J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “ancestors”

Little Known History

Our past holds many secrets. Delving into our heritage can be a fascinating journey in our quest to find out where we came from and what transformed our ancestors’ lives.

One example is that, following the Civil War and the defeat of the South, some Confederates decided to continue their cause, so they moved outside of the U.S. Many congregated in Brazil, because slavery was still legal there. It wasn’t long before slavery was abolished, but Confederate heritage remained, and is still celebrated today. Here is an article describing the celebration that takes place every year in that country.

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The aroma of fried chicken and biscuits roused the appetite of over 2,500 people as the country sounds of Alison Krauss, Alan Jackson, and Johnny Cash played over the loudspeakers. It was the annual “Festa Confederada”-the “Confederate Party”-an annual celebration of southern heritage held each April in Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, in São Paulo, Brazil.

A sign explaining “What the Confederate Flag Really Means” in both English and Portuguese greeted the roughly 2,500 visitors at the entryway of the American Cemetery. Inside, women wearing Antebellum-style hoop skirts square danced with men clad in gray Confederate uniforms. Couples in T-shirts were doing the two-step.

After the WBTS ended in 1865, some 8,000 to 10,000 Southern soldiers and their families left the defeated Confederacy and went to Brazil. In São Paulo state, they established a somewhat culturally homogeneous community that maintained its southern traditions for generations. Their descendants still celebrate them to this day. But for the first time, this year, just outside cemetery grounds, stood black activists protesting the April 28 party with signs and banners saying, “Down with the Confederate flag.”

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Brazil’s Confederados continue to speak English and to practice their Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian faiths, introducing “Protestantism” to the Catholic country. The “American Cemetery” was established because their ancestors were laid to rest-as “Protestants,” in other words, they were barred from burial alongside Catholics. The “Fraternity of American Descendants” has for years held a low-profile, annual celebration of their southern heritage which for decades has been uncontroversial.

But recently, professor Claúdia Monteiro of UNEGRO, “leader” of Brazil’s national Unified Black Movement, have declared the “Confederados” to be “racists” and the Fraternity of American Descendants to be a “hate group.”

Brazilian media outlets are reporting that “100 civil society groups from across the country” have “signed a manifesto criticizing” Festa Confederada as a “white supremacy” gathering and calling on the government to end it.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, May 19, 2019 ed.)

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Memorial at Shiloh

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Last Saturday, several SCV and UDC members traveled to Shiloh National Military Park to honor fallen Mississippians. A beautiful statue was erected last fall after years of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ efforts to save up enough money. Mississippi was the only state without a statue at Shiloh up until last year.

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Many participated in a special remembrance of the soldiers who are buried in a trench somewhere on the battlefield. (The marker was placed near the estimated trench.) Some of my United Daughters of the Confederacy sisters were also there to honor their ancestors.

The Battle of Shiloh took place in Hardin County, Tennessee on April 6-7, 1862. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was killed during the battle. Casualties numbered nearly 24,000. It was the bloodiest American battle up until that date. The battle was a loss for the Confederates, and opened the door for Grant to continue his rampage through Mississippi.

(Photos Courtesy of Linda McGan)

More Conflicts Concerning Confederate Battle Flag

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(Not actual vehicle involved.)

Earlier this week, an altercation took place in Hickory, North Carolina, when a young man got insulted. What set him off was a teenager who drove by displaying the Confederate Battle Flag from his pickup truck. But instead of dealing rationally, Caine Morrison got in the teen’s face and confronted him. Then he pulled out a handgun. The episode ended with both parties leaving the scene, and no one was injured. However, Morrison was arrested and charged with assault by pointing a gun, possessing a gun to the terror of the people, and for possession of a firearm on educational property. Morrison was arrested on the campus of Catawba Valley Community College, with the weapon still in his possession.

Morrison has a prior firearms charge against him for discharging a firearm with the city limits of Hickory, and he has a court date next week for that charge.  A hearing has been set for the Confederate flag altercation for September 9.

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Another repercussion against the Confederate flag came last week when several current and previous Mississippi residents, who also happen to be celebrities, signed a petition to have the Confederate battle flag image removed from the state flag. Signatures included those of quarterback Archie Manning, author John Grisham, musician Jimmy Buffet, and actor Morgan Freeman. Governor Phil Bryant noted the vote taken by the state in 2001, when a majority ruled 2 to 1 to keep the flag. Because of it, the governor has no plans to call a special session on the matter.

An ad in the Clarion-Ledger stated, “It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved. It’s time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”

This just goes to show how little they really know about the Civil War and why it was fought. And no, it wasn’t fought to keep anyone’s ancestors enslaved. It would be interesting to know just how many Mississippians today truly had ancestors who were slaves. I’ll bet the actual number would surprise them.

Civil War Monument Rededicated

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Some places still honor their Civil War ancestors, instead of tearing down their statues. Today, a special ceremony took place in Pierre, South Dakota, to dedicate a Civil War monument on the grounds of the state capitol. State officials and civilians reenacted the original dedication, which took place 95 years ago.

The Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission approved various upgrades to the monument site, which included adding sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, benches and a flagpole. Governor Dennis Daugaard read remarks that were made at the June 1, 1920 dedication. Other state officials read remarks originally given by members of the Grand Army of the Republic. A group of Pierre citizens also sang “America” and the “Star Spangled Banner,” just as they had been sung at the original dedication.

This is a very noble and respectful way to treat statues of heroes past. It is truly a shame that certain places in the South can’t show as much gratitude. Instead, they are too concerned with political correctness, and who the monuments might offend. It is a sad day in our country’s consciousness when we try to erase what we consider to be unacceptable today. Public opinion was much different in the 1860’s. The whole country should use Pierre as an example of how we should cherish our ancestors and our past, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line they fought for.

Time for Reenacting!

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Now that spring is here, Civil War reenactments are starting up around the country. This weekend, the reenactment of the Battle of Gainesville will take place in Alabama. The event will be held May 8-10, and will include a cavalry battle.

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Attending a reenactment is an excellent way to discover living history and see what Civil War soldiers went through. The people who do reenacting take their hobby very seriously, and some even characterize people who actually lived, like their ancestors. Of course, there are reenactors who play the parts of famous generals and other officers, and sometimes, Abraham Lincoln shows up, too.

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A typical reenactment includes several battles, period dress, rows of sutlers’ (shop owners) tents, weaponry, and Civil War medicine. They also usually include a ball complete with ladies in beautiful gowns, a ladies’ tea, and a period church service on Sunday morning. But the real excitement is in watching the battles themselves. The reenactors make them as believable as possible, and the rumble, boom, crack and smoke of the artillery and gunfire is exhilarating.

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Confederate Heritage Month

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Across much of the South, the month of April has long been celebrated as Confederate History or Heritage Month. Some states have debated whether or not to continue the tradition of honoring their Confederate ancestors due to political correctness. Like everything related to the Confederacy, certain groups are trying to erase history by expecting Southerners to stop honoring their ancestors.

After the war concluded, very few Southern soldiers expressed regret for fighting for the Confederacy. On the contrary, most were proud to have fought against northern aggression. The way they saw it, they were not fighting for the continuation of slavery, but for the preservation of state’s rights. General Robert E. Lee, who was commissioned with the U.S. Army when the war broke out, resigned because he decided it was better to side with his state than to fight for the U.S. government as a whole.

Colonel John S. Mosby was quoted after the war as saying, “I am not ashamed of having fought on the side of slavery – a soldier fights for his country – right or wrong – he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights in.” This sentiment holds true throughout the course of time, and is still true today. So who are we to judge the sentiments of soldiers who served 150 years ago? Beliefs were very different then, but they shouldn’t be considered as right or wrong. That is merely the way it was.

On this, the final day of Confederate Heritage Month, we should take a moment to consider all the suffering and sacrifice that Southern soldiers went through to protect and defend their homeland. One hundred and fifty years ago, the war they fought in to preserve their heritage came to a close.  Hopefully, the tradition of Confederate History Month won’t come to a close as well.

The Mystery Remains

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I have recently developed a profound interest in genealogy. Not just in general, but MY genealogy, to be specific. I guess this started while I was researching my Young Adult historical fiction about my hometown, Sioux City, and my great aunt. She and her husband ran a hotel downtown during Prohibition, and there are many colorful stories surrounding the place. Unfortunately, the hotel was razed in the 1960’s, but that doesn’t deter me from searching out interesting tidbits about my ancestors. It’s amazing what deep, dark secrets I’ve uncovered about my family!

My latest quandary is my great-great grandfather. He divorced Great-Great Grandma, a rare occurrence at the time, and after that, basically fell off the planet. The entire family lost contact and track of him. Some say he went to Texas, but most don’t have a clue. He is the key to my Irish ancestry, since his parents came over, but his story remains elusive for now.

After I wrote my first book about the Civil War titled A Beckoning Hellfire, my husband grew curious about his ancestors. He discovered that his great-great grandfather was a Confederate soldier who served as a Cherokee interpreter for Nathan Bedford Forrest. (Thanks to fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans member Lynn Herron for researching this!) A United Daughters of the Confederacy sister of mine recently posted that she discovered a Civil War ancestor who fought for the Union. She seemed appalled, but I think it is admirable, since men on both sides basically fought with the same valor and enthusiasm. In my opinion, there were no wrong sides in the War Between the States – just wrong governing that lead the country to such a disastrous result.

As I sit here watching a TV show about historic Scotland (my husband is a descendant), I long to find out more about my Irish clan. Maybe, someday, I’ll discover the truth.

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