“I didn’t know”
By Larry Martin
Texas Division, 3rd Brigade Guardian
Treasurer and Camp Graves Registrar
Governor Samuel W T Lanham Camp 586 ,Weatherford, Texas
As many of you know, I am very passionate about exploring old cemeteries and locating the heroes of the Confederacy. And I am even more passionate about honoring them by choosing to guard them. This passion has grown from my parents, since 1948 or so they would drive around the various cemeteries where friends and family were buried and plant flags on the graves of all who served. And like most kids I was too stupid to ask all the questions I ask now about who these men were, where they served, how they lived and so much more. My great Aunt Mamie George Martin, for example could have told me all about her “Papa” my great Grandfather Charles C. Martin, who began His Military career in the 2nd Missouri Cavalry, but was soon transferred to the 9Th Missouri Infantry. And why this happened, I do know my Great Grandfather had an eye for horses, that much she did write down for the family history I now possess. My own camp Commander Jerry Walden reminded me that Officers would compel soldiers to surrender a horse so they could ride, so it might have been just that reason to move him from Cavalry to Infantry. But I was too stupid to ask these questions and more to those who could have told me the real facts. I have spent hours sitting at my computer learning about his service, where his units went and fought. And I’ve also spent time of late surveying and documenting his fellow members of the Palo Pinto United Confederate Veterans post who are buried in Palo Pinto County. I just finished flagging the Palo Pinto County Cemetery and there in not one Veteran in that cemetery that does not have a flag on their grave, it is a beautiful sight to see the flags waving in the wind.
A couple weeks ago Commander Jack Dyess of the Colonel Middleton Tate Johnson Camp #1648 in Arlington called me, and asked me to meet him at Ash Creek Cemetery in Azle to do a “down and dirty survey” of that cemetery so I sat down at my computer and began the process of surveying it. I contacted Mark Lancaster the 3rd Brigade Graves survey coordinator and made sure no one had previously surveyed Ash Creek, then began the real work. I went to find a grave and began searching for the right dates of birth and death, since back then life was hard on children. Next I made a file for each male and started looking for Confederate and Union service, and found 36 men who did serve and were buried in the cemetery. Mind you it takes hours and hours to do this, many nights I was up past 1AM and back at it the next day ,but I met Commander Dyess’s timetable and was ready to meet him with survey sheets on my clipboard and one for the Commander. We began on the eastern portion and at each Confederate or Union Grave I could give him who they were, where they served and a couple of these heroes were even POW’s during the war. The work is rewarding to me, putting a location on the paperwork, a GPS coordinate and a picture of the stone they have and noting the lack of a VA Marker is part of the survey. When Commander Dyess had to leave for a meeting he looked at me and said “I didn’t know, so many hours went into this project, so much time for each man to document the service they give, I simply had no idea.” And that realization will be apparent each time a team is formed to survey a cemetery, the hours dedicated to research. I am no expert, but I do know a couple excellent mentors who are good at this and they are always willing to help. And I am grateful to them for the help.
As our brigade begins surveying all 19 counties we cover, each one of us needs to understand the dedication and determination it will take to survey a cemetery, to locate and document the men who served and to understand that there are others who will be better at changing an Able Body man to a soldier-sailor or marine who served during the war between the States. And that is important, I always flag every veteran in every cemetery I go to, each one has earned a flag, and I go through hundreds of flags both US and Confederate and I also only use American made flags now, they cost more but last. And as Guardian I can help each member of the Brigade find one or several graves for them to guard. It is so important for each and every one in the S C V to choose to guard these graves, it is very important to learn the Mans history, and his service to the cause, and pass it down to each generation that will come after us. As I travel the back roads I see untended
graves, undocumented cemeteries and know the work will take years, and that “I didn’t know” until my parents passed the tradition of flagging family veterans graves down to me back in 1994. Now day’s my pickup’s toolbox has fresh flags, a battery operated drill and long bit always ready to flag a grave, I have a camera to take pictures of the graves I flag, I carry a garden hoe in case I run across a snake and I watch where I put my feet and hands.
I am proud to be your Brigade Guardian, and enjoy speaking with every compatriot at every camp meeting I attend, it is rewarding to me to hear the passion they have for preserving our heritage, of learning about their ancestor who served and how they take care of that grave, they all understand how important it is to pass this knowledge down to the children. And it fills me with pride that the next generation will be less stupid than I was and learn about the family they are from. Gentleman, we all need to take this Southern pride, this Confederate pride and take it to our communities and schools to tell the children the truth about the war and about the men who fought and where they rest, so they can take up the cause and honor them after we are all gone. As we listen to the stirring words of “The Charge” we must rededicate ourselves to this honorable mission and keep up with “Forwarding the Colors” by guarding the graves and making sure the flag flies proudly on each and every grave!
Forward the Colors!