Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Time to Forgive

By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

The year was 1866, the devastation of the Civil War could be seen as far as the eye could see. Clothed in faded, worn-out dresses, women of the war-torn South made their way toward the hallowed graves of the dead.

The firing on Fort Sumpter in 1862 incited the Civil War. The southern states wanted their own way; their own flag, their own money, their own president. However, not all Southerners wanted to secede from the Union. They were swept into the turmoil just the same. One’s destiny is often created from circumstances beyond one’s control.

Michigander Nathaniel Greene volunteered for the Civil War on the day he turned 18. He did so through the Enrollment Act, signed into law in 1863. He took a neighbor’s place in trade for 60 acres of farmland.
The Enrollment Act, also known as the Conscription Act, allowed for said individuals subject to conscription to hire a substitute, who might normally be exempt from service. Substitution quickly proved to be unpopular since it allowed wealthy men to escape military service while leaving men of lesser resources exposed to the draft.

Greene was a soldier in General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army. He took no pride in burning Confederate homes, as stated in a letter to his mother, Martha Greene:

“Some of our soldiers brag about burning the homes of the confederates. I think it is wrong for them to do so. I ask them how they would like it to have their homes burned over their mother’s head.”

Once a land of plenty, many Southerners were left with only the clothes on their backs. Their money, bonds, and homes burned away. Still, the Christian Southerners clung to their biblical principles, nursing Union as well as Confederate soldiers back to health. They displayed through their deeds, their forgiveness, and determination not to succumb to self-pity when they knew there was no hope in winning the war.

On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln, during his Second Inaugural Address in Washington D.C. ended with these words:

“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Families in the south felt daily the depravity, hunger, and devastation caused by the Civil War that had ransacked their beloved South.

In May 1866, as far as one could see, ghostly ash-colored buildings and barren fields stretched before the women’s tear-filled eyes. Some had lost sons, brothers, and husbands to the war. Their arms folded around the flowers they’d salvaged from their almost-forgotten gardens as they trudged forward toward the thousands of tombstones of marked and unmarked graves sweeping before their eyes with increasing clarity.

Husband, son, and brother, Union or Confederate, they decorated the soldiers’ graves in this one voluntary act as a sincere demonstration of their repentance and forgiveness for the bloodshed on both sides. These men who wore the blue of their enemies were now united beneath one common cause and sharing the rewards of heaven with their loved ones.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14 NKJV
Our war-torn southern neighbors displayed in May 1866 their heart-wrenching sacrificial love toward the husbands, sons, and brothers of their northern neighbors.
Today, some feel Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. In December 2000, Congress passed into law The National Moment of Remembrance, a resolution stating that at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day all Americans informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence.

A time to remember that in 1862, America stood upon a precipice of either being forever divided—or eternally united. Rising above that moment’s circumstances, to step out from the ashes of regret and loss.

This Memorial Day, take time to remember how our forefathers forgave, never turning their backs on their duties to God, family, and country. God Bless!

Swept into Destiny, Book 1 of the Destiny Series; One brave decision lead to serious consequences. Ben McConnell, a handsome Irish immigrant, and a gutsy Southern belle, Maggie Gatlan unite in a common cause during the Civil War.

Catherine is an award-winning author of the inspirational historical romance Wilted Dandelions. Destiny series: Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny.

She is a member of Heart of American Christians Writers Network (HACWN); American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) President of the Great Lakes Chapter (ACFW GLC), and is a longtime Michigan resident. Catherine lives with her husband of 45 years, has two adult children, and four grandchildren. See for more information about the Destiny series.


  1. I didn't know about this Moment of Remembrance. Thanks for posting.

  2. Connie R. I know! Many Americans do not, thank you for your comment. God Bless!

  3. Beautifully written and apropos for these times and the upcoming Memorial Day. Unfortunately, I think there is still an underlying animosity or maybe a clinging resentment in the south towards people from the north. I experienced it quite a bit when I was living in the south. I was surprised that in these modern times there was so much bias against people from the north and how many southerners were proudly waving their confederate flags. So I absolutely agree that we need a period of reflection this Memorial Day on the veterans of all wars who gave their lives for this country. Lives given even in our civil war from both sides deserve honor. It takes true forgiveness and moving forward in peace and godly love to heal an individual and a nation.

  4. So true. I truly hoped Swept into Destiny would mend some of that resentment. I married a southerner, he was from Alabama! I had always lived in the north. Though my mom originated in Kentucky, that didn't give me any credence.

  5. Haha, I have to admit it took me until my first child, for me to feel like they accepted me. Now, I feel sincerely welcome and I believe they love me as I love my southern sisters!