In Memphis, last week, a number of Federal officers and soldiers participated at the decoration of Confederate graves. As a result, Generals [Gideon Johnston] Pillow and Forrest addressed a letter through the Memphis papers to surviving Confederate soldiers and veterans of 1812, Florida and Mexico, requesting them to participate in the Federal ceremonies on Sunday last [i.e., on Memorial Day]. From this letter the subjoined is extracted:The strange position of Confederates vis-a-vis the original American Revolution and the government it spawned shows clearly here. After all many Confederates believed that they remained the truest American patriots even when they warred against the government in Washington. You can also see the post-war reconciliation in full flower here, the movement that culminated with the Memorial Bridge in Washington being built on a direct line from the Lincoln Memorial to Robert E. Lee's house.
“However much we differed with them while public enemies, and were at war, we must admit that they fought gallantly for the preservation of the government which we fought to destroy, which is now ours, was that of our fathers, and must be that of our children. Though our love for that government was for a while supplanted by the exasperation springing out of a sense of violated rights and the conflict of battle, yet our love for free government, justly administered, has not perished, and must grow strong in the hearts of brave men who have learned to appreciate the noble qualities of the true soldier.
“Let us all, then, join their comrades who live, in spreading flowers over the graves of these dead Federal soldiers, before the whole American people, as a peace offering to the nation, as a testimonial of our respect for their devotion to duty, and as a tribute from patriots, as we have ever been, to the great Republic, and in honor of the flag against which we fought, and under which they fell, nobly maintaining the honor of that flag. It is our duty to honor the government for which they died, and if called upon, to fight for the flag we could not conquer.”
Saturday, June 8, 2019
Nathan Bedford Forrest on Memorial Day 1875
These days the most unreconstructed neo-Confederates don't much revere Robert E. Lee. Lee, after all, surrendered his army and then called on the rest of the South's officers to do the same. This triggered a cascade of surrenders across the South, despite calls from Jefferson Davis and other firebrands to fight on, and some have never forgiven Lee for it. No, the current hero of neo-Confederates is Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was not an aristocrat like Lee but a self-made millionaire who never lost his downhome speech, which is probably why he was never considered for command of a Confederate army despite his record of success. This makes him a more appropriate hero for Trump-loving populists than a gentleman like Lee. Plus, instead of quietly retiring after the war he joined the Klan and rose into its leadership, continuing the fight for white supremacy. But even Forrest was eventually worn down, and he ended up resigning from the Klan when Klansmen started killing white southerners for political reasons. By 1875 Forrest, too, was preaching reconciliation. Dead Confederates found this item in the Galveston Daily News for June 3, 1875: