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As we quickly approach the month of April, we have already had months for black history, Irish heritage, Women's history, Greek heritage and we look forward to Asian Pacific heritage month, Jewish heritage month and according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, we have many more similar months to come for almost everyone under the sun.
However, there is not a nationally recognized Confederate heritage month. That month would be April. It is a shame, because Confederate heritage month celebrates and honors probably the most diverse group of people out of all the groups listed.
Blacks, whites, Protestants, Baptists, Jews, Catholics, Irish, Hispanics, Asians, Polish, Russians and many others served the Confederacy in either the military or the government. Miss Lola Sanchez was Cuban, living with her family near St. Augustine, Fla. The federals were in town and chose to dine at her home.
While Sanchez had her sisters serve dinner to the Yankees, she slipped out at night and ran to the nearest Confederate camp. Her heroic actions led to the capture of a Yankee general, his unit and their gunboat.
Ambrose Jose Gonzales, another Cuban, served Gen. Beauregard as his artillery officer in Charleston. Santos Benavides, a Mexican and a former Texas Ranger, commanded the Confederate 33rd Texas Cavalry. They defeated the Federals in the 1864 Battle of Laredo. Benavides rose to the rank of colonel in the Confederate Army.
Maj. Theodore Winthrop was the first federal officer killed in the war. Guess who killed him? A black servant named Sam Ashe. Horace King of Russell County, Ala., was born a slave but later became a free man. Did he run away to the utopian land of the North? No, he became a highly skilled and successful bridge builder. During the war he was a frequent contributor to the Southern cause and furnished uniforms and money to the sons of his former master.
A Tennessee regiment sought diligently for a minister to serve as chaplain. It was suggested that "Uncle Lewis," a devout servant who accompanied the regiment, be asked to conduct a religious service. The soldiers were so well pleased with the service that they asked him to continue to serve as their chaplain, from about the time of the Battle of Shiloh to the end of the war. Thus, to the Confederate Army must go the distinction of having the first black chaplain serving white troops in America.
The last Confederate general to surrender was Gen. Stand Watie, a Cherokee Indian from Oklahoma. This is a small example of the diverse group of great Americans who took a stand for Southern independence.
The diverse people of the Confederate military and government, especially the nonwhite Confederates, are the most forgotten in the War for Southern Independence. Their bones rest in unhonored glory in Southern soil, shrouded by falsehoods, indifference and historians' censorship.
Confederate descendants should be proud of our ancestors who fought and died for us. Next month let's celebrate Confederate Heritage month.
Fred N. Chitwood