Editor's note: This speech was transcribed by Hilary N. Green, associate professor of history in the Department of Gender and Race Studies and the co-program director of the African American Studies program at the University of Alabama. You can find this transcription on her UA website here.
“Unveiling of Confederate Monument at University. June 2, 1913”
There are no words that I have been able to find in the vocabulary of the English language that fittingly express my feelings in this presence of this occasion. But you know and I know, that though I might speak with the tongue of men and of angels, neither song nor story could fittingly honor this glorious event. The whole Southland is sanctified by the precious blood of the student Confederate soldier. Their sublime courage has thrown upon the sky of Dixie a picture so bright and beautiful that neither defeat, nor disaster, nor oppression, nor smoke, nor fire, nor devastation, nor desolation, dire and calamitous, and I might with truth add, the world, the flesh nor the Devil has been able to mar or blemish it. The tragedy of history fails to record anywhere upon its sublime pages anything comparable to it. All the time will be the millennium of their glory.
The canopy of the South is studded with stars which shall grow brighter and brighter as the ages in their endless procession succeed each other.
No nobler young men ever lived; no braver soldiers ever answered the bugle call nor marched under a battle flag.
They fought, not for conquest, not for coercion, but from a high and holy sense of duty. They were like the Knights of the Holy Grail, they served for the reward of serving, they suffered for the reward of suffering, they endured for the reward of enduring, they fought for the reward of duty done. They served, they suffered, they endured, they fought, [and died – crossed out] for their childhood homes, their firesides, the honor of their ancestors, their loved ones, their own native land.
This noble gift of the United Daughters of the Confederacy touches deeply and tenderly the heart of every man who has the privilege of claiming the University of North Carolina as his Alma Mater. It is in harmony with the eternal fitness of things that the Old North State’s daughters of to-day should commemorate the heroism of the men and youths whom the mothers and sisters, the wives and sweethearts of half a century ago sent forth to battle for the South. As Niobe wept over her sons slain by Apollo, so the tears of our women were shed over the consummate sacrifice of their loved ones. And as the gods transformed Niobe into a marble statue, and set this upon a high mountain, as our native goddesses erect this monument of bronze to honor the valor of all those whom fought and died for the Sacred Cause, as well as for the living sons of this grand old University.
The years of the future will laurel the story,
How often the tender, the brave, and the true,
Stood feet on the fields of their merited glory,
A thin line of gray ‘gainst the legions of blue.
O! what if half fell in the battle informal?
Aye, what if they lost at the end of the fray?
Love gives them a wreath that is fadeless, eternal,
And glory investeth the line of gray.
They broker it, the thousands, the might of a nation,
Hurled back the weak line in its pitiful plight;
The deeds that had challenged a world’s admiration,
Went down ‘neath the pall of a pitiless night.
The war between the states was fought, really, by the women who stayed at home. Had they uttered a cry, had they complained, the morale of Lee’s army would have been dissipated in a day.
How many mothers were there in those days of stress and storm like her of that touching interlude of Tennyson’s?
“Home they brought her warrior dead,
She nor swooned nor uttered cry;
All her maidens watching, said,
She must week or she must die.
Then they praised him soft and low,
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe,
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.
Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to her warrior stepped,
Took the face-cloth from the face,
Yet she neither moved, nor wept.
Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set her child upon her knee,
Like summer tempest came her tears,
‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’”
And how she lived for him, that patient widowed mother of the South; what a man she made of him; how she has kept true in his breast the best traditions of his race; how she has fed him, clothed him, brought him up through poverty to wealth, from weakness to strength, to the high honor of hard work, through the indomitable example that she set! She has made of the sturdy manhood of the South the highest product which a Christian race has yet attained.
God bless the noble women of my dear Southland, who are to-day as thoroughly convinced of the justice of that cause. They are the guardians of the sacred honor the the [sic] departed; they will protect the memory of the hero’s spirit no less than preserve from desecration from the sand [handwritten insertion of– sand] dust of his body.
Nothing in all the marvelous record can equal the fortitude, the constancy, the devotion of the women of the South. Whatever history has written of Andromache or Penelope, of Virginia or Lucretia, of the Carthagenian maids whose hair supplied bowstrings of battle; of Boadecia or Helen of Troy, of Elizabeth or Joan of Arc; it was for the women of the Confederacy, our dear old mothers, our wives, and our sweethearts, God bless them every one, to show forth again in such resplendent guise, that neither history nor romance can approach its everlasting glory.
The educational institutions of the South here a conspicuous part in respect to the number of students who represented them in the ranks of the army of the Confederacy. Nowhere in all the South was the approaching conflict more keenly scented than in the universities and colleges, and the gallant boys, then pursuing their studies, lost no time in preparing themselves for the hour when the call should come. Long before the shot on Sumpter, which as heard around the world, was fired, companies of students were drilling on the campus. Within a week or two after that fateful April day, they were on the march to the front. On every battlefield they gave good account of themselves, and with their life-blood the sealed the compact of patriot and hero.
In the foremost rank of the schools whose students rallied ‘around the Stars and Bars stands on own beloved University. One only is ahead of us in the list, the University of Virginia, of whose students, 2,481 served in the Confederate Army and Navy, and 488 of whom gave up their lives. Washington College – now Washington and Lee University – sent out a company, early in 1861, under the name of Liberty Hall Volunteers. It numbered 76, 26 wounded and 9 died in the service. All in all, Washington College gave 450 men to the Confederacy.
Even the great Northern universities – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – furnished quotas of soldiers for the Confederate ranks. From Harvard came 257, of whom 58 were killed in battle and 12 died in the service, and in this large list appear 8 brigadier-generals and 5 major-generals. Of the graduates and students of Yale, 48 entered the Confederate service, and of these 8 were killed in battle or succumbed to disease At Princeton 55 men left the University, early in 1861, to enter the Confederate service, and from the somewhat incomplete records of that University it appears that a considerable percentage of these young men were killed in battle, or died from disease.
At William and Mary College, 44 enlisted in the Confederate service, of whom 6 were killed.
Of the students and alumni of the University of North Carolina, about 1800 entered the Confederate army, of whom 842 belonged to the generation of 1850-1862. The University had in the service 1 lieutenant-general, 4 major-generals, 13 brigadier-[page break 8] generals, 71 colonels, 30 lieutenant-colonels, 65 majors, 46 adjutants, 71 surgeons, 254 captains, 161 lieutenants, 38 non-commissioned officers and about 1000 privates.
I regard it as eminently appropriate to refer briefly at his point to the magnificent showing made by our state in the military service of the Confederacy. North Carolina furnished 84 regiments, 16 battalions and 13 unattached companies, besides the companies and individuals serving in commands from other states, and 9 regiments of Home Guards. Losses on the battlefield and by disease indicate that her contribution to the Confederate army was somewhat more than 1 to 5, while here military population stood in the proportion of 1 to 9. The entire Confederate loss on the battlefield was 74,524, of which North Carolina’s share was 19,673, or more than one-fourth; 59, 297 died of disease, and of these, 20,602 were North Carolinians.
And I dare to affirm this day, that if every State of the South had done what North Carolina did without a murmer [sic], always faithful to its duty whatever the groans of the victims, there never would have been an Appomatox[sic]; Grant would have followed Meade and Pope; Burnside, Hooker, McDowell and McClellan, and the political geography of America would have been re-written.
It is not for us to question the decrees of Providence. Let us be grateful that our struggle, keeping alive the grand principle of local self-government and State sovereignty has thus far held the American people from that consolidated despotism whose name, whether Republic or Empire, is of but little importance as compared with its rule.
This beautiful memorial is unique in one aspect. I have participated at the unveiling of several Confederate monuments, and have intimate knowledge of a great many more, but this is the first and only one in which the living survivors have been distinctly mentioned and remembered, and in the distinguished presence I desire to thank that Daughters of the Confederacy, in the name of the living Confederate students, for their beautiful and timely thoughtfulness.
The duty due to our dear Southland, and the conspicuous service rendered, did not end at Appomatox[sic]. The four years immediately following the four years of bloody carnage, brought their responsibilities hardly of less consequence than those for which the South laid upon the altar of her country 74,524 of her brave and loyal sons dead from disease, a grand total of 133,821.
It is true that the snows of winter which never melt, crown our temples, and we realize that we are living in the twilight zone; that it requires no unusual strain to hear the sounds of the tides as they roll and break upon the other shore, “The watch-dog’s bark his deep bay mouth welcome as we draw near home”, breaks upon our ears—makes it doubly sweet to know that we have been remembered in the erection of this beautiful memorial. The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.
I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head.
With pardonable pride I look upon the grand record of my Alma Mater, near whose confines I first beheld the light; in whose classic halls three of my sons have graduated and a fourth is now a student, and where my brother and three of his sons also matriculated. The glorious record of this seat of learning is embalmed in affections of our family.
A brave soldier, a devoted son of the South, an honor graduate of this grand old University, led the brave phalanxes of the South fartherest [sic] to the front, up the bloody, slippery heights at Gettysburg, along the crest where death in full panoply with exultant glee held high carnival – I bow my head while I mention the name of the chivalrous J. Johnson Pettigrew – the Marshall Ney of Lee’s Army.
Permit me to refer at this point to a pleasing incident in which that distinguished son of the South, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, had the leading part. A year or two ago diplomas were given by our University to all the students who had interrupted their studies to enter the military service of the Confederacy. Mr. Wilson, then President of Princeton University delivered these diplomas. One man only of the Class [handwritten – that Matriculated in 1862] wearing the Confederate uniform, came forward to receive that highly prized token. It was the humble individual who now addresses you. At the dinner, later in the day, Professor Wilson greeted me with the remark that in many years nothing had so much touched and warmed his heart as the sight of that Confederate uniform.
The “old gray” always awakens sad and tender memories, glorified more and more by the receding years. Those of us who donned it and brought it back tattered and torn after the final battle had been fought, and our banner had been furled at fateful Appomatax [sic], and who are yet here to recall those days that tried the souls of the men and women of the South, how in profoundest gratitude before you, Daughters of the Confederacy, for this tribute of your love, for this token of your devotion to the spirit of the South, the spirit that animated all those who for four long years fought against overwhelming odds, and to whose unflinching valor their whilom adversaries bear fervent testimony to-day.
In our forums, in our halls, in our universities and colleges and schools they tell us, through tradition, song and story of the wonderful deeds of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Thermopylae, Marathon, Platea, of Caesar and his 10th Legion, which carried the Roman Eagle to the confines of the known world, of the chivalric knights of the Middle Ages, of Saratoga and Yorktown, of Cowpens and King’s Mountain, of Lodi and Austerlitz, of Napoleon and the Old Guard, of Jefferson Davis and Buena Vista, and Monterey, but there is nothing recorded which surpasses the achievements of the Student Soldiers who wore the gray. For undaunted heroism, unyielding endurance, patient suffering, incessant fighting and deathless valor, he is without parallel. He was the ancient Greek of modern times, led by the Miltiades of the 19th Century, the world’s greatest hero, Robert E. Lee.
The Spartan lived again in the Confederate Student Uniform. When the flag of the Stars and Bars was unfurled, consecrated by woman’s devotion, sanctified with woman’s tears, with all the hopes that clustered around it, with all the mighty millions of forces arranged to crush it, Leonidas, clad in the Confederate Students Uniform, arose from the dead to fight under its folds again for his country.
O, they are not dead! If they are not here to-day, I know where they are , fellow comrades, I know where they are, -- just over the narrow river, camped in silent tents, on the green sward, under the shade of the trees, on the bank of the crystal stream of life.
They tell us, the foolish ones tell us, that when Stonewall Jackson, the world’s greatest strategist and the great general and Christian soldier, was dying, he became delirious. But he was not delirious. It is true, the light of the world was fading before his vision, but as it faded, he caught a glimpse of this beautiful camp in which are so many of his brave soldiers, and as the light of the world faded away, and the vision of that tented field rose before his closing eyes, he said:
“Let us pass over the river, rest under the shade of the trees.”
Ever and anon, through all the vicissitudes of life, we are prone to ask ourselves: “What am I, whence did I come and whither do I go?” Are our lives like bubbles cast upon the ocean of eternity to float for a moment, then to sink into nothingness? Or like the islands that slumber on the bosom of the sea for a day, and then go down beneath the waters? Or like the meteors which streak the heavens with their lines of light and then go out forever? Is there no place where the soul can say, “This is my home?”
Why were these instincts of immortality implanted in our breast? Were they placed there to mock us in our desolation?
Why were the stars, in their unapproachable glory, set in the skies above us, if there is no hope? Why was the rainbow ever painted before our eyes, if there is no promise?
There must be, there IS a land that is fairer than day, where the rainbow never fades, where stars never go down, where these longings of immortality shall leap like angels from the temple of our hearts, and bring us rest; where the good and true, who fall before us like Autumn leaves, shall forever stay in our presence. There, there, fellow comrades, is the Confederate soldier’s paradise, the Confederate soldier’s heaven of eternal rest.
That for which they battled in memory of this monument is reared, as well as for the survivors of that bloody drama, was not achieved. But the cause for which they fought is not lost, never can be, never will be lost while it is enshrined in the hearts of the people of the South, especially the hearts of the dear, loyal, patriotic women, who, like so many Vestal Virgins (God’s name be praised), keep the fires lighted upon the Altars. Nay, as long as men anywhere pay tribute to the self-sacrificing spirit of a peoples’ ideals.
Ah! never shall the land forget
How gushed the life-blood of her braves,
Gushed, warmed with hope and courage yet,
Upon the soil they fought to save.
Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
When they who helped thee flee in fear,
Die full of hope and may trust,
Like those who fell in battle here.
In the knowledge of subsequent developments, the progress, peace and prosperity of our united, common country, victor and vanquished now alike believe that in the Providence of God it was right and well that the issue was determined as it was. And the people of all sections of our great Republic, moved by the impulse of sincere and zealous loyalty, of fervent and exalted patriotism may say: “All is well that ends well.”
Again, dear Daughters of the Confederacy, I thank you in the name of the eighteen hundred brave, loyal, patriotic, home-loving young student soldiers who went out from this grand old University to battle for our Southern rights and Southern liberties, five hundred of whom never came back. God bless every one of you, and every Daughter of the Confederacy in our dear Southland.
I thank you – God bless you.
Julian S. Carr, “Unveiling of Confederate Monument at University. June 2, 1913” in the Julian Shakespeare Carr Papers #141, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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