Out on a Limb: Whistlin' "Dixie"
10/1/2000
Why does the Civil War refuse to fade into the history books?
When I was growing up, the Civil War wasn't ancient history in our house. My father came from Illinois, my mother from Alabama, and I was 9 at the centennial of the Civil War's end. For a conflict so wrenching, a mere hundred years isn't enough to heal. (Judging by this spring's battle over the Confederate flag in South Carolina, 135 years won't do it, either.)

My mom jokingly referred to the Civil War as "the war of Northern aggression" and I, a diehard Yankee, teased her about Gone with the Wind and General Sherman. Not until recently did she tell me that her grandfather fought for the Confederacy; until after his death, his grandchildren thought he'd been a drummer boy, not a soldier.

In fact, as I've poked into my genealogy, I've realized that all my relatives who fought in that "recent unpleasantness" were on the side I rooted against in movies. A several-greats-uncle was even purportedly at Appomattox (with the troops who were surrendering). My "Yankee" relations were not even Americans yet.