Editorial: Worth remembering
From the Mathews Journal of July 10, 1913:
"It must have been an inspiring sight at Gettysburg last week when the heroes of the blue and gray clasped hands in mutual admiration, esteem and friendship. Fifty years ago while thousands of cannon belched forth flame and death these same men grappled in bloody conflict, each willing to die in defense of what he believed to be right. What a tremendous contrast in these two scenes—the one so typical of war which has rightly been described as hell—the other exhaling the sweet beneficent air of peace. Those heroes of Gettysburg may speak with a pride that is pardonable of their exploits of former days but they should be prouder still of the glorious advance of our reunited country and thankful for the assurance that never again will friends and brothers be brought into conflict by civil war.
"More than 20,000 veterans attended the reunion."
To this sentiment, written 100 years ago about the men who were at that terrible battle of 1863, we can only echo "amen."
The hatchet, however, has not always stayed buried. The war was still being fought around potbellied stoves in general stores in 1913, and today echoes of the great division can be heard in our political discourse: Blue states and red states. The Voting Rights Act. Affirmative action. And the endless debate of whether slavery or states’ rights brought the North and South into their fatal clash.
The civil rights debates and legislation of half a century ago renewed feelings of anger that had lain dormant through the long and unchallenged reign of Jim Crow. But now we have a black president. There is much progress.
Re-enactors create the battles anew, but they often switch sides, taking off the gray and putting on blue, or vice-versa, to even up the numbers. Commemorations of Gettysburg and other seminal events of 150 years ago carry dual themes of remembering (so as not to repeat) and reconciliation. Most people in all sections, today, want permanent tickets on the unity train.
But it will take many more generations for the Civil War, our great nation’s greatest mistake, to be truly over and forgotten.
Those old veterans at Gettysburg, who had survived the terrors of that battle and so many others, knew in their bones what their descendants have had to learn academically: that never again should friends and brothers be brought into conflict by civil war.
Scenes of that 50-year reunion at Gettysburg are everywhere on the internet these days. They are worth viewing.