On January 20, 1896, the members of the A.P. Hill Camp of Confederate Veterans gathered in Petersburg, Va., for an evening of food, drink and nostalgia. The occasion was Robert E. Lee’s birthday, considered a national holiday in certain parts of the South. The guest speaker that evening was General Cullen A. Battle of Greensboro, N.C., formerly of the Army of Northern Virginia. After the dishes were cleared away and the gentlemen sat back with their cigars and spirits, Battle was introduced as “one of the most distinguished officers in the [late] Confederate Army.”
The 67-year-old general was well known as an “elegant and eloquent” public speaker whose words on more than one occasion had inspired men to heroic actions. His audience that evening consisted of true believers in the Lost Cause who had come to relive the glory days of 1861-65.