Friday, May 25, 2018

The 2018 Camp Douglas Memorial Ceremony in Chicago (Part 2)

For the 27th consecutive year, 'Camp Douglas Memorial' Camp #516 (Chicago, IL) hosted the Illinois Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' annual Confederate Memorial Day service at Confederate Mound within Oak Woods Cemetery on the south-side of Chicago, IL. This year, however, was the first time that the event was threatened by protesters.

[In 'Part 1' of this post, I discussed why there are around 6,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Chicago, and how the monument at Oak Woods Cemetery came to be. If you have not read it, you can go to it by clicking HERE.]


The annual observance held by the Illinois SCV was scheduled to be held on April 22, 2018, and the date was set well in advance. The information regarding the location, date & time was also made public on social media.

On Thursday, April 5th (17 days before the Confederate Memorial Service at Oak Woods), news broke that a coalition of self-proclaimed "anti-racist organizations and individuals" was planning to protest the ceremony; furthermore, this group is calling for the removal of the grave-marker that stands over the mass-grave site containing the remains of nearly 6,000 Confederate prisoners of war, and for it to be replaced with a monument for Ida B. Wells (an African-American investigative journalist, educator, feminist, and early leader in the Civil Rights Movement), who is buried in a different section of the very large cemetery.

The location of Confederate Mound within Oak Woods Cemetery
An officer of Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI), SCV, saw the story in his newsfeed and immediately contacted the Illinois Division to inform them of the protest, and a line of communication was opened with Matthew Evans, Commander of 'Camp Douglas Memorial' Camp #516 (Chicago, IL), SCV.

The very thought or idea that anyone would protest a memorial service at the mass-grave of American military veterans is beyond the pall. Thankfully, the monument and the gravesite that it marks is under the protection of the federal government, through the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs & the National Cemetery Administration. The proper authorities were alerted by Cmdr. Evans to insure that this memorial service could be conducted in peace and that the gravesite (and all monuments & ornamentation pertaining to it) would be protected from anyone who might seek to damage or desecrate it in any way.

Confederate Mound at Oak Woods Cemetery (Image Credit: SCV Camp #1321)
Cmdr. Darron Williams (Camp 1321) & Cmdr. Jim Perkins (Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne Camp #2257 [Grand Rapids, MI] were informed about the possible protest the same day the Illinois Division was initially contacted. The decision was made by both Michigan camp commanders, separately, to organize compatriots from their respective camps to make the trip out.

The Michigan contingent that made the trip out to Chicago on April 22 consisted of the following:
(Camp #1321) Cmdr. Darron Williams, 1st Lt.Cmdr. George Calder & 2nd Lt.Cmdr. Jonathan McCleese; (Camp #2257) Cmdr. Jim Perkins, Adj. Duane Peachey & Robert Fragala.

The Memorial at Confederate Mound (Image Credit: SCV Camp #1321)

Cmdr. Darron Williams paying his respects (Image Credit: SCV Camp #1321)
Members of Camp #1321 got an extra early start on the road, partially because the navigator (yours truly) didn't factor a time zone change into our plans, so we naturally arrived at the cemetery extra early. This was a good thing, as it gave us a chance to experience visiting the gravesite in peace & serenity; only one other person was there when we arrived. Nearly an hour was spent examining the monument & other memorial decorations, photographing everything and taking in the fact that about 6,000 Confederate soldiers were at rest beneath the ground around us. Realizing that the ceremony would not start for another 2 hours, we decided to leave the cemetery briefly for a bite to eat and to drive around the south-side of Chicago... which isn't much different than the south side of Detroit.

Upon our arrival back to the cemetery shortly after 10:00 a.m. (CST), we found that protestors had arrived and were hanging around at the cemetery entrance and that there were plenty law enforcement officers on hand to keep an eye on the day's events. We drove back to the monument to find that there were also plenty of people there to honor the brave Southern soldiers buried there, plus more law-enforcement officers and a smattering of folks from the media. The hour before the service was spent talking to new friends that we were meeting, many of them compatriots in the SCV and some being descendants of men who were buried in the mound. It was a pleasure to connect with them all.


The ceremony began shortly after 11:00 a.m. (CST) with greetings and an introduction from Jim Barr, Commander of the Illinois Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Cmdr. Barr then continued by giving a brief history of the Confederate Mound Memorial at Oak Woods Cemetery before reading from the Order for the Burial of the Dead of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.

Jim Barr, Commander of the SCV's Illinois Division (Image Credit: SCV Camp #1321)
Upon the conclusion of the reading of the burial rites, the speaker's position was handed to Cmdr. Matthew Evans of 'Camp Douglas Memorial' Camp #516. Cmdr. Evans began his opening remarks by thanking the visiting camps & reenactors for coming out before introducing himself and delivering the following address....
We're not here today to debate causes of the "civil war"; those can be found in a book, preferably outside of a high school or college class. We gather here today to pay honor to these men behind me, who suffered and died in a land foreign to them.

Not much is known about Camp Douglas and the impact it had on a Confederate soldier. This mound behind me - that shows the impact [that] Camp Douglas had on them. Old men, young men, fathers & sons from all kinds of backgrounds passed through the gates of Camp Douglas. This mound is the only thing left of them. It's no monument; it's a memorial - it's a headstone. The soldier fixed atop of that column you see there watches over these men.

Matthew Evans, Cmdr. of SCV Camp #516 (Image Credit: SCV Camp #516)
[On] April 15, 1861, Lincoln called up 75,000 men to invade the independent Southern states. This act prompted the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee & Arkansas to secede, joining the newly formed country - The Confederate States of America. This began the bloodiest war in our country's history. Southern states called upon their sons, some who lie here with us today, to do their duty to defend their state, their homes and their families. These men went to do their duty, not as aggressors or in the spirit of conquest. Despite the hardships endured by the Confederate soldier, they continued to do their duty; despite it all the Confederate soldier prevailed in most major conflicts, even if victory was not at hand.

Nearly 258,000 Confederate soldiers would die on the field of battle, in hospitals, and POW camps, like Camp Douglas. They died protecting what they loved the most - family. They fought bravely and nobly against overwhelming forces & odds; they suffered hardships that many of us will never know or experience today. They were called to do their duty as Americans, as fathers, as sons, brothers and loved ones, serving without hesitation.

What we owe these men today, and the many thousands of Confederate soldiers buried across this country, is to make sure the truth is told, not only about the war, but of their struggles.

NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO FIGHT FROM THEIR GRAVE. Today, their voice is now our voice. These soldiers aren't just names on a board or on a headstone; they're our ancestors... our heroes... a piece of our family. Without hesitation or question, all of these men deserve respect, honor & dignity from each one of us today. DEO VINDICE!
Cmdr. Evans then stepped away from the speakers position and stood beside the honor guard as they fired a gun salute.

The Confederate Memorial Guard (Image Credit: SCV Camp #1321)
DivCmdr. Barr then came back to give recognition to the presence of  Michael Pierpoint, 1st Lt.Cmdr. of the Illinois Division of the SCV, and then proceeded to introduce Harry Reineke IV, Past Commander of Camp #516.

Harry Reineke IV [Past Commander, Camp #516] & Michael Pierpoint [1st Lt.Cmdr. of the IL Div. SCV] (Image Credit: SCV Camp 1321)
P-Cmdr. Reineke led the final act of this beautifully organized ceremony - the spreading of the sacred southern soil over the burial mound. Jars of soil obtained from each of the Confederacy's 13 states their territories were presented. For each one, P-Cmdr. Reineke would randomly select a jar, read the name of the state from which that soil came from, and then permit anyone in attendance to come up and spread some of that state's sacred soil over the mass grave. Participants in spreading the Southern soil included Cmdr. Williams, 1st Lt.Cmdr. Calder & 2nd Lt.Cmdr. McCleese from Camp #1321 & Cmdr. Perkins from Camp #2257. The conclusion of this very special portion of the ceremony also served as the close of the event.


As it regards the efforts of those who had stated their intention to "protest" the memorial service, it was a total failure. According to the media, there were about 50 protesters in total and about 40 on hand to honor the Confederate's buried there. Thanks to the efforts of law-enforcement on hand to keep the peace & the federal authorities on hand to protect their property, we almost did know that the protesters were there. We left the cemetery as safely as we'd entered it, driving right past our "opposition" on the way out. There were several stories about it all in the local media the next day, and I'm sure that they were disappointed in the lack of controversy.

Past-Commander Reineke with the Michigan SCV Compatriots (Image Credit: SCV Camp #516)

Our goal on that Sunday morning was to honor our brave men & boys in gray who paid the ultimate price in a land far from home as prisoners of war, and do so in peace; we had no intention of offending or harming anyone in any way. Despite what some (the media & the workers of hate & division) may have hoped for, with thanks to God we can say that we won the day because the ceremony went off without a hitch and everyone was able to go home without any incident.

The praiseworthy efforts of Cmdr. Matthew Evans cannot be overstated. His calm, yet firm resolve and level-headed decision making during such a time are largely the reason that this all played out as it did. He is a credit to the organization, and it was a pleasure to meet him and to serve under his direction in support of the Illinois Division & Camp #516 that day.

On behalf of the Michigan compatriots who attended, many thanks go out to the IL Division & Camp #516 for the hospitality that they showed to us - before, during & after the event. It was our honor to be a small part of the wonderful ceremony they put on and, if the Lord is willing, we'll get to serve with them again in the future.

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

Friday, May 4, 2018

The 2018 Camp Douglas Memorial Ceremony in Chicago (Part 1)

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, for the 27th consecutive year, 'Camp Douglas Memorial' Camp #516 (Chicago, IL) hosted the Illinois Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' annual Confederate Memorial Day service at Confederate Mound within Oak Woods Cemetery on the south-side of Chicago, IL. This year, however, was the first time that the event was threatened by protesters.

Before I go into the details of the memorial service and the events leading up to it, let's take a look at why there are around 6,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Chicago, how the monument at Oak Woods Cemetery came to be and what the 'Confederate Mound' memorial actually consists of.


     The history of Camp Douglas, a Union prison camp where tens-of-thousands of Confederate prisoners of war were deliberately mistreated, malnourished and tortured, can not be adequately told here. You should know, however, that over 6,000 Confederate POWs died there due to deplorable conditions & intentionally cruel Union war policies. (See approximate location of Camp Douglas in relation to the present day aerial view, with and without modern street names, in the image below.)

     While the prison camp did have two small cemeteries on it's grounds, most of the Confederate dead were originally buried in Chicago's old City Cemetery (located at present day "Lincoln Park"). Several administrative factors after the war forced the U.S. Federal government to find a permanent burial ground for the remains of those who died at Camp Douglas. A lot within Oak Woods Cemetery was selected, and the remains of the Confederate dead were reinterred there, between 1865-1867, in three concentric trenches within an elliptical plot. Once completed, they had inadvertently created what is believed to be the largest mass-grave in the western-hemisphere. The lot became known as "Confederate Mound." (See image below to get an idea of the location of 'Confederate Mound' within the cemetery and the size of the plot.)

     After removal of the Confederate remains to Oak Woods Cemetery was completed, the U.S. government took no role in maintaining the mass-grave plot for more than thirty years; The Oak Woods Cemetery Association cut the weeds twice per year. According to the National Cemetery Administration, no markers or memorial were initially placed on the lot, and none would be for nearly three decades.

     In 1887, the Ex-Confederate Association of Chicago, largely thanks to the efforts of a former "resident" of Camp Douglas named Thomas P. Longwood, obtained permission from the U.S. Army Quartermaster, Brigadier-General Samuel B. Holabird, to erect a grave monument within the bounds of Confederate Mound. John C. Underwood, a former Confederate engineer who served at the time with the title of "General" in the 'Provisional Army of the North' of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), was placed in charge of raising funds for the monument by UCV Camp #8 of Chicago in 1892, and was granted permission to erect the monument in May of the next year.

John C. Underwood, as he appeared during the War years and then in the mid-1890s.
     In a lavish, yet somber affair of martial pomp & circumstance, the monument to the 6,000+ Confederate dead of Chicago was dedicated on Memorial Day - May 30, 1895. An estimated crowd of 100,000 were on hand for the occasion, and such a large number of floral arrangements were sent from the South to decorate the site that it required multiple train cars to transport them all into the city. Among the many political officials, military dignitaries and prominent citizens who were present at Oak Woods Cemetery that day was sitting U.S. President, Grover Cleveland, who was accompanied by members of his cabinet.

Confederate Mound as it appeared in 1895.
     Of course, a large number of Confederate veterans came up north to be present for the ceremony, including Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, Gen. James Longstreet, Gen. Stephen D. Lee, Gen. Matthew C. Butler, Gen. Henry Heth, Gen. Samuel French, Col. William Lowndes Calhoun, Col. Henry Kyd Douglas & Maj. Holmes Conrad.

Maj.Gen. Fitzhugh Lee
Lt.Gen. Stephen D. Lee
Lt.Gen. James Longstreet
Maj.Gen. Matthew C. Butler
Maj.Gen. Samuel French
Maj.Gen. Henry Heth
Maj. Holmes Conrad
Col. William L. Calhoun
Col. Henry Kyd Douglas
     Speeches at the ceremony included introductory remarks by Cpl. John C. Underwood (Commanding Officer of the UCV's Army of the North), a prayer by Rev. Joseph Desha Pickett (Chaplain of Kentucky's "Orphan Brigade" in the Confederate Army), the dedicatory oration by Gen. Wade Hampton, and a memorial poem by Maj. Henry Thompson Stanton.

Rev. Joseph Desha Pickett                    Maj. Henry Thompson Stanton
Lt.Gen. Wade Hampton delivering the dedicatory address on May 30, 1895


-The Monument-
     "The monument ... was constructed by the Southern Granite Company of the widely known 'Pear' granite from it's quarries at Constitution Hill, Ga."

     "The lower base or platform is fifteen feet six inches square, upon which are laid three other bases; and, on the front of the center one, cut in raised and polished letters of bold outlines, are the words, 'Confederate dead.' The upper base is adorned with a series of rich mouldings and on the front of this stone is placed an enlarged model of the well-known Confederate seal..."

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
     "The 'die' of the monument is made of one massive stone...; on the front is the inscription and on the other three sides are placed artistic bronze panels."

Confederate Mound in 1895
     "[T]he column is over thirty feet high, [and] the total height of the monument, including the statue, is nearly forty feet."

-The Statue-
     "The statue is over eight feet high, is that of a Confederate infantryman, and every old soldier will recognize the figure as that of a typical Confederate as he appeared at the close of the war. He stands with folded arms looking down in regret upon the field where hosts of his comrades sleep; with travel-stained clothing and shoes worn, he is the picture of one who has suffered many hardships and whose defeat has been accomplished only after a bitter struggle. He has on the usual accoutrements of the soldier, and his face is typical of southern manhood.

Image: c. 1895
     "This statue is true to nature and perfect in detail, even to the placing of the trousers within the socks to guard against dust a common practice with Confederate infantry.

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
     "The figure represents the soldier after the surrender, is without military arms, very impressive in its silent dignity, easy and natural in its pose and readily conveys the story of the past."

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
-The Panels-
     "The panel on the east represents the 'Call to Arms' at the beginning of the Confederacy and is a very striking scene, one that relates the story at a glance. Here is displayed the front of an old style courthouse, with the numeral 1860 over the door. On one side of the door a southern volunteer in uniform is represented, on the other a number of persons flocking to the entrance are seen, some of them going in. Figures representing men in various conditions of life, the laborer, artisan and professional man are depicted as they are hastening from their avocations, encouraged by their wives and daughters, to enroll themselves beneath the southern battle cross, for the 'call' has gone forth throughout the length and breadth of the south and amid wild and sectional enthusiasm all classes rush to the aid of their country. Many a grizzled veteran gazing at this sculptured bronze picture in these later and quieter days will mentally recall the beginning of the arduous struggle, which has no parallel in history.

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
     "The panel on the west [titled, "Veteran's Return Home"] represents an extremely pathetic picture. It is the return of the soldier to his home. The realism thrown into this scene is wonderful. In the foreground of the medallion is an unarmed Confederate soldier in rude and picturesque garb, leaning on a hickory staff cut on his way returning from the 'front,' whose attitude reveals deep dejection. He is gazing upon a dismantled log cabin and sorrowfully thinking of the past. The broken door lies extended across the deserted threshold, part of the roof has been carried away by a round shot, wild ivy has grown up and run over a corner, and the house of his youth is a ruin. Solitude is pictured everywhere, and even the birds are seen deserting the desolate surroundings of the soldier's destroyed home. Near by lies a discarded cannon and war debris, and the sun, slowly declining in the west, by its departing rays furnishes an appropriate setting to the picture, and lends completion to the idea sought to be expressed by the deft hand of the sculptor, that of a lighted hope and a ruined substance, portraying the cause that is lost.

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
     "The panel on the south side of the 'die' is entitled 'A Soldier's Death Dream,' and is an allegorical picture, representing a "private" who, having received a mortal wound on the field of battle, has crawled beneath the sheltering branches of a tree to die. The bronze design further represents a field earthwork and stockade, with a gun silently frowning through an embrazure, and a dead horse lying near by. The moonbeams disclose the dismantled fortification, and in the soft half-light of the distance a battlefield stretches away. The wonderful feat of working the moonlight into this scene has been done by the artist with rare accuracy. The deathly stillness of the after-battle picture is made more vivid by the drooping flag and the night effect produced by the pale rays of the waning moon, shining through clouds, and the hovering of a vampire bat, as an imaginary ghoul, over the hero remains of the dead soldier.

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]

     "On the north face the following inscription is worked in incised letters upon a polished granite panel: ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF THE SIX THOUSAND SOUTHERN SOLDIERS HERE BURIED, WHO DIED IN CAMP DOUGLAS PRISON, 1862-5."

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
 -The Cannons & Ordnance-

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
 "These four cannon, being guns captured from the Union forces in the battles of Murfreesboro and Chickamauga, and afterward manned by the Confederates and fought on the southern side in the battles of Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Dalton, Kennesaw mountain, Peachtree creek, Atlanta and Franklin, were finally recaptured by the Federals in the battle of Nashville and subsequent engagements. It constitutes a field battery of light artillery of distinguished battle record and is here permanently parked, never again to belch forth deadly missiles in horrible splendor of war."

Image from the May 1895 Dedication
Image from the May 1895 Dedication

***CONFEDERATE MOUND: 1895 - 2018***

     In the immediate years after the dedication ceremony, Confederate Mound would sit largely undisturbed, and mostly uncared for. The local Confederate veterans group did not have the funds to maintain the site, and the U.S. government seemed unwilling to furnish the funds. A report in 1889 describes the mound in poor condition; in just four short years the marshy land surrounding the mass-grave had been raised, leaving Confederate Mound as a "low & depressed piece of ground." A solution was devised that would see the center of the mound, where the monument is located, raised up.

     On March 9, 1906, the U.S. Congress passed Public Act No. 38, which authorizes, "to provide for the appropriate marking of the graves of the soldiers and sailors of the Confederate army and navy who died in Northern prisons and were buried near the prisons where they died, and for other purposes." This led to federal commissioners floating the idea of installing flat, individual grave markers around the mound for each soldier interred there, but this proposal was never accepted. As a compromise that all parties could agree to, it was decided in 1910 that the existing 1895-monument would be raised and placed on a new base, affixed to which would be bronze plaques bearing the names of 4,275 known Confederates buried there. The work was completed before the end of 1911.

[Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018]
      For more than 100 years, Confederate Mound has remained virtually unchanged in it's appearance. Since the early 1990's, the men of 'Camp Douglas Memorial' Camp #516 (Chicago, IL) and the Illinois Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have held a memorial service at the mound without controversy until this year.

[The second half of this story will be published in the coming days. Stay tuned...]
- Jonathan McCleese
2nd Lieutenant Commander
Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

- ['FEDERAL STEWARDSHIP OF CONFEDERATE DEAD' (E-Book) by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2016)]
- [CHICAGO MAGAZINE (Online): How the South Side Came to House a Not-So-Controversial Confederate Memorial]
- [NPS.GOV: Confederate Mound at Oak Woods Cemetery]
- [WIKIPEDIA: Camp Douglas (Chicago)]
- All historical imagery, including those of the monument & it's dedication from 1895, the portraits of the Confederate officers, and the historic quotations have been used from Underwood's 1896 book.
- All images marked [Image Credit: J.M. McCleese; 2018] are the property of Jonathan McCleese, and may be used without permission by any individual or organization that seeks to honor Confederate Veterans and their cause of Southern Independence, provided that recognition is given to Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI), Sons of Confederate Veterans; all others seeking to use these images must seek permission.

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:]

- 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