Vital Signs

Bury Me With My People

There he was, Abraham Lincoln in a Confederate Army cap, staring out of the page of an old Courier-Journal.  I had been looking for something else when I happened upon this collateral descendant of the 16th president, photographed in front of the obelisk that is the Jefferson Davis Memorial in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, as he honored the late president of the Confederacy on Confederate Memorial Day, April 1954.  Remarkable as the picture seems now, it is a reminder that there was a time when Northerners and Southerners had agreed to the useful fiction that both sides had their points in the terrible argument that was our Civil War, and that we could live together as one country, and even pose respectfully for a camera at the graves of each other’s leaders.

But those days are long gone.  Today, if your ancestors include a Confederate veteran, April really is the cruelest month—a time to be pilloried nationally in the ongoing unpleasantness over the Late Unpleasantness.  Last year the attempt by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Virginia to get their state government to honor their dead progenitors spurred a CNN commentator to call the Southern army “terrorists” and compare them to the September 11 hijackers.  That language is not extreme anymore.  It is the standard argument now that there is nothing to do with the Confederate South but bury it, preferably in an unmarked grave.

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