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Confederate History Month honors history and heritage

Editor:
      In 1874 the Georgia General Assembly approved legislation adding as a new public holiday "The 26th day of April in each year -- commonly known as (Confederate) Memorial Day." April 26 marks the anniversary of the end of the Civil War for Georgia, for it was on this day in 1865 that Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's surrender to General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina became official. Johnston had been in charge of Georgia's defense, so the day marked the end of the war for Georgia.
      The day of observance may trace to the women of Columbus, Georgia, who on April 12, 1886 organized a memorial association and began a campaign to have a special day for "paying honor to those who died defending the life, honor and happiness of the Southern women." Three days later, the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association was organized, and on April 26, 1886, the association held a Confederate memorial observance at Oakland Cemetery.
      In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly passes legislation designating April of each year as Confederate History and Heritage Month. April is the month that marked the beginning of the War Between the States (1861) and its end (1865).  The bill was approved as Senate Bill #27 and it was signed by then Governor Sonny Perdue, which officially and permanently designated April as Confederate History and Heritage Month.
      Efforts to mark Confederate graves, erect monuments and hold memorial services were the idea of Mrs. Charles J. Williams. It is written that she was an educated and kind lady. Her husband served as a Colonel of the 1st Georgia Regiment during the War Between the States. He died of disease in 1862, and was buried in his home town of Columbus, Georgia.
      Mrs..Williams and her daughter visited his grave often and cleared the weeds, leaves and twigs from it, then placed flowers on it. Her daughter also pulled the weeds from other Confederate graves near her father.
      It saddened the little girl that their graves were unmarked. With tears of pride she said to her mother, " These are my soldiers' graves." The daughter soon became ill and passed away in her childhood. Mrs.. Williams grief was almost unbearable.
      On a visit to the graves of her husband and daughter, Mrs.. Williams looked at the unkept soldier's graves and remembered her daughter as she cleaned the graves and what the little girl had said. She knew what she had to do.
      Mrs.. Williams wrote a letter that was published in Southern newspapers asking the women of the South for their help.  She asked that memorial organizations be established to take care of the thousands of Confederate graves from the Potomac River to the Rio Grande. She also asked the state legislatures to set aside a day in April to remember the men who wore the gray. With her leadership April 26 was officially adopted in many states.She died in 1874, but not before her native state of Georgia adopted it as a legal holiday.
      Those who served the Confederacy came from many races and religions. There was Irish born General Patrick R.Cleburne, black Southerner Amos Rucker, Jewish born Judah P.Benjamin, Mexican born Colonel Santos Benavides and American Indian General Stand Watie who was born in Rome,Georgia.
      Mrs.. Lillian Henderson said, " Carved out of the endurance of granite, God created His masterpiece, the Confederate soldier."
      We, the Margaret Jones #27 United Daughters of the Confederacy, encourage you to observe April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day by flying your flag proudly, attending the Memorial services in your area and becoming familiar with your heritage. We should honor our heritage, not only in April, but year round.
Dot Cauley
President, Margaret Jones #27 United Daughters of the Confederacy

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