Monday, February 25, 2013
“To people who passed through those memorable days in Dixie, it seems queer to hear Southern men and women spoken of as "traitors," "rebels," "enemies of American liberty" and "foes of the Constitution." I know not what may have been the secret motives of wily leaders, if there were any such leaders, which I gravely doubt, but as for the people, nothing but patriotism pure and simple moved them to vote secession and to enlist in the army.
The people at the South felt just as confident that the people at the North contemplated a deliberate overthrow of the Republic as their fathers in the Revolution felt that King George was a tyrant. In all the public orations and private discussions the idea that slavery was the bone of contention never once entered the minds of the common people . . .
They understood that the Constitution of the United States was assailed, and that they were offering themselves for its defense. The question, as they understood it, was whether American liberty should be perpetuated or crushed by Northern monarchy.
Fighting for slavery? Think of the absurdity of the thing! The Southern army was largely made up of volunteers from the mountain regions. There were no slaves of consequence in that mountain country, and those poor mountaineers hated "stuck-up" slaveholders as cordially as a saint hates sin. True, they understood in a vague sort of way that there was some discussion on the subject of slavery in a general way, but to them this was only an incidental and irrelevant topic of public interest which was in no way connected with the question of secession.
The people understood that the question at issue was simply their right to manage their own affairs in their own States. If the North proposed to interfere with that right, what assurance had they that it would not take from them their homes and all their property? I know not what the leaders thought, but there was no mistaking the feelings and opinions of the common people. . . .
I understood that in seceding the South held on to the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, and Bunker Hill monument, and the life of George Washington. . .
We traitors? We rebels against the American government and enemies of the Constitution? Shades of Washington and Bunker Hill! Why, what were the people up in the mountains fighting for if not for the Constitution? . . . . What did they care about slavery? Hadn't it been as a thorn in the flesh to them from time immemorial? Did not everybody know that the North had set aside the Constitution, throttled our liberty and pulled the tail feathers out of the American eagle?”
Excerpted from Seventy Years In Dixie,
by F.D. Srygley, Florida Confederate Veteran... Faith and Facts Press, first printing 1891.