This information provided by The Federal Observer, http://www.federalobserver.com
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Once upon a time, our schools taught students American history. Boys and girls learned about soldiers who for over 200 years marched off to war. They were gallant men who did not ask for any special recognition. Traditionally, American women took the lead to see that those who served were not forgotten.
After the War Between the States ended, women of the North and South formed memorial organizations. They made sure all soldiers got a Christian burial and a marked grave. Northern and Southern Memorial Days were established. Great monuments were erected and they still can be seen on town squares and soldiers' cemeteries across the country.
April 26 has become Confederate Memorial Day in most Southern states. For over one hundred years the Ladies' Memorial Association and the United Daughters of the Confederacy hold services on this day. Other Southern states recognize this day, which began as Decoration day, on May 10th and June 3rd. President Jefferson Davis was born on June 3rd.
Today, April is recognized in the South as Confederate History and Heritage Month. April is the month when the War Between the States officially began (1861) and ended(1865).
Efforts to mark Confederate graves, erect monuments and hold memorial services were the idea of Mrs.Charles J. Williams. She was an educated and kind lady. Her husband served as a Colonel in the 1st Georgia Regiment during the war. He died of disease in 1862 and is buried in their home town of Columbus, Georgia. Disease killed more soldiers in that war than did all the battles.
Mrs.Williams and her daughter visited his grave often and cleaned the weeds, leaves and twigs from it, then placed fresh flowers on it. His daughter also pulled the weeds from other Confederate graves near her Father.
It saddened the little girl that their graves were unmarked. With tears of pride she said to her mother, "These are my soldiers' graves." The daughter became ill and passed away in her childhood. Mrs. William's grief was almost unbearable.
One day visiting the graves of her husband and daughter, Mrs. Williams looked at the unkept soldiers' graves and remembered her daughter as she cleaned the graves and what her little girl had said. She knew what she wanted to do.
Mrs. Williams wrote a letter that was published in Southern newspapers asking the women of the South for help. She asked that organizations be established to take care of the tens of thousands of Confederate graves from the Potomac River to the Rio Grande. She asked state legislatures to set aside an April day to remember the men in gray. With her leadership many states set April 26 as that day. She died in 1874, but lived to see her native Georgia adopt April 26 in 1866. It is still today a legal holiday.
She was given a full military burial by the people of Columbus and flowers covered her grave. That tradition is continued annually.
All the South can be proud of the men and women who defended their homes, families and states during the War Between the States.
Women served as nurses, raised money, made flags, bandages, ammunition, kept the farms and plantations productive during the war and stood as the backbone of the South.
Among those was Captain Sally Tomkins, C.S.A. who was the only woman to be a commissioned officer on either side. Commissioned by President Jefferson Davis, she took care of thousands of soldiers in Richmond, Virginia until the end of the war. All across the South, women like Captain Tompkins took care of the home front when there was little food and medicine.
The men and women who served the South came many races and religions. There was Irish born Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, black Southerner Amos Rucker, Jewish born Judah P. Benjamin, Mexican born born Colonel Santos Benavides and American Indian Gen. Stand Watie who was the last Confederate general to quit fighting.
Contact your local historical society for more information about those who fought during the War Between the States. Please ask about the upcoming events during Confederate History and Heritage Month.
Sources: The Confederate Veteran Magazine of 1893, S.A. Cunningham, Editor and former Confederate soldier. Republished in 1974 by Blue and Gray Press, Inc.
About the Author
Calvin E. Johnson, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1949, and grew up in the suburbs of East Point. Calvin graduated from Headland High School in East Point and attended one year at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. He is a retired government employee and resides in Kennesaw, Georgia. His main interest is that of American History. Send the author an email with your comments to Dix414036@aol.com