There’s a Question My Confederate Ancestors Taught Me To AskRoundup
tags: slavery, Civil War, politics, Antebellum South
David French is senior editor of The Dispatch. He’s also a columnist for Time. He’s the author of Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore, and the forthcoming Divided We Fall, among others.
Many readers may not know this, but today is a significant day in Civil War history. On April 26, 1865—17 days after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox—Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee at Greensboro, North Carolina. The last major Confederate combatant command stacked its arms.
I think of this day not merely because of its national historical significance but also because of its personal family importance. My ancestors fought for the Army of Tennessee. In fact, my ancestors marched across the very ground where my house sits and fought for their lives in the very town—Franklin, Tennessee—where I now live. Other ancestors fought for the Army of Mississippi. I’ve walked their battlefields at Shiloh and Vicksburg.
And I must confess, the older I get, the more I’m haunted by their legacy.
I don’t mean that in a guilty way, as if I’m somehow responsible for the actions of men who took up arms for an unjust cause more than a century before I was born. Instead, I mean that I’ve often asked myself, “What would I have done?”
Slavery was a monstrous evil. Yet generations of Americans grew up in communities that accepted it, defended it, and even celebrated it. How many abolitionist arguments did a child of the antebellum South ever hear? If they heard abolitionist arguments, did they hear them portrayed fairly, accurately, and sympathetically?
comments powered by Disqus
- Josh Hawley Earns F in Early American History
- Does Germany's Holocaust Education Give Cover to Nativism?
- "Car Brain" Has Long Normalized Carnage on the Roads
- Hawley's Use of Fake Patrick Henry Quote a Revealing Error
- Health Researchers Show Segregation 100 Years Ago Harmed Black Health, and Effects Continue Today
- Nelson Lichtenstein on a Half Century of Labor History
- Can America Handle a 250th Anniversary?
- New Research Shows British Industrialization Drew Ironworking Methods from Colonized and Enslaved Jamaicans
- The American Revolution Remains a Hotly Contested Symbolic Field
- Untangling Fact and Fiction in the Story of a Nazi-Era Brothel