On this day, when we remember those who fought to keep our nation free and liberate the oppressed, allow me to offer a native North Carolinian’s perspective on why Southerners honor our dead with such passion.
Most historians believe that only six percent of Southerners owned slaves. Thus, it’s probable that of the 289,000 Confederate dead, 271, 660 never owned a slave. For them, the struggle was to protect their homes and be left alone. Even then, many had no choice but to fight for the South. On April 16, 1862, President Jefferson Davis authorized the first Conscription Act. This legislation required all white males aged eighteen to thirty-five to serve three years of Confederate service if called.
Author James I. Robertson, Jr., author of Tenting Tonight writes, “Just as most Northerners did not fight to end slavery, most Southerners did not fight to preserve it. The rank and file of the Southern armies was composed of farmers and laborers who volunteered to protect home and everything dear from Northern invaders.”
As a nation, we have come to accept that those who fought in Vietnam did their duty, regardless of their leaders’ motives and purpose behind that war.
While I cannot condone the enslavement of any human, I can still honor those men on both sides who, when summoned, left their homes and did their duty. Thanks to all the men and women who fought and continue to fight for our nation’s freedom.