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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confederate Memorial Day

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited Charleston, SC for a family gathering. Several of us rented a beach house together in Folly Beach. We chatted, ate seafood, enjoyed the ocean, and toured the charming city. It was on a carriage ride through Charleston’s historic district that we came upon an event we, as Northerners, found enlightening.

A block or so from Battery Park, we saw a group of smartly-dressed folk gathering with Confederate flags. Some wore dress suits and hats while others sported Confederate uniforms. Our guide told us they were celebrating Confederate Memorial Day. In South Carolina, the day occurs annually on May 10. In other states it is held on other days, generally in the spring. Regardless of timing, it is held as a day to honor the memory of southerners who died during the Civil War. The day was especially chosen for Stonewall Jackson who died May 10, 1863 after being wounded at Chancellorsville.

From the 1880's until his death in 1926, my husband’s great-grandfather and his family lived in Charleston. On census forms, we'd found his address and tracked down the house where he once lived. We also found his church, and because we had a copy of his death certificate, learned he’d been buried in Magnolia Cemetery. My sister-in-law called the cemetery for more information.

Just before we arrived at the Magnolia Cemetery Office to pick up a map, we passed by the start of another large gathering of folk, coming to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. A tent had been erected and chairs lined up. Scores of graves surrounding the tent were marked with Confederate flags. The event would soon start.

We proceeded to Great-Grandfather's gravesite. Not far away, was the burial site of the men of had died on the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. In the resulting explosion the Hunley also sank and remained at the bottom of the Charleston Harbor for 131 years. (See this link for a brief history and some incredible photos of Charleston.) The men from the Hunley were interred in Magnolia Cemetery in 2004.

Through the years there has been a lot of controversy over Confederate Memorial Day, particularly when it became a state holiday in South Carolina. Still, it is a day to honor those who died in battle fighting for a cause they believed in. A day to remember the Civil War and the history that made America.

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From the comments received for this post, I’ll hold a drawing for a lovely hand-crocheted bookmark. Drawing to be held Saturday evening, May 28th. Be sure to leave a link with an e-mail address where you can be reached.

Posted by Debra Maher.

Please visit my blog at debmaher.com


13 comments:

gusDon said...

People often do not understand how difficult it one of the past in a struggle, but a hero still must be remembered ... Your grandfather too!

Debby Lee said...

Wow what a nice article. I so love Civil WAr history. I didn't know Confederate Memorial Day existed. I'm glad I know now. One of my favorite Civil War novels is North and South by John Jakes. I believe the story is set in South Carolina and I think John Jakes if from that area. I would so love to visit that state some day. Thanks for the entertaining and educational article.
Sincerely, Debby Lee

Magnolia said...

I live here in Charleston and feel very fortunate that I do. I've sat on the bench where the two 'southern belles' are sitting. I love White Points Garden-especially the gazebo. I used to go to Folly Beach all the time but since Hugo took the Atlantic House, I haven't been back. I used to play beneath its pilings as a kid.

Ruby Johnson said...

I have family and friends in Charleston and spent April there during the civil war re-enactments. War is always terrible and we hear of men and women of today who have PTSD from the current war. Wonder what they would have done if everyone in their regiment was a family member as it was in the south during the war between the states? That had to be devastating to see them die one by one.

Debra Maher said...

gusDon, good thought...it is hard for us to truly appreciate the struggles of the past. Despite our own difficulties in the 21st century, life has to be easier than it was then. Thanks!

Debby Lee, I'm with you on the Civil War. The history from that time is so intriguing to me. So much conflict and heartbreak back then and yet the people endured. South Carolina is a beautiful state. Hope you get there for a visit! Thanks for your comment.

Debra Maher said...

Ah Magnolia, what a gorgeous name! What a beautiful city you have! I fell in love with it during the few days we were there...so charming, historic, homey. Sorry you lost the Atlantic House. That must have been devastating. Thanks so much for stopping in.

Ruby, as much as I love studying the Civil War I have yet to attend a full-scale re-enactment. I so admire the way they keep history alive. Something you said, about PTSD...it would make an interesting character wouldn't it? A soldier from the Civil War who experiences the symptoms. Thanks for your comments.

Patricia said...

Dear Deb:
That's the most history I've read since college and very interesting fact that most of us would never know, I am sure. I've never visited that area of the U.S. but have always been intrigued with cemeteries. I bet I'd love it because that part of the country is SO much older than California where I live.

Marsha Lytle said...

I worked for the state of South Carolina for many years, plus got a graduate degree there. We got Confederate Memorial Day off as while as Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee's birthday, I can't remember which but lots of extra holidays.

Debra Maher said...

PATRICIA, hope you keep reading Seduced by History. It's a great blog with lots of interesting tidbits from history by many authors.

If you like cemeteries you might enjoy http://findagrave.com. I use it for posting and finding pictures of ancestors tombstones for genealogy but it is, quite simply a really fun site to explore. Thanks for reading!

MARSHA, funny how we remember the holidays from past jobs. :) I used to work for an insurance company that gave us a day off on our birthdays. If it fell on a weekend, we could chose a floating day. In South Carolina, I would imagine Lee's (or Davis's) might be a state holiday! Thanks for your comments!

Cindy Caudle said...

I enjoyed your article. I use to live in Huntsville, AL when I was small, and I remember folks that lived around us have memorial service for the confederate soldiers. I love the Civil War. I read everything I can about the subject.

Anne Parent said...

Deb, Thanks for this respectful tribute to something that has become volatile in this country. I'm from SC, now transplanted to Wisconsin, and I've been amazed at the lack of understanding shown for this part of history. I also taught American History and tried to get my students to look at both sides of the confederacy issue before making judgment calls. You have done an amazing job of bring my personal history home to me. Thank you!

Rhobie Benedict said...

Thank you, Deb, for a timely remembrance of a tragic loss of life. I've just finished writing my first Civil War novel - post war - and yes, my hero suffers from PTSD. As you know, this condition was not considered anything but cowardice, no matter which side a person fought on.

This and That said...

I have a few ancestors that fought in the Confederate Army and very happy to see they have their own holiday. What a wonderful thing to learn today! I realize the War was over many things but they, the people who died as Confederates, were fighting for something very real to them, I am glad they are not forgotten.