The Confederacy Lost the Civil War? A Canadian Perspective

by Scott Manning on February 22, 2011

During one of my seven trips to Gettysburg last year, I had the pleasure of taking a coworker and his Canadian girlfriend. During the two and half hour drive to the battlefield, I took the opportunity to probe what they knew about the war, its causes, and the Gettysburg campaign. I started with the Canadian and asked her, “What do you know about the Civil War?”

My friend and his Canadian girlfriend at Devil’s Den

“Lee, Grant, Lincoln,” she responded.

“That’s a good start. When did the war take place?”

“The seventeen hundreds!” she responded confidently. I shook my head. She shyly tried again, “The sixteen hundreds?”

Realizing I had a lot of work to do, I started with the Constitution, the 20-year rule concerning slave trade, and the cotton gin. As I worked through some of the more important legislature, I let out that the Confederacy lost. She abruptly stopped me, “Wait! The Confederacy lost?”

My friend and I checking out the view from Little Round Top

I was puzzled as to whether she was joking with me at first, “Yeah, they were defeated in the end.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense,” she exclaimed.

Her boyfriend was a little embarrassed, “Come on, babe. You knew that.”

I tried to downplay it, “Maybe the Civil War isn’t a big topic in Canadian schools.”

She remained adamant, “No, this does not make sense! If the Confederacy lost, then why do Americans allow people to dress up like Confederate soldiers? And why do I see the Confederate flag everywhere I go in America?”

Realizing the issue, my first response was simply, “Because this is America where people are free to dress up however they want and fly whatever flag they want.” I later explained the efforts toward reconciliation and that America has come to view the war as a necessary event.

The more I thought about it, the more I have struggled to answer the question succinctly. Interestingly enough, when I visited the Chalmette Battlefield in New Orleans this past November, I was intrigued to see a British flag flying on the British side of the field.

My wife, Dawn, posing in front of the British flag at the Chalmette Battlefield

Yet, is this only an American thing? I doubt there are Nationalist flags flying on Chinese battlefields. As I get a chance to visit battlefields outside of America, I will especially be looking for what monuments exist for the vanquished side.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 steven dibello February 22, 2011 at 5:27 PM

Next time I’m in South Africa, I’ll check to see if there any british/zulu/Boer flags about.

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2 Zach February 22, 2011 at 6:47 PM

Blame Canada

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3 Alison February 22, 2011 at 7:09 PM

I seem to recall a late show episode where Jay Leno was interviewing students and professors on the Harvard campus. When a professor was asked “Who is the prime minister of Canada”, he replied “Tim Horton?” It goes both ways you know…

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4 JoeDE February 23, 2011 at 1:51 AM

Ah, Scott…now you know why I fight my battle so strongly. We are the only country where the morally corrupt losing side would be the more celebrated of the two sides that fought. I rail against this miscarriage of justice.

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5 Ed March 1, 2011 at 1:15 AM

Speaking as a Canadian I can at least restore some credibility by saying you happened to run into a confused person, not an ignorant Canadian. We know about the American Civil War and we know that the North won. It’s not just an important event in American history, it’s an important event in world history and the history of human rights.

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6 Scott Manning March 1, 2011 at 2:17 AM

Ed, thanks for the comment. I did not mean to imply that all Canadians were ignorant of the American Civil War. In fact, I do not even fault my Canadian friend. I merely thought it was an interesting perspective on America’s tolerance toward the flags of defeated foes.

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7 Cookie Monster March 5, 2011 at 4:11 PM

ok, im trying to do a paper and this didnt help i mean seriesly noone cares about someones canadian GF!!! go get a life!!!

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8 Scott Manning March 5, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Sorry about that, Cookie Monster. I will try to gear my website toward whatever paper you may be working on in the future.

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9 JoeDE March 15, 2011 at 4:24 PM

I think he should worry more about spelling and grammar going forward. I don’t think quality content is going to save his grade in the face of the following items:
1) Incorrect Spellings.
2) Incorrect case use.
3) Excessive use of exclamation points.

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10 karen malesky May 15, 2012 at 11:59 PM

does anyone know the location of the Robert E. Lee monument in Montreal??? i will be visiting soon and would like to see it. it was erected by southerner who settled in Canada after the war.Thanks!

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