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      http://www.seedcstayva.com/manassas.htm Civil War Issues
Yet to Be Resolved

Historian discusses
war's modern effects
Bennie Scarton, Jr.
Manassas Journal Messenger

The War Between the States is still very much a part of the national, and even international scene, even 135 years later.

That is what Scott H. Harris, director of the Manassas Museum System, told a gathering of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at its Lee, Jackson, Maury Luncheon on Saturday at the Grace United Methodist Church. In addition to the Manassas chapter, members from Culpeper, Piedmont, Fairfax and Falls Church chapters also were present.

"There is certainly no shortage of current events that pertain to the Confederacy and the Civil War in general," he said.

He pointed out such recent events as in South Carolina where the NAACP is staging an economic boycott to remove the Confederate flag that has flown over the state capitol dome for decades; in Richmond where a controversial portrait of Robert E. Lee on the city's canal walk recently was destroyed by a Molotov cocktail. The former Confederate capital is also the scene of a debate in the general Assembly over designating separate state holidays, one for Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and another for Martin Luther King, Jr.

"These controversies and others make clear the fact that the Civil War is still in the news worldwide. In fact, the most recent coverage I saw of the South Carolina matter was on the BBC News," Harris said.

Speaking to the group for the second time in the past two years, Harris said, "The current discord over Confederate imagery is part of what I believe is the essential American process of seeking common ground. Our whole system of government is based both upon controversy and compromise. It's why we have national, state and local governments. It's why we have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, that gives voice to both minority and majority points of view."

"American society is based on a struggle between various opposing forces that, when the system works, produces compromise. Usually, not everyone is completely satisfied with the final result, but society as a whole is served by this balance of opinion and power."

Harris, who like the United Daughters of the Confederacy has ancestors that participated in the historic conflict, said, "The Civil War has been called the War Between the States, the War of Northern Agression, the War of the Rebellion, the War of Southern Independence, the War to Save the Union, the War to End Slavery and the Second American Revoultion, to name a few. Each of the terms reflects a particular point of view.

"The fact that today, 135 years later, we are still confronted with many of the same issues that influenced the 1860's shows how much those issues continue to resonate within our society."

Noting that America is about compromise, Harris said the Civil War was the most extreme example of the failure of compromise and the consequences of that failure resulted in 600,000 casualties and widespread economic devastation throughout the South.

And the raw nerves of states rights vs. federal power, agriculture vs. industry, and blacks vs. whites, still feel the pain," he said.

Harris said since his field is history and not politics, he can offer no great insights into how we can resolve the differences surrounding the War that still exist.

"There are personal choices we must all make, in our own way. I can, however, make the following observation: we cannot escape our history. We cannot travel back in time and start over and we can't undo history - we have to make the best use of it we can. We do this by preserving historic sites and artifacts, and documents; by researching, writing and reading about the past; by keeping alive the stories of our families, our communities, our states and our nation."

Harris closed out his presentation by saying, "If we will just remember our history, examine it, warts and all, and use it as a guide for our present and future, we will perhaps have a better understanding of those different points of view that make us Americans. We can never reach Utopia, but we may at least better understand who we all are, and thereby work toward that state of compromise that is historically our goal.

"That's why we need the NAACP, the Daughters of the Union Veterans, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. All of us, individuals and organizations alike, are stake holders in this quest for balance, for compromise, that keeps America in business."


This article originally appeared in the
Manassas Journal Messenger
on January 31, 2000
2000, Manassas Journal Messenger

Bennie Scarton, Jr. can be reached at manassasjm@aol.com


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