From: Joe Adkins

Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Perhaps the words of author and writer J. L. Mencken were never truer than they are today: "The American people, North and South, went into the war as citizens of their respective states, they came out as subjects, and what they thus lost they have never got back."

In 1958, Congress passed a bill that was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which granted official recognition to the soldiers and sailors of the former Confederate States of America as U.S. Veterans. By law, Confederate soldiers and sailors are entitled to Veterans Administration grave markers and were entitled to a veterans pension. One old, surviving Confederate did draw a pension check for a brief time until his passing. Veterans Adminstration grave markers are still being provided and set. I have helped set and dedicate a number of those white marble grave markers over the years.

In the years following the Civil War, the nation reunited and the old Union and Confederate veterans made peace and granted each other the respect and honor that they so richly deserved. The old veterans of Gettysburg met again on that battlefield in the 1920’s at a veterans reunion, charged each other, and met each other with handshakes and hugs.

Imagine that: these men whom a few decades earlier had been at each other’s throats and prepared to kill each other as the enemy, embraced each other in peace and reconciliation.

In April 1865, when President Lincoln received word that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House, he asked the band that was performing on the White House lawn to play Dixie, declaring, "I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard."

In 1905, the Federal government returned the captured Confederate flags in their possession to the governors of the former Confederate and border states. Some of the flags held by the Northern states were never returned.

What the heck has happened to America since those days? Why is it that the men who actually fought that war were able to reconcile, but today, certain parties cannot? Or will not.

Today, the demon of political correctness is rearing its ugly head, and it is doing so right here in Jonesborough. The organizers of Jonesborough’s Veteran’s Memorial have taken it upon themselves to violate the spirit, if not the words, of Federal law by declining Washington County’s Confederate Veterans their place on that memorial.

Knowing this today, it is almost inconceivable that Jonesborough was the home of such men who formed Co. B, 19th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, organized right there in the town in the Spring of 1861. The old 19th fought in every major battle and campaign of the Army of Tennessee except the battle of Perryville in Kentucky, having been a bit indisposed at the time at a place called Vicksburg, Mississippi. The 19th has one of the most distinguished wartime records of any regiment that served in that war. Capt. "Zeb" Willett, who was killed in battle, was returned to our little town and lies in his eternal rest in the old cemetery above the town.

Those men were our hometown boys. They served their state and their country. They did their duty, but the organizers of the memorial would deny them the honors that they richly earned and deserve.

If the organizers of the Veterans Memorial are allowed to get away with this, it is a slap in the face to every Washington County family who had an ancestor in the Confederate military. Further, it is proof positive that the very divisions which parted our nation almost 150 years ago divide us still to this very day. We are a United States in name only.

I call upon Marion Light and his committee to do the right thing: heal the old wounds and close the rift. End the policies of selectivity and exclusion for that memorial, and give the Washington County Confederate Veterans their rightful place on it.

If they don’t, it is a crime against history and heritage, and we remain a divided people.

Joe Adkins
Jonesborough, TN 37659