Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down

"Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me, 'Virgil, quick come see, there goes Robert E. Lee.' Well, I don't mind chopping wood, and I don't care if the money's no good. You take what you need, and you leave the rest, but they should never have taken the very best."

Thought we were going to have to refight the whole darned War.

If I have to tell you which war, you either aren't from the South or just aren't in tune with things down here.

The party was going well. Folks were laughing and having a good time. Old friends were reunited. Several members of the infamous Halls High School Class of '96 were together for the first time in 10 years. It was nice.

Then it happened.

Somehow the discussion turned to politics. Positions were exchanged. Harsh words were spoken.

Then the guy from New York opened his mouth.

"Gee, it's no wonder you people lost the war."

Keep in mind he says this to the party's host, who just happens to have a print of Robert E. Lee over his mantle.

I ducked for cover, expecting the first shot would make Ft. Sumter look like a fireworks display.

"People say things are better off because the South lost the war," he replied. "I don't think so. I'm a firm believer in state's rights."

The argument simmered down. Which is nothing short of amazing, really. People have been killed for less.

Folks outside the lower portion of the Mason-Dixon Line don't seem to understand why the War is still with us. I confess I don't understand it totally myself.

Guess it has something to do with the fact the South lost. Could also be because many of the issues that separated us then still do today. If you need proof, look at an electoral map of the 2004 presidential election. Dixie is solidly one sharp shade of red. The Yankee color is dark blue.

Tony Horwitz explores this phenomenon in his brilliant, funny book "Confederates in the Attic." He hangs out in biker bars and with the late, great Shelby Foote, trying to make sense of our Southern obsession with The Lost Cause. He tours Shiloh before dawn and Sumter before dark. It's a most unique read.

Naturally he runs into neo-Confederates and downright racists. Which is a shame. But he finds others, too. Those who just feel connected. Those who, like Patton, feel like they were there, marching with Lee and Grant.

Perhaps Foote said it best. A real understanding of this country, "And I mean a real understanding," he said, has to start with the War. Our past, our present, maybe even our future is wrapped up in those four and a half years of hell.

Especially here in Dixie, where Stonewall still charges on early spring Sundays and Lee is still riding Taveler, forever seeking another way to outfox the Yanks.

We'll never forget. Our ancestors were there. If you sit out on the porch in the evenings you can almost smell the smoke from the rifles. You can almost hear the cannons thunder. You can almost feel the waste of it all.

And on a hot summer night in Halls, you can still feel the passions the War brought forth, especially when the talk turns to the night they drove ol' Dixie down...

"Like my father before me, I will work the land. And like my brother above me who took a rebel stand. He was just eighteen, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave. I swear by the blood below my feet, you can't raise a Cane back up when he's in defeat."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

......see...that's the kind of crap that happens when I try to date!!! :)

9:06 AM  

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