Union Soldiers in Alabama

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This is my son. I describe his eye color as ‘sunlight through Vermont Maple Syrup” the last image is my favorite because you can see his dimples are big enough to park a boat in. Henry is a total mutt-a Yankee, Jewish, Democrat, artist, photographer mom & a Southern, Catholic, Republican, engineer/sales dad.

I titled these photos ‘Union Soldiers in Alabama’ because of a story he told me in the car after i picked him up from school. He was learning about the civil war at school, amazingly this coincided with a father/son Boy Scout campout in Selma. The Boy Scouts went to Selma, Alabama to watch the reenactment (150th anniversary) of the Battle of Selma.

We are in the car, driving to my daughter’s school, to pick her up. Henry is talking, without breathing, of all that he had seen at the reenactment…it went something like this, “andthentheyburneddownarealhouseandtheybuildthishouseeveryyearandiknowtheybuildstuffinsideitbecauseicouldseestairs” i’ve learned to pick up on keywords, like maybe every third word, to understand what he is talking about…when he is this excited about something. Two words popped up that made me stop him & repeat what i thought i had heard.

“Wait, what did you just say?”

“We won” he said.

“Wait, Henry, what do you mean we won? The Union won, not the Rebels” I say.

I KNOW, mom” he says with an eye roll, i didn’t see it, but i heard them roll.

“But why would you say, We won? Do you consider yourself a Yankee??” i ask.

“I guess, i mean, i understand the law about states rights to secede, the South was right about that, but I believe Abraham Lincoln was right, i mean…morally right, to fight the South’s reasons for doing so, it was wrong. All men are created equal, but the Southern states didn’t think so. The Southern states wanted to own people” he said (to the best of my recollection)

Then he went on about the battle & what happened. He said people came from all over the U.S. to participate in the event.

He said all the guys got to go shopping & he bought a Union soldier’s hat. I asked him what did his dad say about that.

“Dad said i bought the wrong hat” he answered

“What did you tell him?” I ask

“I said, ‘no i didn’t'” he says. “but mom, almost all the boys bought Union hats, i mean, who bought hats”

Wow.

Is it human nature to divide people into sides? Race, religion, politics, rich vs poor, men vs women

& in Alabama, Alabama vs Auburn (football)–

It was/is a culture shock to grow up in Vermont & move to Alabama. The first question people asked me, after finding out that i wasn’t from here was “Alabama or Auburn?” (i didnt know what they were talking about, so i said, Alabama b/c it seemed the safest choice) Alabama loves college football. It is a loaded question because i never know who they are for. Whether you are for Alabama or Auburn, it seems a requirement that you must HATE the other team. I still have a hard time with the passionate HATING. Maybe it is the one thing people feel safe enough to hate openly. Henry goes for Alabama (football team), but he wants (for now) to go to Auburn because he wants to be an architect. (God Bless Legos) He tells me it’s ok to like a college football team, but to go to a different college. yes, it is.

i’ve lived in Birmingham, Alabama for over half my life now. I’ve come to find a lot i love about living here. I will be honest in my hatred for the entire month of August. (I think that is when Hell rises a little closer to the surface)  i love February (because it can be 15 degrees or 70 from one day to the next) and i love the shopping.

about the shopping…there is a lot of Southern Pride merchandise. Everywhere. Ive never seen Northern Pride merchandise anywhere, ever. Southern Pride feels too much like wounded pride, a defensiveness about being Southern. It brings to mind, the Civil War…it has to be about that, doesn’t it? I was in a store that was filled with Southern Pride stuff & i found a wallet that said,

“Let there be Peace & let it begin with me” i bought it.

I’m proud of my son. For him, it wasn’t about North vs South, it was an educated choice based on what he thought was morally right.

15 thoughts on “Union Soldiers in Alabama

  1. oh, yeah, I can relate: we live in Indiana, 10 miles from Kentucky. The IU vs UK rivalry is Serious. Southern Indiana is full of Southern Sympathizers, and I often contemplate who Really won that War. Like all the other wars, Nobody won, but a lot of people died. Your son is outstanding.

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    1. the way i see ‘who one that war’ boils down to the fact that the North & South are United…States. Had the South one, then the bottom half of America–the Southern States would be its own country. That is what they wanted. My point is if you’d like to consider yourself American, then you would not be a Southern Sympathizer…because you cannot BE both. I do KNOW this, my son & his friends learned in their Alabama public school that they must make a moral choice. They can believe slavery is ok, or they can believe in the US Declaration of Independence & understand that all men are created equal…and live life in America, as it was intended. I am proud of them all.

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  2. Even during the Civil War, Alabama was split. The poorer hill-people in the north of the state were against secession and contributed troops to the Union. The richer, central and south Alabama was more pro-secession. This was true for every Southern state – the rich/poor divide was also a political divide at these times.

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    1. I was hoping i would learn something from another when i wrote this post. I suppose people seldom change….Although Birmingham is more democrat then republican now….that is change. ~amy

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  3. I’m a Southerner who lived in Australia during high school and then, after attending a Southern college, moved north to go to grad. school at Notre Dame. My husband grew up on Notre Dame Avenue. When we moved to Georgia 20 years ago, he wasn’t prepared for what he found here. It’s been an interesting ride to say the least!

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    1. There is nothing quite like Southerners who’s families have always lived here. I’ve been here forever & i’m still shocked by some of the things i hear. However, in 7 years, i get to move home to Vermont. Thank you for reading & for your comment! I wish your husband the ability to remember everything he hears that shocks him, will make a great story to someone else. ~amy

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    1. Thank you so much, Mary. He is away at camp right now, so i’m holding back my tears. 🙂 When he was little, i had a glass container of Vermont maple syrup on the table, the sun shined through the syrup, that is when i noticed it was the same color as his eyes. When he was about 3 or 4, i would ask him to tell people what color his eyes where & in his little toddler voice, he would say, “they are Vermont maple syrup with sun color” oh, i should have eaten him up when i had the chance. 🙂 ~amy

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  4. I loooove this post! Sometimes our kids surprise us in the best of ways! 🙂

    I lived in Alabama very briefly. I didn’t find it to be the friendliest place on earth and then two lovely born and bred “southern belles” literally saved my life. Thanks for the reminder that a New South can yet rise…

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    1. Thank you for reading it, Lilka! Alabama wasn’t friendly for me until i finally found a few good friends. I still can’t get over the fact that all three of my kiddos are born & bred Alabamians. But my son? He and his fellow classmates made me so proud to know them. ~amy

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  5. More than merely thinking what’s morally right. Holding true to it, in all humility.
    So much of the history has been twisted and ignored. The full version needs to be aired.
    Yours is a courageous and virtuous son.
    Can we guess where he got it?

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    1. Yes, more then morally right, i was repeating what my son’s words were. In my mind…i tend to simplify things, you cannot be both an American AND a Southern Sympathizer. Had the South won, they would have not belonged to the United States, they would have become their own country. You cannot have it both ways. “all men are created equal” was first used in the Revolutionary War, then Thomas Jefferson first used the words in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It was Abraham Lincoln who believed it to be true enough to fight for. And as my son said, “all men, not just white, are created equal” Children understand this far better then some adults. “Yours is a courageous and virtuous son” what a beautiful gift you’ve given me. When Henry returns from camp, i cannot wait to show him what you have written because it will further cement his ideals & to have such ideas & beliefs at 11yrs old is an amazing thing. BUT having Henry be told, the words you have written, will help keep those beliefs & they will not disappear when puberty slams into him, making him a man. Thank you so much, Jnana! ~amy

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  6. Amy–I can totally relate to this! Here in FL, you are either FSU or UF. Me, being a Yankee, I have no partiality. Where’d you find a Southern Catholic?? My husband is Southern but you’d better believe Baptist! I’m the Yankee Catholic! 😀

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    1. I think almost every state with a two good college football teams have this…issue? I could care less. I already saw the best football game of my life…my senior year @ Montpelier High School (i had 185ish students in my senior class) we won state in 1987. After that, there would be nothing compared to personally knowing every single one of those boys kicking ass…and dating one. ~amy

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