LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reader sees Civil war differently than Rinearson
I read with amusement and chagrin the column written by Bob Rinearson. My amusement was being referred to as an anarchist, something that I haven’t been called since the antiwar marches on Washington DC in 69 and 71. Also at that little foray in Chicago in 68. To my chagrin, his revisionist theory as to the reason for the Civil war being fought reasons beyond slavery. The banner to his column read that nothing is as simply as it seems, (in reference to Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg. But, the gist of the column was that “Many with anarchist intentions foolishly believe that ridding the landscape of monuments of those who supported slavery is a worthy endeavor”.
Mr. Rinearson talks about standing atop Cemetery Ridge envisioning Pickett’s charge and carnage that ensued. He wrote of horrific pictures of dead and wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. The piles of limbs at field hospitals. I too, have stood atop Cemetery Ridge, looked out over the battlefield and viewed the horrific pictures. But, I came away with a very different viewpoint. He inferred a moral equivalency between the Union and Confederate soldiers. A notion I totally reject. There was no moral equivalency between the two sides. One side were true patriots, the other side were traitors of the United States. One side fought to end the institution of slavery, the other side to preserve it. He refers to the moral equivalency between General George Meade and General Robert E, Lee. To think that both were noble men fighting for a cause they believed. That may be true, but Meade’s cause was noble and Lee’s pure evil.
To say that not all Confederate soldiers were fighting to preserve slavery and not all Union soldiers were fighting to end slavery is ludicrous, because that is exactly what both sides were fighting for. The civil War was about slavery and nothing else. Slavery was the life blood was the southern economy. The end of slavery would have been ruinous to cheap production of cotton and tobacco profitability and would have bankrupt the Southern aristocracy. The greed of the Southern aristocracy is what started the Civil War. They foresaw the election of the antislavery Republican President Lincoln, as the beginning of the end of slavery. The war had nothing to do with states’ rights and everything to do with slavery. There were already 16 free states and 15 states that allowed slavery. Four territories were petitioning for statehood as free states. The South knew it was just a matter of time before emancipation became a reality and end the Southern aristocracy’s comfortable way o f life. This is born out in the fact that all 16 of the free states voted for Lincoln, (with the exception of New Jersey). All 15 of the slave states, plus New Jersey voted for pro slave candidates, John Breckinridge, John Bell and Stephen Douglas. All three of which opposed secession. Southerners had a choice to betray their country or fight for their country. 32,000 Virginians fought for the Union.
As for the moral equivalency between Meade and Lee, there is none. General Meade was a patriot that fought for his country. General Lee was a slave owning white supremacist who had his slave flogged for transgressions, then had brine water poured over the wounds to inflict even more pain. The following is an exert from a letter Lee wrote to an abolitionist newspaper in 1858. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race,” This was the thinking of all the Confederate statesmen and generals, Do these men really deserve to be honored with statues ? I say not. These statues would be the moral equivalent of Germany erecting statues in honor of Nazi leaders and generals. Not all German soldiers in World War II believed in genocide, but believed in the superiority of the Aryan race, Just as each Confederate soldier believed in the inferiority of the African race.
I doubt that Mr. Rinearsen has any racist views, he is most likely an honorable, thoughtful person. But, I doubt that he has any close, personal African American friends, as I do.
If he did, he would know what an affront it is to have the men who enslaved their forefathers honored with statues. Most of these statues were erected in the 20th century at the height of the KKK as symbols of white supremacy, These statues are a painful reminder of slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination. They have no place anywhere in the United States. If you want to honor the fallen Confederate soldiers, erect nameless statues , not statues of white supremacist like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Robert E Lee.
Steve Smith, Fort Wayne
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