SCV commemorates Confederate Memorial Day

by Amanda Thomas
Douglas County Sentinel

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Lt. Col. Thomas Coke Glover Camp 943, is hosting a Confederate Memorial Day service Saturday at the city cemetery downtown.

The service begins at 10 a.m. and Sparks Ramey, a SCV member from Fayette County, is the keynote speaker. The ceremony will include a 21-gun salute. A total of 63 Confederate graves have been identified in the Douglasville City Cemetery, along with some widows of the soldiers.

Confederate Memorial Day is celebrated on several different dates in the South, depending on the state. Georgia declared the holiday as April 26 in 1874, choosing that date because it was the date in 1865 when Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army to Union Gen. William T. Sherman in North Carolina. It was the last major southern army to surrender and the one in which many Georgia soldiers served.

This year, Monday was designated the official day to celebrate the holiday and most state offices will be closed. However, schools and businesses no longer close and many people are unaware it was ever a holiday. The local SCV is trying to keep the holiday alive.

"We put flags up every April in all the cemeteries where we’ve identified union and confederate vets," Ed Daniell, a past commander of the Douglasville chapter, said. "We put a Union 1864 U.S. flag on the Union veterans and a Confederate battle flag on the graves of all of the Confederate veterans and widows that we’ve been able to find."

But over the years, Confederate Memorial Day lost much of its significance, according to Daniell. One reason was that people became further removed in time from the war.

"The younger people don’t seem to have the interest that the older folks did," Daniell said. "My generation and the generation ahead of me was really interested in our Confederate history and southern history and American history. The younger people are more interested in the iPhone and the iPod and ‘iMe’ than history."

Another factor that has dampened enthusiasm for Confederate Memorial Day is division among races over the Confederacy and the meaning of the battle flag. However, members of the Confederate memorial groups dispute any racism charges.

"The war between the states was not about slavery and, but that’s the general perception," Daniell said. "Slavery wasn’t even an issue until 1863 and if you ever read the Confederate States Constitution that was adopted in 1861 just about after the states started to seceding, you will find that that Constitution of the Confederacy – not the United States – outlawed any form of slave trade in the southern states. It didn’t abolish slavery, but it outlawed import of any additional slaves."

He argues that Southern people were working on a way to emancipate their slaves.

"But it wasn’t fast enough for Abe Lincoln and the Republican Party at that time," Daniell said.

He maintains that Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect their homes.

"The main reason that most of your southern people joined the army and went off to war was because the North was invading the South," Daniell said. "They were going to protect their homes. Most of them didn’t own slaves. There was only about somewhere between 7 and 11 percent of Southerners that actually owned slaves. The rest of them that were fighting didn’t own slaves."

He acknowledges that there is so many things going on in the world that people simply have to pick and choose which activities they would like to participate in.

"It’s just that people have set the old Confederate soldier on the back burner," Daniell said.

He believes educating more people about what the war was actually about, will help increase participation on Confederate Memorial Day. To help spread the word in local schools SCV members have been invited to present a living history of what life was like during that period.

"We carry black powder muskets that are typical of the one used in the war between the states and we carry a couple of artillery pieces," Daniell said. "One of them is an authentic 1863 artillery piece that has a new carriage put under it, but the tube was poured in 1863 during the war. It was a Yankee gun that was captured. We call it a captured Yankee gun."

Members also bring medical supplies that were state of the art during the war.

"You can’t undo history," Daniell said. "It’s done and we can learn from history if we study. But most people don’t. Our lessons from history teach us what to look for so that history doesn’t repeat itself in a bad way."

He feels the men and women who fought during the Civil War were some of the bravest people in the country.

"You can’t ask for anything more of a person than for them to sign a contract that says I’ll lay down my life for you if required," Daniell said. "That’s what our military does and that’s what the Confederate soldiers did and the Union soldiers back then."

© 2013 Douglas County Sentinel
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