First.....I need you to watch the video. No cheating now. I have it right here in front of you all set up. Just click "play".
This video is from the documentary "Echoes from the Blue and Grey" and shows various Civil War veterans enjoying reunion events. When I was in the classroom I used to show videos like this to students....and invariably one or two of my little sweethearts would wonder how in the world those old men could fight a war.
Of course, they weren't old men during those years the war was fought – far from it, but for many years after the war they continued to get together for reunions.
The website for The Center for Civil War Research explains:
“Almost immediately after the end of the Civil War, veterans sought out occasions to gather together, to relive their shared experiences, find solace in their battle forged bonds, to celebrate heroic deeds, and commemorate their sacrifices of their fallen comrades. These reunions...came eventually to serve as a symbol of a wider national reunification, despite the vast majority of reunions remaining purely separate former Union or Confederate affairs....Attended by hundreds and thousands, reunions of all kinds evoked powerful sentiments and became fertile ground for the construction of Civil War Memory.”
But where did the idea for the first reunion come from?
How did they start?
In the past I’ve shared a few details regarding Dr. T.C. Glover who resided in Campbellton when the Civil War began. He organized and fought with Company A of the Twenty-first Georgia infantry unit, and after leading his men in 107 various engagements with the enemy he was killed in Winchester, Virginia.
This week I want to continue his story by discussing his wife...Elizabeth (Lizzie) Susan Camp.
A marker at her grave in Corsicana, Texas states...In 1867 after the war between the states with "for God and county" as her motto she rode the countryside of Campbellton, Georgia to assemble the comrades of her fallen husband to a basket dinner and "to talk over the war."
Thus began the Confederate reunions.
To be even more accurate Mrs. Glover is often referred to as the "mother of Confederate reunions" organizing the first one in June, 1867.
In 1928, and issue of Confederate Veteran advises Company A was comprised of 200 men as the war began. By April, 1865 when the war ended there were only 30 left...including the drummer and fifer. Only 12 made it to the first reunion. The magazine article states, "...the orator was Colonel Thomas Lathem of Atlanta. They arranged to hold an annual reunion as long as any two of them lived to meet together and talk over the days that tried men's souls....At the next annual meeting a big basket dinner was given and all the veterans in Campbell County were invited to meet with them....They vowed by the help of God to teach their children and charge them to teach their children for all time to come that the cause for which they fought was just and right, to teach them to be proud of the part we took in the conflict, that we were overcome by the numbers - not whipped, but overcome."
That language - we were overcome by numbers - not whipped, but overcome - is familiar because it comes directly from a letter Mrs. Glover wrote many years later to the Atlanta chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy regarding her vision of the Confederate reunions.
I found the contents of the letter in the book History of the Doles-Cook Brigade by Henry Walter Thomas. It’s a great read if you are interested in Civil War history.
The letter gives some insight into Mrs. Glover's thoughts regarding Reconstruction and her purpose behind her attempts to get the men to gather.
Her letter says:
After the fateful day of Appomattox, the men of the South wended their way to their desolate homes, many broken in health and in fortune.
The first problem to solve was how to support their families; the struggles, trials and hardships undergone to accomplish this is underwritten in history. God alone knows the suffering endured, but the men who had fought under Lee and Jackson were equal to the task of supplying food, shelter and raiment for their loved ones. Soon this was a matter of minor consideration.
The South was in the throes of Reconstruction, bleeding at every pore, under military and carpetbag rule; the Northern press branding the men who fought for the Confederacy as rebels and traitors, urging that our leaders be hanged and imprisoned; here the Union Leaguers trying to get all the landholders to join them to prevent confiscation.
If a man refused, or dared hold secession, he was considered a traitor; Ben Hill was the only man who had courage to denounce the infamous rule of the papers of the day; Dunlap Scott the only man in the Bulloch legislature who dared protest against their wasteful expenditure of the people's money.
My husband was killed at Winchester, Virginia, in 1864, and is buried there in the beautiful Stonewall Cemetery. I had to toil to support and school my children and keep the wolf from the door. Must my children and the children of other brave men who fought and died for the love of home be branded as children of rebels and traitors?
Must the men who were spared with their children be branded as rebels and traitors for all time?
Must the finger of scorn be pointed at these men and their children for having fought for our cause and homes? Must they be disgraced as were the Tories who fought for King George in the Revolution? No, no, a thousand times no!
The cause was just and right and by the help of God I vowed to teach this to my children and to call the men of our Company (A, 21st Georgia regiment) together, talk over the war and its incidents and charge them to teach their children for all time to come that the cause for which they fought was just and right; teach them to be proud of the part they took in the conflict; teach their children that we were overcome by numbers, three and five to one - not whipped, but overcome....
Mrs. Camp was no novice when it came to knowledge of wars. Her father, Benjamin Camp was a Colonel in the Indian Wars and her grandfather, Joseph Camp had fought during the War of 1812. Her great-grandfather also named Benjamin Camp had fought in the American Revolution. Her brothers had been some of the first Campbell County citizens to sign up with the Campbellton Guards organized by Mrs. Glover’s husband.
Somehow it makes sense to me that Mrs. Glover would form a reunion group considering every man in her family had been in service at one time or another. Mrs. Glover briefly lived in Douglas County in the 1880s before moving to Indian Territory and then to Corsicana, Texas where she was active in veteran's affairs.
She died on April 14, 1915 and is buried in Texas.
The local Sons of Confederate Veterans, Lt. Col. Thomas Coke Glover, Camp 943 participated in the plaque dedication at Mrs. Glover's grave site in Corsicana, Texas.
I would love to see some photos from the Campbellton reunions. Maybe at some point I'll stumble over some, and at some future date I hope to publish more information regarding the Confederate reunions held here in Douglasville over the years.