Monday, October 24, 2016

Daniel Pratt - Part 4

SCV Camp 1524 Dragoons Compatriot Tyrone Crowley addressed the October 2016 camp meeting as Daniel Pratt presenting an autobiographical history of the life of this important 19th century industrialist. 

When secession was voted on and approved by the people of the State of Alabama, I joined the effort wholeheartedly, helping to recruit and outfit the first Confederate unit to leave Autauga County, the Prattville Dragoons.  I spoke at a meeting at Alida Hall, offering all support possible to men who volunteered to fight for the Confederacy.  I helped to outfit the company of men your camp is named for, the Prattville Dragoons, including horses, equipment, and the fine black uniforms that sometimes caused Dragoons to be mistaken for officers.  My wife Esther was president of the Ladies’ Aid Society in Prattville, which made clothing for soldiers.[1]
With respect to my business, the departure of our men to fight the war was a setback.  I lost twelve employees when the Dragoons mustered and rode away to war, and fifteen more when my nephew Merrill formed Company K of the 1st Alabama Regiment and went away to defend our country.  A year later, I managed to get some of these men transferred back home by sending a request to Governor John Gill Shorter.  Governor Shorter requested that General Braxton Bragg transfer some of my workers back to Prattville, stating that the Prattville Manufacturing Company (our cotton mill) was "worth a regiment of men to the Confederacy" due to its production of fabric for uniforms at a low price.  Prattville also produced knapsacks, skillets, wooden buttons, and horse brushes for the Confederacy.[2]
During and after the War, I actively sought in various ways to relieve the suffering of the poor in Autauga County, providing jobs to workers, or charity.  Col J H Livingston, a eulogist, said the following:  "Born and reared in poverty, (Daniel Pratt) well knew how to appreciate the wants of the needy.  Strangers he clothed and fed, and to the sick he administered comfort.  Not restricted by limits of sectarian propriety, he considered the poor of every creed, and bestowed his charities with a lavish hand".[3]  While serving as a state representative in 1862, I sponsored a bill to authorize an Autauga county tax to support families of soldiers away at war; it was enacted into law and this relieved some of the suffering of our families here.[4]
After the War, I gave a lot and two-story building to the black people of Prattville, to use as a church and school. This became known as Ward's Chapel.  I also wrote letters to the Montgomery Daily Mail newspaper, offering the colored people my advice on how to proceed after the War. [5]
The War Between The States ended badly for the South, and for me, though with my Northern connections I was able to obtain a pardon rather soon and get back to recovering my losses.  At the end of the War, Shadrach Mims and I calculated that I had lost upwards of half a million dollars, but at the end of my life I had recovered enough wealth to leave a respectable inheritance to my nephew Merrill and my daughter Ellen.  Ellen's husband, Henry Fairchild DeBardeleben, took her inheritance and became a principal figure in the coal and iron industry in Birmingham.  One of his undertakings was one I had begun during the War, the Red Mountain Company, which built the Oxmoor furnaces.  Thankfully, I was able to see this happen before my life ended on 5 May 1873.
A month after my death (at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 12 June 1873), the citizens of Prattville, in an official town meeting chaired by Reverend E S Smith, assembled at the Methodist Church (other side of creek, near where Masonic Hall is now), "to pay public tribute to the memory of our belated friend and fellow-citizen, the Honorable Daniel Pratt, deceased."[6]  Five of Prattville's leading men came to the podium and honored me with their words.
Shadrach Mims, Autauga County's first historian and my sometimes business partner wrote this about me, which I think represents my life fairly well:  "(Daniel Pratt) seemed to think that really money had no other value than to subserve a valuable purpose.  He regarded himself only as a steward."[7]
I am also proud of this inscription on my tombstone: 

In the front room of your Prattaugan Museum hangs a copy of the poem I read a few minutes ago, but with these verses added:

But the angel of death passed by on his mission,
And knock'd on the door with his death-dealing rod;
Now throbs not his heart, now ceases his vision,
And Daniel Pratt lives in the mansions of God.

Free as the sunshine that falls on the marble,
That stands by the tomb where his ashes repose,
Were the gifts of his hands, such free benefactions
As heaven-blessed charity only bestows.

Disturb not his slumbers, let Daniel Pratt sleep
'Neath the bows of the willows that over him weep.
His arm is unnerved, but his deeds remain bright
As stars in the dark-vaulted heaven at night.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I leave you with this admonishment:  Remember your fathers, who gave you this land and this nation "to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity".

[1] Evans, op. cit., p. 232.
[2] Evans, op. cit., pp. 223-224.
[3] Tarrant, op. cit., p. 114.
[4] Evans, op. cit., pp. 218-19.
[5] Evans, op. cit., p. 117, p. 277.
[6] Tarrant, op. cit., p. 100.
[7] Tarrant, op. cit., p. 57.

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