By Bob Hurst
My Sons of Confederate Veterans camp in Tallahassee, Col. David Lang Camp, recently (June 19to be exact) hosted a Jefferson Davis Banquet to help raise some money for the recently begun project of rebuilding the museum and library structure at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi. The entire complex at Beauvoir was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The beautiful antebellum home where President Davis spent his last years has been magnificently restored and reopened to the public. While damaged by the storm, the wonderful old house remained structurally sound and required only repairs rather than rebuilding.
The museum and library structure, however, was severely damaged and is having to be completely rebuilt. The groundbreaking ceremony has been held and now it is just a matter of time and money until that structure will rise once again to join the house as the primary structures of the complex.
While working on the text for the banquet program, I spent a good bit of time reviewing quotes of President Davis that I had collected over the last few years. I became absorbed in these quotes and started going through other quotes by other Southerners (and even some non-Southerners) that I had saved. I was so taken by the wisdom of many of these quotes and the truth contained in the sentiments expressed that I decided to do this month's column on a few of these quotes. It seems to be easier to get a true picture of the times and events of the era of the Great War by reading short quotes of the participants (and in some cases, observers) than in reading multiple chapters of some of the books written by modern-day revisionist historians.
Of the many quotes I found concerning the reason for the War being fought, the two that locked in most precisely to me were both by Europeans observing the War from a distance. The great English writer Charles Dickens had this to say:
"Union means so many millions a year lost to the South, secession
means the loss of the same millions to the North. The love of
money is the root of this as of many other evils... The quarrel
between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal
While the Communist, Karl Marx, a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln, said:
"The war between the North and the South is a tariff war. The
war is further not for any principle, does not touch the question
of slavery and, in fact, turns on the Northern lust for sovereignty."
Not exactly what American schoolchildren are taught these days but, remember, Dickens and Marx were observing the War in real time.
I also found some fine quotes on why the Southerners were so willing to fight a war against a larger, wealthier and more industrialized opponent.The motivation was a bit different from what Dickens and Marx observed as the fiscal factor. Reverend Robert L. Dabney, the personal minister of Stonewall Jackson, had this to say:
"The people of the South went to war because they sincerely
believed that the doctrine of State-sovereignty, for which
they fought, was absolutely essential as the bulwark of the
liberties of the people."
Confederate General Stephen Dill Lee expressed it somewhat differently:
"It has not seemed the whole truth to me that the Confederate
soldier went into battle to vindicate a constitutional argument. He
went to war because he loved his people, because his country was
invaded, because his heart was throbbing for his hearthstone. Here
was the land which gave him birth; here was his childhood's home;
here were the graves of his dead; here was the church spire where
he had learned it was not all of life to live nor all of death to die. No
hostile foot should ever tread this consecrated ground except over
his dead body."
Many Southerners realized the importance of the truth being told about this period in our history. Reverend J. William Jones, speaking at the Memorial Service for President Jefferson Davis, described it thusly:
"We must see to it that our children and our children's children
are taught that their fathers were not 'rebels' and 'traitors',
but as true patriots as the world ever saw, and that that cause
could not be 'treason' for which Albert Sydney Johnston, and
Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis, and
the barefooted and ragged heroes who followed them to an
immortality of fame, gave their stainless noble lives."
The brilliant writer, H.L. Mencken, had a take on the Gettysburg Address that was a bit different from that of the Lincoln cultists. Mencken wrote:
"The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most
famous in American history... The doctrine is simply this: that the
Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the
cause of self-determination - that government of the people, by
the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is
difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The union soldiers in the
battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the
Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern
Many Southerners realized that if the South lost the War it was unlikely that the Truth would be told about the Confederate warriors. General Patrick Cleburne expressed it succinctly:
"(Subjugation) means the history of this heroic struggle will be
written by the enemy, that our youth will be trained by Northern
schoolteachers, will learn from Northern schoolbooks their version
of the war, will be impressed by the influences of history and
education to regard our gallant dead as traitors and our maimed
veterans as fit objects of derision."
General Cleburne was certainly prescient.
What I like best about personal quotes, however, is the personal glimpse into the soul of the speaker that you can only get from the words of that individual. Their words allow one to delve into their characters and reveal the certainty of purpose that our wonderful Confederate ancestors felt about The Cause. I truly love this quote from General Robert E. Lee, a man of great integrity and honor:
"We could have pursued no other course without dishonor. And
as sad as the results have been, if it had all to be done over
again, we should be compelled to act in precisely the same
And this from Major R.E. Wilson,C.S.A.:
"If I ever disown, repudiate, or apologize for the Cause for which
Lee fought and Jackson died, let the lightnings of Heaven rend me
and the scorn of all good men and true women be my portion.
Sun, Moon, Stars, all fall on me when I cease to love the
Confederacy. 'Tis the Cause, not the fate of the Cause, that
This article could not be complete without two of my favorite quotes from President Jefferson Davis:
"It's been said that I should apply to the United States for a
pardon, but repentance must precede the right of pardon,
and I have not repented."
And he never did, much to his credit.
Also from President Davis:
"Nothing fills me with deeper sadness than to see a Southern
man apologizing for the defense we made of our inheritance.
Our cause was so just,so sacred, that had I known all that has
come to pass, had I known what was to be inflicted upon me,
all that my country was to suffer, all that our posterity was to
endure, I would do it all over again."
This was the quote that I chose to use in our banquet program. It gives me great comfort and assurance to know from their own words that Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, two giants, never wavered in their belief in the goodness and rightness of The Cause.
Let me close with my favorite quote from the quenticential Southern writer, William Faulkner:
"In the South, the past is not dead, it's not even past."
DEO VINDICE Bob Hurst is a Southern Patriot who has a special interest in Southern and Confederate history and the antebellum architecture of the South. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and is 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV. You may contact him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-878-7010.