Varying Perceptions on the Civil War Experience

By: Kyle Laguerre

When it comes to the commemoration of the Civil War, there has been a difference in realizing the varying experiences of the war, not just through death but life as well.  As a result conflict consistently arises when discussing what parts of the war deserve to be commemorated.  This conflict is primarily caused due to the varying experiences northerners, southerners, and people of color have had involving the Civil War and the impact it has had on their communities.   While many white southerners see statues as a way of preserving their southern culture, African Americans are reminded of a time when they were seen as less than human.  As a result conflict over Civil War commemoration has erupted into a protest in more recent years

During the Civil War, American citizens were forced to handle death and burial in ways that deviated from the norm prior to the war.  For many American families the remains of dead family members were buried together within close proximity to each other, but due to the brutality of the Civil War many soldiers’ bodies remained irretrievable and unidentifiable (Faust 212).  As a result people on both sides of the conflict decided it was appropriate to honor the soldiers who died on both sides of the conflict especially those they could not identify (135).  Despite this the northerners and southerners in power after the Civil War who were primarily white, left of many soldiers of color when it came time to honor soldiers with statues and monuments in recognition of their hardships.  The 180,000 black soldiers who fought in the Civil War faced discrimination, inequality, and were used as cannon fodder, because they were seen as less than on both sides (44).  Because of this, informed African Americans have taken offence and action in response to the lack of commemoration in the north and glorification of Confederates who fought to enslave them in the south.

In modern day, America has yet to find a way of commemorating the Civil War in a way where most people are satisfied with the result.  Many American southerners state the Confederate Army fought for freedom of rights and deny slavery was the main motivation of the Civil War.  As a result the racist foundation reinforced by the Confederates’ actions still affect the American south today, and the lack of acknowledgement limits discussion on how they should be properly commemorated.   Concerning the removal of Confederate memorials I think there is a place for them in society were more historical context can be provided like a museum.  Places like museums and cemeteries provide information through tours and historically recorded content. This is much more constructive in comparison to general public settings where many of these statues yield a blind devotion and reside without unbiased context.  While the leading motivation of the Confederate Army was to preserve the heinous practice of slavery, it would not be beneficial to simply pretend it did not exist.  Destroying Confederate memorials would be like covering up history and in turn could end possible conversations and acknowledgements of wrong doing.

Even though the Confederate monuments have been deemed offensive to African Americans, there are ways to utilize said monuments in order to appease them and Southerners who feel their history should be preserved.  Although it may not change everyone’s opinions on the Confederate figures, providing a proper historical context of their right and wrongdoings with their preexisting monuments allows for more openness towards the viewpoints on opposing sides.  With the understanding that can take place among the groups, dialogue can be opened to find new ways of respecting everyone’s history.


Works Cited:

Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering : Death and the American Civil War. New York :Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

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