|Interior of Warren Rifles Confederate|
Coming from the North, when I first entered Virginia, I had notions of the Civil War that I no longer entertain. I believed that the war was truly about ending slavery and scoffed at the idea that its present day partisans believe it was about states' rights. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed while in college when I first heard the term, "War of Northern Aggression."
Maybe it's something in my Virginia well, but now it makes sense. Maturity, experience, (aka, seeing policitians for what they are) and deeper analysis, as well as living in the remnants of the olde South, not to mention my grading gig, have caused me to look deeper at the root causes of the American Civil War. My current belief is that the cause to end slavery was used as a political tool halfway through the war to garner support for the Union armies in an unpopular conflict against people fighting for what they considered was their homeland.
Whatever side you come down on, the sons of the Confederacy now command my respect in ways they hadn't previously. Their military leadership was generally impeccable under Lee, who throughout his command achieved and maintained the highest respect of his fighting men, leading them to victory, facing difficult odds, with half the Union resources. Yet to the bitter end, they clung to his command until he formally discharged them from their duties at Appomattox Courthouse on April 12, 1865.
Which brings me to the inspiration of this reflection. In Front Royal's musuem is an Confederate Battle flag, shown above, inscribed with the names of the fighting men who died throughout the campaigns that was flown during the formal surrender at Appomattox. Worn and tattered, you could feel the steely gaze of men in gray who looked to and saluted that flag and sense the intense moment of their surrender. Guant, determined, and tall in defeat, they stared. I believe their sentiments were captured by their great commander, General Lee, in his now famous General Order No. 9:
After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection.
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell
If you live in or visit the deep south, the boldness of character and Southern pride, and in some instances, defiance, remain. I like that, though not all celebrate or salute it in these regions. People have their objections. I did too, but now find they ring increasingly hollow in the face of the rising tyranny of the welfare state that lies before us.
Over and Out,