We all have our stories. My great-great grandfather, Thomas Goode Clarke, a Captain in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, with his sons, Jonathan and Albert Henry, fought and fell at the Battle of Gettysburg. Their dust and DNA are still on that battlefield. We remember them in a little cemetery in Sarepta, Calhoun County, Mississippi, where the Sons of Confederate Veterans have placed stone monuments and small Confederate flags to their memories, in a row, beside my great-great grandmother, Margery Brown Rogers Clark’s burial site.
I dedicated my first historical fiction novel, The Mississippi Boys, to the Clark men who gave all, the epilogue ending with these words:
… my heart beats like a muffled drum as I think of how it might have been and I lay an imaginary wreath upon their graves, somewhere out there on the Wheatfield or on Cemetery Ridge or perhaps in the Peach Orchard or in the marshy place. It matters not, for God knows the precise location of their dust, and at the resurrection, we will glory in his infinite creative, for He will gather us together and catch us away to be with him nevermore to part.
Thursday afternoon, I had the profound privilege of speaking to the residents and staff of Mease Manor at Memorial Day Celebration 2015 in Dunedin, Florida. I displayed my books on a beloved Confederate Flag, given to me by my friend, George, from Maine, if you can believe that! I proudly display it at every book signing in honor of my forebears. I told the story of Shiloh—how that once a year, our Creator God decorates that battlefield with beautiful blossoms of pink and white from the peach trees and dogwoods and redbuds and privet, from Pittsburg Landing to the Widow Bell's peach orchard and her home at the far end of the battlefield; and in between, the hornet's nest, Shiloh Church, and the Bloody Pond—a story of war, of hate and death, of love and life and restoration that issued from that day of battle.
But before the service started, I mingled with the staff and as the residents began to come in and take their seats, I talked with some of our returning heroes from World War II and forward. Their stories are amazing; their photographs displayed on the tables, reminiscent of those years. Most of us seventy-five years of age and younger haven’t a notion what they endured. We have them romanticized in movies, in their photographs all uniformed up, and we see them kissing their wives and sweethearts good-bye in those deep knee-bending images, boarding the ships, and leaving, some of them to return in a flag-draped coffin. Thank God for those who survived and came home though weary and battle worn.
Proud with Flora Dunham to be a Southerner!
Jane Bennett Gaddy, Ph.D.
General M.P. Lowrey 1608 United Daughters of the Confederacy