Those Faded Jackets of Grey
“We had lived in South Carolina less than five years when I was dipped deep in the fiery spirit of Southern patriotism. This was the Confederate reunion of 1903, held in our home town of Columbia. It was but one in a long line of reunions.
In South Carolina they had a way of placing the first in the year 1876 — “the grandest reunion ever held in any State, one of the most sublime spectacles ever witnessed,” “thrilling the hearts” of the people of Columbia. They called it the first, but “there were no invitations, no elaborate programme, no committees of reception, no assignment of quarters, no reduced rates of transportation, no bands of music, no streamers flying.”
Of it they said: “The State was prostrate. The people had with marvelous patience restrained themselves from tearing at the throat of the Radical party. Hampton had been elected governor, and yet the tyrannical party would not yield.” (Wade Hampton and his “red shirts” had just overthrown Reconstruction.) At that moment, the story goes — “It was the supreme moment of the crisis” — there appeared, coming into Columbia from every direction, by all the highways, “men in apparel which had become the most glorious badge of service since the history of the world — those faded jackets of grey.”
They came, it is said, ten thousand of them, converging on Columbia, making their way straight to the headquarters of the Democratic Party. They were resolved, they said, “to make this State one vast cemetery of free men rather than the home of slaves.”
Their voices shouted hoarsely, “Hampton!” “Forth came the great captain who stilled the tumult with a wave of his hand.” He said, “My countrymen, all is well. Go home and be of good cheer. I have been elected governor of South Carolina, and by the eternal God, I will be governor or there shall be none.”
I remember nothing of the Lost Cause movement before the Confederate reunion of 1903. I may have been drinking it in since the time of my babyhood . . . In 1903 I was verily baptized in its sentiments. In the air we felt a sense of urgency, as though the chance might never come again to honor the old men.
The oratory stressed it: “Ranks of the men who fought beneath the Stars and Bars — the beautiful Southern Cross — are thinner . . .” “Pathos . . . there cannot be many more reunions for these oaks of the Confederacy . . .”
“Not far from taps . . . for the many ties that bind will soon be severed . . . the high tribute is but their honor due.”
(The Making of a Southerner, Katherine Du Pre Lumpkin, UGA Press, 1991, (original 1946), pp. 112-114)