Jacksonville Daily Progress
For its ninth annual Confederate Heroes Day ceremony on Saturday, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Cross of Saint Andrews Camp in Alto honored the last confederate veteran to live in Cherokee County.
At the Jacksonville City Cemetery, more than two dozen troops, Southern Belles and United Daughters of the Confederacy gathered to honor the service of Robert James Fair, who served three years as a private in Company B of the 45th Alabama infantry. Fair moved to Texas after the Civil War.
“Many Confederate veterans throughout the deep South migrated here to Texas for a new start after the war,” said Camp Commander Kenneth McClure. “Texas contributed close to 100,000 troops and a huge supply of arms and equipment for the Southern war effort, but Texas was very fortunate not to be devastated like many other states were, so Texas was an opportunity for Southern veterans to begin anew.”
The annual ceremony honors more than 2,000 men from Cherokee County who served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, McClure said.
Fair, who died March 1, 1941, at age 93, was only 15 years old when he enlisted in the Confederate army in 1862.
“(Fair and his wife) moved west here to Texas in 1870 to farm. They eventually settled here in Cherokee County in 1918,” said 2nd Lt. Commander Shelley Cleaver. “Although Robert did not serve from our county in a Texas unit, he still wore the gray and fought bravely for the South during the war for Southern independence. He moved to Texas after the war and died a Texan and we are very proud of his service to the Confederate States of America.”
The camp placed a new military grave marker for Fair on Saturday.
“Each one of us have ancestors who fought in every major battle of the war and it is our duty as their descendants to not let their service and sacrifices be forgotten,” McClure said. “We have now set over 130 markers in our area of operation and have photographed and documented well over 5,000 Confederate veterans’ grave markers in our county and surrounding counties as well.”
Cleaver, a member of the Cherokee County Historical Commission, identified Fair as the last Confederate soldier to live in Cherokee County after reading “The Hills of Cherokee.”
“I have Confederate blood boiling in my veins and I have marked many a soldier,” Cleaver said. “The Sons of Confederate Veterans has helped me to find many of my ancestors.”
Before the 14-man rifle squad fired an honorary rifle volley for Fair, McClure read a roll call of 124 Confederate Veterans buried in the Jacksonville City Cemetery. Members of the rifle squad called out in the veterans stead.
“Here sir and ready to give the Yankees the devil,” called out Color Sgt. Ronnie Blackstock.
The Southern Belles and United Daughters of the Confederacy laid flowers on Fair’s grave as a final tribute. The Cross of Saint Andrews Camp has 52 troops and 16 Southern Belles. The Sons of Confederate Veterans work to create a better understanding of the will of the Confederate states, Blackstock said.
“(John H. Reagan) was in the Congress and in 1861 when the government took over all these states and were going to tell us what to do, state’s rights was being just ignored. He resigned from Congress on account of state’s rights,” Blackstock said. “They were trying to take all our rights away from us.”
Sons of Confederate Veterans contend that the Civil War was waged in response to the abridgment of state’s rights, rather than the abolitionist movement.
“My great-grandfather never owned a slave,” said Jimmy Odom, camp surgeon. “Ulysses Grant owned slaves.”