Crowd Honors Confederate Memorial Day

Speakers Assail ‘Political Correctness’ and Explain What Thousands of Soldiers Fought For
By Hillary Copsey
The Winchester Star
Monday – June 7, 2004

Sometime around dusk Sunday, people wandered among the plain, age-stained tombstones of Confederate soldiers in Winchester’s Stonewall Cemetery.

They read from the slates, sending names and dates of births, deaths, and battles fought into the twilight. Most only spoke loud enough for themselves and perhaps one or two nearby to hear.

This solitary remembrance fittingly ended the Confederate Memorial Day service.

The holiday has been celebrate for 138 years on June 6 — a date chosen to commemorate the death of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s calvary commander, Gen. Turner Ashby. The Turner Ashby Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy sponsored Sunday’s memorial service.

Confederate soldiers fought and died for their belief in their country and in their independence, speakers said.

“We remember them tonight because they believed in something,” the Rev. Robert Stainback said.

And in remembering, people also must seek out and report the “correct history,” said Alan Cowman, Commander of the Turner Ashby Camp of the Sons of the Confederacy.

“[Political correctness] is an onslaught that the men who are buried in this cemetery died for something bad,” Cowman said.

Confederate soldiers did not die for slavery, Cowman said, nor did the North start the war to free an oppressed people. Confederates fought and died to be free to act on their own volition, he said.

One dedicated soldier, Major James Walton Thomson of Berryville, began fighting for the Southern cause when he was just 16. Thomson went with his father, John, to defend Harpers Ferry, W.Va., from abolitionist John Brown during his infamous raid of 1859.

Then, and throughout his valiant military career, Thomson refused to dodge bullets, choosing instead to go head-to-head with the foe, said author Robert J. Trout, recipient of the Jefferson Davis Historic Gold Medal.

Thomson is buried in Stonewall Cemetery along with thousands of other Confederate soldiers, including 800 who remain unknown.

About 100 people gathered for the memorial service to honor those soldiers. Many dressed in period garb — black shrouded “Confederate widows,” hoop-skirted belles, and gray-clad soldiers with guns.

“It’s exciting,” said 9-year-old Katherine Fravel.

The center of the ceremonies was nothing more than a quietly waving flag. The bold Confederate flag flew above speakers heads. Smaller “Stars and Bars” fluttered next to each tombstone.

“This flag didn’t stand for slavery,” Cowman said. “It’s been adopted by the wrong people…. God bless the Confederacy. God bless America.”