Over twenty years ago, I was the Yankee manager of a public library in Texas and my assistant librarian was a native Texan who was “Southern” to the core. He had earned a BS in history and had an excellent grasp of world history, and particularly American history. There were times when my historical ignorance was an embarrassment. It was because of his comments during that time, that I spent time researching and learning about The Crusades. After that, I had less to say about our problems with the Muslims.
Getting back to my topic, we had a large Civil War collection in the library and as I watched the checkouts in that section I was surprised. Whenever a new book came out, I bought it and it immediately began checking out. One day, as my assistant and I were talking, I commented on how much interest there seemed to be in the Civil War.
“We don’t have that much interest in the libraries up north,” I said. “The collections are smaller.”
“If you win a war,” he said, “You move on and don’t think about it. But if you lose a war, you continue to think about it and try to figure out why that happened.”
I could see the wisdom in what he said, and it helped explain the Civil War interest in the South. Now that I am living in Atlanta, it becomes even more evident. The symbol Atlanta has adopted for its own is a phoenix rising from the ashes. And after what Sherman did to Atlanta, that seems most appropriate.
Sometimes we in the North, forget that there was a great difference in the perception of the Civil War. The northerners lost sons and fathers, but the war was “over there.” Most of our factories and homes were spared. The war was not on our doorsteps. Our towns were not leveled. The Civil War was basically fought in the South and it became very personal to those who were there.
But Georgia, and particularly Atlanta has done a great job of rising from those ashes. Atlanta is one of the prime industrial cities in the United States and home of many of the Fortune 500 Companies. It is the home of Rubbermaid, CNN, At&T, Sun Trust Banks, Wachovia, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, UPS, Coca Cola, Chick-Fil-A etc., etc, etc. It also figures large in the bio-medical sector, and is of course, a prime transportation center.
No, I have not been hired by an Atlanta public relations firm! I’m just impressed by Atlanta’s growth.
I will always think of the Civil War as America’s saddest war. There are no happy wars of course but in the Civil War we were fighting ourselves and so many good Americans died on both sides. I am glad that southern hospitality allows for Yankees like me to enjoy their beautiful trees, friendly people and wonderful food.