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21-gun salute, roses honor veterans at Confederate Memorial Day

POSTED: April 26, 2009 10:57 p.m.

Confederate Memorial Day

Watch scenes from Sunday's annual Confederate Memorial Day Commemoration at Redwine United Methodist Church off Poplar Springs Road in South Hall.

SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans give a 21-gun salute at Redwine United Methodist Church Sunday afternoon at the end of their Confederate Memorial Day Commemoration. The event was sponsored by the Gen. James Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

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The only clouds appearing in the blue skies over Redwine United Methodist Church on Sunday were the blasts of white smoke after a 21-gun salute by a group of Confederate re-enactors.

Warm, sunny weather greeted those emerging from an hourlong Confederate Memorial Day Commemoration inside the church off Poplar Springs Road in South Hall.

There, with the help of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy completed its remembrance of fallen Confederate soldiers.

Confederate re-enactors called the roll of the soldiers, with men standing in the cemetery to represent the veterans. One by one, women dressed in long gowns of the era, escorted by a re-enactor, laid red roses on the graves.

The soldiers then took up arms and fired the honorary shots.

One of the re-enactors, John King of Gillsville, said the event was important to him personally.

"The thing is to remember those who served their country as they saw fit and to protect their homes, and we forget too soon," King said. "Take 9/11 — how soon have we forgotten that already?"

The UDC sponsored the annual ceremony at the church, which has historic ties to the Civil War. Company D, 27th Georgia Infantry of the Confederate States of America, organized there in early 1861.

Markers from the era are strewn across the cemetery next to the church.

Dressed in period costume, members of the UDC’s Gen. James Longstreet chapter
recognized men who served in World War II and Korea with ancestors who fought for the South during the Civil War, or "War Between the States," as UDC members call it.

They also presented an Armed Forces Expeditionary Service medal to Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Brown, honored for serving in the "global war on terror," as UDC members put it, and who has a Confederate Army ancestor.

The church ceremony contained several homages to the Confederate era, including a salute to the Confederate flag and a group singing of "Dixie," long regarded as an anthem of the Confederacy.

Audience members also sang "God Bless America" and heard a rendition of the Southern gospel standard "Sweet Beulah Land" by Ralph Mills, one of the soldier re-enactors. Damon and D.W. Gowan also sang an a capella gospel tune, "Some Day."

The event’s featured speaker was local historian Gordon Sawyer, a retired advertising executive. He talked about Longstreet, who settled in Gainesville after the Civil War.

He also addressed the group personally.

"I want to thank you. ... You are preserving history, whether you know it or not or whether you think about it that way. I think what you are doing here is tremendously important — to keep and understand what the history of America is all about.

"... I think right now in America, we need to know that our history is strong and it’s there and we need to get back to it."



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