More than one million Southern men served in the Confederate military from 1861 to 1865. Nearly 300,000 died during the war. Florida, which sent more of her sons per capita into the Confederate army and navy than any other state, remembers its heroes each April 26. By Florida state law this date is the legal holiday of Confederate Memorial Day.
The focus of Confederate Memorial Day should be entirely upon those Confederate soldiers and sailors who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
For a moment, consider who the average Confederate was. He was a poor agrarian — a farmer, a miller or a logger. He likely had never been outside of his home county. He was either a teenager or a young man in his early 20s. He was a Christian and part of a large family. He had no military training. And he was not a slave owner.
These otherwise peaceable men went to war, almost all of them voluntarily, because in their heart of hearts their sense of duty demanded it. In their very real world of 1861, loyalty was first and foremost to one's kin and native state. The Southern man reacted to Lincoln's invasion of his sovereign homeland. It was that simple.
Confederate soldiers are recognized by the United States government as full-fledged military combatants with legal standing. Congress has made it so. Laws have been enacted requiring Confederate soldiers to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and that provide for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to furnish military-style headstones for unmarked Confederate graves.
A conservative estimate is that more than 80 million present-day Americans are direct descendents of a Confederate soldier or sailor. Our Confederate heritage is a fact. We can disavow it, we can ignore it, or, as Confederate Memorial Day compels, we can proudly embrace it.
MICHAEL S. HERRING
from Tampa Bay Online