June 15, 2006
I am not really old. But isn’t it incredible that I was living back when the last of the Civil War veterans died?
When they did, that left only the monuments as tangible remembrances.
As a boy, I knew of three of them. The Hertford County statue stood on the courthouse lawn in Winton. So did the Bertie County monument in Windsor. The Hertford statue was the first statue I ever saw. In Gates County, the monument was across the street from the courthouse mainly because the tiny courthouse didn’t have enough lawn.
Northampton County’s courthouse green in Jackson, a full city block with the soaring 1858 courthouse on its southern edge, would have been among the state’s elegant spots for a Confederate monument.
But there isn’t one.
More about that later.
The point of all this is to report on a new history of Confederate monuments in the state appearing this month in the North Carolina Historical Review, the quarterly publication of the State Office of Archives and History of the Department of Cultural Resources.
Tom Vincent, an archivist with the office, is the author of the definitive survey. And the thrust of this history is the dominating role of women in what you might at first expect to be a male impulse.
Vincent’s article is titled “Evidence of Women’s Loyalty, Perseverance and Fidelity: Courthouse Soldiers’ Monuments in North Carolina, 1865-1914.”
And it is a fact that from almost before the guns of the terrible tragedy fell silent in the spring of 1865, women were thinking of monuments to commemorate the Confederate dead.
And, of course, it was in Fayetteville that the first steps were taken, and it was in Fayetteville’s Cross Creek Cemetery that the first monument to rebel dead was actually raised.
The story is familiar from the telling at many a Confederate Memorial Day ceremonies in the old burial ground down by Cross Creek.
The story begins soon after William T. Sherman’s army passed through the town in March 1865.
The ladies of Fayetteville — who had already been busy during the war sewing socks and making blankets for the fighting men — first got together to press the town government to rebury the corpses of more than a dozen retreating Confederates who died in the town and who were hastily buried in scattered locations.
That was done, and the burying spot, “a very pretty situation with room for all,” was dedicated in a ceremony presided over by the Rev. Joseph Huske of the Episcopal Church.
Confederate Memorial Day is observed at the very same spot to this day.
Then the women turned to plans for a suitable monument at the site of the military burials.
The story of that project is told in all its richness by women of the town in wartime reminiscences that are a major source of Fayetteville local history. Vincent’s article is mainly based on these sources.
To finance the monument, the women made a quilt and put it up for auction. They were hoping to sell 1,000 tickets for $1 each. They eventually raised $300. The monument, executed by local tombstone artist George Lauder, was dedicated in 1868.
The winner of the quilt sent it off as a present to Jefferson Davis, late president of the Confederate States of America.
After Fayetteville, the monument movement surged on. By 1914, monuments were in place on courthouse lawns and in cemeteries across the state.
The big period for such monuments came in the early 20th century, especially after the General Assembly authorized public funds to augment the untiring fund-raising of the women, who by then were organized in the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Fayetteville to this day has several chapters of United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Between 1872 and 1899, 13 monuments went up, eight in cemeteries and the others on courthouse lawns.
Between 1900 and 1932, another 64 were erected, nearly all the fruit of the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s “loyalty, perseverance, and fidelity.”
To raise part of the $2,211 cost of the Cumberland County monument, the Fayetteville United Daughters of the Confederacy threw “a Japanese-themed lawn party.’’
The monument originally stood in the then-existing square at the north end of Green Street, where the county courthouse stood for more than a century.
When the automobile age arrived, it was moved to the northeast corner of the convergence of Ramsey, Green, Rowan and Grove streets.
More recently, it migrated to a site in the Haymount neighborhood, where my old friend Dr. Albert Stewart, a lifelong student of all things Confederate, can see it from his front porch.
Vincent’s article is rich with detail about many of the monuments, although he fails to mention one of my favorite historical notes.
That is, the monument in Gatesville is among the few in the South inscribed for a single Confederate fighting man. That would be cavalryman J.R. Roberts, who at 23 was the “youngest brigadier general” in Robert E. Lee’s army when they gave up at Appomattox Courthouse.
And concerning the Northampton County green, and why it didn’t get a monument despite the fact that Northampton was during the war about as Confederate as you could get?
Well, the fact is that it was one of the few places where men dominated the monument story.
The story goes that two old Northampton Confederates, former Capt. John Peebles and former Gen. Matt Ransom, couldn’t agree on whose name should have the place of honor on the engraved list of donors.
Neither would budge. They refused to donate to the monument fund. It was never raised.
Some said it was just a way for two notoriously tightfisted old codgers to keep the locks on their wallets.
Original Link: http://www.fayettevillenc.com/article?id=235217