Letter to the Editor

Unlikely collaboration

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dear editor:

It isn't often, if ever, it seems, that the concerns of feminists and Confederates converge, or come any closer to each other than heckling distance.

Surely most will agree, feminists are to be found largely on the leftward side of the political spectrum. Being out to "liberate" us from traditional shackles, they're liberals.

Confederates, in contrast, are conservatives, their sole purpose being to "conserve" their embattled heritage, the valor and dedication of their ancestors.

But the unthinkable has happened, or just might happen. Last fall, some locals, all Confederates, but one a kind of parttime feminist, stumbled on the grave of Eliza Gabbert, one of a band of "lady Bushwhackers," as they were called, a unique species of Civil War fauna perhaps better represented in Vernon County than anywhere else in Missouri.

Eliza is the only one of the group of whom an image exists, and whose burial place now, at long last, is known. Her gravestone, sadly, is broken and mostly illegible.

The Col. John T. Coffee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has erected and solemnly dedicated a neardozen markers for Confederates found lying in unmarked graves. Eliza, unfortunately, wasn't officially a soldier, and thus doesn't qualify for an official marker, or the touching ceremonial recognition that often goes with it.

Eliza's friends are in the process of making an endrun around this bureaucratic quibble. Money is coming in, without even the asking. Nobody even knows about the project save members of the SCV, plus a handful in the Vernon County Historical Society.

This is a project of neither organization, however, merely of a few interested individuals. Eliza was my greataunt by marriage, so who knows, I may be her nearest living kinsman, in this area at least. That seems to have qualified me as "treasurer," if such an informal group can have such a formal official. At least, money keeps finding its way to me.

May it keep coming! A few more modest donations, and tardy recognition of Eliza Gabbert, and all those who struggled and suffered with her, will be a reality, and soon.

We hear much these days of history's "neglect of women." April was called "Women's History Month." It's lots easier mouthing vague grievances and declaring highsounding occasions than going out and getting one's hands dirty, actually doing something.

Wrote Maj. John N. Edwards, "The work performed by the Southern women during the war will never be understood fully."

-- Patrick Brophy