Open Forum: History lesson

Posted: March 7, 2013

If I were speaking this, I’d be speaking very slowly and carefully so as not to slur my words. I am so angry I’m seeing green, yellow, and red spots before my eyes.

After totally setting aside the entire Early-Milroy argument, I wish to take exception to the general tone, message, and content of Larry Yates’ letter of March 1. “Illegal rebellion on slavery’s behalf.” Really? “Confederacy was an imaginary country — a gimmick to preserve slavery.” Honestly? Are you absolutely positive of that?

Mr. Yates, if I may ask, as an example, do you know anything about railroad freight rates being arranged so as to make it impossible for cotton growers to ship their product to English markets? Do you have any idea what the effect on your life would be if you lived in a section of the country which had entirely different needs than the majority of the American Congress?

My grandfather, Daniel Henry Lichliter, fought with Company E, 33rd Virginia, at First Manassas, but showed up as a member of Turner Ashby’s command at First Winchester, where he first met my future grandmother, Anna Rebecca Marker. Daniel was severely wounded while serving with Gen. Jackson’s cavalry. By this time, Gen. Ashby was deceased.

Both Daniel and “Annie” were lifelong supporters of “the lost cause” and, Mr. Yates, my grandfather was a deacon in the United Brethren Church. As I am quite sure you are aware, the United Brethren were virulently antislavery. You could not be a member of that church and own a slave. And yet, Daniel Henry proudly wore the “Gray.”

During the 1856 pre-election campaign, where Virginia’s position on the slavery question would be decided, my great-grandfather, William F. Marker (“Annie’s” father) was active in the American Party’s Antislavery Wing. Antislavery sentiment was very strong in Virginia, but unfortunately, in the 1856 election, the Virginia antislavery vote was split between the Republicans, who wanted to end slavery on a national basis, and the American Party, who were States’ Rights people and very much wanted Virginians to do it themselves, not have a bunch of “Damned Yankees” force it in on them.

But Virginia, and the South, went slavery and, as a result, we’ve had its rotting corpse hung around our neck from time immemorial. It seems to me, the “all mouth” people, newspaper people, people in the public spotlight were, on the whole, slavery supporters. But I will tell you true, you couldn’t raise a corporal’s guard of hungry, barefooted boys who bled and died on the battlefields of that war. As a matter of fact, anyone who owned six or more slaves was exempt from the draft.

Vernon Lichliter is a resident of Winchester.