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.

Source:

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

1914

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

Recessional

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:

CSA

1861-1865

“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:

CSA

Fidelis Fortisimis

Erected by

The Louisiana Division of the U.D.C.

and

Gordon Chapter No. 4070 U.D.C.

Feb. 22, 1920

In Loving Memory

of the

Confederate Soldiers

1861-1865

The Principles of Our Forefathers

And the Heroes in Gray

Consummated by

Our Young Heroes

1917-119

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.

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.