Monday, May 18, 2015

Confederate Memorial Day Speech by Dr. Cecil Williamson at the Alabama State Capitol - Part 1 (A Centennial History Lesson of the War Between the States)


(An Address given at the Alabama Division United Daughters of the Confederacy Confederate

Memorial Day Celebration in Montgomery, Alabama April 27, 2015)

It is an inexpressible honor to speak on this occasion in remembrance and in honor of some

250,000 southern men, 30,000 of them from Alabama, who gave their lives in a just fight for

constitutional government and law, and in honor of thousands of others who served in and

survived the war for southern independence. Since 1866 in this city, there has been an annual

remembrance of those who died and those who served in the armies of the Confederate States of

America. Since 1901, there has been a State of Alabama holiday to honor and to remember our

Confederate soldiers.

These tributes we pay to their memory today, these garlands of speech that we strew on

their graves, are feeble compared to the tribute they paid the South by their faithful and

honorable service. The memory of their noble and upright service will be cherished forever by

freedom loving Southerners. May the spirit that guided our Confederate soldiers be our guide so

that it may be said of us---that we have been faithful to our heritage and our duty to defend the

good name of the Confederate soldier.

On this Confederate Memorial Day, how do we remember fallen Confederates? In the

poet’s words:

“To remember the fallen

Is not to remember how they fell

But to remember why and for what they fell”

We honor and remember them for why and for what they fell!

From glorious victories at First Manassas to Chancellorsville to difficult defeats at

Vicksburg and Appomattox, from the horrors of inhumane prison camps at Elymira, Camp

Douglas and other northern prison where 26,000 fell from disease, starvation, cold and Lincoln

and Grant’s 1864 decision to end prisoner exchanges, Confederate soldiers fell on ground made

forever hallowed by their blood and sacrifice.

“How to remember the fallen?”, the poet asks. Not only to remember how they fell, whether

by rife, canon, bayonet or shot in the back, but to remember why and for what they fell is to

honor them today. Since the celebration of the war’s centennial from 1961 to 1965 until today,

the “why” and “for what” Confederate soldiers fell has ungone a dramatic change at the feet of

the country’s new unholy trinity of political correctness, multiculturalism and diversity. Permit

me a personal illustration of how and for what Confederate soldiers fought and fell and how the

why and for what they fought has changed dramatically in the last 50 years.

As a college student majoring in history during the time of the war’s centennial celebration

in the early 1960’s, my roommate was from Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, near the

Charleston harbor. On a few occasions I went with him to Charleston and visited Ft. Sumter.

In the 1960’s, this following was, in summary, the story of secession and how the war began that

was told in Charleston.

On December 20, 1860, the State of South Carolina, by the unanimous vote of a

Convention, called by its legislature, formally seceded from the Union. At that time, Major

Anderson was commandant of the federal forces at Charleston with his headquarters at Ft.

Moultrie. Fort Sumter, the strongest of all the city’s defenses and in the middle of the bay was

not occupied. At midnight, on the day the secession ordinance was adopted, Major Anderson,

having received orders from Washington, spiked the guns at Moultrie and conveyed all his men

and arms to Sumter.

The next morning, to the amazement of the South Carolinians, they saw the Union flag

flying over Sumter and Anderson in possession. As was to be expected this act of treachery

greatly incensed them…and hear this clearly…incensed them because President Buchanan had

assured South Carolina that the existing military status would undergo no change during the

remaining 4 months of his presidency. His pledge was violated by the seizure and occupation of

Sumter. Buchanan refused to order Anderson back to Moultrie.

Buchanan’s Secretary of War, J. B. Floyd, who had been a party to the promise by the

President, felt that his honor had been so compromised by this gross breach of faith that he

instantly and immediately resigned. For almost three months, from December to March 1861,

when Lincoln was inaugurated, commissioners from the South were in Washington urging a

peaceful separation and in particular the removal of the federal garrisons from Forts Pickens and


Upon being inaugurated, Lincoln gave assurances through an intermediary that all would

be well, that the military status of the South would be undisturbed and that Sumter would be

evacuated. The intermediary was respected United States Supreme Court Justice John

Campbell, of Alabama. These assurances were given verbally and in written to Campbell by

Secretary of State Seward himself. However, neither Lincoln nor Seward had any intention of

evacuating Sumter. Union Commanding General Scott informed Lincoln that Sumter could be

reinforced militarily only by surprise or deception; hence, the deceitful promises. As late as

April 7, it was pretended that the evacuation would still take place.

On April 7, Justice Campbell again wrote Secretary Seward about the subject and received

this reply:

“Faith as to Sumter fully kept-wait and see”. The very next day the Union fleet started a

convoy, it said, to “provision a starving garrison.” The fleet consisted of 11 vessels with 285 guns
and 2400 men. The fleet arrived in time to see the bombardment of Sumter, --lying in anchor in

the distance during the action and never firing a gun.

On April 12, 1861, the guns of Charleston had put the intended surprise reinforcement of

the fort out of the question, but the Lincoln administration had accomplished its one great

objective for which it had been scheming. Now the federal government, while in reality

commencing a war which they had fully resolved upon, could make it appear that they were

involved by the South’s actions. Such was the impression Lincoln intended and such was the

impression in the North needed to stir public sentiment against the South. Thus, Anderson held

the fort as long as honor required, surrendered it without a loss of one man, while the formidable

Union fleet looked on, never attempting to come to his aid.

In the early 1960’s, this was in summary the story told of why and how war begin. It

especially emphasized the Union’s duplicity and deception in beginning the war. And from that

beginning some 250,000 Southerners and some 350,000 northerners fell in a war that could have

been averted had Buchanan and Lincoln done what they repeatedly promised to do, and had not

Lincoln in particular wanted either a war to keep the South’s riches in the union or abject

submission to his despotic rule. In 1860, the Confederate States had the world’s fourth richest


1 comment:

  1. Just found this blog, great stuff!!! Will check back often!