Monday, May 11, 2009

Confederate Memorial Day

CSA Battle Flag image from The Palmetto Scoop.

Today is officially Confederate Memorial Day. This day in history marks the capture of Jefferson Davis. From the Greenville News:

COLUMBIA — All state agencies, 10 counties and one school district in South Carolina are observing Confederate Memorial Day.

The state holiday is officially May 10, but employees get Monday off.

The holiday marks the death of Confederate commander Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

South Carolina is among several Southern states that designate a state holiday to honor Confederate soldiers, although they do so on different days. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi observed Confederate Memorial Day on April 27th. Texas honors Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday, Jan. 19, as Confederate Heroes Day.

May 10 was renewed as an official holiday in South Carolina in 2000 as part of a compromise that also made Martin Luther King Day a permanent holiday.
I have my issues with "Confederate Memorial Day" and its questionable political genesis, but then again, I figure I can use this day any way I like.

I'd like to take this day to honor one of my ancestors, a CSA Army deserter named (by most accounts) Thomas Hatcher. A native of Virginia, he deserted the Confederate army at about the Civil War's mid-point, and swam across the Ohio River, eventually taking up residence in Pittsburgh. He was variously known as TA Hatcher and TJ Hatcher, as well as several other names; I don't know anything else about him, except that he appeared to stay on the move, even after the war's end.

One might presume that deserting the CSA was some risky business, and that is why he moved around a lot and changed his name. Was he proud or ashamed? What made him do it? Whatever his reasons, I am extremely proud of him. This decision cost him his family and his former life. He stayed in the north, and from all I have been able to discern, never went back to the south.

As I have written here before, I don't know if he was sick, injured or just fed up and disgusted. I like to think it was the latter, and he had seen enough. I trace a direct line from great-great-great grandfather Hatcher to my own anti-war sentiments that have sustained me throughout a lifetime. I enjoy believing that pacifist convictions are encoded in my DNA.

On this day, I honor you, Thomas Hatcher, for having the courage to lay down your arms and beat swords into plowshares. I am lighting a candle to honor your great decision not to continue fighting in a racist war.

Far between sundown's finish and midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing

Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
And for each and every underdog, soldier in the night
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

(Bob Dylan, Chimes of Freedom)


sheila said...

Well, I learned something new today. Never knew there was a Confederate Memorial Day. Huh. Sounds to me that if it was a compromise with insituting MLK day, then it's alittle more than just honoring that guy you mentioned. But hey, who am I to say? lol.

I like the way you have honored your ancestor though. Very classy.

JoJo said...

That's so cool that you have family history you can trace like that!!

I heard that during reconstruction, all of the courthouses were built w/ their backs to the north. Is that true?