Confederate Symbols and Patriotism

By GEN John B. Gordon, C.S.A.

(Editor's note: The following is a particularly eloquent discussion that speaks to the current controversy over the Confederate battle flag which is under assault all around the country. It first appeared in print in Gen. Gordon's book, "Reminiscences of the Civil War," Charles Scribner, New York, 1904, and was quoted in Civil War, The Magazine of the Civil War Society.)

"The heartstrings of the mother, woven around the grave of her lost child, will never be severed while she lives; but does that hinder the continued flow of maternal devotions to those who are left her? The South's affections are bound, with links that cannot be broken, around the graves of her sons who fell in her defense and to the mementos and memories of the great struggle; but does that fact lessen her loyalty to the proud emblem of a reunited country? Does her unparalleled defense of the now dead Confederacy argue less readiness to battle for the ever-living Republic, in the making and the administering of which she bore so conspicuous a part?

If those unhappy patriots who find a scarecrow in every faded, riddled Confederate flag would delve deeper into the philosophy of human nature, or rise higher, say to the plane on which McKinley stood, they would be better satisfied with their Southern countrymen, with Southern sentiment, with the breadth and strength of the unobtrusive but sincere Southern patriotism. They would see that man is so constituted, the immutable laws of our being are such, that to stifle the sentiment and extinguish the hallowed memories of a people is to destroy their manhood.

The unseemly things which occurred in the great conflict between the States should be forgotten, or at least forgiven, and no longer permitted to disturb complete harmony between North and South. All American youth in all sections should be taught to hold in perpetual remembrance all that was great and good on both sides; to comprehend the inherited convictions for which saintly women suffered and patriotic men died; to recognize the unparalleled carnage as proof of unrivaled courage; to appreciate the singular absence of all personal animosity and the frequent manifestation between those brave antagonists of a good-fellowship such as had never before been witnessed between hostile armies. It will be a glorious day for our country when all the children within its borders shall learn that four years of fratricidal war between the North and the South was waged by neither with criminal or unworthy intent, but by both to protect what they conceived to be threatened rights and imperiled liberty; that the issues which divided the sections were born when the Republic was born, and were forever buried in an ocean of fraternal blood."

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