Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Funeral Oration for Nathan Bedford Forrest

[As all know by now, the gravesite of Gen. Nathan & Mary Forrest was unlawfully desecrated a couple of weeks ago. In researching for a piece I intended to write regarding that matter, I stumbled upon the text of Rev. Dr. George Tucker Stainback's message that he preached at the funeral of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest on October 31, 1877 at the Court Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN. Reverend Stainback, formerly a chaplain in the Confederate Army, delivered what I consider one of the finest sermons ever spoken. Since I have not found it transcribed anywhere else on the web, I am going to share it here. I have endeavored to transcribe it as it was presented in the Memphis Daily Appeal newspaper on November 1, 1877. If I have made any error in transcription, I do apologize, and welcome anyone to let me know of any needed correction. May the following words ever remain a testimony to the legacy of honor left by this oft & long maligned hero of the South! Rest as peacefully as you can, General & Mrs. Forrest... - JM]

A Sermon of Rev. Dr. George Tucker Stainback
Delivered as part of the Funeral of GEN. NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST
on Oct. 31, 1877 at the Court St. Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN
     The text which I have selected, my hearers, as a foundation from which to pronounce to you at this hour the funeral oration of my deceased friend and brother, you will find in the fourth verse of the eleventh chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews - "He being dead, yet speaketh."

     This language was spoken by the Apostle Paul in reference to Abel, who, four thousand years before his day, lived and acted his part among men. It has especial reference to his acts of devotion to God, and Paul intends to teach us that, although Abel had been dead and his bodily presence removed from the world for this long period of time, yet that by his deeds he was living and speaking, and teaching the generation in which Paul lived, four thousand years after.

     The acts of men never die; they survive the death of the body and live on, and speak and affect others for good or evil ages after the actor has left the field of action. Our deeds make us immortal; and the immortality of our words and actions make our living at all a fearful thing. "No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." He who uttered the text has ceased from his earthly toils more than eighteen centuries ago; yet by his acts of devotion to God, his sublime faith and courage, his unflagging zeal and energy in behalf of the cause of the Master, he is today speaking, and animating and encouraging the hearts of millions in the path of truth and holiness, and will speak as long as time shall last - ay, as long as eternity shall endure. So with all the noble, and pure and good in ages past.

     The reverse of this is also true. All the moral monsters of the past are in their graves, but the influence of their deeds of violence and heaven-defying wickedness is still speaking and maturing its harvest of ruin and death among men.

     The subject of this funeral oration forms no exception to the rule. Lieutenant-General Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, "though dead, yet speaketh." His acts have photographed themselves upon the hearts of thousands, and will speak there forever.

(1.) Though dead, he speaks to us in his noble acts of devotion and self-sacrifice for the happiness and welfare of his mother and brothers and sisters cast upon his care, when a boy, by the death of his father. Unlike thousands of young men of the present day, who, in similar trials, are a burden and a tax upon the already over-strained and over-worked nerves and muscles of a poor mother and her fatherless children, this man, when a boy, assumed the responsibilities and took upon himself nobly the task of caring for his mother and his helpless loved ones. It was in this school he learned the manly virtue of self-reliance which so distinguished him in after life.

(2.) Though dead, he yet speaks to us in the honor and integrity of his actions in all the business affairs of life. No man can say that Bedford Forrest intentionally wronged him out of a penny. He may, like all of us in our poverty-stricken south, not have been able to meet promptly his engagements, and he may now be involved, still, he has worked hard that his creditors should lose nothing by him. His conversations with me on that subject I shall never forget.

(3.) Though dead, he yet speaks to us in the kindness and benevolence and charity of his great heart. Though like an enraged tiger when aroused, yet when the occasion had passed that called into action his terrible passion, that caused him to say and to do things that seem utterly at variance with the above statement, he was as gentle as a woman, and withal, sorry too, for his rashness. The poor who shared his benefactions will long mourn (his passing.) The convicts he worked on his plantation, have lost, by his death, their best friend.

(4.) He speaks to us all in his grand and lofty and self-sacrificing patriotism, and devotion to what he believed to be for the best interest of the country. On her alter he sacrificed ease, comfort, the endearments of home, fortune, and was willing to sacrifice even life itself to vindicate what he thought to be the injured rights of his oppressed people; and how well and truly he did all, the historian on his brightest page will tell, and the poet in his loftiest strains will sing. His deeds of valor at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Fort Pillow, Athens, Franklin, Chickamauga, Brice's Cross-roads and Harrisburg will live and speak for his heroism until the latest period of recorded time. These deeds have built for him a monument in the hearts of his countrymen, that the wear and tear of all the ages to come cannot crumble.

     The whole south is a mourner here, at his honored bier, to-day. Ah! I go further, and say that the whole country mourns with us to-day the death of this grandest of heroes. And our neighboring State of Mississippi, for whom he and his noble band of soldiers did more than for any other State in all the Confederacy - come along her citizens - come and bow down in sorrow at the death of Bedford Forrest. Did I say, my hearers, that the whole southern people were to-day mourners at his bier? Ah, I go further, and say that the whole country mourns with us to-day the death of this man - one of the grandest of earth's military captains. While he marshalled our men on the tented field of the south, and from the beginning to the end kept that saber unsheathed, and rode at the head of his conquering battalions a terror to his enemies - yet, when, the time came for surrender, with honor and manhood and everything that was noble and grand in his nature, he sheathed that sword; he surrendered it, and it was an honest surrender. And from that day to this he has sought to heal up and mollify the wounds and bruises of the war, and his enlarged patriotism and devotion took hold of the whole republic, and he was as true to it, and would have been as true to it, if his sword had been wanted, as he hindered it on one occasion; as true to the banner against which he lead his devastating cohorts as he was against it on that memorable field. Hence I say, among all true soldiers, whether the soldiers who wore the gray or the soldiers who wore the blue, the name of Bedford Forrest is loved and honored, and they mingle their sorrows and tears with us at his funeral to-day.

(5.) He speaks to us in his simple faith and trust in the world's Redeemer. On the fourteenth day November 1875 - it was a calm Sabbath evening - I saw General Forrest and his beloved wife enter my church quietly and take their seat in their pew. My text for the occasion was the parable of the two builders - the close of the Savior's sermon upon the mountain. The text is as follows:
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which shall build his house on the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

     At the close of the discourse, on reaching the door of the church, I found General Forrest awaiting me. We shook hands, and I locked my arm in his and descended to the pavement. I saw he was silent and seemed somewhat agitated. I did not suspicion the cause. Presently he stopped abruptly, and, fixing his piercing gaze upon me, said: "Sir, your sermon to-night has removed the last prop from me. I am the fool who has built his house upon the sand. I am a miserable, lost sinner." And with that this iron-hearted man reeled against that house there, and stood there trembling like an aspen leaf, while the great big tears ran down his cheeks. Said I: "General Forrest, thank God for this. When a man realizes the fact that he has been building his house on sand he is clearing the way to get it on the rock."

     Yes, and the reason why so many of you to-day are poor, dying sinners, why you are building you house upon a foundation of sand, which shall be swept away when the storms and tempests come, is because you do not feel, you do not realize, your miserable condition as did this man.

     He was calm. There was no excitement in the church that night. Finding him in this condition, I immediately commenced conversation with him. I brought to bear upon his mind some passages of God's word, especially the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of John. I quoted to him where it is an epitome of the whole gospel scheme: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I then directed him for prayer to the fifty-first Psalm, and told him to read and think about it, and said: "I will come to your rooms to-morrow night, General, and we will read the word of God, and I will pray with you, and we will talk over this whole matter."

     At the appointed time I repaired to his room on Madison street, and he was waiting for me. We commenced reading the Word of God, and talked of this great question, and after a while engaged in prayer. At the close of prayer he raised his head and said, "I am satisfied. I feel that all is right. I accept Jesus. I put my trust in Him alone for salvation." He commenced next morning to hold his devotion, took up his cross, and went to God in prayer. This he kept up.

     And now, my friends, since that time General Forrest has said a good many things that didn't look much like a Christian. He has done a great many things which didn't look like he was imitating the Master much. All that no man could have felt more keenly and deplored more sincerely than General Forrest himself. He told me so last Thursday. He acknowledged it all. He said he had not been living as he ought to have lived; that he had said and done a great many things in the presence of others which he sincerely regretted and deplored, as he feared he had thereby hurt the cause of his Master. "But," said he, "I want you to understand now that I feel that God has forgiven me for all;" and then, lifting up his emaciated hand, and pointing his finger to his breast, with a smile upon his face, said: "Just here I have an indescribable peace. All is peace within. I want you to know that between me and my God, between me and the face of my Heavenly Father, not a cloud intervenes." I am using his own language. "I have put my trust in my Lord and Savior." And, my friends, he discoursed upon that subject in such a way that I was overwhelmed. His emaciated hand was lying in mine, and I bowed my head upon that hand and wept - wept for joy. And I said, "It does my soul good, sir, to hear you speak thus for the Master, and testify to the power of God's grace in the conversion of sinners." He then gave me some messages to deliver to his friends in the church, and to his comrades, and to his irreligious friends. Said he, "Tell my brethren and sisters in the church that I have been lying upon my bed for more than six weeks, in communion with my God. Tell them to be encouraged to take up their cross and follow the Lord Jesus. Tell my comrades and my irreligious friends, from me, to seek and serve God; to give their hearts to Jesus; to live for another world."

     Oh! ye men, ye comrades of his; you who have heretofore on many a battlefield hastened to obey the commands and orders of your honored chieftain, will you, oh, will you obey the dying command of Bedford Forrest? Will you to-day surrender your hearts, and obey the commands of the great captain-general of your souls? Will you to-day commit yourselves to God? Will you become soldiers of the cross, and follow your chieftain to his home on high? My friends, I have no doubt he is there. I have no doubt that that troubled spirit, which suffered long and suffered much, has been borne there on angels' wings, and is now within the presence of it's God. Yes, and I want the citizens of Memphis to know, and I want the citizens of this great Republic to know that Bedford Forrest bore this testimony to the power of God's grace to save sinners. And had I a voice as loud as seven thunders, and occupied a position as lofty as the Alps, I would sound it out, that the dying and sinful world may know it and come to God. Oh! my friends, will you - will you his brethren and sisters in the church, obey the dying request of the brother who has just passed from our midst? Will you who are near and dear to him? Will that honored son and that honored brother, and those who were dear to him - will they follow this man's advice? Will they seek Jesus and become servants of God? But, my beloved hearers, let us imitate him in this, the grandest aspect of his life.

     Yes, he has folded his tent - folded his tent on earth, but on fame's eternal camping ground - up yonder, fast by the captain-general of our salvation - it is pitched to be struck no more forever. He has passed away. His deeds, his mighty acts belong to this and to coming generations. After the passions and prejudices of war have passed away, and the historian sits down in his study to write of the great men, of the military captains who have lived and flourished, high up among the very first will stand the name and will be recorded the deeds of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest. This last war, on our side of the house, produced three great men - three great military captains - Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Nathaniel Bedford Forrest; and I rank him to-day alongside of those grand men, and God has taken the three to his home.

     My hearers, let us obey our dead brother's last request. Let us determine, by the grace of God, that we will acquit ourselves nobly of the duties and responsibilities resting upon us in reference to this world; but above all, that we will acquit ourselves of the responsibilities, the obligations and the duties we owe to God. If these are neglected, our life is a failure, however great it has been. And now, my sorrowing ones, in conclusion let me say to you, come along, bring all your sorrows with you, cast your burden upon God and he will sustain you. May God bless you and comfort your hearts, and bring you at last to a blessed reunion in Heaven, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

What Would President Davis Say?

This week those of us who still honor great Americans remembered President Jefferson Davis on the 128th anniversary of his passing.

With all that is going on in the public square as it relates to our realm of interest, perhaps you often wonder what a man like Jefferson Davis would say to us now if he could. It is far beyond me to put words into the mouth of the President of the Confederate States of America, but maybe the record of the words he spoke in life can give us some insight into what he might say if he could address today the descendants of those who served under his command.

The following words have been taken from President Davis' own speeches and writings, with the source-key located at the bottom.

Friends and Brethren:

Monuments may crumble, their inscriptions may be defaced by time, but the records, the little slips of paper which contain the memoranda of what is passed, will live forever. To preserve these records faithfully is the higher and holier duty still.

This is the duty that we owe to the dead - the dead who died for us, but whose memory can never die. This is the duty that we owe to posterity, an obligation to see that our children learn the worth of their parents.

They who now sleep in the graves cannot be benefited, it is true, by anything we do. Their case is gone to a higher tribunal than that of any earthly judgment, but their children and their children's children are to be benefited by preserving the record of all they did, and of all the motives for which they died.

It is not enough that we hand down what is settled - that our men were brave, that our men were noble and that our men exercised self-denial. We had no army, our troops were not professional soldiers. They were men who loved their wives and children and their peaceful occupations, but at the first call of their country they seized such weapons as they could gather and stood around their country like a wall of fire to defend the rights their fathers left them. Could there be cause more sacred than this? If there be anything that justifies human war, it is defense of duty, defense of country, defense of family, defense of home and defense of constitutional rights.

The highest quality of man is self-sacrifice. The man who gives his life for another, the man who surrenders all his earthly prospects, that is the man who most nearly follows that grand Examplar which is given to us as the model of weak humanity. That we had many of these, it is the purpose of this society, by collecting the evidence, to show to the world. Let it suffice to say here that I would have our children's children to know not only that our cause was just, but I would have them know that the men who sustained it were worthy of the cause for which they fought.

As for me, I only speak for myself. It is to me a most desirable object that the conduct of our men in the defense of that cause should be so presented to the world as to leave no stain upon it. They went through struggles which might have corrupted weaker men... You all know it would be needless for me to speak of it; how thoroughly unprepared we were when we engaged in the war - without money, without a name among the nations, without credit, without provisions, without arms, without ammunition, without even factories to make it; we went in relying solely upon brave hearts and brave arms, whose constant trust during the struggle was equaled, I contend, only by the morality.

As the virtue and conduct of our heroes are known to ourselves, we desire to perpetuate it for the benefit of posterity. Be it ours to keep their memory green forever.

Nothing fills me with deeper sadness than to see a Southern man apologizing for the defense we made of our inheritance. Our cause was so just, so sacred, that had I known all that has come to pass, had I known what was to be inflicted upon me, all that my country was to suffer, all that our posterity was to endure, I would do it over and over again. Never teach your children to desecrate the memory of the dead by admitting that their brothers were wrong in the effort to maintain the sovereignty, freedom and independence which was their inalienable birthright.

The other side has written and is writing their history of the cause. The world keeps pace with fiction and so the liars rule, but truth crushed to earth is truth still and like a seed will rise again.







Tuesday, November 7, 2017

An Interview with General Robert E. Lee.

[In the last days of April 1869, Robert E. Lee was wrapping up a visit to Baltimore, MD, where he was acting as a spokesman for the Valley Railroad Company, when he met Rev. Dr. John Leyburn. Reverend Leyburn (1814-1893) was a native of Lexington, VA, a past student of Washington College, and Southerner in his sympathies. He pastored Presbyterian congregations in Virginia, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and finally in Maryland. The following is the account of John Leyburn's encounter with General Lee, as published in the May 1885 issue of 'The Century Magazine.' - J. McCleese]

      Robert E. Lee                                      Rev. John Leyburn

An Interview with General Robert E. Lee

A year or more before the death of General Lee, he came to Baltimore as one of a committee to enlist the authorities of the city and the president and directors of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the project for a railroad down the Valley of Virginia.

I had met General Lee but once, and then only for a few minutes; and though his home during his last years was in my native place, I did not intend calling on him in Baltimore; but a Southerner of wealth, then in New York, Cyrus H. McCormick, having telegraphed to me to see the General and invite him to come on and be his guest, I called upon him to deliver the invitation. The General said he was here on a hurried visit, that his duties to the College required his presence at home, and that with many thanks for the courtesy, and the hope that he would be able to enjoy the proffered hospitalities some other time, he must decline. I urged him not to carry out that decision, assuring him that the College would probably gain substantial benefit from his visiting my friend. He at length agreed to hold the question under consideration during a day or two he was to be absent in the country, and made an appointment for my meeting him on his return.

The two days having expired, I called again and found him expecting me. He stated that, having fully considered the subject, he had decided that he must return home. After again presenting reasons why he should make the visit to my friend, I said:
"I think I see, General, that the real difficulty lies in your shrinking from the conspicuity of a visit to New York. I can readily understand that this would be unpleasant. But you need not be exposed to any publicity whatever; my friend has given me carte blanche to make all arrangement for your coming. I will engage a compartment in the palace car of the night train, and will telegraph my friend to meet you with his carriage on your arrival in New York."

I shall never forget the deep feeling manifested in the tones of his voice, as he replied:
"Oh, Doctor, I couldn't go sneaking into New York in that way. When I do go there, I'll go in the daylight, and go like man."

I felt rebuked at having made the suggestion; and finding he was fixed in his determination, the subject was dropped. But he seemed in a talkative mood, - remarkably so, considering his reputation for taciturnity, - and immediately began to speak of the issues and results of the war. The topic which seemed to lie uppermost and heaviest on his heart was the vast number of noble young men who had fallen in the bloody strife. In this particular he regarded the struggle as having been most unequal. The North, he said, had, indeed, sent many of her valuable young men to the field; but as in all large cities there is a population which can well be spared, she had from this source and from immigrants from abroad unfailing additional supplies. The South, on the other hand, had none but her own sons, and she sent and sacrificed the flower of her land.

After dwelling with emphasis and with feeling on this point, the General then introduced another topic which also moved him deeply, viz., the persistent manner in which the leading Northern journals, and the Northern people generally, insisted that the object of the war had been to secure the perpetuation of slavery. On this point he seemed not only indignant, but hurt. He said it was not true. He declared that, for himself, he had never been an advocate of slavery; that he had emancipated most of his slaves years before the war, and had sent to Liberia those who were willing to go; that the latter were writing back most affectionate letters to him, some of which he received through the lines during the war. He said, also, as an evidence that the colored people did not consider him hostile to their race, that during this visit to Baltimore some of them who had known him when he was stationed here had come up in the most affectionate manner and put their hands into the carriage-window to shake hands with him. They would hardly have received him in this way, he thought, had they looked upon him as fresh from a war intended for their oppression and injury. One expression I must give in his own words.
"So far," said General Lee, "from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained." This he said with much earnestness.

After expressing himself on this point, as well as others in which he felt that Northern writers were greatly misrepresenting the South, he looked at me and, with emphasis, said:
"Doctor, I think some of you gentlemen that use the pen should see that justice is done us."

I replied that the feeling engendered by the war was too fresh and too intense for anything emanating from a Southern pen to affect Northern opinion; but that time was a great rectifier of human judgements, and hereafter the true history would be written; and that he need not fear that then injustice would be done him.

As the General was in a talking mood, he would have gone on much further, no doubt, but that at this point his son, General W.H.F. Lee, whom he had not seen for some time, and who had just arrived in Baltimore, entered the room.

John Leyburn.

[Source: Leyburn, J. (1885, May). An Interview with General Robert E. Lee. Century Magazine, The, 30(1), 166-167.]

(All quotes have been italicized & emboldened, with quotes of Lee in red; underlines have been added by me to identify other thoughts of Lee not given as direct quotes. - J. McCleese)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Confederate Memorial Day (Camp #2257)

Confederate Mound, Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago
April 23, 2017

Sunday, 23 April, marked Confederate Memorial Day, and the annual service to honor the 6,229 Southern soldiers who died at infamous Camp Douglas, in Chicago, was held by the SCV’s Camp Douglas 516. Moreover, for the first time in years, Michigan supplied participants in the person of three SCV Camp 2257 members, and making the trip on a sun-shiny, 70 degree day were 7th Arkansas Captain Robert Fragala, Adjutant Duane Peachey, and Jim Perkins.

Approximately thirty people attended the ceremony at Confederate Mound, Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago’s south side which was well organized and officiated by Chicago, Illinois SCV Camp 516. Included in a most impressive service were the opening prayer, the main address given by Camp 516’s Steve Quick, who was dressed as a Confederate naval officer, a three volley salute, and a moving ritual where handfuls of soil from all eleven Confederate States, along with three border states, were ceremoniously scattered along the burial grounds where these Confederate heroes now rest.

Below is the address delivered by Camp 516 Compatriot Steve Quick:
“Once a year we return to this place, this peaceful forgotten corner which conceals the horror of what happened to these men. We come to remember the 27,000 herded through the walls of Camp Douglas and the 6,000 who never left. They rest, literally under our feet in the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere. In a nation which cyclically has a great fascination for our ‘Civil War,’ this place is forgotten. Over three days in 1863 between 5-7K fell in a village named Gettysburg which today draws 1.2 M visitors a year. Look around you, and this is the largest gathering that will be in this place.

"It is precisely because of the intentional amnesia obscuring this “death camp” - that’s what author George Levy called it - that what we do here, what we say here, what we take from here matters so much. These were simple farm boys, literate enough to read their bibles and write letters in their own inventive script. They were enlisted men, many from rustic homes who hunted and fished, plowed behind mules, planted and harvested their own fields. They married young, buried too many of their children and wives in family plots on their own farms. These farms and these families were why they fought, these simple faithful uncommonly courageous men.

"They answered duty’s call as their grandfathers did during the revolution, to preserve the union as it was handed to them, uncorrupted by the unholy alliance of big business and big government. They chose to die here, wasting away rather than take an oath that could have saved their lives. Their deaths were not due to lack of resources, but to intentional deliberate neglect and human cruelty. The silence surrounding their death is wrapped in the same complicity, hoping to preserve a catechism which is neither truthful nor historical.

"The challenge for us today is to remember truthfully, without bitterness. To have the courage to speak of something too many prefer not to hear, to risk the epithets that will certainly be hurled if we dare break the silence and ignorance. Because until the truth of this place is known and their stories have been faithfully told, the work of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks remains undone."

[For more on the historian, you can find him at his website: SteveQuick.org]

- James D. Perkins
Major General Patrick R. Cleburne Camp #2257 (Grand Rapids, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Statement Regarding the Upcoming Flag Burning in Detroit

Compatriots & Friends,

      On Thursday, May 18, 2017, it was reported by the Detroit Metro Times that an "artist," who is moderately known for his bizarre, anti-Confederate displays throughout the nation, will be holding a "Burn & Burial Funeral" ceremony for a replica Confederate flag at an art gallery in the City of Detroit on Memorial Day.

     Late in the evening that same night (May 18), a reporter from a local news station contacted Cmdr. Darron Williams, of Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI), and requested a statement regarding the event, from the Camp, for use on that night's broadcast. Prior to receiving the email from the local reporter, no one in Camp leadership was aware that this event was going to take place. Having only been made aware of it right before the story was to air on television, Camp leadership felt that it was unwise to comment until we knew more about the event, who is putting it on, and what its purpose is intended to be. We have been in further contact with the reporter from the local news station, and he has expressed a willingness to give us a chance to respond sometime before the flag burning event takes place.

     According to the event listing from the art gallery's website, the purpose of this event is "to send a powerful message to the nation, especially under the Trump presidency and alt right politics that the Civil War is over, and the days of the Confederate Flag and white supremacy are numbered."

     The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is a non-political organization, and we do not endorse the use of Confederate symbols in support of any politician or modern political movement. The SCV is also a non-racial organization, and we oppose the misappropriation of Confederate symbols for the purposes of racial intimidation and/or hate. As a patriotic organization, with thousands of U.S. Veterans among our members, we are baffled by the use of Memorial Day for such an event, as that date is set aside by our nation specifically to honor & remember those who have died in the service of the U.S. Armed Forces.

     Unfortunately, there is no legal measure that can stop anyone from hijacking any historic American flag for hateful use, but it is another problem when we give in to the hate & lies, either by becoming hateful OR by letting those consumed by hate set a historical narrative that is factually-deficient. We refuse to let the hate & lies win on either front. We denounce & oppose any group or individual that attempts to use and/or redefine Confederate symbols for their own modern day agenda.

     Millions of living Americans have Confederate ancestors, and a large number of us take much pride in their courage, determination & sacrifice in protecting themselves, their families, their homes, and their home states during the awful, bloody War Between the States. We, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, simply choose to display Confederate flags & symbols in memory of those ancestors and in honor of their military service.

     The SCV is a diverse organization, as the Confederate military was comprised of men from numerous racial & ethnic backgrounds, and the SCV honors all Confederate Veterans who served with honor, without respect to race, ethnicity, or skin color. It would be impossible for us to adequately express how passionately we detest racism, discrimination, oppression, and bigotry, or any group/organization that would seek to promote such things. Our display of Confederate symbols is not intended to promote any of that or offend anyone; we only seek to properly & passionately honor our veteran ancestors, and we see no reason why we would consider Confederate symbols as anything other than historic American symbols of military honor.

- Jonathan McCleese
2nd Lieutenant Commander
Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Monday, May 8, 2017

Camp #2257 at the K-Zoo Living History Show (March 2017)

   The 42nd Annual Kalamazoo Living History Show was, as usual, attended by some 10,000 history enthusiasts, from several states and foreign countries. Meanwhile our SCV Major General Cleburne recruiting booth was tended by various combinations of camp members at one time or another, who answered a variety of questions from many interested prospects.            

    The Confederate battle flag almost always draws attention, which ranges from unconcealed delight, to an occasional look of quiet contempt. Stories of Confederate ancestors and Southern heritage were proudly proclaimed by many a passerby while, conversely, one person informed those who would listen that “the reason Southerners are so mean is due to the slave culture.” Well, perhaps calling someone so misinformed and ignorant a moron is not proper etiquette for a gentleman?

   Nevertheless, the 2017 excursion was a success, as we were visited by a good many young people, Southern sympathizers, and knowledgeable historians. Camp members/friends present included: Mike Lechenet, Jim & Kathy Pendergrass, Dan Stice, Duane Peachey, Henry Hawker, Cody Christensen, Bob Fragala, and Rick Bigham. The Cleburne Camp quarterly meeting was held Saturday afternoon on the Expo Center premises, where it was determined by a unanimous vote that the sixty dollars raised during the weekend will  go toward the plaque for  Private George E. Daft, Company F, 31st Virginia Volunteer Infantry, at the Michigan Military Heritage Museum in Grass Lake.

- James Perkins
Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne Camp #2257 (Grand Rapids, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Confederate Reactions to the Lincoln Assassination

On April 15, 1865, around 7:22 a.m., Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, died after being struck by an assassin's bullet the previous evening.  The following gives the thoughts of three prominent Confederate leaders - President Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee & Adm. Raphael Semmes - regarding the event.
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President Jefferson Davis was working to escape capture by the Yankees when the Lincoln assassination occurred, and did not learn of it until five days after the fatal shot was fired. On April 19th, as The President was about to enter a Charlotte, NC home to take lodging, a telegram from John C. Breckinridge (Confederate general & former U.S. Vice-President) was brought to him, informing him of Lincoln's fate. According to Davis biographer Hudson Strode, Davis was shocked, and had to read it again before handing it off to the person next to him, saying, "Here is a very extraordinary communication. It is sad news."

A column of Kentucky's Confederate Cavalry rode up to the house at that moment, and when someone read the dispatch aloud, one cavalryman shouted in jubilation, but Davis raised his hand to silence any further cheering before entering into the house. Inside, the President commented further to his personal secretary, Burton Harrison, saying, "I am sorry. We have lost our best friend in the court of the enemy."

Also traveling with the President was Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory, who recorded in his diary the following conversation with Davis about the assassination:
"I expressed my deep regret, expressing among other views, my conviction of Mr. Lincoln's moderation, his sense of justice, and my apprehension that the South would be accused of instigating his death. To this Mr. Davis replied sadly, 'I certainly have no special regard for Mr. Lincoln; but there are a great many men of whose end I would much rather have heard than his. I fear it will be disastrous to our people and I regret it deeply.'"

Years later, in Rise & Fall of the Confederate Government, he would reflect on the event by saying, "For an enemy so relentless in the war for our subjugation, we could not be expected to mourn; yet, in view of its political consequences, it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South. [Lincoln] had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity towards the people of the South; his successor was without power in the North, and the embodiment of malignity towards the Southern people."
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On April 24, 1865, reporter Thomas Cook obtained an interview with General Lee, who would summarize the General's words in the New York Herald's April 29th edition. Regarding the Lincoln assassination, Cook wrote: 
"The General considered this event in itself one of the most deplorable that could have occurred. As a crime it was unexampled and beyond execration. It was a crime that no good man could approve from any conceivable motive. Undoubtedly the effort would be made to fasten the responsibility of it upon the South; but from his intimate acquaintance with the leading men of the South, he was confident there was not one of them who would sanction or approve it. The scheme was wholly unknown in the South before its execution, and would have never received the slightest encouragement had it been known; but, on the contrary, the most severe execration.

"I called the General's attention, at this point, to a notice that had been printed in the Northern papers, purporting to have been taken from a paper published in the interior of the South, proposing, for the sum of one million dollars, to undertake the assassination of the President and his Cabinet. The General affirmed that he had never seen or heard of such a proposition, nor did he believe it had ever been printed in the South; though if it had, it had been permitted merely as the whim of some crazy person that could possibly amount to nothing. Such a crime was an anomaly in the history of our country, and we had yet before its perpetration to learn that it was possible of either earnest conception or actual execution."
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Raphael Semmes, the one time Admiral in the Confederate States Navy turned Confederate Army General, was encamped with Southern troops near Greensboro, NC, when word of the assassination reached him on the morning of April 18, 1865. Four years later, in his book, Memoirs of a Service Afloat, Admiral Semmes gives the following thoughts about Lincoln and his killing: 
"[M]y camp was astounded one morning by the report that Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, was dead. He had gone to a small theatre in the city of Washington, on the evening of Good Friday, and had been shot by a madman!

"It seemed like a just retribution that he should be cut off in the midst of the hosannas that were being shouted in his ears, for all the destruction and ruin he had wrought upon twelve millions of people. Without any warrant for his conduct, he had made a war of rapine and lust against eleven sovereign States, whose only provocation had been that they had made an effort to preserve the liberties which had been handed down to them by their fathers. These States had not sought war, but peace, and they had found, at the hands of Abraham Lincoln, destruction.

"As a Christian, it was my duty to say, 'Lord, have mercy upon his soul!' but the devil will surely take care of his memory."
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After Lincoln's assassination, myth-makers masked as historians took the story of this mortal-man and spun the 16th President's tale as if he had been one of Christ's apostles, if not making him out to be a fourth addition to the blessed Trinity. His murder having happened on Good Friday only bolstered their efforts to make him a type of Christ figure. The men quoted above knew differently, however; now, with the blessing of hindsight for those of us willing to look at the actual historical record, we know that Lincoln was nothing less than a tyrant in the same vein as the men who usually come to mind when such a label is used.

I personally view Lincoln's assassination unfavorably; not because he deserved better, but because the South did. It would have been better if he had been charged with war crimes, tried in a court of law, and sentenced for execution. Better still would it have been if, at some time before November 1842, Abe had died from the flu, or been bitten by a poisonous snake, or killed by Native Americans during the Black Hawk War. If you are wondering why I say before Nov. of 1842, it's because Lincoln was married on the fourth day of that month & year, and if he had not lived to see that date then he never would have had a wife to widow or children to leave fatherless... he certainly would not have ever entered the realm of American politics, and thus there would have been no war, and the South would not have suffered as it did during four years of war & the aftermath. Millions of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, relatives & friends would not have had to bury loved ones who died as a result of the unnecessary conflict.

These, of course, are just my own thoughts, and are now added among the millions of others written about the matter for public consumption. Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, and, because history played out the way it did, we here in the Sons of Confederate Veterans exist to tell the truth about that bloody struggle.

- Jonathan McCleese
2nd Lieutenant Commander
Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans