The Civil War I Grew Up With
Published in R. Emmett Tyrrell
WASHINGTON -- With all the talk about the discovery of mass burial graves in faraway Ukraine, there is little thought of such graves being discovered here in America. Yet in recent weeks in bucolic Williamsburg, Virginia, archeologists have found their own mass grave. It is a graveyard that they believe is associated with the Civil War's Battle of Williamsburg, fought in 1862. There in the peaceful soil of Williamsburg, the remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers lie buried. Some wore the gray of the Confederacy. Some wore the blue of the Union. Now they all lie in a recently discovered pell-mell heap to be disentangled by authorities armed with DNA and the hope of returning the dead to their respective states.
The Confederate forces fought the oncoming Union army to end the Union's advance on the Confederacy's capital, Richmond. The Confederates pulled back, but the Union too retreated. All told, both sides contributed to a general casualty list that amounted to 3,800 killed and wounded. The battle must have been somewhat like the bloody Second Battle of Manassas, in which both armies lunged at the other, bayonets unsheathed, rifles being fired at point-blank range. Somehow a fire broke out engulfing both forces. It must have been a horrid conflict. Yet if the Union was to be saved, the war had to be fought, and for the ultimate integrity of our democracy the North had to win.
Now the greatness of Abraham Lincoln is being questions by little figures who will never be heard from again. The greatness of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant has already been questioned by his puny critics whose knowledge of the Civil War is utterly passe. Both men saved the Union. Had they not won, we modern-day Americans might well be speaking German today. Even more ghastly, we might be speaking President Vladimir Putin's language. The Civil War is one war that all Americans should agree on. It had to be fought and won. God bless old Abe and the memory of U.S. Grant.
Now, however, the monuments to only one side remain, and many of the ignoramuses who are tearing down monuments have their eyes on Union leaders, too, whose reputations they sully with the slander of racism. There was racism to be sure on both sides in times past, and there were other forms of intolerance, for instance: religious intolerance, ethnic intolerance and intolerance of immigrants. Today intolerance is still around, but it is being taught in the nation's classrooms. There intolerance is being taught under the guise of progressivism and with perfumed words such as diversity, equity and inclusion. Intolerance apparently you always have with you.
I do not know whose side your family took in the Civil War, but my family lived in the North, and they sided with the Union. My great-great-grandfather was the head of the Secret Service in Chicago. He broke the plot to steal Lincoln's body from its crypt in Springfield, Illinois, in 1876. His son, my great-grandfather, saw to it that his family fought the Civil War in our household until well after World War II. There was no bosh talk about the South's Lost Cause in the Tyrrell household, but there was also no talk of tearing down statues to Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson or, much less, the lone Southern soldier standing in the street near my home in Alexandria and looking to the south, looking to Richmond. That atrocity took place just a few years ago.
My grandfathers hated the Civil War, but they honored the bravery of the soldiers that fought in it. None would desecrate the soldiers who fought in it, especially the soldiers of the North. The statues being torn down were part of American history. By tearing them down you diminish the greatness of that history. The peril that Blacks faced with whole states pitted against them is lost. The greatness of Lincoln and Grant is lost. The bravery of senators, congressmen and governors who staked their careers in opposing slavery and opting for war to save the Union is lost. It was an era of greatness, and now some pipsqueaks are going to erase it. I say balderdash.
Glory to Ukraine!
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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