One participant asked what war crimes William Tecumseh Sherman could be brought up on for his actions in Georgia in 1864. Well, I jumped all over that one.
Indeed. In the post, Kevin was dismissive of any suggestion that descendants of Confederate soldiers (or anyone who suffered loss due to Sherman's rampage through parts of the South) had any legitimate right to consider themselves "victims." While I don't believe "victim" is really the best word to describe this, I'll let that stand for simplicity's sake and my response. Kevin wrote:
It’s one thing to imagine those involved and perhaps the next generation maintaining a less than gracious attitude toward Sherman, but as far as I am concerned such a stance carries no weight today. [On this point, see Thom Bassett's recent article in the Civil War Monitor on Sherman. He argues that Sherman's reputation remained fairly positive during the first few decades after the war.]
Regardless of where you live and how you happen to trace your family lineage, no one today is a victim of Sherman and his army. We would do well to find demons that did something other than help to preserve this nation during war.Since Kevin did not grow up in the South hearing of these stories, I find it quite astonishing that he can dismiss such notions so casually. It is however, as I mentioned earlier, the mindset of many professional historians and those in academia. (I once read one academic historian's comment that he "didn't care if yankee soldiers blew off Grandma's arm.") It is also, in my humble opinion, very narrow-minded. In response to Kevin's post, I received a private email from another Civil War blogger who wished to remain anonymous. If I were to mention this person's name, most readers here would know this person who, by the way, no one would accuse of being a "neo-Confederate" or having any particular ax to grind. Here's what this person said in his email:
. . . I couldn’t resist passing this along to you as one of the few people who calls Levin on his BS. At the end of a recent post (http://cwmemory.com/2012/07/
25/you-are-not-a-victim-of- shermans-march/), Levin made the following comment:
“Regardless of where you live and how you happen to trace your family lineage, no one today is a victim of Sherman and his army.”This immediately made me ask the question, “This applies to slavery too, correct?” He can’t have it both ways, but I’m sure if anyone calls him on this he will attempt the impossible.
Now, I don't believe that the destruction and mistreatment Southerners received at the hand of Sherman or other Federal soldiers compares to the horrors of slavery; nor do I believe the person sending me the email believes that either. But, to a matter of degree, it is a fair and relevant question. One could apply the same question regarding the Confederate Battle Flag, as well as other aspects of Southern history and heritage.
Then something else quite interesting - and related - happened. For the last week or so, I've been watching the Ken Burns series, The West, which is available streaming on NetFlix. Though not perfect, I think its an excellent documentary and I would highly recommend it. I think it's better than his series on the Civil War. While watching an episode the other night, I was intrigued by some comments made by an Indian by the name of Albert White Hat regarding his personal memory and experience surrounding his ancestor's mistreatment at the hands of the Federal government and officials' attempt to belittle and dismiss the lingering feelings of injustice and anger over that same mistreatment. In his words, they "killed those stories."
This is, to one degree or another, comparable to what has (and is) taken place regarding the memory of what many in the South view as injustices committed by the Federal government during and after the WBTS. There is an attempt to "kill those stories" or at least suggest they have no current relevance or legitimacy. Again, in a matter of degrees, there are striking similarities here.
My take away from this is that there are quite a few people in the United States who still remember these injustices. And, to a degree, they are all justified. For anyone to suggest that these should simply be dismissed and are irrelevant is very shallow thinking and reveals glaring inconsistencies in perspectives and historical analysis.
Please take the time to watch the short video clip below of Albert White Hat. It is quite moving. One of the aspects of this video that moved me was Mr. White Hat's decision on how to handle his bitterness and anger. My conclusion regarding these issues - regardless of the particulars - is that forgiving these types of things may be righteous but forgetting them is sin. "What has happened in the past will never leave us."
I can't help but wonder how different Kevin's response might have been had Albert White Hat posed a similar question about Sherman. Though the circumstances are certainly not the same (there have been articles and essays comparing the two), both do support the legitimacy of remembrance and acknowledgment from those who are descended from the original "victims."