General Hatton deserves to be honored, and his rightful place is in the center of our town.
General Robert Hopkins Hatton is a true son of Lebanon and a citizen in which everyone should take pride. It seems a few in our fair city are misguided and ignorant of history. While we are sometimes quick to jump on those people, maybe we shouldn't blame them. Maybe we have not often enough celebrated General Hatton's rich intellect. Maybe it's because we just haven't been the proper stewards of our history or that we have simply let time pass without questioning and understanding what our history represents?
More than likely it seems we have allowed others to re-write our history and besmirch our heroes. In most cases these re-writes bear no resemblance to the actual truth and are little more than trumped up rallying cries to promote agendas that only serve the purposes of the writers. We have stood by far too long and allowed our statesmen to be dragged through the mud too often with no one standing in their defense.
So, rather than scold those who have jumped on the bandwagon of tearing down all things Confederate, and consequently all things southern, we pledge ourselves to stand strong on our history, to communicate the true and proud heritage each of us in this community has been blessed to inherit. And, we will stand in defense of an honorable and rightly memorialized man that proudly stands in the center of our square.
General Hatton was a true statesman. He believed in the Union, our constitution and the rule of law. He was a student of history and an admirer of George Washington. He fervently spoke against disunion because he knew that secession would mean war and "ruin to both sections." He knew how that would ravage the border states and his home in Lebanon. He was burned in effigy right here in this very town after giving a stirring speech trying to convince those in attendance to remain in the union.
After shots were fired at Ft. Sumter and President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to invade the south, Tennessee chose to secede and Robert Hatton put aside his hopes of a peaceful outcome. He, like hundreds of other Wilson Countians, joined the Confederate army to protect their homes and their families from an invading army. The Confederate government asked only to go in peace, but it was not to be.
General Hatton was only 35 years old when he was killed at the battle of Seven Pines in Virginia. He was leading his men, the men from Wilson, Smith and DeKalb Counties. If you're from Lebanon these were likely your great-great-great-grandfathers, uncles and cousins. These men and his fellow officers had nothing but praise for General Hatton.
Although not born here, Hatton was an exemplary citizen of Lebanon; a true leader everyone can look up to. He loved God, his family and his community. He was a prolific writer keeping a diary during much of his political career and there are hundreds of letters to his wife and others. Those serve as a testament to his devotion to this country, this community and the reason he deserves to stand today in our town square. Know the man before you twist his legacy into something it never was.
Barry Forkum, Commander
General Robert H. Hatton Camp 723, Sons of Confederate Veterans