Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Group makes plans for Civil War's 150th anniversary

By Deangelo McDaniel, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

If you’re not a Civil War history buff, you may not know that the orders authorizing the first shots in the bloody conflict came from a man whose legal and political career started in Lawrence County.

LeRoy Pope Walker, the first secretary of war for the Confederate States of America, opened a law office in Moulton in the 1840s and represented the county in the Alabama House of Representatives.

It was after a series of correspondence with CSA President Jefferson Davis that Walker authorized the bombardment of Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The story of Walker’s role in the regional conflict is one fact historians from three states will recall during the 150th anniversary of the start of the war in 2011.

The Tri-State Civil War Association met in Decatur on Tuesday to discuss plans for the celebration. The organization consists of historians and tourism and visitor bureaus from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

“We’re not in competition because this war touched us all,” said John Culpepper, the association’s co-chairman.

Culpepper is city manager for the city of Chickamauga in Georgia. The association, he said, grew from Georgia’s more than five-year-old Civil War Commission.

Culpepper said the potential for tourism in each state is unlimited. He said descendants of former soldiers are always interested in visiting battle sites where family members fought.

“When they plan vacations, they’ll be looking for hotels and places to eat,” Culpepper said.

Tami Reist works for the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She attended Tuesday’s meeting and plans to post Civil War events in the area on the organization’s website. Reist also has been collecting Civil War era stories that will appear in a book.

“This should be a big year for Alabama,” she said.

There were no major battles in Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties, but the area was strategically important to both sides because of the Memphis to Charleston Railroad and the Tennessee River.

By the time Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysess S. Grant in April 1865, more than 600,000 Americans had died and the Tennessee Valley was a shell of its former self.

“Nothing changed this area like the Civil War,” Pond Spring Site Director Melissa Beasley said.

Pond Spring was a parole headquarters after Lee’s surrender. It was also a camp site for both armies during the war.

In June 1864, Confederate Col. Josiah Patterson of Morgan County used Pond Spring as his headquarters. The Union Army attacked him.

“The balls rattled like hail over the place, and one of the Negroes had a piece taken out of the knee of his pants,” Amanda Morgan Sherrod wrote about the attack.

Peggy Allen Towns has been researching and writing about black soldiers in the area. She attended the tri-state meeting. Culpepper said the celebration should include the black experience.

Towns recently obtained the pension records of LaFayette Garth. They reveal that despite being sick, Garth refused to leave the battlefield when Union forces destroyed Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee in 1864 in Franklin, Tenn.

“There are so many stories about the black soldiers that have not been told,” Towns said.

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