Soldiers, Statues and Insurrection

D.W. Wilber
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Posted: Aug 17, 2017 12:01 AM
Soldiers, Statues and Insurrection

Passions certainly are running high right now across the United States, particularly in the south over the issue of statues and memorials recognizing many of the commanders and troops of the Confederate States of America. In a sense it's understandable how many descendants of slaves might find these reminders of a time of bondage in America's past as painful.  It indeed does remind us of a stain on our nation's past.

Much like that which has occurred throughout human history when human beings have been captured and treated as booty following wars, and who were then placed into servitude and bondage by their captors.

Every part of the world and every ethnic group has at one time or another - including some continuing to this day, enslaved other human beings.  It certainly is not unique to the United States nor to the white race.  Much of the African slave trade of old involved Africans selling other Africans into bondage.

All the passions aside I think it's important to look at the facts behind all those statues and memorials that some intend to try to remove, apparently as some attempt at cleansing a shame from our nation's historical past.

My Great-Great Grandfather on my mother's side, Captain Henry Guibor commanded Guibor's Battery for the Confederacy during the War of the Rebellion. (He had previously served with honor and distinction in the Army of the United States during the war with Mexico.)

Henry wasn't a slave owner, and were you able to talk to him today you'd find that if you asked him why he chose to serve in the Rebel Army it likely had nothing to do with preserving the institution of slavery.

You see, Henry had been a member of the Missouri State Guard, the recognized legal state militia at the time before the Civil War. A state military unit very much along the lines of our National Guard of today.

One day in 1861 while his unit was participating in their regular military drilling which was taking place at Camp Jackson in what is now part of downtown St. Louis, the Union Commander in St. Louis Captain Nathaniel Lyons decided that he could not tolerate the Missouri State Guard being within the city. He ordered the Union soldiers under his command to go to Camp Jackson and arrest those State Guard members present and place them in irons. Mind you placing at the time loyal American citizens under arrest for committing no crime whatsoever, only for legally conducting military drills as required periodically under the State Constitution, and simply because he believed them to be a threat.

My Great-Great Grandfather Henry Guibor was there when Nathaniel Lyons and his troops arrived. He was arrested, and along with the others paraded through the streets of St. Louis. As crowds gathered along the way to the detention site and began to heap ridicule and anger at Nathaniel Lyon and his troops, things quickly began to escalate. Eventually the Union troops opened fire on the St. Louis citizens, killing twenty-eight and wounding dozens of other innocent bystanders.

Accounts differ as to who fired the first shot, or even whether the 'first shot' that resulted in all the carnage was really a gunshot.  But the end result was the deaths on the St. Louis streets of a couple of dozen American citizens for doing nothing more than protesting against federal troops.

After some time in custody my great-great grandfather was able to bribe his way out of custody, or simply escaped and made his way out of the city. He continued west and ultimately joined the troops in Confederate General Sterling Price's command in Western Missouri. Not to fight for slavery, but to fight against what he saw as the overreach and abuse of the federal government in what has come to be called the 'Camp Jackson Affair'.

There certainly were other issues involved at the time, including ethnic, nationality, and secessionist passions.  But the overriding complaint was that the federal troops under Captain Lyons intervened in a legal activity and imposed their will on the citizens of the State of Missouri.

So let's be clear, just as many Union troops were basically ambivalent to it and never really were fighting specifically to end slavery, a great many who fought for the south never fought to preserve the institution of slavery either. General Robert E. Lee himself was torn between his sense of duty to the United States, and his sense of duty towards his home the Commonwealth of Virginia.  One must remember that it was a different time when the federal government was not nearly as large and intrusive as it is now, and people's loyalties at the time often belonged to their state over the federal government.  So there's far more to the story of the War Between the States than a war over the issue of human bondage.

Tearing down statues or waving around a Confederate Battle flag in response really resolves nothing. Having an honest and open discussion without screaming or threatening would go a long way to finally healing the wounds that divide our country. Sadly there are people more interested in tearing the fabric of our nation down, than those who want to build it up.

Is all of this erasing of history part of something larger? Is there an insurrection under way in this country as in 1861? There's certainly a case that can be made that a so-called "shadow government" made up of a variety of groups, including some in elected and government positions is trying to undo the will of the people who elected the current president back in November 2016.  And that is not only truly sad that our nation has come to this, but it's also a violation of the "United States Code, Section 2383 - Rebellion or Insurrection."

While I am proud of my Great Grandfather Henry Wilber who fought for the Union at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and who was wounded at both Antietam and Gettysburg, I also recognize my Confederate ancestor Captain Henry Guibor who fought bravely as well, including being seriously wounded at Grand Gulf, Mississippi.

And I fully agree with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who recently said "when you start wiping out your history - sanitizing your history - to make you feel better it's a bad thing."  That from someone who certainly has skin in the game so to speak, having risen above her experiences with bigotry and hate during her youth to rise to high office, and to become one of the leading voices of reason in this country at a time when we so desperately need it.