Saturday, June 4, 2011

Confederate Memorial Day In Caddo Parish

Confederate Memorial Day observed
Monument focus for annual event at courthouse
Jun. 3, 2011
Written by
John Andrew Prime

The Rebel Yell and the strains of "Dixie" echoed through an almost empty downtown district Friday afternoon as area members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy observed Confederate Memorial Day, a legal holiday in the state of Louisiana.

A small crowd of women in white dresses and sun hats and men in heavy woolen uniforms, replaced the faded and starting-to-tatter Confederate flag there. All told there were about three dozen soldier participants and a handful of the ladies, who placed a wreath in front of the monument in an annual tradition dating back at least two decades.

"It's written in stone, as the saying goes," said Caddo Parish history teacher Chuck McMichael, past national commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "'Lest we forget.' We have not forgotten. We're here every year."
He said the purpose of the event is to honor the memory of Louisiana soldiers who took up arms to protect their state, and to mark the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who also was a U.S. senator and a former U.S. Secretary of War.

The marker, which has busts of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Henry Watkins Allen and P.G.T. Beauregard flanking an elevated statue of a common soldier, is adjacent to the Texas Street entrance of the Caddo Parish Courthouse.

It was unveiled May 1, 1906, by Shreveport Chapter No. 237 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on land given to the UDC by the former Caddo Parish Police Jury in 1903. The work, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was created by renowned sculptor Frank Teich at a cost of $10,000 at the time. That sum would today be as much as $500,000 after inflation, according to local historian and author Eric J. Brock.

The monument is about where Allen, the Confederate governor of Louisiana, delivered his farewell address to area citizens on June 2, 1865, before fleeing Union forces that occupied the city after the close of the Civil War. The spot also is where the last Confederate national flag was furled on May 26, 1865, when the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate Army, headquartered at Shreveport, surrendered. A plaque notes Shreveport as the location of one of the last reunions of the United Confederate Veterans, in 1936.

Since the 1970s, the monument has drawn criticism as divisive and as a reminder of slavery, racial oppression and Jim Crow laws. Most recently, the flag flying at the monument has been cited in an appeal by Felton Dorsey, who was convicted in the 2006 murder of retired Caddo fire captain Joe Prock. In his appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, Dorsey's lawyers say the flag flying outside the courthouse influenced the outcome of the case.

Prock, a white man, was tied up, beaten and set on fire in his mother's Greenwood home. Only one black served on the jury that sent Dorsey, a black man, to death row. The rest of the panel was white. The flag offended potential juror Carl Staples, who raised concerns during the selection process in 2009. He said he was removed from the jury pool after speaking up. No decision has been rendered in the appeal.