A Confederate General’s Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

I was eight years old, curled up on the naugahyde sofa in my grandmother’s basement, when I found my great-grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind, the commemorative movie edition.   I read it literally to pieces and I can recite the entire first paragraph by heart.
gone with the wind cover
In grade school I was taught that the Civil War, to my surprise at the time, was NOT inspired primarily by the desire to continue to enslave African-Americans, but by an argument over States’ Rights.

My great-great-great-grandfather was a Confederate brigadier general, and I was raised on family legends of his valor.

Col. James Hagan
My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

Up until my house burned down, I owned a small Confederate battle flag, which at one time I displayed along with the flags of the United States, Scotland, and Ireland, a small tribute to my ethnic heritage as I understood it at the time.
This is where I come from.  I am proud to be a Southerner.  In my blog bio, I describe myself first of all as “Catholic and Southern.”  That’s at the core of who I am.

Like many Southerners, particularly those with ancestors who served in the Confederate army, I feel an attachment to statues like the one in Charlottesville.  But the character of those who rallied on Saturday in protest prove that its removal is necessary.  This confederacy of dunces would have been denounced by General Lee, who was not even in favor of secession, and by James Hagan, who was repatriated and worked for the U.S. government for the fifteen years prior to his death.

Emily on the General's Grave
My oldest child, Emily, at the grave of her great-great-great-great-grandfather, General James D. Hagan

As his descendant, I disavow and repudiate the Unite the Right protesters and anyone who shares their hateful beliefs in the strongest of terms, and I call upon all descendants of Confederate soldiers to join me in condemning them.  They don’t represent the South and we don’t need these modern-day Carpetbaggers to tell us how best to preserve our heritage.

We do no honor to the memory of the Confederate dead by supporting disgusting displays of racism.  I do not judge my ancestors as harshly as some might– they were the product of a different time.  But that time is long past.  If you feel that Robert E. Lee deserves to be honored and remembered for valiantly fighting for what he believed in–his home state of Virginia–then do what he asked after the fighting ended: “Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.

Family Ties

We were away for the weekend on a mini-vacation–one that was full of family, even though we left almost half of our own family at home to fend for themselves. (Can you guess which half?)
On Thursday, we left home relatively early and made our way up to Winchester, Virginia where we lodged in a motel that provided what we consider the necessities (pool, free wi-fi, free breakfast) and precious little else.  The next morning, after availing ourselves of both breakfast and the pool, we drove 40 minutes to West Virginia to visit my first-cousin-once-removed, her husband, and their FIVE little girls.  [edit: Their family has since expanded to include twin baby boys–their second set of twins!] What a welcoming committee they were!  Lorelei was in heaven for several hours, and then they all came outside to wave us along our way . . .
Forty minutes back the way we came, to Berryville, to start the weekend’s main event:  a yearly reunion of the descendants of John and Ella Neighbors.
family tree 6
John and Ella were my husband’s great-grandparents.  They had ten children, four of whom I was lucky enough to get to meet, but all of whom are gone now.  Gathered for this weekend were eight members of the third generation, four from the fourth, and three from the fifth. (Plus all the spouses, of course!)
I didn’t take any pictures at the actual reunion, because I was too busy having fun and talking to everyone!  These two shots below were taken by Martha Miller Nicholson, John’s first-cousin-once-removed, who is an excellent photographer.
Here’s most of the group:
And here are the youngest attendees:
Left is Lexi, who is actually in the same generation as John! Lorelei and Ella, along with William, were the only fifth generation members in attendance.
The Neighbors family originated in Lynchburg, Virginia, where many of its members still live, and we have attended reunions there before.  Next summer we are supposed to go to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and if we can convince everyone to make the trip, maybe we will meet in Tennessee the next year!
While the reunion was definitely the highlight of our little vacation, we took a couple of side trips.  We went to Mass on Sunday at Holy Cross Abbey, also located in Berryville.
Holy Cross 2
Holy Cross 1
After Mass we went to look at the gift shop but it was closed (we did come back later in the day).  We enjoyed the flowers and the stray cats (that, of course, was William’s favorite part).  Apparently the monk who runs the gift shop is VERY fond of cats.  There were cats, cat houses, cat beds, and cat food EVERYWHERE.  We didn’t get any pictures of the kitties but here are some of the flowers:
Holy Cross 3
Holy Cross 5
Holy Cross 4
After the abbey, we went on a little drive to see (the outside of!) Mount Weather, a nearby secret military installation.  This is the one where all the important government types will go for safety if the White House is under siege.
Mt W 2
Mt W 1
Now we are excited for the end of our X-Files marathon, in which Mulder breaks into Mount Weather!  Perhaps we can head to Area 51 on our next vacation. 🙂
So that was our long weekend (Thursday through Sunday).  We didn’t get to explore much of Winchester, which is apparently chock full of historic sites and has a nifty little downtown shopping/dining area, because we had to get some work done on our car.  But there’s always next time.