Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Synopsis

War memorials are symbols of a community’s sense of itself, the values it holds dear, and its collective memory. They inform us more, perhaps, about the period in which the memorials were erected than the period of the war itself.

Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes the reader on a tour of Civil War monuments throughout the state and in doing so tells the story of each monument and its creation. McMichael explores Texans’ motivations for erecting Civil War memorials, which she views as attempts during a period of turmoil and uncertainty—“severe depression, social unrest, the rise of Populism, mass immigration, urbanization, industrialization, imperialism, lynching, and Jim Crow laws”—to preserve the memory of the Confederate dead, to instill in future generations the values of patriotism, duty, and courage; to create a shared memory and identity “based on a largely invented story”; and to “anchor a community against social and political doubt.”

Her focus is the human story of each monument, the characters involved in its creation, and the sacred memories held dear to them.

Excerpt

The children's voices echoed through the tall canopy of oaks that surrounded the courthouse, their laughter giving them away in a game of hide-and-seek. One child counted, eyes turned into the bark of an old tree. Another poised silently behind a large cannon and a third crept as quietly as possible in her long dress and stiff black shoes behind the Civil War monument in the center of the lawn.

The adults who had gathered nearby were chatting, most commenting on the clear, calm weather—always uncertain in North Central Texas in March—and preparing for the day’s celebration. the men, growing overly warm in their gray woolen military uniforms, hung the last of the bunting and crepe paper and planted the Confederate and United States flags around the square. the ladies’ hoopskirts and crinoline crackled in the air as they placed a few chairs around the monument for the elderly among the expected crowd.

As it turned out, seventy-five men, women, and children gathered that day in March 1996 in period dress to rededicate the city of Sherman’s one-hundred-year-old Confederate monument. the parents quieted their children while Mark Farrington, commander of the Colonel Reeves Eleventh Texas Cavalry Camp 349, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), explained to those present that “we are here today not to honor the war, but the warriors.” the memorial, originally unveiled on April 22, 1897, by the Sherman Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), remained a site of memory, despite the passing of the years.

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