Thursday, October 02, 2003

The Civil War

Since almost all of my first 17 years of education were in the South, I was never taught anything that resembled reality regarding the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War of 1845, or the Civil War. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I was taught mythology as history. There was always a right and wrong side, and we were always right. There's something to be said for creating mythologies. Damn, sometimes I hate how reality has to devastate mythology. The way it happens is personal.

For me, I discovered that I probably wasn't descended from plantation folks, but rather from folks that the plantation folks would just as soon have turned into Black slaves. Damn, but that makes it personal.

Then once you start looking at the details, you notice other aberations. For instance, my great-grandfather (mother's father) and his brother were both charged with desertion from the Confederate forces. The ggguncle, was also charged with being a "copperhead." After becoming aware of that fact, I read where they were not alone in their reactions and behavior from the other "crackers" of central Louisiana.

Not all of the Ashworths that could serve in the war, did. Quite a few managed to avoid it. Quite a few others did serve. Whether they were drafted or volunteered is one of those details still hidden to history. In the mythology of Southern history, there isn't even a mention of a draft, except in reference to the North, where it was always coupled with a footnote remembering the fact that one could buy their way out. Well, let me tell you, friends and neighbors, just like the marines drafted boys from our families during Vietnam, the South drafted our boys to fight for slavery.

If I sound bitter about this, it's because I am. In the bloody South, if you owned, or your family owned, more than 100 slaves, you were exempt from service because it just wouldn't be prudent to leave all those women folk alone with all those slaves. Since my families, for the most part, never owned slaves, they had to go be cannon fodder for the rich kids. Sort of like George W. Bush, our beloved president, did in Vietnam. He stayed home out of harms way. Hasn't stopped him from sending other boys to harms way, has it.

But I digress. I can only imagine how the Ashworth cousins dealt with the Civil War. Don Marler, in his recently published book, The Louisiana Redbones, says that we are a violent culture. Violent rather than warlike. Individuals are violent, cultures are warlike. I believe that we were a group of outcasts as opposed to a culturally defined group, or as my grandpa mght have said, "just because we're all outlaws doesn't mean we belong to the same gang." Given another hundred years, we might have become a more distinct subculture, but since we never thought of ourselves as anything but White, we kept assimilating. Our core might have been dark, but our edges kept getting Whiter and Whiter.

To the extended Ashworth families, the darker core seemed to have avoided the war, and those along the edges were more likely to have participated.

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