Virginia: Appomattox Cannons Receive Attention

APPOMATTOX, Va. — Two Civil War-era cannons in Appomattox Court House Square are the focal point of countless photos of tourists taking turns posing with them.

Last week, the cannons received attention of a different sort when several workers spent more than an hour replacing the deteriorating wooden carriages with new metal ones — just in time for this weekend’s Memorial Day festivities.

Appomattox Courthouse, reconstructed 1963-64. The original courthouse was constructed in 1846, one year after Appomattox County was established. The courthouse played no role in Lee's surrender; it was closed on April 9th because it was Palm Sunday. In 1892, the building burned, and citizens voted to move the county seat to nearby Appomattox Station.  The existing building and square were reconstructed in 1963-64 to function as the park visitor center. The courthouse received further attentions in 1986, 1995, and 2001.

Appomattox Courthouse, reconstructed 1963-64.
The original courthouse was constructed in 1846, one year after Appomattox County was established. The courthouse played no role in Lee’s surrender; it was closed on April 9th because it was Palm Sunday. In 1892, the building burned, and citizens voted to move the county seat to nearby Appomattox Station.
The existing building and square were reconstructed in 1963-64 to function as the park visitor center. The courthouse received further attentions in 1986, 1995, and 2001.

“We felt the cannons needed a lift,” Appomattox County’s Economic Development Director Jeff Taylor said. “It’s the ambiance of Appomattox.”

The guns are Napoleon smoothbore howitzers and were built in Richmond in the early 1860s by Tredegar Iron Works, Taylor said.

Abuse from the elements over 15 years was evident in the old carriages. One of the cannon carriages had collapsed, causing the cannon to point upward and rest on the ground. The other had chunks missing.

Wayne Phelps, the Appomattox museum director who also maintains Court House Square — in the town of Appomattox, not at the surrender grounds — said he had received a lot of complaints about the broken carriage.

The two new carriages were built by Steen Cannon & Ordnance Works in Kentucky using a Civil War pattern. They were shipped to Appomattox and unloaded Monday morning, just three months after the order was placed. The county is paying the $35,000 cost.

The county decided to make the purchase for the Memorial Day celebration, in preparation for the Civil War sesquicentennial in 2015, and to reduce money spent long-term. The metal carriages will not have to be replaced as often and are expected to last 60 to 100 years, Taylor said.

This is the third time the cannon carriages have been replaced since 1961.

The carriages were last replaced in 1997, when the county and the Sons of the Confederacy split the $6,700 price tag, using money raised at a reenactment.

Taylor said he believed the original carriages were lost during the Civil War.

Phelps has been working on Court House Square since he was in school. As a student in shop class, he helped build the carriages installed in 1961. He’s stayed connected to the spot ever since.

“Court House Square means a lot to me,” Phelps said, adding it’s a memorial to Appomattox soldiers.

This is an attitude shared by many in Appomattox, Taylor said, who added he is pleased with the project. They will be dedicated during the Memorial Day ceremony.

“These are beautiful, beautiful carriages and we think they’ll fit real well here,” he said.

-The Associated Press


North Carolina: Students Chided for Confederate Flag “prank”

A North Carolina Confederate battle flag was displayed outside of Reagan High School over the weekend, to the dismay of students and parents.

A Twitter user with the name BriannaNicole tweeted a photo of a North Carolina Battle Flag that was raised at Reagan High School last week.

A Twitter user with the name BriannaNicole tweeted a photo of a North Carolina Battle Flag that was raised at Reagan High School last week.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools spokesman Theo Helm said the flag was run up the flagpole by students Sunday and taken down later the same day. Helm said that the school was alerted and investigated the incident and addressed the students involved.

To many people, the flag is seen as a reminder of racial discrimination and bigotry.

Photos of the flag flying in front of Reagan surfaced on social media over the weekend, causing complaints by some students and parents.

“Not cool,” wrote one student about a Twitter picture when the flag was still up.

“The student body is making our own school look bad,” wrote another.

Superintendent Don Martin called the stunt “ridiculous.”

“I think that is really bad,” Martin said. “It’s just bad taste.”

Earlier this year, a Confederate battle flag was hung in the old North Carolina state capitol as part of a historical display. Originally slated to remain in place until April 2015, the flag was removed just days later after public complaints.

-Arika Herron, Winston-Salem Journal





South Carolina: Confederate Flags Removed from Cemetery Without Permission

CLOVER, SC — Investigators in York County say someone removed nearly 100 Confederate Flags from a cemetery in Clover.

The incident was reported on May 20th at the cemetery beside the Bethany Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on Highway 161, according to the report from the York County Sheriff’s Office.

Some of the flags were found thrown into woods behind the cemetery.

Some of the flags were found thrown into woods behind the cemetery.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans told deputies they held a memorial service at the cemetery on May 9th and placed 88 Confederate flags along graves.

The service was held to honor the veterans of the Civil War but also all the veterans of all of America’s wars, the group says.

By Friday, May 17th, the flags were missing and found some of them thrown in the woods behind the cemetery, according to the report. The flags were valued at $160.

“It’s a big disappointment,” Kirk Carter said, “to think that an individual or individuals would desecrate graves in this manner.” Honoring the dead is very important especially so when they are American Veterans.”

Carter is the commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Third Brigade for the South Carolina Division.

The cemetery caretaker told deputies that he had not seen ant suspicious activity during the time the flags were placed and removed from the cemetery.

Carter says the caretaker told him the e church has had problems with vandalism in the past.

According to South Carolina laws, it is a misdemeanor offense to steal anything from a graveyard or cemetery.


Louisiana: PBS documentary spotlights unlikely Confederate

NEW ORLEANS — Filmmaker Maria Agui Carter’s “Rebel,” which aired last Friday on WYES as a presentation of PBS’ “Voces” series, tells the unlikely tale of Loreta Velazquez, a Cuban-born woman who, after a domestic life as a wife and mother in New Orleans, became one of an estimated 1,000 women who fought in the Civil War.

“A lot of my work is about exploring the absences in our national memory,” Carter said during a recent phone interview. “I work on race and gender stories often. This is a film that looks at the Civil War armies from a completely new angle. We feel like we know the Civil War, but this character broadens our consciousness of those armies and introduces us to the presence of southern Hispanic communities in the 19th century and the Cuban community of New Orleans and the women soldiers, who haven’t been talked about very broadly, who were fighting for both the North and the South.”

'Rebel.' (PBS)

‘Rebel.’ (PBS)

Havana-born, Velazquez was sent to school in New Orleans as a girl and married a Texas army officer. That husband, the first of several, died in a combat training accident. She also lost all three of their children to disease. Adopting the name Harry T. Buford, she joined the Confederate Army herself, saw action in several battles, and served as a spy – perhaps for both sides.

All of which was recounted in her autobiography, “The Woman in Battle,” published in 1876 to lasting controversy, but which is still in print today.

“I came across her story on the Internet and then searched out her original memoir,” Carter said. “It was just astounding. I didn’t really pursue it until I came across a series of articles written by a senior military archivist at the National Archives who had written about the estimated 1,000 women soldiers of the Civil War, and spoke about Loreta as one of those.

“What really sparked my interest was, the more I found out about her, the more it looked like she had been actively erased.

“I was really intrigued by a lot of articles attacking her for her morality, just assuming in general that the women who had served as soldiers were either insane or they were prostitutes. Those were common assertions about these women. In particular, finding out about Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s attacks on Loreta was illuminating.”

A hero of the Confederacy, Early was “an unreconstructed Southern apologist for The Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War with happy Mammies and chivalrous Confederate soldiers and virtuous Southern maidens,” Carter said. “It’s that ‘Gone with the Wind’ romance of the Confederacy.”

Carter’s research on the film included a year of living in New Orleans detailing the known history of her subject’s life and times.

Here, she tried “to become imbued with and understand her viewpoint of the Southern Latina growing up in 19th century New Orleans,” she said. “It was a Latin city, a sophisticated mélange of cultures.”

Some of that research illuminated one of the story’s key paradoxes: Forget momentarily the task of passing as a man in the ranks and camps. How and why would a Hispanic female go to battle for the slavery side?

“I did hesitate to think I could make a film about this woman who chose to be a Confederate,” Carter said. “Here was a woman, an immigrant, who had come to the South and had known only the South, and wanted to be an integral part of that society. Part of that meant embracing what America meant to her, which was the American South and New Orleans.”

— Dave Walker, New Orleans Times-Picayune


Virginia: Jackson Venerated with Lemons on Anniversary

CHANCELLORSVILLE, Va — It has been 150 years since Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died, and visitors are still bringing flowers — and lemons — to shrines that honor the memory of the Confederate army general.

Jackson was one of the most successful generals in the 1861-1865 US civil war, and according to legend he sucked on lemons as he entered battle.

“Jackson is a hero to some, but strange enough to appeal to a lot of people,” said Beth Parnicza, park historian at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine at Guinea Station, situated 70 miles southeast of Washington.

Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

As Americans flock to battlefields and museums to mark the sesquicentennial of the seminal conflict, Jackson’s life and accidental shooting has attracted renewed interest.

Pilgrims brought roses and small Confederate flags to the Chancellorsville battlefield, 60 miles southeast of the US capital, on May 2 — the day that Jackson was shot there 150 years ago.

He had just led a daring flank attack through thick woods on a much larger Union force and was scouting ahead of his lines after sundown. Confederate soldiers opened fire when they mistook him and his entourage for the enemy.

The battle was a stunning Confederate victory.

Jackson survived the shooting, though doctors amputated an arm. “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm,” said his commander, Robert E. Lee.

Medics took Jackson to Guinea Station, at the time a busy supply depot, to recover, but he died of pneumonia on May 10 in a simple wood building now preserved as a museum.

Jackson was born in 1824 in the backwoods of what is now West Virginia. Orphaned at a young age, he had little formal education, but with luck and determination managed to enter the West Point military academy.

The dour Jackson preferred study over socializing, and made few friends. Years later he faced many of those schoolmates on the battlefield as enemies.

After service in the 1846-1848 war with Mexico, Jackson joined the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington in 1851 to teach artillery tactics.

The future military hero was considered an oddball. He’d sometimes raise one arm to compensate for a supposed body imbalance, eat stale bread to manage his stomach dyspepsia, and wore wet bandages believing it was a cure for most illnesses.

At VMI he earned a reputation as a martinet, and his students nicknamed him “Tom Fool.”

Deeply religious, he also avoided alcohol, was honest to a fault, and was tender to young children.

In 1861 the southern states, fearing the recently-elected Abraham Lincoln would end slavery, began to form the Confederate States of America. Slavery was essential to the south’s agricultural economy and southerners vowed to resist any threat to their “peculiar institution.”

When Virginia seceded and war broke out, Jackson joined the rebel army.

Jackson earned the “Stonewall” sobriquet for his steady role in the Confederate victory at Manassas in July 1861. In the next two years he proved to be an aggressive warrior, key to pivotal rebel victories.

“The doings of this officer are too vividly impressed upon the public mind… to particularize his thousand and one deeds of daring, all of which … were strongly marked by dash, energy, and skill,” read a December 1862 profile of Jackson in the Illustrated London News.

Jackson was “humorless, socially awkward, a control freak, autocratic, rude, secretive and discouraged initiative,” said historian Frank O’Reilly, a civil war expert at the Chancellorsville battlefield.

“And yet, he was adored by his men.”

“Stonewall” died at the height of his popularity and left little in writing — his widow Anna and other southerners shaped his image in the post-war years.

According to Anna, Jackson was a perfect husband and a model Christian, even someone who could reconcile blacks and whites. Others portrayed him as the ultimate self-made man, and as a Christian martyr.

But not all civil war buffs are swept up in the Jackson mania.

“Jackson coldly sent thousands of people to the grave without a second thought, all the while thinking he was doing the Lord’s work,” said a writer named “Miskatonic,” commenting on a story in the New York Times’ civil war blog.

“And for what? So that men of his class could keep their slaves for a few months longer. The man was certainly no hero, and it is odd and disturbing that some continue to treat him has such.”

Yet his popularity endures. Visitors place roses at the grave where Jackson’s arm is buried near the Chancellorsville battlefield, O’Reilly said.

And at the general’s grave in Lexington visitors place roses and lemons year-round, according to Michael Anne Lynn, director of the nearby Stonewall Jackson House.

The lemon myth however is overblown — Lynn says the general also enjoyed other types of fruit.

Dropping off lemons “is sort of cute,” she said, “but I’d prefer that they took the tags off first.”