The funny thing is that my classes in Lubbock at Texas Tech would be startled and appalled that Serbs would look fondly back 600 years to a battle they lost, but they were blind to the reality that many of them seemed to view the Civil War in a somewhat similar light--as a noble defeat, mostly forgetting about the defeat part. There are three parts to this issue (well more than that, but three I want to focus on now): the South lost; that the stakes very much included slavery; and that the civil war was incredibly costly.
Perhaps the American Civil War is part of the long tradition of poor loser-ness. Why did the South lose the war? Wars are won and lost by a combination of things, including demography, economics, allies and leadership. In terms of military leadership, the record is fairly clear that the South had far more depth and breadth. Demography disadvantaged the South since the North had more people and a significant part of the South's population were not going to be reliable fighters since they were enslaved. Economics favored the North as well since it was in the middle of the industrial revolution, while the South was agrarian/feudal. Finally, despite much sympathy abroad, the South had a hard time getting significant assistance because of its essential identity--as an aspiring country that sought to keep alive slavery. So, in many ways, the South was doomed to fail precisely because of its essential core political grievance--the right to perpetuate slavery.
I am not going to go into the weeds on the role of Slavery as the stakes, but the history is clear on this--there were many differences between north and south, but slavery was at the heart of it.
Finally, the Civil War was no walk in the woods. Somewhere around 620,000 American soldiers died during the war, representing almost half of all Americans who died in combat in its entire history. And this does not include civilians who lost their lives along the way.
So, spare me any notion that the Civil War was a noble war fought for States' Rights. It was a supreme act of Treason, inflicting tremendous damage upon the South and the rest of the country. Ironically, the war forced the Union to develop capacities to fight the war, ultimately strengthening the Federal Government at the cost of "state's rights." We might have had a weaker federal government until the depression or beyond, if the South had not forced Washington, DC to develop more tools, more resources, more ways to intervene in the affairs of states and the lives of citizens.
If we want to take the "heritage" folks at their word--that it is not about slavery, but about a war for state's rights, then we can still find their "heritage" something that is not worth commemorating. Celebrating self-inflicting defeat for the sake of a cause that the effort actually undermined? At least the Serbs can say that they tried to stop an invasion of an alien culture. All the South did was kill lots of Americans for a cause that was part of the source of its defeat.
In other words:
We cannot allow the story of the emancipation of a people and the expiation of America’s original sin to become fodder for conservative politicians playing to their right-wing base. [NYT Op-ed]