It is a great privilege and honor for me personally to be asked to deliver a short address on the occasion of the Dedication of this land, which we now can thankfully call our own Confederate Memorial Park. This morning, in addition to my prayers of thanksgiving to God for this land, I thank God for all of you here this morning who labored so hard to make this Memorial Park a reality. Right now I want to really ponder this crucial question. How were the soldiers of the Confederate armies, as well as those soldiers and civilian citizens who were tortured in POW camps like Pt. Lookout; how were they able to fight on year after year; how were they able to endure such horrible suffering, year after year, even unto death?
In reading many letters of soldiers, and studying the history of the War for Southern Independence. I suggest they were able to endure until death, or survive for several reasons. First, they gave their lives in service, not only to the Confederate Government and the States of their beloved Southland; but more importantly, they gave their lives to Almighty. God, revealed in the perfect manhood of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior! Did you know that the greatest revival of Christianity on the North American continent took place in the Southern Armies and in places like Pt. Lookout? More than two hundred thousand soldiers and sailors renewed their faith or became Christians for the first time during the War. When I read the letters of chaplains and soldiers about their accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Master of their lives, my heart is warmed by the earnestness and piety of the soldiers. Time will not permit me to tell you what happened spiritually to many of these man, but let me give you an example of just one of these conversion events. In General Gordon's Georgia Brigade, Chaplain Woodfin wrote this report: One night after a prayer meeting, one of the most wicked men in the brigade went back to his tent and called his company to fall-in around him. He was a captain of infantry and he said to his troops:
Men, I have led you into many a battle and you have followed me like men. But alas! I have led you into all manner of wickedness and vice and some of you have followed me in this, too, I have now resolved to change my course. I have gone to Christ in sincere repentance and faith. I have enlisted under the banner of the cross and men, by God's help, to prove to be a faithful soldier of Jesus ... I call upon you to follow me as I shall try to follow the Captain of our salvation.
Now what happened next was amazing! The men crowded around their captain, tears flowed freely and many earnest prayers were offered. Chaplain Woodfin concluded his report of this conversation by saying that "the once wicked captain continued talking and praying until nearly every member of his company professed belief in Jesus. And then those former ringleaders of vice became a powerful influence for the religious good of their regiment and brigade."
A second reason how and why our ancestors were able to fight on year after year and endure suffering year after year was because they believed that God would bless them in life and in death in the defense of their homeland. They believed that they were fighting for God's way of life for them. It is no wonder then that the Great Seal of the Confederate States of America bears the inscription, Deo Vindice, that is, God will vindicate. Had there been no religious revival, the Southern Confederacy would have collapsed much earlier under the massive and brutal aggression of the Federal armies. Chaplain Gresham of General Wise's Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia wrote in April 1864:
Yesterday was the anniversary of the secession of Virginia. Three years of carnage have passed by, many hearthstones of the Old Dominion have been polluted, her fields have been laid waste, blackened ruins mark where her homes stood. But the same stem resolve continues in defiance of the foe, just as Virginia's motto declared in an earlier war for independence -- Sic Semper Tyrannis (This always to Tyrants).
Captain Gresham went on to say:
I do not doubt the valor or the patient endurance of the army or the people at home; I only fear that we may trust too much in the army of the flesh, that we may look to Lee and Johnston instead of to the Lord of Hosts.
Had their been no revival of religious life and belief in the Southern armies, the South would have collapsed much earlier under the massive and brutal aggression of the Federal armies.
The third reason they fought on and suffered unto their own survival or death was the fact that one day if they survived, they would have to start life allover again for their families. They knew they could not do it alone. They needed God to rebuild their shattered lives and to rebuild their Southern culture and way of life that had been so terribly ravaged by the invading Northern armies. We all know how the South suffered during the so-called “Reconstruction” era, which was a vindictive military occupation designed to humiliate the Southern people and to destroy their culture and style of life. We all know how the Lincoln Administration, following the doctrine of the Prussian general, Karl von Clausewitz, carried out the most loathsome, brutal destruction of a total war against civilians, their children, their homes, fields, and livestock that the North American continent had ever witnessed. Had it not been for the great revival of faith in God that swept over the armies, there would have been no leaders who were prepared to staunch the flow of the precious life-blood of Southern life and culture. After the war the renewal of faith in God's Providence empowered those returning veterans to pick up the plow after having laid down their swords. These men came home determined through their renewed faith in God to rebuild the South. Chaplain Jones writes in his book Christ in the Camp that the rebirth of the South came “by way of the pluck, energy, skill, patience, industry, brains and brawn of the men in gray.” He writes:
I have found these men to be the new leaders of the States in politics, business and social and religious movements...It is a significant fact that the leading pulpits of the South in all denominations are filled by Confederate soldiers. One pastor of a leading church said to me, "I am indebted to you for baptizing in the army the best and most efficient men in my church."
Chaplain Jones describes an event which occurred in the summer of 1865. It is on the last two pages of his book and provides a moving conclusion to all that he has so accurately and powerfully written. He was traveling in Virginia on a country road and he just happened to see a young man whom he had baptized during the war, who was plowing his field. He was guiding the plow with one hand and arm while an empty sleeve hung at his side. He was having difficulty plowing the field that lay next to his house, which had been badly damaged by shot and shell. Chaplain Jones said he called out to the young veteran and spoke some words of comfort and consolation. The young man answered with a wave of his only arm and said with a proud smile, “Oh, Brother Jones, it's alright. I thank God that I have one arm left and the opportunity to use it for the support of those I love.” Then with these words Chaplain Jones concludes his wonderful book:
If my voice could reach all the young men of the South today, I would ring in their ears the example of that maimed hero, and would beg them now to imitate the examples of our returned Confederate soldiers, who, as a rule, went to work with an energy and patient industry which have made them a real power in the land today...Surely Christian men of every section and of every creed will unite in thanking God that Christ was in the camps of Lee's army with such wonderful power to save us, and that out of that terrible war God brought such rich blessings.
Had it not been for the vengeance of the U.S. Federal Government which fostered political corruption by carpetbaggers and scalawags who in turn encouraged a reign of thievery and terror to start in the South; had it not been for the radical demon-inspired Federal government, those beautiful words of Chaplain Jones would have been fulfilled in history. Out of that terrible war God did indeed bring forth rich blessings of personal salvation, but hateful, mislead people in the North and the radical Federal Government sought to totally destroy the South of our ancestors.
Now the last reason that I have time to suggest as to why and how our noble ancestors fought on and suffered so much was because they expected their descendants like you and me to carry on the religious revival which they began. They turned to God in worship because they knew that only the Lord could help them and they wanted us to turn to the Lord for the same reason. We, the descendants of these brave, self-sacrificing, godly men, must carry on the religious revival which they began. We must carry on the cause for which they fought, so that it will never be lost, but be gained and vindicated for our sons and our sons' sons. We know that the preservation of family, home, liberty and freedom was a great motivating factor in the South's determination to fight a second war for their Independence. We also know that the tenacity with which they fought underscored their firm belief that the social and political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were being taken away from them by arrogant, avaricious Northern politicians and "holier-than-thou" abolitionists, politically correct newspaper editors and heretical church ministers. These historical facts, however, do not explain completely why they fought so desperately, even after the fall of Vicksburg, the Battle of Gettysburg and the capture and burning of Atlanta. They fought as they did because they never gave up on God. We, their descendants, must do what they did on the battlefield and in the camp. We must place their cause, which is now our cause, in the hands of God and become the soldiers for a true Southland dedicated to serving God and His truth. We must not fail to take up that noble cause. If at times we should find ourselves mired by weakness by our current American culture of power-mad political correctness and moral corruption, we should be reading Father Ryan's poems again. They engender new resolve to uphold the Southern Cause. Father Ryan writes in a poem he called CSA:
Do we weep for the heroes who died for us?
Who living, were true and tried for us,
And dying, sleep side by side for us;
That hallowed our land
With the blood they shed in a tide for us!
Listen now to the second verse of that poem, which is inscribed on the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Solider at Beauvoir, the last home of President Jefferson Davis, in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Ah! fearless on many a day for us
They stood in the front of the fray for us,
And held the foeman at bay for us,
And tears should fall Forever o'er all
Who fell while wearing the gray for us.
The Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition of our Christian Faith teach us that only those nations that submit to God's Will can survive. The South, until the beginning of the twentieth century, was a religious community...today it is fast losing it's identity as a religious community.
We must try to purify and unify our Southern culture by taking responsibility for what we do personally, and for what we are bound to do for each other through God's Law. To do this we must begin with a true contrition for our sin, a real confession of our sin to God and an amendment of our own life that pleases Him. This can only be undertaken through a faith in God and prayers that will call upon Him to pour down His grace and Mercy upon us. We all stand under the judgment of God. The success of our cause to preserve the best in our Southern culture and heritage depends ultimately upon what God's judgment will be of what we say and do in both our personal and public life. If what we say and do is good, then we can be comforted that God will eventually uphold our cause. I say eventually because God acts in His time and not in ours. The Russian novelist Count Leo Tolstoy emphasized this fact about God's time when he wrote: “God sees the truth but waits.” And why does Tolstoy say He waits? I think he waits until He sees the truth in all of us. When we are obedient to God and demonstrate our love for Him through good living, then He, who is all love and mercy, will bless us by vindicating our cause. My brothers and sisters, we who love the South with it's history of religious culture, chivalry, morality and sacrifice, face again a repressive invasion of our land. But this invasion is happening throughout the entire United States. It will take more than singing Dixie to stem the Devil's invasion with his armies of materialism, hedonism, lies, perversions, immorality and greed. As descendants of the Righteous Cause and citizens of the United States of America, let us rebuild our Southern culture and heritage. Let us take on the revisionist historians and the slaves of political correctness and blot out their lies with the Truth. Let us rededicate ourselves to serve God and His Truth, else our cause does not deserve to be preserved and vindicated.
An English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes, a man with whom we may not agree on religious issues, but nevertheless said a very important thing. He said, "Hell is truth seen too late." We have seen the Truth in Jesus Christ and we know our ancestors fought for the Truth. Let us not be drawn toward the gates of hell because we have not seen the Truth. We have seen it and now we must act upon it and bring about another great revival in our beloved Southland. The medieval philosopher, theologian and literary giant, Dante Alighieri, says this to us today: "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those, who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality..." I would add to that, hell is reserved for those who play the game of political correctness at the expense of Truth, and remain neutral. We all know that hell is paved with good intentions, so we must work and fight and live for the Truth ... for we have Christ who is the way, the Truth and the Life.