In no other place in this country has a segment of American history had such an enduring effect as the Civil War did upon the southern United States, and in particular, South Carolina.
South Carolina was the cradle of secession, the mechanism of a nation’s fracture, and a contributing author to the terrible statistics of war.
Nearly 150 years have come and gone since the surrender at Appomattox, but a quiet grudge remains upon the southern collective.
After all, it is in the southern United States that living descendants of the only Americans to have ever been invaded and conquered were born.
We are the remnants of old soldiers and a product of the defeated.
However, no one could dispute the urgent necessity of that war and the incredible offense that was slavery, but its residual effects have outlasted the long passage of time and have remained nearly as heavy as they were during reconstruction.
Not one educated and incumbent face from South Carolina to Mississippi has forgotten their family’s role of service from 1861-1865.
In wardrobes across the south, a gray uniform is stored, preserved but worn, marked with the accurate detail of the period, and awaiting the next battle reenactment and the calling of its regiment, perhaps it is Cobb’s Legion, Hampton’s Legion, or the Army of Northern Virginia?
And in the south, the uniforms are always gray; no one would dare wear blue.
Here in South Carolina, whether it is in the cities of Charleston or Beaufort, Greenville or Easley, the American Civil War is thought upon with the highest reverence, and I am simply unable to summon an accurate report of that reverence and the lasting and scarring impact it left upon the people, the land, and the culture.
Nearly every stop in South Carolina reveals a subtle reminder of that war, a rusted Confederate Cross tangled in the green lawn of a church graveyard, or an aged marble statue in front of the court house, placed there by the Daughters of Confederacy some 100 years ago.
Look no further than the city name of Easley; it was taken from Confederate General, William King Easley, and tonight at the Hampton Memorial Library there is a “Civil War Hands on History Program”.
Perhaps the war’s resonant effect will never leave us in the south, its impact too great, the sins of slavery too dirty to wash away, and the sting of defeat still too soon to cool.
After all, some things will never go away, and to quote General Albert Sidney Johnston,
“We may be annihilated, but we cannot be conquered.”