OUR CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS: WHY AND FOR WHAT THEY FOUGHT AND FELL
(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
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
“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
“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