Monday, July 29, 2013

Sons of Confederate Veterans 118th National Reunion in Vicksburg MS - Part 3

Thursday afternoon at the SCV National reunion provided an opportunity to tour the Vicksburg National Military Park.  The guided bus tour started at the visitor center where a film and a fiber optic map explained the chronology of the surrounding battles and siege of Vicksburg.  A painting of Confederate General Pemberton and his swords as well as a mortar cannon were the first exhibits viewed in the visitor center where other exhibits provided recreations of scenes from the siege including the struggle for life by the civilians huddling in caves under the relentless Union shelling.  Amazingly, only a dozen or so civilians were killed by this bombardment which illustrates their ingenuity and resilience in resisting the siege while facing disease and starvation. 
Generals Pemberton and Grant in the VNMP Visitor Center

The first stop on the bus tour was at a panoramic overlook of the battlefield where the Louisiana batteries stood along the five mile long front.  The initial assault by Grant occurred down Graveyard Road on May 19, 1863 but the Union forces were repulsed.  Another concerted attack was conducted on May 22nd all along the five mile front and this succeeded in destroying the Stockade Redan.  A redan is a v-shaped earthen fortification approximately 8 feet wide and 7 feet deep.  Again the Union troops were turned back and Grant decided his best recourse was to "outcamp" the Confederates and so began the siege. On June 26th, the 3rd Louisiana redan was blown up when tons of explosives were set in tunnels excavated under their redan positions along Logan's Approach.  Trenches and the old Jackson Road are still visible although overgrown by grass.  Trees have been removed over the past few years to return the landscape to reflect the terrain of the period 150 years ago. 

The Louisiana Batteries Overlooking the Battlefield

One of the first monuments constructed at the VNMP is the Illinois monument which has 47 steps from the road to the structure, one for each day of the siege.  It is a beautiful impressive marble structure which would have cost approximately $45MM in today's dollars to build.  Bronze plaques inside the building list Illinois veterans who fought at Vicksburg under Grant. Adjacent is the Shirley home which is the only structure on the property which dates to the period of the War.  The dogtrot architecture house was owned by a lawyer and was used as part of the Union fortifications during the siege and was not destroyed only after his daughter raised a white flag surrendering the house telling the invading army that they were loyalists from New Hampshire. 

The Interior of the Illinois Monument

The Illinois Monument

The Shirley House

Retired Brigadier General and SCV member Parker Hills wrote a resource volume entitled VNMP Art of Commemoration which provides detailed information about the monuments set in the park; he provided a slide-show presentation of much of this work in an historical program later that evening at the Convention Center.  The Wisconsin memorial was made of a brown stone brought from Wisconsin and atop the monument is a statue of Abe, the Wisconsin troops eagle mascot which survived the War.  The statue of General Grant is atop his horse Kangaroo and sits in Grant's Circle which is the location of his actual encampment during the siege.  Grant's landing to cross the Mississippi downstream of Vicksburg was the largest amphibious assault in the history of the United States until WWII.

General Grant on Kangaroo

The Union ironclads played a key role in the siege of Vicksburg and were successful in running supplies past the Confederate guns positioned on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi.  The  U.S.S Cairo was an ironclad which was sunk on the Yazoo River, the first boat sunk using an electronic device in wartime, a galvanic charge detonating a mine.  The vessel was raised from the bottom of the Yazoo in 1964 as were it's original guns and steam engine and paddlewheels which can be viewed in the exhibit housing the Cairo in the VNMP. The Cairo was one of seven identical gunboats used in the siege, all built in 100 days by the U.S. Navy.  The massive steam engines powered the ships to a speed of 8 knots.  The Cairo is the only surviving ironclad gunboat used in the siege.  The Mississippi abruptly changed its course in 1876 and the Yazoo River actually fronts the city of Vicksburg today.  

The U.S.S. Cairo

The Cairo Torpedoed with Original Cannon

The Cairo's Boiler, Steam Engine and Paddlewheel

18000 veterans are buried in the VNMP including 17000 Union troops and two Confederates.  The remaining graves are veterans of U.S. Wars since the War Between the States up to the Korean War.  The Confederate and Union lines were about a half mile apart along the front.  Pemberton's Confederates had around 175 artillery pieces while Grant's forces used about 140 guns.  But the Union troops numbered 75000 to the 30000 Confederates holed up around Vicksburg.  A cul-de-sac in the park is located at the spot where Pemberton and Grant met under an oak tree to discuss terms of the surrender on July 3rd.  After pleasantries including reminiscing of their past at West Point, Grant demanded unconditional surrender but Pemberton refused and they retired to their lines.  But Grant reconsidered with the recommendation from his junior officers that it would be logistically impossible to detain and transport so many prisoners and the Confederates were subsequently paroled after taking an oath of allegiance to the United States; nonetheless, many of these Confederate troops returned to service for the Cause and faced Grant's forces at later battles.

Cemetery at Vicksburg National Military Park

The Mississippi monument is next to a statue of Pemberton and nearby is a statue of Jefferson Davis who had a home about 10 miles from Vicksburg.  The Texas monument is on Railroad Redoubt where Texas troops drove out Union troops in hand-to-hand combat on May 22nd. The Union General subsequently failed to inform Grant of this loss and was relieved of duties and transferred to Washington DC.  One of the last statues observed on the tour was of Confederate General Stephen Dill Lee who was also President of Mississippi State University and Commander in Chief of the United Confederate Veterans and first superintendent of the Vicksburg National Military Park.  In 1917, a reunion of 10000 Union and Confederate veterans met at the park and the donated the funds which built the arch entry to the VNMP. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sons of Confederate Veterans 118th National Reunion in Vicksburg MS - Part 2

The first Business Session of the 118th SCV National Convention was brought to order by Commander-in-Chief Michael Givens.  He lived in Pascagoula MS for six years.  He started with the roll call of the GEC including the Army Commanders and Past Commander-in-Chief McMichael and Sweeney. Givens then brought everyone's attention to the special rules for the convention and the motion was made to adopt, seconded and approved. He then introduced Frank Powell as Parliamentarian and the Recording Secretaries.  The Proposed Constitutional Amendments were highlighted in the 2013 Annual Book of Reports provided to each conference attendee.  CiC Givens lamented we are now reduced to just seven Real Sons and none were in attendance; approximately eight Real Grandsons were at the convention and they were also recognized.  Nelson Winbush made a motion to recognize those who are descendants of veterans of the Vicksburg battles and siege and a number of men rose to applause.

CiC Michael Givens, Parliamentarian Frank Powell and Adjutant Steve Ritchie
The Sons of Confederate Veterans General Executive Committee

Executive Director Ben Sewell provided the first report for the Budget and Finances for Elm Springs, the SCV National Headquarters. Monies were recently spent on minor repairs on columns and brick sealing.  The SCV had 29018 members as of the date of his report including approximately 3400 life members.  One of the largest budgeted item was for the continuing restoration of the Forrest boyhood home, over budget  with another similar sum projected to finish the work on this wonderful historic site.  Additional funds are allocated for travel expenses in the upcoming budget for the Lt.Commander and the Army Commanders. Scholarship funds and endowments include the Brookes Fund which has over $3MM in assets awaiting the funding of medical research by SCV members.  Heritage Defense has a war chest for new operational initiatives.  The Bicentennial Fund already has funds accruing and the new SCV Museum over $400k.  Ben recognized the members of the investment committee and said the 2012 audit was completed without issue.  A motion was made to approve the proposed budget, seconded and passed. 

Adjutant-in-Chief Steve Ritchie said the SCV Reunion is the one reunion he enjoys attending and that serving as Adjutant for the SCV is one of the great honors of his life.  He enumerated the responsibilities of the GEC Adjutant to record minutes of GEC meetings and handle GEC correspondence.  Steve has worked with Lt. Commander Barrow on Leadership Training conferences including Colorado and Foley AL. He highlighted the Leadership Institute on-line which is available at now.  Steve has stressed communications between the Adjutants and officers throughout the organization. His goal for the coming year is to complete edits of the Camp Procedure Manual which is also available online.  He presented the Minutes from the 2012 convention for which a motion was made, seconded and approved.

The Judge Advocate General Burl McCoy next addressed the convention and said no recent suits are active and it is his goal to avoid litigation. But, the situation on Memphis over the city council renaming Confederate memorial parks is being investigated as is licence plate battles in Texas and Florida. Chief of Staff Chuck Rand said he too has connections to Vicksburg.  He indicated late registrants for this year's convention resulted in a shortage in commemorative medals and Book of Reports which are important to make available so everyone knows what is going on across the SCV.  The Book of Reports will be posted on line.  He announced new donation initiatives for the SCV Confederate Museum including a Stonewall Jackson founders level to which he announced he was contributing which elicited a congratulatory handshake from Ben Sewell.

Chaplain-in-Chief Mark Evans sees God's providence in everything and recognizes his serving as chaplain as blessing upon blessing.  No other organization in the country has the spiritual strength of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  Our ancestors had a glorious revival which resulted in tens of thousands being saved and the Bible Belt was born of this spiritual revival. Truth is what is.  A lie is what is not.  We are standing for the truth.  You cannot destroy the truth.  Mark informed everyone that the Chaplains Chronicles are available by email - sermons and communications from chaplains across the SCV which include announcements and prayer requests, concluding with the reminder that God answers prayers. 

Chaplain Mark Evans Addresses the Reunion

Army of Northern Virginia Army Commander Frank Earnest introduced Ian Pierce from the Channel Islands which were former British colonies located just off the coast of France. Ian was inspirational in his fiery testimonial of his Confederate roots and spirit saying he knows what the damned Yankees did was wrong as much as what the Nazis did to the Jews during WWII.  The Nazis occupied these islands during WWII but even they did not commit the atrocities that the invading Yankees committed including rape and pillaging.  The 9th of May is celebrated in his homeland as Liberation Day - we need that in America to send the damned Yankees back from whence they came.  Ian flies the Battle Flag at his home except those days when each Confederate state seceded when he flies the state flags.  He once corrected someone who reminded him that the South lost the Battle of Bull Run saying, we didn't and it is called Manassas.  But he does have Dixie playing on his doorbell on his home and also got a telephone with a Dixie ringtone.  He has even argued with church ministers about the War for Southern Independence including after a sermon when he reprimanded a preacher over the accuracy of his depiction of Abraham Lincoln.  Ian swore he would never sing the Battle Hymn of the republic calling it a song of hate.  He placed Battle Flag stickers all over his Red Cross van and explained that his son wears Battle Flag apparel to school.  His ancestors fought in the 22nd Alabama infantry.  There were no rebels, just hard working honest men who fought for the Constitution of 1787.  He hopes 2011-2015 is the SCV's finest hour but we need more members.  The Yankee propaganda is creeping in like a cancer - we accept one thing and then another til one day our grandchildren will ask, "What is the War for Southern Independence?"  Ian painted all his garden gnomes gray and negotiated with his wife to paint their home gray (with white trim as a compromise). 

JM talked about retention.  J said one of the largest monuments to Southern ingenuity was the Confederate patent office in Vicksburg.  He believes the primary reason members don't renew is that they do not recognize the value of membership because they were not involved.  50% of new members do not renew after the first year.  Greet all attendees of your camp meetings, assign someone as greeter who knows all the members names.  Provide a recent copy of the excellent Confederate Veteran magazine to prospective members.  Importantly, provide interesting programs which are historically accurate and not necessarily PC (politically corrupt). 

Lt. Commander Kelly Barrow stressed Leadership Training in his speech to the conference, saying we can never get enough education.  Over 400 people have attended the Leadership Workshops which are an integral part of the Vision 2016 initiative.  We need to build the SCV on better leadership to make better officers and better members.  The SCV Leadership Institute is available for camp Commanders and Adjutants at  New Member training will be added to this curriculum and training will include videos from the workshops.  Upcoming workshops will be conducted in san Antonio TX and Lake City FL.  Kelly conveyed that he is willing to travel anywhere for the membership.

The final report of this first Business Session was from the Convention Planning Committee which met at Beauvoir in March with presentations from two groups wishing to host the 2016 SCV Reunion.  The Committee recommended that the 2016 Reunion be hosted in July in Richardson TX. There was a unanimous vote to accept the recommendation of the Committee.  The Thursday Business Session closed for special lunches and dinners and afternoon tours and would reconvene Friday morning.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sons of Confederate Veterans 118th National Reunion in Vicksburg MS - Part 1

The Sesquicentennial of the Siege of Vicksburg brought the Sons of Confederate Veterans annual convention to this historic city on Wednesday July 17th thru Saturday July 20th.  The Reunion was held at the Vicksburg Civic Center in historic downtown Vicksburg, only a block from the Yazoo River with many of the surrounding historic homes and buildings dating from the period of the War Between the States.  Most of the events including the Business Sessions and Lunches and programs were held in the Civic Center with tours of the National Military Park and other sites available for attendees and their families.  Members of the Prattville Dragoons who attended the convention included Commander Stuart Waldo, Former Commander and I-65 Flag Chairman Larry Spears and Quartermaster David Brantley.  Philip and Rose Davis from Montgomery were in attendance also and Butch and Pat Godwin from Selma were there too representing the Friends of Forrest and continuing their efforts for the Confederate Circle Renovation in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. Tennessee Army Commander Tom Strain and Alabama Division Commander Gary Carlyle also made the Reunion.

Conference Attendees Gather at the 118th SCV National Reunion in the Vicksburg Civic Center

The Reunion opened with the singing of Dixie by Dr. Clarisa Davis who despite some microphone technical difficulties did a wonderful job kicking off the event.  Chaplain in Chief Mark Evans offered the invocation next and the flags were brought in my a reenactment color guard, followed by Wayne McMaster leading everyone in the pledges to the U.S. and Confederate flags.  General Stephen D. Lee's Charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans was then read, the 107th anniversary of his addressing the Sons. 

SCV GEC and Clarisa Davis at the Reunion Opening Ceremony

Mississippi Lt.Gov Tate Reeves then addressed the convention conveying to everyone that he is proud to be from Mississippi and the South and a part of the SCV Reunion as prayer and pledges opened the event.  He welcomed everyone to Vicksburg, the key to Mississippi and congratulated the SCV for keeping history alive for our youth.  He is proud to support the Mississippi monument at Shiloh and explained that the War Between the States defined us and what we as a nation have become.  He encouraged everyone to tour the historic battlefields to help us understand the events which led brother to fight brother and the terror the civilians felt waiting for the fighting to stop.  Lt. Gov. Reeves was given a standing ovation.  The President of the Warren County Board of Supervisors said addressing the SCV caused him to research his own ancestry.  He informed everyone that among many distinctions, Warren County was the home of Jefferson Davis before the War.

Past Mississippi UDC President Francis Woodruff conveyed greetings from the UDC President General on this 150th Anniversary of the Siege of Vicksburg.  One of her ancestors served in the Confederate Army at Vicksburg.  She said the SCV, UDC and Children on the Confederacy (CoC) need to work together to combat falsehoods and represent true history closing with a quote from Jefferson Davis, "The contest is not over, the strife has not ended."  Jessica Sizemore, President of the CoC thanked everyone for the support of their heritage organization for Confederate youth and informed everyone that their 59th annual convention was underway just down I-20 in Jackson MS. She read a touching poem entitled "Dear Ancestor" and concluded inviting everyone to their convention.

The Commander in Chief of the Sons of Union Veterans said it was an honor and privilege to bring greetings to brothers in the Confederacy and reminded us that we share a basic mission to honor our ancestors.  The War has long ended but should not be forgotten. We must educate future generations of the lessons learned and suggested reenactments should be used to grow membership over the next two years of the Sesquicentennial.  The Mississippi Division Order of Confederate Rose President thanked everyone for allowing the OCR to participate in the Reunion and continue to serve as an auxiliary for the SCV.  The final speaker for the Reunion Opening Ceremony was Pemberton Camp 1354 Commander Wayne McMaster who said that although they are a small camp, volunteers worked together to host this Reunion.  He congratulated the Mississippi Division who helped save the Confederate Battle Flag as an integral part of the state flag.  Tony Wade added an important highlight from the last year that in December 2012 a monument was dedicated to black Confederates sponsored by the SCV with a committee which included Commander-in-Chief Givens.
118th SCV National Reunion Opening Ceremony in Vicksburg

Sunday, July 21, 2013

14th Annual Birthday Celebration of Lt.Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

The 14th Annual Birthday Party at Fort Dixie on July 13th 2013 hosted by the Godwins celebrated the 192nd birthday of Nathan B. Forrest, one of the great Confederate cavalry officers of the War Between the States.  The rains skirted all around Fort Dixie but did not dampen the festivities for the couple hundred Confederates in attendance. Confederates from the area included Bill Anthony and members of the Tallassee Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1921, Mike Whorton from Wetumpka, Alan Parker from Montgomery, Dragoon past Commanders Wyatt Willis and Harold Grooms, Dragoon Communications Officer Tyrone Crowley and his wife Carol, Dragoon Color Sgt Brent Jenks and his father George, Dragoon Danny Smyth and Dragoons Commander Stuart Waldo and his family.  Cold watermelon under the shade trees and lemonade was available to everyone to cool off on the humid Alabama summer day.  The celebration began with a welcome from the hosts and an Invocation from Johnny Westerfield followed by the singing of Dixie and firing of the cannon by Todd Kiscaden.  The keynote address followed music from the fabulous Tallassee Armory Guards Camp 1921 String Band.  The keynote speaker was Gene Andrews of Nashville TN, the Executive Director of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Boyhood Home in Chapel Hill TN.  He gave an interesting detailed history of Forrest and his campaigns.  Everyone sat under a series of tents listening intently to the breadth of information shared by Gene and then enjoyed more music before the auction.  The auction of a flag, period dresses, books, a CSS Tennessee replica model and Forrest portraits benefitted the Friends of Forrest and their Confederate Circle renovation work at the Selma Live Oak Cemetery. Todd Kiscaden gave a report on the "recent unpleasantness" regarding the work on this beautification and security and accessibility enhancement project including recounting the initial obstruction by anarchist elements which endangered these irresponsible protesters and which has effectively delayed the project until scheduled federal court hearings which will provide the UDC the deed to the cemetery Confederate Circle property to finish this work to honor these brave Confederate heroes who defended Selma and the armory there near the end of the War for Southern Independence.  A blessing for the meal was extended and then everyone enjoyed a delicious supper of fried catfish and hush puppies, corn on the cob and potatoes, mac n cheese, sliced tomatoes, birthday cake and sweet iced tea.  Awards were presented to conclude the festivities as everyone dispersed to their homes following a wonderful afternoon celebrating the birthday of Confederate legend General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
U.S. and Confederate Flags at Fort Dixie

Crowd Listening to the Forrest Program
Children Enjoy the Confederate Cannon and Confederate Monuments

Tallassee Armory Guards Camp 1921 String Band

Bill Anthony Serves as Auctioneer

Todd Kiscaden Provides Update on Confederate Circle Enhancement Project

Gene Andrews Provides Keynote Address on Nathan Bedford Forrest

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Prattville Dragoons Camp Meeting Report for July 2013

The Dragoons held their July camp meeting on Thursday July 11th at 7pm at the Shoney's on Cobbs Ford Rd, just of I-65 in Prattville.  Shoney's was advertising their scrumptious strawberry pies for summer and I for one took home a whole pie topped with whipped cream.  Chaplain Snowden opened the program with the Invocation and then the pledges were made to the U.S., Alabama and Confederate flags.  A new element of the meeting was the reading of the SCV Cause by the camp Commander.  Brigade Commander Myrick named all the recipients of Brigade and Division Awards from the recent Alabama Division Reunion and presented past-Commander Chris Booth his award for his service as camp Commander for the Dragoons. After announcements of upcoming events, the news that the Dragoons Executive Committee had agreed to serve as an Emergency Response Team for the Confederate Memorial Park was announced and Communications Officer Tyrone Crowley read a letter from park Director Bill Rambo expressing his appreciation.  Dragoon Benny Harris will assist the EC in formulating a response plan with his expertise in this area.  A report on the Dragoons participation in the Prattville 4th of July parade was given including the warm reception received from the spectators along the route and the weather miraculously cooperating.  Huge reenactments were planned for the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg and events planned there were in the news so our Reenactor Liaison Paul Whaley provided a fascinating account of his participation in the 135th anniversary reenactment there in 1998 which was the largest ever conducted in the country with over 25000 reenactment troops bivouacing, maneuvering, charging and artillery and muskets firing over the course of the three days.  The final announcement was made by Tyrone explaining the schedule for the camp's Dixie Butt fundraiser which provides funds for the camp activities and donations to flag and cemetery preservation. The guest speaker was Will Dismukes who recently graduated from Faulkner University in Montgomery with a Political Science degree after also completing his collegiate baseball career in the small college World Series.  Will expressed his pride in his Southern heritage and said he has used his metal detector to scour numerous battlefields including Corinth and Blakeley.  He recently discovered that his very backyard was a treasure trove, a former Confederate campground near a ferry across the Alabama River from the Montgomery capital.  His family formerly owned Halls Plantation on this land which extended down the peninsula the river made along its course here where today I-65 splits the land.  There was formerly a plantation home and slave quarters and a well situated on the property.  Will showed three cases with many different artifacts and provided descriptions of the objects including their history. On one of his first searches he found a Confederate wreath buckle and a rare Louisianna pelican wreath buckle which was missing as he was having it authenticated.  He found 58 and 69 caliber bullets and a bayonet tip just recently over the 4th of July weekend after they burned the fields.  He has found Confederate and Union buttons explaining destitute Confederate soldiers often used anything they could find as buttons for their clothing including buttons off Union coats.  A hatchet he found was cleaned up and he uses it for removing roots during his excavations. One of his prized possessions he found here is a Revolutionary War period wax seal ring with an old style American eagle embossed. Will gave a very interesting presentation on his collection and impressed everyone with his enthusiasm for Confederate history.
Commander Myrick Presents Award Certificate to past-Commander Booth
Paul Whaley Shows Photo from the 1998 Gettysburg Reenactment

Will Dismukes Addresses the Camp Meeting Presenting Artifacts

Dragoons Listen Intently to the Presentation

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 Sons of Confederate Veterans Reunion in Vicksburg MS

Today the 2013 SCV convention begins with a registration, a meeting of the General Executive Committee and a reception.  This year's reunion will be held in Vicksburg, the Gibraltar of the Confederacy.  The fortifications guarding this city controlling the regional access to the Mississippi River withstood full assaults by the Union Army under Grant until a months long siege and artillery bombardment caused civilian casualties and starvation conditions such that the Confederate defenders were forced to surrender the city.  This crippled the Confederacy and the ability to use the Mississippi for critical food and supplies distribution and transportation.  The loss of Vicksburg coupled with the loss at Gettysburg were the turning points in the War for Southern Independence.

The SCV Reunion runs today through Saturday with most events at the Vicksburg Convention Center including the Opening Ceremony on Thursday morning.  The annual Forrest Cavalry Breakfast will precede the opening and the first Business Session will commence following.  Tours of the Vicksburg National Military Park will be conducted in the morning and afternoon on Thursday.

On Friday the Chaplain's Breakfast will kick things off at the Convention Center followed by the second Business Session.  An Awards Luncheon and the MS Shiloh Monument Fish Fry will be offered for sustenance this day.  An Historical Program at the Convention Center and a Memorial Service at Christ Episcopal Church will also be held that afternoon.  The annual Oratory Contest and Social will close the Friday events that evening.

On Saturday the Army meetings will be held first thing in the morning followed by the third and final Business Meeting, again at the Convention Center.  Saturday evening the Commander's Reception and the Debutante Presentation will be the finale events for this Reunion. Prattville Dragoons Stuart Waldo, Larry Spears and David Brantley will attend this year's SCV Reunion including various events starting today and are looking forward to another wonderful edition making new friends and memories.  Check back here for reports and images from the Reunion in Vicksburg.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Douglas Southall Freeman's "Lee!" Book Review by Dragoons 1st Lt Harold Grooms

From the Prattville Dragoons July 2013 Camp Dispatch:

Lee! - a Book Review by 1Lt Commander Harold Grooms
            Douglas Southall Freeman’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Robert E. Lee is THE definitive account of the only man ever offered command of two opposing armies.  Written long before political correctness became imperative, it provides a detailed account of his life and a frank assessment of both his successes and failures.  In four volumes he covers every facet of the life of a man whose impact is still felt to this day.
            Volume I covers Lee’s upbringing and the impact of his Father, Revolutionary War hero “Light-Horse” Harry Lee who enjoyed the complete confidence of George Washington.  It also describes his education at West Point and his service in the Mexican War that caught the attention of General Winfield Scott and his later service in the Corp of Engineers in the U.S. Army.  It concludes with his declination of Scott’s offer of Command of the Union Army. 
            Volume II recounts his early victories that led to the relief of Union General George McClellan who he would later call the most capable Union general he faced.  His most overwhelming victory was at Fredericksburg where he said, “It is well war is so terrible, else we would grow too fond of it!”  It also discusses the death, by fratricide, of “Stonewall” Jackson at Chancellorsville where he said, “Jackson has lost his left arm.  I have lost my right!”
            Volume III:  Knowing time and resources favored the North, Lee sought a stunning victory on Union soil to bolster the peace movement in the North and elect a U.S. president disposed to ending the war on terms favorable to the south.  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the place!  The loss there he attributes largely to Longstreet’s half-hearted support.  The initiative then passed to the north which they never relinquished. 
            Volume IV describes the unrelenting pressure applied by Grant and his ally, starvation.  Forced to conduct a fighting retreat his soldiers never lost confidence in “Marse Robert” and resolved to follow him anywhere.  Deprived of sustenance and completely surrounded, Lee made the agonizing decision to, “Go see General Grant,” at Appomattox.  Volume IV also covers the Reconstruction Acts and their impact, and Lee's decision to lead by example by humbly submitting to authority.  He refused to capitalize on his notoriety by turning down lucrative business offers and accepted the Presidency of little-known Washington College at a salary of $1500.00 per year instead. His final order from his deathbed:  “Strike the tent!”
            For years I avoided reading Freeman.  The four volumes covering 2246 pages plus annexes intimidated me.  Don’t let it intimidate you!  Chapters covering specific events seldom exceed 30 easily read pages.  Warning!  Don’t read Freeman if you have anything else to do.  You will find yourself unable to put it down and eager to get to the next chapter and volume.  A truly great work of invaluable historical significance.  FIVE SHINING STARS!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Confederate Family Reunion in Abbeville GA - Part 3

From Abbeville GA, it is a relatively quick 40 minutes drive to Irwinville GA.  But in 1865, it was a day's journey for President Jefferson Davis and his escorts as he fled thru south Georgia on his way west after the fall of Richmond.  It was in Irwinville on the morning of May 10, 1865 that Davis was captured by Union troops and taken to Fortress Monroe in Virginia where he remained in custody for two years, never charged or tried with any crimes or treason and "his hopes for a new nation in which each state would exercise without interference its cherished Constitutional Rights" dead forever, or perhaps to have a rebirth in a different time and in a different form.  The Jefferson Davis Memorial State Park is in Irwinville GA.  The park commemorates the spot where Davis was captured that fateful morning.  The park is a terrific memorial site which has a museum with artifacts including period weapons, historic flags and interpretive displays as well as a picnic pavilion with restrooms and a playground for the kids.  Two additional historic markers are positioned in front of the museum and down a slight hill in the midst of a few trees, a monument is found with a beautiful bronze bust atop it and a flagpole with the Stainless Banner flying adjacent to it.  A somber sad place for reflection on the end of the great promise of the Confederate States of America. 
Historical Marker in Front of the Museum at the Jefferson Davis Memorial State Park In Irwinville GA

Monument with Bronze Bust of Jefferson Davis and the Stainless Banner

Friday, July 12, 2013

14th Annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday Party at Fort Dixie

There are two events the weekend of General Forrest's birthday. The Selma event is an all day event beginning at 3:00 PM and includes live Southern music, a noted speaker, door prizes, auction, a drawing for a Nathan Bedford Forrest mini bust and a GREAT catfish supper!  The Memphis event starts at 2:00 PM on Sunday afternoon.  Make time to attend the Selma event at Fort Dixie on Saturday & then get up early on Sunday & head out for Memphis!  What a Nathan Bedford Forrest weekend it can be!  

Once again for Ole Bedford's Birthday party at Fort Dixie, there will be a drawing for the hot cast bronze  bust of NBF - the tickets are $2 each. The proceeds benefit the NBF Monument Fund for restoration of Confederate Circle at the cemetery in Selma.  

There will be some special items in the auction at the party this year - for Confederate Navy enthusiasts, a VERY NICE replica of the CSS Tennessee - the famed ironclad in the Battle of Mobile - it was ironclad in Selma at the Confederate Naval Ordnance & Ironworks. Also, the 1994 Commemorative SCV issued portrait of  NBF by Nicola Marshall - beautifully museum framed - absolutely GORGEOUS!!!

Gene Andrews, Exec Dir of the NBF Boyhood Home in Chapel Hill, TN is the guest speaker this year. Gene is an outstanding learned speaker on the subject of Nathan Bedford Forrest!  The Tallassee Armory Guards Camp 1921 String Band will be providing entertainment this year along with a special feature - Scots/Irish Folk song singer/songwriter, Jed Marum from TX...who has recently released his new CD "SouthWind4" which is very beautiful! 

We will have our famous Southern Fried Catfish supper at 6:00 PM....unfortunately, Bobby Holloway, our Master Chef will not be with us this year. I would like to ask each of you to put Bobby & Belinda Holloway on your most fervent prayer list.  

Ole Bedford's Birthday Party provides support for the efforts to honor General Forrest and to defend & preserve our Southern heritage in Selma. Come to Fort Dixie on July 13 and sing DIXIE with us & celebrate the General's birthday with us!
Confederate Battle Flag Birthday Cake

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Confederate Family Reunion in Abbeville GA - Part 2

Following our lunch with my cousins and placing a Confederate Battle Flag on my great grandfather Joseph Rhodes grave, we made our way back thru Abbeville GA.  Abbeville is the county seat of Wilcox county and we stopped the car across the street from the court house building.  I noticed a Civil War monument thru the trees.  The inscription on it reads, " It is a duty we give to posterity to see that our children shall know the virtues and become worthy of their sires."  A similar message as is contained in Stephen D. Lee's Charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  There were also two historical markers there in the lawn of the library there across Hwy 129 from the courthouse.  I had never previously taken note of these despite having passed this way countless times when I visited my grandmother every summer as an adolescent.  I had no idea that Abbeville held such an infamous place in history for it was here that President Jefferson Davis camped for the night, just the day before he was captured by Union troops as he fled Richmond after Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate capital lay defenseless.  President Davis planned to travel down towards the Gulf of Mexico and then westward in the hopes of coordinating a resistance with the forces of the Confederate Army of Trans-Mississippi to prolong the War and force a negotiated peace, a settlement with the United States government. The markers provide details of these last days of the Davis Presidency found in this quiet small south Georgia town.
Confederate Memorial across from the Wilcox County Courthouse in Abbeville GA
Historical Marker in the Library Mawn across from the Courthouse in Abbeville

Wilcox County Courthouse and a Second Historical Marker in Abbeville

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Prattville Dragoons Camp Meeting Announcement for July 2013

The Dragoons will hold their monthly camp meeting on Thursday July 11th at 7pm at the Shoney's on Cobbs Ford Road in Prattville AL.  Come early to enjoy the delicious Shoney's buffet of which many folks partake before the meeting, starting around 6pm.  The following is the announcement in the July Dragoons Camp Dispatch for the meeting:

Local Confederate Site To Be Discussed at July Meeting
Will Dismukes of Millbrook/Coosada, who had to postpone his visit originally set for last month, will speak to us at the July meeting about a site that has given up some Confederate memorabilia.  Will's family owns land in the Millbrook area which served as a campground for Confederate soldiers during the War Between the States.  Will has excavated a number of items which he will show and tell us about.  Will is considering joining the Dragoons, so a warm welcome and good participation for his presentation is encouraged. Will is a student at Faulkner University in Montgomery AL and has volunteered at the Prattaugan Museum in downtown Prattville which has a fabulous display of Confederate and 19th century artifacts from the founding of the town by Daniel Pratt. All camps need younger members such as Will to keep the Confederate memory alive and the Charge answered by each generation. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dragoons Participate in Prattville 4th of July Parade

The Prattville Dragoons placed an entry in the City of Prattville's annual 4th of July parade once again.  The day started with a steady hard mist which dampened everyone's hair and clothes during the line up for the parade but it did not dampen everyone's enthusiasm.  A nice crowd of spectators also braved the elements and we were all rewarded when the rain stopped just before the parade started at 9am.  Dragoons Commander Stuart Waldo and his family, Adjutant Wayne Sutherland, Quartermaster David Brantley, Communications Officer Tyrone Crowley, Flag Chairman Larry Spears and his father James Spears participated as did camp guest Calvin Nelson; a number of other Dragoons were at the parade including 1st Lt Harold Grooms who ran the Lions Club barbeque after the parade and addressed the veterans at the program there at the Prattville city park and at the stadium later that evening for the fireworks.  2nd Lt. Chris Booth was also there to get us started and open up the law offices so we could congregate prior to the parade. Stuart and his wife and stepdaughter and Tyrone were dressed in period outfits.  It was another great parade with the people of Prattville showing enthusiastic support for the camp and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  David brought dozens of small Confederate Battle Flags and those were requested by onlookers so quickly we ran out before the parade turned off Main Street.   The candy supplies lasted throughout but treats were thrown to all the children lining the parade route down Court, Main and Northington Streets.  Calvin's golf cart played patriotic songs including Dixie every other tune to the delight of everyone.
Wayne, Tyrone and David Prior to the Parade
Larry and James Spears with Calvin Nelson before the Parade
Stuart, Chris and Tyrone at the Parade Lineup

Stuart and Wayne Carry the Dragoons Camp Banner in the Parade
Tyrone Driving one of the Dragoons Carts in the Parade

Calvin Driving his Cart with Dixie Playing

Kerri in her Patriotic Dress Riding in the Parade

 Brooke Tossing Candy with the Battle Flag Prominently Displayed
Happy 4th of July from the Prattville Dragoons

Monday, July 8, 2013

Upcoming Events for Confederate Heritage for July 2013

Upcoming Events
SCV National Reunion 17-20 July 2013, Vicksburg, Mississippi.  See details at
General Forrest Birthday Party - 13 July 2013, 3:00 pm til ya wanna go home - at Fort Dixie (home of Butch & Pat Godwin).  Menu:  the best Southern-fried catfish this side of the Big Muddy, all the fixins, and ice-cold watermelon served all day long, plus the best Christian Confederate fellowship.  No charge; donation only.  RSVP by Saturday 6 July to Pat Godwin at 334-875-1690 and to get directions to Ft. Dixie.  Y'all come on down to Ole Bedford's 192nd birthday party!
The Prattville Dragoons will conduct our annual "Dixie Butt" fundraiser beginning at the July meeting, so have your budget and contacts in order, and be ready to "buy one and sell one" so that we can achieve our usual good results and have funds to answer the SCV Charge throughout the rest of the year. 
We will have butt tickets available at the July meeting--just tell Communications Officer Crowley how many you want.  Tickets will be the same price as last year--$25--and as always the butts will be cooked by Fatman's BBQ in Prattville.  When you sell the ticket, be sure to get the purchaser's info on the part you keep and leave him/her the stub to use to pick up the butt on 10 August.
Dixie Butt Distribution, 10 August 2013 - The Prattville Dragoons Dixie Butts will be exchanged for ticket stubs from 7-9 a.m. at Fatman's BBQ, Main Street and Memorial Drive in Prattville.
The Dragoons used the proceeds from this fundraiser for camp initiatives to further the Cause including:
Robert E. Lee ads in local newspapers and on
$500 donation to the Alabama State Archives for The Flag Preservation Project
Purchase of flags to place on Confederate graves during Confederate History Month
Postage and other expenses for communications including the Camp Dispatch newsletter
$150 donation to the First White House in Montgomery
Quartermaster stores to sell to camp members and the Prattville Cityfest
Christmas and July Fourth parade expenses.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chaplains Column from July 2013 Camp Dispatch

The Prattville Dragoons Chaplain Tom Snowden provided another outstanding column in the July issue of the Camp Dispatch:

Chaplain’s Column:  Are We Like This Circle Of Birds?
            I once heard a story that goes like this. A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a man came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.
            The merchant was made happy when the man said "I want to buy them all."  After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, "Now, I want you to set them all free." With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last.
            What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.
            In looking around us today with sin abounding and so much corruption in government, it seems so few have interest in changing  it. It is as though we have become numb to our society. Maybe we are a little like those quail. We are just marching around in circles with our lives giving little attention to these subtle but drastic changes that have been occurring around us. There are so few willing to get out of this circle we are in and try to change things.
            I believe until we give ourselves permission to be the unique people God made us to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows us to do . . we will continue to be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom. Let’s pray for our country--for a change, honesty, and God to be placed back in the center of our society.
            Let’s pray for guidance for the SCV.  We need his help in surviving our cause. God has told us that where even two or three of his children unite in asking a blessing he will give it to them in a special way. We have lost or are losing our parks, our flag and now it seems they want to change the names of our forts. We need prayer and guidance to save our precious Confederate history.
            We also need to remember to pray for those on our Dragoon prayer list:

  1. James & Ann Spears
  2. Bobby Carter & wife Merrill
  3. James Little's wife Nita
  4. David Brantley's wife Jennifer
  5. Allen Herrod
  6. Wayne Sutherland - back problems
  7. John Durden's son, David Fail - TIA
  8. Cecil Williamson - continued health problems
  9. J.J. Oakley - breathing
  10. Billy Parker's son-in-law, Stan Stuckey - recovering from heart attack.
  11. James Whittington- Back problems
  12. Pray for Justice in Selma court cases
  13. David Brantley's mother Mary
  14. Harold Grooms mother Sue Groom
  15. Tom Snowden’s Brother In Law, Coolidge Sims

Yours In Christ,
Tom Snowden, Chaplain

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Confederate Family Reunion in Abbeville GA Part 1

I attended my Rhodes family reunion in Abbeville GA the weekend of June 28-30th.  We had an early lunch at Cracker Barrel with my cousin Richard and his wife Ramona in Cordele on Saturday morning.  Richard is the pastor of his apostolic church in Abbeville.   My grandmother lived most of her life on her farm there just south of Abbeville and my mother was born there.  I recall many summers there fishing and hanging around with Richard as he lived across Highway 129 from my grandmothers place.  My mother and Richard's father were first cousins.  Richard bought my grandmother's farm from her and has done a wonderful job renovating the place and he raises dogs there.  After some good fellowship over lunch and catching up we took off for our Confederate field trip.  I had never known growing up there that such rich Confederate history laid there in this part of south Georgia.  The previous year I had found information about my great grandfather Joseph Edwards Rhodes who fought in Company E of the 49th Georgia Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia.  He is buried at Cedar Creek Baptist Church just north of Abbeville.  I battled the gnats and finally found his grave under the stand of moss draped oak trees in the cemetery and planted a Confederate flag there.   The 49th Georgia Infantry served in Georgia and North Carolina and were assigned to General J.R. Anderson's and E.L. Thomas' Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia.  They participated in battles from Seven Pines to Cold Harbor and fought in the Petersburg Trenches and were surrendered at Appomattox.  The unit reported 68 casualties at Second Manassas and 61 at Fredericksburg, 13% at Chancellorsville and over 25% at Gettysburg.  Joseph enlisted on May 10, 1862 and was wounded less than two months later on June 30, 1862 in the Seven Days' Battle at Savages Station.  Union Gen. McClellan approached Richmond intent on getting close enough to bombard the Confederate capital with his artillery. But Confederate General Robert E. Lee's troops repelled the invaders and in the deadly Battle of Gaines Mill where there accrued 15,000 casualties, succeeded in forcing their retreat.  The action on June 30th at Savages Station included hand to hand combat.  On July 1st the final day of the battle proved to be the bloodiest where at Malvern Hill, Union forces holding the high ground were able to avoid total destruction and capture by the Army of Northern Virginia but the defense of Richmond was successful and Lee was hailed as a hero.  Joseph Rhodes returned home to recuperate for four months but then he reenlisted in the wagon trains and was wounded again in battle near Sharpsburg Maryland on September 17, 1864.   He was captured near Petersburg VA on May 25, 1865 and was sent to Point Lookout Prison in Maryland as a prisoner of war.  He was released on June 17, 1865, making his way back to Georgia and his family.  A true unsung Confederate hero - what a record of service for the Cause.

Joseph Edwards Rhodes Grave in Cedar Creek Cemetery near Abbeville GA

Friday, July 5, 2013

Prattville Dragoons Commanders Column for July 2013

Warner Brothers has decided to eliminate the Confederate Battle flag from the roof of the General Lee Dodge Charger in the upcoming remake of the 1980s TV classic.  Who would General Robert E. Lee have been without his courageous soldiers advancing the Battle Flag against overwhelming odds?   Fortunately, the comments to the article seemed to demonstrate overwhelming support for the flag, Southern culture and heritage and many expressed growing weariness and frustration with the incessant misplaced political correctness by the liberal news and entertainment media.  Today we fight the winds of political correctness.  Our Southern Anglo-Saxon culture is being diluted and revisionists incessantly attempt to erase and dismiss our Confederate heritage as in Memphis and Selma and in the very history books which indoctrinate our children in the schools our tax dollars support.  
Confederate General Patrick Cleburne warned,Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by  Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all that our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties”.  Rev. James P. Smith from Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s staff stated, “All that was, or is now, desired is that error and injustice be excluded from the text-books of the schools and from the literature brought into our homes; that the truth be told, without exaggeration and without omission; truth for its own sake and for the sake of honest history, and that the generations to come after us not be left to bear the burden of shame and dishonor unrighteously laid upon the name of their noble sires.”   But this fight against revisionists is nothing new and our fight must continue to ensure our children and grand-children know the truth of our glorious heritage.  
My father recently gave me a real treasure, a 1912 original volume of The History of the Civil War by Benson J. Lossing with Brady War Photographs.  Just as Gen. Cleburne warned though, the book is rife with such bias that it can only be considered propaganda, an editorial or fiction but, it is presented as a preeminent historical accounting.  Lossing  was praised in the prologue as being beyond any question on the subject, “a great authority; a court of last resort for facts and data.”  Examples of the presented facts include, when speaking of the South Carolina delegation which went to Washington to negotiate the “disposition of property” within their sovereign borders, they “set forth the objects of their mission in haughty language (and) their demands had been uttered in a manner so insulting that the President (Buchanan) was justly indignant and wrote them a letter, courteous in tone” declining to receive the diplomatic correspondence. Embellishing a bit aren’t we?  Lossing then proceeded to provide an accounting of the action at Fort Sumter, claiming the Star of the West attempting to reinforce and resupply Ft. Sumter was “fired upon from redoubts which the Secessionists, now become insurgents, had erected on the shore. The assailants had no respect for the insignia of the Union.  This overt act of the insurgents was the beginning of the terrible Civil War that followed. The language of the Declaration of War against the Union by the politicians of South Carolina was arrogant, boastful and savage. They proceeded in hot haste to inaugurate Civil War and to drag the peaceful inhabitants of the other slave-labor states into its horrid vortex. The people whose rights they had violated and whose sovereignty that had usurped, were stunned and bewildered by the violence of the self-constituted leaders and they found themselves at the mercy of madmen, totally unfit to lead in the councils of a free, intelligent, and patriotic community.  Meanwhile, the loyal people of the Northern States loved peace and friendship and were willing to make almost any concessions.”  Except conceding the subjugation of their “friends” to the South. Outrageous stuff, eh?  
Lossing continued, incessantly. “When the Civil war had ended, there was joy and hope in every bosom in the land. The soldiers of the great armies of the republic had saved the nation from political death and incidentally achieved the great work of emancipation for an enslaved race.”  Hope and joy in the ravaged condemned Southland?  Can you stand to read more?  “When the starvation plan had succeeded in reducing forty thousand Union prisoners to skeletons, generally no better for service than dead men, a proposition was made by the Confederate authorities for a resumption of exchanges. Again, (Union) humanity took precedence and these poor creatures in Confederate prisons were exchanged for as many prisoners who had been well fed and otherwise comfortably provided for in the North.”  And on and on.  “A reign of terror under the Richmond despotism crushed out all freedom of speech and action in the Confederacy, defying all moral and civil law granting that the people of the South were as good, benevolent, humane, refined, kind-hearted and Christian-like in character and deeds as any on the face of the earth and have unjustly suffered reproaches because of the wrongs committed by self-constituted political leaders who misrepresented them.” No mention of Lincoln’s innumerable unconstitutional measures.  Reconstruction?  “There was nothing to be reconstructed for nothing worth preserving had been destroyed.   No State as a component of the republic had been severed from the others for secession was an impossibility. The insurrection against the National Government only placed the constitutions of some of the States in a condition of suspended animation.”  The readers belief system must be placed in suspended animation to undoubtingly accept this disinformation.  
The UCV, the SCV and the UDC are to be commended for standing in the face of this propaganda for the past 150 years, educating the low-information populace as to the true history of the South and the Confederacy.  It is a commendation that during this Sesquicentennial that there remains our voices proclaiming the truth and we should be encouraged when mainstream media and politicians such as Judge Andrew Napolitano, economist Walter Williams and Rep. Ron Paul recognize and advance these same facts and principles.  While outstanding letters to the editor such as our own Charlie Graham faithfully publishes are priceless and reach our neighbors, the new digital and social media also enables our voices to be heard across a limitless audience everywhere.  As we mourn our fallen forefathers at this anniversary of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, do your part to advance the Cause and disseminate the truth, never forgetting the constitutional principles they espoused and the ideals they fought and died for.