Confederate Memorial Day Speech: Bing Chambers

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Posted : July 19, 2022

 

“I have come to join you in the performance of a sacred task.”

I borrow these words from President Jefferson Davis. It was 1885, and he was speaking at the dedication of a monument at the cradle of the Confederate government in Montgomery, Alabama. And now, 137 years later, we meet together this day, in this place in the performance
of a sacred task.

Our solemn commission this day is to honor and remember those brave and most extraordinary men who composed what Ulysses Grant declared the finest army ever assembled in world
history. We certainly do not disagree with him, and we understand just how important it is that we be here to carry out this important and sacred ceremony.

William H. Trescott of South Carolina was a 19th century diplomat and assistant secretary of state in the administration of President James Buchanan. He went on to serve with the CSA,
General & Staff. He lived in the years 1822 to 1898 and so was witness to the events leading up to and culminating in the South’s struggle for independence. In 1870, he spoke at a tribute to General Johnston Pettigrew, and his words that day speaks to us even now:

“We who are vanquished in this battle must of necessity leave to a calmer and wiser posterity to judge of the intrinsic worth of that struggle, as it bears upon the principles of Constitutional liberty, and as it must affect the future history of the American people. But there is one duty which we owe alike to the living and the dead, and that is the preservation in perpetual and tender remembrance of the lives of those who died in the hope that we might live. Especially is this our duty…”

Their TRUTH is a duty which we relish, not only in honoring those who died but also those who were willing to die – for all those who served with undaunted courage in the stark and sobering
realization that it might be their last contribution; their greatest sacrifice. And these men did so without hesitation.
Thomas Parker, the acclaimed 19th century theologian, wrote in his A Discourse in the Matters of Religion:

“Truth never yet fell dead in the street. It has such an affinity with the soul of man that its seed, however broadcast, will catch somewhere and produce in hundredfold.”

I look out today over a field of that hundredfold who are dedicated to produce another hundredfold! Our souls are affected with an affinity for the truth of our people, our homeland, and our soldiers whom we remember today. Be assured, your souls will be rewarded as 1 Peter
of the NT tells us: “For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right, and ENDURE unfair treatment.”

What was in the minds of these ordinary men as they left the normalcy of their families, farms, and friends to enlist as citizen soldiers and place their lives in mortal peril? What loomed before them was assuredly an ominous unknown.

Captain John A. Ansley of Due West, SC of the 7th SCVI gives us a glimpse of their thoughts in his letter to his sweetheart, Belle Jordan, at White Hall, SC:

“Our bleeding country calls for help and injured innocence cries for vengeance, and I must go. No if’s nor but’s, I am gone! And if my humble life can in any way avert the degradation with which we are threatened, then freely let it go…Then to one and all, good bye. I restrain not a tear over the words, as my thoughts come in upon me that perhaps it is the last time.”

There is no fear or hesitation in his noble words.

Confederate veteran, Robert Stiles gives an even more revealing answer to this question in his famous chronicle, Four Years Under Marse Robert: In 1904, veteran Stiles wrote:

“Here, then, we have the distinctive spirit of the Southern Volunteer. As he hastened to the front in the spring of ’61. He felt: With me‘ is Right; before me is duty; behind me is home.’”

With me is Right:
How could these men NOT know they were right. The principles, which stirred them to move to the killing fields of war, were taught them by their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who served in the American Revolution and were often times living in their grandsons’ parental
homes when those grandsons left for the War; grandsons spurred on by the knowledge that they were moving into the terrors and tempests of war to defend and die for the same rights and tenents that their grandfathers had bloodily won.

Their own country’s Founders and founding documents – the Constitution of 1787 – and the Declaration of Independence, taught them they were right.

The Declaration of Independence – history’s greatest secession document – plainly states:

“That when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute new government…”

Thomas Jefferson avowed emphatically in the Declaration: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their DUTY, to throw off such a government, and to provide new…”
The Founders told our ancestors it was NOT just their right, it was their duty!

James Madison, was the 4th President of the US and one of the most important and prominent Founders of our nation. Called the Father of the Constitution, he was THE key figure and leader in the Constitutional Convention of 1787; the one delegate who wrote more about the
proceedings and intentions than any other, and was considered the foremost authority on the Constitution. He had this to say as though he were previewing events less than 80 years in the
future:

“If there be a principle which ought NOT to be questioned within the United States, it is that every nation has a right to abolish an old government and establish a new one. The principle is not only recorded in every public archive, written in every American heart, and sealed with the blood of a host of American martyrs, but is the only LAWFUL tenure by which the United States hold THEIR existence as a nation.”

Secession, he says, is the “only LAWFUL tenure” by which the United States hold THEIR existence as a nation. How, then, could it NOT have been right?And perhaps still in our soldier’s mind were the following words, orated only a few years earlier:

“Any people, anywhere, having the power, have the right to rise up and throw off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a valuable right; a most SACRED right; a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion (such as the South) may revolutionize and make their own so much of the territory as they inhabit.”

Such noble, constitutionalist words. By whom? Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson? No! Abraham Lincoln in 1848 in a speech before the US House of Reepresentatives.

Having just these few mentioned doctrines as his foundation, what
other opinion or conclusion could they possibly have had – other than that they were right.

Before Me is Duty…
Ambassador and South Carolina CSA officer, William Trescott, spoke to the unique character of our people when duty bound:

“It is almost impossible for anyone not familiar with the habits and thoughts of the South to understand how completely the question of duty was settled for Southern men. Shrewd, practical men who had no faith in the result…had their doubts and misgivings, but there was no hesitation as to what they were to do…Never in the history of the world has there been a nobler response to a more thoroughly recognized duty; nowhere anything more glorious than this outburst of the youth and manhood of the South.”

Perhaps the most shining example of the Southerners’ response to duty can be found in the waning moments of their country. At the war’s onset, families throughout South Carolina and the South, bid farewell to their sons
and fathers as they left home to enlist. Most families were large in those days, so there were usually multiple sons leaving from each family. It had to be a fearful and tearful time. So many times, watching their older brothers, and often times their fathers, leave for the War were 11
and 12-year old younger brothers, who had likely idolized their older brothers, and imitated everything they did. And now they wanted to go with them, but they were too young. So, they could only watch them disappear in the distance.

As the war years raged by, these mere boys witnessed death in droves, as their brothers and fathers died one after another. They witnessed inconsolable grief consume their mothers and sisters. They watched their neighbors be swept by the same horrors; watched their kin and
friends come home in pain, maimed for life and dying.

All around them for years was nothing but death and terror; grief and pain; decimation and suffering.
Yet:
Despite all of the death and terror witnessed by their boyish minds for 3
years, despite the deaths of their brothers and fathers, cousins and neighboring friends, DUTY still rang the loudest in their hearts and souls!

By the war’s later years in 1864 and 1865, they were age 15 or 16 and allowed to enlist. Law did not demand it, especially with the devastating losses already suffered by so many families. But these boys WANTED to enlist, pleaded with their parents to let them go, and they
volunteered in large numbers as soon as they could. And not just in the reserves or militias, but in front line, battle-line regiments throughout the Confederacy. And there many of them died.

From where does such courage come after witnessing so vividly the stark reality of death? Especially in one so young? It comes from the inbred call of duty and honor.

And not in the young soldier alone. From where does the courage come for a mother and/or father, having already lost 3 or 4 sons, to look upon their youngest – and – perhaps – last son and let him go; give blessing to his enlistment, and then watch that young boy leave for the far
away front, where their other sons were slain and buried unmarked?

Such was the call of DUTY and honor. And such majesty was the Southerners’ response.

“Behind Me is Home…”
General Stephen Dill Lee gave beautiful insight into the minds of the men he led in this regard:
He wrote after the War:

“It has not seemed the whole truth to me that the Confederate soldier went into battle to vindicate a constitutional argument. He went to war because he loved his people, because his country was invaded; because his heart was throbbing for his hearthstone. Here was the land which gave him birth; here was his childhood’s home; here were the graves of his dead; here was the church spire where he had learned it was not all of life to live nor all of death to die. NO hostile foot should EVER trod this consecrated ground except over his dead body.”

You listen to those words and then understand the martial tenacity of the Confederate soldier. You understand his tenacious dedication to PLACE. He was there for his home, there for his family, there for his neighbor, there for his future. And he was most certainly just as much there
for us – for OUR time in this place.

Perhaps the most moving revelation of the thoughts of these men is found in a letter written during the War in 1863; written home to his wife by Major John Quincy Adams Richardson. It takes their bedrock beliefs of right, duty and home and weaves them into a moving declaration:

“My lovely wife. I do miss you and the life we have there on the small plot of land God has given us. More and more, it seems that my thoughts are drifting back there to reside with you. Yet, as badly as I desire to be back home, it is for home for which I deem it best for my presence here with these other men. The Proclamation by the Lincoln administration six
months prior may appear noble. Were I here in these conditions, simply to keep another man in bondage, I would most certainly walk away into the night and return unto you. God knows my heart, and the hearts of others here amongst me. We know what is at stake here, and the
true reason for this contest that requires the spilling of the blood of fellow citizens. Our collective fear is nearly universal. This war, if it is lost, will see ripples carry forward for five, six, seven or more generations. I scruple not to believe, as do the others, that the very nature
of this country will be forever disspirited. That one day, our great-great-grandchildren will be bridled with a federal bit, that will deem how and if they may apply the Gosepl of Christ to themselves, their families, and their communities. Whether or not the land of their forefathers may be decietfully taken from them through taxation and coercion. A day when
only the interests of the northern wealthy will be shouldered by the broken and destitute bodies of the southern poor. This my darling wife, is what keeps me here in this arena of destruction and death.”

Major Richardson was a member of the 57th NC Infantry. He was killed in action on 3 July 1863 in the Battle of Gettysburg, only a few weeks after writing these words.. Need more be said other than “Amen.”

A well-known warrior-historian wrote the following:

“…remember that this greatness was won by men with courage, with knowledge of their duty, and with a sense of honor in action…they gave their bodies to the commonwealth and received, each for his own memory, praise that will never die, and with it…a home in the minds of men, where their glory remains fresh to stir to speech or action as the occasion comes by…(and their memories) live on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.

Obviously, our noble Confederate warriors have a home in our minds……..their glory remains fresh with us and stirs us to speech and action………… and their story is certainly woven into the
stuff of our lives…evidenced by the fact that we are here this day.

This historian, Thucydides, spoke not of our Confederates but of the soldiers of the Peloponessian Army over 1500 years ago. But their struggle for Right, Duty and Home, and the accolades and honors they won, are identical.

Notably, and just as identically, Thucydides challenged the descendants of those Peloponession warriors as to their duty, and his words to them over 1500 years ago ring clear to us right down to this day. In speaking to their descendants then and to us today, he said:

“For you, now, it remains to rival what they have done and, knowing the secret of happiness to be freedom and the secret of freedom to be a brave heart, not idly to stand aside from the enemy’s onset.”

We have not and we will not stand idly aside. The defense of their TRUTH defines us in so many ways and is a part of our daily lives.

Thus, we are here today to proclaim our commitment to defend and protect the TRUTH of their Crusade defined by Right, Duty, and Home.

The late Reverend Billy Graham wrote words to bolster and fortify our efforts:

“Truth is timeless. Truth does not differ from one age to another, from one people to another, from one geographical location to another. Men’s ideas may differ, men’s customs may change, men’s moral codes may vary, but the great, all-prevailing Truth stands for time and eternity!”

Thus, our detractors can say and do what they will, but the TRUTH of our people and our land is timeless, it is touchless, it is unchangeable, unconcealable, unending, everlasting!

To be sure, our struggle against indecent treatment and fallacy is not an easy task in this grossly secular age. But we receive encouragement from Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 4:8 – 11:
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not foresaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Because when you strive for TRUTH, your strength and stamina are not your own.

For Paul reminds us in verses 17 – 18:

“For our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. For we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Thus, because we are striving for what Reverend Graham reminds us is “the great, all-prevailing Truth that stands for all time,” we are striving for the ETERNAL. Therefore, we can have comfort
and elation in the knowledge that, although NOT SEEN at this immediate moment – we have already won.

So, as glorious as this victory is to know, what does it mean for us in the stark reality of this current harsh age of the Apostle Paul’s “things seen,” which we are not to dwell upon? Does it mean we can and may “stand idly aside?”

Certainly not! The fight for truth never wanes. Acclaimed 19th century minister, Charles Ryle, commanded us:
“Let us never be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth upon the alter of peace!”

In other words, never concede or surrender any truth whatsoever to the seemingly good will of compromise or to “just get along.”

This is critical because the detractors of the men we herald today will continue in their vile and venomous desecrations. Their malice is so frenzied, it causes one to wonder: why such fury? From where does it come?
King David in Psalm 2 asked the same question concerning his assailants and slanderers: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”

These heroic men and women are the target of the political and social strata – both right and left – and the level of condemnation is extreme. So, indeed, why do the heathen rage?

I think one answer can be found in the splendid work of one of Charleston’s former residents, the esteemed Edgar Allen Poe.

His famous poem, “The Tell Tale Heart,” relates the story of a man who takes the life of another. To hide his henious crime, he buries the remains in the earth underneath his house. Smug that he has gotten away with his crime against innocence, it is not long before he begins to hear a heartbeat resounding throughout his house, coming from under the floor. He tries to go about his business and explain it away in a myriad of excuses. But it will not cease!

Every room, every nook, every corner, there is no escape! Constantl, night-and-day, day-after-day with never a moment of peace, that boom, boom, boom of that heartbeat fills every moment and area of his life, and every space of his mind!

He concocts desperate schemes and measures to silence that maddening pounding, but it cannot be defeated or explained away. He eventually reaches madness and confesses his crime.

I submit, ladies and gentlemen, that the truth of the South, her people, and her libertarian struggle is the heartbeat beneath America’s floor. The South’s true saga haunts America’s conscience everday. It has for 157 years.
Every morning, when America awakes, the South and her truth are still here, occupying that same piece of ground that her people simply sought to make their own. And with her constant existence and her peoples’ firm vigil comes that heartbeat from beneath America’s floor, demanding the truth be told.

In an effort to silence that conscience-stabbing beat, desperate and outlandish schemes (monuments, name changes, et. al.) and accusations are poured forth, as we are witnessing today. But it will not be silenced until…

So, we say to our fathers, do not fear! We will never stand idly aside. The soldiers around us here, their families, and their thousands of comrades throughout the land, wherever they rest, have no reason to fear! For they are “woven into the stuff” of our lives, and we are their heartbeat in this present day.

In closing, if they could speak to us, and many would posit that they do, what would these exceptional men say; especially in regard to the efforts we make in their behalf.

I think they would beseech us in words by Archibald McLeash:
We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

We have done what we could but until
It is finished it is not done.
We have given our lives but until it is
Finished no one can know what our lives gave.

Our deaths are not ours; they are
Yours, they will mean what you make them.
Whether for peace, a new hope or nothing
We cannot say; it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths, give them
Their meaning.

We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

 

Mr. Bing Chambers
Mr. Bing Chambers
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