Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SCV Marches in Savanah St. Patrick's Day Parade

Making Memories: SCV marches in Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
By Capt. Phil Walters, Civil War Courier

As we passed over the traffic jam on I-16 heading east to Savannah, I thought the day would be interesting as the streets of Historic Savannah would surely be filled to capacity with revelers enjoying a fine warm day to watch a parade. I was not disappointed.

After some "back road" maneuvering to the staging area, my girlfriend Terrie and I finally found our contingency of folks we would be parading with. The members of the Savannah Militia camp #1657, Sons of Confederate Veterans had invited us to visit with them and experience this great parade in the fellowship of fellow Southerners. Camp Commander Don Newman and 2nd Lt. Commander Ron Coats welcomed us upon arrival.

The parade is part of the Savannah Militia’s camp efforts to honor past Southern American Veterans and draw interest to the topic. Since the formation of the Confederate States of America in 1861, this parade has hosted a Confederate unit for 150 years.

Our Confederate appearance in this parade is in itself historic and a continuance of a long tradition.

Parade organizers assigned the camp staging area with a very large contingency of military, veterans and educational intuitions. We visited with folks from all branches of the U.S. Armed services, VFW groups, Vietnam, Korea and WWII groups and a multitude of military schools and academies.

We were warmly received in this sea of uniforms and were proud to be here with them. After meeting many members of our group, the Captain of the Confederate soldiers called the soldiers to formation for a weapons inspection as the parade organizers had given the thumbs up for us to fire the muskets during the parade.

Our unit was somewhere around the 100th unit to start, so we enjoyed the many other units beginning the parade before us as they passed to our front. Nearly an hour passed before we stepped off onto the route and into the streets.

The sun was beginning to warm the day as we left the cool shade of Forsyth Park into the streets of historic Savannah. Most in our group were in period outfits; large hoop skirts for the ladies and wool trousers and jackets for the men. Needless to say, it quickly gets warm in these cloths and you start to understand how a sheep feels on a warm sunny day; however, all were not concerned with their personal comfort because the crowds lining the street were large, enthusiastic and happy to see "the Boys in Gray" parade before them.

As we marched, often to cheers, every few blocks the Captain would bark his commands to the soldiers: Halt! Ready Arms! Shoulder! FIRE! With a resonating BOOM, the muskets roared, smoke blew skyward and anyone within a block of us who were not aware of our position received a clear message we had arrived, often by jumping to attention to ascertain the cause of the uproar. This was quickly followed with a deluge of clapping and cheering as all seemed to enjoy the firing of the guns, the echoing of their report and the sulfury smoke that floated through the streets. To cheers again the Captain shouted orders: Shoulder arms! March! And off our group went.

Throughout the route, girls, young ladies and women came running from the sidelines out into the ranks to hug, kiss and "hang strands of beads" upon the boys in gray. One young man, of maybe 5 years of age, marching in Confederate uniform with our group became a frequent "target" of the girls. Many a future fine Southern belles would point to this boy, confer a "plan of attack" with their friends, giggle, then run out, hug, kiss and bead him, afterwards quickly retreating to the safety of the sidelines, all before the boy could hide behind his grandpa. It did not take long for this young Confederate’s neck & face to become red from lipstick and pink from blushing!

As our arms grew weary from waving to the spectators, we turned off Bay Street onto Bull street and came upon the first square where our colors were enthusiastically saluted by an older African American gentleman sporting a "high & tight" hairline, muscular built and wearing a Marine Corp shirt. Once the colors passed, he excitedly waved to our contingency with all returning the affection as his enthusiasm was welcomed after our long march. After nearly two hours on the march, we reached the end of the parade and returned to the staging area at Forsyth Park.

Terrie and I greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of the Savannah camp and the experience of the parade as we felt we too had experienced a little bit of history ourselves, marching in such an historic event over the historic streets of colonial and antebellum Savannah.

The members of the Savannah Militia camp #1657 wish to invite those interested in this event and their many community services (living history events, grave markers and dedications, monument maintenance and period education) to attend their camp meetings and prepare for the next parade in 2012. Meetings are the second Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m. in Pooler, Ga. Please visit for more information.