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Letter: A complete view of history is needed to judge motives of Confederacy fairly
Confederate monument Florida
A plaque at Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) - photo by Associated Press

Now that it has become fashionable to actively disparage and denigrate Confederate veterans after 150 years of exalted status in the South, it becomes imperative for all who feign any semblance of fairness to give hearing to a few inconvenient facts that run counter to the modern PC narrative.

All are aware of the oft-repeated story line that brought with it this open season on all things Confederate: Evil people of the South fought to defend slavery while the moral Northern populace struggled heroically to free those forced to labor. While this makes an interesting narrative, it drifts far from reality, forcing us to answer several nagging questions that refuse to go away.

If the motivation of Abraham Lincoln’s government for invading the Southern states was to emancipate their enslaved persons, why was slavery practiced and protected by federal law in five Union states throughout the course of the war? Why would Northern states not free their slaves if slavery was the major point of contention?

And why, when gaining control of Southern territory during the war, did Union armies not free slaves of the occupied territory rather than forcing them to labor on Union works?

When one of his abolitionist generals, John C. Freemont, did attempt to liberate slaves in Missouri, Lincoln immediately countermanded the order and sacked the general. In attempting to justify the invasion of the South, Lincoln stated unequivocally the motivation to be “the preservation of the Union” and not an interference with slavery. Indeed, no government emancipation of enslaved persons took place in the United States, North or South, until the 13th Amendment was ratified on Dec. 6, 1865, many months after the war ended.

If the Confederate states were just fighting to defend slavery, why, when offered the Corwin Amendment’s perpetual right to own slaves in the U.S., did the Southern states reject the offer? It was, after all, a guarantee from the federal government granting the right of slave states to carry on the practice forever. And of course, the vast majority of Southerners were non-slave-holding small farmers who competed in the production of cotton against a small minority of powerful and wealthy plantation owners (who were excused from military service). Would these small farmers suffer four years of deprivation, wounds or death so their agricultural competitors with slave holdings could maintain their production advantage over them?

And why did tens of thousands of black Southerners, both free and slave, fight honorably in the ranks of the Confederacy, even attending reunions with their white comrades-in-arms after the war?

These are but a few of the pesky facts and questions they generate any person seeking the balance of truth must answer. The Confederate soldier earned his place upon the courthouse memorial. Other American combat veterans know this, and why the U.S. Congress recognizes him as an American veteran, equal to all other veterans. And also why Georgia Code Section 50.1.3 protects his statues and memorials as those worthy of honor despite the PC winds of change.

Ralph West Mills


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