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Scholar warriors volunteer for South

Discussion in 'Campfire Chat - General Discussions' started by william42, Mar 2, 2008.

  1. william42

    william42 First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]
    Little remains of Liberty Hall Academy, the forerunner of Washington and Lee University

    March 1, 2008

    By Richard G. Williams Jr. - Liberty and freedom are words Americans instinctively associate with patriotism and our unique heritage. Certainly to our forefathers, patriotism was much more than an abstract concept, more than an idea discussed in political speeches and debates.

    Patriotism and the love of liberty were real. The ideas were made tangible by the sacrifices many of our forefathers willingly made of fortunes, families and futures.

    Our history is replete with stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, from our Pilgrim progenitors to those in this century who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

    We have, as King David wrote in the Book of Psalms, "a goodly heritage." One of the best but lesser-known examples of true patriotism and love of liberty was personified by the Liberty Hall Volunteers.

    Liberty Hall Academy was the forerunner of Washington College, which eventually became Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.

    The school can trace its roots to 1749 and a Presbyterian preacher by the name of William Graham. Eventually funded and directed by Shenandoah Valley Presbyterians, the school boasts thousands of influential and renowned men as alumni.

    At the outbreak of the War Between the States, a group of young men who were students at Washington College formed a military company that eventually would become part of the legendary "Stonewall Brigade."

    These young patriots chose for their company the name Liberty Hall Volunteers — a name used by a similar company of youths formed at the original Liberty Hall Academy. The original company marched with William Graham to repel a British invasion on the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the American Revolution.

    The young men of Washington College also wanted to march to repel an invasion. Their motives were the same, but Providence would dictate a much different outcome.

    During April in 1861, these young men did little more than "play army." Rules set up by the not-so-supportive college administration did not allow them to carry firearms.

    The president of the college, the Rev. George Junkin, was Pennsylvania born and a loyal Unionist. He was so outraged by the "Rebels" and their enthusiasm for the Southern cause that he resigned his position and immediately left Virginia for good.

    One historian has written that after Junkin crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, he"alighted from his carriage and shook the dust of Virginia from his shoes."

    When the school year ended in June, the boys took on a more serious temperament as they were drilled by William Nelson Pendleton. a West Point graduate who was rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington.

    Grace Episcopal is the same church where Robert E. Lee would worship after he became president of Washington College after the war. Today, it is known as R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church.

    Pendleton eventually would become commander of the Rockbridge Artillery and name his most famous cannons Matthew, Mark, Luke and John because "they spoke a powerful language." Indeed.

    Several things make the story of these young patriots interesting.

    First is that all the officers, as well as more than half the privates, were professing Christians, and one-fourth were candidates for the ministry. The company was organized and commanded by James J. White, professor of Greek at Washington College and son of Stonewall Jackson's pastor, the Rev. William S. White.

    Second is that this unit was likely the best-educated infantry company in the Confederate army. The artillery unit that Pendleton would later organize and command would also comprise highly educated and devout men, including seven who held masters of arts degrees from the University of Virginia, 28 who were college graduates and 25 who were seminary students. Another member of this unit was Robert Edward Lee Jr.

    The Washington College boys received orders from Virginia Gov. John Letcher on June 2 to report immediately to Harpers Ferry. The bugle sounded loud and clear on the bright morning of June 8, and the company was readied for the march.

    The company of optimistic youths marched dutifully to the courthouse, where a crowd had gathered. There they were given a magnificent flag that had been hand-stitched by the devout ladies of the Falling Springs Presbyterian Church.

    Upon the flag was emblazoned the immortal Latin phrase "Pro Aris et Focis" — the English translation being simply "For Altar and Home."

    No doubt as those brave young men read that Latin phrase, knowing full well what it meant, God confirmed in their hearts what they already knew. They were defending and fighting for everything they held near and dear: their firesides, their native sod and their sacred places of worship.

    As the pastor of Falling Springs presented the flag to them with a fitting exhortation, these soon-to-be warriors were baptized with a benediction of fervent prayer by William White, and tearful goodbyes were exchanged. Historian W.G. Bean described the scene in his book "The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall's College Boys":

    "You could almost hear the heart-strings of mothers and sisters snap as they pressed sons and brothers in farewell embraces. In surrendering their boys to the services of Virginia, they were making sacrifices, such as their heroic ancestors were accustomed to make on the hills and among the mosshags of Scotland, for God and Presbytery. It was a willing sacrifice."

    After the emotional send-off, the friends and relatives of the boys returned to Falling Springs Presbyterian Church and petitioned God for their safety and their victory.

    On June 13, 1861, the Lexington Gazette described the unit as "one of the finest looking bodies of young soldiers that have been sent from this portion of the state. ... The patriotic fire which animated the breasts of the boys of Liberty Hall in the days of our Revolutionary struggle is still alive in the hearts of their worthy descendants."

    Among these new soldiers was Hugh Augustus White, younger brother of the commander, James J. White, and another son of Stonewall Jackson's pastor, William S. White. Hugh White had graduated from Washington College, but by the time Virginia had seceded he was a student at Union Theological Seminary in Farmville, Va. After a day of fasting and prayer at the seminary, Hugh had written to his father on April 22, 1861:

    "We of Virginia are between two fires. If we join the one party, we join friends and allies; if we join the other, we join enemies and become vassals. Our decision then is formed, and we will seek to break the oppressor's yoke. Our only hope, under God, is in a united resistance even unto death. ... How delightful it would be to enter at once upon the work of saving men's souls, rather than in efforts to destroy their bodies."

    William White implored his son to complete his seminary studies rather than fight for the Confederacy, but the youthful patriot replied, "I have thought and prayed much over this question for two months ... and the result is as firm a conviction that I ought at once to take part in the defense of my state ... as I ever felt that I ought to preach the Gospel."

    His father could only respond, "Go, my son, and the blessing of God go with you."

    Before the war, Hugh White had taught in one of Stonewall Jackson's Sunday-school classes. During the war, he continued sharing his faith with other soldiers and was responsible for the conversion of at least one of his companions, Ted Barclay, who, after having a conversation with White, made a public profession of faith in Christ.

    Barclay would write home of this experience: "I have had a conversation with Hugh White on the subject of religion and trust that I have found the way to heaven. I am willing to trust my self in the arms of the Saviour." However, it was Hugh White who would soon be in the arms of his Savioras he was killed at the Battle of Second Manassas and, according to Jackson, "fell, sword in hand, gallantly cheering on his men."

    These young men proved that they were, indeed, "worthy descendants." Records indicate that of the original company, not a single soldier was ever discharged or otherwise punished for personal misconduct.

    Richard G. Williams Jr. is a regular contributor to this page. His latest book, "Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man's Friend," is the basis for a new documentary about Jackson. Visit his Web site at SouthRiverBooks.com.

    http://washingtontimes.com/article/20080301/CIVILWAR/919564616/1011
     

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  3. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011 Honored Fallen Comrade

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    William, a most interesting article. Thank you!

    A paragraph from the article:


    "No doubt as those brave young men read that Latin phrase, knowing full well what it meant, God confirmed in their hearts what they already knew. They were defending and fighting for everything they held near and dear: their firesides, their native sod and their sacred places of worship."

    Let those who keep griping about ALL Southerners who fought in the war having fought for slavery, please take note of this article. Is is possible these men were fighting for something else; something worthwhile?
     
  4. william42

    william42 First Sergeant

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    By Larry:
    Larry, the actions and dedication of these boys are generally what I think of when I think of the ordinary Confederate soldier. Granted this particular group of them were perhaps more accomplished in their scholastic endeavors, but I think their devotion to their cause, and their religious faith were shared by most of the Southern soldiers, educated or not. Whether one judges their cause as just or not, they have to be admired for their bravery in their fight to achieve their goal, and their dedication to their cause, and their religious faith that helped sustain them. Thanks for your comments.


    Terry
     
  5. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Larry,

    I have no problem with the central idea you give above that not all men enlisted in the Confederate army with the idea of fighting for the institution of slavery.

    I also have no problem with the idea that hardly any of the Americans who enlisted in the United States army during WWII did so with the idea of ending the Holocaust.

    But again, individual reasons for enlisting count little when you join the army, then as now. If you enlisted in the Confederate army, you supported the government's goals and objectives, and it is clear one of these objectives was to protect and maintain slavery.

    You (the individual soldier) do not have to agree with that goal or have even enlisted for it, but every time you pull your trigger, you support it, knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly.

    I may not have agreed with our leader's goals in Vietnam when I was in the service, but they didn't ask me if I did or didn't, and I was a volunteer. You serve your nation, right or wrong, whether you agree with the goals and objectives of the leaders during the conflict or not.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  6. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011 Honored Fallen Comrade

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    Neil, as you're doubtless aware, you've written that same opinion perhaps half a dozen times. It almost seems as if you are persistent in attempting to gently insert this notion into what you described as my 'stubborn' skull. Your consistency of thought gives much credit to your sincerity and belief in the notion. While I greatly admire that effort and much appreciate it, I'm still not completely comfortable with grasping it in totality. I submit that individual reasons for joining the army had everything to do with the situation from the soldier's perspective. I'll bet your own reasons were paramount to you.

    The collective impact of the civil war soldier's efforts, certainly, as you suggest, were applied to the general goals of the folks who started the war for a variety of reasons, well discussed on this board. If they felt good drawing that conclusion, there's little I could or can do to stop it.

    The soldier who simply got caught up in the ruckus, trying to survive, was most concerned with surviving. If someone, some group, or the 'nation' (Confederate or real) wanted to take credit for his actions, that was beyond the control of the soldier. Hence his conscience was clear. Unfortunately this game lead to half a million deaths.

    My gg grandpa Cockerham was a proud member of the GAR. He apparently thought he had done something of value for his country. Perhaps he did. The others felt much the same way about their actions in the Confederate army. They walked tall when they returned from the war. They were lucky. These men also died thinking they had served to assist their states, their homeland, their neighbors, their family, themselves. Be it the real thrust or result of their efforts or not, it didn't matter to them, and perhaps not to me.

    I have no reservation stating that in my humble opinion the 'result' of the war, if you call half a million deaths and a wobbly step in the direction of granting freedom to some folks who hadn't felt it in a while, a reason to celebrate, was without question, for the best. That doesn't diminish my respect for the Confederate and Union soldier, the grunts, the pawns in the big game, one bit.

    I do grasp your analysis and greatly appreciate it. I merely would prefer to focus on my myopic vision on the individual caught up in the winds of war.
     
  7. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Larry,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond with the above.

    I appreciate it and understand and respect your view of the matter.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     

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