The Forgotten American-The Civil War, some call it Treason, some call it a poor man's fight. By Terrance Mann

(This article is in response to the calls of removal of Civil War monuments)
 It is tempting to look at the civil war through the eyes of 2015. But what was life like in 1850? Imagine yourself living in the 3 miles per hour world, where you lived and died within a 15 to 20-mile radius of where you were born. Conventional 19th-century wisdom held that a man on horseback could cover about 20 miles a day without harming his mount. Such was a typical life before the automobile, as noted by Henry Ford. The world such as this one had limited information sources. Newspapers, if you could read, and local institutions such as churches certainly controlled much of your perspective. The wise old man of the village could offer some advice if passing something along to you could be justified by his social class (the planter class). West Point trained local Militia Officers. The officers might release a nugget or two of information during weekend muster, again, if it was in their self-interest. Such was the world of the Southern States. Where filtered information was the norm. It remained this way from the end of the American Revolution until the Spanish-American War. Even longer in more insular communities such as Northeastern North Carolina. In simpler terms, you were a member of a captive audience in the Old South as far as new ideas and information were concerned.
Socially, if you were a yeoman farmer, your farm typically had no slaves just family, a few laborers and a lot of hard work from sun up to sunset. Such people had little time to reflect on the larger issues of the day as life was hard scrabbling in the swamps of Northeastern North Carolina. Traveling to town was a big event each month. Going to Church 3 times a week and making muster with the local Militia were all major social and cultural events in the South. These institutions fed a person a 72-year inter-generational diet of God, Country, and State's rights. The founding of the nation was still fresh on everyone's mind. People understood that the nation was founded on succession from England, and the Declaration of Independence was the document that outlined their separation from England. The institutions taught Citizens that the new federal government was the glue that held the states together, and that state succession was the ultimate check to keep the federal government from tyranny.
After an incubation period of 72 years or longer, North Carolina was confronted with succession and "state's rights". North Carolina was reluctant to leave the Union and at best, lukewarm to the idea of joining the Confederacy. Many of its citizens were yeoman farmers and middle-class craftsmen all of whom paid a living wage to laborers living on their property. Laborers were free to come and go as they pleased and free to leave and obtain a higher wage if there was one available. Do not dismiss the Quaker influence in North Carolina, specifically in Northeastern North Carolina. We should be proud that this area was a stronghold for the Underground Railroad, which couldn't have happened without cooperation from a large number of its people. Both of these 'consciousness' played a role in shaping our decision in 1861. South Carolina was first to secede, and then Virginia. North Carolina was in the middle. However, once Governor Ellis and our legislature decided to leave the Union, the rank and file men of the local Militias mustered for service without question as they had been "classically conditioned" to do. Many of their ancestors had mistakenly fought on the bogs of Culloden for the "pretender" to the Scottish throne, Bonnie Prince Charles. Loyalty and fidelity are just in the "DNA" of some cultures.
We must conclude these yeoman farmers and craftsmen completely inculcated with the idea of States Rights based on even the slightest glance at this period of history. Yes, State’s Rights. The political philosophy, some dare call treason, from the manufactured-synthetic-pop-culture morality of today. If this theory is treason, why were West Point Cadets taught State's Rights in Constitutional History prior to 1861? West Point, a federally owned educational institution, was funded by the United States Government. Adding further evidence the United States recognized State's Rights as a legitimate right of governance. Why would the government train the military otherwise? If the philosophy of state’s rights was or is treason, then, evidence indicates it was State sponsored prior to 1860. For the purpose of this article, I will not touch on the Magna Carta, which turned 800 years old in 2015. Nor the Scottish Enlightenment, or the Glorious English Revolution of 1688 which gave Englishman their bill of rights. I will not include a discussion of the American Bill of Rights which included States' Rights political theory of Nullification. Daniel Webster, or the fact each colony considered itself separate and independent of one another at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
 
No, I only want to reference the rank and file soldier whose wives, children and grandchildren wanted to honor the service and memory of these men with a simple monument on the public square. How important was it for the post- war Southern Culture to recognize the rank and file soldiers of the Confederate Army? Many families could only give 15 cents per year or less to their hometown monument committee. These nominal amounts of money represented an entire year's worth of disposable income in most cases because the entire south was living under the military occupation and economic despotism of reconstruction. The Elizabeth City monument was erected in 1911, the memories still fresh of the war and the occupation in many a person's mind.
This article has attempted to create a synopsis of the many conversations I overheard as a child of these Confederate Veteran's children and grand-children. I wanted their voices to heard and in some small way enter the current social conversation modern America is having over the Confederacy. It's hard for a modern reader to understand North Carolina's reluctance. And how it could have given so many soldiers and lost 40,275 lives to a cause of which most wouldn't benefit from its outcome either way.
Most Confederate Veterans who were lucky enough to survive and rebuild had one lesson to pass on to their children and families: "It was a rich man's war, and poor man's fight." These monuments all over the South represent the memories and honor of that "Poor Man's fight".

The Forgotten American-The Civil War, some call it Treason, some call it a poor man's fight. By Terrance Mann The Forgotten American-The Civil War, some call it Treason, some call it a poor man's fight. By Terrance Mann Reviewed by kensunm on 3:27:00 PM Rating: 5

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