Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Memorial Day in Memphis, 1875

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 26, 2012

From the Memphis Daily Appeal, May 25, 1875:

Three generations of soldiers were of the long array — the men who fought with Jackson at New Orleans, those who braved the Indians in the Everglades, the later generation who followed Scott and [Jefferson] Davis and [Gideon Johnston] Pillow [a local hero] in Mexico, and the still later who had served with Grant or Lee, with Stonewall Jackson or Sherman, with Forrest or Sheridan, with Joe Johnston or Thomas. . . . These were the links that bound jubilee army to the past, blending with the younger soldiers whose battles were on a grander scale, but whose contests were no fiercer, illustrated for the multitude almost the whole history of the Republic. . . . In these gentlemen [Pillow and Davis] we had united the two later and grandest epochs in our history — the one by which we won an empire, and the other by which we sustained the shock of civil war and survived to enjoy and perpetuate a still more perfect Union. Forrest, the “terrible fighter” and always victorious cavalry raider, marched in the same column with the Federals who had fought him, and shared a seat on the same platform with our best representatives of the Union armies. . . .
Mr. Davis, our foremost statesman, did not speak, but he was upon the platform, and by his presence gave indorsement [sic.] to the re-cementing of the bonds of brotherhood. Tribute was paid to the dead, a loving tribute in words and flower, but the Union was over it all — was uppermost in all minds — and the day was thus made sacred to the highest purpose, and the dead were made to serve the noblest use in a text and day on which to preach peace and love, and date the final close of the war and all its bitter dissensions and contentions. Looking back through the night into the day, and recalling the men who were principal actors in the play, the tone and temper of the audience and the drift of what was said and sung can reach but the conclusion impressed upon us when yet the parade was in the thought of its projectors, that it was to be as healing upon the waters, it was to be a proper supplement of our steady march toward complete restoration, the finale of all our efforts to be reconciled to to our brothers of the both, and to do our part toward the consummation of that perfect peace for which all men have longed since that day at Appomattox, when Lee sheathed his sword and bade his troops “good-bye.” It was a great popular upheaval. It was the bursting of a great pent-up feeling of joy and happiness upon the condition of the country, the overflowing of gratitude for the blessings we enjoy of civil and religious liberty, and the determination to to give unmistakable assurances of loyalty and fealty to the Union. . . .
The Union was apparent in and over all. The battle-flags of both armies were placed side-by-side or in peaceful embrace, by request, too, of General Forrest, and the same hands draped the graves of the boys in blue and gray alike. The memory we revive of the day is this, and this its lesson. May it endure forever to animate us on each recurring anniversary, strengthening present resolution and and confirming us in our determination to labor hereafter in and for the Union, to make it more glorious and free, the first among the nations of the earth.

Real Confederates were a lot more willing to aver their loyalty to the Union in the years after the war than some make-believe Confederates are today. I wonder if the Confederate Tarheels in the photo above, in 1917, marched down Pennsylvania Avenue chanting, “Kill Yankees! All of Them!”

Somehow, I doubt it.

Image: Confederate Veterans from North Carolina at the national UCV meeting in Washington, D.C., 1917. Library of Congress.

4 Responses

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  1. Mike Musick said, on May 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    It is pretty widely known that former Confederate Generals Joe Wheeler and Fitz Lee donned the blue in the postwar period to fight for the United States. Far less well known is that N.B. Forrest, shortly after the war, in his petition to President Andrew Johnson for amnesty, offered to lead U.S. troops against Emperor Maximilian and his French allies. And of course a large number of the troops then assembled on the Rio Grande to overawe the French were African American.

  2. Mary Ellen Maatman said, on June 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Where do you find/access all the old newspaper articles you frequently quote? I know there is a digital archive of local papers through either the National Archives or Library of Congress, which I’ve frequently used in my research, but I’m curious about whether you use other resources.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks for your comment, and your question.

      In this case, the Memphis Daily Appeal is available through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America Project. Google has a very large collection of newspapers available. Google ended that project a while back and will likely not add any more papers to it, but those that are there cover a wide range of periods and locations. Penn has a big collection as well, covering much of the United States. For Texas subjects, there’s also the Portal to Texas History, from the University of North Texas, which is fantastic for obscure, early Texas papers, including the period before the ACW. All for these sources are free, and all of them are word-searchable, although the reliability of the searching varies a lot according to the quality of the scanned image. All of these sources are linked in the right-hand column of this blog under “Historical Resources.”

      I also subscribe to two services, and Newspaper Archive carries my local newspapers from Galveston — due in large part to the efforts of Archivist Carol Wood at Rosenberg Library, who oughter get a medal for all the help she’s been to me — so that’s especially useful. These two services (mostly) cover different newspapers, so there’s not a lot of overlap between them, and I’ve found it important to be able to access both. These two sources are also word-searchable, although the reliability of that can be all over the map. With all of these resources, if you’re looking for something for which you know the approximate date, you would do well just to start skimming the papers, even if a word search turns up nothing.

      One good thing is that, in the 19th century, newspapers routinely reprinted material that had appeared in other papers, so even if you cannot find it in the newspaper closest to the event, there’s a good chance at least part of the story was reprinted a few days or weeks later in another paper, hundreds of miles away.

      I would encourage you to spend some time just digging through the old papers, even without looking for anything specific. Several times I’ve felt the need to put up a new blog post, but didn’t have any particular ideas. So I just start looking though the papers for a given date (typically 150 years ago, given the sesquicentennial), and invariably I find something odd or interesting within a few pages.

      Good luck, and thanks for reading.

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