We didn't call ourselves "re-enactors."

Heck, we had never even heard the word.

But we did enjoy playing the roles of Civil War soldiers.

Confederates, of course.

Triumphant, of course.

In those fun old 1961-65 times not forgotten, lots of the little Southern boys at St. Andrews Elementary School routinely routed the unlucky few classmates drafted into the vastly outnumbered Yankee ranks -- a reversal of the equation that was a decisive edge for the victors in that bloody real war of attrition.

That disparity was merely one of the many historical inaccuracies in our faux martial engagements on mostly open playground terrain, though a few trees, bushes and a merry-go-round provided limited cover for ambushes.

We were inspired by Charleston's trigger-man part in starting the Civil War with the Confederacy's first shot at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

Most of us wore Confederate hats.

Some of us even carried small Confederate flags.

And for lots of us at that all-white school (not counting the janitorial and kitchen staff), those flags reflected not just an 1861-65 anti-abolitionist attitude but a 1961-65 anti-integration attitude.

Yet over the last 50 years, white Southerners' racial outlooks have improved more than they did in the previous 100 -- enough to trigger widespread "How could we?" bewilderment and utter shame over the blatantly bigoted injustice of Jim Crow.

Still, some white folks -- and not just here -- persist in lamenting, defending and/or revering a Lost Cause launched, in large part, to preserve slavery.

Their strongest case: The South entered the Union by choice, and thus had a right to leave it by choice.

Far less persuasive is the stale dodge that Abraham Lincoln started the war not to free the slaves but to preserve the Union.

Yes, he did.

But Lincoln also, less than halfway into our nation's deadliest conflict, turned it into a war of liberation.

And up to two years before that, most of the seceding states had clearly stated a driving-force motive of maintaining their "right" to own fellow human beings.

South Carolina's Declaration of the Causes of Secession charged that the non-slaveholding states "have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."

Another state's secession explanation cited the rise of "a great sectional party [the Republican party] ... based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color -- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."

However, that state's governor sounded this prophetic alarm against secession:

"Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche."

That Confederate state was Texas. That unheeded warning came from Sam Houston, ousted from the governorship over his anti-secession stance.

A year later, he almost lost his son Sam Jr. when he was wounded, fighting for the Confederacy, at Shiloh.

That was long ago.

So were our boyhood, Rebel-yelling frolics.

So was Charleston's 1961 Centennial celebration of not just that opening Southern victory at Fort Sumter but the Confederacy itself.

Times have changed for the better. On Tuesday, Charleston will rightly commemorate, not celebrate, the Sesquicentennial of the most significant event that has ever occurred here.

But we all should celebrate how far we've come toward racial fairness -- and true historical awareness -- since the South rose again on that playground.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His e-mail is wooten@postandcourier.com.