After having dinner with our friends, David and Kim, we were leaving the restaurant when someone noticed a placard directing a group toward a reserved room.
“Gen. Longstreet Chapter,” the sign read with an arrow pointing toward a certain room. I read it aloud then my eyes lighted up. Gen. Longstreet was a famous commander of the Civil War considered to be, along with Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson, one of the most battle-successful in a war that would be lost. He is from my hometown of Gainesville.
“No,” Tink said firmly, having deciphered the look before even I spoke.
“Yes,” I responded resolutely. “I have to go by and see what’s going on. Come with me.”
He shook his head. “I am not.” He knew I was setting him up to be sided against. Whenever I can get a bunch of Confederate ancestors to group against him, it is a day fairly well lived. You may recall that Tink’s great-great-grandfather worked shoulder-to-shoulder with President Lincoln in the White House. We have all of his handwritten diaries that trumpet the Union side of the war.
Often I am reminded that the Southern side was the losers, but I point out that we sent all the men and boys we had to battle, which numbered only 880,000 against the Union’s 2.1 million soldiers. Still, without the manpower, ammunition or industrial strength of the Union, our soldiers held strong for four years. When surrender was inevitable, what Confederate soldiers were left were worn, ragged and mostly starved. It hurts to lose when so much has been sacrificed.
Tink stayed put. This is one reason the Yankees won — they are smart enough not to rush into unknown enemy territory. Not the Rebels. Southerners, then and now, tend to march boldly into areas where angels fear to tread.
I popped into the room and introduced myself. Several faces lighted up accompanied by an enthusiastic choir of “Ohhhh!!!!” because they are readers of this column.
“I married a Yankee,” I admitted, a disclosure that was followed by a sympathetic choir of “Ohhh….”
“Yes,” spoke up woman. “I read about Tink.”
To those who did not know, I explained that Charlie Tinker had worked with one of General Longstreet’s enemies. “I’ll be right back.” I found Tink, grabbed him by the hand and dragged into the meeting in a way similar to when I took my glamour Barbie to grade school for show-and-tell. He is my cherished Yankee.
In Gainesville, Gen. James Longstreet, a former U.S. marshal and postmaster, is legend. He is memorialized with a bridge, among other things, named after him. He is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery. Last summer after attending a burial at Alta Vista, I insisted that we find Longstreet’s grave. When we found it, I suggested that I make Tink’s picture in front of the large monument.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. Winners, I have discovered, do not like to associate with losers. Even dead ones.
As was typical of the Civil War generals, many of the Union and Confederate leaders were close friends, most having attending West Point together. Longstreet, for instance, was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s best friend. All historians agree that Longstreet was one of Grant’s groomsmen in his wedding to Julia while a couple of Grant’s biographers insist that Longstreet was his best man.
For several minutes, I chatted animatedly with the ladies of the Gen. Longstreet Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. I explained that 14 of my ancestors fought in the American Revolutionary War, while 11 had fought in the Civil War.
“You could be a Daughter of the Confederacy,” one lady spoke up.
“Yes and of the DAR,” I said.
“We’ll contact you,” another promised.
I haven’t heard from them yet, but surely I will.
After all, we losers need to stick together.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.