General Raleigh E. Colston on Posterity
 
From: shorelinedz@att.net
 
General Colston’s remarks to the Virginia Ladies Memorial Association below can still guide us today. Read more on General Colston’s life at www.cfhi.net, “Cape Fear Academy.”
 
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Wilmington, North Carolina
www.cfhi.net

General Raleigh E. Colston on Posterity
 
“It is true that when we, the actors in the last contest, shall be sleeping in our graves little will it matter to us what the world may think of us or our motives.  But methinks that we could hardly rest in peace, even in the tomb, should our descendants misjudge or condemn us. And yet, is there impossibility of this?  They will be told that their fathers were oligarchs, aristocrats, slave-drivers, rebels, traitors, who to perpetuate the monstrous sin of human slavery, tried to throttle out the life of the nation and to rend asunder the government founded by Washington; that they raised parricidal hands against the sacred ark of the Constitution; that they were the unprovoked aggressors, and struck the first sacrilegious blows against the Union and the flag of their country.
 
You are now, or will be some day, the mothers of future generations.  See that you transmit to them the traditions and memories of our cause and of our glorious, if unsuccessful, struggle, that they may in their turn transmit them unchanged to those who succeed them. And let them learn from you that, although the same inscrutable Providence that once permitted the Grecian cross to go down before the Moslem crescent, has decreed that we should yield to Northern supremacy, and that we should fail in our endeavor; yet, for all that, we were right.
 
It is for you, Southern matrons, to guard your cherished ones against this foul idolatry, and to teach them a nobler and higher moral.  It is for you to bring the youth of our land to these consecrated mounds and to engrave in their candid souls the true story of our wrongs, our motives, and our deeds. Tell them in tender and eloquent words that those who lie here entombed were neither traitors nor rebels, and that those absurd epithets are but the ravings of malignant folly when applied to men who claimed nothing but their right under the Constitution of their fathers-the right of self-government.
 
Tell them how we exhausted every honorable means to avoid the terrible arbitrament of war, asking only to be let alone, and tendering alliance, friendship, free navigation-everything reasonable and magnanimous-to obtain an amicable settlement.  Tell them how, when driven to draw the sword, we fought the mercenaries of all the world until, overpowered by tenfold numbers, we fell; but like Leonidas and his Spartans of old, fell so heroically that our defeat was more glorious than victory.”
 
(General Raleigh E. Colston’s Address to the Virginia Ladies’ Memorial Association: "His Words Live After Him, " Confederate Veteran, March 1897, pp. 115-116)