Friday, February 12, 2016

Prattville Dragoons February Camp Meeting

The February meeting of the Prattville Dragoons was held at Shoney’s on Cobb’s Ford Rd. this past evening. Over 30 compatriots were in attendance and the meeting room was rearranged and was very attractive and comfortable.  Our speaker was Meredith McDonough from the Alabama Archives and History who explained the new on line availability of newspapers published during The War in Alabama. She explained how to find the newspaper links on the website and also told us that the Alabama Department of Archives and History would soon be launching a new improved website. All the newspapers are not uploaded yet but they will be on line and digitized soon; the first phase of the project at ADAH completed last June was to scan their collection of actual newspapers and upload these and the next phase will be to digitize their collection of newspapers which are currently on microfilm.  

Meredith was most knowledgable in her subject matter and stayed after the meeting to answer individual questions about the project and the Archives in general. She demonstrated search capability and process from the ADAH website homepage - Search Our Collections - Digital Collections - Civil War Newspapers.  Under Digital Collections are included also Photographs and Pictures, Maps Collection and Textual Collection (under which Newspapers are found).  You can search the newspapers section for titles, dates ans counties in which the newspaper was published.  Thumbnails are available for viewing and these can be enlarged to read, print or download. One interesting newspaper shown was the Montgomery Weekly Mail which under the newspaper title stated, "State Rights Without Abatement".  Other period newspapers from the Montgomery area included the Daily Confederation and Montgomery Daily Post.  

Commander Waldo also presented a $500 check to Ms. McDonough as our annual contribution to Confederate flag conservation at the Archives. This was made possible by the proceeds from our annual Dixie butt sales and other contributions to the camp. 

Compatriot Tyrone Crowley read a proclamation from the Dragoons honoring one of our charter members, Harry Rawlinson, who recently passed away. He also took some of Harry’s Q & A that he used in presentations to Historical Organizations to help them learn about Southern Heritage as an impromptu quiz for the Dragoons. Commander Stuart Waldo announced that camp elections will be held in March at our regular meeting time and anyone who is interested in nominating themselves or someone else for an officer position to let one of our existing officers know. Chaplain Tom Snowden showed slides of our camp activities and members before the meeting which was very enjoyable.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Confederate Government Formed February 4, 1861

The Provisional Confederate Congress convenes. The Confederate States of America is open for business when the Provisional Congress convenes in Montgomery, Alabama. The official record read: "Be it remembered that on the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the Capitol of the State of Alabama, in the city of Montgomery, at the hour of noon, there assembled certain deputies and delegates from the several independent South State of North America..." 
The first order of business was drafting a constitution. They used the U.S. Constitution as a model, and most of it was taken verbatim. It took just four days to hammer out a tentative document to govern the new nation. The president was limited to one six-year term. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the word "slave" was used and the institution protected in all states and any territories to be added later. Importation of slaves was prohibited. Other components of the constitution were designed to enhance the power of the states--governmental money for internal improvements was banned and the president was given a line-item veto on appropriations bills. 
The Congress then turned its attention to selecting a president. The delegates settled on Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate who was the U.S. Secretary of War in the 1850s and a senator from Mississippi.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Cause of Jackson and Lee

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When the Confederate Flag Flew over Oregon

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the only Confederate flag known to have waved in the northwestern quarter of the continental United States during the Civil War flew proudly over the Beaver State, for a few weeks in 1862.
Now, that “only flag” claim has to be qualified a bit. The entire northwest quarter is rather a large patch, and plenty of emigrant farmers, gold miners and ex-Army ruffians were sympathetic to the South’s cause; surely somebody, somewhere, hoisted the stars and bars over a shoddy Jackson County prospector’s cabin or loathsome San Francisco waterfront flophouse.
But if anyone did, he or she kept it quiet enough to avoid the intervention of federal troops.
Not so the fearsome Kentucky natives who had settled in the tiny town of Smithfield (now called Franklin), just south of Cheshire on old Territorial Highway.
The good people of Smithfield were surrounded and outnumbered, and they knew it. But they were a proud, fearless bunch, and not a Republican or pro-Union Democrat among them. They were well supplied with the long-barreled flintlock rifles with which their fathers had helped win the Revolutionary War, and they had somehow also gotten hold of a small cannon. They determined, in the summer of ‘62, to do their bit for the old southern homeland, come what might.
So they set to work. The men found a tall, straight fir tree, which they felled, peeled and hauled to the town’s general store. The women labored over a community sewing project: a massive Confederate battle flag, the “stars and bars.” Then they mounted the pole before the store, ran the flag up to the top, and let it billow in the soft summer breeze.

A historic marker in Franklin, denoting the stagecoach stop at Smithfield, photographed by Ben Maxwell in 1961. (Image: Ben Maxwell/Salem Public Library)

Now, this was not exactly an act of quiet rebellion. Smithfield owed its regional prominence and prosperity to the stagecoach line that ran up and down the Territorial Highway. Dozens of travelers passed up and down that highway every week en route to or from hamlets like Elmira, Veneta, Crow, Lorane and west Eugene, via Junction City.

One can only imagine the shock of these passengers as the stage pulled up before the Smithfield General Store and they saw a giant rebel flag flapping in the breeze, its flagpole surrounded by grim-faced expatriated Southerners with rifles ready to defend it.
Word flew around Lane County like a summer zephyr: There was open rebellion brewing at Smithfield! What was to be done?
Staunch Unionists in Eugene were outraged. They did not, however, feel outraged enough to brave those grim-faced Smithfield sharpshooters in an attempt to do something about it. So instead, they complained bitterly to every authority they could reach: the sheriff, the state legislature, and yes, the federal government in Washington, D.C.
The sheriff was the man everyone was looking at, but he showed little inclination to risk his life and those of his deputies in a hopeless assault on such a fearsome foe. So the flag continued to fly.
A few weeks later, one of the Smithfield rebels was caught in Eugene trying to buy supplies, and arrested and lodged in a jailhouse. Word spread quickly, and a lynch mob soon had assembled to lay siege to the jailhouse. But the rebel, who had hidden a tiny penknife somewhere on his person, put up such a ferocious fight that vigilante justice was delayed long enough for the sheriff to arrive with a posse, and soon the mob was dispersed.
And still that flag flew, proud and rankling over the Long Tom River, visible for miles from every oncoming stage.

The Franklin Grange as it appears today. (Image: visitor7/Wikimedia)

It flew there, proud and defiant, until a day in late August, when something rather remarkable happened — another “first and only” for the Beaver State.

On that historic day, the McCornack family had just settled down to supper at their farm on Elmira Road, just outside Eugene, when to their astonishment a large detachment of federal troops — blue-coated United States Cavalry officers and men — filed up to the farmhouse in two columns, which split apart and flowed around the farmhouse and outbuildings. Soon the whole spread was surrounded with a cordon of several hundred armed men.
Two officers then approached the farmhouse, and family patriarch Andrew McCornack — no doubt more than a little nervously — came to the door to see what they wanted.
The officers were gracious and courteous. Did Mr. McCornack have an employee by the name of Armstrong, they wondered?
“As a matter of fact, I do,” he replied, or words to that effect, and the captain then called to Armstrong to come out and give himself up. He was, as it turned out, a deserter from the U.S. Cavalry. Once he’d been collected, installed on a horse and surrounded by his once-and-future comrades, the bugler played “recall” and the troop rode away in the direction of Eugene, leaving the astonished McCornacks to finish their supper.
“Now, these troops were stationed at Vancouver,” Elwin McCornack wrote in his account of his relatives’ adventure. “Had they ridden 150 miles to take Armstrong the Deserter? No, they had not. They had other business in this vicinity and had orders to pick up the deserter while they were there.”
By the time poor Mr. Armstrong was on his way back to the barracks, that business was all over and done, and the prize — a large home-made rebel flag — was safely stowed in a saddlebag.
One source claims there was a “small skirmish” before the flag was confiscated. While possible, this seems unlikely; if shots had been fired at U.S. Cavalry troopers, Smithfield would no doubt have been burned to the ground and its surviving occupants hauled back to Vancouver as prisoners. I’ve been able to find no record of anything like that.
But, skirmish or no, it was the first and only incidence of an operation by the U.S. Army against a non-Native American military enemy on Oregon soil, and it ended in defeat for the Smithfield rebels.
(Sources: McCornack, Elwin. “When the Rebel Flag Flew on the Long Tom,” Lane County Historian, March 1962; Aplin, Glenn. “Notes on the Civil War,” Pacific Northwest Forum, winter 1978; Fletcher, Randol. Hidden History of Civil War Oregon. London: The History Press, 2011)