WHY A CONFEDERATE?
In well over 30 years of portraying a Confederate soldier, I have always been hard pressed to put into words my reasons for my choice. It has always been hard to try to explain the nagging inner drive that makes the heart soar, the chest swell and the eyes water when donning the uniform each time with renewed pride. Just what is it that makes the Confederate soldier such an ideal hero? Still not able to put it into words myself, I researched the writings of the real Confederates and found these explanatory words offered by Pvt. Carlton McCarthy in his book, Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia 1861-1865. I believe they explain it best and the last paragraph in particular seems to offer the promise we have elected to make. --LJB
“It is not fair to demand a reason for actions above reason. The heart is greater than the mind. No man can exactly define the cause for which the Confederate soldier fought. He was above human reason and above human law, secure in his own rectitude of purpose, accountable to God only, having assumed for himself a ‘nationality,’ which he was minded to defend with his life and his property, and thereto pledged his sacred honor.
In the honesty and simplicity of his heart, the Confederate soldier had neglected his own interest and rights, until his accumulated wrongs and indignities forced him to one grand, prolonged effort to free himself from the pain of them. He dared not refuse to hear the call to arms, so plain was the duty and so urgent the call. His brethren and friends were answering the bugle-call and the roll of the drum. To stay was dishonor and shame!
He would not obey the dictates of tyranny. To disobey was death. He disobeyed and fought for his life. The romance of war charmed him, and he hurried from the embrace of his mother to the embrace of death. His playmates, his friends, and his associates were done; he was lonesome, and he sought a reunion ‘in camp.’ He would not receive as gospel the dogmas of fanatics, and so he became a ‘rebel.’ Being a rebel, he must be punished. Being punished, he resisted. Resisting, he died.
The Confederate soldier opposed immense odds. In the ‘seven days battles’ around Richmond, 80,000 drove to the James River 115,000 of the enemy. At Fredericksburg, in 1862, 78,000 of them routed 110,000 Federal troops. At Chancellorsville, in 1863, 57,000 under Lee and Jackson whipped, and but to the death of Jackson would have annihilated, an army of 132,000 men, - more than double their own number. At Gettysburg, 62,000 of them assailed the heights manned by 112,000. At the Wilderness, in 1864, 63,000 met and successfully resisted 141,000 of the enemy. At Appomattox, in April, 1865, 8,000 of them surrendered to the host commanded by Grant. The United States government, at the end of the war, mustered out of service 1,000,000 men, and had in the field, from first to last, 2,600,000. If the Confederate soldier had then had only this disparity of numbers to contend with, he would have driven every invader from the soil of Virginia.
If the peace of this country can only be preserved by forgetting the Confederate soldier’s deeds and his claims upon the South, the blessing is too early bought. We have sworn to be grateful to him. Dying, his head pillowed on the bosom of his mother, Virginia, he heard that his name would be honored.
When we fill up, hurriedly, the bloody chasm opened by war, we should be careful that we do not bury therein many noble deeds, some tender memories, some grand examples, and some hearty promises washed with tears.”