February 12, 2009

Gen. Robert E. Lee Reenactor Highlights Lee-Jackson Dinner

Source: The Greeneville Sun

David Chaltas Plays Compelling Role For Event’s Large Crowd
BY BILL JONES
STAFF WRITER

David Chaltas, a nationally recognized living historian, author and educator delivered a stunning portrayal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee during a Lee-Jackson dinner Saturday night at the Homestead restaurant.

Hosted by John Hunt Morgan Camp 2053 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Lee-Jackson dinner, which organizers hope will become an annual event, drew a large number of diners.

The dinner honored the birthdays of Lee (Jan. 19, 1807), who commanded the Confederate States of America’s Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (Jan. 21, 1824).

Chatlas, who bears an almost uncanny physical resemblance to photographs of Robert E. Lee, spoke both as himself and in the persona of Lee.

Chaltas told the audience about how Lee was torn between allegiance to the United States and his native Virginia at the outset of the Civil War.

Chatas said Lee had been promoted to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army by new President Abraham Lincoln when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, an island fortress in Charleston, S.C., harbor in 1861.

At the time, Lee’s family was living in a mansion located in what is now Arlington National Cemetery.

From there, Lee was summoned by President Lincoln’s advisers to the White House and offered command of the U.S. Army of the Potomac.

Lee, who did not get to personally speak with President Lincoln, asked the President’s secretary for permission to "pray about" the offer and returned home to think and contemplate it overnight.

Chaltas quoted from Lee’s wife’s journal about how Lee paced the floor and prayed throughout the night before finally deciding he could not accept Lincoln’s offer because it would have meant he would have had to take up arms against his native state (Virginia).

Lee returned to the White House the next day, declined to the President’s secretary, the offer of command of the U.S. Army of the Potomac and resigned from the U.S. Army.

Speaking in the persona of Lee, Chaltas told the audience that Lee had served the flag of the United States for 36 years before resigning his commission in 1861.

"I was a civilian for one day," said Chaltas, speaking as Lee.

Two days after declining President Lincoln’s offer of command of U.S. Army forces, Lee accepted a commission as a general in the Confederate Army.

BLACK REENACTOR

Also speaking during the event was H.K. Edgerton, a black man who is a descendant of a slave, who told the audience during the event that he is proud of both his ancestry and his Southern heritage.

Edgerton, who was dressed in a gray Confederate Army uniform, carried with him a large Confederate battle flag and waved the flag aloft as he led the audience in singing "Dixie."

He told the audience, among other things, that he had recently walked up Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., carrying the Battle Flag and had attempted to meet with President Barack Obama.

In addition to Chaltas, historical interpreters representing Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet John Hunt Morgan, and other Confederate heroes took part in the event.

A number of diners also wore Civil War-period dress to the dinner. A buffet meal was served.

The event honors Lee who was born Jan. 19, 1807, and Jackson, who was born Jan. 21, 1824.

In Tennessee, Lee’s birthday is an official State Day of Special Observance.

Chaltas has taken part in programs throughout the country including the local Andrew Johnson celebration and the Battle of Blue Springs.

He won the coveted Teacher of the Year award given by the Kentucky Council of Children with Behavioral Disorders. His Alternative Education Program and Day Treatment Center won Program of the Year.

In addition to being a sought-after speaker, he has written several books, including "The Legend and Legacy of Lee," "Poetry of the Civil War," and "The Fading of the Grey."

Chaltas had copies of his books available for sale following the dinner.

In addition to giving audiences a first-hand glimpse into the persona of Robert E. Lee, Chaltas serves as the Kentucky Division Chaplain of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and is a member of the 5th Kentucky, the Southern Guard, Tennessee Valley Battalion, Kentucky Cavalry Brigade, and the North-South Alliance.

He was recently appointed as the SCV Army of Tennessee chaplain.

Copyright © 2009, The Greeneville Sun

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