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A southern view of symbols

Marge Kaptonak makes remarks about the Confederate battle flag to which I take strong exception ("What visible symbols mean," Oct. 30 Telegram).

First, probably unknown to her is the fact that it is the battle flag, not the national flag of the Confederacy, and therein is part of the problem with her views.

Estimates of Confederate military deaths indicate about 300,000 died during the war, the flower of an entire generation of Southern men who gallantly fought in a vastly unequal conflict. That battle flag under which they fought certainly has resonance for their descendants.

Second, most of those who fought for the South were not even slaveholders, and of those that were, most held less than 10 bondsmen. Most Southerners did fight for their agrarian way of life, their state and for the republic which they helped create.

The asseveration that they fought for abuse of those bondsmen is an insult to their memory and flies in the face of reason. Slaves were valuable, and physical abuse would impair their utility, quite apart from restrictions both legal and customary which set bounds for their treatment.

To properly consider the institution of slavery, one should look to the treatment of wage slaves in the industrial North, where even women and children toiled under extreme conditions, were poorly paid, and when injured were left to their own maintenance.

Slavery was bound to disappear for economic reasons, just as it had arisen from the same cause, and indeed was disappearing in the border states of Maryland, Delaware and Missouri when the war began. That nearly 1 million North and South died was an avoidable tragedy.

The author's canard about indolence and luxury belies the fact that the overwhelming number of Southerners were small holders who frequently worked the same fields where their bondsmen toiled, and alleging they lead privileged lives at the expense of "shed blood" by their slaves is as false as it is absurd.

As an unreconstructed Southerner, I take pride in the gallant and unequal combat of the Confederacy, and that flag; however, it has been misappropriated by later groups as still a symbol of honor and sacrifice to their descendants.

Before making sweeping statements, the author should read the historic record.