Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ghosts from the past...

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Photo is loadingI have been watching a Civil War show tonight that I recorded earlier from PBS. My younger son and I recently did a fieldtrip Friday to a cemetery in a neighboring city. We came across the separate African American cemetery here. This of course created a candid discussion about attitudes framing history in general. We also went to the Confederate cemetery.

I love learning and reading about the Civil War. This started when I was younger and found my still now interest in ancestry. My uncle told me stories he learned from his grandparents when he was younger. Some of these involved Sherman and his march of terror, the atrocities he forced upon helpless families, sometimes alone with women and children while the men were off at war. I learned first hand, from stories passed down, how my great grandparents of several generations ago, along with aunts and uncles and cousins, were raped, maimed, tortured, starved, and killed...under the orders of a man who is honored in the North in history and who is truly a horror of mankind still to some in the South.

These stories were passed along often when discussing old photographs of who was who and what he or she did and how they lived and died. It broke my heart to watch my uncle tear up when I was younger as he described the memory of his grandmother crying from tales of memories personal to her...eating chicken scratch to stay alive, the men, home from war, taking to the swamps and the thicket of the woods to not be killed or harmed by Union soldiers. The houses and barns and corn sheds burned. Winter supplies taken and families with small children left with nothing before the cold of winter set in...
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It is important for my children to know the outcomes of the Confederate War, but also to know the things that are not in the history books and the things history does not tell and attempts to erase from existence. I do not want my offspring and descendants to repeat the mistakes of the past. I want them to know what their ancestors suffered so that they might live. Only in knowing what was, will they realize the true blessing of continuing in life today.

While my son and I were viewing the graves...we noticed how so many were simply unknown.
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Rows and rows of unknown.
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How many mothers and wives never knew the fate of their sons and spouses? I cannot imagine.
One of the things that struck us most, was the two lone graves of Union soldiers at the gates of the Confederate cemetery.
Photo is loadingThough this man's name is unknown as well, he was buried by our men with grace and honor. And, I wondered aloud to my son if the Union buried the dead of our soldiers alongside their own men as we did theirs. We have discussed this in our home once or twice in the last week. The Civil War is also the topic of current study in a homeschool US History course I am teaching at the local resource center with our homeschool group.
Tonight as I am watching this show on PBS, I remember and research the topic online. Congress did not decree until 1956 that Confederate soldiers were Americans still and had a right to be buried in national cemeteries. Apparently, there was a practice of the North to not 1. bury our men at all, and/or 2. not bury them beside their own men. Confederate soldiers were thought of as traitors, not worthy of burial in the same ground. Yet, just yards away from the South's dead in the nearby city, lies the dead of the North...
How is it our country was so embattled in war at the time that practically half the states seceded the Union and yet we still thought highly enough of the humanness of their men to bury them alongside ours? How is it that the North thought so little of the men who just a few months before had been their countrymen and brothers that they could not bury our men or not bury them beside their own? How shocking and how saddening. 

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