My college friend and my wife's cousin, Bill Heuble wrote the following note to his child's school teacher in Greenville, SC, a few years ago. We share it here with Bill's permission for today, Confederate Memorial Day in North and South Carolina, the anniversary of the death of Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson, May 10, 1863.
"Take a moment and remember our forefathers, whose homeland was viciously invaded by an imperialist tyrant and his hordes. Like the patriots of 1776, our ancestors sought independence and the right to be governed via their consent. This is supposed to be a day of reflection for our citizens and education for our children, but instead it is just another day to most folks.
"Here is a letter I prepared for my daughter's teacher years ago when she was being taught the victor's self-serving lies about our families. Deo Vindice!
"We are writing to explain some problems Megan may be having in class this week with regards to the subject matter of the Social Studies curriculum. We thank you for your kind instruction of our child, and we offer this letter as no criticism of you or Mitchell Road Elementary School. We fully understand that there are differing opinions with regards to the American Civil War, and we also understand that you did not write or create the resources and books used to teach this subject.
"Our family is one of many who share a dramatically different view with regards to this subject, and we believe that the most debated subject in this nation’s history should require a more balanced view than the overly simplistic and one-sided version often used in today’s classrooms.
"Our family’s view, I believe, is the result of diligent personal study and formal education. Together, Andrea and I hold advanced degrees representing five different majors, one of which is the study of History.
"Megan has numerous forefathers who fought for and served the Confederacy. We know of at least thirty-six family members, twelve of whom died, who fought for a cause, and we do not believe that cause was the oppression of other people.
"We believe that slavery was and is wrong, and we teach Megan that our entire nation committed a great injustice, including the Northern slave merchants and the Southern slave-owners. Slavery was certainly an agitating and catalytic issue in the great clash of political theories (strong centralized government at a national level versus individual states’ power in closer proximity to the governed).
"However, the undisputed facts of history will show that Megan’s family suffered and fought for many of the same reasons our patriots of 1776 strove, not for the perpetuation of the inherently unjust institution of slavery.
"The 1860 census showed that eighty-five to ninety per cent of Southerners did not own slaves. However, in the face of numerical odds of well over two to one, the South fought a war for four long years against the most powerful army in the world. With fatalities approaching one out of three soldiers, the South suffered by far the highest per centage of combat losses of any other American war or conflict. Adjusted for the current population, the death toll to the Southern armies would be six million.
"This does not even take into account the civilian deaths at the hands of Sherman’s and Sheridan’s invaders, the deaths by starvation and exposure of women and children, and the deaths caused by the North’s blockade and refusal to allow even medicines to enter the South. Why would a people, ninety per cent of whom did not own slaves, fight so determinedly and at such great cost for a slave system in which they did not participate?
"Any study of the primary documents of the time will show that Southerners were fighting for independence and defense of home. There is almost never a mention of slavery in the personal documents of Southern soldiers and their families. Samples taken from the diaries and letters of Southern soldiers are numerous. Some examples:
“I was a soldier in Virginia in the campaigns of Lee and Jackson, and I declare I never met a Southern soldier who had drawn his sword to perpetuate slavery. . . What he had chiefly at heart was the preservation of the supreme and sacred right of self-government. . . It was a small minority of the men who fought in the Southern armies who were financially interested in the institution of slavery.”
“The hard fighting will come off here and our boys will have a fine opportunity of showing the enemy with what determination we intend to fight for liberty, and independence. . . History will record this as being the greatest struggle for liberty that was ever made.”
"To best understand this historical subject, it is important to study the primary documents and words of participants of the time period in question. By only referring to the opinions of later writers, we will often find great falsehood. This is especially true when these opinions are written by a victor attempting to justify the unjustifiable deaths of over 650,000 and the maiming of countless others.
"Entire libraries are filled with volumes discussing the War; the cause of the War has been debated in great detail. The beliefs outlined below are disturbing to the modern conscience, but they plainly demonstrate that this war was not about slavery:
Abraham Lincoln, in support of the Fugitive Slave Act that required escaped slaves in any state to be returned to owners – “and I would give them any legislation for the claiming of their fugitives.”
Abraham Lincoln, on the opening of Western lands – “The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories. We want them for the homes of free white people.”
Abraham Lincoln, on racial equality – “I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as if become a necessity that there must be a difference. I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”
And Lincoln further stated in the Douglas debates that he was not “in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.”
Lincoln, on his desire that the West was to be preserved for whites only – “We want them for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted with them.”
Lincoln, on slavery, in his First Inaugural Address – “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
"In 1861, Union General John Fremont issued a proclamation in Missouri that all slaves owned by secessionists were declared to be free. Unionists were allowed to keep their slaves (a similar provision we see later in the Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation). Lincoln was furious, had the order countermanded, returned slaves to owners, and stripped Fremont of his command. A similar case took place with Union General David Hunter regarding freed slaves in the Federally-occupied parts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. If the war was about slavery, why did Lincoln return slaves to their masters, even to Confederate masters?
Union General George B. McClellan – on slavery “. . . with an iron hand, crush any attempt at insurrection on their part.”
Union General James H. Lane – “My brigade is not here for the purpose of interfering with the institution of slavery.”
Lincoln in letter to New York Tribune editor Horace Greely in 1862 (This was the same year in which he later wrote the Emancipation Proclamation after being unable to defeat the Confederates on the battlefield) – “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”
The Emancipation Proclamation was written as a war measure only after the single bloodiest day in this nation’s history took place at Antietam, worse than Pearl Harbor or 9-11. Lincoln realized that after numerous Federal losses, that the South was very likely to win the war. Indeed, by the time the Emancipation Proclamation was officially released on January 1, 1863, the North had again suffered a devastating defeat, their worst loss, at Fredericksburg.
In the essence of time, we will not re-print the Emancipation Proclamation nor all the appropriate footnotes associated with the rest of the presented quotes, but a re-reading of the document is instrumental to its significance.
“The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to rebel territory, even though at the time Federal armies occupied large parts of the South, including much of Tennessee and Virginia, where it would have been possible to emancipate thousands of slaves. Specifically exempted by name in the Proclamation were the federally occupied states of Maryland and Kentucky, as well as West Virginia and many counties of Virginia. The Federal army also occupied much of Louisiana at the time, and those areas were exempted as well.” Dr. Thomas J. Lorenzo, Loyola College
Union Secretary of State William Seward, on the Emancipation Proclamation – “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”
The London Spectator in 1863 on the Emancipation Proclamation – “The principle (of the Proclamation) is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.”
So, even after the Proclamation, slavery remained legal in many border and several Northern states. In fact, slavery was not outlawed until the passing of the 13th Amendment almost a year after the War, and Union General Ulysses S. Grant, later President of the forcibly United States, kept his slaves the entire time until the amendment’s passage into law.
Interestingly, the United States Capitol building that we are familiar with today was built with slave labor during the War, before and after the Emancipation Proclamation!
Despite our view on this matter, we have instructed Megan to show full respect to you and her classmates as you study this subject. We have asked her not to argue or dispute these issues in front of the class. While we want her to have convictions and stand up for her beliefs, we will endeavor to teach her the proper manner and time in which to project her opinions.
She is slightly confused as to how to complete her work and answer test questions, and we have asked her to follow your instructions and the book. At the same time, we will not ask Megan to be ashamed of her family’s history and the truth as we perceive it with regard to this deeply troubling period in America’s history.
Of course, we can never hope to fully address the complexities of this historical period. We thank you so much for indulging this lengthy letter, and we thank you for your sensitivity to Megan and our family.
Bill and Andrea Hueble"