Response For Calling My Ancestors Barbaric
In a message dated 4/23/99 11:46:16 PM EST this message was posted to a Genealogy Forum
Just a reminder that April 26th is Confederate Memorial Day throughout the South. For those of us with Confederate Ancestors, it is fitting that we take time from our busy schedules and participate in our local Confederate Memorial Day Services to honor those who came before us and who made supreme sacrifices exercising their right to form a government that represented them.
In this day of so called political correctness, there seems to be a deliberate effort to erase the memory of these brave souls, to misrepresent what they were about, and to provide a very misconstrued history of what happened from 1861-1865. All I know is that I was not there and I do not know all the issues. But it seems to me that if my Pennsylvania Uncle, Elijah Gore, felt that the South was right and gave up his life fighting for the Confederacy; and if my West Virginia Suddarth Uncles fought brother against brother; and if the rest of the South was willing to fight to the last, losing all but their pride and dignity, then there must have been something to it besides what we are told today.
Regardless the politics, it is a day to pay homage to the Human Spirit, to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made and the hard work it took to rebuild the glorious South that we have today. It is a day to honor tradition, as Confederate Memorial Day has been a tradition in the South for over 130 years.
I hope that all of you who are interested, find an opportunity to participate in honoring our ancestors. For those of you who live near Confederate Cemeteries and have no ancestors of your own resting there, I invite you to adopt one of the soldiers who lie in an unmarked grave; known but to God. He was a man or a boy far from home who gave up his life defending your ancestor's home, asking only in return that he be remembered Take time this weekend to remember him in a way that you see appropriate.
This is the reply by: Terry Ligon at TerrybleT@aol.com Sat, 24 Apr 1999 08:52:06 EDT
I think Mike and his friends at the Sons of Confederate Veterans could use a little scrutiny and correctness period! It is evident he has an agenda not necessarily grounded in truth and for some rediculous reason, wishes too continue the Civil War and the right to own other humans as property. Unfortunately, Mike fails to mention the reasons his ancestors truly fought to form their own government for this "noble" purpose. In this age of "free speech" it is fortunate we are made aware of such individuals and organizations, hopefully we can monitor them to discover what are their true motives???????
Mike, I think you have every right to say and do what you please. You should feel honored that your ancestor had the courage to fight for what they believed in. But, seriously, don't kid yourself. Human bondage was at the core of what the south was about. The right to own another human and exploit them for all eternity as a cheap labor force. To separate families at whim. To humiliate, dehumanize, murder, rape and then disowned your own child in denial and irresponsible behavior. No Mike, you may think this is just a day to acknowledge some glorious history of free will, but the truth is those ancestors you glorify are nothing more than barbaric.
I tried to overlook this posting, but from what I have learned of my ancestors who were victimize by the system your ancestors thrived in, I couldn't remain silent and allow you the comfort of posting that nonsense without a reply. Hopefully you will hear from others who differ in opinion on the merits of your ancestors "political correctness". Actually, I think you used this phrase to couch your words so they would seem innocent and mainstream to the point of not offending anyone or touching a kindred spirit in stupidity. Or are you suggesting that as a nation, we would be better off had the south succeeded in winning the Civil War?
Ask your self another question. What if the slaves had been successful in waging a war of revolution to overthrow the government that held them in bondage. Had these same slaves had the opportunity to work their own farms and voted for their candidates that saw the world from their perspective, and had the military might to see their beliefs put to the ultimate test. What if these African~Descendant people been allowed to form their own government to receive payment for their labor in a "CIVILIZED" manner?
You know Mike, I think of my Civil War ancestors, who are just now being recognized for their glorius role in ensuring "your" ancestors did not succeed in their heathenistic way. So as I think of Confederates Day, or whatever cute term you label the day, I will think of Christian FLEETWOOD, Cornelius PICKENS, Albert TAYLOR, John TAYLOR, Margaret Ann WILSON, Nellie CRAWFORD, Isom JACKSON, Joe FREEMAN, Sibbie McCOY, Mose TAYLOR, Isaac CHRISTIAN, and a host more who were slaves in the "glorius south".
(printed exactly as received, including spelling)
My response follows:
First let me address the slave issue. This seems to be important to you. I was somewhat surprised that you included the North with the South in the point about the exploitation of slave labor. As your sig file (trailer end of email message) implies, slavery has been intertwined in history for thousands of years, even today in some parts of the world. Some African countries have had the institution of slavery since the beginning of recorded time. In Alabama, my home state, slavery existed less than forty years, except for some Native Americans who enslaved their conquered enemies. As I mentioned earlier to you, less than two percent of the population of Southern States had slaves. I want to point out at this time my belief that slavery can in no way be justified, period.
I agree with you on one point. It was all about Politics and Economics. It always has been and always will be.
Now for a more personal aspect of your statements. I STRONGLY object to anyone calling my ancestors barbaric!! I have researched my ancestors for over forty years. My ancestry (50 plus surnames) includes English, Irish, Scotch, Italian, German, Cherokee Indian, Creek Indian, Slavic, Scandinavian, and more with over a dozen lines documented back to the 1500's.
I have documented records for 37 (and still looking) of my ancestors who fought in the Civil War, on both sides. One of my Great Grandfathers and his brother fought for two years with one side and then two years with the other side. One of my Great Great Grandfathers fought with six of his brothers. One was killed in Petersburg on the day Lee surrendered, three were captured and imprisoned, and two were wounded. After the war carpetbaggers took his father's 6,000 acre plantation. Oh, by the way, there were no slaves owned by this family or any of my other ancestors who fought. I have pictures of two of my Great Great Grandfathers and one of my Great Grandfathers, in their uniforms. These are real people, not just a phrase that is uttered. My Father talked to his Grandfather who fought and he is a real person to me. I have his picture, I have walked on his land, and I have his discharge papers and railroad pass when he was released from prison at Fort Delaware. I walked on the site where he was imprisoned in Alton, IL and nearly died from smallpox. I have dozens of letters written by them to family at home while in battle. These are real people, my ancestors, and they were not barbarians. I will continue to honor their memory, their sacrifices, and their bravery until the day I die.
Now, to address the reason for the war. I refer you back to the formation of this country as a federation of states with specified powers to the central government (i.e. Defense, taxation) with all powers not specified to the states. If you aren't familiar with federalism you can consult Publius-The Journal of Federalism. Expanded federal control through punitive measures against the Southern States led to a desire to disassociate with the federal government and form a confederation. I trust you know the difference between a federation and a confederation. (this I studied at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels in Urban Affairs, Political Science, and Public Administration). This has been occurring in the world since the beginning of time, including when our Country disassociated itself from England and a similar war was fought for independence. It is happening today and our Government supports and funds those efforts with our (yours and mine) tax money. Shortly after the Civil War, the Supreme Court ruled in 1869 that the federal government is indestructible and made up of indestructible states, and a state cannot leave the union nor can the federal government expel them.
The Southern States were settled primarily by simple farmers seeking freedom and opportunity. Most, including my ancestors, homesteaded forty acre tracts (no there weren't slave laden plantations on every hilltop), farmed, raised families, and went to church. In fact, many large plantations with slaves were operated by opportunistic Northern businessmen who also conducted the slave trade activities in conjunction with conquering African nations who enslaved their own and sold them.
No, my ancestors didn't fight for slaves, for they had none. If you research the enlistment of Southerners to fight, you will find that enlistment drastically increased after their land, farms, etc. were invaded by Northern troops who took their food, stock, clothing, bedding, and burned the rest most of the time. Several of my ancestors were only fifteen years old when they joined to protect their families, one was killed at that young age. One of my Great Great Grand Uncles was fifty-seven years old. He was killed at Shiloh.
My Native American ancestors were horribly mistreated by the Federal Government so I can feel your pain but I don't spend all my waking hours lamenting the Federal Government for this. I am proud of my Country, even with all the warts. It is the greatest country that ever existed.
I ask that you accept my apology for making this so lengthy. My heritage is very important to me, as yours should be to you. My ancestors settled this country, both in the North and the South, and when the western frontier opened up some went all the way to California and places in between. I am a part of all of it and proud of all its parts. Again, I take great offense when any of my ancestors are called barbaric. I am proud to be an American (non-hyphenated). Thank you for your time.
This is Mike Wennin's response to Terry:
Thanks for your note...it goes to prove the untruths that have be taught over the years....yes there was slavery in the South- a way of life for 300+ years( I do not condone it...just the facts), but it was not confined there nor was the North gallantly trying to end it. if it is was, why did General U.S. Grant own slaves throughout the War and refuse to set them free until the 13th Amendment was passed 3 years after the War? Why did Mary Todd Lincoln own a slave- AT THE WHITE HOUSE- through-out the War? Why did the Emancipation Proclamation not free ALL of the slaves? Why did the slaves in the North have to wait 3 more years before they were freed? If the North was so concerned about the fate of the Blacks, why did they slaughter 10,000 of them in the NYC Draft Riots of 1863? Why did Sherman's Army, as it marched through the South, routinely beat, torture and rape the slaves they were supposedly "liberating" and at one point left 100's of them stranded on an island to die? Lincoln himself is quoted on several occasions that he did not care whether he freed any slaves or not....just that he would do what it took to save the Union. In fact he met with leading free Blacks in Washington before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to find out what to do with all the freed slaves since there was no way they could live together....he even considered the possibility of shipping them to South America where they would be resold back into slavery. My point is that the North got to write how it was in the history books and left out a few important details. They were not the gallant liberators that we are led to believe.
The Confederate Constitution took the first step in ending slavery when it banned the importation of slaves...the first step that England took some 30 years earlier to end slavery there. Many Southern leaders were working on a way to end slavery in the South before the war. It was the New England shipping merchants who made millions of dollars importing slaves to the South and even tried to continue this practice now banned by the Confederacy, during the War. There was never a slave imported on ship carrying a Confederate Flag.
Robert E. Lee abhorred slavery as did many of his officers. My poor dirt farming ancestors did not give up their lives in order for the rich plantation owners to keep their slaves. My point is that there was much much more to the War Between the States, and that it was not as simplistic as being fought over slavery.
And No, I m quite happy that the War turned out as it did. I do not have any hidden agenda nor do the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Our sole purpose is to tell the whole story about the War, and to remember our ancestors and the part they played in this tragic time of our history. Yes there are some racists in our national ranks, but the organization goes to extreme lengths to rout them out and expose them. We go out of our way to disassociate ourselves from those with the hidden agendas. In fact I just got a letter yesterday from the National SCV officially disassociating ourselves from the League of the South. I can assure you that my local camp is very sensitive to the race issue and that there are no racists in our midst.
I am also pleased to see that the Black Union Soldiers are finally being recognized. The thousands of Black Confederate Soldiers have been recognized every Confederate Memorial Day for the past 130+ years. There are many monuments and memorials to them in the South. In fact at our local Memorial Day Services held last week we took time to remember a black man named Willie Battle who saved Confederate Congressman Warren Akins from Sherman's Army, refusing $1000 in gold to tell his where abouts.
I appreciate your concern over this issue, but in this case it was unwarranted and your accusations are not what I am about. Mike Wennin
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