By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
When the Confederate soldier lived, no one dared criticize him or his blood stained battle flag of many hard fought battles.
On March 5, 2008, Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia signed a proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month. The proclamation specifically recognizes and honors Bill Yopp, a black Confederate from Laurens County, Georgia.
Have we forgotten our nation's history?
Once our young people were taught, from history books, about the month of April when the War Between the States began (1861) and ended (1865.) Grandparents told the children stories that included "The Great Locomotive Chase" of April 12, 1862.
April have become known as Confederate History Month.
This is a time to remember great Americans like Lizzie Rutherford of Columbus, Georgia who on a cold January day worked to clean the graves of Confederate soldiers. She and the members of the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus led in efforts to take care of Southern soldiers' graves and get Confederate Memorial Day recognized throughout the South.
Did you know that the Congress of the United States, in past years, recognized America's war of 1861-1865, as the War Between the States? After the war the men of Union Blue and Confederate Gray came together in great reunions with their families and war stories.
Southerner's were once a proud people who knew who they were.... But, now, how can we expect our children to know about their heritage when school bands no longer play "Dixie"?
Once upon a time the South's businesses and schools closed in reverent observance of Confederate Memorial Day. This was a special time for parades and memorial speeches at the local soldiers' cemetery. Tens of thousands of people made their way to the local Confederate cemetery where children delighted in catching a glimpse of a Confederate Veteran.
When the War Between the States ended, women of the North and South formed memorial organizations. They made sure that the soldiers got a Christian burial and were remembered. Great monuments were erected to the soldiers of Blue and Gray that still can be seen in many town squares and soldier cemeteries.
For over 100 years the folks of the Ladies' Memorial Association, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans have continued the tradition of Confederate Memorial Day in April. Other states recognize Confederate Memorial Day on May 10th and June 3rd. In remembrance of Jefferson Davis' 200th birthday, Beauvoir- the last home to Davis and his family, will reopen on June 3, 2008.
It is written that the first Confederate Memorial day was held in Columbus, Georgia. Some say it was the idea of Lizzie Rutherford, President of the Columbus Chapter of the Ladies Memorial Association, and their secretary Mrs. Charles J. Williams. Mrs. William's husband served as Colonel of the 1st Georgia Regiment, CSA during the War Between the States. He died of disease in 1862 and was buried in his home town of Columbus. Disease killed more soldiers during the war then did the battles.
Mrs. Williams and her daughter visited his grave often and cleared the weeds and leaves from it, then placed flowers on it. Her daughter also pulled the weeds from other soldier’s graves near her father. It saddened the little girl that many graves were unmarked. With tears of pride she said to her mother, "These are my soldiers' graves." The little girl became ill and passed away in her childhood. Mrs. William's grief was almost unbearable.
One day, while visiting the graves of her husband and daughter, Mrs. Williams looked at all of the unkempt soldiers' graves and remembered the words her daughter had told her. She knew what she had to do.
With permission from Lizzie Rutherford, President of the Ladies' Memorial Association, Williams wrote a letter that was published in many Southern newspapers asking the women of Dixie for help. She asked that organizations be formed in taking care of the thousands of Confederate graves from the Potomac River to the Rio Grande. She also asked state legislatures to set aside an April day to remember the men of gray.
With her leadership many Southern states adopted April 26th, as Confederate Memorial Day. Mrs. Williams died in 1874, but lived to see her native Georgia adopt April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day. Today, it is still a legal holiday.
The men and women who served the South during the War Between the States came from many races and religions. There was Irish born Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, Black Southerner Amos Rucker, whose grave was remarked in 2006 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Jewish born Judah P. Benjamin, Mexican born Colonel Santos Benavides, Cherokee Southern-American Gen. Stand Watie and Cuban Colonel Ambrosio Jose Gonzales.
Please check: http://confederateheritagemonth.com and ask your local historical group, business and government organization what they are planning during April 2008 for Confederate History Month.
Let's Never Forget!