Friday, August 23, 2013

Prattville Dragoons Dixie Butt Fundraiser Another Great Success

The Dragoons Dixie Butt fundraiser concluded with the distribution of the smoked butts on Saturday morning August 10th.  Fatman's BBQ prepares the delicious smoked butts and the Dragoons bag these and handed them out to patrons that morning at Fatman's at the intersection of Main Street and Hwy 31 in Prattville.   The crew for this mornings distribution of Dixie Butts included Dragoons Communications Officer Tyrone Crowley, Adjutant Wayne Sutherland, past Commander and I-65 Flag Chairman Larry Spears, Commander Stuart Waldo, 2nd Lt Chris Booth, standout member Louis Turner (who always participates in camp work and events), Treasurer Billy Leverette, Quartermaster David Brantley, and Brigade Commander Bill Myrick. Many others came by to help like new member George Jenks or to chat for a bit when they picked up their smoked butt - we all enjoy the social time with one another and the interaction with ticket holders as they show up to claim their Dixie Butts.   It was humid from the beginning when we set up our tent and camp banner before 7am and it got hot by 9am as one would suspect on an Alabama August summer day but by then we were finished and packing up to leave.
This was the first year in the past three years that we didn't set a record after topping out last year at 195 butts.  This year we sold 183 so we got close and we received a number of donations in addition to the butt sales.  We netted almost $1900 for the Dragoon treasury, so can take satisfaction in being near the record and raising funds to answer the Charge and further the Cause.  These monies allow the Dragoons to place Confederate heritage advertisements, contribute to artifact and flag preservation at the Alabama Archives and First White House of the Confederacy, purchase of flags for setting at and renovations of Confederate graves, newsletter expenses, and community parade and festival expenses. New initiatives are planned to extend the outreach of the Dragoons into the community and schools for heritage education. Thanks to all who took part in any way in the Dragoons Dixie Butt fundraiser. 
Dragoons at the 2013 Dixie Butt Sale

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prattville Dragoons August Camp Meeting - Part 2

Bill Rambo, Director of Confederate Memorial Park was the guest speaker for the Dragoons August camp meeting.  Bill thanked the Dragoons for stepping up to volunteer as first responders for the Park in the event of a natural disaster to secure the area.  Jefferson Manley Faulkner of the 8th Alabama Cavalry and his law partner Thomas Goode Jones created the Old Soldier's Home.  Faulkner owned 102 acres in Mountain Rest and donated this to build a Confederate veterans home in Alabama. They formed a United Confederate Veterans camp with the specific mission to provide a home for indigent Confederate veterans. There were nine cottages including one for the camp Commandant, the first of whom was a Confederate veteran and the final three were doctors.  Each cottage held eight veterans and even had plumbing which was a rarity for home of that era in rural Alabama and the men decorated the grounds around the cottages with shrubs and flowering plants. There was also a dairy barn and a fish pond and the entire Home was a 22 building installation which included an Auditorium (which burned down in 1924).  Meals were served to the veterans by four servants initially but a Mess Hall was later built where they enjoyed their meals.  A wagon would take the veterans to Mountain Rest daily where a post office and train depot were located. 

The Auditorium was built of logs about the foundation which had commemorative bronze plaques mounted on them in the memory of or to honor veterans.  One of these plaques is on display in the museum which was found in the ruins of the burnt building and is the only one known to be in existence. The bottom floor of the Auditorium had a  library with artifacts from the War and busts of Confederate generals, a sitting room and a UDC meeting room.  An obelisk with a bronze plaque is still there in the Park and it originally acted as a support for the Auditorium porch. There was a 25 bed hospital with a wrap around porch where the men would often sleep to take advantage of the cool breeze as of course there was no air conditioning to combat the stifling hot Alabama summer days. The hospital was often full of old veterans.

The last soldier died in 1934 and by 1939 there were just five widows residing there and they were transferred to Montgomery and the Home was closed.  Wives were permitted to live at the Home if the soldier proved to be indigent and in 1918 widows without their husbands were permitted to reside there.  After it's closing the State Soil and Conservation Department held it and it fell into disrepair.  In 1964 Governor George Wallace created Confederate Memorial Park as part of the Centennial observances but essentially just the cemeteries were cleaned up.  In 1974 the camp was assigned to the Alabama Historical Commission.  Some of the original fence next to the church is a woven wire erected in 1904 and is some of the only original building material left at the site.  The church dates from 1885 and was moved to the Park in 1983 from a site a mile away.  The Mess Hall which was erected in 1904 stood til the 1960s when it fell down after being occupied by squatters for many  years; the foundation still exists.  Most of the buildings were torn down in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Park has nature trails maintained by a grounds crew.  The 2nd largest poplar in the state is found in Confederate Memorial Park which was a sapling in 1789 and there are hardwood and pine forests throughout.  There are two pavilions including one with restrooms and lighting.  There are 298 soldiers and 13 wives/widows buried in the cemeteries in the Park.  Cemetery #1 had the first burial in 1902 and the last in 1915 and Cemetery #2 had the first burial there in 1911 (a veteran accused of being a deserter and so he and others so accused were not permitted in the first cemetery.  In 1912 the UDC replaced the original wooden crosses with upright stone markers and the Veterans Administration provided in-ground plaques.  Some of the veterans who resides there included John Tucker for whom the museum has photos dating from 1861 and 1916.  Major John Carter was a Cherokee who served with Forrest and lived and died at the Soldiers Home.

The library was the original museum and dates from 1979.  The new state-of-the-art museum was built in 2007.  In front of the museum fly Battle flags known to have been used by Alabama regiments.  Artifacts in the museum include an old steamer trunk belonging to a Soldiers Home resident.  Numerous old bottles found on the grounds are in the museum as well as flag displays.  A UDC quilt dating from 1928 is on display in the museum.  There is an Alabama Soldier's Gallery of Honor and a Heritage of Honor display showing generations of Alabamians who have served their country from the Confederacy and the War for Southern Independence to the United States Vietnam War.  Other artifacts include old shells and bugles and other War period pieces. There are civilian artifacts too including an old spinning wheel and an 1850s day dress. 

Bill explained that in 1891 there was a property tax assessment used as a Confederate Soldiers Fund from which monies were used to support the Soldiers Home.  Over the years less and less money has been allocated from this millage as funds were reappropriated after the Old Soldiers Home closed.  Bill and members of the SCV have fought to maintain the small remaining amount which provides funds to maintain this wonderful historic Alabama state treasure despite almost continuous assaults from those who would ignore or erase our Southern and Confederate Heritage. If you have never visited Confederate Memorial Park, you need to and write your Congressmen to defend and preserve our state history and heritage.
Confederate Memorial Park Director Bill Rambo Addresses the Prattville Dragoons

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prattville Dragoons August Camp Meeting - Part 1

The Dragoons held their monthly camp meeting on Thursday August 8th at 7pm at the Shoney's on Cobbs Ford Road in Prattville. The program was enjoyed by all and there was a great crowd of 30 folks in attendance.  Too much good information and too many superb presenters and too much on the agenda so the meeting went til almost 9 o'clock but it was an outstanding.  Chaplain Snowden was out with a sore foot so past Chaplain Bill Branch provided the invocation on short notice and we appreciated his ably filling in for these duties.  Color Sargent Brent Jenks was recognized in the Announcements as having recently assumed that position for the camp but he too was absent due to conflicting work commitments.  So, I-65 Flag Chairman and past Dragoon Commander Larry Spears led everyone in the pledges to the U.S. flag, the Alabama state flag and the Confederate Battle Flag.  The Charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans was then recited by Commander Stuart Waldo.

The Announcements portion of the agenda included recognition of the special guests in attendance who included prospective new members David Gatch and Robert Baylis. Also, from the Semple Camp 2002, Mike Williams (Alabama Division Quartermaster and Webmaster) and Henry Howard (reenactor and volunteer guide at the First White House) made the trip up from Montgomery.  Jeff Potts was recognized for again helping the Dragoons recruitment efforts by manning a table at the recent gun show at the Alcazar Shrine Temple in Montgomery. Upcoming events highlighted included the recently completed Sam Davis Youth Camp in Clifton TX, our own camp fundraising Dixie Butt distribution scheduled for Saturday August 10th, the 13th Annual Battle of Newton Reenactment October 19th and 20th and the Sam Davis 150th Anniversary Memorial Event in Smyrna TN November 22-24th.

Mike Williams then had the honor of making a special presentation of the certificate for an Alabama Division Lifetime Membership to Tyrone Crowley.  This signifies an obvious lifelong commitment to the Cause by Tyrone and a cause for applause. Tyrone subsequently provided a report on the Dixie Butt fundraising indicating we were close to another record and that the distribution was scheduled for Saturday morning bright and early from 7-9am.  The Dragoons sold 183 butts and received more in donations to net almost $1900 for our ongoing camp activities.
Tyrone Crowley with his Lifetime Membership Certificate

A report from the Sons of Confederate Veterans Annual Reunion was provided by the three Dragoons who attended the event in Vicksburg MS in mid-July.  Commander Stuart Waldo communicated his take on the central themes which he heard the first two Business sessions, an emphasis on Vision 2016, growing the membership thru sharing best practices and ideas and news thru enhanced communications and making the SCV the preeminent authority for Confederate history and Southern heritage and changing the emphasis for the SCV form Heritage Defense to a proactive educational Heritage Operations. The historical program on the Vicksburg National Military Park (VNMP) monuments and statues as art including the beautiful book authored by the presenter and Vicksburg SCV member Parker Hills was highlighted.  The Confederate Memorial Program including the Roll of Honor which was conducted at historical Christ Episcopal Church was also presented as the last event attended by Stuart at the Reunion.

Larry Spears talked to everybody about the VNMP tour he attended. Larry said the visitors center where the tour started had some good exhibits including a map and chronological accounting of the battles and siege of Vicksburg and some displays showing some of the encampments and caves used by the soldiers and civilians but that the Union bias was notable.  The guide their group had was Confederate friendly though but the amount of time allotted during the tour for the Confederate memorials and statues was much more limited than those for the Northern states and soldiers.  The only stop of their tour was the U.S.S. Cairo which was raised from the Yazoo River in 1963 and was an amazing display of artifacts in the museum but even the original cannon and steam engine on the ship itself.   Larry also discussed the Forrest Cavalry Breakfast he attended on Thursday morning which is hosted by our own past Commander Wyatt Willis.  This event was very well attended and the speaker was very good and discussed the truths of Forrest and his taking of Fort Pillow. 
Larry Spears Provides his SCV National Reunion Account

Quartermaster David Brantley reiterated his understanding of the themes from the convention and said the keynote addresses by Lt. Kelly Barrow and Commander in Chief Michael Givens on Saturday were inspiring.  Givens invited the wives of the men to attend his speech during the Saturday business session, a first by David's recollection.  David also mentioned the historical presentation on Thursday night which provided an accounting of the horrific challenges and deprivation the civilians of Vicksburg faced during the Siege but that fewer than two dozen died as a result of the bombardment by the Union artillery and gunboats, a testament to their improvised fortifications like the caves in which they sought shelter as well as their perseverance in the face of starvation.  David also attended the Mississippi Shiloh monument benefit fish fry on Friday evening.  An interesting side excursion David took was to visit the Confederate cemetery there in Vicksburg where he ran into some other SCV members who were toasting the deceased celebrity, Old Douglas, the mascot camel of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry who is buried there. 
David Brantley Shares his Impressions from the SCV National Reunion

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sons of Confederate Veterans I-65 Battle Flag Report

The following report was published in the August 2013 edition of the Prattville Dragoons Camp 1524 Dispatch newsletter.

I-65 Flag Committee Update By Chairman Larry Spears
            The Battle Flag next to I-65 in Autauga County is still proudly flying, thanks to the efforts of the I-65 Flag Committee and other SCV members and individuals. The current members of the committee are Billy Parker, James Spears, Tyrone Crowley, Stan Stuckey, Alan Parker, Bill Myrick, Jeffrey Jones, and Larry Spears.  Billy and Stan have faced severe physical setbacks recently but Billy is progressing to where he can assume a more active role again in the flag site maintenance activities. He has been the “go-to” man since the flag’s beginning and without his services we would be at a distinct disadvantage.
            We are working on two challenges at the current time:  control of vegetation--which is being coordinated by Alan Parker of the Semple Camp--and re-painting the back of the Alabama Division billboard that faces I-65. As with any challenge there are many details to plan for and overcome but we are getting there.
            A major challenge for all who have worked with these flags is finding a person or company who will repair the flags when damaged so we can get more use out of them. This has been a major concern for several months but has been solved by Mrs. Sue Spears (Larry’s wife and descendant of the distinguished Tait family of Wilcox county) lending her expertise and repairing six damaged flags recently. This has given us a very good inventory of flags that can be flown again, thus saving the cost of having to buy new ones.
            The committee continues to monitor the flag and flag site for any issues that need to be resolved and we work together to expedite resolving them. We receive excellent support from the Alabama Division in our efforts, as everyone seems to be committed to “keep ‘er flying.”
      Of course, if not for Past Dragoon Commander Wyatt Willis we would have no I-65 flag. His tireless efforts in 2004 and 2005 led to what we enjoy today. It is a privilege for this committee to continue the tradition that Commander Willis began.                                 
    Battle Flag Flies Proudly Over I-65

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gettysburg Reenactment Recollection by Col. Paul Whaley

If you attended the July Prattville Dragoons camp meeting you were thrilled to hear Paul Whaley provide details of his participation in the 1998 Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment which stands as the largest reenactment in the history of the country.  This article was published in the August 2013 edition of the Dragoons Camp Dispatch newsletter.

1998 Gettysburg Reenactment
 by Col Paul Whaley, 33rd Alabama Reenactors
            While I did not attend the recent Gettysburg re-enactment, I did attend the 135th event there in 1998. That was the largest re-enactment held to date in this country and likely the largest that will ever be held. There were almost 25,000 uniformed troops on the field covering all branches of service. All three days of the battle were re-created within sight of both Round Tops. The scale of the event and the scenarios on the field were unprecedented.
            Most impressive, however, was Pickett's charge on the final day wherein the Confederate assault was full scale: over 13,000 troops forming a line of battle over 3/4 of a mile long and advancing over one mile of open field to the stone wall. A preliminary barrage was provided by almost 200 full-scale artillery pieces. The Confederates stepped forward with colors unfurled and advanced to a dirt road lined on both sides with a rail/worm fence located within 400 yards of the federal position. The fences were knocked down and as with the original battle, the men were moved forward a few feet and the commands were given all along the line, directing men to guide center on their colors and advance at the common time. The federals were six deep along a stone wall loading rifles in the rear and passing them forward. It was a solid sheet of flame and noise.
            After advancing 40 or so yards the command was given to move at the quick time, then the double quick, and then the charge with the Rebel yell. The roar of battle was unbelievable. It was truly an opportunity to experience for just a moment something that might have approximated the actual event in the same time of the year within 4 miles of where it actually happened, but without the carnage. Truly a magic moment for this re-enactor and for many.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Prattville Dragoons Commander's Column for August 2013

This column was published in the August 2013 edition of the Camp 1524 Dispatch newsletter.

Commander's Column:  A Confederate Summer
            The heat of the summer found us enjoying the Sesquicentennial and fellowship with compatriots at the Forrest Birthday party at Fort Dixie in Selma and the 118th National Reunion in Vicksburg.  If you attended either of these events, you surely were inspired by the programs and messages, that we must continue the fight for preservation of our Confederate heritage.  And now we are in the midst of our annual Dixie Smoked-Butt camp fundraiser which provides the means for us to do our part, contributing to historic flag and artifacts preservation at the Alabama State Archives and the First White House, helping to renovate and set flags at Confederate veteran’s cemeteries, and many more activities.  These funds are critical for carrying on the grassroots local effort which typifies the Sons of Confederate Veterans' operations to answer the Charge, so I am excited that the latest report indicates we will again set a record for proceeds from the sale.
            The convention in Vicksburg presented information about the Vision 2016 initiative which sets the goal for growing membership by 20,000 and positions the SCV as the preeminent authority for Confederate history and Southern heritage preservation. Vision 2016 is a bottom-up grassroots effort where best practices for creating dynamic initiatives and growing camps are shared across the organization instead of the Executive Committee dictating ideas and plans.  A key to preserving cohesion and synergy and leveraging the strength of our thousands of members is to utilize all means of communication to project ideas from everyone through camp and Division newsletters, the Confederate Veteran magazine, email, the myriad social media outlets, and cloud libraries on-line to share documents like the Camp Handbook.  An exciting development at the convention was the change in name and mission from Heritage Defense to Heritage Operations.  This signifies a change in direction from a reactionary posture to one where we promote our Confederate heritage through education and carry our message to the public and the fight to our critics.
            The funds we generate through our Dixie Butt Sale are important to answer the Charge.  Initiatives to get our message out to our communities include school initiatives like educational programs and JROTC awards, scholarships, the aforementioned social media presence, advertisements for our events and meetings, and parades, as well as membership in the local Chamber of Commerce.  But I have also discovered that the simple act of asking coworkers and neighbors and family whether they would like to purchase a Dixie Butt opens the door to conversations regarding our mission, the SCV Charge, genealogy, camp meetings and even membership. Thanks for all your hard work and generosity for making the Dixie Butt fundraiser an unqualified success so that we can continue the work of our camp and make our ancestors proud that we continue the fight for Southern heritage.  This is also the time of the year for renewing our membership in this noble organization and of course I would encourage everyone to do so and redouble your efforts to attract new members to help achieve the Vision 2016 goals.
Stuart Waldo
Camp Commander