Friday, April 07, 2006
Asleep with the Confederate Dead
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you're just joining us, today's post is not typical.
This is a photograph of the monument to the Confederate Dead at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown, Maryland.
My aunt Gloria passed over yesterday afternoon. She was a wild woman who laughed about everything. That's why she lived to be 92 years old. She practically raised my sister and me, because my mom was sick all the time. Aunt Gloria was the kind of person who would climb under the bed with you and make fart noises and laugh about it. So now you know why I am the way I am.
Aunt Gloria, my mom's older sister, will join the other four generations of her family who are sleeping with the Confederate Dead.
And since I mention this Confederate Dead business from time to time, I thought I'd better explain.
The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of warfare in American history. I think there were more than 19,000 casualties in 24 hours (dead and wounded).
When the battle was over, the work crews buried the Union soldiers in a federal cemetery with crosses all laid out like Arlington. Occasionally a local soldier will still be buried in this federal graveyard. It's in Sharpsburg.
The work crews just dumped the Confederate soldiers in a big ditch and covered them with dirt.
After the Civil War ended, a prominent Confederate officer retired to Hagerstown with those Rebel dead of Antietam weighing heavily on his mind. He raised funds to dig them up and re-bury them in Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown.
My mother's ancestors deeply sympathized with the Rebel cause. They were slave-holders and otherwise a bunch of racist nut case slime. So they bought plots in Rose Hill Cemetery to show their solidarity with the Rebels.
So that's what I mean when I say my family is sleeping with the Confederate Dead.
There's just one problem, and it doesn't apply to Aunt Gloria. She was my mom's sister.
The problem is my dad.
Dad's ancestors lived north of the Mason-Dixon in the Allegheny Mountains near Cumberland, Maryland. There's a stream called Town Creek that flows from these mountains into the Potomac. If you follow the stream from where it empties in the Potomac to its source, you've gone due north into the wilds of Mountain Pennsylvania.
Town Creek was a veritable Underground Railroad highway, and my dad's ancestors lived along it and did what they could to help escaping slaves. As soon as the Civil War started, they enlisted. Two of them ended up dead at Andersonville.
At my mom's insistence, she and Dad are buried in Rose Hill with the Confederate Dead. I vehemently opposed Dad's burial in that Rebel cemetery, but my mega-church sister insisted. So I did not attend the graveside service, and I took some of his ashes and buried them with his parents in the shale soil of the Alleghenies. Far as I'm concerned that's where he will be remembered. I steadfastly refuse to put flowers on my parents' grave in his honor.
So off I go to another burial among the Confederate Dead. This one will be my last, because my mother's siblings are all gone now, and you can bet your last buck that I'm not headed for that Rebel graveyard. I'd rather go straight to the landfill than to that place.
We at "The Gods Are Bored" abhor slavery. But if you want to wave a Rebel flag, that's fine with us. We don't tell other people how to live their lives. But personally it's hard for me to go to that cemetery and see all those Rebel flags and know most of my dad's ashes are there despite the contributions his family made to the Grand Army of the Republic.
But Aunt Gloria wouldn't want me to dwell on this, or how much I'll miss her either. She would want me to go play Bingo, make fart noises, and laugh my head off. Tears and navel-gazing were not that lady's style.
So off goes the last of the Bonnie Blue Flaggers, and tomorrow "The Gods Are Bored" returns to its general run of madcap mayhem. Come see us! We value your patronage.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS