A Lost Cause, But An Honorable One


Lewis Regenstein

The controversy over the Confederate battle flag and what it
symbolizes continues to rage. But it is rarely if ever explained
why many decent people of good will are so proud of their Confederate

Basically, it is because our ancestors showed amazing courage,
honor, and valor, enduring incredible hardships, against overwhelming
and often hopeless odds, in fighting, for their homeland — not
for slavery, as is so often said, but for their families, homes,
and country.

Put simply, most Confederate soldiers felt they were fighting
because an invading army from the North was trying to kill them,
burn their homes, and destroy their cities. And anyone with family
who fought to defend the South, as mine did, cannot help but appreciate
the dire circumstances our ancestors encountered.

Near the end of the War Between the States, my great grandfather,
Andrew Jackson Moses, who ran away from school to become a Confederate
scout, at 16 rode out to defend his hometown of Sumter, South
Carolina, as part of a hastily-formed local militia. Approaching
rapidly was a unit of Sherman’s army, which had just burned Columbia
and most everything else in its path, and Sumter expected similar

Along with a few other teenagers, old men, invalids, and wounded
from the local hospital, Sumter’s rag-tag defenders amazingly
were able to hold off these battle-seasoned veterans, Potter’s
Raiders, for an hour-and-a-half, at the cost of several lives.
(Jack got away with a price on his head, and Sumter was not burned
after all. But some buildings were, and there were documented
instances of murder, rape, and arson by the Yankees, including
the torching of our family’s 196 bales of cotton.)

Meanwhile, Jack’s eldest brother, Lt. Joshua Lazarus Moses, who
was wounded in the War’s first real battle, First Manassas (Bull
Run), was defending Mobile in the last major battle of the War.
His forces being outnumbered 12 to one, Josh was commanding an
artillery battalion that, before being overrun, fired the last
shots in defense of Mobile. Refusing to lay down his arms, he
was killed on the day Lee surrendered, in a battle, Fort Blakely,
in which one of his brothers, Perry, was wounded, and another
brother, Horace, captured while laying land mines.

The fifth bother, Isaac Harby Moses, having served with distinction
in combat in Wade Hampton’s cavalry, rode home from North Carolina
after the Battle of Bentonville where he commanded his company,
all of the officers having been killed or wounded. He never surrendered
to anyone, his Mother proudly observed in her memoirs. He was
among those who fired the very first shots of the War, when his
company of Citadel cadets opened up on the Union ship, Star of
the West, which was attempting to resupply the besieged Fort Sumter
in January, 1861, three months before the War officially began.

The Moses brothers’ distinguished uncle, Major Raphael J. Moses,
from Columbus, Georgia, was General James Longstreet’s chief commissary
officer, and was responsible for supplying and feeding up to 50,000
men. Their commander, General Robert E. Lee, had forbidden Moses
from entering private homes in search of supplies in raids into
Union territory, even when food and other provisions were in painfully
short supply. And he always paid for what he did take from farms
and businesses, albeit in Confederate tender, often enduring,
in good humor, harsh verbal abuse from the local women.

Interestingly, he ended up carrying out the last order of the
Confederacy, which was to deliver the last of the Confederate
treasury, $40,000 in gold & silver bullion, to help feed and
supply the defeated Confederate soldiers straggling home after
the War — weary, hungry, often sick, shoeless and in tattered
uniforms. With the help of a small group of determined armed guards,
Moses successfully carried out the order from President Jefferson
Davis, despite repeated attempts by mobs to forcibly take the

Major Moses’ three sons also served the Confederacy, one of whom,
Albert Moses Luria, was killed in 1862 at 19 after courageously
throwing a live Union artillery shell out of his fortification
before it exploded, thereby saving the lives of many of his compatriots.
He was the first Jewish Confederate killed in the War; his cousin
Josh, the last. (An estimated 3,500-5,000 Jewish soldiers fought
for the Confederacy.)

One cannot help but respect the dignity and gentlemanly policies
of Lee and Moses, and the courage of the greatly outnumbered,
out-supplied but rarely outfought Confederate soldiers. In stark
contrast, Union generals Sherman, Grant, and Sheridan and their
troops burned and looted homes, farms, courthouses, libraries,
businesses and entire cities full of only civilians (including
Atlanta), as part of official Union policy to not only defeat
but utterly destroy the South, in violation of the then-prevailing
rules of warfare.

And before, during, and after the War, this same Union army (led
by many of the same generals, including Sherman, Grant, and George
Custer) used similar tactics, and worse, to massacre and nearly
wipe out the Native Americans, in what we euphemistically call
"The Indian Wars." So the Union army was hardly the
forerunner of the civil rights movement, as many would have us

There are countless stories of valor by soldiers on both sides
of this tragic conflict, and their descendants can take justifiable
pride in this heritage. This is especially true of the brave and
beleaguered Confederates who risked all and sacrificed much in
the service of their country, against a formidable, implacable,
and often cruel foe. A Lost Cause, yes, but an honorable one,
which should not be forgotten.