Memorials to Problematic Wars

The war was and still is controversial. The United States has engaged in many questionable wars and this was one. A memorial to the participants in that war recognizes the unique nature of their service:

Not for fame or reward

Not for place or rank

Not lured by Ambition

Or goaded by Necessity

But in simple Obedience to duty

As they understood it

These men suffered all, sacrificed all

“Dared all, and died”

No, these words do not commemorate those who fell in the Viet Nam war or the many other questionable wars in which our country has engaged. These words recall the service of Confederates who are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Some 400 Confederates are buried at Arlington. How did Confederates come to be buried at this place of honor? Early in the 20th century, the United Confederate Veterans petitioned to move some 260 buried Confederates to Arlington. In a spirit of fraternity, as time passed the predecessor entity to the Veterans Administration allowed other Confederates to be buried there.

Bleached bones from Shiloh to Corinth

Unlike the Federal soldiers, very few Confederates who died during the war were buried in marked graves. Most of the Confederate KIA’s were buried in slit trenches on someone’s farm or were left to de-compose in the Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi soil. Several years after the war, one Confederate general started an effort to raise money to inter these thousands of remains. He said there were “bleached bones from Shiloh to Corinth.” In 1869, at a dedication of a Federal monument at Gettysburg, Gen. George Meade called for a respectful burial for the Confederate dead. He was reacting to the many news reports of dead Confederates lying openly in forests and in the hills from Corinth, Mississippi to Shiloh, Tennessee.  This Arlington memorial is a reaction to the complete absence of a place where Southern families could recall their loved ones.

Now, the Naming Commission – that is addressing the re-naming of Army posts – is recommending that the Confederate memorial at Arlington cemetery be removed. The memorial was erected in 1914. The Commission believes it espouses Lost Cause beliefs. But, the words recounted above make no reference to a Lost Cause – or to any cause. The memorial itself speaks of sacrifice as the soldiers saw it. The words suggest the soldiers may have been wrong in their belief. That renders the memorial as much anti-Lost Cause as not.

For more about the Confederate memorial, see the Arlington National Cemetery website here.

Memorial to Hood’s Texas Brigade

There is a myth today that Confederate statues and memorials were intended more to commemorate white supremacy than lost loved ones. One can almost appreciate the myth, since so many of the memorials depict one Confederate general or another. But, in fairness, the statues were erected at a time when history was largely viewed as the history of “great men.” Prior to a few ground breaking books like Johnny Reb by Bell Irvin Wiley (LSU Press 1970), social histories were never done. The focus was always on the so-called great men, not the men who slogged through the mud or who bore the brunt of the decisions of the great men.

One of the few Confederate memorials to the average soldier is found in Austin, the memorial to Hood’s Texas Brigade. The memorial started around the turn of the twentieth century. As the veterans of the famed Hood’s Texas Brigade were aging, they talked about erecting a monument to their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their departed brothers. After exhaustive debates and years of fund raising, they agreed the memorial should feature an individual Confederate soldier and that it should make no reference to Jefferson Davis or the Confederate government. As former private, Joe Polley explained, it had to be about their sacrifices alone:

If a medallion of [Jefferson] Davis appears on the monument at all,

it is bound to have the central and most conspicuous place, and the

men and women who when we are dead and gone look at it, will accept

 it as a monument to Davis and the cause he represented, and never

give a thought to the brave men to whose memory alone it should be


The veterans of Hood’s Texas Brigade believed they were the best brigade in the Confederate army. They believed, with much justification, that they represented the best. For decades after the war, they collected their stories and history. Their goal as stated in 1872 was to “collect and perpetuate all incidents, anecdotes, history, and everything connected therewith.” By 1906, they were still working to finalize complete rosters of the original members of the brigade and their eventual fate. The memorial would represent the ultimate remembrance of their time together.


So, it was perhaps surprising that at the unveiling of the monument in 1910, the speakers spoke inaccurately about the role of Southerners throughout American history. According to the speakers, a Southerner had won the War of 1812, the Mexican War in 1846 and was the author of the Monroe Doctrine. The members of Hood’s Texas Brigade rarely engaged in such hyperbole.

Joe Polley was himself a person of some controversy. He did not care for excessive ceremony. In a time when virtually every white man supported the Democratic party, Joe flirted with the Republican party. He was a well-known contributor to the Confederate Veteran magazine. Yet, he was anything but an apologist for the Southern cause. No doubt it helped that the Republican candidate for Texas governor was also a former Confederate veteran. But, Joe Polley supported the Republican in the next gubernatorial election. Joe, who lost a foot at the Battle of Darbytown, was more practical than demagogic. The memorial to Hood’s Texas Brigade reflects that same spirit of honest remembrance.


Susanah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 272-274.

PVT Snuffy and Confederate Memorials

I talked previously about the San Antonio Confederate memorial here. The San Antonio Confederate Memorial, when it still stood, commemorated the service of the common Confederate soldier. In the Army, we refer to the average soldier as “Pvt Snuffy.” The San Antonio memorial did not commemorate a steely-eyed general or some plotting politician. It recalled the average soldier, usually 18-19 years old. In the statute, he grew a mustache, probably to make himself seem older. But, who exactly did our San Antonio Confederate soldier represent?

The folks who raised the funds and designed the statue are long gone. But, we gain some insight when we look at the women behind the statute.

The statue was designed by Virginia Montgomery in 1899. We know from newspaper articles of the time that Virginia was the daughter of Julia Montgomery, a former member of the Daughters of the Confederacy here in San Antonio. Virginia Montgomery – or Jenny as she was sometimes known – was an artist living in New Orleans.

How did Julia end up in San Antonio? Mrs. Julia Montgomery was simply trying to make ends meet. Her husband was John Alfonso Montgomery, a captain in the Confederate army. He enlisted in April, 1862. He enlisted a year after the big rush to join. The more patriotic Southerners generally joined in April-May, 1861, when the war first started. Joining in May, 1862 suggests Capt. Montgomery was not a fervent Southerner. Two years later, he was dropped from the rolls of active soldiers in June, 1864, indicating he was probably wounded and could no longer perform his duty.

Capt. John Montgomery

Capt. Montgomery was a Quartermaster for the 32nd Alabama Infantry regiment. Prior to the war, he was a “cotton merchant” in Mobile, Alabama. “Cotton merchant” is a generic term that probably means he was a cotton broker. Cotton brokers accepted crops of cotton from a planter or farmer and then took the risk of selling it to overseas or New York markets. Cotton brokers earned a good living. They were solidly middle class. It was an occupation, for example, that was generally not open to the Irish and German immigrants of the time. John Montgomery was doing well. That was good, because he and his wife, Julia, had seven children. The youngest child was Blocker Montgomery, born 1861-62. Blocker was Julia’s maiden name.

But, after the war, things turned. John came back from the war “broken in body and fortune.” He returned to Mobile after the war. The family suffered. John was listed with no occupation in the 1870 census. Six years after returning from the war, he was not working. In the 1871 Mobile City Directory, his occupation is simply listed as “merchant.” A description that means nothing for that time period. It is equivalent to describing someone in 2017 as a “businessman.”

A year later, John is a policeman. A year later, he has no occupation. The next year, he is listed as a “cigar dealer.” The next year, he is a clerk. At the age of 50 years old, he is employed as a clerk. The next year, he is not listed in the Mobile City Directory, at all. Like many returning veterans, he could not hold a job. Even worse, every year, the address for the family of nine persons changed. Capt. Montgomery could not even hold onto the family home.

Scattered to the Four Winds

In 1873, Mrs. Julia Montgomery appears in the New Orleans City Directory. That appearance suggests she left Mobile looking for work as a teacher.

The next year, 1877, John, the former captain does not appear. Instead, his son, John A. Montgomery, Jr. is listed. That likely means John, Sr. probably died. And, now surprisingly, his son, 25 years old, is the head of the household. Normally, the widow would be listed as the head of the home and she would be described as the widow. But, Julia does not appear in the 1877 Mobile City Directory. We can only surmise that she was living in New Orleans trying to earn a few dollars.

San Antonio, Texas

Julia was in San Antonio by 1899. She is described in San Antonio papers as a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy here in San Antonio. She is described as someone who has lived in San Antonio for many years. That sort of movement suggests she was moving for work. Year later, she will be described as an educator for some 50 years. It is likely that she moved first to New Orleans and then to San Antonio, looking for work.

Virginia Montgomery

And, where was Virginia during this time? Virginia appears in the 1880 census living with her sister Faith. Faith Montgomery married a farmer, David Dunlap, in upstate Alabama. They were not wealthy. They listed a net worth of $350 in 1880, which was normal for a working class family.

By 1878, John A. Montgomery, the son, disappears from Mobile records. Apparently, he too passed away. The whole family was scattering to the four winds. By 1887, Virginia is living in New Orleans on her own. That was not a common path for young, single women of the time. Single women were not supposed to seek careers. We know she was alone, because other family members who were working would have been listed in the City Directory for the same address. But, no other Montgomery’s appear.

Virginia was listed as an artist. This was a time when female artists were extremely unusual. When she designed the Travis Park monument in 1899, she was described as the first woman to ever design a monument. That could very well be true. In 1899, Virginia designed the Confederate monument for free. So, she was still in touch with her mother in San Antonio.

A New Orleans Suffragette

Julia attained some local fame of her own. She died in 1922. Her lengthy obituary explained she was very active in clubs, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Woman’s Club and others. She was one of the leaders of the suffragette movement in New Orleans. She voted for the first time in her life just two years before – in the 1920 presidential election. She was said to be the oldest voting woman in New Orleans for the 1920 election. When she passed away, her age was given as 99. The 1870 census indicates she was born in 1830.  Regardless, her age was advanced, but he was still very active up to her death.

Bachelor Girl

Virginia acquired some local fame as an artist. In 1930, she wrote a lengthy article for the New Orleans Times Picayune about “Bachelor Girl, A World Leader.” In the article, she explains that a single woman is not “unnatural” and that she can be a “world leader.” Virginia never married. But, she led a full life. In one year, she is mentioned teaching Bible Study to students in Lower Algiers, a working class neighborhood across the river from New Orleans. In another lengthy Times Picayune article, her artistic approach is described. She favors, she said, three watercolors about “Negroes” in their daily lives. Doubtless, Virginia shocked readers again by suggesting African-Americans were appropriate subjects for serious art.

Julia passed away while living with Virginia. The home was and still is located at 7924 South Claiborne. It is a modest home. Nearby is a small park known as Palmer Park. The DAR planted a tree there in honor of Julia.

It is said in a 1911 San Antonio Light article that Julia came up with the concept for the Travis Park monument. That likely means she suggested that it represent a common soldier, not a general. The two women lost a father and husband before his time. For us, the Confederate memorial represented a common soldier. But, for those two women, it likely represented someone whose memory they treasured. Julia and Jenny had their own PVT Snuffy.

The San Antonio Confederate Memorial

The San Antonio Confederate Memorial was removed in 2017. Various politicians, including Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert and City Councilperson Roberto Trevino accused the memorial of racism. Mr. Calvert pointed to the Texas Act of Secession which clearly mentioned slavery. But, Commissioner Calvert did not explain what the Act of Secession had to do with a memorial erected 40 years after that secession act. Truth took a back seat to politics.

The memorial – and it was a memorial. City records long referred to the granite statue as the Confederate memorial. The memorial had these words carved into its granite column and base:


Lest We Forget

Our Confederate Dead


Erected by Barnard Bee Chapter

Daughters of the Confederacy, 1900

Around the front and sides were draped hand-carved granite wreaths. The carving is superb. One expert described the sculptor, Frank Teich, as a “rock star” sculptor of his time. It cost $3,000 to erect in 1899-1900. The women raised the money five and ten cents at a time. But, the cost of sculpting a replacement memorial today would exceed $400,000, according to the expert in Albert Sidney Johnston Chapter v. City of San Antonio, Cause No. SA-17-CV-1072 (W.D. Tex.).


Lest we forget” is a well-known phrase, today. It is the final line in a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling’s poem was first published in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Kipling’s poem, “Recessional,” suggests the British empire will pass one day. But, reliance on God will stand the test of time. The poem warns of a time when all the “pomp of yesterday” recedes. The navies are gone. The achievements of man turn to dust and disappear. Men should be wary of their boasting and pride.

The final stanza from the full poem reads as follows:

God of our Fathers

Known of old battle line,

Beneath whose awful hand, we hold

Dominion over palm and pine

Lord God of Hosts be with us yet

Lest we forget, lest we forget

The poem quickly became popular in the U.S. which had seen so much death just three decades before. The Recessional poem was adopted for many Confederate memorials in this time period. Unlike their Northern antagonists, virtually all Southern boys never saw a proper, marked grave. Few families could visit a grave for their sons and husbands. These memorials took the place of those graveyards.

The memorial included no words about Jim Crow. No words about maintaining a certain social order. Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes this San Antonio memorial as a “symbol of hate and white supremacy.” See SPLC website here.

Bleached Bones from Shiloh to Corinth

As the Civil War progressed, the Union army picked up a new innovation, burying the bodies after a battle. During prior wars, the European armies did what armies had done forever, they focused on the moment and left their dead behind. But, as the civil war commenced in 1861, the Federal government issued an order that each commander would be responsible for burying his dead. Even with this order, the Union forces often buried their dead quickly in graves which were quickly undone.

The Confederate Army issued no such order. Even if they had issued such an order, it is unlikely the Confederates had the resources to bury their dead. After the Battle of Antietam, Matthew Brady took pictures of the dead soldiers. Most of the dead soldiers we see today in his pictures are Confederates. The Northerners had already buried their dead by the time Brady took his pictures. Historian Katherine Jeffrey recounts the story that the retreating Confederate army had rescued the body of one young officer from behind enemy lines, only to leave it lying by the road along with other officers. This occurred during the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and the army was hastily pulling back to Virginia. They Confederate army lacked the wagons necessary to transport even the dead officers to a proper burial.

So, after the war, there were tens of thousands of Southern bones left lying beneath the sun unburied and unremembered. In the North, the federal government had started collecting and burying veterans in 1862. In that year, the federals set up the first veteran burial ground. Prior to 1861, fallen soldiers would have been buried at the post cemetery or in some quick grave on the prairie. But, by 1862, that simple system was quickly overwhelmed. The federal government responded by creating what we know today as national cemeteries for veterans. By 1865, there were some 30 national cemeteries for federal veterans. See National Park Service website here.

After the end of the war. The federal army started the pains-taking laborious process of re-burying the fallen in these new national cemeteries. They did not bury the Confederate dead. The Confederate dead served a different government.

Gettysburg Battlefield

At the Battle of Gettysburg, 5,500 Southern boys were killed or suffered mortal wounds. Some 16,000 were wounded. In the ensuing retreat, hundreds of the wounded were left behind to die a slow, lingering death. Many of the dead lay in the open, to be feasted on by maggots and hogs. Those who received a shallow burial were uncovered by the heavy rains that fell soon after the battle. Two weeks after the battle, Southern bodies could be seen lying all over the battlefield out in the open, under the gray skies. One correspondent wrote:

“Day and night, rain or shine, cold or hot, there they lie. Hour by hour they die off, are carried to the trenches, a foot or two deep, in which they are to lie … and to remain there in continually increasing groups until the parties whose duty it is to come around to tend to their internment. It is awful, it is terrible, it is horrible beyond expression”

The Confederate dead at Gettysburg received a shallow burial or burial in trenches. None were buried in the national cemetery at Gettysburg. See NPS blog entry here.

“In the spring of 1864, there had been scattered calls in the Gettysburg Sentinel to collect the “Rebel remains,” in the name of “a common humanity,” but the pressures and politics of war-time had forestalled such.”

In 1869, at a dedication of a monument at Gettysburg to the Federal dead, Gen. George Meade called for a more respectful burial for the Rebel dead.  As he said, it is usual after a battle to afford the dead, even the enemy dead, a respectful burial. In the end, the different Southern ladies groups managed to re-inter some 3,200 remains to four cemeteries in Southern states from the Gettysburg battle field.

And, what of the other battles? There were dozens of major battles from Virginia to the Red River in Texas to upper Missouri to Southwest Louisiana. Some 450,000 Confederate soldiers died during the war. See Ohio State University eHistory website here.

Wake County, North Carolina

There is no known figure for which or how many of the Confederate dead received a decent burial. Whatever burial the Confederate soldier received was ad hoc. For example, the ladies of Wake County, North Carolina first started making an effort to re-bury the Battle of Gettysburg dead Confederates in 1874. That means, nine years after the war, one group of women in one county made an effort to bury North Carolina bodies which had received a shallow burial at one battle. See University of North Carolina science website here.

Other groups from other states also started making an effort to bury the Gettysburg dead years after the war had ended. But, as the Park Service explains, many farmers did not maintain those shallow graves.  Doubtless, many of those shallow graves had washed away. And, that was just the Gettysburg dead.

Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell conveyed this profound longing in her book, Gone with the Wind. The women of Atlanta fussed vehemently about whether to remove the weeds form the graves of Yankee soldiers, as they did the Southern graves. The two groups were set to engage in open warfare over this issue. Until, the respected Melanie Wilkes spoke up. Melanie exhorted that many women in post-war Atlanta did not know where their boys were buried. Mitchell cited a few examples of one mother who had traveled to Gettysburg to search for her son’s grave and found nothing. Another mother knew nothing more than her son had died somewhere in Ohio. And other mothers who knew nothing other than their sons were listed as missing.

These mothers turned on the esteemed Melanie. They were cut to the core. Ms. Mitchell spoke for Southern mothers everywhere when she wrote, “[t]heir eyes said, “Why do you open these wounds again? These are the wounds that never heal – the wounds of not knowing where they lie.” Melanie won the day. The two groups agreed to beautify the graves of Union soldiers, as they did Confederate soldiers. Melanie reasoned that it was likely Yankee women up north were doing the same with the graves of Confederate soldiers.

Shiloh Battlefield

Confederate dead were left where they fell. The remains might be moved aside to gather the remains of a federal soldier, but not buried. So, advertisements appeared in the newspapers of the day seeking funds for recovering the bones of their deceased loved ones, like this ad:

“The Shiloh Burial Association, formed for the purpose of purchasing a portion of the field, where the gallant Johnson fell, for interring the Confederate dead, whose bones lie bleaching from Shiloh to Corinth, have issued an appeal to the people. The object is to obtain two hundred acres of this sacred soil, fell the timber, make a fence, and plant Osage Orange for a hedge. Contributions may be sent to S.D. Lee at Columbus, or Maj. Upshaw at Holly Springs.”

S.D. Lee was Stephen D. Lee, who served in the Confederate Army. He graduated from West Point. He was not related to Gen. Robert E. Lee. He lived in Columbus, Mississippi after the war. The statement about the bones refers to the thousands of dead from the many battles up and down the Mississippi River valley, from Shiloh, Tennessee down to Corinth, Mississippi and still further south. Mr. Lee helped create the Vicksburg National Park Association which later lead to the creation of the Vicksburg Battlefield Park. Stephen D. Lee died after giving a talk to Union veterans from Wisconsin and Iowa, regiments which he faced during the war. He was very active in planning and organizing veteran reunions.

Only in the early 1950’s, when the number of remaining Confederate veterans could be counted on one hand, were national cemeteries opened to Confederate veterans. Most Southern boys, especially in the western theater were simply left where they fell. So, in the South, those Confederate memorials took on added importance.


West Baton Rouge Sugar Planter, Nov. 24, 1866, p. 2, col. 5

Katherine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 57, 75

Confederate Time Capsules

The Robert E. Lee memorial in Richmond was recently pulled down with no ceremony. It was erected in 1890 on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It was an equestrian statue depicting Lee on his horse, Traveler. Beneath the memorial were two time capsules. Both time capsules were buried within the monument. Now that the memorial has been removed, the two capsules have been uncovered.

One of the Lee statue time capsules included an 1865 Harper’s Weekly article showing a person weeping over Abraham Lincoln’s grave. According to contemporary news articles, there should also a picture of Lincoln lying in his casket. That picture has not yet been uncovered. If found, that would represent a wholly unknown Lincoln picture. But, the second time capsule, a copper box, was found full of water. Many papers in that state will not survive. See AP news report here.

San Antonio

In the Confederate memorial in San Antonio, there was also a time capsule. Within that box was a paper written by a young Harry Hertzberg. Hertzberg was a state senator from San Antonio, who gained renown for attacking the Ku Klux Klan in a speech in 1922. This was a time when the KKK had a great deal of acceptance across mainstream Texas society. It was said the KKK included some 20% of the white businessmen in any given Southern city at the time. See more about Harry Hertzberg here.

Young Mr. Hertzberg was just a student when his paper on Jefferson Davis was selected for inclusion in the San Antonio time capsule.  He was a prominent member of the Jewish community. His family operated the long-time San Antonio business known as Hertzberg Jewelers.

Both the San Antonio memorial and the Lee Memorial were erected by Confederate veterans and by members of the Daughters of the Confederacy. The Daughters of the Confederacy was founded as a way to support destitute Confederate veterans and to remember those who did not return from combat. Erecting memorials across the South lead to the creation of the Daughters of the Confederacy.


San Antonio Daily Express, June 4, 1899, p. 1, col. 3

Undying Devotion to Duty

It is a beautiful hand-carved memorial. The Rapides Parish Confederate memorial asks the viewer to recall those who served in the Civil War from Rapides Parish and did not return. The front or north face is inscribed:

Dedicated to the Confederate soldiers in Rapides parish

Their memory is enshrined

In the hearts of the people

And the record of their

Sublime self-sacrifice as is

Undying devotion to duty in

The same service of the South and

In the proud heritage of

Loyal posterity.

Erectd by the Thomas Overton Moore Chapter

Daughters of the Confederacy

Alexandria, Louisiana


Faithful to our fallen heroes

On the west face appear these words:

Ye kept the faith

‘Twas glorious thus to die

And woman’s love has

Raised a lofty stone,

To tell the truth to

Those who pass by

On the southern face are carved these words:

In loving memory of the

Mothers and sisters and

Sweethearts of the gallant

Soldiers of Rapides

It was the teaching of the

Southern home which provided

The Southern soldier the

Deep foundation of whose

Duty and reliance of God

By the side of every Southern

Soldier, there marched unseen

A Southern woman

And, on the east side appear the stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s poem:

God of our Fathers,

Known of old, battle line,

Beneath whose awful hand, we hold

Dominion over palm and pine,

Lord God of Hosts be with us yet

Lest we forget, lest we forget


Kipling’s poem was first published in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Kipling’s poem, “Recessional,” suggests the British empire will pass one day. But, reliance on God will stand the test of time. The poem warns of a time when all the “pomp of yesterday” recedes. The navies are gone. The achievements of man turn to dust and disappear. Men should be wary of their boasting and pride.

The poem quickly became popular in the U.S. which had seen so many dead just three decades before. The Recessional poem was adopted for many Confederate memorials in this time period. Unlike their Northern antagonists, virtually all Southern boys never saw a proper, marked grave. Few families could visit a grave for their sons and husbands. These memorials took the place of those graveyards.

The memorial includes no words about Jim Crow or maintaining a certain social order. Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes this Rapides Parish memorial as a “symbol of hate and white supremacy.”

Lest We Forget

It is a beautiful war memorial, out of carved granite. The St. Mary Parish Confederate memorial depicts a Confederate soldier at the top of a tall granite shaft. The soldier is at rest with his rifle on the ground.

On the front face appears:



“Lest We Forget”

To the Confederate Soldiers, St Mary Parish,

Who Fought for the Honor of Their

State and Country

This Monument is Erected.”

Nobly They Stood

The Test

Rightly they Earned

Their Rest

On the back is carved:

Erected 1913 Dec, 1913

By the Citizens of the

Parish of St. Mary, Louisiana

In Legend and Lay

Our Heroes in Gray

Shall Forever Live

Over Again For Us

The memorial was erected in 1913. It is situated next to war memorials for World War I, World War II, the Korean war, and the Viet Nam war. It is situated in front of the parish courthouse next to the other war memorials. There are no words regarding state’s rights. There are no words alluding to Jim Crow. 

Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center lists this memorial as a “symbol of hate and white supremacy.” See SPLC website here.

Perceptions Become Reality

Confederate memorials have received plenty of attention in the past few years. Critics say they represent a Jim Crow era and were intended to impose a white supremacy ideology. One blog post addresses an interesting question, why do most Union Civil War memorials not address slavery as a cause of the war? See that blog post here.

I think the answer is that most Union soldiers did not see their service as particularly entwined with the cause of ending slavery. But, the blog author makes a valid point, few Union memorials mention emancipation as a cause of the war and the soldiers’ service.

Memorials erected between 1870 and 1940 were not monolithic. They were not generally produced by some national organization with a national agenda. They were produced at the local level. Individual communities planned, fund-raised and erected these memorials to a war that affected more Americans than any war.

The blog author, Darren Barry, makes a remarkable statement:

In their physical manifestations and their inscriptions, Confederate and Union memorials generally paid nondescript homage to the soldiers who had periled or lost their lives in the war. While many Northern monuments touted guardianship of the Union as the main impetus for war, and Southern monuments conversely pointed to states’ rights, the question of whether or not this was a war to abolish slavery remained unclear.

The author is saying all Confederate memorials espouse states rights. He points to pages 35 to 39 of “Public Art of Civil War Commemoration” by Dr. Thomas Brown, professor of history at the University of South Carolina.

But, those pages do not say what Mr. Barry says they say. What Dr. Brown does say in those pages is that dozens of monuments mention states’ rights or local self-government. Others mention “constitutional government” or “constitutional liberty” as a motivation for the soldiers who were lost. Dr. Brown mentions that “simple obedience to duty” motivated their sons to serve. A “few” monuments borrowed or paralleled a poem by Harrison McKim, engraved on the tomb at Arlington:

Not for pause or reward

Not for place or rank

Not lured by ambition

Or goaded by necessity

But in simple

Obedience to duty

As they understood it

These men suffered all

Sacrificed all

Dared all and died

Yet, Mr. Barry concludes from this passage that Southern monuments – apparently meaning all such monuments – pointed to states rights. I tried to point out the error to the author, Mr. Barry. But, he insisted “few” means only a few monuments mentioned “obedience to duty.” Even so, his post does not say “some” or a “few” mentioned something other than states rights. His post indicates all Southern monuments mention states rights. Having viewed some dozen or more Southern memorials, I know that is not accurate. And, more importantly, for purposes of Mr. Barry’s otherwise fine post, his piece does not accurately reflect Dr. Brown’s writing. Mr. Barry, or someone at the JCWE blog, would not accept my comment to his blog. That is their right. Mr. Barry did reply to my second comment via email. But, his email simply insisted he had cited to Dr. Brown’s pages accurately.

And, thus, perceptions become reality.

In Loving Memory

It is a beautiful war memorial, cast in simple white marble, with the state symbol at the top. The St. Landry parish Confederate memorial is capped with a brown pelican, the state symbol of Louisiana. On the front or west face of the memorial are carved these words:


Fidelis Fortisimis

Erected by

The Louisiana Division of the U.D.C.


Gordon Chapter No. 4070 U.D.C.

Feb. 22, 1920

In Loving Memory

of the

Confederate Soldiers


The Principles of Our Forefathers

And the Heroes in Gray

Consummated by

Our Young Heroes


1861 – 1865

The memorial was erected in 1920, so it appears the women of the two chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy included veterans of War War I. Fidelis Fortisimis translates as “Faith is Strength” There are no words about states rights, slavery or Lost Cause. As with most Union and Confederate memorials, the builders sought to remember those who did not return from war in their best light, without politics.

Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes this memorial as a “symbol of hate and white supremacy.” See SPLC website here.