One thing is for sure, Charleston is full of history. The harbor is full of stories dating back long before the Civil War, even before the Revolution. Battery Point (White Point Garden) has beautiful, massive homes still in use that were built before this country was even a nation! Pictures don’t do this place justice.
Then, of course, there are places like Fort Sumter (where the Civil War began), Patriots Point (home of the USS Yorktown), the Charleston City Market, the H. L. Hunley Museum (the world’s first successful combat submarine), and even The Confederate Museum.
Speaking of the Confederacy, my youngest and I took a few minutes and toured the small Confederate Museum in Market Hall. Originally a place where business was conducted, in 1899 this building was turned into a museum by those who actually fought for Charleston during the Civil War, thereby making the museum historic in its own right.
Some of you reading this may have felt uneasy going into the Confederate Museum, and that is unfortunate. So much has been done since the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E Church to sponge away any remnant or reminder of Confederate history, yet what happened back in the 1860’s is part of the fabric of our nation. Much honor is to be found in the stories of the brave young men who fought for their homeland.
Back when there were no cell phones, television, or internet, the average young man’s world was a small one, limited to just a few miles in any direction from the very place he was born. All he would have known; all the people he would have known; everything pertinent to his universe would have been right there in his community, or, at most, his state. How could he be compelled to take up arms against his home?
The Flag Letter
Among the many stunning artifacts from when the Civil War enveloped Charleston was a signal flag – not your stereotypical Confederate battle flag – a single, simple, signal flag used during the evacuation of Fort Sumter. Attached to this flag was a small letter from the original owner. I will paraphrase part of what it said:
“You may not consider this flag much more than a trinket, but it means much more than that to me. It represents the best years of a patriotic young boy’s life, from age 16 to 20.”
I stood there with my daughter and read aloud the full letter describing the history of the flag written by the one who raised it in victory, then lowered it in defeat. This young man didn’t sound like a slave owner, or a bigot, or a murderer. These were just the words of a patriotic young man who did what he was called to do when his home was threatened.
I’m not ashamed of the South. What I am ashamed of are those who, for political expediency or “white guilt,” want to erase the heritage of a strong, dignified, loyal people without even setting foot on our soil. I am ashamed of those who forget that it was the soldiers who fought each other that came together after the war to heal their wounds and erect monuments to each other’s bravery. I am ashamed of Americans who choose make all Southerners out to be something we are not.
The folks in the news media only want ratings; they don’t care about truth. Sure, there are bad people, bigoted people out there, but there are also good people – and a lot more of them than the other.
There in the City Market I talked with a black lady about all that had been going on after the shooting at the church. It was at her church that the last of the funerals were to be held that afternoon. It was from her that I bought a New Testament written in the Gullah language (the language of the low country). We talked for a long time about the contrasts between people who chose to forgive and those who chose to burn down their cities. We talked about race, about how the media only wants to further divide us, and how that God loves us all. We talked about Jesus, about loving each other, and then hugged as we parted.
Two strangers in a market…a market in a town that could have gone the way of Baltimore and Ferguson, but didn’t…because people chose to show forgiveness…because good people didn’t resort to painting everyone else with a broad brush.
Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that real Southerners are ones who’ve learned how to grow up, admit our mistakes, and move on. We don’t need the modern PC police trying to score political points by opening up old wounds. We can’t change what happened 150 years ago, but we can forgive…as Christ forgives us…and be better people than the history revisionist want us to be.
Now that South Carolina has voted in the house and senate to remove the Confederate flag and “move it to a museum,” I hope they don’t forget to go visit it once in a while. Those who once flew that flag in war were the very same ones who came back together to heal this nation.
I’m just glad my little girl got to see how history can become His-story before all the history is history.