I was on vacation, the kind of vacation I like the best, a long road trip visiting new places.
This particular trip was down the Mississippi Valley,starting in Saint Louis. I’d been to Cahokia, the Saint Louis Arch and then made my way south, usually on US 61, also known as the “Blues Highway”.
Now I was in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as far south as I got on that trip. It was morning, I was eating breakfast and reading a book.
The book was part of a series by Harry Turtledove in which the South wins the Battle of Gettysburg and eventually the Civil War. As the series develops and we see how much different the Great War, aka “the war to end all wars”, and the war after that, World War Two, might have been if the United States had been on one side and the Confederate States of America on the other.
Trench warfare in the Shenandoah Valley?!?
By the time of World War Two the South had elected a particularly repugnant character as President. A guy by the name of Jake Featherston who became famous with his radio show and the tagline “My name is Jake Featherston and I’m here to tell you the TRUTH!”
He blames the South’s problems on the blacks, and as the war develops he decides to solve the South’s “negro problem” in much the same way as, in our timeline, Adolf Hitler attempted to solve Europe’s Jewish“problem”.
So I’m sitting eating breakfast and start reading about the equivalent of Kristallnacht, the Confederate troops are rounding up black families whose sole crime was being black. It was some pretty horrific stuff.
I stopped reading an looked around the room. I was having breakfast at a place called the “Battlefield Inn”* in Vicksburg, Mississippi. You can’t get more Southern this this place. It looked like an old plantation house, tall front porch with rocking chairs, inside are sweeping stairways with a portrait of General Robert E. Lee right in front of you. The room I was in looked like an old tea room or sun porch, all white gingerbread, with ferns and other plants. As I looked around the room thinking about what I’d just read I noticed the two waitresses, one white and one black, chatting in a corner by the kitchen, at one table a black couple and a white couple were having breakfast together, and at another table was a black couple.
After what I’d just read looking around that room was like a drowning man coming up and getting a breath of fresh air.
In spite of what some of the politically correct crowd might have us believe there was much that was good and noble about the old south, and it’s right and proper to honor and remember the sacrifices honorable men, like General Lee, made in fighting for it.
But more often than not things work out the way they are supposed to, and the world we live in is a far better place than it likely would have been if the South had won. We shouldn’t forget the sacrifice of the men who fought for the southern cause, but we also should be grateful that in the end they failed.
*Update, December, 2018: This trip took place in 2006, the “Battlefield Inn” referenced in this piece is not the current Battlefield Inn, which is a Motel 6. If they are the same structure the place has been dramatically changed, and not for the better, since my visit.