Honoring the Confederate soldier
Americans gather during Memorial Day, Pearl Harbor Day and Veterans Day to honor those who serve or have served in the armed forces. We assemble in cemeteries, we hold parades, and we sponsor orations to extol the virtues of sacrifice, duty and honor on behalf of one’s country. Now imagine if there were no country or citizenry to honor our courageous servicemen and women. Imagine there were no parades, no proclamations and no military monuments or cemeteries. This is precisely the situation of the Confederate soldier. He lived, albeit for an abbreviated time, and often died on behalf of a country that did not endure past his military service. No country for old men.
As the Confederate survivors of the war began to die natural deaths, the need to provide proper remembrances and their widows and children with promised pensions became critical. The United Confederate Veterans Association was the earliest group to undertake these tasks. When even the living Confederate soldiers became too feeble to continue the work, the Sons of Confederate Veterans accepted the obligations. In 1906, Lt. General Stephen Dill Lee tasked this successor body with “defending the memory and honor of those who fought.”
In theory, this meant arguing such legal abstractions as “nullification” and “states’ rights.” In practice it meant tending graves, weed eating around long-forgotten markers and providing proper burials for those tossed in mass graves around battlefields. It meant finding small family plots overrun by woods, hog pens or asphalt. Nothing glamorous. Remember, these folks had no country to tend them.
I have been a member of The Sons of Confederate Veterans for 20 years. I have attended over a hundred meetings and not once have I heard a member defend slavery. Not once. Nor have I heard a Son say Black Americans were not his brothers and fellow citizens. Not once. If such a preposterous denial were ever made, I and most of the folks who are members would leave in disgust. Black and white Southerners share a special bond, not of chains, but of heritage and culture, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans know this.
Some in America would say, “These Confederates were nothing but criminals and should neither be remembered nor respected.” If this attitude brings these folks a sense of righteousness and makes them feel courageous and better than others, I would simply suggest their redemption comes at a high price.
Michael A. Scott