Remembering the Old South
By CALVIN E. JOHNSON JR.
Special to The Telegraph
April 2010, Confederate History and Heritage Month, is the month that marked the beginning of the War Between the States (1861) and its end (1865.)
In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly approved Senate Bill 27, signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, officially and permanently designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month.
The Old South captures the imagination of people from around the world who come to see Southern Belles in hoop skirts, Confederate flags and Southern memorial’s such as the famous carving of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis at Stone Mountain Memorial Park near Atlanta.
On Saturday, April 10, an annual National Confederate Memorial Service is scheduled to begin at noon in front of the Carving Reflection Pool at Stone Mountain Park sponsored by the Georgia Society Military Order of Stars and Bars and Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans. http://www.georgiascv.com/
April is a time to remember the men and women of the Confederacy and those who kept their memory eternal, such as Mildred Lewis Rutherford. Almost a century ago she served as historian-general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She was a respected teacher, writer, speaker and defender of the true history of the War Between the States.
Efforts to mark Confederate graves, erect monuments and hold memorial services were the idea of Mrs. Charles J. Williams. It is written that she was an educated and kind lady. Her husband served as colonel of the 1st Georgia Regiment. He died of disease in 1862, and was buried in his home town of Columbus.
Williams and her daughter visited his grave often and cleared the weeds, leaves and twigs from it, then placed flowers on it. Her 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 soon became ill and passed away. Williams’ grief was almost unbearable.
On a visit to the graves of her husband and daughter, Williams looked at the unkept soldiers’ graves and remembered her daughter as she cleaned the graves and what the little girl had said. She knew what she had to do. Williams wrote a letter published in Southern newspapers asking the women of the South for their help. She asked that memorial organizations be established to take care of the thousands of Confederate graves from the Potomac River to the Rio Grande.
She also asked the state legislatures to set aside a day in April to remember the men who wore gray. With her leadership April 26 was officially adopted in many states. She died in 1874, but not before her native state of Georgia adopted it as a legal holiday.
Williams was given a full military funeral by the people of Columbus, and flowers covered her grave. For many years an annual memorial was conducted at her grave following the soldiers’ memorial.
Among the gallant women of the Confederacy was Captain Sally Tompkins who was the first woman to be commissioned an officer on either side of the War Between the States. Commissioned by Jefferson Davis, she took care of thousands of soldiers in Richmond, Va. until the end of the war.
Find out more about Confederate History Month at: http://confederateheritagemonth.com