The US National Park Service lovingly maintains more than 70 battlefields and other sites related to the war between North and South – the Union and the rebel Confederacy — which saw 600 000 Americans butchered by each other between April 1861 and April 1865.
The sites include Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour at whose federal garrison South Carolinian secessionists fired the war’s opening salvo. Replicas of the original mortars still squat a few blocks from Mother Emanuel AME church where, two weeks ago, Dylann Roof slaughtered nine African-Americans at Bible study, hoping, he said, to start another war.
“No, you’ve raped our women, you’ve stolen and you’re taken over the country, so no, this must he done,” he reportedly told his victims when one them pleaded with him to reconsider.
A century and a half earlier, Henry Benning said much the same thing. He was one of the commissioners dispatched by South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Lousiana to whip up support for secession in other slave states. In a letter to the Virginia legislature, he wrote:
“If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery will be abolished…The black race will be in a large majority…We will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate…We will be completely exterminated and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks.”