And Then There Was Gone With The Wind

What follows is a short excerpt from The War-Time Journal Of A Georgia Girl, 1864-65, written by Eliza F. Andrews and published in 1908. This is a wonderful example of how white Southerners chose to remember their Civil War and slavery. What is interesting about this memoir is that Andrews’ own introduction attempts to explain away her more bitter wartime comments in acknowledgment of sectional reconciliation. And she does it by referencing the 1903 Crater reunion which took place in Petersburg, Virginia:

Coming from a heart ablaze with the passionate resentment of a people smarting under the humiliation of defeat, it was inevitable that along with the just indignation at wrongs which ought never to have been committed, there should have crept in many intemperate and indiscriminate denunciations of acts which the writer did not understand, to say nothing of sophomorical vaporings calculated now only to excite a smile. Such expressions, however, are not to be taken seriously at the present day, but are rather to be regarded as a sort of fossil curiosities that have the same value in throwing light on the psychology of the period to which they belong as the relics preserved in our geological museums have in illustrating the physical life of the past. Revolutions never take place when people are cool-headed or in a serene frame of mind, and it would be as dishonest as it is foolish to deny that such bitternesses ever existed. The better way is to cast them behind us and thank the powers of the universe that they exist no longer. I cannot better express this feeling than in the words of an old Confederate soldier at Petersburg, Va., where he had gone with a number of his comrades who had been attending the great reunion at Richmond, to visit the scene of their last struggles under “Marse Robert.” They were standing looking down into the Crater, that awful pit of death, lined now with daisies and buttercups, and fragrant with the breath of spring. Tall pines, whose lusty young roots had fed on the hearts of dead men, were waving softly overhead, and nature everywhere had covered up the scars of war with the mantle of smiling peace. I paused, too, to watch them, and we all stood there awed into silence, till at last an old battle-scarred hero from one of the wiregrass counties way down in Georgia, suddenly raised his hands to heaven, and said in a voice that trembled with emotion: “Thar’s three hundred dead Yankees buried here under our feet. I helped to put ‘em thar, but so help me God, I hope the like ‘ll never be done in this country again. Slavery’s gone and the war’s over now, thank God for both! We are all brothers once more, and I can feel for them layin’ down thar just the same as fur our own.”

That is the sentiment of the new South and of the few of us who survive from the old. We look back with loving memory upon our past, as we look upon the grave of the beloved dead whom we mourn but would not recall. We glorify the men and the memories of those days and would have the coming generations draw inspiration from them. We teach the children of the South to honor and revere the civilization of their fathers, which we believe has perished not because it was evil or vicious in itself, but because, like a good and useful man who has lived out his allotted time and gone the way of all the earth, it too has served its turn and must now lie in the grave of the dead past. The Old South, with its stately feudal régime, was not the monstrosity that some would have us believe, but merely a case of belated survival, like those giant sequoias of the Pacific slope that have lingered on from age to age, and are now left standing alone in a changed world. Like every civilization that has yet been known since the primitive patriarchal stage, it was framed in the interest of a ruling class; and as has always been, and always will be the case until mankind shall have become wise enough to evolve a civilization based on the interests of all, it was doomed to pass away whenever changed conditions transferred to another class the economic advantage that is the basis of all power. It had outlived its day of usefulness and was an anachronism in the end of the nineteenth century – the last representative of an economic system that had served the purposes of the race since the days when man first emerged from his prehuman state until the rise of the modern industrial system made wage slavery a more efficient agent of production than chattel slavery.

I can easily picture Margaret Mitchell reading this one with a light bulb suddenly going off above her head.

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