March is Women’s History Month. As it draws to a close, I’d like to share some information that’s not often talked about within the subject of Confederate history. The strength of the Southern women, the support they gave to the cause, and what they endured should be remembered.
The Monument to the Women of the Confederacy was unveiled in Raleigh on June 10, 1914. Governor Locke Craig made this address:
“The State accepts this monument with grateful appreciation. It is the tribute of a knightly soldier to the Women of the Confederacy. The statue is epic: Arms and the Man. Its theme is heroism and devotion; the inheritance of the children of the South. To the earnest beholder, the statue is illumined with unfolding meaning. His vision will determine its revelation.
As we look upon it, there rises out of the past a time when the spirit of war moved upon the depths of human thought, and summoned the elemental forces to titanic strife. We feel the throes of the mighty upheaval. We see “the marshaling in arms, and battle’s magnificently stern array.” Lovers say good-bye with tokens of plighted troth; the young mother and the father in uniform, kneel together, weeping over the cradle of their new born babe; there are tears and everlasting farewells; the cavalcades are filing off; the tramp of innumerable armies is heard. In secret the mother – this Woman of the Confederacy – prays and weeps with breaking heart for the boy who marches away to the wild, grand music of the bugles.
At home alone, the wives and mothers, these Women of the Confederacy, in patience and suffering, are listening for the coming of those who will never return – will never return, but march on forever in the militant hosts of the heroic of all kindred and nations, that have redeemed and glorified the world.
We dedicate this monument as a symbol of our veneration. We dedicate this monument as a covenant that we too, in blessed remembrance of them, shall strive for fidelity and courage.That people survives, gathers strength, becomes puissant in human destiny that has the faith and the courage for the supreme issue. The immediate result is not the final judgment. Who won at Thermopylae, the Persians or the Spartans? Who was victorious at the Alamo, Santa Anna or Travis? Who triumphed, Socrates or his judges; Jesus or Pontius Pilate?
The glory of France is the Old Guard at Waterloo. The noblest feelings of the English heart are stirred by the Light Brigade charging to death at Balaklava. Lexington and Guilford Courthouse are as dear to us as Trenton and Yorktown.
Disaster does not always destroy. Armies may be destroyed, “Far called, our navies melt away”; yet from a land consecrated by the blood of the brave, from a soil enriched by glorious tradition, tried and purified by fire, a nobler, stronger race will come. Upon a land blighted by the cowardice of those who should defend it,there is the judgment of decay and death.
The heroic past is our priceless inheritance. Our armies were destroyed; our land was smitten by war; our homes were ravaged by avenging armies. We were plundered by the hordes of reconstruction. But standing in this land that has suffered, amid this throng of grey-haired veterans, and their kindred and descendants, I declare that the legacy of the war is our richest possession.
I utter the sentiments of every maimed soldier; of every soldier who gave the best of his young life to “the storm-cradled nation that fell,” of every bereaved widow and mother; and if I could speak for the dead, I would utter the sentiment of the forty thousand sons of the State who fell upon the fields of battle, when I declare that they would not revoke that sacrifice.
Some of you can remember when the young soldier was brought home dead when the maiden was clothed in her first sorrow, and the old gray head was bowed in the last grief. The mothers of the South had sent their sons to the front as the Spartan mother when she delivered the shield to her son with the command: “Return with it or upon it.”
They wept in silent desolation, but in their grief there was exaltation, for they knew that their sons had done a soldier’s part, that in the tumult of historic days they had fought and fallen beneath the advancing flag; that in strange lands, wounded and neglected, they had suffered without complaint, and bequeathing a message for home, had died, as conquerors, without a murmur.
Hail to you, Women of the Confederacy, that bore them and nurtured them, and offered them for sacrifice! In you and in your descendants is vouchsafed the promise to Abraham: Henceforth all generations shall call you blessed. From the shadow of war we sweep into the grander day. The earth is hallowed because it is the sepulcher of the brave; not men whose victories have been inscribed upon triumphal columns, but men whose memorial is, that in courage and loyalty for conviction, they were steadfast unto death; men who have been stoned and scourged, and quailed not before the mighty. “Their heroic sufferings rise up melodiously together to Heaven out of all lands and out of all times, as a sacred Miserere; their heroic actions as a boundless everlasting Psalm of Triumph.” They are the conquerors. The South has forever a part in that chorus of victory.”
(This memorial was ordered removed by Governor Cooper in 2020)
In a real show of strength born of need and desperation, on March 18, 1863 in Salisbury, NC, a large group of women revolted. They were without food and supplies, so they determined that they must take matters into their own hands.
Rowan County is a rural one and most of the men were absent due to the war. The women had been left to care for their farms and communities themselves.
In the spring of 1863, prices of goods had become highly inflated. The women of Rowan County decided to do something rather than see their children starve. Nearly 75 women armed with axes, pitchforks, and other farming tools, went into Salisbury searching for hoarded food being held by profiteers. They were perfectly willing to pay the mandated prices the Richmond government had set, but did not intend to continue to pay the inflated prices nor to do without the goods needed for survival.
They had brief confrontations with shop owners, who refused their offers of paying the government-mandated prices. So, they attacked shop doors with hatchets and axes. In no time, they had taken possession of 13 barrels of flour, a barrel of molasses, 2 sacks of salt, and 20 dollars cash.
They then moved on to confront a Confederate Quartermaster store at the train depot. There they confiscated 10 more barrels of flour. They took the things they had acquired away by wagon and divided them up amongst themselves.
Local sentiment, law enforcement, and the newspaper fully supported the actions of the women. None of them were ever arrested nor charged. The local paper, The Carolina Watchman, criticized the county commissioners who had failed to provide adequate assistance to the soldiers’ families.
After the riot, conditions in Rowan County improved. Commissioners and Confederate agents, while then safe behind the front lines, had to consider what might happen on the day the war-weary sons, fathers, and husbands of these women would come home.
Distribution of goods to the needy improved and shop owners began to charge government prices.
(Salisbury moved the Confederate Memorial known as Fame from its downtown location to a cemetery in 2020)
Union soldiers ransacked and pillaged the home of Mrs. Robert Roundtree near Kinston. Her young daughter, Rose, was made to sit and play piano for an officer. She was only 12 years of age, yet, he forced her to go with him on a drive. Her mother pleaded with him not to take her. Rose, though young, knew she was in danger. So, as she and the officer drove past a large thicket, she declared, “There’s where my brother has his company of Confederate soldiers.”
Her trickery worked very well. The officer wheeled his wagon around, throwing the young lady from it, and quickly took off down the road. After this, the Federals who had been lingering around the area, all disappeared. Probably because they believed that Confederates were secreted there. Rose married William Kennedy, of Kinston, and became an accomplished musician known for her talent and beauty.
(Kinston’s Confederate Statue was relocated in 2020 from the Visitor’s Center to the First Battle of Kinston Battlefield Park)
We’ve seen many veteran memorials removed by local and state authorities in contradiction to the law. We’ve seen our memorials vandalized. We are in a battle to save our history and heritage.
You can honor North Carolina’s Women of the Confederacy by supporting the North Carolina SCV in their efforts to preserve and maintain our memorials, as well as erect new ones.
If you wish to support our mission please consider a monetary donation to the N.C. SCV Memorials fund.
Donations to the North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans are fully tax deductible.
Sources and suggested reading:
- Memoirs and Speeches of Locke Craig, Governor of North Carolina 1913-1917,
- A History Political and Otherwise, May F. Jones, editor, Hackney & Moale Company, 1923
- Unvanquished: How Confederate Women Survived the Civil War: In Their Own Words by Pippa Pralen
- North Carolina Women:Their Lives and Times by Gillespie & McMillen
- North Carolina Women of the Confederacy by Lucy London Anderson
Facebook pages – North Carolina Confederates, North Carolina Expatriates, and Stop the Purge of Southern History and Heritage