Honoring heritage

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Features Editor

The song "Dixie" was once the anthem of the South, but it’s hardly ever sung anymore.

On Monday, "Dixie" was sung on the square in downtown Troy as part of the

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Sons of Confederate Veterans Heritage of Honor program.

Among those who lifted their voice is song and saluted the Confederate Flag was a man of African American descent, Reginald Taylor.

Taylor was a guest speaker for the event and he brought a message not often spoken by a member of the African American community.

Taylor said this nation must look, first, to God in all things and, in so doing, he quoted the 13th chapter of John.

"Jesus said, ‘A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another as I have loved you,’ " Taylor said. "Booker T. Washington said, ‘I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.’ We must love one another."

Love, forgiveness and truth go hand-in-hand and the words of Harry S. Truman opened Taylor’s eyes to the truth.

"Harry Truman said, ‘The only secret in the world is the history you don’t know," Taylor said. "We cannot change history and that is what many people in the black community are wanting to do. They want to keep some parts of history and destroy others. You cannot do that. The American Revolution was history. World Wars I and II were history. Korea was history and Vietnam. The war in the Persian Gulf was history. This (the Civil War) is history and we must continue to fight to keep it’s history alive."

Taylor spoke at length of John F. Harris, a black Republican and former Confederate soldier.

"John Harris was one of six black members of the Mississippi State House of Representatives in 1890," Taylor said. "While he served in that capacity, he had the opportunity to vote on a resolution to erect a monument to the glorious Confederate soldiers of Mississippi."

Taylor said there was one representative who chose to talk against the passage of this resolution and it looked as if it would fail.

"Harris came from his sick bed to deliver a speech in support of the resolution," Taylor said. "This is what he said: ‘Mr. Speaker, I have arisen here in my place to offer a few words on the bill. I have come from a sick bed. Perhaps, it was not prudent for me to come, but sir, I could not rest quietly in my room without contributing a few words of my own. I was sorry to hear the speech of the young gentleman from Marshall County. I am sorry that any son of a soldier should go on record as opposed to the erection of a monument in honor of the brave dead. And, sir, I am convinced that had he seen what I saw at Seven Pines and in the Seven Days’ fighting around Richmond – the battlefield covered with mangle forms of those who fought for their country and for their country’s honor – he would not have made that speech.

‘When news came that the South had been invaded, those men went forth to fight for what they believed and they made no requests for monuments. But, they died and their virtues should be remembered. Sir, I went with them. I, too, wore the gray, the same color my master wore. We stayed four long years, and if that war had gone on ’til now, I would have been there, yet. I want to honor those brave men who died for their convictions. When my mother died, I was a boy. Who, sir, then acted the part of

a mother to the orphan slave boy, but my old missus? Were she living now, or could she speak to me from those high realms where are gathered the sainted dead, she would tell me to vote for the bill. And, sir, I shall vote for it. I want it known to all the world that my vote is given in favor of the bill to erect a monument in honor of the Confederate dead.’

"All in that Mississippi House of Representatives came to their feet with a roar of applause," Taylor said. "And, when the applause was over, the bill passed unanimously for the Confederate monument."

Taylor said he has no objections to monuments that honor Confederate soldiers or to the song "Dixie" or to the Confederate flag.

"That is a part of our history and we should honor it, so as to honor each other," Taylor said.

Jerry Hicks, SCV brigade commander, recognized the major roles other minority groups played in the army of the Confederate States of America.

"The Native Americans, the Hispanics and the Jewish community had many soldiers who fought," Hicks said. "They were often starving, cold and wet, but they continued on, against overwhelming odds, to fight for a cause they believed in. They deserve to be honored, as do the women who played supporting roles for the Confederate states."

Veteran Kenneth Walker said there has never been a war where men and women gave so much.

"By an act of Congress, these men and women are American veterans and deserve the honor and respect due to all veterans," Walker said. "Eight hundred and sixteen men

from Pike County gave their lives fighting for the Confederacy. When you consider the county population was only about 15,000 at that time, that gives you an indication of their commitment. Of the number of dead, 392 lost their lives during service; 357 died in battle and 67 died in military prisons – 42 of them at Camp Douglas in Chicago.

At Camp Douglas, the Union Army used the stream

where the prisoners got their drinking, bathing and washing water as a latrine. The horrors of this war were many. How can we not honor these men who fought for a cause they believed to be just?"

In closing, Michael Berry, commander of Camp 385, asked those in attendance to remember their forefathers.

"They gave us the undeniable birthright of our Southern heritage and the vision, desire and courage to see it perpetuated," he said.