I share this blog each year at this time because every war casualty in this country is a tragedy. I also live in the south, and this event is part of our remembrance of those who honored their call, even if it was for a failed and misunderstood cause.
June 6th is remembered for the D-Day invasion of western Europe, but in Virginia, and the other southern states, it has a second meaning. June 6th is the day that the southern war dead are remembered.
Every year just before the 6th of June, ancestors, community groups and history buffs line the Mt Hebron Cemetery with hundreds of Confederate flags. The union dead are buried across the street in their own cemetery, and their memorial day is associated with the national Memorial Day, but the Confederate dead are not included in that remembrance.
I can hardly look down those long red rows without getting a lump in my throat. I realize that they were just boys. Many of them really didn't have a clear understanding of why they were fighting, they just fought. They left their homes, their loved ones and their futures to follow the call of their states. They didn't question why. They just went.
Most of those boys didn't belong to wealthy families. They had never experienced the moral dilemma of slave labor on their farms. Most wouldn't even know a family who owned slaves. Their journey into war may have been vaguely understood, or it may have been about state's rights, or it may have been about slavery, but one thing was for sure, politicians make war, and the nation's sons and daughters fight them.
Right or wrong, they went to war. Most were in the dawn of their adult lives with all of their hopes and dreams still evolving. Like their Union brothers across a narrow street, they laid down their lives because that's what a soldier under command does. Battle after battle, they marched upright into a hail of bullets knowing that each battle would most likely be their last, but they did it anyway because soldiers obey orders.
And one day, in a small southern town named Winchester, VA, a Union bullet, or a piece of shrapnel, found it's target and their quest to earn the right to go home was over. Now, they sleep, just yards away from another young man who didn't understand the full impact of the war between the states. For that one day they hated each other, and for eternity they are locked in a patchwork of sod and stone. All enmity is gone, and serenity has taken its place. Peace has come to both Union and Confederate, and they lie down in solidarity, never to lift arms against each other again, and they are at rest.