As we look at that, it is totally fitting for us to be proud, for us to honor and give thanks, but you know, when you set aside “The Lost Cause” and “The War of Northern Aggression” and “The Recent Unpleasantness,” we do have to remind ourselves that this great war was in fact, as Pres. Lincoln said, a war about liberty, and were all men created equal?
We were taught a variety of reasons for the Civil War, and there were many reasons, but we can’t ever forget that the principal cause for the war was slavery. and the abolition of slavery, and that slavery was wrong, Even many of the slaveholders called it a necessary evil. Slavery was wrong. Segregation was wrong, and we’ve put that behind us too.
But that doesn’t make us think any less of these men, on both sides, who did so much.
My great grandfather James Barbour was a captain in Forrest’s cavalry. He never owned a slave. He came here from Ireland as a teenager in the 1840?s. When the war started, he was 18 and he worked in a hardware store, and he joined the Confederate Army because his neighbors were joining the Confederate Army, and his best friend, Charles McDonald, led his company, also a Captain.
Charles was killed at the battle of Tullahoma, Tennessee. James, my great grandfather, married his widow, and took in their little girl and had three more children, the youngest of whom was my grandfather.
My great grandfather, as I said, never owned a slave, and interestingly, I have in my study a photograph of his brother Charles, “Uncle Charlie,” as he was known, who was a captain in the Union Army.
Very much of that in this war, and in this country, it makes it all the more powerful, it makes it all the more memorable, but it makes it all the more important that we understand why the war was fought and what we have to do to lead the world for freedom.