To the Editor:
I was very sorry to read your editorial (May 29, “Closing the chasm”) regarding the planned removal of the plaques from the Civil War memorial in Oak Bluffs, and your complete omission of the views of our Martha’s Vineyard veterans. Clearly, you are not a veteran yourself.
You, of course, know that the memorial was dedicated to veterans that were at the bottom of military rank, and the bottom rank of Confederate soldiers were not slave owners, nor were they saving up to buy slaves. They were fighting to defend their homeland, their homes, and their families. They were also fighting for states’ rights because the much more populous North dominated the number of representatives in Congress and controlled tax and commercial law.
When the Confederate soldiers at the bottom rank heard of Sherman’s Glorious March to the Sea, there wasn’t a single tear shed because they wouldn’t be able to own slaves. The great sadness came from seeing their homeland in flames and the destruction of everything they had owned. I hope you at least believe that these men had a right to defend themselves and attack the North if that was the best way to do it.
There was a religious value commonly held during the 19th century in both the North and South that you don’t seem to be aware of. That was the belief that the blood of the soldiers that died on the battlefield soaked into the ground and made that field “hallowed ground,” and that soldiers’ souls rose up into the bosom of the Lord, where all men are brothers, and the pain and violence come to an end. Another belief was that it was a sin to speak ill of the dead.
I believe that keeping the hate going for dead Confederate soldiers is not a good thing for our country. Washington and Jefferson both owned hundreds of slaves, but thank God that’s not the only thing they did in their lives, so we honor them in death.
I respect the vote of the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP, but I also respect the view of the Martha’s Vineyard veterans, and I don’t believe they are racists of any kind. As editor I only wish your editorial did a better job to represent the opinions of our veterans, especially in light of Memorial Day.
Mark S. Alexander