they feel threatened by it and tremble in fear at the sight of it. To them it represents slavery and oppression, but here’s why that reasoning is wrong.

In the fall of 1861, my great great grandfather grabbed his musket and signed up with the "Dixie Boys" of Company "A" of the 26th Alabama Infantry Regiment in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

During the following 21 months he marched with the boys to some of the war's most famous battles.

Seven Pines
Cold Harbor
Marven Hill

"From the siege of Yorktown, April 5 to May 3, 1862, in which it took part, until the close of the war, the regiment was always in the battle front and won imperishable renown." – Robert E. Lee

Captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 he was neither slave owner or nor rich.

A farmer who was born in Laurens in the upstate of South Carolina. He raised sheep, hogs and cattle on land too poor to grow cotton with too little water to grow rice. They had no reason to own slaves rather his father had relied on 11 sons and 3 daughters. Yet when the call to arms went out he joined the cause without a second thought. In fact 1 million southerners joined the fight all but a handful where slave owners, most like my grandfather lived far from the plantations of the Carolinas, Georgia and Mississippi.

I suspect that the whole mess could have been resolved had the politicians worked things out in a civil manner and paid attention to the fact that the world around them was changing.

The abolitionists in 1861 found that slavery was a hot button in the North and used it as the rallying cry to end a practice that was less than 30 years from becoming out dated and inefficient as mechanized farming began to sweep across the nation.

Now 150 years later revisionists continue to create a war that was nothing more than an epic battle to free the black man from the abusive plantation owners. A battle where in the end good triumphed over evil.

As the line between fiction and fact continue to erode, there are those among us who are left to remind those less knowledgeable and more gullible that the war was not entirely about slavery. In fact now to suggest that the war was about anything but slavery is considered politically incorrect.

The fact is the war of "northern aggression" came about because the Southern States no longer wanted to be a part of the Union. The reason for their departure was the erosion of states’ rights. By standing up to the inherently corrupt Northern Bullies the South threatened to upset the Union's balance of trade with Europe.

Southerners simply saw a federal government that had overstepped the bounds of sensibility and had infringed on state's rights and the right of self-governance far too long.

Many Southerners had just earned for the first time the right to own property, as less than 100 years prior all property was owned by the crown. The North’s power grab along with the election of Abraham Lincoln convinced many Southerners that the North would soon seize the property they had just recently earned a right to. Keep in mind that in the 1860’s property rights were determined by the states.

I imagine that my grandfather saw the future of our Federal Government, a Federal Government much as it is today and he didn't like what he saw.

At the end of the war, out of 1,111 known members of the 26th Alabama; 360 are known to have been killed, 93 finished the war in prison or on furlough after being released, 2 escaped from a prisoner of war camp, 10 joined the Union Army, 146 are known to have been discharged or resigned, 39 are known to have deserted and 387 have some partial records.

John Edmonds was one of the 10 who were offered enlistment in the Union Army, and given the deplorable conditions at Fort Delaware and later Point Lookout, I would imagine it wasn’t a hard choice.

In October of 1863 he joined Captain George W. Alh's Independent Battery, Delaware Heavy Artillery of the Union Army. On July 25, 1865 he was given back his confederate musket, mustered out of the Union Army and walked home to Alabama.

In the years after the war he returned to Natural Bridge Alabama where he married the widow of a follow soldier killed in action while a member of 1st Alabama Calvary.

There he raised a family and often “flagged” his monthly Union Army pension check, making a point to ride his horse by the homes of his brothers waiving his $6.00 a month check and reminding all who would listen that they fought for the wrong side.

John Edmonds died on July 31, 1918 and is buried at Concord Baptist Church Cemetery in Natural Bridge Alabama.

Oddly enough my great grandfather and I share the same birthday.

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