St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, April 11, 2011

On the Eve of Civil War: "What is to be Done?"

How well I remember the parents of my friends finding Civil War artifacts on their farmland back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Growing up in the South and in the general area through which Sherman's men trekked their way to the sea, it was not uncommon for an old artifact to find its way to the surface.

As a young adult, I lived near a battlefield outside of Atlanta for a number of years, and it still was not uncommon to find artifacts of the War after a hard rain.  Why, we even had a foxhole or two on the hill behind the house as there was a three day skirmish in the area.

Recently, I spent a few days in Charleston, the town where the first shots of the Civil War were heard.  Spending some time in the city via tourist style, I saw some beautiful old homes and heard some interesting stories about the American Revolution and the early days of Charleston.

History is alive in Charleston, and a lot of talk was about the upcoming anniversary of the War of Northern Aggression.  It seems so strange to think our country was so divided that states seceeded from the Union and brothers and cousins fought each other.

I have also spent some in the last week looking at the Captain Thomas Espy GAR Post 153 in Allegheny Co, PA.  I had several family members who were members of that little Civil War Veteran Group and I have found it fascinating to look online at the documentation and artifacts they have in their possession today.

Today, I heard talk of a protest in Atlanta over the lighting of a match.  Lighting of a match?  It would appear some groups don't think that having a plaque at or near the spot where Sherman ordered the burning of Atlanta is important.  According to the group protesting the plaque, we shouldn't remember the event since it is also in the same area as another more recent movement.  Their view is the plaque should be somewhere else.  The burning of Atlanta did happen and Sherman's March to the Sea did have devastating effects on the South. And the order did come to burn Atlanta where the city of Atlanta was, and is.  Where else should it be? 

Leading up to the Civil War, there was much tension among the different groups. Sometimes, I wonder why different groups of today believe that we shouldn't remember the past.  Honor your past, honor the past of others.  The many trails we took as individuals have all come together to make us what we are now.

I came across some interesting articles in a northern newspaper, The Washington Reporter, from January 11, 1860.

The first is titled "Sand in Cotton Bales."

There is no doubt a very great difference between the economical relation of the North and the South, separately considered.  The yankees are an ingenious people, a fact that is undisputed by either their friends of foes....It is the great relief of the disadvantages of slavery when the slave is brought intra mania--within the walls-- and made a portion of the family; and, as Horace Greely thinks, when the slaves and the whites, by co labor as mechanics or otherwise, become more intimate than can possibly be the case in field labor, there naturally arises a more sympathetic and philanthropic feeling between the parties. It would, we believe, be a happy thing for the slaves of the South should succeed in establishing their own manufactures.....

(The article is talking mostly about the sprinkling of sand in cotton bales, which increases the weight of the cotton, thus increasing the money received.  According the article, the Yanks had been practicing that for years in different ways, for example, adding sand to brown sugar.)

....It cannot be supposed for a moment that the planters-- the very pinks of chivalry-- would sand the cotton themselves; no doubt that is done through the industry and ingenuity of their yankee overseers, and so far as that is concerned we hope our chivalric friends will not turn to and tar and feather the yankees on that account,....

Another article follows entitled "Emigration of Negroes from Arkansas"

In this article, the legislature of Arkansas has passed a law giving the Negroes the alternative of leaving to stay free or stay and become slaves.  Of course, many left.  Who wouldn't?

......What shall be done with the thousands of unfortunates who will be driven northward?-- This is a grave question, and our readers will see....that it is engaging earnestly the consideration of the leading minds of the country......

Senator Doolittle of Wiconsin said that the more important question was what to do with the free Negro as opposed to the slavery issue.

...He said the free States will not retain them; some of the Northern States enact stringent laws to prevent them from coming among them,.....

As we reflect on the Civil War and its effects on the nation and on our families, remember first that we are all Americans.  As for me, I lost family members on both sides of the war.  I still think of them, no matter what color uniform they wore.  They all shared my blood, and my blood runs red for America.

Ahh, genealogy.  Remember the past.  After all, how can history teach us if we aren't willing to listen?

Source:  The Washington Reporter, January 11, 1860

©2011 AS Eldredge

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