Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Remembrance Day, Memorial Day - for some

Yes, I realize it is the day after. Yesterday was indeed Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day as I believe the Canadians called it the last time I visited Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. (It was also my anniversary, seventeen years with the lovely lady who was silly enough to marry me, although we've know each other - and loved each other - since 1978. Another "remembrance" for me.)

What actually occasions this note is a post I just now read by Wesley Pruden, posted on the JWR (Jewish World Review) web site. He was speaking of the origins of Memorial Day, and the people involved. At the end of the post - where it so often seems the "meat" of a story resides - he spoke of Gen. Joe Wheeler, a Confederate general who also served with the "Union" army, when he fought the Spanish in Cuba. He wrote:

"The echoes of shot and shell that had summoned men to battle were barely beginning to fade when America stood at the cusp of war with Spain just as the century ended. Not everyone though it was a good idea to organize Southerners into an army so soon after Appomattox. Someone had the good idea of offering command to a former Confederate officer, and to Gen. Joe Wheeler, a hard-hitting cavalry commander from Alabama who briefly delayed Sherman's torching of Atlanta. He and his troops fought well in Cuba, though in the din of battle at Las Guasimas he forgot where he was and rallied his men with the cry: "Let's go, boys! We've got the damnyankees on the run again."

He died with his boots on in Brooklyn a decade later, pleased to parade in his uniform of Union blue, and he is one of the few senior Confederate officers allowed to sleep in a grave at Arlington. The flags of the two American nations whose uniforms he wore decorated his grave this year."

As a technical Southerner, having been born in Houston (although raised in New York and New England and descended from French-Canadian stock), and being aware of the truth of the War of Northern (Federal) Aggression, my sympathies lie with the South. So I was especially pleased to read Pruden's words confirming his understanding that there were indeed two American nations for a brief and bloody period of time. Not one nation and some rebels, but indeed another nation, the Confederate States of America.

And that stirs another memory, another remembrance that may be withheld from our children when they are taught American history, deprived of this knowledge as were many of our generation as we grew up:

Arlington National Cemetery, where so many of our war dead are buried, and where Memorial Day takes on the most serious of overtones, was the home of Robert E. Lee, stolen from his widow as punishment for his leading the fight against the North's insistence that the Southern states would not be allowed to go their own way, to secede from the "Union". It took a Supreme Court ruling and an act of Congress to return it to Lee's descendant, his grandson Custis Lee. One year later, in 1875, he sold it back to the government.

For quite some time, Confederate soldiers were refused burial there, but eventually the North relented, and there is now a Confederate section where some of "the gray" were allowed to be moved and re-interred. Relatively few are the Confederate soldiers who lie there, to be honored with the rest of our fallen warriors, but they should be remembered as well.

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Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.