Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jefferson Davis Sworn-In in Montgomery

Event celebrates 150th anniversary of Confederate president's inauguration
By Matt Okarmus • February 20, 2011

Men, women and children dressed in Civil War-era attire flocked to the Capitol to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Davis' inauguration. The event included speeches, the firing of cannons and a re-enactment of the inauguration of Davis.

Davis was sworn in Feb. 18, 1861, as president of the Confederate States of America. Davis was elected as president to lead the Southern states after secession from the union.

As the people who portrayed Davis and his vice president walked up to the Capitol, a cry of "God bless you, Mr. President!" was heard from the crowd. It would set the tone for the rest of the afternoon as several loud cries could be heard from those in attendance.

The biggest cheers came after speakers noted they were there to celebrate the birth of the Confederacy and the way it was based on a government for the people and by the people. One speaker also got the crowd going with a yell of "Long live Dixie!"

"It was a glorious event; we had a good turnout," said Charles Rand, adjutant in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "We tried to recreate it as close as we could. We wanted to give people a glimpse into history."

Rand served as the host for the afternoon, introducing speakers from other states, including Georgia and Arkansas. He said his ancestors include Civil War and Revolutionary War veterans and events like these praise them and what they stood for.

"For me, I celebrate the right of our ancestors to have a government of our own choosing," Rand said.

The reasons for the Civil War have been widely debated, with controversy surrounding the event Saturday due to the war's connection to slavery. Lt. Commander in Chief Kelley Barrow seemed to address those who criticize the celebration during his speech.

When stating the reasons for celebrating the Confederacy, Barrow asked if those in the crowd would rather hear from those in attendance than organizations such as MSNBC or USA Today, whose names received a chorus of boos from the crowd.

Barrow also referenced fictional character Harry Potter in his speech, using him to address the struggle of good versus evil. He went on to mention Rosa Parks, stating while she moved from the back of the bus to the front, the "people of the Confederacy have been forced to the back of the bus."

Chuck McMichael, a past commander in chief, shared the same passion as Barrow, reading a speech and then stating that he was going to speak from his heart. He said the celebration of the Confederacy is a personal issue to him and compared it to America's celebration of Independence Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

McMichael ended his speech by holding up one of the many flags of the Confederacy that were on display Saturday.

"As long as there blows a Southern breeze, this flag will fly in it," McMichael said.

Lee Beasley was in attendance, but not dressed in Civil War attire. She was in town from Tuscaloosa with her husband and son when they saw the people in costume and wanted to know what was going on.

She said they had a good time and her son made sure the cannons were pointed away from the family. After the celebration drew to a close, he was asked to help fold a flag.

"He was careful not to let it touch the ground," Beasley said with a smile.

After the re-enactment of the swearing in, the raising of the first national flag was honored. Although that event didn't take place until a month later in 1861, organizers wanted to do both Saturday.

Rand said there is usually a big celebration every year and 2012 will feature a celebration at Richmond, Va., where the capital of the Confederacy later was moved.