OPINION FEATURE - UPDATED MAY 26, 1999
On April 28, just after Confederate Memorial Day,
Commerce News Editor, Mark Beardsley, opined the following in his weekly column:
Mark Beardsley, Editor
The Commerce News
April 28, 1999
Thank God The Union Won The Civil War
It happens every year on Confederate Memorial Day. The ladies dress in their 19th-century skirts, a couple of men don Civil War style clothing and bring out their re-created Civil War firearms, and, in the name of the Confederate dead, a speaker reminds us all that the North was the Great Satan that invaded, humiliated and destroyed the virtuous South.
I have no quarrel with those who seek to honor the men who died fighting for the Confederacy, or who wear the clothing of the time or who re-enact the battles. But I do have a bone to pick with those who pervert history to declare that the South was right to secede and that the U.S. government was somehow immoral to fight to hold the Union together.
The speakers make Satan himself commander in chief of the Union Army, attributing every atrocity possible to the position of the Union. The Southerners, by contrast, are portrayed as gentlemen who were merely out-numbered and out-gunned, but superior morally and militarily.
I note that the speakers generally waltz around the subject of slavery. If it is brought up at all, it is to note that very few of the men who fought for the Confederate States of America owned slaves. Of course not. Most were too poor. They fought, as poor men always have, a war declared by the ruling aristocracy to protect its way of life. The economy of the South was built on the evil of slavery. The primary "state's right" was the right of a rich white man to call a black man his property.
It's time for some people to recognize that the war is over and America, including the South, is better off because the damn Yankees won. The right to secede was determined by force, but had Lee not stumbled at Gettysburg, today the Southern states might be a handful of independent, know-nothing countries. Frankly, Georgia as a part of the United States of America is preferable to the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
Imagine the world today with the Confederacy intact. What rights would black citizens have today? Slavery would have fallen of its own weight, war or not, but blacks would still be second-class citizens in most of the South, bound by racist codes to be merely a labor force for the wealthy. Long after the war, the South maintained a legacy of discrimination that would continue today but for federal intervention. The Lester Maddoxes, George Wallaces and other racist officials of the time would have kept blacks in a different sort of bondage. No, a Confederate victory would have perpetuated great evil.
The War Between The States was a bad war, but a necessary one to preserve the Union. It was also the only means by which blacks could have been freed from slavery. The South fought valiantly and could have won at least a draw.
But it didn't, and no matter how people reconstruct history, that fact remains. If people want to honor ancestors who died, that's good, but they should do it honestly. The southern cause revolved around slavery. It was wrong and it was evil, and it took the Civil War and 100 years of federal legislation to end it forever. It's time to move on.
The response to Beardsley's column over the course of the next couple of weeks
was immediate and overwelming. The following letters were received:
Award Recipient Offended By Column
This is in response to Mark Beardsley's opinion in the Commerce News titled, "Thank God the Union won the Civil War," published April 28th. I am one of the men honored at the Confederate Memorial Day service. And, as were others, I was deeply offended by Mr. Beardsley's remarks.
I have been directly associated with the U.S. Army for 49 years, of which I have proudly served our country for 28 years as an officer and soldier. I am sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. Within that framework, I am bound to accept the privilege of Mr. Beardsley and others to express their opinions, regardless of how hurtful.
It is unfortunate your editorial focused on the negative aspects of the memorial service, rather than on its purpose. I must agree with Mr. Beardsley's comments that some of the guest speaker's remarks were inappropriate and inflammatory. However, rather than recognizing the obvious dissymmetry, Mr. Beardsley chose to attack and denigrate the event. He likewise rendered a grievous disservice to those honored, those in attendance, and the dedicated women of the J.E.B. Stuart Chapter of the UDC who sponsored the program. I feel that Mr. Beardsley owes all of them an apology.
The Holy Bible teaches, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Similarly, the U.S. Army has a near-acronym for its values - LDRSHIP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. These have always been "Family" values - values I learned in my home from my mother and father, taught and instilled by their parents and their grandparents, many who suffered through the agonizing years of war and its aftermath.
We gathered one month ago to pay our respects and say "Thank you" to those men and women gave us the courage to persevere, who made those values an integral part of our lives, not to revise or relive the "War Between the States."
Carlton L. Hood
Colonel, United States Army
When Will The War Between The States Cease?
For two years I portrayed a field nurse at re-enactments for the Michigan 7th Infantry. Every battle brought tears to my eyes. Now in my adopted state I find you're still at it. Only this time it's at each other. Will it ever cease?
Historians Much In Disagreement Over Events Around War
I would like to make several points clear concerning the mass of responses you have received about the War Between the States.
Mr. Coleman says that "all historians agree that slavery would have been abolished by the end of the 19th century. In fact the Confederate Constitution stopped all importation of slaves."
Historians are in much disagreement over the profitability of slaves, and the reason slave importation was ceased was to keep slave prices high, thereby keeping southern slave owners wealthy.
I also question whether Lincoln abolished the Bill of Rights. Originally, Lincoln only wanted to prohibit slavery in new territories -- not established states -- and the South refused.
In response to the letter stating that "the South may have won and been our own industrial power without waiting 50 years," the South itself prohibited industry. Southern politicians kept industry taxes much higher than those in the North, discouraging industry. Why did it take so long for the South to rebuild? Probably because those former slave owners looked to try to return to anything near slavery (share cropping, share tenants), causing competition instead of compassion between poor whites and freedmen for these jobs. To sum it up, this competition led to landowners seeing they could exploit the workers and keep wages down. (The South is the poorest region in the nation. If we want to be personal several years ago Jackson County had a lower average income than the poorest state in the country-Mississippi.)
Because wages increase through education, landowners also wanted to keep education down. Industry requires different forms of skill than farm labor and southern landowners had no incentives to provide this. The South has itself to blame for its history and cannot turn and blame anyone else.
Born in Commerce with a dad from Virginia and a mom from Eatonton,
Editor's Comments Not Backed By The Facts
After reading your editorial of April 28th, I felt that some type of response was really necessary. I realize that I have neither your gift of the pen nor probably your intelligence; I'm not a newspaper editor. I am a southerner and a proud one at that. From your column you could have written about almost anything, Kosovo, Columbine H.S., etc., but instead you chose to do what a lot of other people, politically correct people, are doing and that is southern bashing. It really doesn't take much to do that what with all the issues, the Georgia Flag, Confederate Memorial Day, Lee, Jackson and Davis birthdays, the U.D.C., and the S.C.V.
The speaker we heard at the Confederate Memorial Day program April 25th was invited by the ladies of the U.D.C. who worked diligently to organize the celebration. I found his speech to be historically correct. Were you there because you are interested, or were you looking for something that you could use in your editorial? Which part of history did he pervert? Was it the part where Sherman's men did $100,000,000 worth of damage to Georgia, mostly against civilians, or the part where black southerners fought for the South because it was their country or the fact that the South, for over a hundred years, was treated as the stepchild of the country?
And of course there is the slavery issue. The South will always be the area of the country persecuted for this, even though in 1776 all the states had slaves. Slavery didn't work up North because of the climate and the industry so they worked immigrants in factories. It wasn't slavery but it was pretty close. How about the fact that most, not all, slave ships were owned by northerners? I agree that slavery in our eyes is wrong, but to condemn our ancestors for doing what was legal and in their eyes morally right is poor. It's really easy to condemn the dead. (I wonder what our descendants are going to condemn us about?)
You've made a lot of statements but you have no facts to support. Is this typical of your editorials? Since we would have been a "know-nothing country" if we had won, does that make us a "know-nothing state" now? And while you say that the South perpetuated second-class citizenry upon blacks, you forgot to mention that the same was happening to blacks up North. Before the war they couldn't hold office or vote. They were basically the hired help of the wealthy. This practice continued up North after the war. Segregation and discrimination was just as prevalent up there as it was down here.
As to whether or not a Confederate victory would have perpetuated great evil we will never know. I doubt it though. We do know what Reconstruction did to the South. Basically, disfranchisement and Jim Crow Laws were a backlash at Reconstruction, a time period when the South suffered nearly as much as it did during the war. You need to pick up a history written by a southerner. The South Was Right is a good one which truly presents an accurate perspective of the South and southerners.
In this period of time when there is so much cultural diversity and tolerance you should remember that southerners have a culture also.
Georgia History teacher
East Jackson Middle School
P.S. - You did get two things right in your editorial. One was the name of the war, The War Between the States, and the fact that the U.S. would not be the country that it is today without the South.
Columnist Was Not Objective
In response to your editorial concerning the "War Between the States," I certainly agree that everyone has their right to their own opinion, but in your case I feel that you have let your personal feelings get in the way of doing fair reporting.
Your article on the Confederate Memorial Day in Commerce was biased. You let your opinion get in the way of seeing the most important part of this ceremony. The heart of this program was to honor three gallant soldiers who had fought for our country. These men were given crosses of military service, national defense medals. Do you realize what qualities you need for one of these medals? They are hard to come by and are not ordered from a mail order catalog.
Two of the recipients were veterans of World War II, one of them fighting at the beaches of Normandy and going on to make a 20-year career of the U.S. Army. The other one was at the Battle of the Bulge. Both heroic men. The third one was a colonel in the U.S. Army and is going on 20 years. I feel these men deserved more coverage than who was arrested for drunk driving and whose mailbox got bashed this week.
There were approximately 70 more people who thought it was important enough to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon there.
As for the re-enactors, maybe you should have spent a few minutes interviewing them. Two soldiers are history majors from the University of Georgia and the guns they use are original weapons.
Maybe sometimes the speakers get a little carried away. Do not judge everyone there without talking with them and hearing the good things the organizations do for nursing homes, schools, veterans, senior citizens and the hundreds of dollars worth of books donated to the Commerce Library.
Also, I do recall as a group, we all stood and pledged the American flag. As we all sang together "America the Beautiful," we had a prayer and prayed for the victims in Colorado, but all you see is something the speaker overstated.
Maybe you should try to learn more about these people before you judge them too harshly.
I wasn't going to respond to your editorial concerning Confederate Memorial Day; it wasn't worth my time. But I didn't feel that I was doing a certain group of men justice if I didn't.
Living in this great country, we are all blessed with the freedom to speak our opinions. And I don't condemn you for not agreeing with another person's opinion, that is your right. You have a right to express your opinion however you see fit, just as anyone else. Of course, being the editor of a small town paper has its advantages.
Three United States Veterans were honored at that Memorial Day Service. These men fought for this country and risked their lives for us, enduring terrible hardship. Do you think that you would even be a newspaper editor, if not for them? You had the opportunity to honor these men by paying special attention to them in your paper. But what did they get? A photo that briefly mentions them in the caption, and an editorial preaching, because you didn't agree with one person's perspective on a subject.
I have been to a lot of Confederate Memorial Day Services in the past six years, and never once have I ever heard anyone condone the institution of slavery. In fact, never in my life have I ever heard anyone condone slavery, period. Most people only want to honor those men who fought and gave their lives, just like in any other war. That is what the organizers of this event were attempting to do. But that is not even the issue here. The fact is that you showed great disrespect for these U.S. veterans who fought for this country: the country that you are trying to defend.
I for one would like to thank these veterans for their sacrifices. This country could use some heroes today. We need someone to admire and look up to. Maybe people would learn to be a little more tolerant of others and we wouldn't see the carnage that we have seen in recent weeks. I would like to challenge you as a newspaper editor. Instead of stirring up anger and intolerance, how about finding us something to admire and look up to. Go out there and find those people who are heroes and let us see them and learn about them in your paper. Give people a reason to feel pride in this country and in themselves. Make a difference.
Lisa K. Kennedy
Proud descendant of Revolutionary War veterans, War of 1812 veterans, Mexican War veterans, World War I & II veterans, and 80+ Confederate veterans.
Missed The Point
In response to "The View From the Editor's Desk" by Mark Beardsley in The Commerce News, April 28, 1999, "Thank God the Union Won the Civil War," I would like to say I was in attendance at the ceremony on 4/25/99 in remembrance of Confederate Memorial Day. From my view, which was just a few feet from Mr. Beardsley's, I saw three proud and distinguished veterans recognized by receiving medals for service to their country, which was exactly what the occasion commemorates.
Everyone who attended came, in part, to honor those who gave their lives in that "bad war" -- as if there ever was a "good war." Whichever side one is on in a war, the story should be told and history preserved. Perhaps one day, mankind will learn from their mistakes (though one wonders what we learned from WWII when we hear reports of genocide in Kosovo).
I heard the speaker at the ceremony charge us to tell the story to our children. I also saw on the news this past week that the government is requiring "character studies" to be taught in public schools, and I thought, "How sad." In this politically correct society we have resorted to placing the responsibility of teaching our children such "antiquated" concepts as honor, pride, loyalty, and honesty upon the teachers in our schools.
I observed all these traits in the three gentlemen honored that day, who were called to serve their country on foreign soil. I would venture to guess our ancestors who fought in that "bad war" held the same values.
Yes, Mr. Beardsley, you can take pleasure in the fact that I, too, have "waltzed around the subject of slavery." I'm just trying to "move on," but I really think you're missing the point. I hope that I have been able to clarify it somewhat.
- War Cost South Protections Of Bill Of Rights
Yes the Federals won the Second War for Independence, but at the cost of every citizen's rights guaranteed under the original constitution. Simply read the tenth amendment in our Bill of Rights. It states that states retain the powers and that the federal government only has what powers the states assign.
Now we have a federal government restricting our every move. Our freedoms have disappeared. Local control of one's existence was also the purpose of the first War for Independence, which we won and everything was fine until Lincoln became a dictator and abolished our Bill of Rights.
The South did own slaves that they bought from the New England states. Originally the South didn't want the slaves, but the king of England forced us to have them. All historians agree that slavery would have been abolished by the end of the nineteenth century. In fact, the Confederate Constitution stopped all importation of slaves.
If the war had been about slavery, then why did the South not accept Lincoln's proposal that slavery would continue if the South would come back into the union? No, it was unfair tariffs that prevented this offer from being accepted by the South. You see, only four Southern states paid over half of ALL the revenue collected by the national government.
Southerners have never met our equals man for man! These odds would increase if the Yankee refugee carpetbaggers would leave.
Let's agree on one thing: there would not have been a war if the North had not invaded the Christian South.
- Elijah S. Coleman
Editor Neither A Southerner Nor A Gentleman
I can see from your editorial that you are neither a Southerner or a gentleman. As usual, the liberal press gets the last word, whether it be fact or fiction. It is good however to know your true colors so that we can evaluate your future editorials appropriately.
- John S. Reid Jr., Southerner,
descendant of Confederate veterans and the wonderful ladies that supported them on all sides, Thomaston
- Editor's Note: I make no claim to being a gentleman, but I am a native of the South (Thomaston is north of my hometown), born to natives of the South. Sorry.
- Family Says Run Editor Out Of Town On Rail
Yes, we are so lucky that the Union won the war. God forbid that the South may have won and been our own industrial power without waiting 50 years just to rebuild our cities and manhood. And, too bad our form of constitutional government actually worked and habeas corpus was NOT suspended wholesale as the evil Lincoln had done. Pity.
Your head is screwed on wrong. Half my family is from Georgia and they all say "Run his ass out of Commerce on a rail!"
- S.D. Latham
- Editor's Note: That would be the Norfolk-SOUTHERN Rail, right?
- Editors Should Leave History To The Historians
In regards to your article of April 28th and your search for truth in Confederate history, I do not take issue that the North defeated the South. All else in your article is grossly irreverent to Confederates everywhere and nothing more than farcical opinion totally lacking in significant historical fact. Editors should leave history to the historians and make opinion on things one knows a little more about. It is a favorite habit of mine to resurrect from the past the words of those old Confederate patriots in their own defense, and I offer a few of those words to you now.
By Gen. John Brown Gordon, C.S.A.
The heartstrings of the mother, woven around the grave of her lost child, will never be severed while she lives; but does that hinder the continued flow of maternal devotion to those who are left her? The South's affections are bound, with links that cannot be broken, around the graves of her sons who fell in her defense and to the mementos and memories of the great struggle; but does that fact lessen her loyalty to the proud emblem of a reunited country? Does her unparalleled defense of the now dead Confederacy argue less readiness to battle for the ever-living Republic, in the making and the administering of which she bore so conspicuous a part?
If those unhappy patriots who find a scarecrow in every faded, riddled Confederate flag would delve deeper into the philosophy of human nature, or rise higher, they would be better satisfied with their Southern countrymen, with Southern sentiment, with the breadth and strength of the unobtrusive but sincere Southern patriotism. They would see that man is so constituted, the immutable laws of our being are such, that to stifle the sentiment and extinguish the hallowed memories of a people is to destroy their manhood.
The unseemly things which occurred in the great conflict between the States should be forgotten, or at least forgiven, and no longer permitted to disturb complete harmony between North and South. All American youth in all sections should be taught to hold in perpetual remembrance all that was great and good on both sides; to comprehend the inherited convictions for which saintly women suffered and patriotic men died; to recognize the unparalleled carnage as proof of unrivaled courage; to appreciate the singular absence of all personal animosity and the frequent manifestation between those brave antagonists of a good-fellowship such as had never before been witnessed between hostile armies. It will be a glorious day for our country when all the children within its borders shall learn that four years of fratricidal war between the North and the South was waged by neither with criminal or unworthy intent, but by both to protect what they conceived to be threatened rights and imperiled liberty; that the issues which divided the sections were born when the Republic was born, and were forever buried in an ocean of fraternal blood.
- At Least You Could Have Gotten Name Right
This is in reference to Mark Beardsley's opinion in the Commerce News titled "Thank God the Union won the Civil War." First of all, the proper term is "War Between the States." Second: if Mr. Beardsley had bothered to check his facts (i.e. read the Confederate Constitution) he would realize how misguided his "opinion" is. This is as much as I'm willing to dignify this subject.
- Michael R. Dunagan, SCV.
- Editor's Note: It's very difficult to fit "War Between The States" in a one-column headline using 24-point type.
- Editor Kin To Carpetbaggers Or Displaced Yankee
Your editorial on the views of why the North was right and just in the fighting the War of Northern Aggression should be upsetting to the people of the whole state of Georgia.
I guess that the author of the letter has a direct lineage to Carpetbaggers, or is a misplaced Yankee who needs some help in finding his way back across the Mason-Dixon Line. I guess that he never read books and letters about the EVIL deeds that Sherman and his troops enacted upon the people of Georgia.
I did not say Army, but the general population. These were not soldiers, but men, women, and even children. My ancestors were in the direct line of Sherman's march and lost all crops, livestock, money, and food. I did not condone slavery, nor do I agree that it is right, but sir, I take issue with anyone who tries to slant history by not being knowledgeable and not having all accurate facts.
- Mitchell Morgan
- Editor's Note: Didn't I read that the proper name for the war is the War Between The States?
- Editor Shouldn't Advertise His Vast Ignorance
Your article about the "Civil War" is the most-uninformed piece of moronic drivel I have ever read. The writer probably cannot help being ignorant, but why advertise it?
- Wayne Pricer
Fort Worth, Texas
- Editor's Note: The 'Civil War' column doesn't even rank in the top 10 columns for moronic drivel.
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