CHARLESTON, S.C. — Confederate Memorial Day was marked Thursday in the city where the Civil War began with a somber, reflective ceremony in which dozens of descendants of Southern troops described where their ancestors fought and many of them died.
About 100 people gathered on Charleston’s Battery as a wreath was placed at a monument dedicated to the Southern defenders of Charleston. From that spot, one can look across Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter where the April, 1861 bombardment of the Union-held fort plunged the nation into Civil War.
Those attending, many of them members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, wore not Confederate gray but seersucker suits and straw hats under the warm May sun. About three dozen walked to the front of the gathering one at a time and then, some choking with emotion, gave the names, ranks and units of their ancestors and where they fought.
The group then sang “Dixie” and a group of Confederate re-enactors fired a cannon at nearby White Point Garden.
A holiday to honor Southerners who fell fighting for the South is officially observed in nine states of the old Confederacy, but are held at different times of the year.
In the Carolinas, Confederate Memorial Day is May 10th, the day Gen. Stonewall Jackson died in 1863 after he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville. In South Carolina it is an optional state holiday for state workers and the General Assembly recessed to mark the day.
Earlier Thursday, about 80 people attended a memorial service at Charleston’s Huguenot Church during which they pledged allegiance to the United States, South Carolina and Confederate Flags.
“I salute the Confederate Flag with affection, reverence and undying remembrance to the cause for which it stands,” the Confederate pledge says. “This is a very important day to us. We’re a pure heritage group and what’s what we’re doing is celebrating our heritage,” said Philip Middleton, the commander of the Fort Sumter Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that put on the ceremony by the harbor.“We all have deep roots and we are all the descendants of Confederate soldiers.”
Nat Davis, a member of the Waccamaw Light Artillery, the re-enacting unit that fired the canon, said he re-enacts to help people understand the war and how it was fought. “We want to bring the spirit of the cannon back because cannon played such a role in the destruction of Charleston,” said Davis. His ancestors fought on both sides in the war, both with Sherman and with Southern units who opposed him in South Carolina.
The unit has been around about 10 years and travels to about eight re-enactments each year, Davis said. Next year, they plan to head north for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Like Davis’ ancestors, the artillery re-enactors can fight for both sides, portraying both federal and Confederate units.
Even as Confederate Memorial Day was observed, there was a call to end the holiday.
State Rep. Boyd Brown of Winnsboro said lawmakers should end the holiday. Brown has ancestors who fought for the South but said lawmakers needed to be in Columbia Thursday.
“We have important issues that need our attention, but instead, the Legislature is taking a day off to observe an archaic state holiday,” he said. “I’m not suggesting that South Carolinians stop celebrating the holiday, but I am asking that from this point forward, they observe it in their hearts and minds.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
From the Washington Post