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Memorial service held at Civil War general's grave
Event commemorates Longstreet's postwar life in Gainesville
Brett Martin bows his head in prayer during the memorial service for Gen. James Longstreet at Alta Vista Cemetery Sunday. - photo by Tom Reed

Supporters of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet gathered Sunday afternoon at his Gainesville gravesite for the 14th annual memorial service honoring the Civil War figure.

The ceremony featured remarks by Tim Ragland, commander of the Dahlonega-based Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1860, a rifle salute by soldier re-enactors and prayers.

Ragland recounted Longstreet’s tough times up to the end of his life, spent mostly in Gainesville.
Longstreet, second in command to Gen. Robert E. Lee during the war, was derided for joining the party of President Abraham Lincoln and serving in different roles in Republican administrations that followed the Civil War. He also supported equal rights for freed slaves.

“As time passed ... his reputation was vindicated, and today he’s considered one of the greatest men the South ever produced,” Ragland said to the 30-plus spectators gathered under sunny skies at the Alta Vista Cemetery.

He also referred to ongoing events marking the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, saying that much more attention was given to the 100th anniversary.

“Do any of us expect to see the enthusiasm and excitement seen just a short 50 years ago?” Ragland asked.
“Probably not, for today our history, and particularly our Confederate history, is under attack. ... Those governmental powers that once embraced the centennial are long gone and have been replaced by revisionists who want to change the facts of the past to suit their narrow-minded beliefs.”

After the event, a reception was held at the Maple Street offices of the The Longstreet Society, which aims to preserve the Civil War leader’s history and legacy. The society operates out of the restored remnants of the old Piedmont Hotel, which Longstreet operated in the late 1800s. Longstreet owned the property until his death in 1904.

The annual event draws plenty of enthusiasts, including Charlie and Bertie Weik of Gainesville. Charlie Weik was dressed as a Southern soldier and Bertie in a black mourner’s gown from the period.

The couple recently moved to the area from Hampton.

“We get involved everywhere we go,” Charlie Weik said, “because our heritage is with the Confederacy. We want to be involved in preserving the heritage. ... If we don’t preserve, then who is going to tell the stories?”

Weik said he also is a “great admirer” of Longstreet.

“He was a great tactician,” he said of the general’s battle skills.

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