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United Daughters of the Confederacy
A talk given by June Murray Wells, President General, Jan 2000


June Murray Wells, President General
United Daughters of the Confederacy®
Talk at South Carolina State House
Columbia, South Carolina
January 8, 2000

Thank you for including me in this Southern Heritage Celebration. Many of you already know me. I had originally intended to divide my talk into two parts. One as President General, United Daughters of the Confederacy and the other as a lifetime genuine Charlestonian and South Carolinian whose family  came on the first ship 330 years ago and liked it so well, we’re still here. Then I realized I could not really separate the two since I have spent my entire life in South Carolina and my entire adult life teaching the truth of Confederate history.

My first ancestors came from England to South Carolina in 1670, and settled in Charleston. Two more families came to Orangeburg in 1734 from Germany and Switzerland. By the American Revolution some of these were living in Eutawville where they fought with Francis Marion. That war also brought South my only ancestors who started out in the North. They were Dutch. My last immigrant was my grandfather who came from Ireland to live in Charleston in 1834. I am a product of the heritage from all of these people.

Some of you know me from the College of Charleston, a school that educated Arthur Ravenel, Glenn McConnell and me when we faced South daily in chapel to say our prayers.

I have been a Democrat, a Dixieocrat and a Republican with Strom Thurmond. For some of you I was your school teacher.

But most of you know me because of my connection with the Confederacy. I joined the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1958 and not much later became the Director of the Confederate Museum in Charleston, a position I still am proud to have.

Many of you present today dealt with me through good and bad times in 1989. You were present in June of that year when I received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian award given by the state, for my work in Confederate history. You were also there to help move out and save the relics when Hurricane Hugo struck the Confederate Museum only three months later. For this I will always be grateful.

Now I am the President General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The U.D.C. is the outgrowth of many local memorial, monument, relief and auxiliaries to Confederate Veterans Camps which were organized after the War Between the States. The National Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy was organized in Nashville, Tennessee in 1894. The next year in Atlanta, Georgia the name of the organization was changed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Our objectives are historical, benevolent, educational, memorial and patriotic to: (1) honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate States; (2) to protect, preserve and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor; (3) to collect and preserve the material for a truthful history of the War Between the States; (4) to record the part taken by Southern Women in patient endurance of hardship and patriotic devotion during the War and Reconstruction; (5) to take care of the survivors of that war and those dependent upon them; (6) to help Confederate descendants secure a proper education; (7) to cherish the ties of friendship among those who share Confederate heritage. Those eligible for membership are women who are blood descendants, lineal or collateral, of men or women who served honorably in the Army, Navy or Civil Service of the Confederate States of America, or gave Material Aid to the Cause. The estimated membership is 25,000 with more than 700 chapters in 32 states. In addition to its work with our heroic and historic past, the U.D.C. continues to serve as changing times require.

The U.D.C. has always come to the aid of the nation in times of crisis. At the beginning of World War I, the President General wrote to President Woodrow Wilson and offered the 100,000 U.D.C. members in  whatever capacity their services would be needed. We supported 70 hospital beds at the American  Military Hospital in France. We helped care for French and Belgian orphans. We also purchased twenty-five million dollars of war bonds and stamps and gave nine hundred thousand dollars to the Red Cross.

When World War II came, the U.D.C. was the first national women’s organization to offer its service to the United States government for war relief. We gave financial support for student nurses, sold nineteen million dollars in war bonds, donated a blood plasma unit through the Red Cross and donated ambulances for use at European battle sites. We are now working to help build a World War II National Monument.

During Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm we have continued our patriotic work. Today on state and local levels we contribute thousands of dollars and hours annually working with the veterans in VA Medical Centers and nursing homes.

Education is and has always been a priority with the U.D.C. We give annual awards at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U. S. Military Academy, U.S. Navel Academy, V.M.I., The Citadel, Bowdoin College, University of Virginia, Davidson College, and Union Theological Seminary. Recipients are chosen by their respective academy, university or college. Awards are based strictly on merit - not place of residence, ethnic origin or gender. We also give many college scholarships. At our Headquarters in Richmond we maintain two libraries open to members and researchers on Confederate history.

When first organized, the U.D.C. helped finance needy Confederate Veterans. We began a fund in 1910 to help needy Confederate women. Today, needy women who are daughters of men who served in the Confederacy receive financial assistance from us quarterly, at Christmas and at Easter. Today we donate to victims of hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

We collect books, documents, diaries, letters, personal records and other papers relating to the 1860’s period and preserve them at our library in Richmond. We give financial awards to assist scholars in the publication of their writings on Southern history. We give medals to adults and to school children for their work in historical writing.

In 1898, President William McKinley, a Union veteran, asked that the North "in a spirit of fraternity" share with the South the care of the graves of Confederate soldiers. Consequently a Confederate section was designated in Arlington National Cemetery and the remains of 267 Confederate soldiers reinterred there. The U.D.C. secured funds and built a Confederate Monument there.

On state, local and national levels we hold annual Memorial Observances to remember, not only the men who served in the War Between the States, but veterans of all wars.

During the years, the U.D.C. has worked harmoniously on many projects with our Northern counterparts. We have worked toward forgiveness and peace. I personally had to find out this October just how this would feel. I was asked by the U.D.C. members in New York City to go with their Division President to Grant’s tomb and leave there a bouquet of roses from the luncheon table of their Division Convention. The tomb is very elegant and very expensive, but I was struck by the cold lonely feeling I felt for Grant and his wife. I felt they needed those pretty roses brought by a Southerner.

I am often asked why the U.D.C. is not heard from more often in debates and arguments, why we are not seen in marches and protests. The rules set by our founders and still in effect today require us to be non-political. We also cannot be part of any other alliance or coalition. We do, however, work with other groups, especially the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust, a local South Carolina group that works to preserve and protect our Confederate battlefields and sites. Last year we finally had a proper burial service and grave marking for the men who died at Fort Butler in Louisiana. We are presently very actively working to help raise the Hunley and bury her final crew.

By 1860 the people of the South were unhappy with conditions existing in the United States. They thought the states had voluntarily united to form the U.S.A., so could leave if they chose.

South Carolina seceded first, leaving the Union on December 20, 1860. We would also be the only state to vote unanimously to secede. I am proud that one of my ancestors, a lawyer from Walterboro, signed the Ordinance of Secession. Soon other Southern states joined us to form the Confederate States of America. The South did not leave the Union with animosity. They left simply because they wanted to be left alone to live in the way they chose. But this was not to be. A peaceful settlement could not be reached.

The South did not invade the North. The North invaded the South causing us to defend our homes, our way of life and even our lives.

The South’s great generals, now men of history and legend, are gone. The way of life they defended is gone forever, but their names and words can never be forgotten. They spoke of duty and principle, of a reluctance to take up the sword against their Northern countrymen. Lee told his wife he would sacrifice anything to preserve the Union, except honor. Knowing the odds were against them, they put their careers, their fortunes, their very lives on the line. On September 9, 1861 in a speech to his soldiers, Robert E. Lee summed up why the men of the South fought. He said "Keep steadily in the view of the great principles for which you contend… The safety of your homes and the lives of all you hold dear depend upon your courage and exertions. Let each man resolve to be victorious and that the right of self-government, liberty and peace shall find him a defender."

We hear a lot about the soldiers who fought, but comparatively little about two other groups of very brave and very strong Southerners. When the men went to war, they took their horses and their guns. Left at home to live and work together with very little means of protection were the women and the loyal black Southerners. Together they protected the homes, planted food, nursed the wounded and buried the dead.

My personal Confederate Heritage is rich. It includes three members of the Stonewall Brigade; a doctor from Dorchester, SC; one from Charleston who got a three day furlough for bravery putting back up the flag shot down at Fort Sumter as well as fighting at Secessionville and Petersburg; a blockade runner from Charleston who was also the pilot of the gunboat Palmetto State; and my grandfather who had come from Ireland and become a printer in Charleston. He was an interesting Confederate. He never had a uniform or a gun. He came to Columbia where he worked printing Confederate currency just a few blocks from here. He remained interesting and stubborn after the war. When he returned to Charleston he could not of course fly any Southern flag, but in his way he refused to give up the fight. He went into business for himself, hanging a large bright gold colored sign in the shape of a shoe over his door. It read Great Southern Shoe and Plantation Goods Company. He gave free shoes to all needy children and live to be ninety-nine.

Like all true Southerners, I will always regret that in spite of our best efforts, we lost the War Between the States. However, that loss made the South defensive, made us still have the solidarity you see here today.

When, why, how and by whom did the Statehouse dome flag get there? The principle person involved was a man I knew well, John Amasa May. Mr. May, from Aiken County, served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for fourteen years. While in the House he and Representative Julian LeaMond introduced a resolution in 1962 that would put the Confederate Battle Flag on the Capital dome. What kind of man was he and why the Battle Flag? He graduated from Wofford College and attended the University of South Carolina and Harvard law schools. He served in the U. S. Army during World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star. He was a prosecuting attorney at the German War Crimes Trials. He was Commander-in-Chief and on the Executive Council of the S.C.V., Department Commander American Legion and member of V.F.W. As the one hundred year anniversary of the War Between the States approached the U.S. Congress created the Civil War Centennial Commission. Mr. May served as a consultant to that national commission. He was also chairman of the Confederate States Centennial Commission and the South Carolina Confederate War Centennial Commission. He was also a writer, a poet and a proud South Carolinian. The Battle Flag was chosen because it had been chosen by the living United Confederate Veterans as their symbol when they were formed in Nashville, Tennessee as an organization after the war.

I was here at this same building in 1962 when the flag was raised. There was absolutely no negative intent. In fact quite the opposite. It was raised to commemorate the centennial of the war; to honor the memory of the men, women and children; black and white, both military and civilian who lived in and defended the South during the War and came together after that war to rebuild the South they all called home.

Several dedicated Confederate organizations worked together this summer to exhume bodies from the Confederate Mariner’s Cemetery under The Citadel football stadium in Charleston. In November, it was my honor and privilege to take part in the funeral for twenty-two Confederate sailors and a boy found at this time, the largest Confederate funeral to take place in Charleston since 1871. The bodies lay in state in a church where a communion service and two prayer services were conducted. On the next day, the day of the burial, a procession of two and a half hours and four and a half miles took place in downtown Charleston. A solemn and very dignified burial ceremony was held at Magnolia Cemetery.

In addition to the usual pride you have when taking part in an event like this, I want to mention one ting. In spite of the well publicized boycott of South Carolina and the equally publicized antagonism toward the Confederate flag, there were no protests or incidents along the parade route. Instead, the city had almost come to a standstill. There were U.S. and all types of Confederate flags flying everywhere. There were men, old and young, black and white, with hats off and over their hearts. Men, women and children bowed their heads with respect as the bodies went by. In fact there was a strange and respectful silence. This was Southern heritage at its finest and a tribute to the present as well as the past. I was proud to be there.

Now our heritage is being threatened by newspaper ads and a boycott, both scare tactics. I ask you to listen to the advice of Stonewall Jackson. He said "Never take counsel of your fears." If we elected the right legislators, our symbols will be safe. If you see a newspaper ad that is designed to cause fear and division among Southerners, throw it in the trash where it belongs.

The Confederate States of America has several flags. They all represent me and I represent all of them.

I’m proud to be an American, not just any old plain kind, but a Southern American, one still proud to be represented by that flag of the Confederacy on the dome.

Let us follow the advice of Jefferson Davis when as a soldier fighting in the War with Mexico he said - "Stand Fast Our Heritage."

Thank you.

January 29, 2000
Update
June Murray Wells, President General
United Daughters of the Confederacy®
South Carolina Flag and the Lee Mural in Richmond,
Virginia

Because of my presentation on January 8th, given as a respected South Carolinian and as a Southern lady, I was asked to be part of a discussion group held at the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia on January 13th. Present were members of the Senate, the NAACP, the S.C.V., the Governor and me. This was a discussion group, not one to make any final decision. Each of us told how we felt about the flag issue, the song Dixie, monuments, holidays, and the boycott. Some compromise suggestions were made, including one concerning the removal of the flag from the dome to the Confederate monument in front of the Capitol building. After discussion, the meeting was adjourned until January 19th. I told the group that I would not be able to attend.

On January 18th, I flew to Richmond, Virginia to attend to my job as President General. On January 19th I was the speaker at the Virginia State Capitol for the Lee-Jackson Day Observance co-sponsored by the Virginia Divisions S.C.V. and U.D.C. On this occasion I also had the opportunity to thank those present for their support of South Carolina concerning our flag. I spent January 20th and 21st working in our U.D.C. Business Office On January 22nd I spoke briefly at Statuary Hall, U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. at the Commemoration of the Birth Anniversary of Robert E. Lee held by the District of Columbia Division, U.D.C. Again I thanked all present for their continuing support of our flag.

On January 23rd, while caught in the Richmond airport for eleven hours due to a snow storm, I had a lengthy conversation with my fellow passenger, Richmond Councilman Joe Brooks, with regards to the recently burned Lee mural on the Canal Walk. He has assured me that the mural will be restored.

When I finally got home very late at night on January 23rd, I found that a compromise to move the flag to the monument had been offered to the NAACP while I was out of town, and that the compromise had been refused.

Throughout this controversy, I have spoken to and been interviewed by news media from all over the country. Unfortunately, they don’t tend to like what I have to say and therefore either use a sentence or two out of context or use nothing at all. The worst have been from my own city and state, neither of which wants to hear the pro-Confederate side of the story. I am scheduled for another interview this week. We shall see the results.

I have been hesitant about publishing my various remarks because, in a way, I believe I am breaking the rules of my own organization. I have, however, come to the conclusion that false rumors are doing more harm than my remarks could possibly do. Here are my personal opinions, and judging from my mail, faxes, and phone calls, they also represent the feelings of the members of the U.D.C.

Regarding the flag - I wish the First National Flag of the Confederacy, better known as the Stars and Bars, had been put up on the dome instead of the Battle Flag because: (1) It was the original flag to fly on the building. (2) It was the first Confederate flag raised at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. (3) It has, to my knowledge, never been used as a symbol by any hate group. (4) It represents to me all of the people of the Confederacy (men, women, children, black, white, military and civilian) who lived and died during the 1860’s and who held South Carolina together and helped after the War Between the States to work to rebuild our State and the South. The Battle Flag was the soldier’s flag, used by the military. The First National Flag, to me, represents all of the people. I was there in 1962 when the flag was raised over the dome. There was absolutely no negative intent. It was raised as a symbol of Southern pride and unity by a people who had successfully rebuilt their state, and as a memorial to all of those who lost their lives defending our right to live as we chose. While I was out of town, a compromise was offered concerning the flag. This was turned down. I want to make it absolutely clear that I want a Confederate flag, (either the First National or the Battle Flag) to continue to fly on the dome at the Capitol Building in Columbia, South Carolina. It was put up there for good and honorable reasons. It must not come down with dishonor for false reasons and because of force.

Regarding the boycott - I think it is a very sad thing that the NAACP is hurting their own people. I know there are many fine black people who own their own businesses and many who work at hotels, restaurants and other tourist oriented businesses. I think the NAACP should be working to help these people, not use them as pawns in a fight over a flag most of them have never seen. I am not particularly concerned over those events that have been withdrawn from South Carolina. It just leaves more time and space on the tourism calendar for our fine heritage groups and re-enactor groups to hold events that will attract tourists to learn about the truth of Confederate history.

Please copy and distribute this information if you wish. I want people to know the truth of what I have said and what I believe.

Thank you.

June Murray Wells


 

 


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