About 35 to 40 people took part in a ceremony Saturday to honor a Confederate veteran at a Havre de Grace cemetery.
The members of United Daughters of the Confederacy Harford County Chapter 114 and the Lt. Col. Robert H. Archer Camp 2013 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans put together the ceremony in honor of Confederate Pvt. George Washington Bryant, a member of Company E of the First Maryland Cavalry.
A black Iron Cross was placed before the veteran's headstone in the Bryant family plot in Angel Hill Cemetery. A headstone for Pvt. Bryant's wife, Mary Morgan Pile Bryant, was next to his; she lived from 1849 to 1918.
Pvt. Bryant lived from 1839 to 1915; he is not buried in Angel Hill, but in Loudon Park Cemetery outside Baltimore.
Beth Manchester, president of the UDC Harford County chapter, said after the ceremony that his death certificate and obituary indicated he was buried in Loudon Park, after he died in a Confederate soldiers' home in Pikesville.
His headstone is part of the Bryant family plot in Havre de Grace, however, according to Manchester.
She said the cross, which had the initials CSA on it, for Confederate States of America, was used to mark the graves of Confederate veterans, and resembled the Southern Cross of Honor medal given to veterans in the years following the war.
"It's considered an honor to have the grave marked with an iron cross," she said.
Members of the SCV's Maryland Division Color Guard formed a tight line in front of Pvt. Bryant's grave marker during the ceremony, with Ohio Street behind them.
Their ranks included 4-year-old Michael Eldreth III of Elkton, a first cadet in the SCV's Archer Camp.
The camp is named for Lt. Col. Robert Archer, a Harford County native who was captured by Union troops during the Battle of Gettysburg along with his brother, Brig. Gen. James J. Archer. Both spent the remainder of the conflict in prisoner-of-war camps, and Lt. Col. Archer is buried in Churchville.
Survivor, iron master
Pvt. Bryant survived the war despite being captured and wounded. His father was Joshua Bryant, a Havre de Grace "iron master," according to his great-grandson, 71-year-old John Walker Taylor of Pomona Park, Fla.
Taylor and Michael Helms of Raleigh, N.C., Pvt. Bryant's fourth-great nephew, attended Saturday's ceremony.
During his remarks, Taylor pointed out a number of other Bryant ancestors who are buried next to their Confederate veteran relative.
"Six of my ancestors are right here, within a few feet of each other," he said later.
Helms read "A Confederate Soldier's Prayer," written by an unknown Confederate soldier, in which the author asks God for attributes such as strength and riches, and is given weakness and poverty instead.
"I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life/I was given life, that I might enjoy all things," Helms read. "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."
Helms said the prayer exemplified Confederate troops who continued to fight, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by the Union forces they considered invaders of their home soil.
"Despite everything, they picked themselves up and they went on, and they're still going on today," he said.
It has been 152 years since the Civil War began in 1861, as the U.S. military fought to bring 11 southern states which had seceded back into the fold.
Seven states seceded after President Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, and four followed after the attack on Ft. Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861.
While nearly a century and a half has passed since the war ended in 1865, the causes of the war are still hotly debated.
Slavery is typically considered the primary cause of the Civil War, but issues of economics and states' rights also played roles in ultimately pitting Americans against each other on the field of battle.
Maryland, like its neighbor Virginia to the south, was a slaveholding state, but remained in Union hands as federal troops kept Washington, D.C., from being surrounded.
Most historians have concluded Harford County's loyalties were divided. Some county residents owned slaves, but there were also free blacks in the county, and men fought on both sides.
About 150 Harford Countians served with the Confederacy, and 1,500 to 2,000 with the Union, local historian Jim Chrismer told The Aegis last month for a story on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Chrismer said the Harford County residents who joined the Confederacy "were pro-Maryland and pro-South and did not like this idea of Maryland being invaded by the those Northern nasties."
Jay Barringer II of Eldersburg, commander of the SCV's Maryland Division, spoke passionately about "The Cause" during Saturday's ceremony.
He noted the agricultural South "bore a huge burden in tariffs," and defended secession as "the very concept of constitutional government" and "the prerogative of free men."
"We maintain that the truth about our ancestors should be told without the offensive whitewash of PC [political correctness] and rhetoric about Yankees [northerners] on the 'right side of history,' " he said, reading from prepared remarks.
Barringer added: "So, we'll defend our Confederate heritage in this post-modern, self-indulgent society that shows greater interest in perverting marriage than in preserving history. Thank you! God bless the South and The Cause always!"
Robert Dollenger Jr., commander of the Archer Camp, and Raymond Rooks, commander of the Maryland Division of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, which is an organization of descendants of Confederate military officers and government officials, also spoke.
"It is my heritage," Dollenger said. "I'm not ashamed of what my ancestors did; if it comes down to it, I'll do the same thing!"
The United Daughters of the Confederacy also oversaw a similar local ceremony in 2011, when an Iron Cross was placed at the grave of Confederate Lt. Edward Hill Dorsey Pue and UDC markers at the graves of Cornelia Calmese Dunn Pue and Mary Elizabeth Pue Preston, in the St. Mary's Episcopal Church cemetery in Abingdon.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun