Breaking News: The Confederates Were Human Beings!


Cassie Volkin, Writer, Artist

True or false: the confederates in the Civil War were nothing but evil, traitorous white supremacists! If you answered true, congratulations! You win a history lesson!

The Civil War started shortly after Abraham Lincoln became president. Many Southerners cried foul due to the convoluted results of a particularly messy election, feeling that Lincoln didn’t share their values, and had somehow gamed the system (sounds familiar). Meanwhile, a split had long been growing between the North and the South. Nearly half of respondents in a survey could not name any other factors than slavery in the Civil War, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

While the South still relied primarily on farming for income, the North had been rapidly industrializing. When Washington passed laws to reflect these economic changes, the North flourished, but the South felt negative consequences from what to them were useless laws. On top of all of that, state’s rights, the South’s get-out-of-jail-free card that could preserve their economy, were fading from their former glory. All together, these factors convinced Southerners that they were losing their autonomy, and they began to secede from the Union. Cue the Civil War!

Fast forward to today. The Confederacy lost. The Union won. Sunshine and rainbows abound. Around the country, activist groups are demanding that Confederate monuments be torn down due to their inherently racist and offensive nature. Statues of Southern generals are vandalized for glorifying the evil men that were heroes to the Confederacy, but I think that these protesters are missing the point entirely. “It’s like Germans pretending the Holocaust never happened,” argued junior Casey Kula.

A similar situation happened during the Vietnam War. Anti-war protests raged across the country, and returning soldiers were greeted with hatred for their sacrifice rather than gratitude, but today, we honor the veterans of that war as we would any other. Though many did not agree with it, Vietnam War veterans still have memorials around the country commemorating their struggle. In my opinion, the Civil War isn’t so different.

It’s not about glorifying a horrible history. It’s about respect. “The Civil War was a very important period of American history, the least you can do is respect it, because so many lost their lives. People need to stop getting offended before they read into the subject. The Civil War was about far more than slavery,” explained freshman Shelby West.

The Confederates weren’t just slaveholders. They were sons and fathers determined to protect their families. They were Americans who felt ignored and disrespected by their government, and were afraid for their freedoms. They were people. “The statues help us remember that both sides had something to fight for. That war was not black and white. Though their cause wasn’t just, we are able to understand the losers, rather than sweeping them under a rug like history normally does,” said junior Douglas Zhang.

It’s justified to be upset about the racism and slavery that did exist in the South, but America is a different place now. “[Statues] should be changed to show other parts of the story if they are offensive, and more monuments should be made that show they other stories,” suggested junior Kylee Henrie. History cannot be changed, but trying to erase the ugly parts would be a grave mistake. The monuments not only mark the triumphs of the Confederacy, but give a face and backstory to the threats slaves and the Union faced. We should be grateful, not angry, that our country is young enough to still have strong memories of its early inner turmoil, and we should strive to remember that everyone in the Civil War had something to fight for.