Monday, September 12, 2005

The Civil Way

I've always had an interest in the Civil War. I grew up in New Jersey and that part of history was all around me. So was the Revolutionary War, and I am fascinated by both. There's something about living in a house that George Washington slept in. Ol' Georgie, he slept around. We had more of that war's history there than the Civil War, but that is the one that intrigues me the most.

I guess it's part of man's inhumanity against man. Wars between countries are more easily justified and explained than wars against fathers and sons, brothers against brothers and so on. I could never quite figure that out. Since I grew up in the north, I had more knowledge of the Federal government's take than the Confederacy's. The Blue against the Gray. I know there were many issues that caused it, not just slavery. Trade, for example. I'm not going to write a history lesson here. If I could ever believe in reincarnation, then I died in that war. I don't know which side I fought for and I don't care, either, except that slavery would have helped me choose sides if I was that knowledgeable at the time and my mind wasn't persuaded by one's natural inclination to route for the hometown. Neither side actually won in a sense that, either way, we would have come back to one country, united. Slavery would have had to have been abolished because how much longer could a nation suffer through that form of intolerance? We as a nation lost an awful lot, but we grew infinitely stronger because of it.

I have lived in Florida for almost half of my life now. I know the sentiments lean heavily toward the south for obvious reasons. I have heard the old battle cry.

That's one of the reasons I was so impressed as I drove through the Gulf states on my way to Houston. To witness firsthand the elegance of the homes was impressive enough, but Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis's retirement home caught my attention. All my life growing up, I saw artifacts from the north, never from the south. Clearly, it's a regional thing. It all depends on what part of the country you grew up in. Although Gettysburg honors all war dead, it is still where the northern president made his most famous speech. Throughout history, Robert E. Lee is still the defeated general. Jefferson Davis is still the non-president, imprisoned for a short period of time.

We took these scenic routes along U.S. 90 enroute to Houston to pretty much just get a glimpse of the Gulf coast. I never knew what I was going to see and when I did, it totally fascinated me. I made myself a promise to return one day soon to explore the rich history so inherent there, but, alas, that is not to be for a long time. I want to sense the moments President Davis spent in that home, writing his memoirs, relaxing on his front porch and taking in the smells of fresh Gulf air. Watching the steamships drift into the night. A lot of the Davis artifacts are gone. The nearby war veterans hospital next to Beauvoir, which had been converted into a museum, was wiped out. The memorabilia is gone. There were so many things to see, so many pieces of history now washed away by that horrible storm.

Man will fight man. Hurricanes and other manifestations will come to destroy us, but nothing will take away the heart and spirit that drives us to continue each and every day. We will always rebuild what was lost. We need to keep history alive for future generations. It's just our nature to be this way because we are a nation united and because we care so much.

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