Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Shenandoah" at Desoto Civic Center in Mississippi

This afternoon I had the immense pleasure of seeing a local theatre production of the musical "Shenandoah." It was a wonderful experience: the actors were fascinating, the music and singing were astounding, and the story was heart-wrenching. I especially liked the part in the play where two twin brothers (one in Union garb, the other in Confederate) sang about going home, and wondered if it would still be the same.

There were many poignant scenes in the play, and the talented actors were impressive, to say the least. Many have participated in numerous community theatre productions. One actor, who is only 12, has been in fifteen plays. Amazing!

Today was the final performance, so afterward, members of Company 6, 11th Mississippi Infantry reenacting unit coaxed the crowd outside to witness a cannon salute. My son, who is visiting from California, stated, "Only in the South would you see a play about the Civil War and then see them firing off a cannon!" God save the South!

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Civil War Discoveries Made

For one hundred a fifty years, a long standing mystery appearing in a poem written by Walt Whitman remained unsolved ... until now. The meteor in question, mentioned in Whitman's famed "Leaves of Grass," and referred to as "a strange huge meteor-procession," really did occur. It was discovered that a painting by Frederic Church shows the meteor streaking through the sky. The meteor appeared in 1860, which coincides with Whitman's publication. Period newspapers verified the event, which was visible from the Great Lakes to New York, but by the mid-twentieth century, the event was forgotten. The meteor actually split into multiple fireballs upon impacting the atmosphere. Earth-grazing meteor processions are so rare that few people have ever heard of them. There were also documented processions in 1783 and 1913.

Another artistic find recently discovered is a photograph believed to have been taken by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. The photo portrays two young African-American children dressed in raggedy clothing, barefoot, and sitting on an upright barrel. The two boys are thought to be slaves. It was discovered at a moving sale in Charlotte, North Carolina in April, accompanied by a document stating that "John" sold for $1,150 in 1854. The photograph is believed to have been taken around 1860.

I find it extremely fascinating that old relics, photos, and historical artifacts keep resurfacing. Lost long ago, these connections to the past are an essential part of our American experience, thus making us who we are today. I hope these newly-discovered items are never again buried and forgotten.

Monday, June 21, 2010

SCV Members Support Their Community

Last Friday night was the opening performance of "Shenandoah," a musical about the Civil War. It is being presented by The Desoto Civic Center, a theater here in Mississippi. To support the show, a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans attended, and more members will see the play while it shows this week, along with an area chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The SCV generously donated their uniforms for use as costumes to the cast, along with relics and a cannon. This might not seem like a huge gesture, but when you consider how much they invest in their uniforms, not to mention all the extras like shoes, canteens, etc., it really adds up. Needless to say, the cast is now decked out in very authentic duds!

This is just one example of how local chapters contribute to their communities. I urge all of you to support your local chapters if you can. There is so much negativity attached to the Confederacy now that generosity such as this is often overlooked. The SCV, as well as the UDC, do much to inform and support their heritage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Art and Heart of a Reenactor

I started reenacting this year, and I have to admit, it is a lot of fun! People are amazed and fascinated by reenactors in Civil War uniforms and antebellum dresses, and love to hear about history. Contrary to what the press is saying, most people are not offended by the Confederate flag or the presence of Civil War reenactors in parades, at memorial services, etc.

To be a reenactor takes an enormous amount of dedication, perseverance, and knowledge about historical accuracy. Wool uniforms can sometimes be uncomfortable, and hooped skirts can become daunting and cumbersome. But to participate in a reenactment is nothing less than awesome!

There are several ways to learn about reenacting, such as websites (my favorite is, lists of events that are published monthly in the Civil War Courier, and local events. Reenactments take place all over the country, not just in the South, as depicted in movies like "Sweet Home Alabama." I strongly recommend that if you are interested and have the opportunity, take advantage of participating. I guarantee you'll be hooked!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9 is Cavalry Day!

Today marks the anniversary of the largest, most famous cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil, which happened during the War Between the States at Brandy Station, Virginia in 1863. The flamboyant J.E.B. Stuart and his boys were confronted by the enemy in a surprise attack. After clashing, capturing several Union guns, and chasing their adversaries off, the Rebels came out victorious, although they were greatly surprised and outnumbered. This event lead up to the great battle of Gettysburg. In my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, I discuss the Battle of Brandy Station at length, and explain the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

Another cavalry battle took place at Brice's Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered (as usual) his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since, and was used by the German's during WWII.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Confederate Decoration Day

This afternoon an inspiring event took place in Memphis. A large group of historians, reenactors, and spectators gathered at the Soldiers’ Rest in historic Elmwood Cemetery, where they paid homage to their ancestors. Known as Confederate Decoration Day, the event was attended by over sixty people.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy sponsored the occasion. Following a welcome, greeting, and invocation by Tennessee division chapter members, the audience was asked to participate in saluting flags, including the American Flag, the Christian Flag, the Flag of Tennessee, and the Confederate Flag. A wreath presentation came next, followed by music performed by the 52nd Regimental Band, who entertain at many local Civil War events.

Donald Harrison, past Commander of the Robert E. Lee SCV camp in Shelby County, gave a wonderful speech discussing why Confederate soldiers fought, why they should not be considered traitors, and why we should honor them by not questioning their motives, as things were quite different 150 years ago, just as ideals will be very different 150 years from now. After a special presentation to a local author, the Children of the Confederacy decorated the Confederate Monument with a bouquet of red roses. Morton’s Battery and the 51st Tennessee Infantry Regiment gave a musket salute, firing off three rounds to the spectators’ enthrallment.

It is events like this that keep the memory of our ancestors alive. Without them, fallen heroes and departed veterans will be lost to history. Although the Civil War is becoming more distant with each passing year, it is still relevant, and extremely important that we pay homage, or it will be forgotten forever. This is what could become of our blessed veterans to future generations: WWI and WWII vets could become extinct to memory, as well as Korean, Vietnam, and more recent battle-scarred soldiers. It has happened with the Revolutionary War, and it is happening with the War Between the States, because assumptions and simplifications have been made about the war’s motives. Let us always pay honor, lest we forget.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If He Was Still Alive, He'd be 202 Today!

Today is the birthday of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. He was born in Christian County, Kentucky, not far from where Abraham Lincoln was born one year later. The tenth youngest child of a plantation owner, Davis rose to become one of the most celebrated, and yet controversial, American statesmen.

His illustrious career began with the military, where he served as an officer. He was elected to the House of Representatives and later to Congress, married twice, and had six children, but only one survived to adulthood. He saw much pain and sadness in his lifetime, but still maintained his firm belief in the Confederate cause. Following the War Between the States, he became somewhat of a recluse, penning his memoirs at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi. After his death at age 81, his wife, Varina, had his body moved to Richmond, where it remains today.

Bertram Hayes-Davis, who is the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, frequently tours the country speaking on behalf of his infamous ancestor. Sadly, he has encountered obstacles in regard to having Jefferson Davis receive the honor he so greatly deserves. In fact, there is talk about removing his statue from the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building. Instead of dismissing Jefferson Davis as being politically incorrect, we should honor him for the sacrifices he made for his country and what he believed to be right. Let us celebrate him as a true patriot and the American icon that he was.