This year has been interesting to say the least. I am reminded of a time in our American history in the year 1860, when our ancestors, and all Americans, made important life-changing decisions as to what each of them were going to do regarding the fate of our country.
Today, in 2012, I've heard friends in our community talk about abandoning the Federal Union and tossing out those ideals for which our ancestors, "Those Boys in Blue," fought, bled and died over 150 years ago.
While I may share some sentiments regarding what is happening in our country today, and also recognize people's right to express themselves, I do feel we as citizens should not be talking nullification, nor abandonment, of the Federal Union and what we stand for as a united country.
I have ancestors who fought for both the Union and Confederate cause in Tennessee. All were Southern-born American citizens, most voted to stay in the Union, but their state of Tennessee voted itself out, thus leaving a four-year period of unrest and lawlessness. Issues were settled by violence and by whatever political party was in power for that day. Old wrongs were settled by the end of a gun or rope.
Homebound soldiers on leave from both sides were bushwhacked and killed while farms and homes burned. The stories of those actions are still talked about at family reunions to this day; time has not taken the edge from those memories after 150 years. There are still vacant chairs at the family tables that people talk about, waiting for that special soldier to come home just like it was yesterday, not 150 years ago. It was a time where neighbors and family ties became undone because of political affiliation or the color of your uniform.
That long ago question of united or divided was paid for and put to rest by the blood from both sides by over 650,000 soldiers who died, along with millions more men, women and children, who were wounded or killed, not to mention the farms, cities and resources of the country that were burned and looted.
Most former Confederate soldiers after the war came back into the Federal Union; they became hard-working, patriotic, valued members of their communities, and citizens of the United States of America. They didn't wish the horror they had endured to ever to be visited upon this nation again.
It is written that Daniel Webster looked at the flag of the United States and said, "Behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth...not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured"...in closing he said: "It's not Liberty first and Union afterwards"; but "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable."
Gen. George Washington referred to the government of the U.S., under the Articles of Confederation, as a weak government, with states first and national government second. That's the reason the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written and George Washington became the First President of the United States under the Constitution. That's where the rights of the states are spelled out in regards to the state and national government roles.
Some may find fault with some of these statements, but in the time from 1861-1865, the question Nullification of the Federal Union was answered and settled by the "Boys in Blue and Grey." We are heirs to that outcome. We, as united Americans, can have our disagreements in a public or private setting, but when it comes time to settle our issues, we will do it in a voting booth and not on an American battlefield.
May God bless the United States of America and all those who serve and protect us.
Grand Junction resident and local historian Garry Brewer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.