In seeking ways I could help promote Confederate Heritage Month and bring attention to the month of the year when the War Between the States both ended and began, I did what I always do as a historical fiction author – I turned to the voices of the past. After all, who can tell their story better than the actual participants in those events?
So on this, the first day of April, 2009, I would like to reprint part of an address by General R.E. Colston to the Virginia Ladies’ Memorial Association, which I found in the Confederate Veteran (March, 1897).
His Words Live After Him
Those who fall in the arms of victory and success need no monuments to preserve their memories. The continued existence and prosperity of their country are sufficient epitaphs, and their names can never be forgotten.
But how shall those be remembered who failed? It is their enemies who write their history, painting it with their own colors, distorting it with their calumnies, their prejudices, and their passions; and it is this one-sided version of the conquerors that the world at large accepts as truth, for in history as in the present, vae victis (woe to the conquered).
It is true that when we, the actors in the last contest, shall be sleeping in our graves, little will it matter to us what the world may think of us or our motives. But methinks that we could hardly rest in peace, even in the tomb, should our descendants misjudge or condemn us. And yet, is there impossibility of this? They will be told that their fathers were oligarchs, aristocrats, slave-drivers, rebels, traitors, who, to perpetuate the monstrous sin of human slavery, tried to throttle out the life of the nation and to rend asunder the government founded by Washington; that they raised parricidal hands against the sacred ark of the Constitution; that they were the unprovoked aggressors, and struck the first sacrilegious blow against the Union and the flag of their country.
What if this be but false cant and calumny? Constant repetition will give it something of the authority of truth. We cannot doubt it. Our descendants will see these slanders repeated in Northern and probably in European publications; perhaps even in the very text-books of their schools …
Fellow Southerners, whose teachings and influence can accomplish more than all other agencies combined to hurl back this foul slander in the teeth of that reverend liar? Who can best guard our posterity from the corrupting odium of falsehood? Who can so implant the right and justice of our lost cause into their souls as to prevail over all the calumnies of our detractors?
Your hearts reply like mine: “It is the noble, patriotic, unwavering women of the South.”
To be continued …