Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time for the South to Lose the Civil War

Robert E Lee

Robert E. Lee: A True "Knight" of the South?

As some of you might suspect, as a historian of the War of 1812, I am not pleased that the hoopla over the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War is going to steal the thunder from my favorite war, a war that is much overlooked and misunderstood but nonetheless important in making the United States what it is today.

In today's Washington Post, columnist Richard Cohen has an interesting article attacking the myth of Robert E. Lee and questioning why a man who defended slavery is so admired these many years after the Civil War (see the link through the title above). It's an important article and goes to nub of much of the guff and legend of the Civil War and the idea of the nobility of the Southern warrior, whether it be the rebellion's commanding general or the ordinary Johnny Reb in his nutbrown uniform.

There's a lot of hypocrisy in the enduring celebration of the South, the side that lost. And it always amazes me that many of my War of 1812 colleagues, who celebrate the writing of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the fact that "our flag is still there" are the same individuals who line up in parade every cold January at the double equestrian statue of Generals Lee and Jackson in Baltimore's Wyman Park under the Rebel "Stars and Bars." It seems to me they can't have it both ways -- to want to honor the fact that the United States was saved from foreign domination and to celebrate a bloody rebellion against this nation at the same time.

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