The Last Roll Call for

Sumner Archibald Cunningham

Editor: Confederate Veteran Magazine

 Sumner Archibald Cunningham

Photo on Find A Grave by: Jody & Lesa Baltz With Permission

Source:Confederate Veteran Magazine-Volume 22, Pages 6-11-Google Books

Born: July 21,1843 Died:December 20,1913

Buried:Willow Mount Cemetery, Shelbyville, Tenn.


         Sumner A. Cunningham, soldier and journalist, so widely known as editor of the ConfederateVeteran, died at Nashville, Tenn., on December 20, 1913, after a brief illness. Death was due to a series of hemorrhages of the nose which sapped his vitality. Seemingly in the best of health, on December 17 the first hemorrhage came on as he was seated at his desk; and though he was given medical attention at once, he was much weakened by the loss of blood. However, he rested well that night and through Thursday, and friends expected that he would soon be well again; but a recurrence of the hemorrhages on Thursday night so reduced his strength that he could not recuperate, and he passed into unconsciousness, gently drifting over the dark river to join the comrades waiting on the other shore.


        A devoted friend of many years, Mrs. Felix DeMoville, requested that his body should rest in her home until the funeral, and there it was taken on Saturday night. On Sunday morning a detail from Troop A, Forrest’s Cavalry, acted as guard of honor, their colors drooping over him. On the casket was spread the worn old battle flag of the 12th Tennessee, Day’s Battalion.


         The funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon. Members of Frank Cheatham Bivouac, most of them in uniform, and unattached Confederate veterans met at the courthouse and marched in a body to the church. The Daughters of the Confederacy also attended in a body, and many friends and relatives from out of town were present. The honorary pallbearers were of his closest friends, men for whom he felt the ties of brotherhood. They were: Gen. Bennett H. Young, of Louisville, Commander in Chief U. C. V.; Gen. V. Y. Cook, of Batesville, Ark.; Gen. John P. Hickman, Commander Tennessee Division, U. C. V.; Rev. H. M. Hamill, Chaplain General U. C. V.; Rev. R. Lin Cave, Chaplain Tennessee Division, U. C. V.; Maj. W. L. Danley, Maj. E. C. Lewis, Capt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Joseph Phillips, Maj. J. L. McCollum, of Atlanta, and Hon. Lewis Tillman, of Knoxville, Tenn.

The active pallbearers were all young friends and business associates of Nashville: John H. De Witt, Thomas J. Nance, Robert L. Burch, D. M. Smith, Walter H. Clarke, Everett Philpot, Leland Hume, and M. B. Morton.


         Services were conducted by Dr. James I. Vance, pastor of the Church, assisted by Dr. H. K. Yates, pastor of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of which Mr. Cunningham had been a lifelong member. After the Scripture lesson was read by Dr. Yates, the following beautiful tribute was paid by Dr. Vance to the memory of his friend:


        “We are met, my friends, to-day to honor the memory of a man of whom too much cannot be said. After we have said the best about him, there remains still much to be said. I know of no one who is to take his place, for he lived a unique kind of life. As a friend remarked to me awhile ago, he was a Nathanael indeed.


        “In the opening of my remarks I am going to read a little poem with which some of you are familiar, which I regard as one of the greatest ever written, not because of its literary merit, but because of the sentiment it embodies, and which, it seems to me, more faithfully paints the portrait of our dear friend Mr. Cunningham than anything I can say. I refer to Sam Walter Foss’s poem about the man who lived by the side of the road and was a friend to man:


“’There are hermit souls that live withdrawn

In the peace of their self-content;

There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart

In a fellowless firmament;

There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths

Where highways never ran—

But let me live by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

Where the race of men go by—

The men who are good and the men who are bad,

As good and as bad as I.

I would not sit in the scorner’s seat

Or hurl the cynic’s ban—

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,

By the side of the highway of life,

The men who press with the ardor of hope,

The men who are faint with the strife.

But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears—

Both parts of an infinite plan—

Let me live in my house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead

And mountains of wearisome height;

That the road passes on through the long afternoon

And stretches away to the night;

But still I rejoice when travelers rejoice,

And weep with the strangers that moan,

Nor live in my house by the side of the road

Like a man who dwells alone. Let me live in my house by the side of the road

Where the race of men go by.

They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,

Wise, foolish; so am I. Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat

Or hurl the cynic’s ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.’


 “Don’t you think that paints his portrait? In a sense he was by himself. His wife died years ago, and then one of the young children, and then twelve years ago his splendid young son Paul was drowned in the Rio Grande River, where as an engineer he was engaged in running a line between the United States and Mexico; and this left him alone, so far as his immediate family was concerned. And he found his family in the people of the world. I have heard of a schoolteacher in Chicago who lost his only son, a little lad, and who used to go to the gates of the public schools and watch the boys as they passed out to see if he could find one who looked like the little lad he had lost. Of course he could not. But by and by he gave his life to a service for boys, finding in the composite boy life of the city in which he lived the life of the lad he had lost.


“And it seems to me that it was something like this with Mr. Cunningham. He had no family of his own, but he had so many friends because he made himself everybody’s friend. He was easy to get acquainted with. He was approachable. Every one knew him. I shall never forget just after we had gone to Newark from Nashville. It was in November, and of course we were a bit homesick; and Christmas morning came a telegram from Sumner Cunningham, saying: ‘I will take breakfast with you on Christmas morning.’ It was a bit of the South that blew in on us. And he did it over and over again until we came to look for his telegram every Christmas morning. That is what he did for me and my family. He put himself into the life of the world. He ‘lived in a house by the side of the road and was a friend to man.’ He was pure gold. You cannot measure the worth of a man like that by material standards. Holland prays: ‘God give us men— men whom the lust of office cannot kill and the spoils of office cannot buy.’ That kind of prayer was answered in this man. He was worth more than any material standard can estimate to the community, to the State, and to the nation. There are a few things which I want to say about him. “The first is, he was Southern. He loved the South, the ‘sunny, sunny South.’ It was always that to him. The South was his passion, and he loved it passionately with every f1ber of his being. There are some people who might not understand this kind of devotion. They think it is narrow and sectional. People outside this section sometimes ask us why we who live in the South have that kind of devotion to it. l think it is because the South has suffered. It takes suffering to create devotion. People are welded together in the furnace fires of suffering. It is because the South’s cause is a lost cause that there is a kind of romantic devotion that gathers about it. There is a kind of romance and chivalry about our devotion for it, because it is the land of a lost cause. Wall Street may furnish themes for big detective stories for the Saturday Evening Post and for similar publications; but it you want stories of chivalry and romance, you must come to the South for them. I am sorry for any man of Southern birth who has not some of that sort of feeling. Sumner Cunningham was an American citizen, but the South was in his heart; and I say I am sorry for any Southern-born man or woman who does not feel his or her pulse quicken at the sound of ‘Dixie.’ Mr. Cunn1ngham’s L1fe And Work. Sumner A. Cunningham was a native of Bedford County, Tenn., born in 1843. His father died when he was but a lad, and with his brother and sisters he grew up on the farm under the guidance of the mother to whom he was ever devoted. He received the education that the country schools afforded. When he entered the Confederate army, on November 4, 1861, as a private in Company B, 41st Tennessee Regiment, he was a mere boy, so small that his rifle barrel was cut off that he might handle it with more ease. His first battle was at Fort Donelson, where he was captured and, with 1*other prisoners, sent to Camp Morton, at Indianapolis, Ind. He remained there several months before being sent to Vicksburg for exchange, and then participated in the fighting around Vicksburg, his command being a part of the army under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who was trying to raise the siege of that city. He was also in the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, and took active part in the continuous fighting of Johnston’s stubborn retreat before Sherman from Dalton to Atlanta. He was in the fighting around Atlanta under Hood, and marched with Hood’s army into Tennessee, participating in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. At the battle of Franklin he reached the Federal breastworks near the Carter house, and was firing over the breastworks at the Federals when General Strahl, who was immediately behind him loading and handing guns to him and others of the firing line, was killed. After the war closed, Mr. Cunningham lived for ten years in Shelbyville, where he engaged in the mercantile business and as owner and editor of the Shelbyville Commercial, a weekly paper. He was married to Miss Laura Davis,of Georgia, on November 27, 1866, and to them were born two children:Paul Davis, who was drowned in the Rio Grande River in 1901, where as an engineer working on a line between the United States and Mexico, and Mary, who died when two years of age. His wife died years ago in 1879, and this left him alone, so far as immediate family was concerned., except for a sister who survives, Mrs.Addie Wakefield of Cornersville, Tenn.


  John Washington Campbell Cunningham (1812 - 1855)
  Mary Ann Buchanan Cunningham (1820 - 1890)

Laura N. (Davis) Cunningham (abt.1848-Oct.8,1879) Married Nov.27,1866

Paul Davis Cunningham 

Born:Nov.27,1869 Forsyth, Monroe Co., Georgia

Died:July 13,1901 near El Paso, Texas


Paul Davis Cunningham

Photo on Find A Grave: Added by: Leon Basile With Permission


         Paul Davis Cunningham was the only son of Sumner A. Cunningham (who later founded and edited the CONFEDERATE VETERAN magazine) and Laura N. (Davis) Cunningham. After the death of his mother, in October 1879, Paul D. Cunningham lived with his maternal grandparents in Forsyth, Georgia, until 1886, when he entered Emory University. After one year of college, he started working as an assistant resident engineer in the construction of the Atlanta & Florida Railway. It was there that he decided to become a civil engineer. For the next four years, he worked in his chosen profession, for the construction of several railways in the Southeast. Then, from 1891 until his death in 1901, he worked as a civilian for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. His duties brought him to the lower Tennessee River, the boundary of the United States and Mexico, Washington, D.C., Saint Louis, Missouri, and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Then, in 1898, during the War with Spain, he worked in Puerto Rico. Returning to Washington, D.C., he was next sent to Havana, Cuba, then back to Washington, and finally to the Rio Grande river, where he was "Consulting Engineer of the International Boundary Commission, and the Chief Engineer in charge of an expedition on the Rio Grande river from San Marcial, New Mexico, to the mouth." He and his party had progressed favorably, but on July 13, 1901, when they had proceeded from Eagle Pass, down the river, Paul Cunningham's boat hit a rock and the boat capsized over the rapids, near the Texas side. Paul Cunningham had attempted to save his papers and instruments, but was unable to do so. One minute he was seen holding the side of his boat, and the next, the boat went "down the river and his hat floating by itself." Eventually, his body was recovered, and on July 18, 1901, it arrived in Nashville, Tennessee (where his father lived). The next day a large funeral was held at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Nashville, with six ministers participating. Then, his remains were brought "to Willow Mount, the sleeping city on the hill overlooking the beautiful town of Shelbyville."

Source: CONFEDERATE VETERAN, Vol. 9, No. 7 (July 1901), pp. 294-302.


Mary Cunningham


Mar. 15, 1873
Bedford County
Tennessee, USA


Oct. 23, 1875
Bedford County
Tennessee, USA


By:Paul V.Isbell

Richmond, Virginia-February 2011