In the history of our country, there has been no event or occurrence that was more horrendous than the institution of slavery.
There has been much publicity lately concerning the “whys and wherefores” of the war that ultimately put an end to that terrible time. That argument serves no good purpose.
By one estimate, more than 620,000 men from both sides died during that conflict, which at first divided, but ultimately reunited us, as one nation under God. Most of the casualties were buried far from home and had family members who mourned their loss.
Because there were no remains to bury in the family cemetery plots, memorials were raised in cities and towns across the nation, north and south. One such monument was raised by the Ladies’ Memorial Society in Augusta in memory of their dead fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins and dear friends.
On April 26, 1875, the cornerstone of the monument was laid on Broad Street. Clement Evans of Columbia County, for whom the town of Evans is named, spoke to the crowd:
“Let us do nothing to keep alive the passions of war. To study its lessons is prudence, to profit by its teaching is wisdom, but to stir up the old animosities is madness. The voice of this monument will not be for war, but for peace. It will say to us the Confederacy expired. Its great life went out on the purple tide of blood that flowed from the hearts of its sons. We have buried it; we don’t intend to exhume its remains. We were utterly defeated, and we dismiss our resentments. Sadly, we parted with the dear old cross of stars which we followed through many a storm of shot and shell, but we take, with the true hand of Southern honor, the staff that holds the flag of the stars and stripes.”
”Afterwards the Ladies’ Memorial Association decorated with flowers the graves of the Confederate and the Federal dead in the Augusta cemetery.” – Macon Daily Telegraph, May 4, 1875.
To some, the Confederate Memorial is a very tall and painful reminder of slavery, and the existence of hatred that still lingers in the hearts of some few Americans. To others it is a sacred gravestone to flawed ancestors long dead. Let us not judge those flawed men too harshly, for who among us is not flawed? Indeed, how will our own actions be judged in one hundred years’ time?
Let us heed the wise words of Clement Evans. Taking down the monument will not erase the painful past, nor will it erase hate in some people’s hearts, but will only cause further division.
Rather than shouting and fighting, we should join our voices together in forgiveness and healing, and look to the future. Those of us who are over 50 know that, even though America has come a long way toward racial equality, we still have miles to go. Let us not go backward. We must move forward in our relationships.
As Evans said, “to stir up the old animosities is madness.”
Catherine Barrett Robertson