Delivered May 6, 2016 in Columbia, SC.
Archibald MacLeish was a 20th century poet, author and three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He wrote the following about the lost soldier:
We were young. We have died.
We have done what we could but until
It is finished it is not done.
We have given our lives but until it is
Finished no one can know what our lives gave.
Our deaths are not ours; they are
Yours, they will mean what you make them.
Whether for peace, a new hope or nothing
We cannot say; it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths, give them
We were young. We have died.
We do remember and celebrate you this day. It is an honor to be called your sons and daughters.
You beseech us: “We leave you our deaths, give them their meaning.”
You have done this already, Confederate Soldier. What more could we say in our meager way that you have not already declared by your valor, selflessness and unflinching dedication to the cause of Founding Rights. It is our challenge to defend you from those who would define your sacrifices in infamy and fallacy.
Now, in this day of unlimited amusement, distraction, materialism, and convenience, why are we so committed? People wonder, “Why do they do this? What’s the point? Can’t we all just get along?” When mockery, smirks, scorn, and dismissal are the typical greetings we often receive, why do we persist?
The answers to these questions are varied and as numerous perhaps as the number of people here. But I think that one thought is overriding and common to all; and it is this:
Reverend John Charles Ryle of Great Britain was a renowned Anglican Minister who lived from 1816-1900. He was Oxford-educated with honors and the revered Bishop of Liverpool. His wonderful sermons can still be read today, and it is from one of his epic sermons that he speaks down the years to us. He said:
“Let us never be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth upon the altar of peace.”
In other words, never surrender truth to appeasement, mollification, convenience, or to just get along, to the promise of better things. There is no better thing than truth. NO good end comes from the sacrifice of truth.
We are here because we will not make that unthinkable sacrifice of the truth of our soldiers and people. We will not allow their deaths to be defined as anything but what they truly were – noble and heroic, as the sublime expression of the commandments of our Revolutionary forefathers! We will not remain silent and allow fallacious condemnations to go unchallenged, especially when those criticisms come from those in this day who have orchestrated and condoned the collapse in our society of things decent, honorable, moral and civil and yet have the sanctimonious gall to think they somehow have the moral authority and superiority to judge a past generation of principled, selfless, God-fearing people!
And we do it because we take assurance from the words of 1 Peter, 2:16: “For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right, and patiently endure unfair treatment.”
Perhaps no better example of Reverend Ryle’s commandment is the noble flag that flew on these grounds less than a year ago. It is a banner that was cherished with the deepest emotions by those we are here to honor. Its truth was sacrificed on the altar of appeasement, convenience, and timidity. We all know, as should anyone with the slightest talent at rational and logical thought, that the flag had absolutely nothing to do with that terrible tragedy, but symbolism over substance was the order of that day and is the order of this correct new world in which we live where courage is defined as being brave enough not to do the right thing. And because our soldiers are so inseparable from the flag, they too were like affected. A person might like to think that he/she can affect one without affecting the other, but it cannot be. So the shameful deed of dishonor was doubly done.
But there were a few for whom courage holds the traditional definition. They stood firm for the true meaning of the flag and for our history. We know who they are; we salute them; and we will remember them.
And what would that true meaning of the flag be?
During many years of book research, I discovered a letter from Colonel Edward McCrady of McGowan’s SC brigade. It was written in 1863 from “in the field” to the Honorable William Porcher Miles, a SC member of the Confederate States House of Representatives and chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee. Here is what Colonel McCrady revealed to Congressman Miles:
“It is in the bearing and defense of the regimental colors that most of the gallant deeds are performed. Of the force of the attachment to the colors of a Regt, though I have often read, I had no idea of until impressed upon me by actual experience. I regarded much of it as the romance of writers upon war. But I have been made to feel its truth. I have seen the effect of the unfurling of our old flag in a moment of panic and have, even in the midst of battle, found myself wondering at its influence. But it is not surprising when you reflect upon the associations which cluster around such colors. The remembrance of home from which they brought it, the many dead who have fallen beneath its folds, the blood of cherished comrades still staining it, its very tares and tatters each reminding of some hard fought field. The colors of my own regiment have been borne by some eight or nine gallant men, not one of whom has not distinguished himself while carrying it. None yielded it until shot down with it in his hands, most of them with mortal wounds. The history of each is talked over and prized by the men, and for each the flag is more beloved. I believe our regiment could be carried anywhere where those colors would be borne. They would shield them at any and every hazard. Such feelings are common in all the regiments to their own colors.”
Here holds forth the true meaning of the Confederate flag! Not the calculated perversions of those who condemn it as a tool for the advancement of an agenda or those who stain and insult it by carrying it as a symbol of their distorted and ugly ideology!
Sgt. James Hunt Taylor was one of Colonel McCrady’s flag bearers. We meet at this moment upon his ancestral lands. He was a 15-year old young man living in 1860 Richland District; the great-grandson of the famous Patriot, Colonel Thomas Taylor of the American Revolution, who gave this land for this capitol. True to the principles and lessons of his Revolutionary g-grandfather, James, at only age 16, was standing in the SC Confederate battle line on 27 June 1862, about to carry the flag into what would prove to be one of the most terrible battles of the entire war for McGowan’s South Carolinians – the Battle of Gaines Mill, VA. It was an honor above all others to serve as the flag bearer. But it was also the most dangerous position on the field, and the flag bearers knew it. It was the bearer who was responsible for its safety and honor in the terrors of combat. As the battle line moved forward to the attack, he hoisted the flag high as it bid to its defenders: steady, now, and follow me! As he moved through the torrential hail of enemy gunfire, it was not long before he was shot down. Paying scant heed to his wound and the pain which likely seared his body, the 16-year old gathered his senses and arose and bound forward again towards the enemy, holding the flag aloft. But soon, he was again cut down. Bleeding now from two wounds and doubled in pain, he again stood, hoisted the flag and moved against the enemy. As he struggled forward once more in the unceasing, screaming rage of battle, he was hit a third time. This time he could not rise. His wounds severe, his loss of blood, his young life ebbed from him as his lifeless hands yielded the flag to another. His 16-year old life was over. He had given it for his comrades, his country, his home, the principles his grandfather Taylor had won in the Revolution – and he gave it for the flag.
So, what do we say to 16-year old Sgt. James Hunt Taylor about the meaning of his death?
In 1926, noted historian, Charles M. Andrews, wrote in American Historical Review, “You can fight and beat revolutions as you can fight and beat nations. You can kill a man, but you can’t kill a rebel. For the rebel has an ideal of living, while your ideal is to kill him so that you may preserve yourself.” Does this so well describe exactly what happened to the Confederate people? The north’s invasion was all about preservation – preservation of its dreams of empire and preservation of its major source of wealth – the South! Now, our people were not rebels. They were Constitutional warriors of the highest order! But the point is: you cannot kill the message; you cannot kill the spirit; you cannot slay the ideals and ideas that our soldiers inspired for the future!
So, what is the spirit, the message that the Confederate soldier engendered?
Lord William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquis of Lothian, was an English Distinguished Christ Church Scholar. What he wrote in 1864 during the War exemplifies the judgments of the people and leaders in Europe and gives a sense of the message:
“This conflict has been signalized by the exhibition of some of the best and some of the worst qualities that war has ever brought out. It has produced (by the South): an ardor and devotedness of patriotism which might alone be enough to make us proud of the century to which we belong…a stainless good faith under extremely difficult circumstances… a most scrupulous regard for the rights of hostile property…a heroism in the field…which can match anything that history has to show. I am not going a hair’s breadth beyond what I soberly and sincerely believe in saying that the Confederates have, in almost every respect, surpassed anything that has ever been known. It is the most splendid instance of a nation’s defense of its liberties that the world has seen.”
With accolades such as this coming in from around the world, it is clear that the Confederate message won and the spirit won! In this important respect, there was no defeat for the Confederacy! Our soldiers did not win the war of fire, but they won the war of principle, ideals and inspiration, for around the world today, it is the Confederate flag that is raised aloft in mark of the struggle for independence and self-determination. From Scotland to Quebec to the Georgia Republic of Russia, to the wall in Berlin, it is the Confederate flag that is raised in the crowds demanding and celebrating independence! The flag of the Confederacy! Their lifting of the Southern banner is a tribute to the Confederate soldier; it is a salute; an acknowledgement, saying: we know the true meaning of the South’s struggle; we know the truth of Southern history, we know the true meaning of the Confederate soldier – his purpose and his death – even if in your own country it is hidden and disdained.
So, we can tell Sgt. Taylor and all of our lost Confederate soldiers: your deaths are the beacon of hope and inspiration for the world; because your sacrifices for liberty and independence are still heralded to this day; your flag is still waved among liberty-loving people; your message is still hailed as the model for nations to make their own way! Secession and self-determination are sustained as a right, and you are recognized as the finest example of the defense of those invaluable rights.
We will gladly tell him that Quebec and most recently Scotland exercised secession movements upon the same Founding rights and principles for which he gave his life, and did so peacefully, with the blessings of and no invasions by the Canadian or English governments, no coercion by their sister states – Saskatchewan or Wales, and without shedding the first drop of blood. We will tell him that his country applauded them and called it a right.
But we won’t tell him that for doing the exact same, he is called traitor in his own land.
But we take heart in the everlasting life of Truth. Philip S. Worsley was an acclaimed English writer and poet whose heart was broken by the Confederacy’s fall. He sent the following poetic message to General Lee after the War:
Ah, realm of tears! – but let her bear
This blazon for all time:
No nation rose so white and fair,
None fell so pure of crime.
The widow’s moan, the orphan’s wail,
Come round thee, but in Truth be strong!
Eternal Right, though all else fail,
Can NEVER be made wrong.
So, in this immediate hour, when truth is being sacrificed upon the altar of correctness; when the self-righteous rush in futility and blindness to judge – no matter what is changed, no matter what is removed, no matter what is destroyed, or defamed, or blemished, or condemned, or banned, or erased, or scorned, or disfavored, or misrepresented, or rewritten – it is all to no avail. From 1st Corinthians we know: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed!”
All because Truth has eternal life; it is everlasting; and because it is everlasting, we can take heart that one day the Truth of the South will be acknowledged – not by the world, where it is already affirmed, but by our own country and countrymen. In the meantime, we can stand firm to hasten that day, and remember the words of the late poet, Maya Angelou: “You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
The late Dr. Richard M. Weaver was a noted professor of philosophy and history for more than two decades at the University of Chicago until his death in 1963. Acknowledged as “one of the most important and influential philosophers of the twentieth century,” he wrote in his work, The Southern Tradition at Bay, the following about the South and Southerners:
“Although the judgment of history went against them, it is difficult to establish a moral scheme by which they may be condemned. In both personal and public morality they were at least the equal of their foes; and as for the political crime of disunion which the north sought relentlessly to fix on them, it is plain that the letter of the law was on their side.”
It is plain, says Dr. Weaver that the letter of the law was on our side. Of course it was. We could now quote the many words of Madison, Hamilton, Adams, Rawles, and Chase, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and a host of other Founders and documents that nail securely the right of secession and validate the truth that the Confederate soldier was no traitor!
But, instead just consider how ludicrous in the extreme it is to even entertain the first thought that the Founding Fathers who created the Constitution, and were only just recently shed of their bloody Revolution uniforms, would have dared for eight years to suffer so much death and destruction to secure the right of secession, only to then turn around and create a Constitution that took it away; that overturned and denied them everything for which they had just bled and their countrymen died!
How could anyone who considers this and studies the preponderance of historic documentation in affirmation of the Right, ever conclude that the South did not have the letter of the law on their side?
Because the north’s mirage of right must at all costs be maintained. And it is also done to insure that the Southern soldiers are never proven to be the ones who were on the battlefield in the right. That they were the warriors who were genuinely fighting to insure that “that nation or any nation so conceived (in liberty) can long endure.” By these Gettysburg words of Lincoln are we to believe that he invaded and destroyed our liberty so that he could bestow liberty upon us? That the north took away our liberty to make certain we kept liberty as our way of life?
It’s enough to give a person a headache, but it is to what Lincoln’s words interpret! And, to make it a migraine, consider the truth that it was Lincoln’s troops who were making sure that that conceived nation did not long endure.
Dr. Weaver continued in his views:
“when one tries to discover if the “civil war” taught the Southern people a lesson, he learns that it did not…the traditional Southerner emerged from the War – not only unreconstructed but relatively unreconstructible…Northerners who exclaimed in exasperation that the Southern people had learned nothing and forgotten nothing, were, in a sense, correct, but the force they were indicating was much more deep-seated and pervasive than they realized.”
If the “civil war taught the Southern people a lesson. What were our people then and we now supposed to learn? A lesson can only be gained from what is seen or heard or experienced, so the lesson can only come from what happened. So, considering what happened, were they then and we now supposed to have been taught the lesson that the government and other states had the right to invade us and destroy our sacred sovereignty, liberty and lives? Try as we might, we can’t find this in the Constitution, so they didn’t then and we are not now going to be taught this lesson.
Is the lesson that we did not have the right to leave? It is well-established that we did in all of the Founding documents. Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court during and after the War addressing his colleagues and members of Lincoln’s former cabinet who were anxiously seeking to bring Jefferson Davis and other Confederates to trial for treason, told them:
“If you bring these Confederate leaders to trial, it will condemn the north, for by the Constitution, secession is not rebellion…We cannot convict him (Davis) of treason.” Jefferson Davis was released, and no Confederate was ever tried for treason.
Lincoln said he invaded in order to “save the national union and perpetuate popular government.” That’s not legitimate because the Founders never intended for the union to be “saved” once a state or states determined for themselves, as provided in the founding, that they would be better out of the union. The whole notion of “saving the union” is repugnant to the Founding, the Declaration and Constitution! So, that’s not valid.
Besides, in the words of the States and Union newspaper in Washington, DC, on 15 April 1861, just three days after Ft. Sumter: “How can a union of states be made national, when one portion attempts to force its…idea of nationality on the other at the point of a bayonet and the thunder of cannon…Is government to be POPULAR by attempting to subjugate the states…popular by denying to those from whom it would force allegiance, the right to think, the right to differ, the liberty to act, and the privilege to speak?”
So, here again, these lessons were not taught to our folks then, and we won’t be taught them now.
Dr. Weaver observed that northerners were exasperated that we had “learned nothing” and “forgotten nothing.” Just what is it that we and our ancestors learned nothing of and have forgotten nothing of that drives them up the wall?
It is the fact that we have not played the GAME. Game, what game? We have “learned nothing” of the sacred decrees of government, academia, media, and entertainment (acronym=GAME) that must, at all costs, be instilled in the public consciousness in order to justify the unconstitutional invasion of our sovereign South and maintain the image of northern purity for having done so. These are the essential lessons, – the readin,’ writin,’ and rithmetic’ of Southern belittlement and vilification – that every American must be made to think are the gospel truth.
And so many of these lessons are taught in clear and direct contradiction to the written truth. For example, probably the most popular decree at present, used as northern justification, is “We the people…,” the preamble to the Constitution. I was watching a documentary on the Revolution and Constitution on the so-called History Channel some months ago. With beautiful music in the background, rising to a resounding crescendo, and the camera slowly zooming in on the words, “We the people,” the narrator actually said in a ringing, triumphant voice, “We the people overcame state sovereignty!!” Her exact words. With such a dramatic presentation, you know 99% of those who saw it believed it had to be true.
But nothing could be further from the truth! James Madison, Father of the Constitution, had to deal with this very issue as early as 1799, only 12 years after the Constitutional Convention and when most of the Founders/delegates were still living! There were already politicians and lawyers who were actually telling the delegates what they said, meant, and intended, and they were advocating this same notion.
In his “Report of 1800,” here is what the Father of the Constitution had to say about the idea:
“Such being the ground of our revolution, no support nor color can be drawn from it (We the people, Preamble) for the doctrine that the common law is binding on these states as one society. The doctrine, on the contrary, is repugnant to the fundamental principle of the revolution…the common law never was, nor by any fair construction, ever can be, deemed a law for the American people as one community…It is indeed distressing to reflect that it ever should have been made a question whether the Constitution…could intend to introduce in the lump, in an indirect manner, and by a forced construction of a few phrases, the vast and multifarious jurisdiction involved in the common law…A severer reproach could not be thrown on the Constitution, on those who framed it, or on those who established it, than such a supposition would throw on them… a contrary interpretation would have the inadmissible effect of rendering nugatory or improper every part of the Constitution which succeeds the preamble.”
You can hear his frustration! The father of the constitution makes it vividly and unmistakably clear that “We the people…” has no authority, no influence, and no bearing in any manner, way, shape or form, but, rather, is repulsive to the Constitution; and that the “common law,” was never intended for the States; that every state was free, sovereign, and independent and retained every right, power, and jurisdiction not delegated to the federal head!
But, yet, here is what is being taught our students and the public by GAME; an obvious, glaring fallacy. We are the few who refuse to learn this.
Our Confederate forebears were the same – they would not learn. What was there to learn? That they were wrong? Absolutely not, because nothing was changed for them by the outcome of the War! As Thomas Jefferson had said, “Might does not make right!” They learned nothing because the principles and words of our Founders that placed them clearly in the right when they moved to the battlefield were still there and still placed them squarely in the right when the smoke cleared. And what they had not forgotten was just that – of still being in the right! And that gave them that air of dignity and conviction and confidence that was the cause of northern exasperation – then and now.
Henry W. Grady was a noted Georgia scholar and journalist. He had lost his father in the Battle of the Crater, VA. He was the first Southerner to be invited to speak before the elite and prestigious New England Society in New York. On 21 December 1886, he said to this gathering of refined northern sophisticates:
“This is said in no spirit of timesaving or apology. The South has nothing for which to apologize. She believes that the late struggle between the states was war and not rebellion, revolution and not conspiracy, and that her convictions were as honest as yours. I should be unjust to the dauntless spirit of the South and to my own convictions if I did not make this plain in this presence. The South has nothing to take back.”
Does this sound like a Southerner who has been taught a lesson? You can hear the dignity, confidence, and conviction in his words!
And this same persona has been passed down in the blood of these proud, conventional Southerners to many of their descendants, as made note of by Dr. Weaver when he pointed out, quote …”the force they (northerners) were indicating was much more deep seated and pervasive than they realized” So deep-seated and pervasive that we are still here 12 score and 7 years later, still strong in determination and conviction, still having learned nothing and forgotten nothing, still refusing to play the GAME; still knowing that our South was right…and still being exasperating!
Dr. Weaver continued:
“But there is something in its heritage, half lost, derided, betrayed by its own sons (and daughters, I might add), which continues to FASCINATE the world…It is this refuge of sentiments and values, of spiritual congeniality, of belief in the Word, of reverence for symbolism, whose existence haunts the nation.”
Yes, it is this fascinating refuge, the South, which haunts the nation. It haunts the nation because it was right.
The Southland’s celebrated writer, Edgar Allen Poe, wrote many acclaimed works, and one was a poem titled “The Tell Tale Heart.” This poem tells the story of a man who has taken the life of another and begins to hear a heartbeat coming from beneath the floor of his home where he has hidden the victim. The heartbeat is continuous and steady, night and day, this never ending beat, beat, beat sounds throughout his home. No rest, no sleep, no peace! Despite his every effort to overcome and escape it, it will not cease. The man finally reaches madness and confesses his crime.
The truth of the South, her people, her struggle for independence, the Truth of her entire panoramic saga is the heartbeat beneath America’s floor. The truth of the South is the steady, never ceasing thump, thump, thump that haunts America’s conscience; that drives it to irrational action. In desperate efforts to make it go away, our flags are removed, our monuments torn down, our people smeared as traitors, our region called the land of treason, our children educated in deceit to be ashamed of their past, our streets and schools renamed, our history totally distorted, our symbols blamed for crimes they had absolutely nothing to do with! All in the name of stopping that incessant heartbeat.
But that heartbeat will not go away. And it won’t…because its pulse is truth.
And it’s not going away until the men we honor here today are vindicated; until the truth of their story is acknowledged.
Will that day ever come?
An answer might reside in Dr. Weaver’s concluding thoughts (and mine) in speaking of the South:
“It is damned for its virtues and praised for its faults, and there are those who wish its annihilation. But most revealing of all is the fear that it gestates the revolutionary impulse of our future.”
But most revealing of all is the fear that it gestates the revolutionary impulse of our future!
And here resides, ladies and gentlemen, one of the premier reasons why certain elements within our society want desperately to see all things Confederate disappear. The Confederacy and its constitutional struggle are a reminder of what once was; of freedoms once possessed; of rights undeniable; times of true liberty; times of true sovereignty; times when tyranny trembled at the sight or mention of Confederate; times when government had to watch its step rather than step on us. Confederate symbols just might serve as a spark; might stir otherwise uninquisitive-but-fed-up minds to wonder just what really did happen back then. Just might create a “revolutionary impulse” in people to consider the things that were once their absolute, natural birthrights. Trigger thoughts of what could be again! Thoughts of the pursuit of Truth! Thoughts of the time when societal self-determination for a better way was not called treason! This is why the Confederate aura must be gone!
We are a part of that revolutionary impulse! We are reminders! We are, ourselves, Confederate symbols! Some are Confederate relics, like me! But, we aren’t going away! Despite today’s assaults on the South’s history and her soldiers; no matter the futile and infantile rails against the truth, we will remain undaunted! We will continue to be a part of that never ending heartbeat beneath America’s floor!
So, no matter the hardships, the slander, the mockery, the blatant disallowance of our voice in the public realm, we take heart from the words of the late British writer and poet, Rudyard Kipling in meeting the challenges before us.
For all we have and are,
For all our children’s fate,
Stand up and meet the war,
The Hun is at the gate!
Tho’ all we knew depart,
The old commandment’s stand,
In courage keep your heart!
In strength lift up your hand!!