The Civil War ended 150 years ago.
So why do so many folks persist in figuratively fighting it?
One hundred and two years ago today (that’s July 4, 1913 for you non-math majors) in southern Pennsylvania, more than 50,000 Americans who literally fought in our nation’s defining — and deadliest — conflict concluded a friendly six-day “Great Reunion” of ex-enemies. They even basked in the glow of a laudatory Independence Day speech from President Woodrow Wilson.
“Thousands of survivors bivouacked on the old battlefield, swapping stories, looking up comrades and ... retracing their steps and seemingly impossible deeds of 50 years earlier.”
And: “The climactic moment of the 50th Reunion was a reenactment [on July 3] of Pickett’s Charge. Thousands of spectators gathered to watch as the Union veterans took their positions on Cemetery Ridge, and waited as their old adversaries emerged from the woods of Seminary Ridge and started toward them again. They converged as they had 50 years earlier at the stone wall, but this time the Confederates were met with embraces of brotherly fellowship.”
OK, so as in that colossal 1861-65 carnage, the Northern forces again significantly outnumbered the Southern troops at the reunion — more than 44,000 to fewer than 9,000.
Still, those old soldiers from both sides united to renew allegiance to what is, after all, the United States.
Too bad that more than a century later, too many Americans remain deeply divided over, among other differences of opinion, the causes, conduct, effects and yes, the symbols, of the Civil War.
However, during my lifetime, many Southerners (including me) who were raised to lament Gettysburg’s outcome have since surrendered to this indisputable, indefensible reality:
The most powerful motivation behind the Confederacy’s creation was the South’s resolve to preserve slavery — even if that required dissolving the Union and winning a bloody war.
Only the South didn’t win.
Neither will the rapidly dwindling ranks of South Carolinians who still defend the inappropriate flying of a Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds. We’ll be getting past that controversial vestige of our past soon after the General Assembly reconvenes on Monday.
But enough already about lost causes.
What about current causes that could still go either way?
CNN headline Friday: “Pentagon warns of perpetual war.”
Gee, what else is new?
So while bickering about old 19th century times not forgotten, try to remember that these 21st century times have pressing perils of their own.
Try, also, to follow the reconciling example from that Gettysburg reunion’s “embraces of brotherly fellowship” 102 years ago today.
The Declaration of Independence, the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg and the Great Reunion’s finale weren’t the only significant events to occur on past July the Fourths.
For instance, on July 4 ...
1187: Saladin and his Muslim hordes defeated the Guy of Lusignan (king of the crusader state of Jerusalem) and his outnumbered good guys in the Battle of Hattin near Tiberias in present-day Israel.
1754: Lt. Col. George Washington surrendered Fort Necessity (not to be confused with Fort Courage on “F Troop”) in southwestern Pennsylvania to the French. Way back then in the French and Indian War, Washington was still loyal to the British crown.
1802: The U.S. Military Academy opened in West Point, N.Y.
1826: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died, 50 years to the day after signing of the Declaration of Independence.
1827: The state of New York abolished slavery.
1881: Booker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for black students.
1910: World heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, who was black, knocked out Jim Jeffries, who was white, in Reno, Nev., sparking race riots across the U.S.
1930: George Steinbrenner was born.
1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the federal Freedom of Information Act.
July 4, 1985: The Mets and Braves played 19 innings and more than six hours, including rain delays, into July 5 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium before New York finally won, 16-13. Braves pitcher Rick Camp, a notoriously lousy hitter, somehow slugged a two-out solo homer over the left-field fence to tie the game in the 18th. The postgame fireworks display, which started at about 4 a.m., was a rude, fear-inducing awakening for some Atlantans.
Braves broadcaster Skip Caray later confessed: “It was the only time I ever got home at dawn with a clear conscience.”
Now, 30 years later, our Charleston RiverDogs, an affiliate of the New York Yankees (not Mets), return to Riley Park tonight to start an eight-game home stand with a 6:35 p.m. game against the Braves of not Atlanta but Rome (Georgia, not Italy).
And yes, there will be a post-game fireworks show.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.