Gainesville remembers its general

Sons of Confederate Veterans commander urges crowd to preserve the past
By Charles Phelps
POSTED: January 7, 2013

The Dahlonega-based Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1860 conducted the 15th annual memorial service for Confederate Gen. James Longstreet at his grave in Alta Vista Cemetery on Sunday afternoon.

Tim Ragland, commander of SCV Camp 1860, led the ceremonies by speaking to the crowd.

There was also an opening and closing prayer by Brett Martin.

Other members of the group, dressed as Civil War re-enactors, paid tribute with a rifle salute.

Ragland’s message was about Longstreet, the man. But it was also about preserving the past, whether with Longstreet and the Civil War, or history in general, then passing it along to future generations.

“Will an event like this happen,” he said, referring to memorial services and gatherings of people, as for Longstreet, and places. “Will anyone even care?”

Peter Claymore, president of The Longstreet Society, said things have changed over the years, but his group and the ceremony try to inform people who don’t have a clear picture of who Longstreet was during and after the Civil War.

“I tell people ‘without understanding our past, we can’t possibly understand where we are, and where we might be going,’” said Claymore. “We’re in the business of trying to maintain and expand the understanding of Longstreet as a Civil War general, but also as a post-war patriot.”

C.J. Clarke IV, a Longstreet Society board member who attended the ceremony, agreed with Claymore and Ragland.

“I think that history’s important. I also think it’s who we are. Why should you be ashamed of who you are; this is where you came from. It kind of makes you the person that you are, and that’s not a bad thing,” Clarke said.

After the ceremony at Alta Vista, there was an open house in the Piedmont Hotel at 827 Maple St., in Gainesville. The Longstreet Society operates out of the hotel.

“They’ve done a great job, over the years, of getting this place. It was not very much when they decided it was worth saving. They had to do a lot of work to get it to this kind of position. It’s a part of Gainesville that a lot of people don’t know,” Claymore said of the hotel.

Longstreet operated the Piedmont as a railroad hotel in the late 1800s, and he owned the property until his death in 1904.

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