Confederate Memorial Day

by Steve Lancaster6/2/18
On the first Saturday in June, in some places the second Saturday of June, descendants of veterans of The War Between the States, or The War of Northern Invasion, gather to pay respects to the fallen. This tradition began shortly after the war. At first in Georgia, by the early 1870s it had spread through the South. In Fayetteville the ladies of the Southern Memorial Association acquired property for a cemetery on a hill above Fayetteville. The first memorial was attended by over 3,000 people, most of the population of Washington County. Over the last 145 years attendance has declined, but today there were over 100 people to pay respects to these, mostly unnamed, soldiers.

In the 19th century few people expected to travel far from the places they were born. They expected to be buried in family plots surrounded by friends and family. Their families also expected that family would know where to find them. The war changed that in dramatic fashion. The size of the armies engaged, and the massive size of the fields of battle guaranteed large numbers of unidentified dead, both north and south. The dead were interred where they fell and were often reburied later, in some cases several times. Identifying and shipping dead was difficult in the north and almost impossible in the south.

During reconstruction the federal government established national cemeteries for federal war dead, and spent millions of dollars to find, identify, and rebury federal war dead. The most famous is Arlington National, but hundreds of these cemeteries were built, mostly in the eastern theater, however, today they are nationwide. Congress promised money to southern states for similar facilities, it never happened. It would have been a great opportunity to heal wounds and confirm to the south that a nation could grow out of the conflict.

Into the void left by congress stepped the women of SMA and other memorial associations. They purchased land for cemeteries, built memorials and administered the recovery of dead from battlefields and reburied them in cemeteries like Fayetteville. In Fayetteville lay soldiers from Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana from the battles of Pea Ridge, Fayetteville, Prairie Grove and Cain Hill. Most, perhaps all, had never owned slaves, found the practice abhorrent and were not fighting for some plantation owner in South East Arkansas to keep slaves.

Some were there due to peer pressure, friends and family signed up, they followed suit. More fought and died for their state and the concept of federalism and states’ rights. Best summed up “My home is in ——-, the government of my home is in ——, not in some far-off Washington DC.”

Or, “Billy Yank to Johnny Reb, why are you fighting us we have more in common than differences to fight over? Johnny, because you’re here, we did not invade your country.”

The issues of the war are not forgotten, some consider slavery America’s original sin. If so, it is the sin of the entire human race, not just white American southerners. It is over, every American who was ever enslaved has died, as has every slave owner. Today we recognize the fallen and pray to whichever G-d you acknowledge we never have to repeat a tragedy of this kind. • (89 views)

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17 Responses to Confederate Memorial Day

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I understand that the national battlefields at Wilson Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove are among the best. I would love to have seen them back when we were able to tours of battlefields. I don’t know that there’s anything significant at Cane Hill. It was there, or more likely Prairie Grove (or both) that Jo Shelby’s brigade included Frank James (which he remembered at James’s trial decades later).

    Some of the battlefield cemeteries (such as the Gettysburg cemetery at which Cousin Abe spoke, to the considerable praise of Edward Everett, former Constitutional Union VP candidate, the main orator that day) are only for Union troops. But I think there are some with troops from both sides. Of course, few of the gravestones have names.

    Would any of the Fayetteville dead have come from Price’s 1864 Missouri raid that made it to Westport, near where the Missouri River enters the state from Kansas? I can imagine the Confederate dead from the Red River campaign (Poison Spring, Marks’ Mills, and Jenkins Ferry) were buried closer to the battlefields.

    Pea Ridge was interesting. It probably should have been a Confederate victory (they actually outnumbered Curtis’s force, and didn’t have Franz Sigel — sort of the Union equivalent of Jubilation T. Cornpone — on their side), but at a key moment on the first day of the battle, Ben McCullough’s division was devastated when its commander (McCullough) and second-in-command (James M. McIntosh) were killed and the next in line (Louis Hebert) was captured — within just a few moments. For some reason, the division (about half of Van Dorn’s total force) was disorganized after that. It didn’t help that whoever was the division commander wasn’t the commander on that part of the field (Albert Pike, who commanded a brigade of Indians).

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      It is possible that some of the Westport raid are buried in Fayetteville but unlikely unless they were identified and had family close by. Cain Hill was more of a skirmish. Shelby’s attempt to flank the Federals was turned back.

      Pea Ridge should have been a Confederate victory. Van Dorn had marched up through the Boston Mountains and in his hurry to engage the Federals had left most of his supply train behind. His men arrived at Pea Ridge, tired, underfed and in poor morale from the forced march.

      Had Pea Ridge been a Confederate victory the only effective Federal troops in the trans-Mississippi theater would have been forced out of MO. and MO would have joined the Confederacy. This would have closed the Mississippi River at St. Louis and Grant’s Western Campaign would have been stopped, or at least stalled long enough to keep the Mississippi open. The resulting siege of Vicksburg may not have happened on 4 July 1863. The city of Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July again until after WWII.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Pea Ridge would have had to be a truly decisive victory to drive Curtis all the way out of Missouri, or even southern Missouri. On the other hand, Van Dorn did outnumber Curtis 4-3 and was advancing on his rear, blocking his line of supply (of course, this also meant Curtis was blocking his). If McCullough and McIntosh hadn’t been killed (and especially so nearly simultaneously, and with the senior colonel captured as well), who knows what might have happened? (The wikipedia article says the next colonel in line, who took command of the division, was Elkanah Greer, but I have to wonder how long it took to find that out. And when did Pike learn that he was in overall command on that part of the field?)

        The consequences of Pike conquering southern Missouri are hard to see (after all, he overran much of it after Wilson’s Creek, and captured a Union brigade at Lexington on the Missouri River, but still ended up driven back to northwestern Arkansas by Curtis after the latter took over from Frémont). But controlling the Mississippi border of Missouri from Cape Girardeau at least up to St. Louis would have made things very interesting. But the Union still had all those Pook turtles on the Ohio, which could operate out of Cairo and Paducah until a strong fortified position could be built north of Cairo to block them. And they had no rail connections into Missouri.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          Pike indicated that he did not learn of his overall command until after the battle. Communications being what they were I can easily believe that; messengers had an annoying habit of getting killed in battles big and small.

          Pea Ridge put the Confederates in a difficult position in the Trans-Mississippi. The later Battle of Prairie Grove sealed MO and northern AR into occupied territory. The war in AR then became mostly a guerilla war with federals occupying everything north of the AR River.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            To a great degree that’s true, but northeastern Arkansas was more of a no-man’s-land, certainly as late as July 4, when district commander Theophilus Holmes attacked Helena and was bloodily repulsed by inferior numbers (led by Benjamin Prentiss, last seen surrendering the remnant of the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh). Later in the month, the Union launched attacks by James Blunt against Fort Smith and William Steele against Little Rock, which drove the Confederates below the Arkansas in both Arkansas and the Indian Territory (they kept the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations until the end of the war, and in fact were the last Confederate land forces to surrender).

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Or, “Billy Yank to Johnny Reb, why are you fighting us we have more in common than differences to fight over? Johnny, because you’re here, we did not invade your country.”

    One reason fights break out is because people say such outrageously stupid things. They take an entire complex situation and reduce it to a mere simplistic binary.

    The above construction ignores the decades of trouble on this issue including the South’s belligerence regarding this issue (not to mention firing on Fort Sumter) — not to mention also their wanton rebellion based solely and completely on wanting not just to preserve but to spread their pox of slavery. To the extent that “state’s rights” is an issue it was the right to engage in enslaving their fellow men.

    By all means. Let us honor the war dead on both sides if only because there is enough wrong on both sides to go around. The North certainly profited secondhand from slavery for quite a time. But a lasting memorial would be to figure out a way to solve these differences without plunging people into binary thought where there is only “our side” and “their side” based on what at based could be called fake news.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There’s an element of truth there. The North fought, initially, for union — but the secession was provoked mainly by slavery. (Note that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were all about slavery even though they had other disagreements as well, such as Lincoln’s support for Henry Clay’s American System. Note also that the South preferred high-tariff Buchanan to low-tariff Douglas because of slavery. Ironically, John C. Breckinridge may have been no fonder of slavery than Stevy Doug was.)

      Raphael Semmes was once discussing the issue with some British officers — I think it was while visiting Gibraltar. He noted that there were some honest zealots on the northern side (i..e., the abolitionists), but the rest only sought to weaken the South and didn’t really care about slavery. I’m not sure how right he was (partly, at least, I’m sure), but that certainly was what he, and no doubt many other southerners, thought.

      And yet, according to something I came across in wikipedia, the first informal suggestion that the CSA might need to free and arm slaves to win came on July 21, 1861, in a conversation between Richard S. Ewell and Jefferson Davis. Of course, nothing came of it, just as nothing came of Pat Cleburne’s formal proposal on the subject to the Army of Tennessee top officers in the early months of 1864. And they didn’t win their independence.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The sane solution would to have sat down in a special committee (north and south) to finalize the schedule for the abolition of slavery. It was always assumed — at least since the act of 1807 that prohibited the importation of slaves — that slavery was on the “wrong side of history” and would be phased out.

        What happened is that the South ramped up the pro-slavery zealousness. They could not come to terms with this issue in any rational way. To my mind, they went a bit cuckoo.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          There was some sort of Senate group led by outgoing Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden, who was basically Clay’s successor in more than one way. (He had also decided to retire, with John C. Breckinridge as his successor.) The result was the first version of a Thirteenth Amendment, which protected slavery in the states but said nothing of the territories. A few states even ratified it.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            It’s interesting that with all the efforts at peace by various people and organizations, about the most effect they’ve ever had is keeping us out of wars we should be in or should finish. Typical “peacemakers” today are appeasers of tyrants.

            But one wishes that this Christian nation of the 1850’s and early 1860’s could have found a way to solve this issue rather than turning their young men (on both sides) into cannon fodder.

            • Steve Lancaster says:

              Not unlike the issue of abortion today; if the solution were easy it could, and would be solved. The founders struggled and ended up putting a patch on it just to get the country started. Just as we have put a patch on abortion. The count since Roe is in excess of 50 million and at least 30% are Black, some estimate 50%, a genocide that would make Stalin and Mao mere amateurs.

              They did not leave slavery in the Constitution out of love for the institution, but because there was no alternative. The southern states would not, and could not, in their eyes, give on this issue. The economic consequences were too great to face. In the north, which profited on the transport, sale, and labor of slaves there was little enthusiasm to abolish the practice.

              Where slavery is concerned everyone’s hands are dirty, including the tribal leaders in Africa who sold off their own people.

              We have come a long way in the last 150 years. Slavery, where it is still practiced, is in the third world hell holes and mostly Moslem.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                The closest thing to a workable compromise on slavery was the popular (or squatter) sovereignty of Lewis Cass and Stephen Douglas. This might have worked if Cass had defeated Taylor in 1848, at least for a while.

                But by 1854 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. much of the North rejected it and most of the rest would go no further, while the South found it acceptable only if they expected to win. And they soon gave up on that. After that, compromise was no longer possible. Blame James Buchanan; it was during his presidency.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                My own view, Steve, is that slavery (much like abortion) had become an issue not of economics but of identity and culture. I know Mr. Kung has noted before how it was convenient for the 95% of white farmers/craftsmen who did not own rich plantations to have a class lower than them.

                Of course, the invention of the cotton gin almost certainly did put a stake in the heart of phasing out slavery. It increased the desire for slaves (which grew from 700,000 before Whitney’s patent to more than three million in 1850, according to this article). And apparently the system worked well (practically, not morally).

                Theoretically, the South could have instituted a regular market for labor had they chosen to do so but it would have gone against the grain in two main areas: The existing system was working well and blacks had so long been looked upon as cattle (and were kept very close to a state of nature) that it was an impossible vision for most (North or South…including Lincoln) to envision the two groups living side-by-side as equals.

                I have no beef with the compromises made in order to form the union or with the three-fifths clause. Reality so rarely matches our rarified Snowflake utopian dreams centuries later. What is unfortunate is that young men on both sides rushed so gleefully to their deaths, often with romantic notions about what war would be (and it would always be over by Christmas).

                I’m not saying that we should empower the pansies and appeasers. We should appreciate the bravery of men willing to defend their homes. But perhaps sometimes there is no other way but war to decide a question, hinted at in McArthur’s rather neutral language delivered aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, 1945:

                The issues involving divergent ideals and ideologies have been determined on the battlefields of the world, and hence are not for our discussion or debate.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Compromises are necessary when you can’t win outright. This is a point that the GOP Beltway Bandits can’t grasp — when you can win, you don’t need to compromise (though it may occasionally be . . . um . . . politic to do so).

                Incidentally, note that all these compromises on slavery in the Constitution never actual mentioned “slaves” or “slavery” — for example, they referred to “three fifths of other persons”, not “three fifths of slaves”.

              • Rosalys says:

                “The southern states would not, and could not, in their eyes, give on this issue.”

                It is my understanding that it was not “the southern states,” but more specifically South Carolina which would not give on this issue.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I believe Steve was referring to the creation of the Constitution. The southern states were pretty much unified on slavery, and a few northern states (especially New York and New Jersey) had enough slaves that they may have agreed

                Even in 1860, a lot of southern states couldn’t back down (hence their rejection of Douglas and endorsement of Breckinridge). They were just a lot more cautious about secession as a preferred response. And it took no more than 3 weeks for 3 more states (Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi) to secede.

                In September 1864, while retreating from Winchester after getting whacked by Phil Sheridan (a 3-1 advantage is helpful), the sarcastic Jubal Early asked Breckinridge (his top subordinate), “So what do you think about ‘our rights in the territories’ now?” Early had opposed secession in the Virginia convention to the end.

              • Rosalys says:

                I, too, was referring to the creation of the Constitution. Can’t remember where I read it, heard it – and it could be just one historian’s erroneous interpretation of events.

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