Standing there on a warm June day nearly 150 years later, I felt a shiver. If we have forgotten how important the Vicksburg and Gettysburg victories were, the eminent Civil War historian James McPherson reminds us in his book “Battle Cry of Freedom”:
“Lincoln appeared at a White House balcony to tell a crowd of serenaders that this ‘gigantic Rebellion’ whose purpose was to ‘overthrow the principle that all men are created equal’ had been dealt a crippling blow.”
It might be unnecessary to remind ourselves of this had not Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently tried to re-create the fiction that there is something glorious about Americans slaughtering Americans in numbers approaching 700,000 men.
Governor McDonnell’s original proclamation for Confederate History Month warmly noted the “sacrifices” of Confederate soldiers but failed to mention the abomination of slavery. He later apologized for that omission. But political bumbling is not the issue. Rather it is the myth that there ever was a glorious lost cause of the Confederacy.
The scale of the war’s violence is hard to fathom. A majority of Mississippi veterans lost an arm or leg. In 1866, 20 percent of the Mississippi budget was used for artificial limbs.