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No Pension for Deserters

Friday, January 12, 2018 18:58
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While a North Carolina State Legislator in 1902, Locke Craig debated North Carolina’s Republican US Senator Jeter Pritchard at Charlotte and denounced the Republican practice of rewarding those who had committed treason against North Carolina during its struggle for political independence.
Bernhard Thuersam,   The Great American Political Divide

No Pension for Deserters

“[The Republicans complain that] two hundred thousand dollars went to pension the Confederate soldiers. We will take care of these old veterans, we owe them a debt of gratitude. In the wreck and ruin of war we were rich in the priceless heritage of their memory.

“These were men whom death could not terrify, whom defeat could not dishonor.” They glorified the fallen cause by the simple manhood of their lives and by the heroism of their death. They have cast over the South the glamour or an immortal chivalry and consecrated the cause of Dixie with the blood of an immortal sacrifice. It was devotion like this that made the South, though torn and bleeding, beautiful and splendid in her desolation, and in her woe.

For forty years they have been the builders of the New South and the projectors of her larger destiny. The Federal Government provides for the soldiers that followed its flag. That is right. We will provide for the soldiers of the armies of the “storm-cradled nation that fell.”

When Senator Pritchard was a member of the Legislature in 1895 he and his party voted against giving one cent of pension to the needy heroes that had hobbled home on crutches from Appomattox.

There is one class of men whom we do not believe in pensioning – the deserter. There are men here who remember the last two years of the war. The world was against us. Armies were crashing down upon us like a ring of fire. Sherman was marching to the sea and leaving behind him ashes and desolation. In that time there were men whose courage never faltered.

Ragged and hungry and bleeding they stood in the trenches around Richmond and Petersburg. They stood with an unfailing devotion, though sometimes they knew that their little ones at home were living on the corn they picked up from the wagon ruts of the invading armies. They died remembering Dixie like the Greeks remembering Argos – in the language of the old song: “While one kissed a ringlet of thin gray hair and one kissed a lock of brown.”

But there were some who did not stand. Traitors and deserters they were. They turned their backs upon the only home and country that they ever had. They sneaked through the lines. They threw away their old gray uniform and put on the blue. They came back to shoot and kill, to rob the defenseless wives and mothers of their comrades who were fighting and dying at the front; to burn their homes and to murder the innocent.

To these men Senator Pritchard has given a royal pension. He said to the hero of the Confederacy that he might starve, but with the money of the honest people he feeds and clothes the deserter.

Yes, I denounce this in the name of the forty thousand sons of North Carolina who sleep tonight beneath the sod in the battle-scarred bosom of old Virginia. I denounce it in the name of the men who rushed defiant of death through the storm of Chickamauga and Gettysburg. In the name of every Confederate soldier I denounce it. In memory of the women who were robbed and the men who were murdered I denounce it. In the name of all brave men who love courage and despise cowardice, who believe in fidelity to comrades and in love for home and in loyalty to a great cause, I denounce this infamous act. I do not stand alone.

Here is the resolution of the last Reunion of Confederate Veterans of North Carolina:

“Resolved, That we condemn and denounce the Act of Congress which rewards treachery and perfidy in giving pensions to Confederate deserters for fighting against their former flag and comrades.”

The judgment of the South is that the party that starves the soldier and pensions the deserter should be accursed forever.

The child has not yet been born in North Carolina that will see the day when the party that has degraded our people . . . will be restored to power. The new day has dawned, but the judgment has been pronounced against this Republican party. Democracy, united, enthusiastic and steadfast in its purpose to guard the welfare of all the people, to protect North Carolina from the hand of the despoiler, to promote the upbuilding of this great State, marches forward with victorious assurances.”

(Speech (excerpt) of Hon. Locke Craig, Joint Debate with Sen. Jeter Pritchard, October 9, 1902, Memoirs and Speeches of Locke Craig, Hackney & Moale Company, 1923, pp. 85-88)


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