Family Reminiscences of the Confederacy

By Bishop Beverly Tucker
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2001, 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The article below is a transcript of a talk given to the Roundtable on October 19,1959 by the Rt. Reverend Beverly Tucker, PhD, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Northeast Ohio. The talk was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. In 1994, Dr. William Schlesinger, one of our founders, had the recording transferred to cassette tape and submitted it for inclusion in the Roundtable archives. This talk was later transcribed by Robert E. Battisti and published in The Charger in the winter of 2001 and then on the Roundtable’s website in 2008.

My father surrendered with General Lee at Appomattox. My father never got tired of talking about it. My two grandfathers also fought in the Civil War. Now I’ve been a Yankee for 21 years, but tonight I speak to you as the son of a Confederate veteran. My talk is not about military strategy.

I’ve read most of the books about the Confederacy. I used to belong to a group called “The Current Events Club of Richmond” led by Douglas Southall Freeman. It was really a Civil War Roundtable that looked at the war from one side. It’s good today that both sides can sit around the table and have something to contribute. The North was fighting for the preservation of the Union. The South was fighting for the sovereignty of the states.

Tonight I would like to talk to you from the point of view of family reminiscences because I was brought up in the atmosphere of the Confederacy. I was born in northern Virginia between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers, in a little village called Warsam that was full of history. My father was a country minister there.

Later we moved to Norfolk where my father was appointed director of Old St. Paul’s, a colonial church. In the walls of that church is a cannon ball shot by Lord Dunmore during the Revolutionary War. It was used by Union troops at the end of “The War Between the States,” the title used by Virginians in those days.

When I was a boy, there was a desire to build a Confederate monument. I helped raise $2.96 by having a children’s circus. I took the money to a Confederate banker. He gave me a receipt on the back of a $10.00 Confederate note, which I still treasure to this day.

In Norfolk everyone had an army title, usually general or colonel, but not less than a captain. My father said he was the only private left in the Confederate Army! You have seen the picture of Lee and Jackson at Chancellorsville where Lee and Jackson planned the battle. We were intimately involved with a woman born at Mt. Vernon. Her father was the last private owner of Mt. Vernon. He and General Lee were neighbors and intimate friends.

General Lee asked my grandfather to be part of his inner corp. They went to West Virginia. Serving under Lee, my grandfather was killed in an ambush in 1861. There is a granite monument on the hillside there. Upon his death, my grandmother and the family were left paupers. They moved to Charlestown to live with relatives.

They watched Stonewall Jackson go up and down the Shenandoah Valley. So my grandmother and her children grew up in the hardships of war. One of the homes where they lived was burned down during the war. During those times, families always took in other families. In their second home, an uncle took in my mother and her seven children, resulting in 16 children in one house.

When my grandfather was killed, General Lee wrote a beautiful letter to my mother’s older sister, dated September 16, 1861. An excerpt:

Dear Liza:

With a heart full of grief I communicate the saddest tiding you have ever heard. Your father, who is in heaven, will enable you to bear it. My own grief is also so heavy. Your father was trusted so much on earth. God will sustain you and your brothers and sisters who are under this heavy affliction.

Your Friend, Robert E. Lee

(This letter is published in one of Douglas Southall Freeman’s books.)

On the other side, my grandfather Tucker was given an appointment in Liverpool by President Buchanan before the war came. When the war came, my grandmother wrote that her husband was opposed to the war. He wanted the Union to stay together. There were other Tucker brothers from Boston who were in England at the time. They put up an American flag, so my grandfather put up a Confederate flag. Ultimately, they all went to war, but kept up a friendship throughout life. After the war, my father visited them in Boston and they visited him in Virginia.

My grandfather Tucker felt he had to fight for the “cause” right or wrong and had to prevent Union troops from coming into Virginia. He fought under Fitzhugh Lee in the cavalry and was a flag bearer. My father, who was 16 years old when the war started, was too young to join the army so he went to school. When he came of age, he joined the army and was assigned to the Battle of Petersburg, and then retreated to Appomattox.

One story he told was a time when General Lee rode by when my father and some other men were trying to get a gun out of the mud. He gave them some inspiration. After the war, my father was sitting on the courthouse steps when General Lee came by. My father had just kissed his pretty young woman. He looked at General Lee and said: “Don’t you wish you could do this?”

Now I would like to tell you about the aftermath of the war. There was an Englishman who owed money to the Confederacy. He did not want to pay it to the federal government so he set up scholarships. My father was able to obtain one of the grants and continue with his education. Later in life, as an older and wiser man, he gave a speech in Norfolk during World War I. He said: “I fought against that flag at one time. Now I have sons serving in the U.S. Army under that flag, that’s my flag too!”

In conclusion, I want to share some personal thoughts. I represent what this country is, a united country. We need the contributions from all sections. We don’t need a great divide. We need to pull together for the great pull ahead! Thank you.