The Venerable Hon. Charles Le Poer Trench

The Venerable Honorable Charles Le Poer Trench died in 1839. He was son of the Earl of Clancarty. The Trench family’s great house was located in Garbally, just outside Ballinasloe, in eastern Co Galway. The home is now St. Joseph’s college. Visit this site here to see a picture of Garbally Park (house).

Rev. Trench was the Vicar for the Church of Ireland parish in Ballinasloe for many years and was also Archdeacon of Ardagh. As Archdeacon, he was responsible for supervision and discipline of clergy. Another Trench relative was the last Protestant Archbishop of Tuam for the Church of Ireland. The Trench family erected this beautiful memorial to him when he passed. According to the plaque mounted at the base, the funds for the memorial were raised through subscriptions “of all ranks and religious distinctions.” See Irish Aesthete post here.

Some of the local folks believe this is a monument to the Earl of Clancarty’s pack of hunting dogs built during the Famine when folks were starving. The plaque is in Latin, so it is not surprising that many people do not know what it says. If they could read it, they would see that the memorial was erected years before the famine. For more about the Trench family and the Earls of Clancarty, see Ask About Ireland here.

During the Great Famine of the 1840’s, the Trench family refused to conduct mass evictions, as some landlords did. But, one Earl established free public schools and required tenants to send their children. But, the Earl also required that Protestant religion be taught. The family established a Bible study in Ballinasloe. The family was said to use physical force when proselytising. The Earls did not allow sub-tenants, which often lead to the predatory practices of middleman sub-lessors. If they were evangelical in their religious views, they were also fair-minded landlords.

During the Great Famine of the 1840’s, the Trench family refused to conduct mass evictions, as some landlords did. But, one Earl established free public schools and required tenants to send their children. But, the Earl also required that Protestant religion be taught. The family established a Bible study in Ballinasloe. The family was said to use physical force when proselytizing. The Earls did not allow sub-tenants, which often lead to predatory practices by middleman sub-lessors. If the Earls of Clancarty were evangelical in their religious views, they were also fair-minded landlords.

The Trench family legacy was mixed. Yet, the Protestant memorial remains in a town that is now much more Catholic than back in 1839. The American South is not the only place where memorials to a distant past remain despite changing populations. I visited the Charles Trench memorial in 2019 and found it neglected, but otherwise in wonderful condition. A memorial to a distant time and once cherished relationships.

Suffragettes and Confederate Memorials

The Confederate Memorial in San Antonio was erected in 1900. The Daughters of the Confederacy devoted three years to raising nickels, dimes and quarters for a memorial to remember those who fell. In San Antonio, Julia Montgomery, one of those Daughters, developed the concept for the statue. That probably means she suggested that the statue depict a common soldier, not some famous general. Julia’s biological daughter, Virginia, then drew the plans for the memorial.

Virginia, also known as Jenny, was an artist then living on her own in New Orleans as an artist. It was said that Virginia was the first woman to design a monument in the U.S. That the two Montgomery women were so involved in the development of the Confederate memorial suggests they had some personal interest in the memorial. In fact, the husband of Julia and father of Virginia, was Capt. John Montgomery, a Quartermaster for the Confederate army. It was said that Capt. Montgomery came back from the war war “broken in body and fortune.”

John Montgomery lived with his family in Mobile before the war. He earned a good living as a “cotton merchant.” That means he was probably a commission merchant, who sold cotton crops for a percentage. After the war, he did not work at all for some time. In 1871, he was listed simply as a “merchant.” A year later, he was a policeman. Still later, he was unemployed again. Later, he was a cigar dealer. A year later, at the age of 50, he was simply a clerk. By 1877, he disappears from public records. By 1880, his four children and wife are scattered to the four winds. Who knows where his wife, Julia, is. In 1873, she appeared in the New Orleans directory working as a teacher.

John likely died before 1877. All semblance of family normalcy was long gone by the time he died. In some eyes, he might have appeared to be a failure. But, one daughter and his wife did not think so. They dedicated themselves to erecting a memorial in his honor and in memory of all Confederate dead.

Julia ended up in San Antonio working as a teacher by the 1890’s. By the early 1900’s, Julia was living in New Orleans with Jenny. She attained some local fame. Julia 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. 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. When she passed away, her age was given as 99.

Virginia wrote a lengthy article in the New Orleans Times Picayune titled: “Bachelor Girl, A World Leader.” A “bachelor girl” could lead a fulfilling life in 1930 without having a family, insisted the artist. Among her favorite subjects at the time for her watercolors were “Negroes” in their daily lives.

World War I Memorial Arch Defaced

A World War I Memorial in New Orleans has been defaced. Three other statues were also recently defaced in New Orleans. But, the other three had some connection, however distant, to the Confederate States of America. See news reports here. The assault on the World War I memorial did not attract news interest from any news source. BLM appears to have inspired the assaults.

The George Washington statue in New Orleans – outside the main library – was also defaced by BLM. See WWL news report here.

Civil War Soldiers, North and South, Motivated by Patriotism

Why did the Southern and northern soldiers fight? If we could survey both sides, what would be the results? We cannot survey those soldiers now. They are long gone. Dr. James McPherson conducted a survey of sorts. In For Cause and Comrade by James McPherson (Oxford Univ. Press 1997), Dr. McPherson did the next best thing to a survey. He looked at personal letters and diaries of both Union and Confederate soldiers to ask the fundamental question, what motivated them to join, and then to say in a very harsh military service.

Dr. McPherson reviewed the personal letters and diaries of some 400 Confederate soldiers. He looked at the contemporary correspondence and diaries of some 647 Union soldiers and 429 Confederate soldiers. In his career, he explains that having looked at perhaps 25,000 such records, he believed this was a representative sample. For Cause, p. viii. Dr. McPherson is a well known Civil War historian. He received a Pulitzer for his book, Battle Cry of Freedom.

As a combat veteran I can attest that the willingness to endure hardship and danger is not an easy choice. As Dr. McPherson mentions, once the choice is first made, the typical combat soldier is forced to re-examine his choice at least two more times, once after his first battle and then again when/if he re-enlists. So, the average Confederate soldier had to choose to risk his life and the lives of his family (because life in a rural society without the men was extremely hard) not once, not twice, but three times.

According to Dr. McPherson’s study, some 57% of Confederate soldiers espoused patriotic fervor for the South. That is, their service was motivated by patriotism. For Cause, p. 102. Some 20% of Confederate service members espoused pro-slavery views during the war. For Cause, p. 110. The number of Union soldiers who espoused anti-slavery views was much higher. As the author explains, slavery was a political issue among the Union army. It was discussed and debated more. It was not such an issue among the Confederate army. So, perhaps, if there was more actual debate, then the pro-slavery view might have bene higher among Confederate soldiers. But, the point remains, if they fought to maintain slavery, as some suggest, they did not discuss it much.

Compare that result to some 62% of union soldiers who mentioned a sense of patriotism as their motive for serving.

That gibes with my family’s experience. One ancestor, Luke Hart, Irish Catholic, served in Hobby’s Regiment in Galveston, which saw little combat. He left after some months, deserted. Later, he raised his own cavalry company and went off to the war, making it as far as Louisiana before the war ended. Luke Hart made the choice to serve at least twice, once at his expense. Yet, in 1860, his home, San Patricio County, only had some 100 slaves. Their economy was ranching, not cotton.

Many Southerners fought to avoid enslavement by the North. They believed the North sought to subjugate the South in some way. For Cause, p. 21. Many enlisted to defend their home from the invading Yankees. For Cause, at p. 22.

John Mitchel, the Irish rebel and editor for a time of two Richmond newspapers during the war, insisted the North was seeking to subjugate the South as Great Britain had subjugated Ireland. The Republican party was the heir of the remnants of the Know Nothing Party. Most Irish suspected the Republican party of harboring anti-Irish and anti-immigrant sentiment at the time.

One million Confederate soldiers did not fight solely for the right to maintain slavery. That would be a big stretch. Yes, some contemporary documents make it clear that several states seceded to maintain slavery, among many other listed reasons. But, it is doubtful any soldier actually read those documents. Soldiers don’t contemplate these things. Serving your country – or state – is not a political act.

On May 18, 1865, one 1LT William T. Mumford went to the home of my ancestor’s aunt in New Orleans. Entertained by the ladies, likely, including my GGG grand-mother, the lieutenant spoke the words all veterans would like to utter when s/he first returns home, “we could not have received a warmer reception. . . . The New Orleans ladies shall long be remembered for their devoted patriotism.” My GG grandfather likely met his future wife that day.

Consider the persons likely present at that gathering. William Agar and his wife, Theresa. Their cousin, Dick Price, was a captain in the First Louisiana Heavy Artillery Regiment. This author’s ancestor, 1LT George P. Crane served in the same regiment, as did 1LT Mumford. Theresa was sister to Anastasia Crane Chism. The Crane/Chisms lived next door to the Agars. Living a block away was Theresa’s other sister, Katherine and her husband, Edward Rice. George P. Crane likely met his future wife, Katherine Judson, at this gathering. Katherine Judson was daughter to Mills Judson, a well-known and well-love merchant and banker in New Orleans. Mills was a native of Connecticut. Cyrus Chism, husband to Anastasia, was born in Maine.

William Agar and Edward Rice were both commission merchants. They sold crops for a commission. They were heavily dependent on rice, sugar and some cotton crops. Cyrus Chism sold bags and ties, often for rice crops. Mills Judson was deeply involved in general New Orleans business. By the time of 1LT Mumford’s visit, all the men and their families had gained considerable wealth from the slave based economy. William Agar, Edward Rice, and the three sisters, Theresa, Anastasia and Katherine were Irish born. Everyone present for that gathering were looking at economic ruin. Everyone present were likely to lose everything they had gained. Yet, Mumford records in his diary no whining about the loss of slavery and the slave based economy. Instead, his one mention is the of the “patriotism” of the ladies.

Folks claim the confederate memorials represent Jim Crow and an attempt to intimidate blacks. But, that was not the case in San Antonio. At the dedication of the Confederate memorial in 1900, John H. Reagan spoke. Judge Reagan had been the Postmaster General of the Confederacy. After the war, he urged reconciliation between the North and the South. They called him the “Old Roman” for his efforts to make peace between the two regions. Later, he became the first head of the Railroad Commission in Texas and was noted for his opposition to the unbridled power of the railroad.

If the Confederate soldiers fought to maintain slavery, they never expressed that motive – not in their letters, not in their diaries, not in their first gathering after the war, and 40 years later, not when they erected their memorials.

Confederate Memorials Remember Those Who Fell

Cary Clack, usually a careful and thoughtful writer, penned a piece recently regarding Confederate memorials. His piece betrays a superficial understanding of Confederate memorials. See his opinion piece here in the San Antonio Express News. Mr.  Clack argues that the Civil War was primarily caused by slavery, as though someone disagrees with him. Not even Pres. Trump has claimed the civil war was not about slavery.

The Confederate memorials were largely erected by women. According to Kelly McMichaels’ book, “Sacred Memories,” of the 65 Confederate memorials which used to stand in Texas, about 50 were erected by women. A couple of those were started by male veterans of the war, but they could not get it done. The women had to step in and raise the necessary funds. Why were women so successful at a project the men could not accomplish? Dr. McMichaels suggests women were the “rememberers.” They were the ones most likely to safeguard the small things of a lost loved one.

The money for these memorials was raised ten, twenty-five, and fifty cents at a time over years. Mr. Clack engages in stereotypes to suggest the memorials were erected in the early 1900’s when Jim Crow laws were becoming common. Mr. Clack essentially suggests all white folks were trying to diminish the black man. So, these statues must share the same motive. Mr. Clack does not mention that this was also a time when many Civil War veterans on both sides were dying. The union veterans erected their memorials about the same time. Both sides generally purchased their memorials and statues from the same sources.

Neither does Mr. Clack mention that in a time when women could not work, could not vote, and often could not own property, they were raising the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s money.

These memorials sometimes depict generals, sometimes the common soldier. Yet, they always call on the viewer to recall those who fell. This veteran cannot forget those who fell in any war. Mr. Clack looks at the statues with no notice of the message at the foot of the statue.

During the Civil War, armies did not collect and bury the dead. There were no funerals back home. There were no honor guarded processions. There were no gifts of a flag to the grieving family. After the war, hundreds of families, North and South, wandered these battle fields looking for lost loved ones. One historian estimated there were 35,000 dead, lying unburied, unmarked between Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. That was just one small corner of the war.

Mr. Clack conflates respect for those who fell with respect for secession. He suggests the cause was unjust because contemporary documents pointed to slavery. I deployed to Iraq in 2005. I did not consult the Congressional Resolution that authorized the war. It is very unlikely any Confederate soldier reviewed Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech” before enlisting. Soldiers don’t do that. They just serve.

Mr. Clack never addresses the words which actually appear on every memorial: “Lest we forget.”

Mr. Clack ends his piece by asking where is the statue that honors his enslaved ancestor? Indeed. Where are the memorials to our country’s enslaved ancestors? Why remove Confederate memorials, when Mr. Clack could just as easily raise the funds for a memorial to his enslaved ancestor? Removal is relatively easy. Erecting is much the harder task. Those Southern women who could not vote and could not work, however, showed it can be done.

Confederate Memorials are Veteran Memorials

In the Iraq war, like all wars, we lost a few buddies. Each death carries with it these tremendous ripple effects. For every death, 5, 6 soldiers or more say, “If I had been there SGT Saenz would still be with us. I should have gone out on that patrol.” The guilt, as irrational as it might be, can be devastating. Multiply those ripple effects some 20 or 30 times and you get the U.S. Civil war. The casualty rate in that war was 20-50% in combat units, compared to .02% in the Iraq war for all units. During the Civil War, armies did not collect and bury the dead. There were no funerals back home. There were no honor guarded processions. There were no gifts of a flag to the grieving family. After the war, hundreds of families, North and South, wandered these battle fields looking for lost loved ones. One historian estimated there were 35,000 dead, lying unburied, unmarked between Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. That was just one small corner of the war.

So, after the war, communities across America built memorials to the confederate dead. Northern communities did the same. Those memorials applied a much needed salve to deep, emotional wounds. But, how did a South with its economy in shambles raise the money for memorials?

In her book (“Sacred Memories”), Kelly McMichaels describes the process employed by male veterans and the female United Daughters of the Confederacy in erecting hundreds of veteran memorials across America. Overwhelmingly, most were built by the women. Dr. McMichaels attributes that to the nature or role of women in the 1890-1930 time frame when most of these memorials were built. Women were often the “rememberers.” They tended the graves. They laid aside the old baby slippers and the old worn hat from lost loved ones.

One of the first memorials was the Robert E. Lee statue in New Orleans. Fund-raising started the year of Mr. Lee’s death in 1870. The fund-raising committee included bankers and leading merchants of the city. But, these were banks and merchants who had no money. The economy was reeling. The committee came close to disbanding in 1876. But, they re-organized and added many more merchants and former Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. By 1884, the committee raised the $36,000 necessary for a very large, beautiful Lee statue.

But, to reach that huge figure, they held hundreds of bake sales and public entertainments. The public entertainments included militias performing close order drill, a play titled “Cinderella,” for the children; lectures on Robert E. Lee and his life. Admission was generally .25 cents for children and .50 cents for adults. In 1877, 98 persons pledged $100 each which brought them close to the stated goal of $30,000. Contributors included Sen. Charles Furlong, a Republican Senator from Mississippi and union veteran.

This author’s ancestor, George P. Crane, supported one such public entertainment as part of his social club. He recorded in his diary for May 16, 1878, that the old Opera House had never seen such a “jam.” Thousands, he said, had to be turned away. From a building that could seat 1,600 souls. Even allowing for some exaggeration, the white folks of New Orleans supported their Confederate memorials. For more information about the beautiful old Opera House, visit this site.

But, the Lee monument in New Orleans was unique. Most memorials were erected by women, usually the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In a time when women could not work, could not vote, often could not own property, they got the job done. Among the 65 Confederate monuments in Texas, two were started by men, but finished by the women. Of the 65 Confederate memorials, twelve were erected by the male veterans. The remaining 50 or so were erected by the UDC. The San Antonio chapter of the UDC relied on hundreds of bake sales and quilting bees to raise the $3,000 necessary for their memorial in 1899. The San Antonio memorial depicted the common soldier. The Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans organization for union veterans, contributed to the San Antonio monument and participated in the unveiling ceremony. The Grand Army of the Republic followed right behind the United Confederate Veterans in the lengthy procession.

Both Union and Confederate veterans generally supported each other’s memorials and attended each other’s reunions. The replacement cost of the San Antonio memorial has been valued at $450,000 in today’s dollars.

Some of the monuments, typically those found in the larger cities, depicted Confederate generals, but most Texas memorials depicted the common solder. All included some words on the pedestal asking the community to remember those who fell. “Lest We forget,” a then recent poem by Rudyard Kipling, was a familiar refrain carved into the base. These memorials filled a void. These were the funerals those families never had.

Dr. McMichael states in her book that the statues were also intended to support white supremacy. But, her citation does not support her assertion. Dr. McMichael points to John J. Winberry’s article, “Lest We Forget: The Confederate Monument and the Southern Townscape.”  Mr. Winberry offered four reasons for the erection of Confederate monuments across the South. None of his reasons include sending a message of white supremacy.

Even when the men erected the monument, it was often the women who did the actual work. To some folks today, those memorials represent vestiges of racism. But, in reality, they represent hundreds of bake sales, bazaars (similar to yard sales), public entertainments and thousands of ten, twenty-five and fifty cent contributions. Seeing those beautiful memorials spat on, spray-painted and pulled down unceremoniously deeply saddens this Iraq war veteran.

Kelly McMichael, Sacred Memories, The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas (Denton: Tex. State  Hist. Assoc. 2009), p. 8.

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Amusement This Evening,” May 16, 1878, p. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Lee Monument Benefit,” May 18, 1878, p. 2

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “An Appreciated Contribution,” Feb. 10, 1876, p. 5

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Lecture on the Life of Lee,” June 19, 1877, p. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “The Lee Monumental Prospect,” June 5, 1877, p. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, “Lee Monumental Association,” May 6, 1876, p. 4

John J. Winberry, “Lest We Forget: The Confederate Monument and the Southern Townscape,” Southeastern Geographer, 23 (Nov., 1983): 107-121.

San Antonio Express News, “Who Paid to have the Confederate Statue in Travis Park Made and Then Placed in the Park?” Aug. 14, 2017

San Antonio Express News, “Union Veterans Joined Confederaste Veterans in Celebrating Monument at Travis Park,” Sept. 2, 2017

Memorials in Changing Times

Here in the U.S. we have focused much attention on Confederate memorials in the South. Some folks see them as offensive, while others see them as memorial to the fallen. The change in how these memorials are perceived comes with the dramatic political changes in the South. This phenomenon is new to the U.S. but it is not new in other countries. Ireland has dealt with the question of changing politics and permanent memorials for decades. Ireland achieved its independence in 1922. Yet, it suffered under 700 years of British rule and it inherited dozens of British memorials and statues.

The Irish Republic was in no hurry to remove the statues when independence first arrived. In Dublin, there were several such statues. One statue to the great Admiral Horatio Nelson endured until 1966, the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising. It was blown up by unknown Dubliners that year. A monument to William, Prince of Orange, had also been blown up by unknown Irish in the 1930’s.

A statue of Queen Victoria, once centrally located in Dublin, was moved to storage in the late 1940’s. Later, it given to the City of Sidney, Australia. But, the figures which once surrounded Queen Victoria, figures representing the sacrifices of Irish soldiers in the Boer war remain. A statue to Prince Albert, the Queen’s husband, remains in Dublin today, tucked away in a corner of a public park. See Dublin Inquirer report here.

But, there are numerous British statues throughout Ireland that still remain. Francis Drake has a statue in County Cork. The Duke of Wellington has at least one monument, located in County Meath. The Duke was born in and grew up in Ireland. In his political life, he advocated Catholic emancipation, even though he himself was Protestant. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, the center of the Church of Ireland, holds numerous monuments to heroes of the British Empire, including two generals who took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade, and a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland or two. And, of course, there is a statue of a young Queen Victoria in Cork City, County Cork. It had been literally buried in a garden until 1995, when it was resurrected and cleaned up for display for University College Cork. The problem with disposing of much of this statuary is that most of it was crafted by the finest Irish scupltors of the day.

If you look closely, most public buildings in Dublin bear some marker, coat of arms, or emblem of the royal family or of the crown itself. Those sorts of markers are literally everywhere on any building constructed before 1923.

There is a triumphal arch in Dublin on Grafton Street to commemorate the service of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who fell in the Boer War of 1899-1902. Even today, some refer to it as the “traitor’s gate.” But, prior to 1916, many, perhaps most average Irish saw themselves as loyal British subjects. See History Ireland article about the Boer War arch here.

Some 200,000 Irish served in the British Army during World War I. Yet, hundreds of Irish served in the Boer forces during the same war. Those Irish were only too happy to serve in an army fighting the British. A few of them would later participate in and lead the Easter Rising of 1916. There is no arch commemorating their service supporting the Boer and against the British Empire.

Not to mention the many street names which mark some British Empire hero or two. One County Cork Councillor has campaigned on the plan to change those colonial era street names. Many residents objected, especially persons who live on those streets and did not wish to change their address.

On significant difference between Ireland and the Southern United States is that after independence, tens of thousands or Irish protestants left Ireland. The families of the persons who first erected and supported these pro-British monuments are much in the minority in Ireland. While in the U.S. South, numerous supporters of those Confederate monuments remain. But, the controversy is the same in both countries. Politics may change, but many of those memorials remain.

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 dedicated. “

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 had 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.

Veteran Service Forms a Strong Bond

Few movies and television programs get the veteran thing right, in my opinion. One program that does is the Netflix program, Peaky Blinders. If you spend anytime watching Peaky Blinders, you will see many references to the war service of the two main protagonists, Thomas and Arthur Shelby. The two brothers served in World War I. They both served as tunnel men, a very dangerous and grinding sort of war. They dug tunnels under the enemy trenches. It was dirty, dangerous work. It scarred Arthur, and left Thomas with strong, memories. Both Arthur and Thomas are gangsters in early Manchester, England. Yet, constantly, their war service is mentioned by persons in power as reflecting well on the two men.

In one episode, Thomas Shelby approaches a young Winston Churchill for a special trade concession. Thomas comes to Winston’s office with various clerks and bureaucrats busily working in his office. Winston knows Thomas is a gangster, but is also very familiar with his war record. Thomas makes his request. Winston stares at Thomas for a minute. Then he glances around the room and announces loudly that Thomas was a tunnel man at the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of WW I. It lasted July 1 to Nov. 18, 1916. On the first day of the offensive, the British army suffered 54,000 casualties. Only American Civil War battles compare with that level of ferocity. Winston looks around the room and asks for a show of hands who was at the Battle of the Somme. Out of about ten men busy working, some five or six raise their hand. Winston explains that Thomas was at the Battle of the Somme and was a tunnel man. Nothing else needs to be said. Instantly, everyone in the room knows what Thomas represents. He may be a gangster now, but his service represents selfless sacrifice and devotion to duty in a gritty, dirty way that all veterans understand. Winston gives Thomas his trade concession.

When the Confederate monuments were erected in the 1890-1920 period, as most were, every veteran alive knew what they represented. It was common in that period of 30 years for Confederate veterans to attend ceremonies for Union monuments and vice versa. Veterans understand. We know sacrifice. We know the dirt and filth that is war. We also know devotion to duty when we see it.