Rich Oppel and I have been friends of sorts for 20-plus years. Recently, he mentioned he was “provoked” by my outburst of anger over a guest commentary suggesting “we mothball Confederate statues.” By mothballing, he meant removing them from their current location to an unknown destination.
All of my family fought for the Confederacy. My great uncle R. H. Kuykendall of the 6th Texas Infantry died in a federal prison in Illinois in 1863 at the age of 25. My great grandfather, Will Moore of Matagorda County, fought with the 8th Texas Cavalry and was desperately wounded in the Battle of Murfreeboro, Tenn., on July 13, 1862, when he was shot off of his horse by a Union soldier. He was pulled to safety by an old black man and his mistress of the plantation and hidden until the Union forces vacated the area. They nursed him back to health until he could mount his horse, at which time he sought out and rejoined his unit, then fought with them until the end of the war.
My life will not be ruined if all the magnificent Confederate statues around Austin and the capital grounds are removed, but I will be saddened beyond belief because the blood stains of countless Texas families are symbolically sprinkled around the base of those statues. Those beautiful statues were erected to honor those men and boys who fought, bled and died for Texas during that horrible war.
I do not defend the fact that slavery existed in the South. It was abhorrent. You will never see me march up Congress Avenue wrapped in a Confederate flag, no matter how many statues are removed. I am extremely proud that all of my family did what they thought was the right thing to do at the time; the only way slavery was going to be overcome in this country was by war and the destruction of the apparatus that supported it.
To quote Sam Houston: “Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as a result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming. Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of a bayonet. You may, after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence — but I doubt it.
I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of state rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But, when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”
However, to suddenly say now that these men who are being honored by these statues were evil and should be removed from our sight is ludicrous. This current trend by our local school district to change the names of all the schools in the district that were named after our Confederate heroes is a travesty.
When these monuments are disturbed, it becomes very personal to tens of thousands of Texans. To us, they are the same as a giant tombstone that should be always treated with the greatest respect this state can offer.
They were honorable men and should be treated as such.
Kuykendall is a Hays County rancher.