One hundred and forty five years ago, on 9 April, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant, marking the effective end of the South’s struggle for independence.
It was a fateful day for the South, and in particular for my great grandfather and his four elder brothers, all of whom were fighting for the Confederacy.
On that day, the eldest brother Joshua Lazarus Moses was killed a few hours after Lee, unbeknownst to the troops elsewhere, had surrendered. Josh was commanding an artillery battalion (Culpepper's Battery or Culpepper's Light Artillery) that was firing the last shots in defense of Mobile, before being overrun by a Union force outnumbering his 13 to one. In this battle, Fort Blakeley, one of his brothers, Horace, was captured, and another, Perry, was wounded.
Joshua had also been in the thick of the fighting in the War’s opening battle, when Fort Sumter was attacked in April, 1861. Josh was the last Confederate Jew to fall in battle, one of the more than 3,000 estimated Jews who fought for the South. His first cousin, Albert Moses Luria, was the first, killed at age 19 at the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) in Virginia on 31 May, 1862..
While Lee was surrendering at Appomattox, a 2,500 man unit attached to Sherman’s army, known as Potter’s Raiders, was heading towards my family’s hometown of Sumter, South Carolina. Sherman had just burned nearby Columbia, and it was feared that his troops were headed to Sumter to do the same.
My then 16 year old great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Moses, rode out to defend his hometown, along with some 157 other teenagers, invalids, old men, and the wounded from the local hospital. It was a mission as hopeless as it was valiant, but Sumter’s rag-tag defenders did manage to hold off Potter’s battle-seasoned veterans for over an hour before being overwhelmed by this vastly superior force outnumbering theirs by some 15 to one.
Jack got away with a price on his head, and Sumter was not burned after all. But some buildings were, and there are documented instances of murder, rape, and arson by the Yankees.
The fifth bother, Isaac Harby Moses, having served with distinction in combat in Wade Hampton's cavalry, later rode home from North Carolina after the Battle of Bentonville (North Carolina), the War’s last major battle, where he commanded his company, all of the officers having been killed or wounded. He never surrendered to anyone, his Mother proudly observed in her memoirs.
Earlier on 10 March, 1865, as a member of a company of Citadel Cadets, he had his horse shot out from under him, and was attacked by a Union soldier wielding a sword. He was among those who fired the very first shots of the conflict, when his cadet company opened up on the Union ship, Star of the West, which was attempting to resupply the besieged Fort Sumter in January, 1861, three months before the War officially began.
Over two dozen members of the extended Moses family fought in the War, and it sacrificed at least nine of its sons for The Cause. Family members served and worked closely with such legendary generals as Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, and Wade Hampton, firing some of the first and last shots of the War in its opening and closing battles. They fought on horseback and on ships, in the trenches and in the infantry. They built fortifications, led their men in charges, and one had responsibility for provisioning an entire army corps of some 50,000 men.
This officer, the best known of the Moses family Confederates, was Major Raphael Moses, General Longstreet’s chief commissary officer, whose three sons also fought for the South. The uncle of the five Moses brothers, Major Moses ended up attending the last meeting and carrying out the Last Order of the Confederate government.
He was ordered to deliver the last of the Confederate treasury, $40,000 in gold and silver bullion, to help feed and supply the defeated Confederate soldiers in nearby hospitals, and straggling home after the War -- weary, hungry, often sick, shoeless and in tattered uniforms. With the help of a small group of determined armed guards, Moses successfully carried out the order from President Jefferson Davis, despite repeated attempts by mobs to forcibly take the bullion.
Like their comrades-in-arms, the Moses’ were fighting, for their homeland -- not for slavery, as is so often said, but for their families, homes, and country. Put simply, most Confederate soldiers felt they were fighting because an invading army from the North was trying to kill them, burn their homes, and destroy their cities.
The hard-pressed Confederates were usually heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and out-supplied, but rarely outfought, showing amazing courage, skill, and valor.
The anniversary of this fateful day should serve to remind us what the brave and beleaguered Southern soldiers and civilians were up against. Perhaps the events of that day, and of the War itself, will help people understand why, in this time when the South is so often vilified, native Southerners still revere their ancestors’ courage, and rightfully take much pride in this heritage.
Lewis Regenstein, a native of Atlanta, is a writer and author and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Thank you for this story of your family. Too many people believe the Civil War was about slavery. We need to remind people that was not the case.
Apr 06, 2010 @ 08:14 AM
Lana, Howe, TX
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Excellent article. My family's history during the war years is similar to yours.
The eldest of four brothers, William, commanded a company in the 47th Virginia and died of "chronic diarhea" in the trenches at Petersburg. The next brother, John, took command of the Fredericksburg Artillery in October of 1864, despite having lost an eye at Chancellorsville, not far from where Stonewall was mortally wounded. The third brother was also an officer in the 47th Virginia. The youngest brother served in the 9th Virginia cavalry before joining John in the Fredericksburg Artillery. Another relative, Willie, was in the 9th Virginia Cavalry, too, but only for 13 days before being gut-shot at First Reims Station; he later served under Mosby. Other, more distant, relatives served all over Virginia and the South, including in the Confederate Navy.
While they were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts to defend out state, I am proud of their service. That same fight, to maintain the sovereignty of the states and block the usurpations of power that led Virginia to secede in April of 1861, remains with us today and I am pleased that I am able to reinforce them, albeit 150 years later and after my own military career.
Sic sempter tyrannis!
Apr 06, 2010 @ 08:24 AM
JSmith, Fredericksburg VA
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Thank you for your article. Family genealogical research has shown my extended family was deeply involved in the cause of the South. There are so many veterans in my extended family it is difficult to catalog them all. That conflict touched every family in the South. I am glad to see people speak out supporting their ancestors. The PC crowd has tried to make us ashamed of our ancestors' service. They were people caught up in a conflict, not of their making but willing to defend their homeland against an invading Army.
I think that is one reason today people in the South today have more distrust of the power of a big central government. They have seen what a central government can do just like native Americans have see what it can do. Your freedom and independence can always be crushed by a powerful central government.
Apr 06, 2010 @ 09:07 AM
L. S. Bembry, Suwanee, Ga
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Thanks for the story. As I read the story, I could feel the pride and love for your ancesters. I had a great great father who fought for the Iuka Rifles (CSA). I know that he fought for his beloved state of Mississippi and the south.
Apr 06, 2010 @ 09:24 AM
Dogman, Birmingham, Al.
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Thank you and your family for your patriotic service to a great nation.
Apr 06, 2010 @ 09:41 AM
Scott, Huntsville, AL
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My family fought for the Union, but I have always had great respect for the soldiers of the Confederacy. They did their duty and fought bravely against inevitable odds, and as some have said, it wasn't about slavery. In fact, the only reason slavery became an issue was because Lincoln knew he was at risk of losing the war and needed something to stir up sentiment against the South. It should also be noted that after the war, many Confederate officers and soldiers went on to serve with honor in the U.S. Cavalry in the west.
Apr 06, 2010 @ 10:51 AM
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The third paragraph from the end is most poignant. Lincoln was certainly no American patriot, perhaps as shrewd and deadly to the Constitution as the president of today.
Once again we are invaded by the omnipotent Washington. Freedoms are gone; the Constitution is trampled; the Republic dead. Perhaps the time will once again come for patriots to rise up and defend their families, homes, and country (whatever is left).
May we serve with honor and distinction as did Mr. Regenstein's ancestors.
Apr 06, 2010 @ 11:02 AM
Mr. Regenstein lives in Atlanta, and has had his story published in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution in the past. He and I have communicated by e-mail. He is a gentleman. Stan