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Not Forgotten The Southern Martial Tradition: A Memory Louis D. Rubin Jr. "I'd like immensely to read your autobiography. You always rather bewildered me by your veracity, and I fancy you may tell the truth about yourself. But all of it? The black truth, which we all know of ourselves in our hearts, or only the whitey-brown truth of the pericardium, or the nice, whitened truth of the shirtfront? Even you won't tell the black heart's-truth." —William Dean Howells to Mark Twain, 14 February 1904 The earliest dream I can remember is of gateposts. A pathway in Hampton Park leads along an open area to a line of low trees and thickets. Next to and beyond it is the garden to which we are bound, and in front of it stretches a wire fence. The pathway leads to an opening in the fence next to the trees and thickets, through two narrow, dark green wooden posts. As we approach, a Confederate soldier materializes from one gatepost, marches across the open pathway, and disappears into the other post. He is followed by another, and another, walking silently across the pathway one after another, never more than one in view at a time, to vanish into the gatepost. There is a haziness to the scene— dark trees and shrubs, the shadows, the dirt pathway, the soldiers. This was when I was five or six years old, about 1928 I should think. We lived on President Street in Hampton Park Terrace, and in the afternoons in good weather I went with our nurse, Rosa, over into the park, where we played with other children, watched the ducks and deer, and on Fridays walked over to the campus of The Citadel at the western border of the park to see the dress parade. There must have been a Confederate reunion being held in Charleston at the time, and I had heard my parents talking about it. It is unlikely that I understood what a Confederate was or meant, and the soldiers in the dream were in no way different from other soldiers I had seen, in uniform or demeanor. But they were Confederates; that was known to me. I see the dream symbolically. I was born and grew up in the South, in an old seaport city. We were part of its community life. But we were Jewish, and not from the old families that had fought in the Confederate War. I wanted to enter the garden at the park (named after a Confederate hero). The soldiers who patrolled the gateway did not bar my passage through the gate, but they were present, going about their business, unconcerned with who I was or what I might want. To get into the garden I should have to go through the Confederate soldiers. None of that could have been in my mind at the time, but it is undoubtedly why I have remembered the dream all my life. While I was in the Army during World War II, I wrote a poem, my first to be pub- 290Southern Cultures lished, in which I imagined that I was on maneuvers in the Peninsula of Virginia. Marching along a highway I saw "grayclad soldiers . . . filing by through the heavy glades and thickets" alongside: "They move about, among the shadows. . . ." Surely the images of the Confederate soldiers, the thickets, and the shadows come from that earliest dream. Soldiers, the Army and Navy, military history have always fascinated me. I think it is because these were all around me in Charleston, a city where much is made of history and the military tradition is respected. The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina , is located in the city. Fort Sumter lies at the entrance to the harbor, with Fort Moultrie , which drove off the British fleet in 1776, across the channel. The city is a peninsula, and at the tip is the High Battery and a park with Confederate war cannon and mortars emplaced, together with a monument to the defenders of Fort Sumter. Military valor, the defense of the South and the nation against its enemies, stoicism—these were civic virtues. I look back...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 289-292
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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