Honor in Infamy?
I wrote this last year on the morning of the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War. I slipped out the back patio and onto the wooded path with Snowy for her early morning walk. The thick fog quieted the morning. At first I thought it was thunder. But after hearing the consecutive short blast that didn't wander off into the horizon, I knew what it was. It was the sound of the ancient cannons sitting on Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie firing to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War.
It was both exhilarating and scary. I shuddered. The pre-dawn fog, lack of first light, and Spanish Moss hanging like apparitions down the path transcended me to a time that I couldn't know of. I could sense what that morning must have felt like. I tried to imagine what my ancestors were doing the moments they heard these booms. My maternal lineage would have my ancestors farming in a community near the Myrtle Beach area, Conway. They would have not heard the cannons. But were stirred nonetheless by the impending war. Not wealthy by any means. Hardworking farming family. I don't have records of their opinions of the war, but I do have records that show their support. My Great-Great Grandfather was the sixth child of nine children. Five boys and four girls. I can only try to imagine the tears of the mother and sisters, the pride of their fathers as they watched their sons and brothers walk down a dusty dirt road on August 7th, 1961. Walking together to enlist in one of the bloodiest battles we have ever known. The Civil War.
On that day SC 1st Infantry (Greggs Company F) took the handwritten signatures of enlistment of three brothers and two nephews of my family. Leaving behind a brother who enlisted months later in another company and my great-great grandfather who stayed at home for three more years before enlisting in the same company. I wondered if this were a family decision brought about by rules of engagement. I often heard that one son needed to stay at home to care for the needs of the family. Of those boys, five brothers, three were killed. Two killed in action, one sent home with wounds that eventually killed him. My great-great-grandfather came home after the war. I have not located any papers to this time that show they owned any slaves. This is not to say that they didn't. It is probable. I have found papers where my great-great-great grandfather Lowrimore owned 300 acres of a plantation in the Marion County District.
Even though I have the proof of their bravery, battles and death’s on cold gray tombstones...I am left puzzled. What were they fighting for? The question still looms today, why so many conflicting opinions? Some say, we weren't fighting for the right to keep slaves, I believe this to be both true and false. I believe for some, they were indeed fighting for their right to keep slaves. The huge plantation owners would lose everything without their workforce of indigenous peoples. I believe for the majority, they fought for protection from oppression themselves. They weren't going to allow anyone to take away what was rightfully theirs (property, not people). For others it was the blood, guts and glory of war. For some, pure patriotism...remember this was only 85 years after becoming independent from England. Also, there were still Indian battles occurring all over the US.
I don't guess I will ever know the motives of my family. But today...I imagine that if I were the same person I am right now and I were a little girl on a plantation, a farm, a dock...wherever I was on the morning that I heard those booms, I would be scared for myself, my family going off to war and my little black girl slave friend. I know that I would have been just as confused at the motives of this war then as I am today. It is a very weird sense of being, living in Charleston. When your ancestral roots forage deeper into the ground than the oldest live oaks, we innately know which of the motivations of war we sympathized with and that knowledge gives us either enormous pride or painful shame. Or as in my case, both. I honor with all of my heart the memory of those family members and all of their brothers that lost their lives fighting this battle. I hurt for the wrongdoing of others that brought this on by ever trying to control or own a person in the first place. I love the South...I am not ashamed of it one bit. I am ashamed of those few, through greed and in darkness, slipped ships stealthily into our harbors and brought the curse of this war. I am ashamed of the men in fine suits on the foggy docks of our ports that traded money for lives.