Soundings: The Lessons of Dixie

Kerry Temple ’74 | September 9, 2020

When I was a boy growing up in Louisiana in the 1950s, I was steeped in the marinades of the Old South. My bookshelves were stuffed with accounts of the Civil War. Thick picture books lit my imagination with paintings of battle action and blood and valiant warriors on horses. I absorbed the legends of Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and “The Gray Ghost,” Colonel John Singleton Mosby. I had a big, life-size Confederate flag. My great-great-grandfather, William Jesse Anderson, was killed at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. I have a letter written by him a few days before he died. I was a Child of the Confederacy, with a certificate to prove it.

Gone with the Wind was considered the great American novel. On cold or rainy days I arranged dozens of wagons, cannons, horses and little soldiers — uniformed in grey and blue — in elaborate battle scenes of clashing miniature armies. Statues of Confederate heroes stood on the oak-draped lawn of the local courthouse. I echoed the mantra: “The South shall rise again.” My parents taught me to stand up when I heard “Dixie” playing. And we did, in bingo halls and restaurants, whenever that rousing or melancholy anthem was played. Sometimes we sang along. “I wish I was in Dixie . . . look away, Dixieland.”

We made family trips to the battle museum in Mansfield, Louisiana, and to the expansive battlefield on the steep bluffs of Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Rebel soldiers were locked under siege by Yankee forces for more than 40 days. Beleaguered but unbowed, they were forced to eat their own horses. Their eventual surrender marked the beginning of the end of the War Between the States.

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 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: ND Magazine