Happy Anniversary of Confederate Surrender Day!
Just 6 years after the surrender Frederick Douglas made a speech where he feared that history was already being rewritten to portray Lee & his army as honorable fighters:
“When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.
We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice. I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant but may my ‘right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,’ if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict. If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves & planted agony I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?
But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers.”
-Frederick Douglas 1871