Sons of Confederate Veterans member Sission speaks of the glories of the Ku Klux Klan to a convention of the United Confederate Veteran receiving “enthusiastic attention.”
The following is an address in the 19th Annual Reunion, Afternoon Session, Wednesday, June 9, 1909, to the United Confederate Veterans by Mississippian Thomas Upton Sission, titled, “Address of Greeting From Sons of Veterans,” made on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The following is an extract from pages 73-75 where the Ku Klux Klan is defended. The introduction to the address in the minutes informs the reader that Sission’s address was “… accorded the most enthusiastic attention.” Spellings as in the original.
KU KLUX CLAN.
But, young ladies and gentlemen, as interesting as it is to dwell upon these facts, I want to call your attention to that which convinces me more than the four years’ war, that we have the greatest fathers and mothers on earth.
While the prostrate South was staggering under the blow of the Civil War, a more terrible blow was dealt her bleeding form when, in 1869, the Reconstruction Act was passed. Her problems were already great, and her future dark and gloomy. But the spirit of the South was not conquered. She was still proud and conscious of her strength. Then came this terrible blow. We saw the unscrupulous carpetbagger organize the negro, and her State capitals converted into places of corruption and debauchery. She saw a reign of bloodshed and terror. The outlook would have daunted any other people on earth. Many of her more timid citizens left their native States of the South and poured into the great West. They could see no hope. They gave up the conflict in despair. The problem was one which was never before presented to any other people on earth. No nation in all history was ever called upon to deal with such a problem. Mr. Brice, in his American Commonwealth, says that it was a new condition in the world’s history.
But the Confederate soldier, with the same grim determination displayed on a hundred bloody battlefields, stood erect and faced the new and difficult problems. His powers of self-government were put to the severest test in all the world’s history. With an overwhelming black majority, backed up by the bayonets of a victorious and powerful nation to defend their right to rule by sheer force of numbers, these heroes, our fathers, were confronted. The future presented more terrors than did the bloody conflict out of which they had just passed. A Union soldier was armed at almost every white man’s door in the South to prevent his throwing off this yoke. Her capacity and courage was here tested in the fire. To submit meant degradation, dishonor and shame. To flee from his native land, bought with the blood of his ancestors, was base cowardice. To resist openly meant imprisonment and death. There was one course left; one remedy, and only one. The virtue of his mother, wife, sister and daughter was in the scale. Shall the step be taken? Every true soldier of the South, with one accord and one voice, said, “Yes, though the heavens fall.” But who will lead in so desperate an undertaking? All—if there is any hope of success. But the chance to win was as no chance at all, when compared with the Confederacy succeeding, and it failed.
Great and trying times always produce great leaders, and one was at hand—Nathan Bedford Forrest. His plan, the only course left open. The organization of a secret government. A terrible government; a government that would govern in spite of black majorities and Federal bayonets. This secret government was organized in every community in the South, and this government is known in history as the Klu Klux Clan. No Arabian Nights tale, no. legend of the land of the Shamrock, nor of old Scotia’s wild hills, nor of Coeur-de-Lion’s Crusade in the land of the Moslem, can rival in heroic courage and romantic deeds this “Mighty Invisible Army” of the white man of the South. Here in all ages to come the Southern romancer and poet can find the inspiration for fiction and song. No nobler or grander spirits ever assembled on this earth than gathered in these clans. No human hearts were ever moved with nobler impulses or higher aims and purposes. The maintenance of law and order, the preservation of homes and the protection of the virtue of the noblest womanhood in all the annals of time, moved these men to action. In these courts of this Mighty Government there were no hung juries, no laws delayed, no reversals on senseless technicalities by any Supreme Court, because from these Courts there was no appeal, and punishment was sure and swift, because there was no executive to pardon. Order was restored, property safe; because the negro feared the Klu Klux Clan more than he feared the devil. Even the Federal bayonets could not give him confidence in the black government which had been established for him, and the negro voluntarily surrendered to the Klu Klux Clan, and the very moment he did, the “Invisible Army” vanished in a night. Its purpose had been fulfilled.
Bedford Forrest should always be held in reverence by every son and daughter of the South as long as memory holds dear the noble deeds and service of men for the good of others on, this earth. What mind is base enough to think of what might have happened but for Bedford Forrest and his “Invisible” but victorious army.
“BLOODY SHIRT NO LONGER.”
There is not a noble Confederate Veteran that has ever justified a secret government as a principle. You only resorted to this in your dire extremity, and every right-thinking white man in the North, and especially every brave Union soldier, who loves his wife and his child and respects the virtue of womanhood, endorses this course adopted by you. All the good, righteous and business people of the North now admit that the “Carpet Bag” government was a fatal mistake, and those who are informed of the conditions do not blame you noble Veterans of the Gray for what you did to restore decent government in the South. This was in truth and in fact the end of the horrible war. From this moment on, the North became more and more tolerant, and the soldier on each side now realized that this foul blot on the National Government was the work of selfish politicians and designing demagogues of the North. Those who would again revive the “Bloody Shirt” would not be scourged from the public life, not only in the South, but in the North.
Only a few days ago in the American Congress, one of the old “Bloody Shirt Brigade” hoisted the infamous emblem in the House of Representatives, and was laughed to scorn when that House was overwhelmingly Republican. Hollingsworth was not only discredited in the South but throughout the North for his uncalled for resolution.
 Sission, Thomas Upton, “Address of Greeting from Sons of Veterans,” pp. 65 - 82, “Minutes of the Nineteenth Annual Meeting and Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans Held at Memphis, Tenn. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, June 8th, 9th, and 10th, 1909,” published by United Confederate Veterans, New Orleans.