Elkanah Burson Memorial Day Speech

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Historical Memoranda,

Co. C., 44th Alabama, Confederate States of America

Interspersed with quotes from a letter from Dr. Thomas Lee to Dr. William Gulley from camp 7 miles north of Winchester, October 12, 1862 with information on the personal perspective of the War and Elkanah Burson’s (as soldier in the 44th Alabama) experience.
(Spelled as written)

The company was organized at Snow Hill, Alabama, on March 29th, 1862, and went into camps of instruction at Selma, Alabama, April 23rd, 1862, and remained there until June 17th, when we were ordered to Richmond, Va. We arrived at said place on June 26th, but owing to the fact of the regiment not having the necessary equipments, we did not participate in any of the engagements before Richmond, known as the "Seven Days Battles." On July 5th the company went into camps at Falling Creek, Virginia, and remained there until August 18th, when we again marched northward,

Tom Lee: "The well portion of the 44th Ala. Left camps near Richmond on the 18th of August for Louisa court house it being as far as they could go on the cars the bridges beyond that point having been burned by the enemy. They then footed it across the country to Manasses which place they reached in time to participate in the battle of the 30th August which I suppose you have seen before this time resulted in great victory on our part. In that battle our Regt. Lost two (2) Captains and four (4) or five (5) privates killed, several wounded—Cedar Guards two wounded, Bill Hobdie’s substitute and Sm. Purifoy. The Regt. Only carried one hundred twenty nine (129) men into the fight. Myself together with several other Drs. Of the Regt. Were detailed to take charge of the sick remaining in camps at the time the first portion left and did not leave until the 29th of Aug. –Passed through the battle field of Manasses three (3) days after the battle…Overtook our division at Lee’s Burg and the next morning at about 11 o’clock crossed the Patomac over into Mariland passed through a number of beautiful towns and to the surprise of many of us found very very few simpathisers [sic]. Did hear in one place some little boys give three cheers for Jef Davis and now and then a lady wave her hankerchief [sic] at us—Had several fights along the way none of which was our Briggade [sic] having succeeded in gaining the Mariland heights (which you know overlook Harpers Ferry) mounted a sufficient number of guns and in three (3) hours bombardment with a sufficient force on the Va. Side to keep the Yanks from getting [sic] out that way the Fery [sic] surrendered leaving in our possession 11,500 Federals and 1,000 Negroes …"

arrived at Manassas on August 29th. On August 30th the company made its first fight. On September 1st we left Manassas and crossed the Potomac near Leesburg on September 6th. On September 7th we halted for a few days rest near Frederick City, Maryland. On September 10th we resumed the march and assisted in the investment of Harper’s Ferry, which capitulated on the 14th of September.

Tom Lee: "…Left Harper’s Ferry at 2 o’clock P.M. the day after its surrender marched all night with the exception of one hour and a half and reached Sharpsburg at about eight o’clock next morning—was carried into the battle immediately …"

On the 16th the march was again resumed. On the morning of the 17th we crossed the Potomac at Shepherds town for the third time and participated in the battle of Sharpsburg of that date.

Tom Lee: "…and out of one hundred and twenty (120) men only of the Bloody 44th they came out with eighty three (83) killed Wounded and missing—The sick broke down and straglers [sic] of he Regt. Were scattered from Ala. To Mariland—Will give you an account of our company in the battle—out of twenty five (25) or thirty (30) men the following were killed and wounded—Tim Watts killed—Wounded Capt. Purifoy through the breast, supposed to be mortal—did not see him as he remained all night and the next day on the battle field and no one allowed to go there—He succeeded in getting [sic] across the river and last any of us have seen or heard of him he was at a private house in Sheppardtown on the Va. Side of the river—our pickets being between us and him none of us can go to see after him. E Burson shot across the breast from one nipple to the other only skin deep, Jay struck with a piece of shell on hip, not hurt I am told—did not see him as all who were able to walk were sent over the river immediately to Sheppardtown and the next day to Winchester. Tom McBryde a slight flesh wound, P. Williams wounded above the knee, not seriously—Dr. Cook severely in the shoulder. I was not in the battle or rather not exposed to the bullets but was stationed where the bums came as thick as hail to dress the wounds of the Regt. Temporarily and send them on to our Briggade hospital—Neither surgeon or assistant surgeon were present. On the morning after the battle our fources commenced falling back over the river the enemy’s position being a much stronger one than ours as the last portion of our army had crossed the river they were attacked by the enemy and A.P. Hill it is stated killed five thousand (5,000) of them and took 300 prisoners—About the number killed on either side I cannot give you any more correct statement than the news papers—I have learned from the Jef Davis Artilory [sic] though not seen any of them some three or four wounded but not any of our Snow Hill boys. Pat is not hurt and in good health and spirits I am told. John Patton was killed in the battle of Sharpsburg—Don’t know when we will move from our present encampment, it is quite cold and we have indications of much rain after as long a dry spell as I have ever known, rained all night, night before last and is very cloudy today. Have had several white frosts. Have not a sign of a shelter and have not had since we left Richmond—Am glad Jones brought us clothing as I had my nap sack stolen with all my shirts, drawers and socks—Have coats and pants enough left at Rapidan Station and Richmond to do me I expect—Mr. Brock writes me that we will make corn enough to last to (2) years or nearly so. I hope they will turn some of it into meat by feeding those little hogs plentifully…"


Elkanah Burson severely wounded in the breast at Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17th, 1862. (Individual History)

On the morning of the 19th we recrossed the Potomac and went into camps at Winchester, Virginia. On the 1st of October we left Winchester and arrived at Fredericksburg on the 4th of November, and participated in the battle of the 13th of December.

"Elkanah Burson was elected Jr. 2nd Lieutenant." (Individual History)

On the 17th of February, 1863, we left the place and arrived at Falling Creek on the 20th, where we remained until April 2nd. Then took up the line of march, stopping a short time at Petersburg, and arrived in the vicinity of Suffolk, on the 11th and remained there until May 3rd, when we again resumed the march northward. Nothing worthy of note occurred until July the 2nd, at which time the company participated in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa. On the 6th day of July we fell back from Gettysburg and went into line at Downsville, Md., where we remained until the 14th, at which time we recrossed the Potomac and continued the march slowly southward and arrived at Fredericksburg August 4th. On September 8th we left for Georgia and arrived on the battlefield of Chickamauga on the 18th of September

"Promoted to Sr. 2nd Lieutenant, November 26th, 1863." (Individual History)

and participated in the engagement there of November 29th. Left there for Morristown on December 3rd. There is nothing further of interest connected with the numerous marches in East Tennessee except the battle of Dandridge on 17th of January, 1864. Fought the battle of the Wilderness May 6th,

Elkanah Burson wounded in the right hand at Wilderness, Virginia, May 6th, 1864, while commanding the company. (Individual History)

and the following battles on the dates mentioned: Spottsylvania C.H., May 8,10 &12. Mechanicsville Pile, June 1st. Cold Harbor, June 3rd and 6th. Bermuda Hundreds, June 16th. New Market Heights, August 14th. Fussells Mill, August 16th. Fort Gilmer, September 29th. Fort Harrison, 30th. Darbytown, October 7, and near Derbytown, October 13th, 1864. The company has at no time been detached on any special service or had any engagements with the enemy that is worthy of being recorded, other than those spoken of above. Since Oct 13th we have been in camps on the line near Richmond, Va. I hereby certify the foregoing record of names, dates, facts and historical memoranda, is correctly given.

Station: Near Richmond, Va. (Signed) Robert Powers, Captain Commanding

Date: December 31, 1864


Speech delivered by Elkanah Burson on Confederate Memorial Day,

April 26, 1877

TAKEN FROM WILCOX NEW AND PACIFICATOR, printed in Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama, May 9, 1879:

Correspondence, Camden, April 26, 1879

Captain E. Burson:

The undersigned Committee of Arrangements for the memorial ceremonies of 26th April 1877, request that you will submit a copy of your very appropriate address delivered by you today for the purpose of publication.


R.C. Jones

R. Gaillard, and others


Camden, Alabama, April 28, 1879

Gen. R.C. Jones, Col. R. Gaillard and others, Committee:

Your note of the 26th instant has been handed to me, and I herewith submit a copy of the Address which I delivered on the occasion alluded to by you, which you are at liberty to have published.

Respectfully yours,

E. Burson


Ladies and Gentleman:

This assembling together here in Wilcox County, as you are no doubt all aware of is for the purpose of commemorating another memorial day. It is proper, chivalric and patriotic by ceremonies like these to offer a grateful homage and affectionate tribute annually, to the memories of those who dared all, periled all, lost all for the land of their birth. This assemblage and this demonstration that we behold here today are the milestones that mark the journey of advancing time and their results cause a reunion of hearts engender common sympathies and perpetuate the deeds of many a noble soldier.

In all ages and in every clime, it has been the custom of every distinguished nation to commemorate the renowned dead, thereby enshrining their memories in the hearts of succeeding generations, and causing their heroic deeds to be emulated and imitated by those who come after them. Poets, orators, historians and artists have with pen, tongue, and pencil, sung, spoke, wrote, and delineated the names and families of countless states men, warriors and patriots whose renowned deeds, either on the battlefield or the forum, will endure until time is no more. And we a people proud of our noble lineage, but still prouder of those in whose veins course the nearest and dearest of our own blood, and who in our opinion died in a just cause, we here today testify to the world our admiration and adoration for those who fell while struggling for our rights.

It is not now the time or occasion to trace the origin or cause of the late war or the spirit of its sources as to the great actors in the scenes of that war, and who now sleep beneath the cold sod, we can truly say: --The law which nerved these men to die was doubtless graven on their inmost souls by the finger of the Almighty. He instilled in them love of native land, he gave them heroic aspirations and lofty thoughts. He was the author of their manhood and courage, he was the ruler of the storm and King of battles and in His providence storm and battles come. If in His wisdom the storm was permitted to lash about them, who shall dare condemn these men when obeying God given instincts? They breasted the storm, marched along down the pathway of duty through many troubles and privations to an honorable death.

What need has that cause of ton...The graves of the dead, "severe far and wide, by mount stream and sea," and hallowing half a continent are its mightiest defenders.

The duty of the patriot soldier is to defend rights guaranteed to the people under the laws of the land and to yield obedience to that power of government which shields and protects his people from wrong and oppression; for protection and allegiance are reciprocal, when one ceases the other expires. Not only is it the duty of the patriot soldier to defend, but to save liberty, to save rights, to save amidst perils that appall the stoutest hearts; to save them where courage and coolness must be present--to nerve the manly arm, and his undaunted spirit is required to sustain the moral intrepidity that meets...native land. "He must have that noble crop of manly virtues of fortitude, coolness, and daring that are needed to make up the heroic character. The true soldier delights on the battle field to hear the grand music of roaring cannon, the sound of musketry, and the shock of charging squadrons, and the spirit of martial achievements glows, burns, and thrills through every fibre of his frame."

When this spell of the aroused soul falls upon the man of action and he stands with heaving breast, dilating eye and thrilling nerve, nothing then seems too lofty for his achievement, what danger so awful as to daunt him? True courage in the presence of danger and peril defies the man and transfigures him for the time being. The image of that Godlike spirit, which in his primeval time was breathed into his nostrils, pure unalloyed and unselfish. Such is the patriot soldier, whose grand deeds and heroic achievements rise resplendent above the tears and groans of mortal agony and mortal bereavement." The fame of the Southern Patriots and volunteer soldiers of the South, they who severed the holiest and most sacred ties who left the doting mother, the fond sister, the dear brother, the devoted father, the loving wife, the trusting friend, the happy home and forsook a position of ease and comfort to offer up their lives upon the altar of Southern rights, in the maintenance of and in defense of that grand and immortal principle--the right of self-government. -- Truly it may be said that the cause in which the Southern soldier fell has in the past shaken thrones, broken sceptres, crushed out and crumbled into stone many a dynasty. A cause that will last and endure as long as man thinks, lives and breathes the air of freedom. Tyrants cannot crush it out, oppressions may check and stay it for awhile, but founded in right, based on eternal justice and nurtured and cherished by immutable laws of human nature its march will be onward. It was the heroic devotion of our Southern soldiers to the great cause. It was their fidelity to the principles inculcated by a Washington, a Jefferson, and a Madison, which made them perform such prodigies of valor and do deeds that have encircled their brows with a halo of glory and immortality. The simple recital of the deeds of these men, their lives and their deaths even now fills all Christendom. There were no depths of misfortune they did not sound, no path of duty there left untrod.

They defied all things save their honor and their God--Fate did not quench their valor nor death quell their convictions.

Oh, think of their weary midnight marches! the gnawing of hunger, the great suffering in the winter on account of not having comfortable clothing, the agonies of the wounded and dying on the battlefield, the death on the picket post the last sigh of the dying in the hospital, the sublime end in the forlorn hope, the glorious sunset of manhood in the arms of victory. For long years these men defended their native land forced their banners to the Ohio. Twice across the Potomac their valor almost reared on the shores of the little stream that runs by Sharpsburg and on the height of Gettysburg a new nation among the people of the earth. They lit the mountains and plains with their dead bodies. Our armies after four long years of toil and many battles became so worn that the end of the great struggle then came. It was then that the noblest army that ever followed the greatest warrior in the world ever saw and the grandest and holiest cause that ever a patriot drew a sword for, finally surrendered and went down in the darkness and gloom. The soldiers of the North who through patriotism obeyed the mandates of their respective States, who adhered to the Union, in recognition and obedience to the authority of their native states enlisted under the banner of the Union for its preservation, were foemen worthy of the steel, of the flower ad pride of the South, for they went into battle to fight and die for what they believed to be right from their standpoint. It is not to these brave men who fought and died under the Stars and Stripes that the brave people of the South feel any animosity towards. While we ponder thus the mind carries us Northward where the tombs of the Northern soldiers are more numerous than the stars in the heavens. In them lie men of the same race as ourselves who spoke the same language and worshipped the same God. Fond mothers sent them to battle and agonizing prayers watched their pathway. They followed a flag that was as dear to them as ours was to us, and he that worthily speaks for the dead of living must say that no feeling of hate to the Northern dead, or those who mourn them, pervades this memorial day." One touch of pity makes the whole world kin..........those whom the warring sections mourn for their dead. Let the statesman draw inspiration to guide the living. --And while honoring ourselves and our dead let us do all that men may do to hasten the coming of that great day when peace and goodwill shall once more prevail over all the land.

And whilst today we decorate the graves of our honored death with beautiful garlands and whilst the sod beneath which they are taking their last and final rest will glisten with gorgeous floral wreaths, and be perfumed with fragrant bouquets; and whilst many a tear may moisten their sacred tombs, and fond memory will delight to dwell on their valor, their heroism, and their patriotism, let us the living be not unmindful of the duties that we gave that land for which they so bravely fought and so nobly died.


A land which they so dearly loved and for which they made so many heroic sacrifices, should ever be well protected and guarded by honor, devotion and fidelity. --The memory of their undying deeds is surrounded and enveloped in such a bright halo of dazzling glory so grand and sublime that we their survivors should ever be mindful of our duties in perpetuating that fame and renown which they have transmitted to us as the richest and most priceless legacy ever bequeathed to mortals by these impressive ceremonies of today you will give outward token and worldly manifestations of your love and veneration, and of your appreciation and admiration of their suffering and their sacrifices. But it is not in this beautiful and imposing pageantry that we witness here today; it is not by the tongue of orators the...

or the chisel of the sculptor that these men fought and died for can be reanimated and revivified in the hearts of their surviving countrymen. It was by their faith, acts and deeds that they achieved an immortal name; faith in the teaching of the early fathers and founders of this government acts by enlisting in a cause for self-government, and resistance unto death to wrong and oppression; deeds by confronting a nation in arms and dying in defense of liberty. Let you then see to it and prove by your faith, your acts and your deeds that these men have not died in vain, but that the rich heritage, the brilliant lustre that cluster around their names shall be handed down from generation to generation undimmed by time and untarnished by years. And, oh, my countrymen! let not the temptation of worldly preferment and aggrandizement so induce you to act as to cast a dark ray of reflection upon the grandeur of those scenes of the mighty past, which have won for the South a glory that the wealth of the world could not purchase.

And now to the ladies, you who have graced this scene by your womanly presence, I have few brief words to address you--you who were ever "last at the Cross and first at the grave, you who sustained, and honored and cheered these men to the last to you more noble than the Spartan woman who gave her tresses for bowstrings, and her girdle for sword belts--to you who dares so much of the danger and sorrow of the strife and shared none of its wild joys--to you who never mourned save when your warrior lost faith to you God has left the memory of the dead. A glorious past is a nation's highest treasure. All that makes a man great is fed in the contemplation of unselfish heroism. "Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," was written not alone of those whose name and blood we inherit, but also of the noble and great of the forefathers, the founders of the State. The nation may neglect the command and forfeit the promise as well as the child. Tis something akin to the immortals that makes us long not to be altogether unworthy of the fame of our ancestors, it is certain that if the child respects himself he must honor his father and mother. Tis your God given mission to fashion the man in the boy and nurture the true woman in the girl. Tis yours to feed the manly instinct to train the young eagle to the flight of the old.

Then gather around this sacred spot, when the flowers sweeten, the air, and the song of the birds makes melody with the children that cluster around you, and tell them the story of their fathers and brothers. Teach them that man is noblest when he died for man, and that their fathers were heroes and patriots worthy of the admiration of the world.

My friends although defeated in the late struggle for liberty at that time, our deliverance is coming at last. The just God who presides over the destiny of nations is bringing about the result in his own appointed way. I have to but refer you to the changes about taking place in our national legislation for the proof of my assertion; we are again entering upon a new era of self government the glad tidings that comes from the halls of Congress is gratifying to every true lover of our noble government. We ought not to think our sacrifice has been too great when the great principles of self government has again reasserted itself, and under its beneficent sway the grand object for which you so freely gave up the lives of your fathers and brothers, husbands and sons, will be attained. Then will the smiles of our heroic dead from the realms on high linger and play around those whom they died for not in vain.

I now in consideration of the many facts already stated appeal to you to raise the balance of money needed, without delay, to erect a suitable monument to the memory of the Confederate dead of Wilcox County, which will perpetuate their names and fame to generations that live after we have gone to that bourne from whence no traveler ever returns. There cannot be in my opinion ...place to erect the monument than here at the county site.

I am credibly informed that there has been already raised for the purpose mentioned, over $600 and about two hundred subscribed, and by raising a few hundred dollars more you can certainly accomplish this much desired object! When the monument is completed you will have done a noble deed for those who offered up their lives for us, but nothing more than your duty. Thus by precept you can inculcate into coming generations a love for those who sacrificed their lives while fighting for our liberty. But it is not by precept alone, for precept without practice lacks sincerity and fails of the desired effect. It was not in professions, but by deeds, that our Confederate dead won immortality. And here today standing near the graves of our own heroes who sleep their last sleep in your cemetery, and who dared the storm and encountered the cold grasp of death for us and our native land, let me exhort you in their revered and loved names, to be true and steadfast in your adherence and devotion to Southern rights and Southern honor.

In conclusion, I urge upon you to faithfully discharge every duty in this life, ever remembering the heroic deeds of the good soldier and when you shall have passed over the beautiful river you will there meet our Christian fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, and there together with them walk the golden streets of the New Jerusalem singing praises to Almighty God, forever and ever.