The famous and anonymous Confederate soldier captured after Mr. Lincoln sent his troops into the South was asked,
“Why do you fight us, Johnny Reb?
“Because you are here,” answered the soldier.
As a member of the Southern Memorial Association, I have been asked on numerous occasions why I would want to spend my time maintaining a Confederate cemetery, thereby paying respect to the “Confederate Cause.”
Most people today do not know much about the War Between the States and are satisfied to believe it was simply a matter of good versus evil, the North being the “good guy” and the South being the “bad guy” and the only thing they were fighting over was slavery. The North won, and thus slavery was ended in the United States. End of story.
Thousands of books have been written to analyze the issues and causes of the War Between the States, so I am not about to produce another one on these pages. I am only going to give a brief summary of why I care to spend time maintaining the Confederate Cemetery.
Soldiers from both North and South formed opinions of why they fought and what they believed to be a just cause. There were men on both sides who saw “preserving the Union” as something to fight for. From the very beginning of our country there was much contention over the way the country should be governed and what principles the new country would stand upon. Has anything changed? We still argue over how this country should be governed. In a nutshell, a very tragic and unnecessary war took place to see whose views would prevail in the settlement of opposing economic, religious, social, and political ideals.
Hoping to settle the troubles peacefully, the South attempted to secede and form its own country, just like many of their ancestors had done in 1776. They would win independence from Northern rule and then govern their own country as they saw fit. Conducting secession conventions in each Southern state legislature, they declared their independence and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America.
The “War of the Rebellion” commenced with the invasion of Northern troops to force the South back into the Union.
Why do I care about the Confederate Cemetery? Because I wish to continue the goal of the founding ladies, to preserve a beautiful resting place for the men in gray who defended hearth and home from an invading army.
~Donna Schwieder, President
Southern Memorial Association
Fayetteville, Arkansas 2012
The newspaper article below from 1930 sums up the Southern Cause:
“Jefferson Davis and State Sovereignty” by Charles B. Galloway, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. This article appeared in the June 2, 1930 issue of the Dallas Morning News.
That which pre-eminently signalized the public character and parliamentary career of Jefferson Davis was his sincere and unwavering devotion to the doctrine of State sovereignty and all the practical questions that flowed therefrom. He held with unrelenting grasp to the fundamental fact that the Union was composed of separate, independent, sovereign States, and that all federal power was delegated, specifically limited, and clearly defined. The titanic struggles of his entire public life were over this one vital issue, with all that it logically involved for the weal or woe of his beloved country. The insistence of Mr. Davis and his compatriots was, that the Constitution and its laws should be obeyed, that the individual sovereign States must regulate their own domestic affairs without federal interference and that their property, of whatever kind, must be respected and protected. They resisted any invasion of the State’s right to control its own internal affairs as a violation of the sacred federal compact.
And by the way, our present-day political discussions are eloquently vindicating the patriotic jealousy of Mr. Davis for the rights of the State. The most significant fact of these strenuous times is the solemn warnings in endless iteration and from both political parties against the ominous encroachment of federal authority. More and more the nation is seeing that Jefferson Davis was not an alarmist or an academical theorist but a practical, sagacious, far-seeing statesman when he contended so persistently for the rights and unconstrained functions of each member of the federal union. And it is an interesting and suggestive fact, that the latest historians and writers on Constitutional government sustain this fundamental contention of Southern statesmen.
Mr. Davis wrought with all his great ability and influence to preserve the union. He favored and earnestly advocated the “Crittenden Resolution” on condition that the Republican members of the peace commission would accept them. Had they not stubbornly refused (and they did it at the advice of Mr. Lincoln) war would have been averted and the dissolution of the union prevented or postponed.
“The principle for which we contended is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.”