Commander-in-Chief Harrison, Gentlemen of the Sons of Union Veterans, Honored Guests:
I bring you greetings and salutations from your BROTHER hereditary and historical organization: the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and its Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Norman Dasinger. He wanted desperately to be here as a gesture of our unity, a unity of PRIDE in our ancestors who fought and died for their individual interpretations of American freedom in the bloodiest and most important war in American history. However, two of Commander Dasinger's children will graduate from college tomorrow and he could not miss that event. I think he wanted to see for himself where all his money has gone.
I REQUESTED to be here on this important occasion as the representative of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, because Columbus, Ohio, is a VERY important part of my family's heritage. You see, my gt grandfather, my gt gt grandfather, and three of my gt gt uncles LIVED in Columbus, Ohio, some 132 years ago. Actually, they were in JAIL here,...as Confederate prisoners of war at Camp Chase. My great-great uncle is buried in the Camp Chase Cemetery. I'm sorry to say that Great Granddaddy COULD NOT recommend the accommodations there! It wasn't quite up to Radisson standards!
But, Gentlemen, today I stand before you with a sad heart. I am not at all comfortable with what has happened to the memory of MY ancestors in gray and YOUR ancestors in blue, especially in the past few decades. The soldiers of the War Between the States are NOT the same heroes to Americans they once were.
Today, the celebration of their holidays is relegated to quiet, often unpublicized, local observances. There are no school programs, no parades, no glowing newspaper articles----THEY'RE GONE, ... and with them have gone much of the honor and respect due our wonderful Northern and Southern AMERICAN heroes.
What happened?? Who are the dirty rotten scoundrels who allowed this awful state of affairs to evolve? Who is to blame?
I'm afraid the answer is very simple! WE DID IT!! We, the proud sons and daughters of those brave and selfless boys in blue and gray, ... WE have done them in.
WE have allowed the soldiers of the War Between the States to become modern day political mascots, political mascots of liberal revisionist historians AND right wing radical racist fringe groups. The Yanks and Rebs have become combatants in a 20th century ethnic and social war. Our ancestors are being represented as defenders of everything from affirmative action to assault weapons. In some circles the Sons of Union Veterans is considered to be little more than a dressed up Michigan militia while the Sons of Confederate Veterans is passed off as a group of sheetless Ku Klux Klansmen! Pardon me, gentlemen, but, this stereotyping is one large odoriferous accumulation of bovine excrement and it is an affront to our ancestors and to YOU and ME!
Now, it would be very easy for us to place the blame for this state of affairs at the feet of the racists and revisionists, but it's not that simple.
There are those within our organizations who ENCOURAGE such warped depicitions of our ancestors. There are most certainly a few members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who literally wrap themselves in the Confederate battle flag to promote racial division AND hatred of anyone living north of the Ohio River. There are SUVCW members who relish in perpetuating the Southern redneck stereotype. And, these gentlemen have saddled our ancestors with all sorts of modern political opinions. I've encountered compatriots who claim WITH PASSION that their soldier ancestors were not only against gun control, but were anti-abortion as well.
Consider how strange it s that we attach all this baggage solely to the poor boys in blue and gray! I wonder how the veterans of the Spanish-American War felt about comprehensive health care? Did those World War I doughboys really favor a balanced budget amendment? Sounds absurd, doesn't it? Yet we continue to allow OUR ancestors to be used as political TOYS!
As a result of all this posturing, many descendants are choosing NOT to affiliate with either the SUVCW or the SCV. They are choosing NOT to declare publicly their pride in their Union and Confederate forebearers because they do not want to adopt all the garbage that goes with it.
Politicians avoid us, "SERIOUS" historians ignore us, and the general public considers us to be fanatics. "When are you all going to quit fighting the war?", is a common retort.
Brothers, it is PASSED THE TIME that we as descendants of Union and Confederate Americans returned to the reasons why the SUVCW and the SCV were founded in the first place: TO PRESERVE AND PERPETUATE THE BRAVERY, SACRIFICES, AND HEROISM of our ancestors and to pass on our PRIDE to our children and our children's children. We CANNOT afford to continue to demean our ancestors by politicizing them.
Secondly, we, YOU and I, must stop fighting the War Between the States. There are members of both organizations who HATE each other. They HATE each other! WHY?? Because our ancestors were military enemies over 130 years ago. That's a long time to hold a grudge!! There are members of the SCV who hate you because you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line! There are SUVCW members who dislike me SIMPLY because I speak with a Southern accent.
I confess readily that I LOVE the CONFEDERATE BATTLE FLAG. I cherish it because it was the flag of my ancestors ... and it continues as a symbol of my homeland, my culture, the funny way I talk, ... my heritage. I will fight to preserve the public display of that flag with all of my being.
BUT, ... BUT, ... I also LOVE and cherish the UNION flag, the flag of the United States of America, MY COUNTRY! I served in Vietnam under that flag ... and the blood of my comrades, both Northern and Southern, soaked the soil of southeast Asia to keep that flag flying high. The best man at my wedding, who was my fraternity brother, my best friend, and a member of the SCV, lies buried in a Little Rock, Arkansas cemetery because HE defended the flag of the United States in Vietnam!
We must end this silly division between us and come together in order to fight the NEW War Between the States which is raging all around us. Who is OUR ENEMY?? All those historians, politicians, social activists, and extremists who would bend and twist the memory of our ancestors to fit their own selfish interests. Gentlemen, if we DO NOT FIGHT this war together ... well, just sit back, relax, and watch as our heritage continues to hemorrhage, ... as more and more descendants of Union and Confederate American heroes turn their backs on their special ancestry.
The basic question is: ARE YOU A MEMBER OF THIS ORGANIZATION IN ORDER TO SERVE YOURSELF - OR ARE YOU HERE TO PRESERVE SELFLESSLY AND ACCURATELY THE HONOR DUE YOUR ANCESTORS?
SONS OF UNION VETERANS, THANK YOU FOR INVITING THE SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS TO BE PART OF YOUR ENCAMPMENT. IT IS MY PRAYER THAT YOU LEAVE HERE WITH A RENEWED DEDICATION TO PERPETUATE THE PRIDE!
(Editor's note: Immediately following the prolonged standing ovation given Mr. Wells by the Delegates to the Encampment, the following presentation was made by Mr. Wells to Commander-in-Chief Harrison)
Commander Harrison, in honor of our common heritage as Americans, I would like to present you with a membership in the venerable Morgan's Men Association. The Morgan's Men Association is the oldest continuing veterans organization in the South, formed in 1868 by surviving Confederate cavalrymen of Gen. John Hunt Morgan's famous command. You are presented this membership in honor of YOUR collateral ancestor PRIVATE JAMES BREWSTER, Co. K, Chenault's 11th Kentucky Cavalry, CSA, who served under Gen. John Hunt Morgan, and also lived here in Columbus in the later months of 1863 ... as a P.O.W. at Camp Chase, Ohio. He was on vacation near Buffington's Island when he was arrested for trying to swim the Ohio River!!!
In addition, I want you to have this book, entitled HANDS ACROSS THE WALL, which accounts of the 50th and 75th reunions of the battle of Gettysburg. As the title indicates, the veterans themselves were able to join hands across the wall at Gettysburg. ... WHY CAN'T WE?Return to SUVCW Home Page