- While I admire Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," his fictional account of a small town in America and the views of the play's narrator should not be relied on as absolute history, as was the case in a recent letter.
Rely instead on the Smithsonian magazine's April issue and the article "The Civil War Begins" in which Orville Vernon Burton, who was reared in South Carolina and is the author of "The Age of Lincoln," writes:
- "Everyone knew at the time that the war was about slavery.
"After the Civil War, some began saying that it was really about states' rights, or a clash of two different cultures, or about the tariff, or about the industrializing North and agrarian South.
"All of these interpretations came together to portray the Civil War as a collision of two noble civilizations from which black slaves had been airbrushed out."
Emory Thomas, author of "The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865" and a retired professor of history at the University of Georgia, adds: "The heart and soul of the secession argument was slavery and race."
Though Wilder's lines about the war dead are noble in their sentiment, they are not the whole truth.
The Civil War was a horror and the fact that 620,000 Americans died fighting for both sides is a monumentally sad part of our history.
The fact that almost 4 million slaves were eventually freed is a monumentally glorious fact, and this is what we should really be commemorating, North and South, 150 years after the war.