Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sesquicentennial Soon Approaching

The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is fast approaching, and groups around the country are starting preparations. This year marks the beginning of many anniversary celebrations/observances. Gettysburg is priming for a huge event to take place in July 2013. Many other locations are gearing up in Virginia as well.

Here in the "Western Theatre," local groups are in the process of securing funds and sponsors for their events. Corinth, which played a pivotal role in the "Battle of Shiloh," has a governor-appointed "Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission," which is in the planning stages, and will begin publicizing next year. However, lawmakers must act quickly to secure funds for the events.

Last year, an annual "Battle of Corinth" was planned, but had to be canceled because the land that the reenactment was supposed to take place on is privately owned, and the owner felt it was racist. Too bad he missed the point, as well as the opportunity to allow Corinth to prosper. Such an event took place last fall in Collierville, Tennessee. "The Battle of Collierville" attracted so many spectators that the city prospered significantly. This is the first reenactment Collierville has sponsored in years, and needless to say, will probably participate in from here on out.

A motor coach and car tour along the corridor between Corinth and Vicksburg, the Natchez Parkway, is in the works, as is implementation at Brices Crossroads and Tupelo. It should be fascinating to see what plans evolve during the next year. Interest in the War Between the States will certainly increase as the 150th anniversary nears.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lee-Jackson Dinner

Last Saturday evening, I had the honor of attending the annual Lee-Jackson dinner, which was held by the Pvt. Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans and President Jefferson Davis Chapter, Military Order of the Stars and Bars here in Mississippi. This was the first time my husband and I had participated in such an event, and I must admit, it was impressive. About forty people were in attendance, including the commanders of the camp. The guest speaker was the Honorable Greg Davis, who is the mayor of a small (and growing) city here in Northwest Mississippi known as Southaven. Mr. Davis gave a heartfelt speech about how Robert E. Lee has inspired him through the years. He said that people are amused when they enter his office to see pictures of Lee adorning his walls.

Mr. Davis stated that General Lee’s qualities were admirable, and should be upheld today, those being loyalty, truthfulness, and faith. Living here in the Bible Belt, it’s easy to take being Christian for granted, but in other parts of the country, it certainly isn’t as prevalent. Here, it is no big deal to give a prayer of thanks before each gathering, whether it be a picnic, meeting, or whatever. Mayor Davis talked about how the history books have distorted the truth, and sadly, how every person associated with the Confederacy is automatically associated with racism as well. He discussed how he pushed to name a local library after General Lee, and succeeded with a minority vote after persuading the board that reasons were related to heritage, not racism.

The mayor stated how he thought it was important to get involved, and how he did this himself by riding along on a garbage pickup one Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, he so appreciated the sanitation department afterward that he gave everyone a raise! Mayor Davis also talked about how it is important to forgive and forget, to turn the other cheek, and to have faith, because everyone has to go through hardships to appreciate the end result. He stressed that we should not focus on the “what ifs,” but to have fearless faith, as General Lee did.

Following the mayor’s speech, the camp adjutant, Mr. Alan Latimer, led the group in a candlelight vigil honoring everyone’s Confederate ancestors. When a soldier’s name was called, his descendant blew out their candle until the room was left with only three candles lit in the front: one for Robert E. Lee, one for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and one for the Southland, which was left burning.

The group enjoyed a wonderful dinner, received door prizes, and hopefully, left inspired. I know I did. In the program we were given, it discussed how General Lee was a tall, impressive man. To me, he was not only tall in stature, but in presence as well. Because of his admirable qualities, he is still endeared by many today. General Lee resigned his position from the U.S. Military to fight for the Confederacy because he didn’t want to raise arms against his beloved Virginia, where his family lived. Following the Battle of Gettysburg, he wanted to resign his post, most likely knowing that the Confederacy was doomed, but continued to fight after being persuaded by President Jefferson Davis. And after the war, General Lee obediently served as the president of a college in Lexington, Virginia until his death, which occurred only five years after the end of the war. He is noted as trusting in God to lead him, for he was a man of depth-less religious conviction, as well as a master of military strategy. May he always be admired for those reasons, and not be associated with racism or discrimination, which was never his intention.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lee-Jackson Day

A tradition that takes place here in the South is the celebration of their most famous' generals' birthdays, specifically, Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Southerners so cherish them that they even have their likenesses carved into the face of Stone Mountain in Atlanta, along with Jefferson Davis. Although reverence for these important generals has waned in recent years, there are many who still honor them with ceremonies, parades, and dinners.

Not long ago, General Lee's birthday was treated as an observed holiday, in that all state offices were closed on that day to honor him. Because his birthday falls on January 19, it is now clumped together with Martin Luther King Day (ironic, I know). Because Jackson's birthday is on the 21st, the two generals' birthdays are celebrated simultaneously.

Many Civil War organizations honor these extraordinary men by holding what is known as Lee-Jackson dinners around the country, primarily in the east and south. My husband, who is a new member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and I will be attending our first Lee-Jackson dinner this Saturday, so I will give a report of the celebration here on my blog next Monday. It is my hope that this day will continue to be observed, because even though their views are now considered politically incorrect, at the time, these men served their country and God with utmost valor and respect. It is our responsibility to honor that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CWPT Comes Through Again!

The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), which is America's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, recently announced that it will invest over $2 million in preserving a portion of the Chancellorsville battlefield in Virginia. The 85 acre area, known as the Wagner Tract, is significant in that it is where Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson led his legendary flanking maneuver on May 2, 1863, turning the tide of the battle in favor of the South.

CWPT strives to protect important locations, and this area is arguably one of the most historically significant tracts of land ever preserved by the group. Three years ago, CWPT purchased the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

By purchasing and preserving these landmarks, CWPT extinguishes the possibility of commercial growth in these areas. Because it is purchasing the land now, CWPT is able to take advantage of state funded grants, as well as federal matching grants. Anyone interested in contributing $100 or more will be honored with a plaque on the battlefield site. If interested, please visit CWPT's website at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gambling On the Ballot Again at Gettysburg

Once again, the issue of whether to allow gambling in Gettysburg has come up. The idea was shot down back in 2006, but an unidentified investment group has decided to bring it up again, and would like to install slot machines in the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, which is located on Emmitsburg Road in Gettysburg. The hotel is only five miles from the heart of town, and one mile from the battlefield.

A major issue is whether other types of gambling will be allowed as well. Pro gambling advocates say that gambling will bring revenue in, and argue that if being that close to the battlefield is so important, people should have voiced their opposition when the hotel moved in. Those against gambling cite that the casinos will take away workers from other jobs, thus hurting area businesses, and will drive away heritage tourists. Because most gamblers will be local, this will also drive up social costs to curb addictions.

Personally, I do not feel that gambling belongs in a place like Gettysburg. Coming from Colorado, I saw how the economy was changed when gambling came in to mountain towns that had seen their heyday during the 1800's with gold and silver mining. Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, and Central City all benefited when gambling moved in ... at first. The casinos restored many of the old buildings, which was great. But after a few years, casinos drove out other mom and pop businesses. The same could hold true for Gettysburg. To me, the town is on sacred ground, and bringing in gambling is like putting a casino on a cemetery. It's just plain sacrilegious, and disrespectful. Let me know what you think of this issue!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quantrill's Band of Raiders

Along with "Bloody" Bill Anderson, William Quantrill was another notorious Confederate guerrilla. His most famous act is known as the "Lawrence Massacre." When "Bloody" Bill's sisters were killed and injured after being imprisoned, the Rebel raiders decided the women were attacked intentionally, so they retaliated. Quantrill led his band to Lawrence, Kansas on Aug. 21, 1863, where 183 men and boys "old enough to carry a rifle" was killed before their families' eyes. Their ages ranged from 14 up to 90. Senator Lane, who was a prime target of the raid, escaped through a cornfield in only his nightshirt. Quantrill then went to Texas to escape Union forces who were after him. In the spring of '65, he rode into an ambush, was shot in the chest, and was presumed to be dead.

However, rumors arose about the infamous guerrilla. A stranger by the name of McCoy arrived in Huntsville, Alabama one day, and took the job as circuit rider for the Methodist church, traveling around to country churches to minister. People started noticing similarities in appearance: Quantrill had a tattoo of an Indian maiden on one arm, and the first joint of his little finger was missing, which was the same as McCoy. The rumor escalated when McCoy, after much persuasion, displayed his sharp shooting abilities at a local Methodist church picnic. McCoy's children also recalled how their father always wore long sleeves, even in summer, and how they had once caught him bathing in a stream, seeing the tattoo for themselves.

Like most famous outlaws, Quantrill is believed to have survived his death. Perhaps he decided to become a minister in repentance for the sins he committed during the war, and to ease his conscience. It's a mystery that has yet to be solved.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jesse James and Bloody Bill

Several states remained neutral during the course of the War Between the States, in that neither the Union nor the Confederacy managed to maintain dominance. The war might have ended much sooner if Maryland had become a Confederate state. In Missouri and Kansas, all hell broke loose while lawlessness reigned. This is where the infamous Jesse James got his start. He was only sixteen, living in Clay County, Missouri, when Yankee soldiers came to his farm, searching for his brother, Frank. They tortured Jesse's family members, and according to legend, whipped him as well. So it's no wonder that Jesse wanted to wreak revenge on the Yankees.

In the summer of '64, he and Frank joined up with the infamous guerilla, William "Bloody" Anderson, who had been part of William Quantrill's Confederate guerrilla company. They didn't call him "Bloody" Bill for nothing. After Anderson's female family members were arrested, the prison's ceiling fell down on them, killed one of his sisters, crippled another, and sent him into insanity. In September, he led his band in what is known as the Centralia Massacre, in which twenty-two unarmed Union troops were killed, scalped, and dismembered. Anderson's guerrillas then ambushed a pursuing regiment of Major A.V.E. Johnson's Union troops, and killed over one hundred soldiers who tried to surrender. They advertised by dangling bloody scalps of their victims from their saddles.

After Anderson was killed in an ambush in October, the James brothers separated. Frank followed Quantrill into Kentucky. Jesse went to Texas. The war soon ended, and the James brothers returned to Missouri, which was in shambles. They went on to become bank robbers and mass murderers.

It's no wonder why these men became deranged, but sad, nevertheless. Millions fought in the Civil War, but few went on to become infamous outlaws. Violence reigned the times, and some soldiers went on to further their careers by driving Indians from their homes. Murder was in their blood.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year Brings New Promise

During the course of the Civil War, many soldiers had to endure harsh winters far from home. It was especially trying for southern soldiers who weren't accustomed to deep snow and frigid temperatures. Many were in tatters and had no shoes, so they wrapped rags around their feet to stay warm.

Four winters brought further hardships for soldiers on both sides, as well as civilians in the South, who increasingly suffered due to economic instability. By 1864, a barrel of flour in Mobile, Alabama soared to over $300, and coffee, a luxury to southerners by this time, cost between $30 and $70 a pound.

Nevertheless, soldiers on both sides held strong convictions about fighting for the causes they believed in. An example of this is expressed in the following letter, written by Sullivan Balou to his wife on July 14, 1861:

"... If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of their Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt ..."