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Residents recall ‘good, bad and ugly’ history of Southern heritage on Confederate Memorial Day

POSTED: May 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Ruth Hamrick is escorted by Jerry Bryan to the grave of Confederate soldier Benjamin Reed in the cemetery of Redwine United Methodist Church. Ruth placed a rose on the grave Sunday as part of the Confederate Memorial Day service at the church.

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Hoop skirts and Confederate soldier garb was the fashion Sunday at Redwine United Methodist Church.

United Daughters of the Confederacy gathered alongside the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a Confederate Memorial Day commemoration service at the historic church to honor the heritage of the Confederacy.

Women were decked out in antebellum dresses while the men wore dark wool uniforms topped off with period rifles and weathered hats. The costumed soldiers escorted the women to the grave sites of fallen Confederate soldiers, where they left red roses to honor the soldiers’ sacrifices.

Members of the Blue Ridge Rifles, SCV Camp 1860 of Dahlonega, closed the service with a 21-gun salute.

Kimberly Wright, president of Gen. James Longstreet Chapter 46 of the UDC, said the Confederate memorial service is held in conjunction with Confederate Memorial Day, which is celebrated each year on April 26. She said the annual service has taken place at Redwine church since the late 1800s.

"It’s a day that we honor our Confederate ancestry and our soldiers. It’s very important because so often history is written by the victor and the view that is portrayed is skewed," Wright said. "These people were maimed and had limbs amputated, and that’s how much they were willing to sacrifice. And we want to honor that."

Benjamin W. Reed is one of the eight fallen Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery adjacent to Redwine United Methodist Church that the groups honored Sunday. He was among the men of Company D of the 27th Georgia Infantry, Colquitt’s Brigade, which organized at Redwine church before leaving for battle in early 1861.

During the afternoon service, Gainesville State College history professor and Sons of Confederate Veterans member Douglas Young said the South’s role in the Civil War is a history that is constantly reinterpreted.

He said the Confederacy is often unfairly stigmatized in historic accounts, and the groups aim to remember the Civil War as a horrific ordeal endured by the groups’ Southern forebears. Young said that slavery was not the primary issue of the war, and the two groups have dedicated the annual Confederate Memorial Day ceremony to presenting the truth of the conflict.

"I believe true history is the good, the bad and the ugly," Young said in his speech to the congregation of about 40 people.

"Understanding a people and sympathizing with their actions is not the same as condoning their actions," Young said. "Let us proudly, as Southern ladies and gentlemen, stand tall with our heroic heritage. Let each of us resolve to ... make our own legacy a positive one."

Wright said she feels the small portion of Southerners who practiced slavery prior to the Civil War may have tarnished the South’s representation in some historic accounts. She said she is concerned that schoolchildren in Georgia may not be taught the details of the war due to cautious approaches to the issue of slavery, which some may perceive as politically incorrect subject material.

"It’s totally not about slavery," Kurt Sutton said of Sunday’s commemoration service.

Sutton, a former history professor at Western Carolina University, attended the service and said there were a lot of things at stake that led the Confederacy into the conflict. He added that groups who met at Redwine church Sunday were not there to discuss race.

"They’re not rebel rousing and supporting slavery here," Sutton said. "They’re saying a war was fought here on these grounds, and these people lost their families. Their homes were burned and their children were killed. It’s about honoring your family."



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