Tennessee: Sons of Confederate Veterans Protest KKK Rally

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is retaliating against the Ku Klux Klan for planning a rally in Memphis against the renaming of three city parks, Fox 16 and WREG Memphis report.

The KKK applied for a permit to hold a March 30 rally in opposition to the renaming of three parks — Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park. The Tennessee leader of the KKK reportedly told Action News 5 the gathering would be “the largest rally Memphis, Tennessee has ever seen.”

“It’s not going to be 20 or 30. It’s going to be thousands of Klansmen from the whole United States coming to Memphis, Tennessee,” said the leader, known as the “Exalted Cyclops.”

The group Sons of Confederate Veterans opposes the KKK’s plans to gather, spokesman Lee Millar told Fox 16.

“I’m afraid that a counter rally or an anti-Klan rally from other elements in the city might show up and the situation might turn into a riot or something ugly as it has before,” Millar said. “So we would prefer that the Klan not come to Memphis.”

Despite his opposition to the KKK rally, Millar said he agreed the park names should be left alone.

“These are 100 year old historic parks,” Millar said. “They need to leave the names alone. By changing them, they’re bringing a lot of rage among the citizens of Memphis and drawing personal attention and negative attention to Memphis trying to erase history.”

Uproar over the renaming of parks began in Feb. 2012. The AP reported earlier:

The statue of Confederate fighter Nathan Bedford Forrest astride a horse towers above the Memphis park bearing his name. It’s a larger-than-life tribute to the warrior still admired by many for fiercely defending the South in the Civil War – and scorned by others for a slave-trading past and ties to the Ku Klux Klan.Though the bloodiest war on American soil was fought 150 years ago, racially tinged discord flared before its City Council voted this week to strip Forrest’s name from the downtown park and call it Health Sciences Park. It also voted to rename Confederate Park as Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park as Mississippi River Park.

Toney Armstrong, Director of the Memphis Police, said law enforcement is “expecting large crowds” of both the KKK’s supporters and opposers at the event.

“We’ll prepare for the worst and pray for the best,” Armstrong said.

–Paige Lavender, Huffington Post


North Carolina: Civil War Detective Buried With Soldiers He Championed

RALEIGH — A century and a half ago, a Minnesota farm boy named John O. Dolson took a bullet at Gettysburg and died slowly in a military hospital, the sound of bone-saws and screams surrounding him.

As a last indignity, officials there recorded his death with a string of errors, misspelling his name, mistaking his unit and sending him to Raleigh as John O. Dobson – a Yankee buried in a Confederate cemetery.

I’ve told this story before.

Charles Purser of Garner, standing among Confederate graves at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. CHUCK LIDDY — 2011 News & Observer file photo

Charles Purser of Garner, standing among Confederate graves at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.
CHUCK LIDDY — 2011 News & Observer file photo

I need to revisit it briefly to introduce my friend Charles Purser, who died in January at age 73. He’s the only reason anyone knows Dolson’s name.

I’ve told you about Purser before, the quiet airman and postal worker who doggedly uncovered names for hundreds of forgotten soldiers, including Dolson.

I’ve described him poring through muster rolls and census reports from the 1860s to identify the men buried in Oakwood Cemetery – a self-appointed Civil War detective.

I’ve told you how he personally ordered the white markers that line the Oakwood hillside, and how he changed the graveyard from a shabby and weed-choked mess to a place that conjures Raleigh’s past.

Now I’ll tell the last piece of Purser’s story.

He died of cancer in January and took his place in Oakwood, next to the men he rescued from obscurity. From his grave, you can see the rounded tip of Dolson’s stone – the only Union man in his row.

Purser grew up in Charlotte and had relatives who fought for the South. He served as an intelligence analyst in the Air Force, including a stint in Alaska.

But in all the years I knew him, I never heard him talk about the war’s cause, its rights, its wrongs, its legacy or its controversy. All that mattered to Purser was seeing that soldiers got their due.

It didn’t faze him at all that Dolson had pointed a rifle at the southern side. He ordered him a special Union marker and invited blue-uniformed reenactors to a special ceremony.

When Purser first walked into Oakwood, he found the Confederate section choked with weeds, most of the graves lacking any kind of marker. He and a handful of friends spent months in libraries, or on ancestry Web sites, or comparing data with Civil War buffs.

Purser would call me every time he’d had a new breakthrough:

• George Piper from North Carolina was actually Jacob Pfeiffer from New York.

• The first North Carolina soldier to die in the war perished in a Raleigh horse stable, of pneumonia, before he so much as heard a shot fired.

Each time he called, his voice sounded like it came from a man who’d found treasure after years of digging. For Purser, joy came in correcting history’s rough draft, presenting it to a new audience in polished form. Dolson’s grave now carries a correction on a slab marble with more information than you’ll find on the headstone.

I like to walk on that hillside and think about the men under my feet who heard the cannons at Gettysburg – not because I feel like waving any flags, but rather whenever I’m in the mood to ruminate on all that’s come and gone through the city where I live.

I never get tired of taking friends from out of town through that cemetery, pointing out Dolson and his adopted resting place, or doomed Lt. Walsh of Texas, hanged for taking a potshot at the federals as they marched down Fayetteville Street.

My friends probably get tired of it.

But we don’t have an Old North Church in Raleigh, or a Ford’s Theater, or a Brooklyn Bridge. Oakwood is where I take people when I want to make Raleigh’s story seem wider and richer. When I go there next time, I’ll take people by Purser’s grave.

–Josh Shaffer, Raleigh News & Observer


North Carolina: Rockingham Board Backs Confederate Statue

WENTWORTH — A near-capacity crowd gave overwhelming support to Rockingham County commissioners as they passed a resolution calling for the restoration of a statue depicting a Confederate soldier.

The monument in downtown Reidsville was damaged in a wreck in 2011. NELSON KEPLEY / NEWS & RECORD

The monument in downtown Reidsville was damaged in a wreck in 2011. NELSON KEPLEY / NEWS & RECORD

Supporters of replacing the statue argued that the monument is a veterans’ monument.

“Six hundred one Confederate soldiers from Rockingham County died (in the Civil War),” said Diane Parnell, the vice president of the Historic Preservation Action Committee. “That monument was put up for them. A terrible wrong has been done to them.”

Parnell was among about 80 residents who attended the Rockingham County commissioners meeting Monday night. The group heavily favored replacing the statue where it stood before it was knocked down in a traffic accident.

The monument had stood in the center of the traffic circle at Morehead and Scales streets in Reidsville since 1910. But in 2011, a Greensboro motorist knocked it down accidentally.

The incident caused controversy about whether it should be replaced.

The city determined the statue belonged to the North Carolina division of United Daughters of the Confederacy. The group collected $105,000 from insurance and decided to replace it in a less-visible location, a city-owned cemetery for Confederate soldiers.

“Not all history’s pretty,” said Robert Jernigan. “Not all history’s good. We are who we are because of history. People are asking that you preserve what is ours so we do not forget where we came from.”

Several speakers referred to a report in the Reidsville Review that said the UDC did not offer to replace the monument in a new location but was told to by Michael Pearce, Reidsville’s city manager.

After a court approved replacing the monument, vandals spray-painted the words “Monument is coming back” on an auto body shop run by an African American businessman who outspokenly opposed returning the statue to its original spot.

Commissioner Keith Duncan floated a suggestion that the replacement statue be added to a Confederate monument near the county office. Members of the audience said that it would not be the same.

“You need to know where you’ve been to measure if you’re going in the right direction,” said Commissioner Zane Cardwell. “These people fought and died for your rights and everybody’s rights.”

Commissioner Craig Travis suggested that city officials violated the open meetings law when they talked to UDC members about moving the statue.

“We’re talking about a City Council that’s run amok,” he said. “If you don’t like what they do, vote them out. The cities need to be held accountable.”

He said that “any attempt to alter, or modify, or deny the existence of the past” is an attempt to deny the history of county residents. In the end, Travis said, the county can’t force Reids­ville to take its advice.

“You think the city of Reids­ville wants that resolution?” Travis said. “It don’t mean nothing to them.”

The commission unanimously passed a motion supporting the return of the monument to its original location. The motion is not legally binding on the city of Reidsville.

–Joe Gamm, News-Record.com


South Carolina: Horry County Civil War Graves Could Make Registry

CONWAY, SC – Take a short trek through the woods just off Oak Street in Conway and you’ll find the McCracken Graveyard, where seven people are buried, including 2 civil war veterans and a baby. The site was named after Peter McCracken, who fought with the Confederacy in Company D, according to historians, and died in 1889.

Tonight, the Horry County Board of Architects will review The McCracken site, along with 12 other graveyards for consideration for putting them on the county historic registry. With all the growth in the county, and talks of major road construction on the horizon, The Cemetery Project was started in 2007. Its mission is to find, maintain and preserve the sites so that future growth won’t disturb them.

“Cemeteries are one of those rare very sensitive historic properties they are often overlooked, and when they disappear, their history is lost forever,” says Adam Emrick, the senior planner for the County.

The McCracken site was adopted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and if historians get their way, the sites will be put on the registry following approval by the county council.



South Carolina: Battle of Aiken event a Success

Ed Mann portrayed Confederate States Army Col. James Chestnut Jr., a former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, this weekend at the 18th re-enactment of the Battle of Aiken. The members of Brigadier Gen. Barnard E. Bee Camp No. 1575 was among the hundreds of re-enactors to bring history to life at the Confederate Memorial Park.

“For me, it’s all about the education,” Mann said.

Pvt. Roy Stampley and Lt. Col. David Shockey 5th Georgia pose for a picture before making their way to the Confederate encampment. (Photo by Ben Baugh)

Pvt. Roy Stampley and Lt. Col. David Shockey 5th Georgia pose for a picture before making their way to the Confederate encampment. (Photo by Ben Baugh)

The 18th Annual Battle of Aiken event marks the 148th anniversary of this Civil War battle that took place in Aiken in early February of 1865. Union forces, led by Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, were pushed back from Aiken to Montmorenci by Gen. Joseph Wheeler and his Confederate troops. The Union troops never made it back to Aiken’s borders before the war ended later that same yea

Visitors to the park had an opportunity to stroll through encampments, see the officers in their sartorial splendor as they brandished a variety of accouterments and ladies of the era in their period dress. But, it also provided the audience with a chance to get better acquainted with the hardships associated with a troubling time in the nation’s history.

A passion for performing serves as the impetus for many of the re-enactors’ participation, and it’s their appreciation for the era, its historical significance and for some what almost seems as if it’s a calling.

Dixie Weader has a predilection for the time period, her favorite movie is “Gone with the Wind,” but it also provided her with a chance to honor the memory of a family member who was a Confederate States Army soldier.

“I make my own dresses,” said Weader, who wore a period costume. “It has hoops under it. My hoops are actually the size they would have worn if you were very wealthy.”

The action on the battlefield featured belligerents engaging in combat, the cavalry charging across the field at full gallop on horseback, the resounding explosions of mortars and cannons filling the staging area with a cloud of smoke and an aroma of sulphur, raising the blood pressure of even the calmest of souls as the re-enactors fought with an authentic intensity evoking images of an unforgiving war.

Barb and Jack Gomarko were visiting the area from Minnesota, and it was an advertisement about the re-enactment that piqued their interest.

“It’s our first time,” said Barb. “We thought it would be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.”

The Battle of Aiken has been a family affair for Pamela Harrell, and it was a way for her to spend meaningful time with those who are important to her.

“My dad’s one of the re-enactors,” said Harrell. “My daughter is 9, and this is the fifth Battle of Aiken she’s been to. I think it’s very educational for her, especially since she’s in the third grade and that her class just learned about slavery last week.”

Vendors, educational booths and demonstrations were also part of a weekend that provided the audience with an opportunity to experience what life must have been like during the 19th century.

“We try to provide the most authentic merchandise that’s affordable to the re-enactors,” said Andy Fulks, Fall Creek Suttlery, Whitestown, Ind. “We’re blessed because the local folks like to buy as much of the gear as the re-enactors do.”

–Ben Baugh, Aiken Standard


Virginia: Virginia Civil War Project Adds Dinwiddie Documents

DINWIDDIE – Historians came calling to Dinwiddie County over the weekend in an effort to create a digital collection of Civil War manuscripts.

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and the Library of Virginia have partnered to create a statewide online collection of Civil War manuscripts that remain in private hands.

The Civil War 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access focuses on manuscript materials created from 1859 to 1867 that reflect life in Virginia during the period of the Civil War and the early period of Reconstruction.

Citizens were encouraged to bring original family materials to be scanned and included in the project.

Scanned materials will be made available online on the web via the Library of Virginia web site and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission web site.

Project officials came to the Dinwiddie Historic Courthouse on Saturday. And it wasn’t the first time in Dinwiddie. Officials from the project initially came to the county in 2011 to scan historic items. The project’s goal is to visit each city and county in Virginia twice.

–The (Petersburg, Va.)Progress-Index


Tennessee: State Considers Making it Difficult to Rename/Remove Civil War Hero Memorials

Their names are often set in stone. A bill making its way through the Tennessee legislature would make certain they remain there.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it much harder to rename or move memorials to the state’s war heroes – including those associated with the Civil War.

The statue of Civil War Gen. Robert H. Hatton was erected in the Lebanon town square in 1912. / Larry McCormack / File / The Tennessean

The statue of Civil War Gen. Robert H. Hatton was erected in the Lebanon town square in 1912. / Larry McCormack / File / The Tennessean

“I just want to preserve our history,” said state Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, the legislation’s sponsor. “History is history and should be left there.”

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, House Bill 553, is scheduled for a vote this evening in the state House of Representatives. A companion measure filed by state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, has not yet been brought up for discussion.

The broadly written measure would apply to memorials erected to practically every major conflict in U.S. history, from the French and Indian War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s not just the Civil War monuments,” Ketron said. “It’s the War of 1812, the Revolutionary graves and all the rest.”

The bill would require state and local governments that want to move or rename a memorial to apply first to the Tennessee Historical Commis­sion for a waiver. The bill also would bar measures to end maintenance of existing monuments.

The measure would raise hurdles to renaming parks, buildings, streets, schools and other public structures that honor figures to the Civil War – or, as the bill refers to the conflict, the “War Between the States.”
Recent flaps

Such controversies have flared several times in recent years. One of the most notable came in 2007, when Middle Tennessee State University considered changing the name of its Army ROTC building from Forrest Hall, a name that honors school benefactor, Civil War general and purported Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The bill has attracted little attention in Middle Tennessee or in the legislature, where it has sailed through House committees on voice votes. But in Memphis, city council members renamed three parks that honored Civil War figures, including Forrest.

The KKK has applied for a permit to organize a rally against the renamings.

The bill would not prevent those three parks from being renamed. But McDaniel said the measure would slow such actions in the future.

The controversy in Memphis may prompt some state lawmakers to give the measure a second look.

State Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said he had supported the measure in committee but probably will not vote for it on the House floor.

“I think we need to pass on our heritage even if it wasn’t good,” said Shaw, who is black. “It helps me explain things to my children and grandchildren. … But I don’t want to tie the local folks’ hands.”

–Chas Sisk, The Tennessean


Tennessee: Preservationists Hope to Spruce Up Civil War Park for Battle of Franklin Anniversary

FRANKLIN, Tennessee — Preservationists are working to spruce up a newly formed Civil War park in Franklin before the 150th anniversary of the battle that was fought there.

Jim Lighthizer, who is president of the Civil War Trust, said told The Tennessean that preservationists are trying to raise $120,000 to rebuild a cotton gin that once stood on a spot where some of the bloodiest fighting took place on Nov. 30, 1864.

In addition, supporters hope to tear down a restaurant and strip mall and combine that property with others to create a green space.

Lighthizer said the latest purchase for the expanding park came last year after years of making no progress.

“I didn’t think I’d ever hear anything about Franklin except maybe an occasional newspaper article about something else (that had) been paved over,” Lighthizer said.

Lighthizer, local history lovers and preservationists involved in Franklin’s Charge— a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Civil War battlefields in Franklin and Williamson County — say the park could attract tourists to the area.

“It’s a near miracle, when you think about what Franklin Charge has accomplished, what the citizens of this community accomplished,” Lighthizer said. “… That is a community taking back their national heritage after it had been paved over.”

Historian and CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust, Eric Jacobson, said the battle was of epic proportions.

“I would argue that what happened in Franklin was one of those events that … changed the lives of tens of thousands of people,” he said. “They could never shake Franklin from their minds.”

Carroll Van West, professor and co-chair of the state Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, said the city’s role in the war is an important story that should be remembered. She said the park will help remind people of the significance of the war.

“It matters because it took that war — all that suffering, the dying, the destruction — to wash away the stain of slavery from our nation’s soul,” West said.