Veterans and Flags: A connection that’s anything but ‘tenuous’

Commentary by Woody Highsmith

In the Richmond County Superior Court case filed by GHC et. al against the City of Augusta et. al., Judge Duncan C. Wheale issued rulings that merit some comment. We are absolutely certain that Judge Wheale is wrong and therefore GHC et.al. has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Judge Wheale has ruled that the Augusta Riverwalk was not designed to honor any military service past or present. Judge Wheale ruled that the series of six flags on the Bay Street Esplanade represent the political or governing authorities that had historically exercised authority over the property upon which the Riverwalk is located.

Judge Wheale ruled that the "Flags at the Bay Street Esplanade do not honor the past or present service of military personnel". Judge Wheale further elaborated that the "temporal proximity to armed conflict and a tenuous connection to military personnel who presumably lived during a certain period" do not make the series of flags a memorial.

Apparently, Judge Wheale has forgotten that it was officers and soldiers that carried those series of flags to the property upon which the Riverwalk is located. It was soldiers who gave force and presence to the political or governing authorities that Judge Wheale suggests the flags represent. Let’s review a brief Augusta history.

Desoto and his soldiers carried the flag of Spain to Augusta.

It was French soldiers that carried the French flag.

It was an English General that founded Augusta, built a fort and garrisoned it with a detachment of soldiers.

The Fort Moultrie flag of the Revolution was saved by Sergeant William Jasper of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment. On the monument to his valor is the inscription:

"We shall not fight without our flag."
The 13-star United States flag was carried to Augusta by General Light Horse Harry Lee and his soldiers when they took Fort Augusta from the British.

The Georgia State flag, (white with a red star), was carried by the Clinch Rifles of Augusta when the U.S. Arsenal at Augusta was surrendered to the State of Georgia after Secession in 1861.

The Bonnie Blue flag was carried by Southern soldiers going to war.

The Stainless Banner was carried into battle by Southern soldiers.

The United States Reconstruction flag was carried by Union soldiers when Augusta surrendered.

"What a wonderful power there is in the flag of one’s country, how mysterious the influence by which it sways and moves the hearts of men. The colors of an army have carried more strongholds than the bayonet and battered down more fortresses than artillery. Even in Holy Writ we find the expression: "As terrible as an army with banners."
—Lieutenant Colonel H.D.D. Twiggs, CSA, Augusta 1892

Indeed, the flags that soldiers carry during the "temporal proximity to armed conflict" is more—much more—-than a "tenuous connection to military personnel." It is fact beyond question—there’s no presumption involved—that soldiers past and present lived, fought and died under the flags of their countries. It is about the soldiers, without whom the flags displayed on the Riverwalk (and those removed) would never have arrived at Augusta and without whom there would be no ‘governing authorities’ or written history to memorialize.

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