#OnThisDay: The War that Never Ends

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when southerners fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Fort Sumter was, of course, a United States military fort on the coast of South Carolina.

Photo credit: Michelle Burdick on unsplash.com

The American Civil War was the culmination of the falling apart of a nation.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to US Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, but fighting continued for a while west of the Mississippi River. U.S President Andrew Johnson declared the war over in all states but Texas on April 2, 1866. After accepting the new state constitution for Texas, President Johnson officially declared the insurrection over on August 20, 1866.

Death toll

The exact number of deaths in the American Civil War is unknown, but it seems to be agreed upon that it was at least 620,000 and as high as 750,000.

Local losses

In 1999, I compiled a booklet, “Rocky River Presbyterian Church and the War Between the States,” about how the American Civil War affected Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Established in 1751, in 1860 the congregation had 616 members. 440 of them were White and 176 of them were Black. The congregation lost 72 men in the Civil War. Their average age was 28. The youngest was 16 and the oldest was 44. Of the 72 who died, 52 died between January 1862 and November 1863. I’ve tried to imagine what an emotional impact that had on this farming community, but I can’t.

Rocky River Presbyterian Church, Cabarrus County, North Carolina

I researched each of the 72 men and boys in published genealogies, church records, census records, etc. in an effort to put names and real people on the statistics. Some families were hit especially hard, losing several sons.

Another local loss

In addition to the numerical and economic loss those 72 men and boys cost the congregation, the war resulted in a radical and racial change in the church’s make up. In 2004, I compiled another booklet, “Slaves and Free Blacks Known to be Associated with Rocky River Presbyterian Church Prior to 1870.” My purpose was to compile in one document all known records about the slaves and free Blacks who were communing and/or baptized members of the congregation from the earliest extant church records (1835) through 1870.

Photo credit: US Library of Congress, via unsplash.com.

I was astounded when the project was finished to find that I had a list of 917 slaves and 11 free Blacks. In addition to the church membership rolls and Session disciplinary trial minutes, I searched the 1860 and 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment Lists – which listed every slave living in the county at those times—and the US Census records for Cabarrus County from 1870 and 1880. (By the way, the county tax assessment lists recorded not only the names of each slave under his or her master’s name, but also included each slave’s age, physical condition, and value. They are sobering documents.)

In 1867, present-day Bellefonte Presbyterian Church was formed by former Black members of Rocky River. The White pastor of Rocky River, being a product of the place and time, was hurt when the Black members of his congregation chose to go two or three miles up the road to establish their own church. Unfortunately, he saw them as children who didn’t know what they were doing. He didn’t understand why they didn’t want to stay at Rocky River and continue to sit in the balcony while the White members sat downstairs on the main floor of the sanctuary. No wonder they left! That’s easy for us to see today.

How racism continues to this day

Southerners tend to romanticize about the Civil War, but I doubt there was anything romantic about it at the time. The wives, mothers, sisters, and younger brothers were left behind to try to farm the best they could, not knowing when or if their loved ones would come home. I would not have wanted to be alive during that time.

All four of my great-grandfathers and one of my great-great-grandfathers fought on the losing side in the American Civil War. They were farmers in North Carolina. They did not own slaves. In trying to put myself in their places in that place and time, I can’t help but think they didn’t have much choice in joining the North Carolina Troops when the war began.

Lee Dulin, home from the Civil War

One was a boy of 16, no doubt out on a bit of an adventure with his neighborhood friends in the same company. He wrote letters to his parents and sister asking them to send him socks. One was in the 1st NC Cavalry and survived a severe head wound at Gettysburg that left him with headaches and a convulsive disorder for the rest of his life. One had restricted use of one of his arms for the rest of his life due to injuries sustained in the Seven Days Battle of Richmond. One was in Charleston at the end of the war and walked the 200 miles home. One of my great-great-grandfathers was a man in his early 50s – much too old to go off to war, but that’s what he did. It’s hard to find the romance in any of that. They came home defeated, with perhaps a little worthless Confederate currency, only to have to go back to eking out a living by farming in a broken economy.

They were not the ones who built monuments to Confederate leaders. They did not raise the Confederate battle flag by their houses to show their Southern pride. They just went back to the hard-working lives they’d known since birth and tried to live out their lives as law-abiding American citizens.

I don’t know what any of those five ancestors of mine thought about race. I can’t sit in judgment of any of my ancestors any more than I can take credit for anything good they accomplished in their lives. Each of us is accountable for our own ideas, beliefs, and actions.

Where do we go from here?

Until Americans have an honest discussion about slavery and the ramifications of it… until people across the country study the facts and recognize that slavery existed in some northern states… until people across the country realize that northern states benefitted from the slavery in the South because the slaves picked the cotton that was sent to northern textile mills to be turned into fabric for people there to sell and wear at a low cost due to slavery… until people across the country accept each other and fight for all citizens to have the same rights and chances to excel… until as individuals we admit our prejudices and have the courage to speak up when we see racial injustice… I’m afraid the American Civil War will never be over.

Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao on unsplash.com

My heart sinks at the sight of the Confederate battle flag because, to people of color, it is a symbol of hate. I didn’t see it that way when I was growing up because I was White, but I do now. When you know better, you should do better.

As Americans, it’s easy for us to sit back, protected by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and criticize the Arabs and Jews in Israel holding grudges over wrongs committed centuries ago, but many Americans are unwilling to forgive and forget when it comes to our own Civil War after 160 years. We can’t see the plank in our own eye because we’re concentrating on the speck in someone else’s eye.

#ElectoralCollge #USConstitution #12thAmendment
Photo by Luke Michael on Unsplash.com

Since my last blog post

We finally got to bring our diabetic dog home from the hospital last Thursday. He was hospitalized for eight days with bronchial pneumonia. We’re so thankful for the good care he received at CARE (Charlotte Animal Referral & Emergency) once again.

Until my next blog post

Continue to celebrate D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) Month. I hope you have at least one good book to read this week.

Make time for a hobby.

Note: The two booklets I referenced in today’s blog, “Rocky River Presbyterian Church and the War Between the States” and “Slaves and Free Blacks Known to be Associated with Rocky River Presbyterian Church Prior to 1870,” are available through http://www.JanetMorrisonBooks.com. Click on “Rocky River Presbyterian Church Booklets.”


19 thoughts on “#OnThisDay: The War that Never Ends

  1. Thank you so much, Jennifer! I’m learning that every day is different with a diabetic dog, but we’re rolling with the punches.


  2. How exciting, Laleh! You amaze me with the amount of writing you produce! I’ll look forward to your next book — although it sounds like it will be a very somber book. I look forward to reading your perspective on a topic that has affected your life so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re welcome, Laleh. You are one of my most loyal supporters and encouragers. I think it’s great that two women with such different backgrounds can have the online relationship we have!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed your article Janet. The information it contains, the clear and well researched data, and the touch of your hand, which guides the reader cautiously but clearly towards a better understanding of one of the most brutal and horrible things that man has invented, which is war. It is sad that to this day many people in the US southern states still glorify the atrocities committed in that war. A battle flag is not a decorative item, it is a historical one. But one that stands for hared, racism, slavery and bigotry should be one forgotten by all. A war is a terrible thing, a civil war is much worse. We are still recuperating from ours which ended in 1939, but whose legacy…and leader…lived on as a dictator until 1975. A sad reckoning but one that must be faced in order to pass the page on history and resume our waltz…or rumba…with destiny. Lovely work my friend. Many greetings from Spain,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much, Francisco, for your complimentary words. It was a blog post I struggled with and considered not posting. Yes, it’s terrible how so many southerners glorify the war and its battle flag and how many northerners continue to look down on anyone from the South. We’ve become so polarized in the US today, I think some people fly and wave the Confederate battle flag just to hurt people of color. It should only be in museums — nowhere else. Greetings from North Carolina, where the azaleas are in full bloom like never before… but there’s a chance of frost next week. Spring in North Carolina can be crazy. My best, Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re very welcome Janet. Yes, I think you’re right, racist people and supremacists in the US use that flag to shock and hurt black people and to intimidate others as well. And you’re also right saying it should only be in museums. It’s time to move forward and leave in the past the ills of the past. Life moves forward not backwards and so should people. Take good care and stay warm! All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Francisco. As we are daily reminded of the attempted insurrection on January 6 on news reports, images of the Confederate battle flag continue to be on the screen and they’re a reminder of the division and hate within the United States. The flag is increasingly offensive to me. Yes, life moves forward and it’s high time for the bigots of the world to either recognize their mistakes and move forward — or get out of the way. Thank you, as always, for all your thoughtful comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, you are so right Janet! There is a pandemic but there’s also an epidemic of violence and hatred and there’s no vaccine for that, it has to be overcome only with the voices of the good people who reject racism, bigotry and the proliferation of guns. Blessings to you Janet and a lovely week.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very informative post. I do not know much about US history but I am learning a lot from you. It is heart breaking to see these young men fighting in wars. It is still happening and it is sad. Thanks for taking the time to do these great research and for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this terrific post. Once i got hold of a book of letters back home written by soldiers in the Civil War and was struck by how literate the men were, how sensitive and beautiful the letters, What a bloody awful war it was. And the same terrible and bloody mistakes were made in the next war, WW1

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You’re correct, David — and thank you for the compliment. We don’t seem to ever learn from history or from our mistakes. Letter writing was an art in the 19th century. My great-grandfather always started his letters with, “I seat myself to write you a few lines.” Sometimes he wrote “drop” instead of “write” and once when writing to his parents and sister he wrote “youns” instead of “you.” He often followed that line with, “I am well and in good spirits and hope these lines come to hand may find youns enjoying the same Blessin of God.” It is rather surprising he wrote so eloquently, considering he would have only had a few years of education in a one-room school house in North Carolina in the 1850s. Public schools weren’t established in our county until 1841 — just five years before he was born. Sometimes I wonder how much progress public education has made. My parents were born in 1911 and 1912 and both attended one-room schools until high school. At that time in North Carolina, one had to pass a state exam in Latin before going beyond the 8th grade. Latin wasn’t even an elective when I was in school. They could both also do math in their heads faster than I can do it on a calculator.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.