A Letter to the People Who Worship The Confederacy

Last week a friend, sent me an email he’d received from the “Commander” of a “Brigade” of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  My friend had been studying a genealogy site in hopes of learning more about one of my ancestors, a man who had his name inscribed on a stained glass window which had been removed from an old Church in Tallahassee.    Apparently that website allows messages to be transmitted to its members.

Mr _____ I have been digging for some information on the DeMilly Family of Tallahassee, Florida.

One project we are working on is providing a headstone for Cadet Sergeant Prospere DeMilly of the West Florida Military Institute. We have obtained the stone which is a replica of Confederate Stones issued by the Veterans administration. A member of the DeMilly family sent us a map of the DeMilly plot in Old City Cemetery. So we know the exact location to place his stone. We have reached out to the Florida State University ROTC program to see if they will attend a Memorial Service for Prospere DeMilly. We are waiting on their response.

Another project that has touched on the DeMilly Family; is a book that we are editing and amending on the Kilcrease Artillery, CSA. John F DeMilly was a member of this unit. famnation on Ancestry gave me your contact info. I had asked her for permission to a picture that she had posted.

I have communicated with four members of the DeMilly Family in this process. (I argued with the VA for 2 or 3 years. They didn’t like our proof of burial) A couple of them are descended through the Davis branch, one is a great-grandson, and one may be through the Fain branch.

I will share what little I have if you like. Attached are a couple of items. Please contact me!

In the bonds of the South,

K____ C_____, Commander Finley’s Brigade Camp 1614 Sons of Confederate Veterans

 

When I saw this email, I immediately called the ROTC and left a message that they had my wholehearted support if they chose NOT to attend.

Then I wrote this letter (with minor edits) to the Commander:

 

Hi _______, your email to Mr. _______ made its way to me, so I thought I might be of help.

You mentioned having had discussions with other deMillys about Prospere deMilly’s gravesite. In Florida, the deMilly family tree began with the arrival of two brothers around 1824: John Luis and Leonard Charles deMilly. Prospere was born to John Louis, while my family descended from the Leonard Charles deMilly. This would make us very distant cousins. But as your email indicated you were researching for the Tallahassee deMillys. I would represent that line, as I am the last surviving deMilly (male) from Leonard Charles.

I have no records of the Old City Cemetery, though I have been there a few times, and remember some of the gravestones.

Young Prospere deMilly surely had a family which loved him and grieved upon his death. I’m confident that his remaining family held a memorial service at their place of worship, and that if he was buried in the Old City Cemetery, his grave was marked in some way, perhaps by a wooden cross.

I would be interested in the map you mentioned, as well as the sentiments of the other deMillys you have spoken with.

My view about the confederacy is that we have moved on. We accept that the war is over. We are sensitive to the feelings of black citizens whose own ancestors may have been slaves owned by our families. We know, from DNA testing, that we have black cousins, the consequence of our ancestors having had their way with (i.e. raping) their female servants.

My own views have evolved over time. I remember when I was in high school fifty years ago hanging a confederate flag in my bedroom. Some time after that, my mother told me that it had upset our maid and that I should take it down. I did what she asked.

I also know that there are groups, like the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans which wish to maintain a hold on a past which has been lost.

This should not be surprising. The death of any revolution sounds the cannons of grief.  With this come endless avenues, transits to the edge of reason, memories seen through the smoke, images of life before, and now.

Loss…of friends, property, citizenship in a dreamed-of world… all of these inflict a blinding pain. And all of us fear this pain.

In fact it all turns to this:  Our greatest fear is that what we believe is wrong.

Florida’s Governor John Milton must have nearly burned in this fear when he learned that the Union had prevailed in the Civil War.  Unable to stand the truth, he killed himself.

Today, people who cannot stand the fact that the Union won solve their dilemma by fabricating truth, enjoying the company of others who vie for a dreamed-of-world, giving chase wherever they can bearing a standard which cries “We Are Not Wrong.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization built on this fear.

To offset the truth that the South lost, it fabricates ideals and rewrites history so that its members can live with assurance that they are not wrong.

Our first President foresaw this kind of fear, and not lightly. In his farewell letter to the people of the United States, George Washington told us that:

 

“The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

 

I’m with him. And so, I wonder. Why would you would ask the (predominately white) FSU ROTC to attend the memorial service you propose, but not the (predominately black) FAMU ROTC?

Even further… why would you seek the implicit approval of a United States military unit at all?

Please, to your brigade, do not enter the old cemetery where my forebears are buried.

Please don’t invent a place there to plant a stone which satisfies your fears.

Sincerely,

Walter Augustin deMilly, III