In sorting out some of my material I ran across a folder with the April 26, 1912, local paper, The Athens Banner. The Titanic had just sunk. My parents had not been born. The last member of my family who served in the Civil War had died three years earlier and numerous other CSA veterans had died a decade or two earlier. Almost all of these veterans’ children and grandchildren were alive, including my two grandfathers. Their grandparents (and in one case, a parent) were the CSA veterans. The issue of the Banner was a special Confederate Memorial Day edition which contained a number of articles that were typical for the time. Someone in my family, I expect it was my grandmother, saved the paper.
Here are a few of the types of articles that are in the issue.
- A bunch of fragrant violets…As my offering I have brought…True blue, as were the soldiers…When for the right they fought…etc.
- Tattered and torn and limp as a rag…Droops from its staff the old battle flag…….Tenderly gather the sacred dust…And let it mingle, at last, for aye…With that of the boys who wore the Gray.
- The cross, a symbol of the pain…And suffering they bore…The tear dimmed the eye, the dying sigh…Shall be theirs nevermore…The crown immortal they shall wear… A noble, loyal band… …Defenders of our land.
Various accounts of organizations: Soldiers Aid Society, UDC, etc.
Lists of local soldiers and their stories.
Accounts of prominent local CSA leaders.
Reconstruction Days: “Rufus Bullock was forced upon us [as military governor]. He stood for negro supremacy…The best thinking negroes of the day are discussing educational problems as never before. The conflict between the white race and the negro race is not from the educated white but from the illiterate white – ‘po’ white trash’…Social equality in the South between the races can never …”
Ku Klux Klan: “The Ku Klux Klan was a great law and order league of mounted night cavalrymen, called into action by the intolerant condition of a reign of terror under the negro rule in the South at the close of the War between the States…”
Clearly, this is The Lost Cause on steroids. Veterans still living were revered. My great aunts (one had just married a CSA vet and another would do so in a couple of years) and grandparents probably appreciated the memorial issue. The paper has several sections and was likely the largest paper of the year. It’s just a curiosity to me. No doubt the minority population of Athens, including some who were formerly slaves, didn’t appreciate it.
I’d speculate that few people who will read this have much of an idea what the Lost Cause movement was other than a general sense that it idealized and sanitized slavery, the bloody civil war, and the aftermath. The brief excerpts above will give you a pretty good feel for it.
Athens erected one of the first war monuments in 1871, paid for by one of the private memorial groups. A local group has called for its removal and they have held some meetings. I’ve been by the obelisk a thousand times but since it is in a high traffic area, I have no idea what’s on it. It’s just there.
There are no longer any grand memorial editions of the paper and not much of any remembrance of any kind. Frankly, if there wasn’t a protest group I doubt anyone would recognize that a monument to the Confederacy was there.
If the group arranges to relocate the monument to the historic cemetery, I’d probably support that and would be able to get a better and longer look at it.
I have no objection to reconciliation groups and might benefit from some perspectives I haven’t had but do not particularly feel inclined toward such personally. No one in my circles is talking about the Civil War like they did a century ago. It’s almost reflexive to say that all the problems aren’t solved yet but pastors, as it is often said, just try to hack it on Mondays and we all try to pay the bills.
And, by the way, Georgia still has a Confederate Memorial Day, the fourth Monday in April but it is called “State Holiday” and does not reference the Confederacy at all. It’s just an odd day off for state employees. Things change.