Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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Outtakes—No More Whitewashing

By Rick Ouzten

Rep. Matt Gaetz has called the removal of Confederate monuments the “whitewashing” of our history. What he fails to recognize is our history has been whitewashed for more than a century.

At Ole Miss, nearly the entire student body, 135 men, enlisted in the Confederate Army. They became known as the “University Greys.” The rifle company was part of the disastrous Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. The Greys penetrated further into the Union position than any other unit, but every soldier was either killed or wounded.

My ancestor, John Adams, was a West Point graduate who resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army. Within a year, he was promoted to brigadier general. He led the advance of John Bell Hood’s army into Tennessee and was killed at the Second Battle of Franklin in 1864, one of six Confederate generals to die that day. A bust of Adams is in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

I don’t know why John Adams and the University Greys fought. I don’t know if they even owned slaves. The legends passed down are that they fought valiantly. Their heroism has been honored and commemorated.

Like most Southern whites, I was raised in the “Lost Cause” mythology, which taught that we possessed a unique identity because of our Confederate heritage. The Confederacy lost the “War between the States” not due to poor military leadership but because of the Union’s greater manpower and resources. The Confederate soldiers fought for the noble principle of states’ right. Reconstruction was a failed experiment in racial equality forced upon us by the Union.

What we weren’t taught was how brutally slaves were treated or if any died valiantly. Their history was never told. Their ancestors were “whitewashed” out of our history, which is why John Appleyard can write a history column on a different white person every week and only occasionally do so for a black family.

According to National Archives, about 198,000 black men served in the Union Army and Navy by the end of the Civil War. There are about 31 monuments and markers honoring United States Colored Troops, of which nearly half of them were erected in the last 20 years. Vicksburg has one, so does Pensacola. That’s the town of Pensacola in Oklahoma. The state of Virginia alone has 223 publicly supported spaces dedicated to the Confederacy.

The “whitewashing” of our history stops when we honor all our histories, and we no longer choose to only revere the ancestors of one race. Only then will the scars of slavery that have wounded the soul of this nation begin to heal.