Is the US is re-fighting its Civil War narrative?

In March, just before the COVID-19 crisis broke and lockdowns began, I was in Washington. With some extra time on my hands, I drove several hours southwest of the capital through the area that was once scarred by Civil War battles.

This is rolling country of farms, dotted with a few towns and highways. Storied battles like Chancellorsville came and went beside the road. Old cannons and markers for where various regiments once held tenuous firing lines were marking the spot. Today, Americans are once again having a kind of Civil War over the history of this conflict.

At Appomattox Court House in Virginia, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to US General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, the buildings have been preserved. A painting shows Lee and one of his staff officers signing the document that gave over his dwindling army to defeat.

According to the plaques and explanations of the National Historic Park marking the site, the beginning of the end of this war was not as rancorous as one might expect. Despite an estimated 620,000 deaths from the war, a huge bloodletting for the American republic, the soldiers honored each other as the Virginians gave up their arms. The historic site has a “wall of honor” for the various soldiers who were present.

But today on social media, this war is being refought – and not in the terms that took place 150 years ago. Today, those officers under Lee are seen increasingly as “traitors” and “white supremacists,” part of an unfolding narrative in the US that sees the current police brutality and racism as linked to the Civil War era.

This isn’t the kind of debate that once took place in US classrooms. When I was in high school in the US, there was discussion of what caused the Civil War. Was it about slavery or states’ rights? What was the essential issue at hand?

Lee, the Confederate general, had been offered command of the Federal forces Abraham Lincoln wanted to use to fight the succession of southern states. He chose his state over the Union. Today, that is seen as treason – even though at the time, the Lincoln administration generally did not hang southerners for treason.

Source: Jerusalem Post