CONFEDERATE SOLDIER-GHOST SPEAKS AT GEORGIA REBEL CEMETERY

by Eugene H. Methvin.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Attached is the text of a speech by Eugene H. Methvin, prominent Washington journalist and retired Washing ton-based Reader's Digest editor. Editor Methvin cautions: "I have no idea what I wrote or said. It's sort of like the X-files on TV, or what folks call today an 'extraterrestrial seduction.' I don't remember much from the time I got on the plane to Atlanta until I woke up two days later at home in McLean, VA. It was all like a dream.                                                              

    Witnesses said Methvin spoke June 4, 2005, at a ceremony dedicating a commemorative stone provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at the Confederate military cemetery in Jonesboro, GA. His host the previous evening, Jim Minter, former editor of the Atlanta Constitution, said, "He arrived muttering about hurrying to Jonesboro with General Hardee's corps to stop the Yankees. We fed him a fine dinner of barbecue and brunswick stew, washed down with plenty of bourbon and water, and he seemed to snap out of it.. But after dessert he went straight to the computer and pounded the keyboard all night in a frenzy and left before dawn, muttering aout the terrors of pre-dawn picket duty."

    "It looks like a clear case of temporary Multiple Personality Disorder," said Dr. David G. Hubbard, a psychiatrist at the George Mason Medical College in Fairfax, Va. "But since there was no crime committed,he cannot be judged insane. The onset of MPD at this late age-Mr. Methvin is 70 years old-is most rare. That this case pops up at a time of widespread popular concern over federal intervention in historically local affairs such as Florida's Terry Schiavo case, abortion laws, the death penalty, and expulsion of the Ten Commandments from our county court houses, is not unmeaningless."

    The ceremony was arranged by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and John Methvin, a great nephew of Thomas Jefferson Methvin, a Confederate Sergeant killed in the Battle of Jonesboro on August 31, 1864. That was the day before Union forces under General William T. Sherman cut the last rail line to Atlanta, forcing the Confederate Army to evacuate the city. The speaker, Eugene H. Methvin, is a great-great nephew of the Confederate soldier.

 

THOMAS JEFFERSON METHVIN presents-

A Politically Incorrect View of the Late Unpleasantness Between the North and South.

     I don't know if you folks believe in the doctrine of reincarnation. Over in India, Tibet, and China, millions of people do. They believe cows are sacred in India, too, so they don't eat steak. In Tibet they won't even dig worms as fish bait because they think one of 'em might be their grandma or their great uncle. I say that just to let you know there are a lot of strange beliefs in this world. But whatever your beliefs, I hope you will suspend them for a few minutes and indulge me. [Speaker dons Confederate battle cap here.] For I am the re-incarnated spirit of Thomas Jefferson Methvin, who was killed here at Jonesboro defending this railroad into Atlanta against General Sherman's invading Yankee army. Until this war began, I had never been off the farm down in Twiggs County except to go to the county seat of Jeffersonville, and a couple of times I took the train as far as Macon. I was 18 when I enlisted in the Confederate Army, and 22 when I got killed here on the morning of August 31, 1864, the day before our army evacuated Atlanta.

     My youngest brother, Johnny, was by my side. We were sent out on picket duty, and told to straighten out the abatises in front of our lines, and our knees began to shake because we knew what that meant. We had hardly got out there when the Yankees began to whoop and shoot and charge out of the woods, and they shot me in the head. My brother said later that my brains splattered on his soldier's cloak. They buried me in mine under a large oak tree near where I was killed, and later he came back and moved my bones to the cemetery here.

    Johnny was only 17, and he lived to be 95 years old. He died in 1941, after World War II started. He became a Methodist minister and they sent him to Oklahoma as a missionary to the Indians, and he got to be famous out there. He was the last chaplain of the United Confederate Veterans, and in 1938 when they held the joint 75th anniversary commemoration with the Yankees at Gettysburg Johnny delivered the invocation with President Roosevelt right on the platform. Johnny's grandson and namesake John Methvin is the nephew who arranged this commemorative stone here today, and I sure do appreciate it.

    Before I got reincarnated I wandered around awhile as a disembodied spirit reading your newspapers, and visiting your libraries and history classes. I sure do like some of the things I see. But I definitely don't like a lot of it. And I want to tell you about the world I saw as a Confederate soldier-and the world today . . .

    Today they teach in the schools that our war was about slavery. That's only because the Yankees won. A history professor read 25,000 letters and 249 diaries we and yankee soldiers wrote. Only one in five mentioned slavery at all, and often enough it was fellows asking about the welfare of a hunting or fishing buddy back home who happened to be an African-American Only one in eight from non-slave-owning families even mentioned slavery. But this history professor found we hated Yankees just the way our granddaddies and namesakes who fought the British in 1812 and the Revolution of 1776 did. We wanted to be left alone, and we wanted to govern ourselves with our own ideas of liberty and justice.[1]

    You notice I was named for a slave-owner from Virginia, and so was my hometown of Jeffersonville. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence! That's what we fought for, independence from Yankee meddlers. Jefferson wrote that, "All men are created equal, and are endowed with certain unalienable rights, and among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed." Now most who quote those words today stop right there, But Thomas Jefferson did not. He did not even put a period there, just a comma. And in the same breath he went on to say: "That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

    Now THAT is where he put the period. One sentence. Inseparable. Ninety six words. We have a right to change our governments, and seven states voted to do so in 1860 and 1861 even before Mr. Lincoln took office on March 4.

    Another historian, Mr. Shelby Foote, tells how a Yankee officer from Massachusetts questioned a ragged young Confederate his men had surrounded and subdued in Mississippi only after he ran out of powder and was overrun. You and your family don't own any slaves, the Yankee asked. Why are you fighting us so hard? And the young Rebel answered. "Because you are down here."[2]

    I'd be very careful about sainting Mr. Lincoln if I were you.. He had a hidden interest in getting the Southerners out of Congress, you know. He was attorney for five railroads, and he represented the Illinois Central from its start in 1849. Why, he was the biggest railroad lobbyist the industry had. He bought several town lots in Council Bluffs, Iowa, from a fellow railroad attorney, who bought it from the railroad, because he knew the government would probably subsidize a transcontinental railroad and might start it right there. When the railroad barons and manufacturers who were the young Republican Party's big financial backers looked for a candidate, who'd they pick? Lincoln! And the Republican platform called for government subsidies for the transcontinental railroad they wanted. In July 1861 as president Lincoln called a special session of Congress, and those bozos gave him power to appoint all the directors and commissioners for a new "Union Pacific Railroad," and "to fix the point of commencement." And surprise! Lincoln picked Council Bluffs, Iowa, as the eastern termins! In 1853 the place wasn't even on the map. It was a dinky little campground. When he bought his land, there were hardly 1500 people in the town. The 1860 census counted 2011, and in 1870, the year after the Union Pacific drove its gold spike connecting the East and West Coasts, the town had quintupled to 10,020 people. When Grant was president dozens of prominent people went to prison for such criminal self-dealing, boodling and canoodling. But Mr. Lincoln, the ringleader of the whole enterprise, is a saint with his own temple in Washington, D.C.[3]

    You see why I don't think your history professors have been doing their job? Think what kind of an expose the Washington Post and New York Times would do on a Republican presidential candidate with a land profiteering scheme like that today! Come to think of it, since it's now fashionable to make reparations and apologies for the sins of prior generations, you might even consider posthumous impeachment, don't you think?

    Especially when you look at Lincon's war record: Six or seven hundred thousand dead in a population of 31 million, and over a million more maimed for life. That's more than were killed in all our other wars put together. It would be like taking five million Americans out of today's 300 million population and killing them. Five million! And blowing off another ten million arms and legs. And the man could have avoided it! When Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, only seven states had seceded. They just adopted a constitution and named Jeff Davis president, and he sent his Secretary of State to try to negotiate a compromise. That was ol' Bob Toombs, the former Georgia senator. Here was the man who created the Unionist Party in 1850 and led it to beat the Secessionists in every precinct in the South. And Lincoln wouldn't let his Secretary of State see him! That was William Seward, and he fetched a leader of the Unionists from the Virginia secession convention meeting in Richmond to reason with Lincoln. The Virginian told Lincoln he could save the Union and prevent war if he'd just evacuate Fort Sumter, make a speech denying the false stories he planned to free the slaves and promising to respect Southern rights, and let the Virginia moderates lead the Seven Sisters back into the Union.[4] But "if there is a shot fired at Fort Sumter, Virginia, strong as the Union majority in the Convention is now, will be out in 48 hours," he warned. "Impossible," said Lincoln.

    Later that very day, April 4, Lincoln made final arrangements to reinforce Fort Sumter. His ships sailed from New York on April 8 and the Confederates opened fire on April 12. The hungry and weary men inside surredered next day. Gen. Beauregard's Confederatesfired 3341 artillery rounds at them the fort and killed only one horse! Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 volunteers to put down "rebellion" and sure enough, Virginia's convention voted to secede two days later. North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas came along, too. Virginia's voters ratified the decision by a 3 to 1 majority on May 23, and Lincoln sent 10,000 soldiers, eleven regiments, to invade Northern Virginia the next day. THAT's when the killing began!

    Do you wonder that we told ourselves we had to defend our principles; that our Revolutionary War forefathers, and our God in Heaven forbade anything but armed resistance to invasion?

    The supreme task of statecraft is to keep people from fighting and killing one another in gangs. Lincoln flunked the test, and we ought never to let anyone forget. Southerners drew a line in the sand, and he crossed it at Ft. Sumter.

    The first casualty of the war was a man in Alexandria, Virginia, who had the new Confederate Stars and Bars banner flying from an upstairs window when the federal troops marched up King Street. A Yankee colonel and four soldiers invaded his house and tore down his flag. When they started back down he met them on the stairs with his double-barrel shotgun. They claimed he shot first, but they shot him in the face bayonetted him, and pushed him back down the steps, and he pulled the trigger and killed the colonel. It don't matter who shot first. The fellow did not have any witnesses. He had a right to be there and they didn't. But Lincoln laid the colonel's body out in the White House, and Congress awarded the soldier who killed the Virginian the Congressional Medal of Honor.

    A year later our troops invaded Maryland. The only reason Maryland did not secede and fight with us was President Lincoln sent troops to chase the state legislature out of town. That's why for more than a hundred years Marylanders sang in their state song: "The despot's heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!"

    Thousands of our Confederates marched through Frederick, Maryland, on the way to the fight at Antietam, and this old lady Barbara Fritchie leaned out of a second-floor window and waved the Star-Spangled Banner at 'em. And General Stonewall Jackson issued the order, which Mr. Whittier turned into poetry, "'Who harms a hair on yon gray head, Dies like a dog! March on!' he said." Now that was a real gentleman! The whole Confederate Army marched by and nobody paid her any attention. But look what the Yankees did to that man exercising his First-Amendment rights in Alexandria!

    If the South was right about Secession, those Yankees at least committed a war crime. If Mr. Lincoln's theory of the Constitution was right, he should have protected that Virginia man's right to fly his flag as an exercise of his right to free speech. The First Amendment, you know! Nobody got shot at Mr. Nixon's wartime inaugural in 1969 when the protesters marched with the flags of our enemies, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, did they? Does anybody wonder that we fought Sherman and Grant as hard as we did?

    Fact is, nobody really challenged states' rights to secede until Mr. Lincoln came along. Your history professors haven't done such a good job of evaluating either Lincoln or slavery, you know. Why, until 1861 almost all authorities supported the doctrine of secession. The U.S. government taught it to the West Point cadets, and most of the commanders on both sides in The War believed it. You all chant the pledge of allegiance like canaries: "One nation, indivisible." Harumph! I'd rather believe in "One Nation, Air Conditioned." Now that's a doctrine we Southerners could applaud!

    You ought to revive the Secession doctrine and let Massachusetts and California secede! Then they could smoke their pot and marry and abort whomever they please. I know a lot of plow hands who would marry their mules, and some folks would marry their coon dogs or sheep or cows. Me, personally, I'd vote to let parents abort their children up to age 14 and jurors put them to death down to about 13. That would give the older generation a running start at civilizing the younger generation.

    Now about this slavery business: Everybody looks at today's educated, upstanding middle class African-Americans and tries to apply today's value judgments. How could "we," whoever that is, have been so cruel?

    The Portuguese, not "we," today's Americans, started it, and the British made the big money on the transatlantic slave trade. The survival rate among the Africans on many of those slave-ship voyages was higher than it was among the white ship's crew, or among the white bond servants shipping from England to America. The reason was simple. The ship's captains were paid in advance for carrying the bond servants so they didn't care as much for how many they delivered alive. But the slave ship captains collected only when they delivered and sold live slaves! And if a crewman died, that was just one less person to share the profits of the voyage.

    The Georgia colony forbade slavery for its first twenty years. It was the British royal government that imposed slavery because white folks couldn't work hard enough in the heat to make the colony a paying proposition. The slaves who survived the voyage certainly were better off than the folks left behind in Africa. The first generation born in the New World were bigger, stronger, healthier, and enjoyed a living standard far better than they ever could have hoped to enjoy on the Dark Continent.[5] Their masters gave them better food, clothes and housing than the bond servants got, because the bond servants would be free after seven years.[6] Today you hear all this talk about reparations for descendants of the slaves. We ought to charge them for bringing them here, plus interest!

 

    My namesake Tom Jefferson wrote those fine words about all men being created equal. Yet he owned slaves. And in his day, while he was in Paris as ambassador folks back home wrote the Constitution and said we'd have a republican form of government [Art. IV, s4] That Constitution did not provide for women to vote, or blacks to vote. It left the matter up to the state legislatures. And no state legislature voted to let them vote.

    The Constitution also provided that slaves who ran away from the farm into another state should be returned to their owners even if the other state did not allow slavery. When that Constitution was adopted, 12 of the 13 states allowed slavery. (Vermont abolished slavery in 1777.) New York counted almost as many slaves in the first census in 1790 as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi combined. But when cotton made slavery profitable and we began to grow it, and theYankees couldn't, they sold their slaves to Southern cotton producers, outlawed slavery, and then refused to send our slaves back to us like the Constitution said they should. [Art. IV, S2.] So when we decided to quit the union, they invaded us, and then Lincoln took away our slaves. And wouldn't pay us for them! That war was not about slavery. It was about invasion! And Southern rights!

    When my friend Tom Bone invaded Maryland with Jubal Early and the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864, he got shot at Monocacy Creek and left behind. The Yankees took him to Baltimore and fixed him up and sent him down to Point Lookout where he was exchanged. He said he was shot in the thigh on a farm worked by slaves, a year and a half after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. You see, Lincoln did not free all slaves, just the ones in the conquered Confederate states. When you lose a war, you lose everything, even your reputation in the history books.

    Today's history books and magazine articles about slavery almost always use the same photograph of a Louisiana slave showing off his back, which was horridly scarred from flogging. That's because it's politically correct today to be against slavery. Shucks, that don't take no courage! It just happens to be useful to one of your political parties to keep African-American bloc voters stirred up and feeling victimized so they'll turn out and vote in a bloc. You never hear anything good about the institution. Sure, there were mean masters, and slavery brought out the worst in some folks and made others lazy. That's why Mr. George Mason of Virginia became the loudest opponent of slavery in the Constitutional Convention. He was the biggest slaveholder in the convention and he knew the institution well. He was so mad that the Constitution didn't abolish slavery he went back to Virginia in a pout and refused to sign the thing.

    Today they don't tell you about people like Solomon Humphries, of Macon, who bought himself and his family free, and grew rich in the mercantile business. He couldn't read or write so he hired white clerks. Everybody marvelled at his ability and success. Mr. Michael Healy in Jones County, which borders mine in Middle Georgia, owned 1500 acres. He was a white man from Ireland, and he had ten children with a mulatto slave named Mary Eliza. That was typical for families of the time; my daddy had nine children hisself, by two wives. Mr. Healy sent sent his children North for education. One son became a U.S. Navy officer. Another became a Roman Catholic bishop. And a third became the president of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. All his neighbors were right proud of him and his family.

    Then there was Mr. William M. Davis down in Houston County just south of Macon. He worked hard and acquired more than a hundred slaves on his plantation. He had a slave carpenter named Peter who was talented, so he told Peter he'd send him to Boston to study architecture and give him his freedom if he'd come back and build him a big house befitting his success. Peter went, all by hisself, and in Massachusetts he could have stayed and been free as a bird. But he came back to Georgia, and stayed four years building Mr. Davis his ten-room house, complete with a ballroom. And then Mr. Davis gave him his freedom just like he promised.[7]

    After Congress in 1819 passed legislation to sponsor a West African colony for slaves to emigrate to, most blacks wanted no part of it. James Madison proposed to help his slaves emigrate to Liberia, and sixteen of them petitioned him to sell them to a kinsman instead! [8]

    The 1860 census showed there were only 394,000 slave owners in the 15 slave states. Nearly a fourth of them owned only one or two. On many little farms the slaves lived under the same roof as the masters. They worked side by side in the fields, doing the same work. Heck, there were 265,000 free blacks living down south, and some of THEM owned slaves! I don't say the slaves were happy with their lot, but I bet if you'd put it to a vote in 1840 or 1850, and let both the men and women vote, a majority would have voted not to change things. And I'll bet if Lincoln had offered to buy and free the slaves in 1860 he have been elected by a whopping majority instead of only 39 per cent, and he'd have won the South, too.

    But just look what happened after that Republican railroad attorney started his war and won it. Before the war our Southern leaders, John C. Calhoun, Jeff Davis, Bob Toombs, warned us that the Republican railroad barons and financiers were interested only in gaining control of the federal government; that they would use it to enslave the South, whites and blacks alike; that they intended to plunder our cotton wealth behind a wall of high tariffs that would make us a captive colonial market for Northern manufacturers. That's why Lincoln sent reinforcements to South Carolina-to enforce the new tariff law his Republican-dominated Congress was poised to pass. That's why, after Gen. Beauregard seized Ft. Sumter, Lincoln issued his call for volunteers; he had to collect those tariffs to run his government! And that's why Virginia and the three other states that had waited to see what Lincoln would do voted to quit his damned Union. Soon as he'd got the Southerners out of Congress, the Republicans doubled and tripled the tariff. They also voted to give the railroad barons free land for their transcontinental railroad. Gave them land larger than the size of France-and advanced cash, ranging from $16,000 to $48,000 a mile.[9] And they laid out their railroads so as to choke off the river traffic, neutralize the natural advantages of the West and South, and bring tribute from their raw material producers to the Yankee Northeastern manufacturing empire.

    They held us in captivity, plantation captivity, for ninety years, blacks and whites alike. The federal government raised and kept its tariff wall. And the railroad barons raised an internal wall with discriminatory freight rates that kept Southerners from selling in what was the world's largest common market. Not until the 1930s, when a New York governor who had stayed awhile in Georgia and seen how wretchedly we Southern whites and blacks were living, did anyone protest that internal barrier. In his second Inaugural speech in 1937 President Roosevelt talked about the South: "I see one third of a nation ill housed, ill clothed, ill fed," and so on. The next year, at Barnesville, Ga., just a few miles down the road here, he called the South "the Nation's No. 1 economic problem." And he denounced the Northern railroad conspiracy for its internal freight rates wall that kept Southerners locked up mining their "white gold," cotton, for the Yankee textile mills. He inspired a young Georgia governor, Ellis Arnall, to sue the Northern railroads in the U.S. Supreme Court demanding equal right under the Constitution. President Roosevelt died before those walls came tumbling down. It did not happen until 1952! And today you see all these manufacturing plants dotted around all over the South, and Yankees moving South. Folks call those old plants along the railroads around Northern cities like Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland, Detroit, and Gary "the Rust Belt."

    This is the South we fought for, and I'm glad to say, at long last, I think we have won!

    Now when my friend Tom Bone invaded Maryland with Jubal Early and the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864, he got shot at Monocacy Creek and left behind. The Yankees took him to Baltimore and fixed him up and sent him down to Point Lookout where he was exchanged. He said he was shot in the thigh on a farm worked by slaves, a year and a half after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. You see, Lincoln did not free all slaves, just the ones in the conquered Confederate states.

    When you lose a war, you lose everything, even your reputation in the history books. That's why so many of my descendants made careers out of the military. One of them was a boy from Eufala, over here on the Chattahoochee River, named Tom Moorer, and he rose to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Vietnam War. When he'd make speeches somebody would invariably ask him why he and so many other Southerners spend their lives serving the nation in the military. He always answered: "It's because we saw what happened when you lose a war, and we didn't like it and want to make sure we don't lose another one."

So I say, "God Bless America. I'm glad my cause triumphed at long last."

END

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[1] McPherson, James M. For Cause and Comrade: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (Oxford University Press: 1997).     2] Burns, Ken, The Civil War, a documentary film, 1990.     [3] Starr, John W., Jr. Lincoln and the Railroads (New York: Arno Press, 1981). The book was first published in 1927 and reissued in 1981. DiLorenzo, Thomas J., The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2002). See DiLorenzo article, "Why the Republican Party Elected Lincoln," published online at: www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo53.html.     [4] Ayers, Edward L., In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), pp. 130-135.   [5] Johnson, Paul, A History of the American People ( New York: Harper Collins, 1997).    [6] Davis, Harold E., The Fledgling Province: Social and Cultural Life in Colonial Georgia, 1733-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976).    [7] Reidy, Joseph P., From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South: Central Georgia, 1800-1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992) pp. 78-79.     [8] Johnson, op. cit., p. 313.     [9] Harry L. Hopkins, nationwide radio address over CBS, August 5, 1938.