“Before and after” photographs of Civil War related monuments have always fascinated me. Viewing photographs of monument dedications with throngs of veterans, woman and children surrounding the new marker stands in stark contrast to the monuments as they look today.
I recently came across an excellent article in the “Confederate Veterans Magazine” regarding the dedication of the tomb of Colonel Hiram Grinstead, who commanded the 33rd Arkansas CSA Infantry at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Early on the morning of April 30, 1864, as Grinstead lead his regiment across the muddy flooded cornfield toward a wall of 5,000 Union troops, he was cut down. One of the veterans of the 33rd later wrote an eyewitness account of Grinstead’s final moments:
“There was confusion in our lines every now and then and some of the boys would get a little shaky and start back to the rear. I recollect at one time that Colonel Grinstead darted in before one of these men who had started to the rear and with his sword drawn back in a threatening manner, I heard the Colonel yell out distinctly, for he was close to me, ‘If you don’t go back, I will kill you,’ and the man stopped and turned round and went back…Very soon after this Colonel Grinstead fell. I did not see him fall. But someone said ‘Colonel Grinstead is killed,’ and I looked and saw him lying on the ground.”
Days prior to the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, Colonel Grinstead had written home to his wife. In it, he wrote these words to his children:
‘Tell the children to be good and that I love them the whole world full.”
It is an amazing contrast, one where a commander has such love for family and yet is prepared to do the unthinkable during the heat of battle. Perhaps, General Robert E. Lee explained it best:
“To be a good soldier, you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love.”
Here is a portion of the Confederate Veteran article on the dedication to the tomb of Colonel Grinstead:
“The monument, which was erected in June, 1904, is of the finest imported Italian marble of the most durable character. It is exquisite in design and finish. The work was executed by Morris Bros, of Memphis, Term. The design is an original one, and was drawn especially for the use of this Chapter. A soldier’s shield, skillfully carved, forms a background for a Confederate flag, which gracefully falls unfurled. The inscription is as follows: “Col. Hiram Grinstead, born in Lexington, Ky., in 1829; fell at Jenkins Ferry, Ark., April 30,1864.” A handsome chain inclosure surrounds the burial lot, and there the pure, uplifted faces of blooming flowers tell the story of the resurrection morn. May 6, 1905, was selected for the regular exercises of Memorial Day, and upon this occasion the handsome monument to Col Grinstead was unveiled. Col. W. K. Ramsey was master of ceremonies for the day. A solemn invocation was offered by Rev. W. F. Evans. An edifying address was then delivered by Col. H. S. Bunn in his characteristic manner of thought and humor combined. Impromptu remarks, reminiscent in their nature, were made by Col. J. R. Thornton. The children of the public school, under the leadership of their teacher, Mr. Cannon, sang the national air, “America.” The master of ceremonies then asked the crowd to adjourn to meet at the grave of Col Grinstead, which was in a separate lot in the cemetery, stating that the best part of the programme would be completed there. This proved to be an address made at the unveiling of the monument and delivered in a happy, graceful style by Mrs. T. J. Silford, daughter of the late lamented Col. T. D. Thomson, who succeeded Col. Grinstead in command. When this was done, each grave, which had previously been designated as a Southern soldier’s by having a flag of the Confederacy placed upon it, was garlanded with flowers. Thus was finished one more tender observance of the memory of the beloved dead. In an address at the unveiling, Mrs. John T. Sifford said: “It is universal with men, whether civilized or savage, to admire those who have distinguished themselves in war. In following out this impulse of the human heart, we have met to-day to unveil this monument, erected to the memory of that brave and gallant soldier, Col. H. L. Grinstead. This has been the loving work of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Chapter named in honor of him whose ashes rest here.”
One of the saddest aspects when walking the battlefield at Jenkins’ Ferry is there are no markers to commemorate the spot where many of the brave men fell. You’ll recall that in the years following the Civil War, several members of Union General Samuel Rice’s staff traveled back to Jenkins’ Ferry and marked the spot of his wounding by carving their names upon a tree at the spot where he was brought down. Of course this tree didn’t mean so much to the man with the chainsaw years later who cut the tree down, forever destroying an irreplaceable piece of Arkansas history.
Even sadder to me though, are the scores of dead who remain upon those bloody fields – now a majestic forest, time having healed the land where so many fought and died. To these men, there were no marker dedications – no tomb to place a wreath upon. The dead sleep tonight – in the cold lonely ground that is Jenkins’ Ferry.
Some time after his death, a poem surfaced that was attributed to Colonel Grinstead:
A SOLDIER’S FAREWELL TO HIS LOVE
by General H. L. Grinstead
Farewell! I go where duty calls,
and faith and honor point the way
Where many a high-souled hero falls
Upon each bloody battle day.
I go; for I would scorn to be
A laggard in the glorious strife
That shapes our nation’s destiny
And wakes us to a nobler life.
I fain would gird my idle sword
That all too long hath lain at rest,
While I upon thy lightest word,
Have hung, ’til now, supremely blest.
O! oft amid the din of firhgt,
When swift the hurtling bullets fly,
Thy image pure shall glad my sight,
And nerve my arm for purpose high.
Like crested knights of ancient song
Who fought to please their haughty loves,
I’ll think of thee and still press on,
Knowing thy soul the deed approves.
For thou art worthier far than they
Thoughtful and modest, fir and true
Like the sweet flower that shuns the day,
But opes to drink the dvening dew.
I covet not the warrior’s crown,
Nor other boon or guerdon claim,
But as I float life’s stream adown
Dearest to know that love the same
As when beneat the star-lit dome,
I wooed and won thy guileless heart
Such as now bids the tear drops come
To bathe thine eyes e’re we part.
O! brighter than Italian skies
And purer than the lily’s hue,
Thy beaty shames the dolphin’s dyes
And send the life blood coursing through,
My veins, as speeds the lightning flash,
When mountain storms all wildly roar,
And foaming billows leap and dash
And, wearied, break upon the shore.
Time cannot dim such love as ours–
Distance no barrier interpose;
Its light shall guide the fleeting hours,
Unquenched, till life, itself shall close.
Weep not! I soon will come again
To claim and clasp my gentle bride,
I go to prove how madly vain
Th’ insulting foeman’s boasted pride.