The Arkansas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans recently held a memorial service for Confederate Roll of Honor ecipient 1st Lt. James Graham Wilson, 1st Arkansas Infantry Company F, for his brave service at the Battle of Chickamagua on July 17, 2010 at the Cypress Valley Cemetery in Vilonia, Arkansas.
Attended by Civil War reenactors, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and many descendants of 1st Lt. James G. Wilson, the service began in prayer as the SCV Arkansas Division Commander Mark Kalkbrenner recited the 23rd Psalm followed by the “Tribute to the Confederate Soldier”:”Not for fame nor reward, not for place nor for rank, not lured by ambition nor goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all. This is their final bivouac, their eternal sleep as they rest under this hallowed ground. Strike the Tent, for we will cross over the river and rest under the shade of the tree.”
Kalkbrenner continued with the recitation of a prayer written by an unknown Confederate Soldier: “I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”
Following the prayer, Kalkbrenner then introduced compatriot Charles Wilson, a direct descendant of 1st Lt. James G. Wilson and member of the Patrick R. Cleburne Camp #1433 in Pine Bluff, Arrkansas. Donned in a Confederate uniform, Charles Wilson made his way to the remains of his great great grandfather when Kalkbrenner explained the libation ritual of the service:
Dating back to the time of the Roman Legions, it was their custom to go and pay homage to their fallen comrades by taking them lambskins of wine, drinking from them, and then sharing with their fallen brethren. It was noted that during this late War, the Confederate soldier would also pay homage to their fallen brethren, drinking from his canteen and then sharing with his fallen comrades."
Following the explanation of the libation ritual, Charles Wilson then knelt on the grave of his great great grandfather, took a sip of water from his canteen, then poured water on the grave of 1st Lt. James G. Wilson as Kalkbrenner concluded the "Tribute to the Confederate Soldier":
"The earth hides their human frailties from our sight forever. Soon we too will fold our hands in peaceful repose and lay down beside them. There shall be no awakening until the bugler plays Reveille and shall rouse the slumbering millions to answer to their names before the Great Creator of the Universe on Resurrection Day. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee that it might be displayed because of the truth."
Following the libations part of the memorial service, Mark Kalkbrenner related information about the Confederate Roll of Honor: "During the war, the Confederate Congress and General Order #93 established the Confederate Medal of Honor. This was established before the United States Congress established the Congressional Medal of Honor. From part 27 of General Order #93 from the Adjutant Inspector General's Office, Richmond, Virginia, November 22, 1862:
an act to authorize the grant of medals and badges of distinction as a reward for courage and good conduct on the field-of battle. “The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President be, and he is hereby, authorized to bestow medals, with proper devices, upon such officers of the armies of the Confederate States as shall be conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle; and also to confer a badge of distinction upon one private or non-commissioned officer of each company after every signal victory it shall have assisted to achieve. The non-commissioned officers and privates of the company who may be present on the first dress-parade thereafter rosy choose, by a majority of their votes, the soldier best entitled to receive such distinction, whose name shall be communicated to the President by commanding officers of the company; and if the award fall upon a deceased soldier, the badge thus awarded him shall be delivered to his widow; or, if there be no widow, to any relation the President may adjudge entitled to receive it.”
Kalkbrenner continued as he recited General Orders Number 131 from Richmond, Virginia on October 3, 1863:
“Difficulties in procuring the medals and badges of distinction having delayed their presentation by the President… Difficulties in procuring the medals and badges of distinction having delayed their presentation by the President, as authorized by the act of Congress approved October 13, 1862, to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of the armies of the Confederate States conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle, to avoid postponing the grateful recognition of their valor until it can be made in the enduring form provided by that act, it is ordered–
I. That the names of all those who have been, or may hereafter be, reported as worthy of this distinction, be inscribed on a roll of honor, to be preserved in the office of the Adjutant and Inspector General for reference in all future time, for those who have deserved well of their country, as having best displayed their courage and devotion on the field of battle.
II. That the roll of honor, so far as now made up, be appended to this order, and read at the head of every regiment in the service of the Confederate States at the first dress-parade after its receipt, and be published in at least one newspaper in each State.”
Kalkbrenner, while reading from his notes facing the nearly 200 in attendance, appropriately recited General Orders Number 64 from the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office in Richmond, Virginia on August 10, 1864:
“I. The following Roll of Honor is published in accordance with Paragraph I, General Orders, No. 131 (1863). It will be read to every regiment in the service at the first dress-parade after its receipt.
“II. Attention is called to the manner in which the selections under the law should be made. The non-commissioned officers and privates are authorized, at the first dress-parade after each victory the company shall have assisted to achieve, to distinguish by a majority of their votes one private or non-commissioned officer most conspicuous for gallantry and good conduct in the battle. Should more than one soldier be hereafter selected by a company as equal in merit, the name to be announced upon,the roll will be determined by lot. Commissioned officers distinguished for gallantry on the field are not to be selected by the vote of the company, battalion, or regiment to which they belong, but a statement of their special good conduct
should be made by their immediate commander and forwarded
through the regular channel to this office.”
Kalkbrenner then stopped, looked up from his notes, and in a powerful and echoing tone, he read from the Confederate Roll of Honor: “Battle of Chickamagua. James G. Wilson, Company F 1st Arkansas Infantry!”
“Since the medals during the War were not presented, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have seen fit that these men and their descendants should receive that honor. The Confederate Roll Of Honor, General Order #93, Confederate Congress, 1862 extended official recognition to outstanding men that display courage and good conduct on the field of battle.
Kalkbrenner read from the official certificate from the International Headquarters in Columbia, Tn., “Know ye that First Lieut James Graham Wilson, Co. F 1st Regiment Arkansas Infantry is carried on the Confederate Roll of Honor, whose honor results from his actions related to valor at Chickamagua, Georgia on September 19-20, 1863, signed by Chuck McMicheals, Commander in Chief, Mark Simpson, Adjutant in Chief, 9th Day of July, 2010.”
At the conclusion of the service, the Sons of Confederate official Medal of Honor was placed around the stone of 1st Lt. James G. Wilson followed by a presentation on roses to two James Wilson’s grandchildren in attendance and a series of three musket and artillery vollies fired by Civil War reenactors from around Arkansas.
The medal and certificate is on permanent display at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History in Jacksonville, Arkansas.