January 23, 2012

Ceremony marks Confederate Heroes Day
By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Write Gainesville Daily Register

Gainesville — Cooke and Denton counties members of the Texas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy
(UDC), plus members of the Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), honored the state holiday, which launched
in 1973, conjunctive with the birthday of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The memorial morning included a presentation of flag colors and paid salute to Civil War history, family ancestry
and the toils of slain soldiers in all wars.

“We’re by no means celebrating them,” said Wilda Tisdale, president of the UDC’s Lucy Holcombe Pickens chapter.
“It’s just honoring them — that they fought, died or were wounded for a cause.”

More pointedly, it gave some of the participants a chance to state a case for the Southern Confederacy.

Texan soldiers of the Civil War, they insist, fought forth as Americans.

“They were asked by the governor of the state of Texas to bear arms against an enemy that was invading their
state,” said Gary Bray, member of Lee Borland Camp SCV. “They came forth to do what the government asked
them to do and they joined up as Texas regiments. And they were trained in Texas and were turned over to the
Confederate government, which is like the national government. And they went off and fought a war where people
were invading the South.”

Bray suggested Saturday that all actions in the Civil War must be considered in the political context of their time,
which many Confederate critics fail to do today. A misunderstanding has prevailed, some Confederacy advocates
have said, that Southern soldiers were fighting simply to perpetuate slavery.

But Bray said objective Civil War history shows that Southern soldiers were behaving in self-defense. All states, at
that time, were entitled to secede from the government.

And he said Southerners, with Texans among them, behaved in a mode of reaction to atrocity.

“If you go look at your history, we did not invade the North,” Bray said. “We asked for our independence. But the
president of the United States raised an army and invaded the South. And it took a lot of guts for the people of the
South to create a nation, a treasury and an army and ask these men to go and fight against their brothers to create
another nation.”

Bray also said Saturday’s ceremony wasn’t a hurrah to war or violence.

“We’re here for the men who made the choices to protect their home, to protect their families and their native
states,” he said. “And at that time, they looked at their native state as if it was an independent country. And so the
mindset today is a lot different than it was in those days.”

Bray cited abolitionist John Brown, leader of the famed Pottawatomie Massacre of 1856, in Kansas. Brown’s actions
were anti-slavery, but cited by historians as being much more extreme than other Northerners who had more
nonviolent approaches.

His motives aside, some authors have tagged Brown as America’s first terrorist.

“He actually took people out and hacked them to death in Kansas,” Bray said Saturday. “And most people don’t
know that the entire business district of the city of Dallas was burned to the ground in 1860. There was literally
already a civil war going on in Kansas. It’s closer between Gainesville, Texas, to Kansas, than it is from Gainesville,
Texas, to Austin. So these atrocities were coming closer and closer to the state of Texas.

“And so when you’re reading the daily newspaper in 1860, 1861, you’d realize what was happening,” Bray added.
“These things were encroaching into our peace and harmony, and into our home. And that’s why a lot of this
erupted and happened.”

Bray also discussed the presence of slaves in the Civil War, and drew a comparison to past soldiers of all races who
have been drafted. He said he himself had been a Vietnam War draftee who was soon notified he was relieved from
duty since the war in Southeast Asia was winding down.

But had Bray not been relieved, and not shown up to serve, he would have been arrested.

“A lot of guys did go who were drafted, and they would have gone basically against their will,” Bray said. “But they
did what they were supposed to do, all right? They went over, they fought, they came home hopefully alive. And
even though they were drafted, they were veterans of war, am I not right? And we would honor them as veterans.”

He added that many slaves were conscripted into the Confederate Army, served alongside white soldiers, and many
of them survived.

“So we can celebrate them as veterans of the Confederate Army also, not just white people,” Bray said. “And so,
you know, people don’t get that. We’re not here doing a racist-type thing. We’re here for the soldiers who fought:
black, white, Indian Confederate soldiers.”

And Bray agreed, when asked, that modern-day Confederate defenders of his ilk tend to be pigeon-holed as racists.

“It’s mostly a misunderstanding,” he said Saturday.
Members of the Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans strike a somber pose Saturday during the ceremony
to mark Confederate Heroes Day at the First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville.