April is Confederate History Month of Remembrance
Essay by Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
April is an important month in America’s history. The Great Locomotive Chase, where Union spies attempted to steal the Confederate Locomotive "The General" and destroy rail lines and bridges, took place on April 12, 1862. The month of April has become to be known as Confederate History and Heritage Month.
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The Congress of the United States has officially in past years recognized America’s war of, 1861 to 1865, as the War Between the States. This tragic war claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of brothers, uncles and husbands. Though they were enemies on the battlefield, after the war, the men of blue and gray sponsored reunions at such places as Gettysburg. The soldier told war stories while the United States and Confederate flags flew briskly in the warm summer breeze.
Why do some schools ignore the teaching of American history? Boys and girls once learned about American soldiers who for over 200 years marched off to war. The church hymn book once included "Onward Christian Soldiers." The young people read about: George Washington, Robert E. Lee and Booker T. Washington. Northern and Southern children stood up proudly to sing patriotic songs from a standard song book that included "Dixie".
After the end of the War Between the States, Northern and Southern women formed memorial organizations. They made sure all soldiers were given a Christian burial and a marked grave. Memorial Days were begun in many states North and South of the famous Mason-Dixon Line. Confederate graves were also cared for in the North and Union graves in the South. Great monuments were also erected that still cast a giant shadow over many town squares and soldiers’ cemeteries across the U.S.A.
April 26, has become to be recognized as Confederate Memorial Day in many states. For over one hundred years the Ladies’ Memorial Association, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans have held memorial services on or near this day. Other Southern States recognize this day ,which began as Decoration Day, on May 10th and June 3rd. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was born on June 3rd.
April, Confederate History and Heritage Month, is significant as it is the month the War Between the States began (1861) and ended (1865).
Efforts to mark Confederate graves, erect monuments and hold memorial services were the idea of Mrs. Charles J. Williams. It is written that she was an educated and kind lady. Her husband served as Colonel of the 1st Georgia Regiment during the war. He died of disease in 1862, and was buried in his home town of Columbus, Georgia.
Mrs. Williams and her daughter visited his grave often and cleared the weeds, leaves and twigs from it, then placed flowers on it. Her daughter also pulled the weeds from other Confederate graves near her Father.
It saddened the little girl that their graves were unmarked. With tears of pride she said to her Mother, "These are my soldiers’ graves." The daughter soon became ill and passed away in her childhood. Mrs. William’s grief was almost unbearable.
On a visit to the graves of her husband and daughter, Mrs. Williams looked at the unkept soldiers’ graves and remembered her daughter as she cleaned the graves and what the little girl had said. She knew what had to do.
Mrs. Williams wrote a letter that was published in Southern newspapers asking the women of the South for their help. She asked that memorial organizations be established to take care of the thousands of Confederate graves from the Potomac River to the Rio Grande. She also asked the state legislatures to set aside a day in April to remember the men who wore the gray. With her leadership April 26 was officially adopted in many states. She died in 1874, but not before her native state of Georgia adopted it as a legal holiday. It is still officially recognized in Georgia today.
Mrs. Williams was given a full military funeral by the people of Columbus, Georgia and flowers covered her grave. For many years a yearly memorial was conducted at her grave following the soldiers’ memorial.
Robert E. Lee said,
Duty is the sublimest word in the English language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less."
The South can be proud of their men and women who served this nation from the Revolutionary War to the War in Iraq. It is important to also remember those men and women who defended their homes, families and states during the War Between the States.
Among the gallant women was Captain Sally Tomkins, CSA who was the first woman to be commissioned on either side of the War Between the States. Commissioned by Jefferson Davis, she took care of thousands of soldiers in Richmond, Virginia until the end of the war.
Those who served the Confederacy came from many races and religions. There was Irish born General Patrick R. Cleburne, black Southerner Amos Rucker, Jewish born Judah P. Benjamin, Mexican born Colonel Santos Benavides and American Indian General Stand Watie who was born in Rome, Georgia.
Lest We Forget!
Please contact the Sons of Confederate Veterans or other historical organizations about the events during Confederate History and Heritage Month. Be a part of this month long tribute, in April, to the men and women of Dixie.
© Southern Heritage Political Action Committee