Southern soldiers buried at Willow Dale Cemetery were not traitors to their country but men doing their duty by their families and homeland, speakers at Confederate Memorial Day Service said Sunday.

About 100 people attended the annual event, held at the monument to more than 800 Confederate soldiers buried in a mass grave.

"God grant to all of us the same sense of duty and honor for which these brave men suffered and died," said Superior Court Judge Jay Hockenbury of Wilmington, who was the featured speaker at the event.

Hockenbury said he was born in Maryland, five miles north of the Mason-Dixon line, but considers himself a Southerner.

"The people buried here did their duty," Hockenbury told the crowd assembled beneath the oaks at Willow Dale, with Confederate flags flying in the afternoon breeze. He urged those present to pass on to young people the story of the Southern struggle for independence "so future generations will never forget."

Hockenbury read from the diaries of several Confederate soldiers, describing the hardships they faced and the spirit of their comrades.

The event was sponsored by several area camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Harper House chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The 1st N.C. Volunteers and Andrews Battery saluted the honored dead with volleys. Flags were placed on the graves of all known Confederate dead.

The monument was erected in May of 1883. More than 3,500 people were present at that ceremony, according to records of the time.

Dan Boyette, commander of the Goldsboro Rifles camp of the SCV, described the Civil War as The War Between the States and said it was actually the second American war for independence, started by "lying Northern liberals and galvanized Yankees."

The Confederate army is the most admired in history, Boyette said, adding that although Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House that the Southern people never surrendered.

Walter Moore, commander of the CSS Neuse camp, pointed to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and urged attendees to never sing the song nor stand while it is being played. The song is not a hymn but an ode to "hard core vengeance," he said.

"Do not sing that song if you glorify your Confederate ancestors," Moore said.

Meredith Woodall, commander of the Smithfield Light Infantry camp of the SCV, called the Willow Dale monument "hallowed ground," and said the men buried there gave up their lives for their homes and loved ones. They believed in the original United States Constitution, he said, unlike a certain "lying lawyer from Illinois," who "hated" the document.

"The flame still burns in me," Woodall said.

Terry Bryant, the commander of the Capt. Jesse Barnes camp, said the spirit of the Old South still lives.

"We bear the responsibility to keep it alive for future generations," he said. "May we keep the faith of our fathers."

Jennifer Boykin of the Gen. William Dorsey Pender camp of the UDC in Wilson urged attendees, "to remember to teach our youth, they are our future."

The Goldsboro Rifles were one of 10 companies in the 27th North Carolina Infantry Regiment that was part of the Army of Northern Virginia. The unit earned fame at several battles in the Virginia theater, including Antietam, Fredericksburg and the Wilderness.

Survivors of the company were instrumental in helping raise money to build the monument. Most of the men buried there were killed at bhe Battle of Bentonville or died in one of several hospitals located in and around Goldsboro, he said.

Boyette said that anyone in Wayne County who knows of a cemetery containing the grave of a Confederate soldier can contact any member of the Goldsboro Rifles and that they will help clean it up.

©2006 Goldsboro News-Argus,

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