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Honoring Confederate Veterans on Robert E. Lee’s 200th birthday

By Jim Goodson
 

The Sons of Confederate Veterans honored the 200th birthday of Robert E. Lee, Friday, to promote their efforts to honor military men and families who served the South during the Civil War.

“We call it the War of Northern Aggression,” commander Ken McClure said Friday. “The Confederacy simply wanted to exist as its own nation.”

The SCV and its women’s auxiliary, the St. Andrew’s Southern Belles, are dedicated to researching, finding and establishing appropriate military markers at the gravesites of men who served the Confederacy during the bloody conflict of 1861-1865. So far, 55 veterans’ gravesites have been identified and honored.

“Confederate veterans deserve the same military markers as any other United States veterans,” McClure says. The markers are virtually identical to those that honor U.S. veterans, except that they contain the Cross of St. Andrew, the emblem of the Confederacy.

The SCV is a direct descendant of the Confederate Veterans of America, which lots its last member with the 1959 death of Gen. Walter Washington Williams, reputed to have been the last surviving Civil War Confederate veteran. He was a Mississippi native who died in Houston. During the war, he served with the famous Hood’s Brigade.

The Cross of St. Andrew Camp 2009, based in Alto, represents Cherokee County veterans. It’s a part of the East Texas Brigade of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

In addition to establishing proper gravesite markers for Confederate veterans, local SCV members restore cemeteries. An old, forgotten cemetery between Rusk and Alto was found to contain the graves of two Confederate veterans. In 2004, the Box Cemetery was totally reclaimed, a list was compiled of all buried there and a sign containing its names was hung at the entrance to the cemetery.

In the blistering heat of August 2006, a reclamation project was begun at the Old Palestine Cemetery three miles east of Alto. Five months earlier the SCV cleaned and cleared out an old, forgotten cemetery in the Lake Stryker area which contained the plots of two Confederate veterans who were ancestors of Cherokee County historian and SCV member Shelley Cleaver.

Its most recent historical event was a triple marker dedication ceremony Nov. 26 at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Rusk, where 103 Confederate veterans are buried. Veterans honored were also Cleaver ancestors: John F. Francis of the 25th North Carolina infantry, his son James M Francis and Cleaver’s great-grandfather James F. Tatham, who was a second lieutenant in the 19thTennessee infantry.

A women’s auxiliary supports the activities of the Camp 2009. The Saint Andrew Southern Belles attend all functions and play an important role within the organization.

“We think it’s important to remember our heritage and honor our ancestors,” Cleaver said. “This was the most difficult time in our nation’s history and these people endured incredible hardships. When the men went away to fight, the women were left behind to fend for themselves and their children the best they could on the frontier.

“Their bravery and courage should always be remembered.”

Information from Jacksonville Daily Progress, January 20, 2007