Study Guide for Stories of the Confederate South

I felt the need to create a study guide to help the many teachers purchasing Stories of the Confederate South. So for my blog entries, I’m going to try to enter one a day–one for each story in the book. Today is devoted to the collection’s opening epigraph and to “Deo Vindici,” a poem.


OPENING EPIGRAPH:”The real war will never get in the books.”

1) Discuss or research Walt Whitman, America’s Bard of Democracy, author of Leaves of Grass. He wrote several Civil War poems himself. Whitman was a nurse in the Federal Army.

2. Define of epigraph: “A quotation set at the beginning of a book, story, poem or other literary work that suggests a theme or helps set a tone.”

3. Discuss or freewrite about the meaning of this quotation. Why would he say such a thing? Was America ready for the truth about the war then? Is it ready now? What if historical research reveals that we’ve been taught some things incorrectly?

Notes for Deo Vindici


This is a performance poem, designed to be read aloud, and to be read with fire and feeling. A study could be made of oratory or of famous orators during the Civil War.

2) Vocabulary:  A quiz may be constructed from these words.  The students should definitely know the meanings of the words before they read the poem.  As some variant spellings are used in the poem, this too can be discussed. Many of these words lend themselves to discussion and historical and cultural discovery.  Each of these terms can be developed further in projects.

1. Deo Vindici – Latin for “God will vindicate us.”  This was the official motto of the Confederacy.

2. neocon – an abbreviation for neoconservatives, the new conservatives.

3. Leonard Skynard – A famous Southern Rock Band.

4.  Chivalry – A code of conduct for medieval knights that emphasized qualities such as oyalty to God, king, country, and friends; respect for ladies; courage in battle; truth and honesty in life; and protecting and helping the weak, helpless, innocent, and poor.

5. Civility – Possessing good manners, politeness, courtesy and demonstrating the qualities of being “civilized.”

6. Bonny Blue – Usually spelled, “Bonnie Blue.” It was a very popular flag of the Confederacy, and a very popular song was written about it, “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” Here is an image of the Bonnie Blue.

bonnie blue

7.  Sharecropper – a farmer who earns a portion of the crops he works or pays the landlord a share of the crops he raises in lieu of rent.

8. Belles – A Southern lady.

9. Cajun – A descendent of the  French speaking Acadians who were expelled from Canada by the British and settled in the Gulf Coast region, centered around Louisiana.

10. Creole – a descendent of the original French and Spanish colonists of Louisiana.

11. Tejanos – Texans of Mexican or Spanish descent.

12. Isleños – Spanish colonists from the Canary Islands who settled in Louisiana in the late 1700s.

13. Celts – A person of  Irish, Scottish, Welsh descent.

14, Gullah – A member of a group of blacks inhabiting the sea islands and coastal districts of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida.  They do have their own dialect.

15. Geechi – Often spelled “geechee.” Also describes the people along Coastal South Carolina and Georgia.

1) Create a collage that represents this poem.
2) Research in detail one of the groups of people named in the poem.
3) Create a music CD of the different types of music and of the songs or artists mentioned.

One thought on “Study Guide for Stories of the Confederate South

  1. You might can use this recent report in your studies about Jefferson Davis’s Beauvoir in Biloxi, MS.

    Overheard, out and about, Mrs. Grundy sees all, tells all
    By Mrs. C. R. Grundy
    Friday, June 20, 2008

    On June l in the Baraca Class assembly and later in the morning-worship service at First Baptist, Joe Wingard read “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Myra Brooks Welch, a poem that makes the point that, just as a violin is changed by the touch of a master’s hand, so is a soul when touched by the Master, Jesus. At the point in the poem where an old man plays a violin and thus changes its value, Lynn Twitty played “It Is Well” on her violin. Then Mr. Wingard completed the reading. This is a poem that Mr. Wingard read to his students as a thought for the day for some 39 years prior to his retirement. He said that it was his favorite thought for the day.

    I have asked the Portly Gentleman to tell us of his trip to Biloxi June 2-4.

    “I had heard that Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, only president of the Confederate States of America, had been restored from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and would be re-dedicated on Davis’s actual 200th birthday, June 3. I wanted to attend in honor of his bicentennial of birth.

    “I drove down a day early, stopping in Spanish Fort to visit my kin, Bill and Sherry Wingard.

    “I stayed in a motel in Gulfport, Mississippi, quite a large city, driving the l3 miles over to Beauvoir in Biloxi and back several times.

    “Soon after I had arrived, I drove along Highway 90 by the Gulf of Mexico. On one side were miles of sand and the Gulf, a Confederate gray, itself. On the other were miles of live-oak trees, looking worse for the wear. The land from the road for two or three blocks back looked like overgrown yards, filled with grasses, low shrubs, an occasional foundation, a few concrete steps. Mile after mile I drove. It was my first time to see Biloxi after the hurricane. There was hardly anything left. All those beautiful homes, churches, and civic buildings were gone, as though they had never existed. I kept hoping to see something familiar. For the sake of literary history, I especially hoped that the seaside home of Abram Joseph Ryan, the Confederate and Catholic poet-priest, which had become a bed-and-breakfast, were still standing. Only the old palm tree that separated its front steps still stood, amazingly; there was no sign of the house and all of its wonderful and historic interior, including memorabilia of Ryan. My heart felt like lead. Once in awhile there would be a business or a home, rebuilt, I presumed. Then, nothing, nothing, nothing. I never expected to cry, but the tears came out of nowhere; and I sobbed for Biloxi, beautiful Biloxi, and its people. Imagine Andalusia gone, every home, every church, every school, our square, our very graveyards, all; and you will have some sense of the loneliness and desolation of Biloxi.

    “I neared the site of Beauvoir, feeling like Scarlet, looking for Tara. There it was! Safe! Restored! Brought back to life! Its musuem, its out-buildings were gone; but the main house stood again, splendidly! A white fence surrounded the expansive lot.

    “There is much construction along the Gulf, and much traffic congestion because of the road work. As one might imagine, the large casinos are up and running, plus a few motels and eateries.

    “That night I dined at Lookout 49 along Highway 49 in Gulfport, trying oysters Florentine, oysters baked with a sauce of spinach and artichokes, very tasty.

    “The next day was Davis’s actual 200th birthday, June 3. I was among the early arrivals at Beauvoir (beautiful view). The day was terribly hot, but a constant breeze from the Gulf and the shade of the live oaks kept the attendees comfortable.

    “Many said the live oaks were dying from having stood in salt water so long, but I saw new growth and was more hopeful that the old trees would live.

    “There was a printed program; the program itself lasted about l0:00 – ll:26 a.m.. I estimated some 500 seated in folding chairs under the live oaks. An official said that he had not expected such a turnout. All day people kept arriving, especially to walk through Beauvoir itself. I waited for a turn, but it never came. Toward the end of the day, the line into the house still stretched out into the yard. A guard told me that some four thousand had driven onto the property that day. The makeshift gift shop was like a can of sardines with visitors trying to buy souvenirs. A special medal for the day had been struck; every one was sold. Glasses attached to sheets signed by Davis descendants also sold out. Everyone had greatly underestimated the number who would attend.

    “Beauvoir, the home of the Davis family, built l852-l854, stands, facing the Gulf, a raised ‘cottage,’ white, trimmed in green, symmetrical, a horseshoe-shaped, covered porch with sixteen square columns. The dignitaries sat on that porch as on a podium and spoke at a lectern at the head of the great flight of steps leading up to the main doors.

    “The Cracker Dan Band, a Confederate group in period dress, played ‘The Bonnie Blue Flag’ as the Mississippi Division Color Guard of the Sons of Confederate Veterans marched through the shady yard in Confederate uniforms, their fellow soldiers, waving flags, and carrying guns. The crowd rose to its feet as the colors passed, as the flags waved on that beautiful June day, and as the soldiers marched, all to the spirited song that once inspired Rhett Butler to name his little girl Bonnie Blue.

    “I thought, ‘Hurricanes can’t destroy music!’

    “I had heard the Cracker Dan Band play before, back in February, at the Chautauqua in DeFuniak Springs.

    “Pledges were made to the American, Mississippi, and Confederate flags.

    “Cecil Fayard, chaplain-in-chief of the National SCV, worded the invocation from the porch.

    “Richard Forte, Sr., master of ceremonies, welcomed the crowd and introduced the following speakers: Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor of Mississippi, who declared Beauvoir to be a symbol of the reconstruction efforts along the Gulf; Kelly Barrow, commander of the Army of Tennessee, who compared the rise of Beauvoir to the rise of the South after the War; Janice Langford, president-general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy; Larry McCluney, commander of the Mississippi Division of the SCV, who called Beauvoir ‘the jewel of the Mississippi coast’; Pauline Watkins, president of the Mississippi Division of the UDC, who presented checks for restoration; Sally Wooten, president of the Mississippi Chapter of the Order of the Confederate Rose, who said that people came from all over to save Beauvoir; Johnny Wooten, commander of the Mississippi Society of the Military Order of Stars and Bars; Rebecca Widowski, president-general of the Children of the Confederacy; Richard Fairchild, president of the Mississippi Chapter of the Children of the Confederacy; Kane Ditto, president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, who reported that help had poured in from all over the world; Larry Albert, architect of the restoration of Beauvoir, who proclaimed June 3 one of the very best days in his life; and Bert Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of President Davis, who proclaimed, ‘What a birthday present!’ and “From the worst we’ve got the best!’ (He also recognized about 20 descendants of President Davis and led them in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their ancestor on the steps of Beauvoir.)

    “A musket salute, led by Col. Scott Garrett, followed. Then Capt. John Owens of the Mississippi Light Artillery led in a twenty-one-gun salute.

    “All stood and sang ‘Dixie,’ clapping their hands.

    “Then the colors and militias retired.

    “Next to the main house used to stand President Davis’s study; on the other side stood a matching guest house. Both were washed away but are being rebuilt. I could see the new foundations. On June 3 a large tent stood next to the house, supplied with water, lemonade, cookies, and cakes to refresh the guests. People sought the shade. I sat in the shade and talked with folks from all over. Once in awhile a seagull would fly over.

    “I spoke with Bertram Hayes-Davis, whom I had met earlier in Montgomery, and got his autograph and those of two of his cousins.

    “One person I met was Mike Herrin, the Presbyterian pastor in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Reared in Valdosta, Georgia, he had attended Washington and Lee in Lexington, Virginia, which I had visited last summer in honor of Robert E. Lee’s bicentennial. Besides that and his being at the Davis bicentennial, he lived in Port Gibson, which rang a bell as the one-time home of the Southern poet, Irwin Russell, a favorite of mine. I used to read from Russell’s ‘Christmas Night in the Quarters’ to my students each Christmas-tide. Mike and I discussed Russell at length and the memorials to him in Port Gibson. I had heard that he had died in New Orleans, like Jefferson Davis, but had been buried in St. Louis, Missouri. We both wondered why he would have been taken there. Mike promised to call me later with what information he could find; and he did, bless him! Mike was on his way to Georgia to visit his relatives. As fate would have it, we met again a week or two later in Montgomery on Davis Day, when Montgomerians were honoring Davis. Mike was returning to Mississippi from Georgia. We never did find out why Russell was buried in Missouri.

    “I also had a good talk with Judy Lee and Nancy Todd of Tennessee. Judy’s husband and I talked of good places to eat. He recommended the Catfish Hotel in Shiloh, Tennessee, along the Tennessee River; he said it had been there since the ’30’s.

    “The Tennesseans also recommended McElroy’s seafood just over the new bridge to Ocean Springs on the other side of Biloxi Bay.

    “Others I met were Joe E. Clark, Jr., of Enterprise, newly elected commander of the SCV Southeast Brigade in Alabama, a friend of Curtis Thomasson; Frank Earnest, Sr., recently commander of the Virginia Division of the SCV; and Robert Bean.

    “I began to be a-hungry. I feared to ask if Mary Mahoney’s had survived the hurricane. I drove on up toward Biloxi Bay, and there she was! The old restaurant, built about an old l737 French house next to a live oak estimated to be 2000 years old, had been damaged but had been restored and was in excellent condition and serving its delectable foods! I couldn’t believe it! I sat in its Florida Room with its glass walls and ate snapper Bienville in a bed of broccoli and seafood sauce, a garden salad with real blue-cheese dressing, white beans, a hot loaf of fresh bread with real butter, and bread pudding. Ah, ah, and ah!! I even allowed me a ‘Baptist screwdriver,’ Sprite with a few dashes of orange juice. The barkeep laughed and confessed that it was the first time she had ever heard of such and the first she had ever prepared.

    “After eating and seeing again the shady courtyard with its ancient oak, I drove past the casinos and over the new bridge crossing Biloxi Bay. It was a kind of cement curve into the sky and back down on the other side into Ocean Springs, very large, modern, long, and nice. I drove over to see if I could locate McElroy’s. I did.

    “The next morning I headed back to Mobile and Alabama.”

    I want to thank the Portly Gentleman for his report and bid my gentle readers a fond farewell for now.

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