The Washington County Board of Supervisors voted this week 4-1 to enter into an agreement for removal of the confederate soldier’s memorial from the lawn of the Washington County Courthouse in the same month it was placed 111 years prior.
Click here to view scans of the newspapers from 1909 near the date of dedication of the Confederate Memorial on the lawn of the Washington County Courthouse.
The Private L.T. Rucks Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy donated the monument to Washington County on June 3, 1909. The same date as the celebration of former Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis’ birthday. June 3 is listed as one of the days of remembrance on the UDC national website.
According to reports from the Greenville Times of June 4, 1909, thousands of people lined the streets to witness the parade and following speeches.
Also, in other paper during that week, there is a recounting of the contents placed in the cornerstone of the monument.
Those contents include:
• A Bible donated from the Rev. Phillip Davidson, rector of St. James Episcopal Church;
• A steel engraving of Jefferson Davis;
• A copy of the constitution of the Confederate States of America;
• A copy of the ordinance of secession of Mississippi passed in 1861;
• A list of Washington County men and boys who were not at their homes when they joined the ranks of the army of the southern Confederacy;
• A sketch of the life of Lewis Taylor Rucks;
• A brief history of the chapter and list of members;
• A list of W. A. Percy camp U. C. V., Mississippi Division;
• Official button with confederate flags worn by a soldier; and
• Three recent copies of the town’s newspapers.
Before the presentation speeches, surviving veterans of the war along with representatives of surrounding communities paraded down Washington Avenue.
The President of the UDC chapter, Mrs. Joseph M. Jayne, the daughter of Gen. Robert Lowry, introduced three speakers: Senator John L. Hebron, Leroy Percy and Dr. B. F. Ward.
The newspaper reported: “The erection of the monument at Greenville with the unveiling ceremonies held on the anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis, the confederate chieftain will both tend to keep green the memory of the departed Confederate heroes and to impress the truth of the history upon the mind of the rising generation of southern boys and girls”
The speeches then went on to discuss what the reasons for erection of the monument were.
Hebron spoke of the accomplishments of Davis before he became president of the confederacy.
He was a regimental commander, a Secretary of War and a Senator.
“When the confederate flag was furled at Appomattox, from that day on he became the vicarious sufferer of all the white people of the southland,” Hebron said.
Also, the secretary of agriculture withheld the cotton crop report scheduled for June 3 because the southern states had set it aside as a legal holiday.
Hebron said the monument was put in place “Through her (Jayne’s) efforts and the efforts of her assistants and the liberal contribution of the citizens of Washington County, and a liberal appropriation by the board of supervisors of this county, they were enabled to erect this monument to the memory of the dead Washington County soldiers and to the deeds and heroism of the living Washing County Confederate soldiers.”
Percy followed Hebron and spoke about the actual act of secession. He said the right to withdraw from the Union was not questioned, but some did question the necessity of it, his father included. The opposition to secession in Mississippi came from Washington County’s representative to the state convention in Judge Shall Yerger. The state convention voted 83-44 to secede and became the second state to do so.
Percy went on to say the first company of soldiers called from Washington County was commanded by his father and called the Swamp Rangers.
Percy said about 500 soldiers from the county left for war after they were first called and only 100 of those returned home.
“Much has been said about the Confederate soldier,” Percy said. “Too much can never be said.
“And now, sons and daughters of the confederacy, let us ever be ready to honor the memory of these brave soldiers who went out in the dark days of 1861.”
Ward’s speech followed Percy and he spent some time discussing the legacy of the struggle during the war.
“…the erection of this magnificent tablet to the heroism, the self-sacrifice of the men furnished by Washington County to the cause of equal rights and constitutional government,” Ward said.
“We know this that we are citizens of this government and that we owe allegiance to its flag and obedience to its laws,” Ward said. “There has never been a day since the Confederate soldier laid down his arms that the people did not desire peace in this common government.”
Ward went on to conflate the end of the Civil War with then end of the Roman Republic and beginnings of the Roman Empire.
“Republic or empire,” Ward said. “An empire is always the advance guard of the crown. The crown is but the first step to a dynasty and a dynasty is an abomination in the sight of the Lord.”
He said the people listening had two lines of duty.
“Those two lines of duty are these: One line of duty pledges you to obedience to the letter of the law, and the other line of duty pledges you by your sense of intelligence to a white government.
“It has come down to you through the veins of the Caucasian from generation to generation.
“Let me say to you my friends, that whenever you make up your minds to abandon this inheritance, then you become the menial subjects of an inferior race, and the glory of the south will have stopped forever.”
Ward went on to discuss the legitimacy of the rights of secession.