Confederate Memorial Day, a state holiday (or observance day, in some states) when Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War are remembered, is observed in 12 Southern states each year. (The date, name of the holiday, and event memorialized varies between states.) Sons of Confederate Veterans also observe the holiday in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Confederate Memorial Committee of the District of Columbia holds annual memorial services at the Arlington National Cemetery. Each President from Woodrow Wilson through Bill Clinton placed a wreath at the Confederate Memorial on Jefferson Davis’ birthday (June 3). President George W. Bush changed the observation to coincide with Memorial Day. This year will mark 151 years since the start of the Civil War on April 6, 1861.
Confederate Memorial Day is on April 26 in Georgia (as well as Alabama and Florida) but is observed as a state holiday on the fourth Monday in April. The Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain Memorial Park near Atlanta covers 3 acres of mountainside and is the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture. A memorial service was held at the Carving Reflecting Pool at Stone Mountain on April 14 this year by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Local memorial services at Confederate cemeteries and monuments were held in advance of the state holiday at Cassville, Kingston, Cartersville, Rome, Lawrenceville, Douglasville, Newnan, Albany, Lee County, and Savannah and will be held in Columbus and at 8 different locations in Warner Robins, Macon, Byron, and Fort Valley on April 27th and 28th. See a list of Georgia Confederate monuments here.
Thousands of Civil War dead on both sides of the conflict were hastily buried at or near the sites of battlefields. Although thousands were returned to their home states or regions for reburial, thousands more still lie far from their homes. Many still lie in unmarked graves. This is true of both Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers. One can only imagine the agony of families who never knew where their war dead were buried.
Most of the 320,000 Union soldiers and 300,000 Confederate soldiers who died were young men in their teens and early twenties . With today’s population, the total dead would be equivalent to 6. 5 million men today (see Miller’s Notes). Both sides of the conflict believed that they fought for a just cause but for different reasons. Contemporary textbooks would lead one to believe that slavery was the primary reason the civil war was fought. The emancipation of slaves was a positive outcome of that tragic war, but according to analysts like Donald W. Miller, Jr., the primary causes of the war were states’ rights and fiscal issues.
Brian Barkley’s documentary DVD seeks to “set the record straight” about the causes of the Civil War. One focus of the film is on the faith of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. A reviewer at WorldNetDaily writes:
We learn that Jackson, who “drew his inspiration from God and his faith in Jesus Christ more than anything else,” worried over the spiritual salvation of his men and welcomed the distribution of Bibles and tracts among them.
“He disliked both war and slavery,” the narrator says, “but he believed that God had ordained the Confederacy and that his duty was simple – to ensure the success of a sacred cause.”
Prayer, for Jackson, was as “natural as breathing,” the film shows.
Jackson’s superior officer, Robert E. Lee, was no less a man of God.
When asked at the beginning of the war how he could possibly overcome the North’s vast resources, the general said: “At present, I am not concerned with results. My reliance is in the help of God. God’s will ought to be our aim, and I am contented that his designs should be accomplished, not my own.”
Lee enthusiastically supported a “day of fasting, humiliation and prayer” – called for Aug. 21, 1863, by Confederate President Jefferson Davis – remarking that it resulted in a “work of grace among the troops.”
About 15,000 Southern soldiers made a “profession of faith in Jesus Christ” during that particular period, the film points out, “in a revival among the troops that continued to the end of war.” In all, approximately 150,000 Southern soldiers embraced the Christian faith during the four-year war.
Brett Willis also reviewed the documentary:
Since this is hot-button material, you should know something about the reviewer also. I was born in and have lived nearly all of my life in Wisconsin. I don’t care about Political Correctness, but I care about Biblical and historical truth. I’m a student of history in general and of this time period in particular.
The first assertion is that most histories of this period distort the real issues, that the War of 1861 was in fact a clash of cultures, and that the South championed independence and individual freedom. Many people will have an instant retort for that. But within the context in which the narrator is speaking, he’s absolutely correct. As he says, the North tended to favor an ever-stronger central government. He’s implying that such a government ultimately means loss of freedoms for everyone. And as we’ve seen for the last 150 years, that’s true.
The main body of the documentary outlines the actions, abilities and personal character of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
At war’s beginning, Lee held a commission in the United States Army, and was offered command of a large force. Lee prayed for guidance, and finally was at peace in resigning his commission and defending Virginia. He accepted and sought God’s will. In the Pennsylvania Campaign, Lee ordered his army to behave as soldiers of honor. No civilian housing was burned, and the troops were well-behaved. A sharp contrast to Federal General Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” which was a deliberate war on the civilian population. Even during the waning days of the war, there was a great revival in Lee’s army, including 15,000 professions of faith after a day of fasting and repentance on Aug. 21, 1863.
After the war, Lee refused financial gifts and turned down a “showpiece” job in which the employer just wanted the use of his name. Instead, he served as President of Washington College and of the Rockbridge Bible Society.
Jackson was an ex-soldier, an artillery specialist, and an obscure professor at Virginia Military Institute. He disliked war, disliked slavery, and was responsible for starting a Sabbath school for blacks. But he believed that the Confederacy was a sacred cause (in other words, he believed that the Federal government was overstepping its Constitutional bounds), and he accepted a commission as a Colonel in what would become the Stonewall Brigade. He quickly rose in the ranks, and soon his name was a household word. He pushed his troops hard. But for him, they were willing to do whatever was asked of them. With a small army, he constantly harassed and occupied much larger Federal forces. Gen. Ewell at first thought Jackson was a little crazy. But when Ewell happened on Jackson in fervent prayer one day, his heart was touched, and he was soon converted.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was inspecting the terrain at night when a firefight broke out, and he was accidentally shot by his own men. He died of complications from the injuries, professing a strong faith and accepting God’s will.
Jackson’s outstanding example of Godly manhood is well known. Even the secular film “Gods and Generals” portrays it fairly accurately.
I haven’t touched on everything about Lee and Jackson contained in this Documentary. There’s more, and it’s worth seeing.
Three “supplemental” sections detail some seldom-heard actions of the federal Government and of some of the Northern states. Some viewers might find these surprising. But not only are they accurate, there’s a great deal of similar material that could have been included.
Recommended viewing, for historical accuracy (telling the “other side” of the story) and for examples of men in positions of high responsibility who were not afraid to inject every area of their lives with Christian faith and principles.
What were the issues that compelled these men of faith to lead their armies into battle?
Donald W. Miller, Jr., whose great-great-grandfather Louis Thomas Hicks commanded the 20th North Carolina Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, has written a detailed analysis of the issues in the Civil War from a Southern viewpoint:
The term Civil War is a misnomer. The South did not instigate a rebellion. Thirteen southern states in 1860-61 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for the war that took place between the northern and southern American states is the War for Southern Independence. Mainstream historiography presents the victors’ view, an account that focuses on the issue of slavery and downplays other considerations.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America prohibited the importation of slaves (Article I, Section 9). With no fugitive slave laws in neighboring states that would return fugitive slaves to their owners, the value of slaves as property drops owing to increased costs incurred to guard against their escape. With slaves having a place to escape to in the North and with the supply of new slaves restricted by its Constitution, slavery in the Confederate states would have ended without war. A slave’s decreasing property value, alone, would have soon made the institution unsustainable, irrespective of more moral and humanitarian considerations.
The rallying call in the North at the beginning of the war was “preserve the Union,” not “free the slaves.” Although certainly a contentious political issue and detested by abolitionists, in 1861 slavery nevertheless was not a major public issue. Protestant Americans in the North were more concerned about the growing number of Catholic immigrants than they were about slavery. In his First Inaugural Address, given five weeks before the war began, Lincoln reassured slaveholders that he would continue to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.
After 17 months of war things were not going well for the North, especially in its closely watched Eastern Theater. In the five great battles fought there from July 1861 through September 17, 1862, the changing cast of Union generals failed to win a single victory.
Did saving the Union justify the slaughter of such a large number of young men? The Confederates posed no military threat to the North. Perhaps it would be better to let the southern states go, along with their 4 million slaves. If it was going to win, the North needed a more compelling reason to continue the war than to preserve the Union. The North needed a cause for continuing the war, as Lincoln put the matter in his Second Inaugural Address, that was willed by God, where “the judgments of the Lord” determined the losses sustained and its outcome.
Five days after the Battle of Antietam, on September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation.
Why were business and political leaders in the North so intent on keeping the southern states in the Union? It was, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, solely a fiscal matter. The principal source of tax revenue for the federal government before the Civil War was a tariff on imports. There was no income tax, except for one declared unconstitutional after its enactment during the Civil War. Tariffs imposed by the federal government not only accounted for most of the federal budget, they also raised the price of imported goods to a level where the less-efficient manufacturers of the northeast could be competitive. The former Vice-President John C. Calhoun put it this way:
The North had adopted a system of revenue and disbursements in which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed upon the South, and an undue proportion of its proceeds appropriated to the North… the South, as the great exporting portion of the Union, has in reality paid vastly more than her due proportion of the revenue.”
Observers in Britain looked beyond the rhetoric of “preserve the Union” and saw what was really at stake. Charles Dickens views on the subject were typical:
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 quarrel.
The London press made this argument:
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.
The South fought the war for essentially the same reason that the American colonies fought the Revolutionary War. The central grievance of the American colonies in the 18th century was the taxes imposed on them by Britain. Colonists particularly objected to the Stamp Act, which required them to purchase an official British stamp and place it on all documents in order for them to be valid. The colonists also objected to the import tariff that Britain placed on sugar and other goods (the Sugar Act).
After the enactment of what was called the “Tariff of Abomination” in 1828, promoted by Henry Clay, the tax on imports ranged between 20-30%. It rose further in March 1861 when Lincoln, at the start of his presidency, signed the Morrill Tariff into law. This tax was far more onerous than the one forced on the American colonies by Britain in the 18th century.
Lincoln coerced the South to fire the first shots when, against the initial advice of most of his cabinet, he dispatched ships carrying troops and munitions to resupply Fort Sumter, site of the customs house at Charleston. Charleston militia took the bait and bombarded the fort on April 12, 1861. After those first shots were fired the pro-Union press branded Southern secession an “armed rebellion” and called for Lincoln to suppress it.
Congress was adjourned at the time and for the next three months, ignoring his constitutional duty to call this legislative branch of government back in session during a time of emergency, Lincoln assumed dictatorial powers and did things, like raise an army, that only Congress is supposed to do. He shut down newspapers that disagreed with his war policy, more than 300 of them. He ordered his military officers to lock up political opponents, thousands of them. Although the exact number is not known, Lincoln may well have arrested and imprisoned more than 20,000 political opponents, southern sympathizers, and people suspected of being disloyal to the Union, creating what one researcher has termed a 19th century “American gulag,” a forerunner of the 20th century’s political prison and labor camps in the former Soviet Union.
Lincoln called up an army of 75,000 men to invade the seven southern states that had seceded and force them back into the Union. By unilaterally recruiting troops to invade these states, without first calling Congress into session to consider the matter and give its consent, Lincoln made an error in judgment that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. At the time, only seven states had seceded. But when Lincoln announced his intention to bring these states back into the Union by force, four additional states – Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas – seceded and joined the Confederacy. Slavery was not the issue. The issue was the very nature of the American union. If the President of the United States intended to hold the Union together by force, they wanted out. When these four states seceded and joined the Confederacy rather than send troops to support Lincoln’s unconstitutional actions, the Confederacy became much more viable and the war much more horrible.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America forbid protectionist tariffs, outlawed government subsidies to private businesses, and made congressional appropriations subject to approval by a two-thirds majority vote. It enjoined Congress from initiating constitutional amendments, leaving that power to the constituent states; and limited its president to a single six-year term. When the South lost, instead of a Jeffersonian republic of free trade and limited constitutional government, the stage was set for the United States to become an American Empire ruled by a central authority. In starting his war against the Confederate States, Lincoln was not seeking the “preservation of the Union” in its traditional sense. He sought the preservation of the Northern economy by means of transforming the federal government into a centralized welfare-warfare-police state.
Paroled from the prison camp at Johnson’s Island, Ohio shortly before the end of the war, my grandparent Louis Hicks walked, barefoot, back to North Carolina to his home named “Liberty Hall” in the town of Faison. But instead of enjoying a new birth of freedom, he and his family, along with other people in the South, had to endure a twelve-year military occupation and an oppressive Reconstruction instituted by radical republicans.
Reflecting on the War for Southern Independence let us hope that the Confederate Battle Flag that Louis Thomas Hicks’ North Carolina regiment carried with it into battle at Gettysburg, with the cross of Scotland’s patron saint emblazoned on it, will come to be viewed in the 21st century, not as an badge of slavery, which it is not, but as a symbol of opposition to centralized government power and tyranny.
WHY WE CELEBRATE CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL DAY
CIVIL WAR OP-ED: Confederate Memorial Day in Dixie
Confederate Memorial Service Speech
How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be
Warriors of Honor
ROBERT E. LEE’S CIVIL WAR
Civil War Casualties: The Cost of War: Killed, Wounded, Captured, and Missing
The Economics of Slavery
NORTHERN PROFITS FROM SLAVERY