EDITORIAL: Appropriate memory


By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi State University's unveiling last week of its Civil War sesquicentennial website, mscivilwar150.com, focuses sharply on the observance that began nationally with the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's presidential election last month. This month marks the Dec. 20 anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union in 1860.

Mississippi followed on Jan. 9, 1861, and in April of that year four years of war began, ultimately leaving Mississippi and the rest of the 11 Confederate states devastated and defeated.

Observing the sesquicentennial provides opportunity for renewed historical perspective on the passionate (and some argue principled) decision of most slave states and most of the South to secede.

Outmanned, outgunned and overwhelmed by the Union's resources, the allied southern states at war's end faced rebuilding what was left of their largely agricultural economies - and dealing with newly freed former slaves who had become American citizens, at least in law.

Hundreds of battles, skirmishes and other armed encounters happened on Mississippi soil, and the lessons taught in that period's context should be recalled. The centennial observance of the war from 1961 to 1965 became a huge event, and because it was before the legal gains of the civil rights era, it was a mostly white event, often verging on wishful thinking for a different outcome.

Learning from factual history and reaping economic rewards from the widespread interest in that period of American history should and can help Mississippi and Mississippians deal realistically with that important but sadly mistaken episode.

Hundreds of hostile encounters happened in Mississippi during the Civil War - so many that almost every day could commemorate an event.

A majority of Mississippi's residents, it must be remembered, were slaves at the beginning of and during most of the four-year war. The role of those non-citizens must be a large part of the observance because the tatters of slavery - the cause of the war - remain an encumbrance in our state's life.

Regional sites

These sites related to the Civil War are in or near Northeast Mississippi:

- Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site

- Natchez Trace Parkway

- Shiloh National Military Park

- Tupelo National Battlefield

- Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center

- Corinth National Cemetery

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