Address to Sons of Veterans
Commander Harriss’s remarks below are as meaningful today as they were 94 years ago, and serve as a suitable guide to battle the dark forces that consign customs, traditions and constitutional liberty to the fires of modern-day Trotskyism. Harriss was certainly speaking of us when he expected justice to prevail in the writing of history in future times, and a truthful account be taught our children.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
Address to Sons of Veterans:
W.W. Harriss, Commander Florida Division, SCV, at the First Reunion, Lakeland. Florida, October 29, 1914.
"Comrades: The purpose of our organization is manifold and far-reaching, but paramount to all else is the perpetuation of the deeds of valor and the protection and preservation of the good name of the Confederate soldier, whose incomparable courage and sacrifice are the amazement of the entire world. Like our Saviour, he gave up all for liberation from oppression and died for those he loved.
The sacredness of the cause for which our soldiers fought has entwined a tie so strong around the hearts of those survivors of the conflict….(and), We are yet too near the time of the war to write absolutely impartial history; but when it shall be written we may safely trust that justice will be done the motives which prompted the Southern men to take up arms and the manner in which they bore themselves in war and defeat.
It is to me one of the unsolvable riddles of human nature that there are those among us who advocate the laying aside of the memories of that period and forgetting the awful aftermath of reconstruction, that we should put aside recollection of our losses, accepting conditions as they are, and press forward to the race which lies before us along the way of material progress. I fear that this sentiment is far too general, that in "the struggle for power and the scramble for wealth" we are apt to become so absorbed that we should neglect the cultivation of those finer qualities which have heretofore been distinguishing characteristics of the Southern people.
Nations and individuals cannot afford to forget those things which in the crucible of life forge character and make men. Have the Irish people lost anything by their almost sacred reverence for the memory of Robert Emmett, though the cause of freedom in Ireland, for which that young patriot gave his life, lacks yet its consummation? Has the French nation lost anything because of its worship of Napoleon, notwithstanding that maker of dynasties and kingdoms died in exile on the lonely island of St. Helena?
No great deed is lost to the world. It requires reverses to round out the character of a people, and it takes misfortune to forge the finest temper of individual character. It is not incompatible with an honest loyalty to a restored Union that we retain a proud memory of that nation "which rose to pure and fell so free of crime." It is not an evidence of ultraconservatism nor a clinging to the idols of the past that we hold in grateful remembrance the heroic actions of the men and women of the past and, by the erection of monuments to them and the preservation of truthful history, defend their names from the oblivion of time and hand down to posterity the untarnished story of their fame. These heroes are our fathers.
Then what is our duty? There is but one answer: to work to accomplish the purposes that our beloved Confederation has as its aim. Every member, as well as officer, has a duty to perform. Wont you agree when you return to your home to have a rally day monthly for the purpose of bringing in new members, getting each member to obligate himself to interest and bring in new members? Try it and see how new blood will enliven your Camp. There are sections of our State rich with eligibles that we have not yet entered. Let’s get at it.
Seeking and urging your assistance, cooperation and counsel in the upbuilding of our organization, I bring to you the last message from the immortal General Stephen D. Lee: "To the sons of Confederate veterans we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish."
(Address to Sons of Veterans, Confederate Veteran Magazine, December 1914, pp. 362-363)