A group performs at a previous Confederate Memorial Service. A similar event is set for Saturday at Confederate Memorial Park on Philema Road.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Charles Lunsford has a unique perspective on the way historians and, indeed, most Americans, look at the Civil War.
"Anybody who would criticize the Confederate states for seceding from the Union and then celebrate the Fourth of July is a hypocrite," Lunsford, a national spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization for more than a decade, said Monday. "The spirit of the 1770s that led to the freedom of this country is the same spirit of the 1860s that led the Southern states to seek independence from what they considered a tyrannical government."
Lunsford and other members of the international SCV organization will celebrate Confederate History and Heritage Month in April, a celebration that will be highlighted locally with the annual Southwest Georgia Confederate Memorial Service Saturday at Confederate Memorial Park on Philema Road.
"The disagreement over causes of the war are not over disputed facts, but rather, over disputed interpretations," said Lunsford, who is retired now and lives in Madison. "Historians have researched the war extensively, but unfortunately they tend to pick and choose the facts they uncover that best fit their interpretation. That's why when I discuss or debate the war, I'm confident in the things I say.
"People can argue all they want, but they can't dispute facts."
Saturday's memorial service, which starts at 9 a.m. with a musical tribute by the Lee County-based band A Joyful Noise, will include the symbolic laying of a wreath in memory of veterans from each of the Confederate states and will conclude with musket and cannon salutes by historic re-enactors.
The Rev. John Weaver of Fitzgerald's Freedom Baptist Church, who served two terms as national chaplain of the SCV, will offer the event's keynote address.
"I enjoy the opportunity to speak at events like this," Weaver, who has been a pastor for 48 years, said Monday. "It gives me an opportunity to combine Biblical principles with historic truths. Many people don't understand the theological interpretation of the events that led to the war, but there is a study that focuses on the apostatized North trying to force its theology and culture on the South.
"It was written by a noted historian of that time: '(The Civil War) is a theological war between infidels and men of freedom.' So many truths of the war can be applied to biblical inspiration."
The state of Georgia, through Senate Bill 27 in 2009, officially designated April as Confederate History Month. Lt. Col. Thomas Nelson SCV Camp 141 Commander James King, of Albany, said the commemoration allows SCV members to carry out their organization's three primary functions: the preservation of the memory of officers and enlisted men who served in the Confederacy; preservation of Confederate graves, monuments, artifacts and mementos; and presentation of Confederate history in a fair and impartial manner.
"Since the victor of a war writes its history, that which is presented as American history has been and continues to be extremely biased in favor of the North, and many facts that reflect negatively on the North and positively on the South have been omitted," King said. "Northern politicians have used slavery since about 1830 to drive a wedge between white and black Southerners, and their efforts continue to this day.
"Dishonest Northern historians have used slavery as a weapon of choice against the defeated Confederacy to justify the North's vast number of atrocities against defeated Confederate veterans and civilians and to claim the moral high ground. ... Many Americans have been so effectively indoctrinated that any mention of the Confederacy brings an instant knee-jerk reaction and the comment 'It was all about slavery.' But due to unrelenting efforts by the SCV and other pro-Southern heritage groups, the truth is emerging."
Calvin Johnson, the chairman of the Confederate History and Heritage Month Committee of the national and Georgia SCV divisions, said Confederate History Month is set aside to recognize all Southerners who took part in the Civil War.
"Confederate History Month commemorates the men and women of the Confederate States of America who came from all races and religions that include Irish-born Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, black Confederate drummer Bill Yopp, Mexican-born Col. Santos Benavides, Cherokee-born Gen. Stand Watie and Jewish-born Confederate nurse Phoebe Pember, who was the first female administrator of Chimboraza Hospital in Richmond, where she served until the end of the War Between the States," Johnson wrote.