The Peace Jubilee of 1911

The idea started with a letter to the Washington Post. The writer, a Confederate veteran in South Carolina, said there should be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The country, said the veteran, should celebrate the “peace and reconciliation” the nation had enjoyed since the war ended. George Carr Round, a former Union officer living in Manassas, Virginia agreed. He believed the celebration should occur where the war began, in Manassas. He sent telegrams around the country inviting Union and Confederate veterans to Manassas.

Mr. Round, a native of Pennsylvania and raised in New York, practiced law in Manassas. He served on the school board. He built community schools and planted shade trees along the town streets. He had pushed for a national preservation marker where Gen. Stonewall Jackson made his famous stand at the First Battle of Manassas. He was Northern and a Union veteran, but he loved his new hometown.

He persuaded the Governor of Virginia to attend the celebration. Pres. Taft, a native of Ohio, also agreed to come speak. Mr. Round had ribbons sewn up and badges struck for the veterans who would attend. He planned for water, food, and accommodations for thousands of veterans to attend. Three days before the Jubilee in the Summer of 1911, a Grand Army of the Republic chapter in Brooklyn, New York, sent a protest to the President in Washington. They asked the President not to appear if the Confederate battle flag, the stars and bars, were to be flown. The flag known as the “stars and bars” is not the flag adopted and made infamous by the Ku Klux Klan. The “stars and bars” was the first official flag adopted by the Confederate States of America. It was by far the most common flag used by the Confederate military. The Brooklyn chapter of the GAR insisted the President make sure the stars and bars did not fly at what was becoming known as the Peace Jubilee. The Brooklyn GAR insisted the flag should be buried deep and now was the time to put it away forever.

The Manassas Democrat, the local newspaper, editorialized that the Brooklyn chapter missed the point of the Jubilee and of peace itself. The newspaper regretted such sectional feeling at a time when we should be celebrating peace. George Round responded by telegraphing the nation’s wire services assuring them that for every ten square feet of Southern colors, there would be 1000 square feet of Northern colors. He said both blue and gray would be recognized. “The Confederate battle flag (meaning the stars and bars) works beautifully into the prevailing design” (meaning the U.S. flag). Abraham Lincoln loved to hear “Dixie” and “I love to see the battle flag nesting so quietly in the folds of the Stars and Stripes,” he added. George Round was a prophet of peace.

350 former Confederates and 150 former Union soldiers came for the Jubilee. Other than some pickpockets, the celebration went without a hitch. At precisely noon, the ex-Confederates and ex-Union soldiers advanced toward each other across the battle plain. They re-enacted Pickett’s charge. But, this time, as they closed, the opposing forces smiled, shook hands and patted each other on the back. The told tales and agreed the war had been one great “misunderstanding.”

Later that day, they shared fried chicken dinner across large tables As night came, the old men shuffled to camp fires. One old Rebel sang out mournfully, “I’m an old Confederate veteran, and that’s good enough for me.”

Several African-American veterans attended. One told how after the battle, he and other enslaved men were pressed into burying the dead. “I saw lots of wounded men, crying for water. So I took a bucket and filled it and carried water to what I could. There were a lot of soldiers and colored men doing the same thing. There were about as many wounded of one side as the other, but it didn’t make any difference to any of us which side they were. They all got water just the same.” “No sir,” added James Redmond, “I don’t ever want to see any more war.”

Richard A. Serrano, Last of the Blue and Gray  (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books 2013) (reprint), pp. 11-15

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s