Requiem For A Black Confederate

by Fred Ray on February 1, 2012 · 0 comments

William Alexander Smith was a private soldier in Co. C, 14th North Carolina. He was gravely wounded at Malvern Hill in 1862, which disqualified him for further service, but he kept in touch with his surviving mates in his old company, the Anson Guards, and eventually wrote its history. Smith became a successful businessman and prominent citizen after the war, and after his death left a huge collection of papers—some 32 boxes—that now reside at Duke University, including quite a bit of Civil War-related material that he collected to write his history. Among them was the eulogy of an old friend:

Mike Mendenhall.

Funeral, September 23, 1931. We are here, I am here to pay a tribute, to lay a wreath of flowers on the brow of my friend, M. H. Mendenhall. He was a gentleman of the “old school”. Raised a slave in youth, he had the politeness that carried the “hall marks” of a gentleman. We shall see his like no more—the more the pity. He was gentle and kind. He was a carpenter by trade and did not slight work. He has gone in and out before this people respected and esteemed all during his long life of 83 years. Thought well of by all, honored by all, loved by all. He was my friend and I am glad to pay him this tribute; he was worthy of the highest praise, and I regret his passing over the Great Divide. When the angels gather his good deeds and weave them into a chaplet they will form a diadem of beauty to crown his head in glory.

“There’s a memory dear, dimmed by a tear;
When a friend passes on from our sight,
There’s an evergreen spray, on the silent way,
There’s a beacon that shines through the night;
There’s a record of the soul, written on the scroll,
That will live when the spirit has fled;
There’s a place set apart, in the depths of our heart,
Filled with sweet memories of Mike H. Mendenhall.”

I am a soldier of the Confederacy. Mike was a soldier too, doing his duty, in his sphere, and—
“Now we lay him beneath the sod, And leave him with his fame, his country, and his God.
Warm southern sunshine softly here;
Warm southern winds blow mildly here;
Green sod above lie lightly here;
Good night my friend, good night!!
—W. A. SMITH.


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