Monday, May 28, 2012

Forgotten- Memorial Day 2012

Cemeteries all across the United States have blossomed with thousands of small US flags that mark the final resting places of our veterans.

This is the holler where 14 dead Confederate soldiers rest. Unknowns and forgotten, they share a single grave. This is the 150th anniversary year of their burial here, far from their homes. The place is a small country cemetery in Southern Indiana. ( See Forgotten, December 17, 2011)

The Holler. 14 unknown Confederate soldiers rest here.

Many more of their kinsmen and comrades would fill graves in the North, in POW camp plots and battlefield cemeteries. Some of them, too, would be unknown. They, like these, would fill unmarked graves and be forgotten over the course of years.

Many of their comrades survived the war and for the most part lived their remaining days as productive members of the United States. Some would eventually enter politics and represent their states or the nation at all levels including Congress and the Foreign Services.

James Longstreet would serve as US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

John S. Mosby served as US Consul to Hong Kong.

Joseph Wheeler served in the US House of Representatives as a congressman from Alabama and also as a Major General of Volunteers, United States Army during the Spanish American War and the Philippine- American War (Philippine Insurrection).

Robert Lee became president of Washington College, later named Washington and Lee University.

These men are only the more famous among many that formerly served in the Confederate States Army, then went on to serve the whole nation as civilians or soldiers. What might they have become, these fourteen unknowns, had they lived? As evinced by the more famous men, they too may have gone on to great things. Perhaps not on such a grand scale, but possibly may have been mayors, county councilmen, or simply good citizens.

Some words from Ulysses Grant may be in order here. These come from his Personal Memoirs completed shortly before he died in 1885. For brevity the most pertinent are shown, but they are in context of the sentiment of the whole passage.

The people who had been in rebellion must necessarily come back into the Union, and be incorporated as an integral part of the nation.” and also, “They surely would not make good citizens if they felt they had a yoke around their necks.” (page752)

I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate.” (page 778)

Finally, in his Report of the period 1864- 1865, Grant concludes, speaking of all Federal soldiers, and expresses this hope:

Let them hope for perpetual peace and harmony with that enemy, whose manhood, however mistaken the cause, drew forth such herculean deeds of valor.” (page 847-48)

In honoring these fourteen soldiers I in no way mean to imply that the cause they fought for was anything other than what Grant called it, a mistaken cause. It is simply a matter of honoring an American soldier, nothing more. Besides, unknowns should be remembered by someone. It would be wise to look beyond the years 1861-1865 and see what former Confederates achieved, as Americans, and honor them on Memorial Day as we do their Federal brethren and all of the rest of our soldiers who have fallen. To ignore them, their achievements, and their contributions would only dishonor ourselves.

The little US flag in the above photo was placed there by yours truly and is only in proximity to the graves location which is not exactly known. To some it would have been more appropriate to have placed the Stars and Bars there but somehow I think these men would be pleased with the Stars and Stripes. They may still be known only to God, but at least they are not completely forgotten. They may have been rebellious Americans, but now they lie under one flag. It just seems fitting.

Remember ALL of them! One Nation, One Flag, Under God.


Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Grant, Ulysses S., The Library of America, edition, 1990.

Photos by the author who is not much of a photographer!

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