On April 12, 1861, Confederate guns opened fire on Fort Sumter, setting in motion a chain of events that would fracture a nation and call into question the very ideals upon which this country was built.
Over the next four years, men left their homes to defend a cause they deemed more important than their own lives and, all too often, found themselves staring across a battlefield knowing they would soon be locked in mortal combat with their father, son or brother.
By the time Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the war, 620,000 American soldiers and countless civilians had paid the ultimate price.
The men who paid this price — clad in blue or grey — came from all walks of life and social standing. Some were educated and some were not; some were atheists and some were godly; some were landowners and some were humble laborers but what all of these men shared was a willingness to defend, to their death, their homes, land and families.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
These men endured years of hunger, exposure to the elements, disease and lengthy marches as well as the loss of friends, family and homes.
Whether we agree with them or not, each man who served in this (or any other war) had his own personal reasons for going, and we must keep in mind that the common soldier, regardless of the color of his uniform, did not ask for conflict; it was brought to him. He was merely doing what he thought was right based on the information available to him. Is this not noble?
In recent letters to this paper, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been labeled as a racist organization. This is simply not true. Anyone who is even vaguely acquainted with a member of the organization or bothered to do even the slightest bit of research, would be aware that we are merely proud descendants of those who served as nobly in the Confederate army, as any man who served in the Union army.
And more importantly, we are students of history and our distinctly American heritage.
We do not now, nor have we ever, condoned the slavery of any people and we most certainly do not wish to offend anyone by displaying the Confederate Battle flag, which is, undeniably, one among many American flags and thus a part of American history.
Today, June 5, a memorial service, sponsored by the Lexington chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, will be held in the Lexington Cemetery to honor those brave men who answered a higher calling by serving the Confederate States of America.
While we do not apologize for the decisions of our ancestors, our aim is not to inflame the sensitivities of our community, but to pay homage to those who sacrificed their lives for what they considered a noble cause.