Sanitizing history is tricky business

By PETER GILDERSON,

Little did I know when I wrote my last column in the Northside Sun on the flag and hold-overs from old Mississippi that these matters would fill the headlines after Charlottesville. Since that terrible exhibition of racial hatred which I deeply deplore, several states have started the process of removal of monuments to the South's Confederate heroes. Let me try to put this in some perspective.

Slavery has existed in the world since the earliest times. The pyramids were built by slaves. Black, white and other races have all been subjected to slavery. The first American navy was formed to combat the seizure of white sailors for sale as slaves in North Africa. Indentured servitude was the next door neighbor of slavery for many white immigrants to the early American colonies. George Washington and other founding fathers owned slaves. It was the accepted way of life in those early colonial times. But for "amazing grace" that period would have been extended.

This brings us to the Civil War. Many from the South believed their heritage was being threatened from an economic standpoint. Antebellum Natchez, for example, had half of all the millionaires in the entire country. Many signed up for battle because they considered their well being was threatened by the North. Now the generals who led those armies are being portrayed as villains, and their statues are in the process of being removed across the country.

 

In my last column I referred briefly to a prominent Northern general--William T. Sherman. His signature accomplishment in the Civil War was his tactic of raiding a town quickly without waiting for the usual support team to keep him supplied. He stole his food from the towns he raided, destroyed what he didn't need, and set fire to the houses. This he did to Meridian, for example, in the cold winter of 1864. His goal in "total war", as he called it, was to destroy the towns and Confederate supplies, and to demoralize the fighting men at the far away front.

Later he was the army general in charge of the western Indian Wars of the 1870s. He said: "We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination including men, women and children." He encouraged the eradication of the buffalo, a major food source of the Indians. Sherman has statues on display in many towns across the North, including one outside the Treasury Building in Washington D.C. How about removing those statues while we are about sanitizing our history?

Peter Gilderson is a Northsider.

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