Monday, May 25, 2009

A Soldier's Prayer

I found this prayer in today's Dallas Morning News.

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey ...
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things ...
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise ...
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God ...
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things ...
I got nothing that I asked for - but everything that I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
--- An Unknown Confederate Soldier

Many thanks to Jones Audiology & Hearing Centers for sponsoring this Memorial Day message.

Please thank our veterans of all wars for their sacrifice so that our "unspoken prayers" may be answered.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wreath to be Laid at Confederate Memorial

In keeping with a decades old tradition, President Barack Obama plans to send a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The White House plans to proceed with this event in spite of protests by Dallas-based historian Edward Sebesta. Mr. Sebesta sent a petition to the White House signed by 66 including James McPherson. Sebesta believes that the wreath glorifies the Civil War and "legitimizes the Confederacy."

Jane Durden, president general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said the controversy over the wreath reflects a misunderstanding that the Civil War was a defense of slavery rather than a patriotic call to arms.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center believes "neo-Confederates" will be invigorated if Obama doesn't end the tradition.

Unfortunately, all of these individuals miss several critical points:

1. The Confederacy doesn't need to be legitimized. It existed and the dispute about whether the southern states had a right to secede continues. This legality of the Confederacy is best left to Constitutional scholars.

2. The Civil War was fought to protect the wealth of southern slave-owners who led the secession movement. The maintenance of slavery as a means of preserving wealth must be recognized and accepted as a root cause of the conflict.

3. I'm not sure what constitutes a "neo-Confederate" but there are probably a great number of Southerners who relish their roots. Is every Civil War reenactor or living historian a "neo-Confederate?" Do they think that slavery was a good thing? Do they want their state to secede? I sincerely doubt it.

4. Most Confederate soldiers didn't own slaves and were not fighting to protect the "peculiar institution." In fact the northern draft riots showed that Union men were not interested in fighting to end slavery. In many cases, soldiers on both sides were fighting because their neighbors had enlisted. In the South, soldiers fought to defend against Lincoln's invasion. In the North, soldiers fought to preserve the Union and end the "rebellion."

5. Should we honor these Confederate soldiers? Yes. They were Americans fighting in a war between Americans. The descendants are Americans and we should honor their loss. Their deaths illustrate the price that we have paid as a country to grow and become the world leader. We should also honor them to recognize and remember the darkest days of our history in the hope that we won't repeat past mistakes. We should honor them because President Lincoln who saved the Union would have placed the first wreath on their memorial.

You can find pictures of the memorial at The Confederate Memorial.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grant's Letter to Widow Smith

In doing some research on Major General C. F. Smith, I discovered this letter from Major general U. S. Grant to Smith's wife. It seems appropriate on the Memorial Day weekend to read his comments.

Headquarters District of West Tennessee
Pittsburg Landing, April 26, 1862

Mrs. C. F. Smith
No. 191 East Fourth Street, New York:

It becomes my painful duty to announce to you the death of your lamented husband, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith. He died at 4 o'clock p.m. yesterday at Savannah, Tenn. In his death the nation has lost one of its most gallant and most able defenders. It was my fortune to have gone through West Point with the general (then captain and commander of cadets) and to have served with him in all his battles in Mexico and in this rebellion, and I can bear honest testimony to his great worth as a soldier and friend. Where an entire nation condoles with you in your bereavement no one can do so with more heartfelt grief than myself.

U. S. Grant

Thursday, May 21, 2009

McKinney, Texas Civil War Days

On April 18th and 19th The North Texas History Center and the Chestnut Square Historical Center held an entitled "The Reluctant Confederates." The exhibit depicted McKinney's involvement in the Civil War.

This exhibit, developed by the staff of the North Texas History Center, uses words, photos, and objects to tell the story of life in North Texas during the Civil War era.

Artifacts on display included Civil War clothing, newspapers, the latest medical equipment of the era, and much more.

Skirmishes reminiscent of those that occurred throughout the South were reenacted on at Chestnut Square Historic Village.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ordinary Men and Women in the Civil War

"Any power not specifically given..."

On May 15th the Senior University at Georgetown, Texas hosted a seminar on "Ordinary Men and Women in the Civil War." The program began with an excellent overview of the events leading to the Civil War. Dr. Tommy Stringer, VP for Institutional Development Navarro College. Dr. Stringer traced roots of the conflict from the "Constitutional Compromises" through the "Decade of Turmoil" in the 1850s.

"Go if you think it's your duty"

Baylor University's Julie Holcomb provided a personal perspective on the Civil War through reading correspondence between soldiers and their families. The letters portrayed a conflict that ripped apart families and made courting a long-distance campaign. She illustrated how the letters were slanted differently for wives and friends as soldiers tried to shield their families from battlefield dangers.

"We shall meet, but we will miss him"

After a brief break for a light lunch, it was back to the Civil War with songs of the period. Dr. Paul Lehman, Professor Emeritus from the University of Michigan, led us through a wonderful presentation with recorded songs of the period from Dixie's Land to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Listening to the music was enhanced by copies of the lyrics which prompted a mass sing along to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

"Religious rival followed conflict"

Dr. Steven Woodworth, Assistant Professor, Texas Christian University, presented an overview of the soldier's life from food to uniforms. Soldiers lived in two-man or "dog" tents, cooked their own meals supplemented by blackberries and treats from the sutlers, and spent their leisure time in camp playing cards and dominoes.

The day concluded with a panel question and answer session. The discussion was moderated by Senior University faculty member Dr. Stephen Benhold. Dr. Benhold ran an excellent program allowing amble time for questions but keeping us on the program's tight schedule.

We would also like to thank Ann and Michael Kessler for hosting us at their home in Sun City.

The program was sponsored by the Senior University at Sun City. The Texas Hill Country, golf courses, Austin and fellowship make Sun City an attractive retirement venue.