Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Prattville Dragoons in the City of Prattville 4th of July Parade

The 4th of July parade in downtown Prattville honored World War II veterans and was enjoyed by all those octogenarians in attendance.  The Prattville Dragoons were included in the dignitaries portion of the parade because of the participation of two WW II vets in our entry,  Prattville Dragoon James Spears and Donald Wheeler, stepfather of 2nd Lt. Commander Stuart Waldo.  The community turned out in large numbers to cheer as the parade progressed from the courthouse up Main Street to Northington and Pratt Park.  The candy tossed to the children spectating ran out midway thru the parade.  The Dragoons entry included a 4-seat golf cart which allowed James and Donald to ride along with Stuart’s son and mother who had never been in a parade before in her 86 years so it was truly a once in a lifetime event for some in attendance.  This cart can be used for future parades and events and hopefully will encourage participation by some of the camp’s older members.   Wayne Sutherland and Stuart carried the camp banner and Larry Spears carried a Secession Flag and took some great photographs of the event. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sesquicentennial Sons of Confederate Veterans Convention First Day

The Prattville Dragoons hosted the kick-of event of the Sesquicentennial Sons of Confederate Veterans convention on Wednesday July 13th.  A tour of the historic Prattville downtown area as well as the Prattaugan Museum was conducted starting at 10am.  A walking tour down Main Street highlighted the historic 20th century as well as antebellum structures including the old Prattville Mercantile Building and the Pratt Gin Works.  These were the center of Prattville life in the decades before the War for Southern Independence.  The Gin Works is still in business manufacturing cotton gins as the Engineering and Administrative offices for Continental Eagle.  This was once the largest and for some time the oldest continuous manufacturing site for cotton gins in the world.  Overlooking Heritage Park, Tyrone Crowley provided an historical perspective on Daniel Pratt (1799-1873) and his importance as an industrialist and benefactor of the Southern Cause.  Pratt was born in New Hampshire but he adopted the South and specifically this corner of Autauga County Alabama and envisioned a New England style village with a diverse industrial and craftsmen base.  He was not originally in favor of secession and believed the infrastructure of the South needed to be developed but when it became inevitable and his home state seceded, he threw his firm support and fortune behind Southern rights and the Confederate army, contributing approximately $200,000 in 1860s dollars.  He actually helped arm and supply with uniforms and horses the Prattville Dragoons who were the first of the units from Autauga county to be formed and enter the War.  He was always a philanthropist and following the War he continued to provide employment, counsel, and charity to feed and clothe the needy including the freed blacks in the community during the horrible Reconstruction period.  Following the walking tour, a few remained for a tour of the Prattaugan Museum which provides some amazing historical artifacts and records about Daniel Pratt and his village including period photographs, ledgers, letters and other documents, clothing, and even an old cotton gin.  A number of Confederate artifacts from the War including bonds, bullets and shot, and even an old sword and revolver are also displayed; a corner contains some information about the Prattville Dragoons including a reproduction swallow tail First Flag, some period documents and an excerpt from a historical account of the Dragoons by the last Captain of the unit. Hours could be spent perusing the rooms of displays and enjoying the cool air conditioning following a hot summer stroll down Main Street in Prattville.  Following the Prattville tour, the GEC held it's first meeting of the convention at the host hotel, the Embassy Suites in Montgomery and a welcome BBQ dinner was held at the RSA in downtown Montgomery.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Camp Sumter

Attended a family reunion in south central Georgia the weekend of June 25-26th.  As I was in the area, I took the opportunity to go by the Andersonville National Historic Site.  This was the site of Camp Sumter where "over fourty five thousand Union soldiers were confined (as prisoners or war) at the prison (and) almost thirteen thousand died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding and exposure to the elements." This according to the National Park Service's brochure.  Toured the POW museum there which was an amazing couple of hurried hours.  One could spend many more hours in the museum combing over the collection of POW artifacts and presentations.  What was interesting was the manner in which the museum was laid out with different sections explaining different aspects of life as a POW including clothing or uniforms, games and means to pass the time, religion and how they managed to practice their faith, diaries and communications with family and the outside world etc.  The sections were not divided by time period but by these topics and it struck me how POWs from the time of the Revolutionary War thru to the Vietnam War and Desert Storm all confronted similar hardships and trials.  While the museum presented the dire conditions in which the prisoners or war at Camp Sumter lived and died, they did also mention at least the truth about one of the main reasons why there was such overcrowding which led to the poor santitation, disease and malnutrition, that the North refused to release Confederate POWs in a swap for these Union troops held at Camp Sumter and elsewhere.  In what has been described as one of the most shining testaments to the fighting courage and tenacity of the Confederate soldier, General Grant stated, "It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught, they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners in the North would insure Sherman's defeat and would compromise our safety here."  What was not as thoroughly explained was that the shortage of medicine to treat the diseased and sick at Camp Sumter was caused largely by the Union blockade and refusal to allow medicine thru to the Southern States.  Similarly, the shortage of food especially once General Sherman's pillage commenced caused hunger and malnutrition among the Confederate soldiers and civilian populations also.  The terrible conditions and high death tolls at Union POW camps was largely a footnote and certainly the graves of the thousands of Confederate soldiers who died interned as Union prisoners of war are not similarly honored at those sites north of the Mason Dixon line.  All in all, a stark reminder of the horror of war when one gazes at the thousands of tombstones lined in countless rows in the cemetary there.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 4th

While July 4th one hundred and fourty eight years ago was a dire time in the survival of the Confederacy with the fall of Vicksburg and the carnage at Gettysburg, Independence Day should be remembered and celebrated by compatriots for the birth of the United States of America and the pure principles which our founding fathers envisioned for foundation of our nation and particularly in the cornerstone Constitution.  If the Jeffersonian ideals which had been the framework of the Constitution had been adhered to in 1861 and the period leading up that (as well as in today's day and time), the struggle for States Rights and the attempt to reign in a tyrannical overreaching overbearing Federal government would not have resulted in the travesty of hundreds of thousands of casualties in the War Between the States and the world today may have been a much different place. Truly, the Confederate States of America may have grown to be "the shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom loving people everywhere" as Ronald Reagan stated.  Today, the debate is alive as to whether America is still or can continue to be such a shining example but a return to the founding principles is our only hope.  So when you celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, reflect on the great struggle, the founding of the Confedearet States of America and the War for Southern Independence which was fought to preserve those founding father's vision.  The Prattville Dragoons will be marching in the city of Prattville's July 4th parade to celebrate American Independence gained in the eighteenth century, to honor the World War II veterans who fought to preserve democracy and defeat the Axis powers in the twentieth century, and to remember those who fought in the War for Southern Independence in the nineteenth century.