Embrace the Entire Union
1893 — Reunion, John C. Burks Camp United Confederate Veterans, Clarksville TX
Time honored veterans and friends. This evening we have assembled with hearts full of joyous anticipations not unmingled with memories which lend to the present just enough bitter to render it indeed sweet. This occasion, the reunion of a small remnant of a grand army of brothers, and may I not add sisters for surely a better corps of soldiers never faced the enemy than were your mothers, wives, and daughters, is one of gladness, for verily the angel of peace, poised upon the dome of our grand old nation smiles benignly o’er us all. In 1861, grim visaged war stalked into our midst and called into mortal combat with their norther brothers, yet believing their rights infringed and their honor at stake, poorly clad and as poorly armed, they were marshalled to the battlefield there to bedew the sod with their life’s blood for their loved land of the sunny South. Need I try to picture to the white-haired soldier of the Confederacy the horrors of those battle plains? No! To merely mention that awful struggle is all that is sufficient to recall scenes traced upon their memories in the blood of dear comrades and beloved kindred. Were our men alone in this fearful contest? Did they pass through this ordeal unaided, suffering every privation possible to human beings? Were they alone forced to endure hardships of warfare? An, no! Far away in the once beautiful homes that adorned the Southern mountains and vales, the noble heart of Southern womanhood was subjected to torture beyond the power of pen to describe. In those homes ravaged of all beauty, all value save the least that home may imply, a shelter, how bravely the women battled with poverty and grief. With untiring energy they met the opposing forces, chanting cheerful strains accompanied by the low sweet hum of spinning wheel and loom, thus clothing the absent soldiers and their households. Three cheers for the home spun dress! Days lengthened into months and months into years of weary waiting and toil but the fidelity of woman to loved ones and her country was unprecedented. But bring a woman to dwell on woman’s worth. Again to the battlefield! There we have Lee, Beauregard, Longstreet, the Johnsons, Stonewall Jackson and a host of others whose memories are honored and whose name is imperishable.
Their praises are hummed by the loftier harps than mine and I would not, if it were possible, detract from their fame, but I am constrained to say the true heroes of the Confederacy are the rank and file who bore the musket and bared the breast to the merciless fire of minie balls, grape and canister of the enemy. The invitation extended by the organization to the colored men to become members of the association is a fit recognition of their devotion to the cause in which their masters were enlisted. It is certainly gratifying to the faithful old servant wince it shows him how truly were his services appreciated. And who was more faithful and attentive than was the servant who followed his master through those dark days of strife when swept down in the heart of battle, ready to minister to his wants, to staunch the flowing wound or bind the maimed limb. Ah! I know one whose head is now white with the frost of many winters whose eyes are bedimmed with age, and whose form is bent with toil of long years that was such a servant. When honor and patriotism fired the soul of his noble master and called him forth to the gray field of battle, with courage undaunted this true-hearted servant willingly followed, ready to serve him if needs be, die at his post. The great tide of civil war rolled on leaving in its wake myriad mounds of cold gray earth until one morning in September of ’63 during a skirmish with the enemy this loved master fell mortally wounded. He fell into the hands of the enemy and was conveyed to a federal hospital where his soul, loosed from its earthly temple, took its flight to the country from whose bourn no traveler ‘er returns. The servant never saw his master again, but crossing the federal lines he was allowed the privilege of a wagon and horse. Securing the master’s horse and personal effects, he started with them back to the bereaved ones at home. Having dispatched this mission of love, he retraced his steps and delivering this wagon and horse to their owner returned once more to cast his lot with the children of his master. Nor did his faithfulness end here. He has also shown himself to be a friend of the strongest type to those children by deeds of kindness and self-sacrifice. That solder was my grandfather and that servant is now a citizen among you. Many incidents of similar character might be related, for often were the colored men within the federal lines where they might have asserted their freedom under federal protection, but they remained loyal to their masters to the end. Ah! Never shall the South forget how gushed the life blood of her brave! Who can chide us for our devotion to Dixieland and the memory of her loved sons long ago consigned to the dusty, stained with their own blood? But for twenty seven years the flag of war has been furled. The boom of cannon, the rattle of musketry, the agonized cries of dying soldiers are hushed, and quiet reigns o’er the distant fields of carnage. The battle cloud has melted into balmy sunshine of love and union; our camp fires are fanned by the zephyrs of peace and prosperity. The same flag floats over Maine and Texas, over California and Florida. The North and South have joined hands over the bitterness of the past. But is it treason for us to love to revel in the memories of the South and her gallant soldiers? No! Surely we can say with the noble Houston, we have hearts large enough to embrace the entire union if not the whole world.
Source: Papers of Betty Sue Marable Flowers, great grand-daughter of Mattie Corley Marable.