Southerners celebrate Confederate ancestors

By Sebastian Kitchen • April 28, 2009

More than 120 people gathered around the Confederate Memorial at the state Capitol on Monday to honor their ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

One by one, those in attendance said the name of a relative who fought or otherwise supported the South during the conflict.

Organizer Connie Mori was no exception. She named her great-grandfather, John White, who fought with Company B, the 14th Light Artillery, Battalion 1, the Army of Tennessee.

Mori said her great-grandfather, who was from Georgia, was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga, later losing a leg because of the injury.

Mori was joined by the Alabama divisions of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who have sponsored the event for generations, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans at the annual Confederate Memorial Day service. The ceremony is at the base of the historic Confederate Memorial on the north side of the Capitol.

The Legislature established the state holiday more than a century ago.

Mori said the United Daughters of the Confederacy has organized the event since the early 1900s to honor their ancestors.

A bagpiper and a drummer followed behind children who helped carry a wreath to the memorial, which was followed by salutes with guns and a cannon that echoed through downtown Montgomery on the state holiday.

Some people at the service were dressed in outfits similar to period clothing.

Robert Reames of Birmingham, the commander of the Alabama division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the memorial in Montgomery honors those in Alabama who served and "all who served the cause no matter where they rest."

He said they defended their home, their state and their constitutional rights.

"This is an opportunity for us to come out and remind people what our ancestors did," Reames said. The commander said the people of Alabama "have every right to be proud of our ancestors."

Jeannette Taylor of the United Daughters of the Confederacy read a poem, "I Am Their Flag," which recounted Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, Missionary Ridge and other battles and altercations during the war.

People stood and removed their hats as Ellen Williams sang "God Save the South," which talked of the invaders and of "freedom or death."

In his invocation, Herman Williams said the war was a "heavenly cause."

"We know that cause was right," he said. Right does not win all battles, Williams said, but "right never dies."

Reames also used the event to criticize the recent actions of Auburn City Councilman Arthur Dowdell.

Last week, Dowdell removed small Confederate flags from gravesites of Confederate veterans at the private Pine Hill Cemetery. He called them symbols of racism and hatred that intimidate black people.

Reames called on the mayor of Auburn and the district attorney in Lee County to prosecute Dowdell for stealing the flags and defacing the graves. He said the councilman’s action was a "terrible dishonor," "out of bounds," a crime and for Dowdell’s own political gain.

Mori said the Confederate flags should be honored and used for historical purposes, such as memorials.

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