Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blue and Grey

The Civil War started on this day 150 years ago when Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter.  Some say the conflict was about slavery, while others emphasize the issue of states’ rights.  Both of these interpretations are incorrect.  The War was really just an opportunity to wear those nifty blue and grey uniforms—the costumes that attracted my nascent aesthetic taste when I read illustrated histories of the Civil War as a kid.  To be sure, the men who dressed up in those uniforms had to have a reason, so they drudged up a war.  Though my sympathies are with the Union, I would have been tempted to join the Confederacy, as the grey and yellow was an amazing fashion statement.  Clearly, I’m not alone.  In fact, no less than General Robert E. Lee decided to command the Confederate forces not because he favored slavery, but because he wanted to don the grey duds.  Even the protection of his beloved Virginia was not reason enough to fight a war.   Those big brass buttons against a grey background evoked fond memories of his time at West Point.