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The Culture Of The Confederacy by Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

The Culture Of The Confederacy
by
Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

A working definition of the term “culture” is foundational for this essay. Webster tells us this.: “1. The act of tilling and preparing the earth for crops; cultivation; the application of labor or other means of improvement. 2. The application of labor or other means to improve good qualities in, or growth. 3. The application of labor or other means in producing. 4. Any labor or means employed for improvement, correction or growth.” 1 The liberty has been taken to use this definition in the cultivation of a society of people. To understand what became known as the Confederate States of America is to grasp, in some way,  how they melted together those ingredients that helped develop their civilization, society and their culture.
Origin Of Culture In The South

When looking back on the genesis of these people (the South), names that come to mind are George Washington, who said, “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth” 2 and the more infamous statement given to us by Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” 3 Others like Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” 4

These statements represent the basic philosophies of life in the South. I mean the idea of liberty that has been defined for us in the Constitution, was essential to the DNA of its people. Their lives,
their families, their local governments and their state governments depended on this liberty. Even Mildred Lewis Rutherford promoted this truth fifty eight years later by delivering a speech in Washington, D. C. in 1912. Then in New Orleans in 1913, she gave the same speech to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In these speeches she continued the consistency that the fathers of the South taught by stating, “And when I urge upon you, Daughters of the Confederacy, to write the truth of history and to teach it to your children, it is with no desire to arouse in your hearts and minds nor in their hearts and minds any animosity or bitterness, but that all may intelligently comprehend the principles for which our fathers fought. Teach your children to resent their being called rebels and traitors, and let them know that our fathers fought so valiantly in order that they might preserve constitutional liberty. We will never be condemned for being Confederates, but the whole world has a right to condemn us, if we are disloyal to truth and to our native land.” 5

This thing called liberty was then transferred to the Confederate Constitution, for all of it’s citizens to once again see and read, in it’s permanence: “We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity—invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God—do ordain and establish this constitution for the Confederate States of America.” 6

That is what we were built on—that is our origin—as a people of the South—Liberty.

The Culture Of Religion In The Confederacy
The first thing that needs to be said, is that the Confederacy had a Constitution that recognized God. The leaders of the Confederacy
had no qualms about claiming that God had uniquely raised the South up to do His work in the world. Listen to Private Joseph Tyrone Derry – who served in Company A, Sixty Third Regiment, Georgia Infantry who wrote this, “There was throughout the Southern army a strong religious sentiment, and many of the officers and men were deeply pious. It was the firm belief in the overruling providence of God, who doeth all things well, that prepared Lee and other prominent leaders to accept the result as an expression of the Divine will, and to set an example of quiet submission to the inevitable, which was followed by those who had been in the habit of looking to them for counsel and direction.” 7

Colporters did what they could to put in the hands of the soldier, a
prayer book. A sample of what was stated in a Prayer Book is this, “God of our fathers, and God of battles, hear these warriors who now call upon thee. Answer us from thy secret place of thunder. Keep not silence, O God. Hold not thy peace. Our enemies, with one consent, have taken crafty counsel against thy people and are confederate against them, saying, Come, let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of the Confederate States may be no more in remembrance.” 8

Point is, for the Confederacy, Christianity held a powerful place in its culture. Even the national motto reflects this culture, as the Confederacy adopted the Latin phrase Deo Vindice, meaning “With God as our defender,” and even more than that, this motto was engraved on official Confederate Seal.

The mind-set of the religious and political leaders of the Confederacy were building what they perceived, to be their own
Christian civilization. After the Battle of First Manassas you could hear sermons from the pulpit that it was God’s providence that lead them to victory. In Richmond, Virginia, at St. John’s Church William C. Butler declared in a sermon: God has given us of the South today a fresh and golden opportunity—and so a most solemn command—to realize that form of government in which the just, constitutional rights of each and all are guaranteed to each and all. … He has placed us in the front rank of the most marked epochs of the world’s history. He has placed in our hands a commission which we can faithfully execute only by holy, individual self-consecration to all of God’s plans. 9

In Savannah, Georgia, Stephen Elliott voiced his thought at Christ
Church: “If we continue humble and give the glory to God, we shall go on from victory to victory, until our independence shall be acknowledged and our homes be left to us in peace.” 10

Point is, once again, there was a mind-set in the South, that it was their country, the Land of Dixie,  that was being led by the Creator of all things. The culture of Religion in the Confederacy was of great importance.

The Culture Of Music In The Confederacy

When the soldiers of the South marched off to war, they took with them a love of song, that transcended the political and philosophical divide, that they had with the North and their monstrous invasion on the South. It was music that passed the time; it was music that entertained and comforted  their hearts; it was music that brought back memories of home and family and; it was music that strengthened the bonds between comrades. But also, high on the list, it was music that helped create the sense of national identity.

There were patriotic songs for the South—“Dixie,” “God Save the South,” “God Will Defend the Right,” and “The Rebel Soldier.” Several of the first songs of the war, such as “Maryland! My Maryland!” celebrated secession. Other songs include “Ye Men of Alabama,” written by John D. Phelan of Montgomery, Alabama with lyrics of secession that proclaims, “Drive deep that good Secession steel—Right through the Monster's head.” 11 Another, “Southern Song,” which cried out words like, “Secession is our
watchword; Our rights we all demand; To defend our homes and firesides, We pledge our hearts and hands.” 12
Perhaps you will recognize these lyrics: “We are a band of brothers and native to the soil fighting for our liberty 13 we gained by honest toil and when our rights were threatened the cry rose near and far hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag, that bears the single star!” This Southern song was so popular in the Confederacy and
was so hated by Union General Benjamin Butler, who sought to destroy all the printed copies he could find in New Orleans. Butler had jailed the publisher Armand Edward Blackmar  and threatened to fine anyone, even a child, if caught singing the song or whistling the melody. 14

Another category of songs that the Confederate soldier sang, were the sentimental tunes about distant love and of course, the more popular was “Lorena” and “Aura Lee” and “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Also, soldiers marched to “Eatin’ Goober Peas” and would express their war weariness with the song “Hard Times.” But it was when the guns stopped, the Confederate soldiers sang loudly “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” But the point is, the culture of music in the Confederate Army was a commodity for existence, a necessary release to the stress that came with battle fatigue and the remembering of their loved ones back home. 

Women And The Culture Of The Confederacy

John Levi Underwood, who served as Chaplain in the 30th Alabama Regiment and gave this great illustration for the soldiers greatest support: “Back of the armies, on the farms, in the towns and cities, the fingers of Southern women were busy knitting socks and sewing seams of coarse trousers and gray jackets for the soldiers at the front. 

From Mrs. Lee and her daughters to the humblest country matrons and maidens, their busy needles were stitching, stitching, stitching, day and night. The anxious commander General Lee, thanked them for their efforts to bring greater comfort to the cold feet and shivering limbs of his half-clad men. He wrote letters expressing appreciation of the bags of socks and shirts as they came in. He said he could almost hear, in the stillness of the night, the needles click as they flew through the meshes. Every click was a prayer, every stitch a tear. His tributes were tender and constant to these glorious women for their labor and sacrifice for Southern independence.” 15

In her book, “Gleanings From Southland,” Kate Cumming states,
The zeal and patriotism of the women were as great as ever. Societies of all kinds were formed for the benefit of the soldiers and their families who needed help. The wealthiest ladies in the city worked as hard as the poorest. All vied with each other as to who would do the most. 16

Then there were those who served as nurses: Kate Cumming who I just quoted; Ada White Bacot who worked in a hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia; Sally Louisa Tompkins opened up a hospital in Richmond, Virginia and was commissioned as a Captain in order for her to work under military jurisdiction. Also, there was Phoebe Yates Pember, appointed the chief Matron of the Second Division of Richmond's Chimborazo Hospital; Fannie Beers, a nurse in hospitals in Alabama and Georgia; Susan Leigh Blackford, who nursed the wounded at Lynchburg, Virginia; Letitia Tyler Semple, the fourth daughter of John Tyler, former United States President, who was instrumental in the establishment and support of the first hospitals in Williamsburg, Virginia; Ella Palmer who worked in makeshift hospitals in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins established hospitals in Richmond, Virginia, in 1861 and established the Matron Alabama Hospitals and; Ella King Newsom who established and administrated military hospitals in Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta and Corinth, Mississippi and was given the title, “the Florence Nightingale of the Southern Army.” And the list goes on.

There were women that even served as soldiers: Loreta Janeta Velazquez served the Confederacy as a soldier named Lieutenant Harry Buford and later as a spy; Mary Ann Clark became Henry Clark. At the age of 30 she enlisted as a private in a cavalry regiment with her husband Walter so she wouldn’t be separated from him. She used the name Private Richard Anderson and fought with him until his death, at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862.; Charlotte Hope a.k.a. Charlie Hopper of Fairfax, who joined the First Virginia Cavalry to avenge the death of her fiancé. Also, their was Mollie Bean, a North Carolina woman who pretended to be a man, joined the Forty Seventh North Carolina; Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock enlisted in Company, Twenty Sixth North Carolina Infantry and posed as Private Samuel Blalock.

There were those who served as spies: Belle Boyd who gave information on the Union Army movements, in the Shenandoah to General Stonewall Jackson and was imprisoned as a spy; Antonia Ford informed General J. E. B. Stuart of Union activity near her Fairfax, Virginia home; Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a popular society hostess in Washington, D. C. and used her contacts to gain information that she might pass it to the Confederates and was imprisoned for a time, for her espionage. There was Nancy Hart who gathered information on Federal movements and led rebels to their positions. After she was captured, she tricked a man into showing her his gun and then she killed him in order to escape; Laura Ratcliffe helped Colonel Mosby of Mosby's Rangers escape capture and passed information and funds by hiding them. And the list can easily go of these women who without their service to the Confederacy would have been catastrophic to their country, without their part.

Men And The Culture Of The Confederacy

It is my belief that in many ways the culture of the Confederacy was developed by its Southern woman in a major way. They were very influential – on there husbands and sons. Once again, John Levi Underwood says it best, “Nor must we give slight importance to the influence of Southern women who, in agony of heart, girded the sword upon their loved ones and bade them go. It was expected that these various influences would give a confidence to leadership that would tend to bold adventure and leave its mark upon the contest.” 17

The men of the South filled many rolls in the “War for Southern
Independence,” but will present only two. The first roll – would be that of – the Confederate soldier. Charles Triplett O'Ferrall, Colonel in the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, says this, “The words ‘Confederate soldier’ stood as a synonym of courage. There were some cowards, as there have been in every army that ever floated a flag, but there were not many. If I were to attempt to give the names of the Confederate soldiers who came under my observation whose courage was always conspicuous, it would require countless pages.” 18

The Confederate soldier fought for his country— fought for his family—fought for his land—fought for his freedom—and fought for his rights. It’s because he had a cause and was motivated by all
those categories. It would not be hard to find a Confederate soldier of humanity who for instance,  would show mercy to his Northern aggressor, those also called Blue Belly soldiers, who might find himself wounded and dying on the field of battle. One such story – exist – “In the Secession War, when raging in Virginia, a Union Soldier, mortally wounded, lay on the battle field in a dying state, while the enemy was passing by. Feeling his end approaching, he called to some one passing by. Upon coming to the spot where he lay, he earnestly inquired if there was any Christians among the Confederate soldiers; if so, he wished one would come to his side. Such a one was found, and he was directed by his superior to attend the dying soldier in his last moments. These two soldiers, though widely different from each other as far as worldly interests were concerned, found themselves, as Christians, closely united. The dying Unionist, as his brother Christian was earnestly praying for him, forgetting all worldly differences, grasped his hand and held it till he departed, as a token of union and love.” 19

The Confederate soldier was fighting for a purpose. General
Stephen Dill Lee commented, “To you, brave people of the South; to you, True-hearted Americans everywhere; to you, world-conquering race from which we sprung—to all men everywhere who prize in man the manliest deeds, who love in man the love of country, who praise fidelity and courage, who honor self-sacrifice and noble devotion, will be given an incomparable inheritance, the memory of our prince of men, the Confederate soldier.” 20
The second roll for men in the South was the Confederate Politician. Some of these men were very passionate and vocal. Some were soft spoken and yet focused. But it was their love of country,  freedom from an aggressor who sought to coerce a population of people, only to live by their rules and all that they
desired, was to just be left alone. These politicians had much to say when it came to their convictions. To begin with, we hear these words from Confederate President Jefferson Davis says it best, “We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms. This we will, this we must, resist to the direst extremity.” 21

And as we all know, slavery was not the issue—states rights and the freedom to decide on what the states (Southern) felt were best for their citizens, but  especially for the citizens home state. Gustavus Adolphus Henry was a Senator from Tennessee and made a powerful statement. He said, “In 1787, when they formed the Constitution of the United States, they met as equal sovereignties. They did not afterwards sink their separate State sovereignty, abolish their State governments, and have one legislature, as in the ease of England, Ireland, and Scotland. No, sir. They maintained their State sovereignty, in opposition to centralism, as being the great enemy of liberty in free States, which would swallow them in the whirlpool of consolidation, but for the spirit of local self-governments, always the life-blood of freedom.” 22

This was the stand of each Confederate Politician. Be reminded, many before the invasion, were strong Union men, but when the true colors of Lincoln and the Republicans were revealed, these faithful Americans saw their mind-set for what was: they saw their deceitfulness; they saw their thrust to change the Constitution, if not, seeking to do away with it. So much of this is so similar  to what see today, the desire to have a fundamental change in America. And in order to do these things, coercion is the action word that must take place. History is being repeated once again. Just know, this is but a small picture of the culture in the Confederacy. But it is this Confederate culture that is disparately needed today.

Endnotes

1 Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Harper &  Brothers, 1845), 213.

2  Elizabeth Bryant Johnston, George Washington Day By Day (Washington D. C., 1894), 34.

3 Moses Coit Tyler, Patrick Henry (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1887), 129.

4 B. L. Rayner, Sketches of The Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson (New York: A. Francis and W. Boardman, 1832), 259.

5 Mildred Lewis Rutherford, The South In The Building Of The Nation, Speech Delivered at Washington, D. C, and New Orleans, La. (Athens, Georgia,1913), 14. 

6 Constitution of the Confederate States of America (Synie & Hall, Printers to the Constitution, 1861), 1.

7 Joseph Tyrone Derry, Story of the Confederate States or, History of the War For Southern Independence (Richmond: G. F. Johnson Publishing Company, 1895), 440.

8 W. W. Flowers, The Soldier's Prayer Book (Charleston: South Carolina Tract Society, 1863), 42.

9 Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, Charles Reagan Wilson, Religion and the American Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1998), 322-323.

10 Stephen Elliott, God's Presence With Out Army At Manassas, Sermon Preached At Christ Church, Savannah On Sunday, July 28th, 1861, (1861), 19.

11 H. M. Wharton, War Songs And Poems Of The Southern Confederacy, 1861-1865 (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1904), 56.

12 W. L. Fagan, Southern War Songs (New York: M. T. Richardson & Company, 1890), 252.

13 W. L. Fagan, Southern War Songs (New York: M. T. Richardson & Company, 1890), 31.

14 Charles Alphonso Smith, Library of Southern Literature, Volume 14 (New Orleans: The Martin & Hoyt Company, 1909), 6086.

15 J. L. Underwood, The Women Of The Confederacy (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906), 23. 

16 Kate Cumming, Gleanings From Southland: Sketches Of Life And Manners Of The People Of The South Before, During And After The War Of Secession, With Extracts From The Author's Journal And An Epitome Of The New South (Birmingham: Roberts & Sons, 1895), 36.

17 J. L. Underwood, The Women Of The Confederacy (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906), 34.

18 Charles T. O'Ferrall, Forty Years of Active Service; Being Some History of the War Between the Confederacy and the Union and of the Events Leading Up To It, With Reminiscences of the Struggle (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1904), 149.

19 John W. Barber, American Scenes: Being A Selection Of The Most Interesting Incidents In American History (Springfield, Mass.: D. E. Fisk & Company, 1868), 173.

20 S. A. Cunningham, Editor and Proprietor, Index: Confederate Veteran, Published Monthly In The Interest Of Confederate Veterans and Kindred Topics, Volume XIV (Nashville, 1906), 255. 

21 Edward A. Pollard, Life of Jefferson Davis, Secret History of the Southern Confederacy, Gathered Behind the Scenes in Richmond (Atlanta: National Publishing Company, 1869), 137.

22 Speech of Hon. Gustavus A. Henry of Tennessee, in the Senate of the Confederate States (November 29, 1864), 3.

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