THE CIVIL WAR PARADE.
I love a parade! The first parade I ever saw was a Civil War Parade! I may be one of a few persons living in 2012 to tell of a parade featuring Civil war Soldiers(1861-1865).
The Civil War Parade passed down the streets in our small town of Porterdale, Georgia when I was a small child in the 1920's. It was a small parade as parades go.
But any parade in our small southern hometown was exciting! This 1920's parade featured the soldiers who had answered the call to arms and last survivors of the "disappearing soldiers"of the few who had survived the Civil War to come back home to a devastated Georgia and Southland.
In those 1920-1930 days, we still referred to the tragic Civil War of "brothers against brothers" as “The War between the States."
It is hard for this generation or even my generation of black and white people who finally won the battle for equal rights to put ourselves back in the time of worldwide slavery and class and racial separation. Today white and black people have associated with one another in school, church and work situations. Most thoughtful people have come to respect our common humanity and to appreciate our differences.
The Civil War Parade of my childhood moved slowly as it passed our house. There were a few horses and wagons in the parade but the three elderly Civil War veterans with long grey hair were sitting on chairs in the back of a slow moving truck. These Civil War soldiers were not waving or smiling as I remembeer them but were looking rather serious. I was standing near the road holding my mother's hand.
I asked Mama, "Who are those poor old men?" "Those elderly men," I was told, were among the last of the Civil War soldiers.
These men had probably seen many of their brothers maimed and killed in an "uncivil" war of "brothers fighting brothers." General Sherman is quoted as saying, "War is hell." If they had not learned it earlier, after Sherman's march through Georgia, who could deny the truth of Sherman's words.
Unfortunately, the American Civil War was seen by many in the south as a "states rights" issue. We are told that less than ten percent of the people in America's southland were slave holders. Most of the slave owners were caucasion, but records reveal there were a few African American as well as a few Native Americans who were slave owners.
History also reveals while all "Christians" were not Abolitionists, all Abolitionist were Christians. There is no record of any Muslin, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist or persons of other religions who had tried to do anything about the world-wide system of slavery.
It was in the Christian Bible that Christians finally became literate enough to learn that God is "no respector of persons" and much later powerful enough to defeat the evil institution of slavery .
When Jesus was born, class and racial discrimination, slavery and survival of the fittiest" was already a world wide practice. As G.K. Chesterson said, "the end of slavery was begun when Jesus died … although it took the church years to become powerful enough to defeat the powerful slave trade."
Many of the Confederate soldiers had never owned nor even seen a slave. My grandfather, Col. William Baird, a Methodist "exhorter" and teacher, like 90 percent of people in the South, never owned slaves. Methodist ministers were prohibited from slave ownership.
The first battles for equal right were fought in Christian conferences.In fact, when Georgia Methodist Bishop Andrews' wife inherited a slave , it caused a riff in the church that separated the Northern part of the church from the Southern part.
The Northern members of the Methodist General Conference in 1840 took away Bishop Andrew's credentials without hearing about his plans of how to divest himself of slave ownership. The Southern delegates took the side of the Georgia bishop, The "slave" Bishop Andrews' wife inherited was the now famous "Miss Kitty" and “freeing" her with a place for her to go was a problem. In fact she continued to live with them after her freedom, and after their death, she continued to live in her own cottage.
Rev. Bogan Mask, A Methodist preacher and my maternal great grandfather is said to have bought one slave for the purpose of freeing him. This old family story is told in more detail by Ferrel Sams in his book of fiction, "Epiphany. " In Sam's book he tells us the son of the former slave who was freed by Rev. Bogan Mask was one of the first African American medical doctors.
The Southern men had been called to arms in a war that was seen then by many as "states rights" and "northern hostility toward the South." In reading the tragic history of the conflict today, we know the issue of Slavery was primary to whether or not we could "live out our creed" and become the United States.
The few young soldiers who lived to return home saw their countryside devastated. Many of their schools, church buildings and homes had been destroyed.
At age 88, I am the youngest and the only living granddaughter of William Baird, a Confederate Army officer in the tragic "Civil War." My father, Benjamin Wilson Baird, was the youngest son of Col. William Baird and his wife, Mary Marks Baird. I am the youngest of the 11 children born to Wilson and Ieula Ann Dick Baird. My father, Benjamin Wilson Baird was 63 when I was born.
William Baird was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness in North Carolina. His daughter's husband had been killed in the war, leaving her with a child to raise. My dad stayed on the farm to help his wounded father, mother and widowed sister and did not marry until he was forty.
Most of my contemporaries are three generations removed from the Civil War. My husband had two great-grandfathers in the Confederate Army. However, although I am four years younger than my husband, I was only two generations removed from the tragic toll of that war.
I thought of that Civil War Parade of my early childhood with its few surviving elderly Civil War soldiers this week while reading about the rapid "disappearance" of our American World War II (1941-1945) generation. My generation! The World War II generation is my husband Charles Shaw and my brothers Jackson Irvin Baird and John Thomas Baird's generation. They, along with many school friends, went off to World War II. Young men were drafted to fight in response to Hilter's Germany attack on Europe beginning with France and then Japan's deadly attack on America at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
My husband and brothers lived to come home. Four of my school classmates were killed: Homer Cook, Carroll Adams , Quinton "Red" Cole and J. W. Rye. God bless their memory and the memory of all the young men (and the few women) who went off to fight a war they hoped would be the last war!
These World War II soldiers, part of the generation labeled a few years ago as the "Greatest Generation" are also now "the disappearing generation" as were those three old men in the Civil War Parade of my childhood.