Sunday, February 23, 2014

New UDC Member in Savannah

African-American Savannah woman takes her place among United Daughters of the Confederacy

Posted: February 22, 2014
<p>Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News</p>
United Daughters of Confederacy member Georgia Benton.  Savannah Morning News
Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News
United Daughters of Confederacy member Georgia Benton.
A Savannah native, Georgia Benton grew up hearing about the Civil War service of her great-grandfather, a slave from Sumter, S.C., who followed his master to the battles of Sharpsburg, Gettysburg and Petersburg, and then brought his body home for burial when he was struck down by artillery fire and slain during the conflict’s final days.
“He was fighting for his land and his people,” Benton said of George W. Washington, who was 16 when he entered Confederate service in 1862 as the body servant of Lt. William Alexander McQueen, who was 22.
To honor Washington and his three years of wartime service, Benton took an audacious step: She decided to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“I have every right to membership in the UDC, which along with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, remembers and recognizes the men who fought for and rendered service to the South during the Civil War,” said Benton.

Putting together the proof
Elizabeth Piechocinski is the president of Savannah Chapter No. 2 of the UDC. She’s also a member of the Daughters of the Revolution, and she said that venerable organization poses fewer hurdles to prospective members than does the UDC.
“It’s a very involved process,” said Piechocinski. “You have to prove that you are a linear descendant of a Confederate, either a soldier, or someone who served in another capacity, such as a cook, laborer or musician.”
Many Confederate officers were accompanied by body servants, added Piechocinski.
The servants performed a variety of chores, and even picked up a weapon when the situation demanded it.
The story of Washington and McQueen, two young men of two different races who served under one flag, was compelling, but would not determine the final decision on Benton’s application.
“The story is nice,” said Piechocinski, “but you still have to prove it.”

A monument in Sumter
It wasn’t easy. It involved the family Bible, birth records, death records, marriage records and census records, both pre- and post-Civil War.
“Very few African-Americans” can produce that amount of documentation, said Benton.
It also took in a unique tribute to George W. Washington, a 4-foot-high obelisk at his grave in Walker Cemetery in Sumter. (A monument to McQueen, who was killed in a South Carolina battle on April 9, 1865, the same day as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender, is located nearby in Sumter Cemetery.)
Washington died in 1911, and the obelisk was put up by the A.A. Solomons family of Sumter. Washington worked for the Solomons as a butler and valet for almost 40 years, said Benton, who remembers often visiting her great-grandfather’s gravesite when she was a child.
One side of the monument commemorates Washington’s Civil War service and, when the obelisk needed repairs in 2005, they were paid for by the General P.G.T. Beauregard Camp No. 1458 of the SCV in Sumter.
With the monument inscription and the other documentation, Benton’s application was approved by the national UDC in October. She thus became the first African-American member of the Savannah chapter and the only African-American member in the Georgia division of the UDC.

To honor their ancestors
A retired mathematics teacher in the Chatham County school system who now runs a tax and accounting service, Benton is going into the UDC with her head up and her eyes open.
These are “gracious women” who want to honor their ancestors, “the same as I do,” said Benton.
Benton said that she’s heard mostly positive feedback so far. As for those who have criticized her decision, “I chalk that up to ignorance,” she said.
From the UDC’s perspective, said Piechocinski, race did not enter into the decision. At the start of the application process, said Piechocinski, “we didn’t know she was African-American. This is not just some sort of gesture on our part.”

‘A true soldier’
Her great-grandfather’s Confederate service is part of the “untold” history of the South, said Benton. “They don’t teach that.”
There were many black Confederates, she said, including George W. Washington’s brother Jacob. “Uncle Jake” was a musician who played the French horn, said Benton.
George W. Washington could have run off in 1863 when he participated in the Gettysburg campaign, said Benton. “But he stayed faithful. He stayed loyal. He was a true soldier.”
Benton is not the only person in her family who wants to commemorate Southern service.
Her son, Leroy Benton Jr., has completed his application to join the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“We all have a right to honor our heritage,” she said.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

GA Division - Updated SCV Plate

Group puts Confederate flag on Ga. specialty tag                  

In this undated image released by the Georgia Department of Revenue, a new Georgia car tag is shown. Georgia officials are releasing a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag, infuriating civil rights advocates and renewing a fiery debate. The Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested that the state issue the new plates. A spokesman says it meant no offense and that people have a right to commemorate their heritage.(AP Photo/Georgia Department of Revenue)
In this undated image released by the Georgia Department of Revenue, a new Georgia car tag is shown. Georgia officials are releasing a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag, infuriating civil rights advocates and renewing a fiery debate. The Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested that the state issue the new plates. A spokesman says it meant no offense and that people have a right to commemorate their heritage.(AP Photo/Georgia Department of Revenue)
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia officials have once again approved a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag, infuriating civil rights advocates and renewing a debate among those who believe the symbol honors Confederate heritage and those who see it as racially charged.
The Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested the new plate design, and the Georgia Department of Revenue recently approved it. The group's old plate had a small Confederate battle flag. The new one features an additional, larger image in the background that covers the entire plate. Spokesman Ray McBerry said the group meant no offense and views the plates as a way for people to honor their heritage. "We believe that everyone has the right to preserve their heritage," he said. "Southerners have as much right to be proud of their heritage as anybody else."

Southern Christian Leadership Conference spokesman Maynard Eaton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the state shouldn't have sanctioned the move. "To display this is reprehensible," Eaton said. "We don't have license plates saying 'Black Power.'"

Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday that he was unaware of the plate. "I hadn't heard that, so I don't know anything about it," Deal said. "I'll have to talk to them about it. I had no information in advance about it."

States that joined the Confederacy have taken different positions on the battle flag. North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi have specialty license tags that include it, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Texas rejected an application to issue one on the grounds that it could offend some. The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued board members of the Texas motor vehicle agency, and the case remains in court.

In Georgia, the Department of Revenue's motor vehicle division approves proposed designs for specialty plates. Agency spokesman Nick Genesi said the old design included the Confederate battle emblem and that organizations with existing plates were allowed to submit new designs since the state switched to a new type of flat, digitally-printed plate.Genesi said any submitted designs must not violate copyright laws.

The plates are available for an initial cost of $80, of which $10 is directed to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.The group on its website says the funds will be used to promote Southern heritage through educational activities and preservation efforts around the state.

Monday, February 17, 2014




Commander-in-Chief Michael Givens has appointed a search committee to begin the process of vetting candidates for the position of SCV Executive Director. Applications and nominations are now being accepted.

The Executive Director is a full-time management position at the SCV’s headquarters in Columbia, Tennessee. A competitive, attractive salary and benefit package will be offered commensurate with experience.

Although applications will be accepted until a final decision is made, the Committee intends to move forward with all deliberate speed. The priority deadline for applications is March 31, 2014.




For more information about the requirements and qualifications of the position and information about how to apply or nominate a candidate

While much of the committee’s work is necessarily confidential interested persons may keep informed about the committee’s progress by visiting or via Twitter at @SCVEDSearch.



Southern Cross fans flames of continuing culture war  

  • Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander in Chief Michael Givens is photographed in the living of his home in Charleston, S.C., with a large framed Confederate flag he received as a gift for recently speaking at an event in Tennessee. Givens heads the national organization behind many of the lawsuits challenging restrictions on the Confederate battle flag. / Brett Flashnick for USA TODAY
    Each fall in Bee County, Texas, the raising of the Confederate battle flag, also known as the Southern Cross, traditionally kicks off the annual Western Week festival. But last October, the flag didn't fly.
    Citing concerns the flag was offensive, county commissioners in September banned it from the county grounds flagpole. "It's been happening every year but finally people started coming forward and saying this is wrong," said Bee County Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez, who voted for the ban.
    The decision set off a firestorm, says Rodriguez, pitting those who view the flag as a symbol of hatred against others who say the flag is merely a symbol of Southern heritage.

    "I see it the same way a World War II veteran would see the U.S. flag," said Brandon Dorsey, camp commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans â?? Stonewall Brigade Camp in Lexington, Va. "It's a symbol of pride and (our ancestors) doing what they believed they knew to be right in their time."

    Nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War, a battle still is being fought over the display of the Southern Cross. Supporters say the banner, originally used only in battle because the Confederate national flag was too similar to the U.S. flag, is misunderstood and that their right to free speech is being violated. But opponents charge the flag, used for decades after the war by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups as they terrorized and killed blacks, is an ugly reminder of those horrific actions and its use must be curtailed.

    After the war, the battle flag -- a red background with a blue X or cross decorated with white stars -- became a symbol of Confederate values and a rallying point to stabilize the South, says Louisiana State University-Shreveport history professor Gary Joiner. "The people who are thoughtful about what they are saying teach a lesson of heritage not of hatred," said Joiner, who noted the flag should only be used as a historical reference.

    Display of the flag in a non-historical context increasingly is being restricted, says NAACP spokesman Hilary O. Shelton. That trend, Shelton says, is due in large part to the economic boycott the group has urged since 1999 against South Carolina and other states that fly the flag, and to increased public awareness of the flag's infamous history. "People are seeing more and more that it's offensive," said Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and Washington D.C. bureau director. "(They are realizing) it's not productive for us as a nation to maintain the tension that comes along with (displaying) that flag with such prominence."

    That argument is finding favor:

    --The Agua Fria Union High School District in Avondale, Ariz., banned wearing, displaying or other "non-educational" use of the flag after a teen who was displaying the Confederate battle flag on his truck was involved in a November altercation with another student.

    --In Knoxville, Tenn., members of Sons of Confederate Veterans Longstreet-Zollicoffer Camp 87 were not allowed to march in a November Veteran's Day parade because of concerns the group's participation could involve the flag.

    --In Shreveport, La., a Confederate flag that flew in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse was taken down in 2011 after the state's Supreme Court, in ruling on a death sentence appeal, recognized that the flag might be offensive to some people.

    --The National College Athletic Association has maintained a policy since 2001 that doesn't allow "predetermined championship" events to take place in states, South Carolina and Mississippi among them, that fly the Confederate flag.

    Taking down the flag sends a message that racism won't be tolerated, says Shreveport, La., NAACP chapter president Lloyd Thompson. The flag, often displayed by current-day white supremacists, is a signal of a racially divided community and that some desire a return to a segregated society, Thompson says. "We don't need to go back to that - we need to move forward," Thompson said.

    Michael Givens, Sons of Confederate Veterans commander in chief, says that characterization is unfair and untrue. The emblem used by his group is meant to honor the service and history of those who served and sacrificed for the Confederacy. Givens maintain restricting the flag's use not only is unconstitutional but also discriminatory. "They seem to sending a mixed message that you have to conform to somebody's prejudice and you shouldn't speak out," said Givens of those who want to restrict the flag's use. "America has really lost sight of what it is and what it means to be an American. We're all allowed to have opinions without being chastised for it."

    Despite protests, the Southern Cross still flies at the South Carolina Statehouse. In Texas, the state's division of Sons of Confederate Veterans is suing the Motor Vehicle Board for its 2011 rejection of the group's application for a specialty license plate depicting the Confederate flag. The group maintains the decision tramples on their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, according to court filings, and notes it already has similar license plates in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

    The flag most certainly is a controversial symbol, says the group's Austin, Texas-based lawyer John McConnell. But the state shouldn't be silencing citizens' viewpoints on a subjective basis. The courts have long recognized that "offensive" speech also needs protection, said McConnell.

    Freedom of speech is one of the country's most valued rights but comes with legitimate restrictions, says Texas NAACP president Gary Bledsoe. As a symbol of "white supremacy and a desire to bring ill upon" blacks, the Confederate battle flag falls under that category, Bledsoe says.
    "It shouldn't be protected," said Bledsoe, also an Austin lawyer.

    Rodriguez says while he understands the flag's importance to some - in a compromise the commission did not restrict Western Week participants or vendors from wearing or displaying the emblem - those proponents must be mindful its use comes with a cost. "If you're doing that to honor relatives and honor Southern heritage (fine) but be aware there are people that are going to be offended by it," Rodriguez said.


    The Hunley: Zeroing in on what caused Civil War submarine's sinking

    By Phil Gast, CNN
    updated 6:25 PM EST, Sat February 15, 2014

    For nearly 14 years, scientists, historians and a genealogist have studied the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel. The H.L. Hunley did just that 150 years ago, February 17, 1864, during the American Civil War. For nearly 14 years, scientists, historians and a genealogist have studied the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel. The H.L. Hunley did just that 150 years ago, February 17, 1864, during the American Civil War.
    • The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink ship in battle
    • Scientists have been conserving vessel for nearly 14 years in North Charleston
    • They want to know why it sank after successful attack
    • They also are learning more about its doomed crew
    (CNN) -- Born and built amid gray-cloaked secrecy during the American Civil War, the H.L. Hunley -- the first submarine to sink an enemy ship -- has held tight to its murky mysteries.
    The 150th anniversary of the Hunley's daring and dangerous raid will be marked this weekend and Monday, but the overarching question remains: What caused the submarine and its eight-member crew to slip to the bottom of the sea on the moonlit evening of February 17, 1864, after it signaled to shore a success that changed naval warfare.
    The Hunley, housed at a laboratory in North Charleston, South Carolina, has yielded its secrets slowly and sparingly, even to researchers armed with the latest in technology.
    Click to expand: Conrad Wise Chapman made this contemporary painting of the H.L. Hunley.  
    Click to expand: Conrad Wise Chapman made this contemporary painting of the H.L. Hunley.  
    Was the loss of the Hunley the result of the torpedo's detonation? An unsecured hatch? Or perhaps a lucky enemy shot that blasted a hole in the Confederate vessel's viewing port?
    And why were the crew's remarkably preserved remains found at their stations, rather than jammed together near an escape hatch?
    These and other questions continue to enthrall scientists and historians as the sesquicentennial is observed with tours and events in the Charleston area.
    Unmasking the Hunley's secrets
    2013: New evidence in Hunley sinking
    There is hope that some additional clues may emerge soon. The Hunley Project, a consortium of researchers, scientists and state and federal agencies, this year begins a conservation phase that might add an important piece to the puzzle of what happened to the submarine. A chemical bath will peel away the final layer of sediment that covers the exterior of the well-constructed hull and the Hunley's interior.
    "You are going to be blown away. You are going to look at the face of the submarine for the first time," says Paul Mardikian, the project's senior conservator.
    Already, the Hunley impresses visitors who gaze down to a 90,000-gallon freshwater conservation tank. Dive planes and remnants of other submarine components, including ballast tanks, are evidence of the innovation and care of the sub's designers and builders.
    Patrons at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center also see the encrusted sediment, known as concretion -- a mix of sand and remains of sea life -- that Mardikian likens to a "black box."
    By removing the material, he says, researchers will be able to do more precise analysis of holes in the hull and its condition, the Hunley's speed and performance in the Atlantic Ocean and whether gunfire from the USS Housatonic, its target, contributed to the submarine's demise. "If the submarine was hit by a bullet, you should be able to see that in the metal," says the conservator.
    By combining new findings with previous study, including that of the remains of the crew, experts believe they will be able to tell the complete story of what happened to the Hunley, which was brought to the surface amid much fanfare in August 2000. "I am confident this is all going to fall into place," says Mardikian.
    But don't be surprised if everything falling into place won't result in a "smoking gun" that points to a single cause. "There may be several things (factors) happening at the same time," according to Mardikian.
    Archaeologist Michael Scafuri says the team is trying to ascertain the truth of what happened that chilly night a few miles offshore from Charleston. But there are no guarantees.
    "It is like detective work -- with a really cold case."
    'Curious' submarine a danger to its crews, too
    The cold case begins in Mobile, Alabama, where the Hunley was built for the Confederate government. The 40-foot vessel, described as "curious" looking and resembling a whale, had watertight hatches, two short conning towers, sea cocks, pumps and ballast tanks.
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    But there were shortcomings. There was constant concern about a sufficient oxygen supply for the crew, which limited its dive time. The captain had a difficult time monitoring certain movements.
    The Hunley was dependent on the crew hand-turning a crank to power the single propeller. Batteries and a steam-powered engine proved impractical for the submersible. "We don't know how real well the submarine functioned," says Scafuri. "This is a case where they settled on what would work. That was hand power."
    Confederate officials ordered the Hunley to Charleston, where it and other ships prepared to challenge a blockade of the harbor. The Federal Navy had deprived the Southern city of vital military supplies. The Union fleet was well aware of the Hunley's danger -- to its own occupants.
    Five members of the first crew died in August 1863 when it accidentally dived while its hatches apparently were open. The second crew's eight members succumbed in October when the Hunley failed to return to the surface.
    The Confederate commander of Charleston, concerned about the loss of life and the expense of recovering the Hunley, ordered that any attack be made on the surface. Still, the vessel would be mostly under the water line during an attack. Still, those who volunteered for the mission against the 205-foot USS Housatonic must have been well aware of the perils when approached by Hunley skipper Lt. George Dixon. "This took some serious bravery here. I wouldn't want to go in there," says forensic genealogist Linda Abrams, who has conducted extensive research on the Hunley crew. "They know some other people had drowned in it. They had to have some faith in Dixon."
    Dixon and his courageous crew, which included four European-born men, would target the Housatonic, the closest blockade ship. Dixon routinely kept a worn good-luck charm in his pocket: A gold coin that was bent when he was wounded nearly two years before at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. In 2001, the shiny talisman was found in the laboratory, along with Dixon's presumed remains. Only one crew member has been positively identified through DNA tests.
    Menacing object approaches wary ship
    On a chilly February evening 150 years ago, the Hunley set out from Breach Inlet, which separates Sullivan's Island and what is now called the Isle of Palms. The vessel churned toward the Housatonic, about 4 miles away, at an estimated speed of 2 to 4 knots. One of the crew members would have been in charge of bellows, providing sufficient air to breathe when the hatches were closed.
    Friends of the Hunley, a nonprofit group established by South Carolina's Hunley Commission, provides a history of the mission on its website. "While the cold bit through the lookout's coat ... men poured sweat over hand cranks that powered a spinning propeller while their captain manned the dive planes -- steering man, iron, anxiety and raw courage towards its final destination." "A lookout aboard the Union Navy's largest ship was tired, cold -- but restless. Talk of a Confederate secret weapon was in and out of his thoughts. Suddenly he spotted something move in the chilly waters. A porpoise? There were certainly a lot of them around. But something about this one didn't seem right."
    Alarms went out on the Housatonic, which carried 12 guns.
    The Hunley was too close and low to be hit by artillery fire, so crew and officers of the Union ship fired small arms, rifles and even a shotgun at the approaching menace. Once in place, a submarine crew member managed to pull the lanyard for the 135-pound torpedo, attached to a 16-foot spar that was still connected to the Hunley's bow. The Housatonic sank within minutes.
    Five members of the Union vessel died; 150 others were rescued.
    All kinds of scenarios for loss of Hunley
    A Union sailor who climbed to the Housatonic's rigging and a Confederate observer on the shore reported seeing a blue light emanating from the Hunley, signaling mission accomplished. "That indicates someone was conscious after the sinking of the Housatonic," says Robert Neyland, head of underwater archaeology for the Naval History and Heritage Command and former director of the Hunley Project.
    But researchers have been unable to precisely pinpoint the source of the light -- whether it came from a lantern or pyrotechnic device that sent out various signal colors. And it's possible the light came from Union rescuers. Experts looked at the Hunley's lantern, but found no evidence of blue glass.
    "I think it was just Dixon's flashlight, to be honest," says Mardikian, the conservator.
    One scenario holds that the Hunley was swamped by or struck by a Union vessel. Or that it plunged to the sea floor to avoid detection, and never made it back up. A latch on the forward conning tower was found to be not properly locked.
    In January 2013, Hunley scientists, who work for the Clemson University Restoration Institute, reported a significant discovery. "Until now, the conventional wisdom has been the Hunley would ram the spar torpedo into her target and then back away, causing the torpedo to slip off the spar," they said in a statement. Instead, research showed the submarine was less than 20 feet from her torpedo when it exploded. "There is overwhelming evidence to indicate this was not a suicide mission. The crew no doubt knew the dangers facing them, but still, they hoped to make it back home. They must have believed this was a safe enough distance to escape any harm," says South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, head of the Hunley Commission.
    It's possible that the force of the explosion incapacitated the crew, eventually causing the sub to slide down into the chilly depths. Even a small hole or holes could have allowed water to seep or pour in.
    "Everything we have tried to explain (as to) how the submarine worked, we were naïve in our approach," says Mardikian.
    Researchers at the lab, while excavating the sub's interior silt that held the the human remains, found the eight Hunley crew members were still at or near their stations, despite an unsealed forward hatch.
    "We don't see evidence of anyone trying to get out of the submarine. It could have been something catastrophic or they died with a certain amount of resignation," Neyland says.
    Detailed examinations of the well-preserved remains of the crew looked for the tiniest of fractures or evidence of concussion. "We did not find any unhealed injuries to their skeletons," says Scafuri, the Hunley Project archeologist. The team is still gathering and analyzing data on the physics and effects of the detonation on the Hunley and its doomed crew, he says. It also continues to analyze the source of holes in the hull, possibly from battle damage or exposure to currents and underwater conditions.
    Ongoing efforts to learn more about sub, crew
    In 1995, the Hunley was finally located by a group led by author Clive Cussler. It rested in several feet of silt, largely protected from strong currents and the most corrosive effects of saltwater. The environment, mostly free of oxygen, left the skeletal remains and artifacts in amazing condition.
    The submarine was brought to the surface five years later and was quickly placed back in protective water at the Lasch laboratory.
    The federal and South Carolina governments have contributed an estimated $9 million or so between them on the recovery, lab and research. The Hunley, considered a spoil of war, is the property of the U.S. Navy. About 40,000 visitors a year marvel at the Hunley, see exhibits and peer at facial reconstructions of the crew members. Researchers found personal artifacts, including a wallet, watch, bandana, matchsticks and remains of tobacco pipes.
    One mystery was answered relatively early in the excavation and conservation process.
    "They didn't know whether these guys had escaped and tried to swim to shore," genealogist Abrams says of the Hunley crew. "Or whether they had been taken captive. There was no concrete knowledge that they were still inside."
    Inside the sub, scientists found human hair, complete skeletons and skulls of eight people -- debunking one part of the legend that held that nine men were on board. Abrams has spent years trying to learn more about the crew. She has learned a great deal, but is hampered by the fact that only one is known to have married and have children. And there are no known photographs of any.
    Kellen Correia, executive director of Friends of the Hunley, says she expects a permanent museum to be built around the end of the decade, with expanded days of operation, instead of the current weekends.
    For the anniversary of the attack, the first 150 visitors on Saturday and Sunday receive free replicas of Lt. Dixon's gold coin, which is on permanent display. Admission on Monday, the actual anniversary, is $1.50, compared to the normal $12 ticket.Abrams, the genealogist, was to share her latest research on the crew at a $50 Saturday evening reception.At 7 p.m. Monday -- timed to the hour the Hunley was making its way toward the Housatonic -- a memorial service will be held at Sunrise Presbyterian Church near Breach Inlet for those killed on both warships. Participants will then drop flowers into the water in remembrance.
    Correia is accustomed to debates over the Hunley's demise. "I love that it engages people," she says. "You know why the Titanic went down. With this, you don't have that known factor."