Last weekend my family toured this battlefield, halfway between DC and Richmond, with Virginia friends.  The visitor center movie was well done, showing the violence and tragedy of war.  It really makes you rethink if it was all necessary.  Wasn’t there some way to avoid this that didn’t involve secession or the maintenance of slavery?  Apparently not.  And 10,000 rounds of bullets flew through the air every minute at Fredericksburg as a result.

The Federals were led by Burnside who bungled a lot. This gave Lee time to arrive and defend a strong position.  The North had to build bridges, cross a river, and take a town, all while picked off by sharpshooters hiding in the town.  Then they had to storm a wide open hill while barraged with cannon from the top and bullets from 6000 Confederates shooting at them from behind a long stone wall near the top of the hill.  And that was all a supposed distraction from the main hope of breaking through the line a few miles to the south, which never got anywhere.  The “Yankee invaders” were repulsed after much loss of life, the north losing about 8 times as many men as the south.

Things got a bit personal.  It turns out the first Federals across the river into the town was a regiment from Michigan.  The tour guide said there was a monument to them in town along the river.  My Virginian host graciously suggested we go see it, so we did.

I enjoy talking about the war with my Virginian friends.  There is always the drama of wondering if this is going to get emotional and ugly, as it sometimes does.  They speak of the imperialistic paternalism of the north, while I speak of a national cohesion that doesn’t allow fellow Americans to continue to commit atrocities like slavery.  Lincoln and Lee and Stonewall Jackson – these were great men and leaders who each had different blind spots and faults.

Lessons learned:
  • If you don’t sit down and sacrifice some of your interests in negotiations, blood will be spilled.  If politics isn't effective, uglier things result.
  • Remembering the sacrifices of blood your people made in the past doesn’t have to lead to continued hatred or hostility.
  • If we thought today like we did back then, we would likely be fighting a civil war over abortion and/or gay rights.  The 90% of red-state counties would be besieging the urban areas and forcibly shutting down abortion clinics.  While some see the federal imposition begun with Lincoln as leading to Roe v. Wade and other Federal over-reach, I do think the federal government should impose some proper morality on all 50 states.  The problem is that they are imposing wickedness on us, not that they are imposing anything at all.

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