Today, I am remembering.
I’m remembering the formerly-enslaved people who began Decoration Day in Charleston – reburying 257 Union soldiers and establishing a cemetery in their honor. The first Memorial Day.
I’m remembering the ~620,000 men and women who died in the Civil War, fighting for the very way of life they believed so precious. I’m remembering the Union soldiers who fell for a cause more just than most and the Confederate soldiers who fell for a cause they may have clung to or that they may have had no choice to shoot for.
I’m remembering the enslaved men who were conscripted by their owners for the money that conscription brought, as if calling another person property were not enough. I’m remembering those who were forced to serve the Confederate Army when their masters joined, a hypocrisy imposed upon them.
I’m remembering the enslaved people who ran to the Union Army and found only the most meager form of freedom, if that at all, as they lived as refugees in the camps. The soldiers who joined the troops and were told they could only cook. The soldiers – like those of the Massachusetts 54th – who fought but were not trusted to lead.
I am remembering Nelson and Berthier and Malvina and Lucy. I’m remembering the at least 246 people who were enslaved in the place I call home, and I’m especially remembering those buried in the cemetery there – Primus, Ben Creasy, Jesse Nicholas, and their fallen families and friends – for if slavery is not a war of survival, nothing is.
I see the commercials of the drill teams spinning rifles in their pristine blues, the camo-clad soldiers returning to children. We remember these people well.
I choose to remember those we often forget because their wars were longer ago, because the wounds of those wars are still bleeding, because sometimes we choose to forget. Today, I remember.