J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “South Dakota”

On the Bright Side…

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I know I’ve been posting a lot lately about anti-Confederate sentiment, or Confederate cleansing as I like to call it. However, there are a few bright spots here and there around the country where people are getting tired of all the political correctness and have chosen to keep the Confederate battle flag and other symbols. After receiving criticism, the police department in Gettysburg, South Dakota, chose to keep its symbol, which pictures the American flag and the Confederate battle flag together. The small town was founded by Civil War veterans who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, and that is how the design originated.

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In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Sons of Confederate Veterans will sponsor a Confederate Flag Day to honor Southern history. The gathering will be held at the Farnsworth House Inn off Baltimore Street on March 5, from 2-4 p.m.

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“We as the sons revere the history of our families of the South and of America, and with that we wish to keep our history alive and our heritage along with that,” said Gary Casteel of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Critics of the flag, including Greater Harrisburg NAACP president Stanley Lawson, say our history of slavery is nothing to celebrate. “The Confederate flag does not unite the country, it divides the country,” Lawson said. “I think this time in our history we need to be together.”

“The Confederate flag may have done some nasty things, so did the American Flag, so why don’t we take them both down? Why don’t we destroy both of them and turn our backs on them?” Casteel said. “It’s simple. We are Americans. We have the right to choose to like or dislike. The right way is to accept and move and learn by it.”

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And the Hits Keep Coming

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I know I keep ranting about all the recent actions made against everything related to the Confederacy, but I just can’t believe this keeps happening! Georgia’s Stone Mountain is being targeted, in that the NAACP wants to sand blast the images of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson off the face of the mountain. It seems to me that this is destroying an historic treasure, which was created by Gutzon Borglum, the same man who created Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota.

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Nothing is sacred, as the politically correct are now targeting Confederate Memorial Day. I find this nothing less than repulsive. For those of you who don’t know, the first Memorial Day was observed in the South after the Civil War. Several Southern women began the tradition by placing flowers on the graves of their fallen, beloved soldiers. Eventually, Confederate Memorial Day moved to April.

Senator Vincent Fort of Atlanta, Georgia, recently filed State Senate Bill 294 in the Georgia State Legislature:

A Bill to be Entitled an Act

To amend Chapter 4 of Title 1 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to holidays and observances, so as to revise the public and legal holidays recognized by the State of Georgia; to prohibit the recognition of public and legal holidays honoring, recognizing, observing, or celebrating the Confederate States of America, its history, or the military or political leaders thereof or the Civil War; to repeal the observing of Confederate History and Heritage Month.

Unbelievable! Obviously, he is not taking into account  how this offends the descendants of thousands of Confederate soldiers, including blacks, whites, Native Americans, Latinos, and various other nationalities who fought and died to protect their homeland (not slavery).

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The Sons of Confederate Veterans are asking for support to fight this bogus legislation. For more information, check out:

http://gascv.org/bill-introduced-to-erase-confederate-memorial-day/

 

The Hunt for the Irish Connection

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Writing has helped me make some fascinating discoveries over the years. Because I write historical fiction, I have learned to extensively research my topics before delving into a manuscript. Finding little known facts has given me an interest in researching various subjects. My passion lies with the Victorian Era, but I also love writing about the Roaring 20’s and Prohibition, as well as other aspects of American history like the 1960’s and 70’s.

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Through my research, I have uncovered some interesting things. For instance, I apparently have distant relatives living in Alabama that I never knew about. This tidbit would never have come to my attention if I hadn’t been doing research for one of my novels. I also discovered some of my husband’s long lost relatives who lived in Virginia near Chancellorsville. This came to my attention after conducting research for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

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Now I am on the hunt for my Irish roots. After moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, two years ago, I learned that my great grandfather lived here once he divorced my great grandmother. I looked through old city and county records, and found out his exact date of birth, death, and the name of his daughter, who would have been my great step aunt. I even learned why his body was sent to Tucson, Arizona. After more research, I learned the names of his siblings and his parents. Now I just have to find out where in Tipperary, Ireland, they came from and which port of entry they came through. I’m hoping that the New Year will provide me with unanswered questions and help me find my Irish connection.

Homestead Day Harvest Festival

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The Blue and the Gray united once again at the annual Homestead Day Harvest Festival, which was held last Saturday at the Beaver Creek Nature Area near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Union and Confederate soldiers were on hand to demonstrate living history, reenact camp life, and teach new recruits the art of handling rifles.

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The event is held every year and attracts thousands. Besides Civil War reenactors, gunslingers were there to show spectators how to effectively draw a pistol in a gunfight. There were also displays of pioneer life, including candle making, chair caning, blacksmithing, butter churning, panning for gold, wagon rides, wood carving, rope making, spinning, weaving, shucking corn, and hoeing a field with the use of horse-drawn plows. Music was provided by SD Old Time Fiddlers. There was even a snake oil salesman!

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Little Rebels and Yankees had fun aiming and firing their weapons, and the soldiers had fun teasing them by firing black powder and making the kids jump! Although not many reenactors were there, it was still a fun-filled, educational event.

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(Greg Olsen, Union, and Kevin Gansz, Confederate)

The Fight for Heritage Continues

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Last week, the Sons of Confederate Veterans won a major victory in Memphis, Tennessee, after a judge decided that they had the right to sue the city for changing the names of three parks. Forrest Park, named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the primary subject of the suit, because the SCV had placed a large sign at the edge of the park designating it as “Forrest Park.” The city removed the sign without notice, and changed the name of the park to Health Sciences Park. They also did away with Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park, renaming them as well.

The ruling is a tremendous victory for Constitutional rights. To remove all things “Confederate” is a criminal offense and should not be taken lightly. Confederate veterans were designated as American veterans way back in 1906, when a Congressional Act was passed as a move toward reconciliation. To destroy or mutilate any veteran’s grave or marker is a Federal offense and should be treated accordingly.

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This goes hand in hand with trying to do away with the Confederate battle flag – the flag for which these veterans so gallantly fought. It is disrespectful to omit the flag from public view because it is misconceived by a few. This has happened at Washington and Lee University. In the chapel where General Robert E. Lee is interred, Confederate flags have been removed. The Confederate battle flag that flew above the Confederate soldier’s monument on the State Capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina received national attention a couple of months ago after a massacre took place by a lunatic at a church, and was also removed.

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Several schools around the country are debating whether or not to remove the flag. Although a small town in Virginia decided to retain the flag and their mascot name, “the Rebels,” and Gettysburg, South Dakota declined removing the Confederate battle flag from their town’s logo and police cars, other towns have caved under the pressure brought on by hate groups such as the NAACP. In Kentucky, the debate will continue later this month when board members discuss replacing the flag that was previously flying over an elementary school in Floyd County but was taken down.

The Case for the Confederate Battle Flag

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Controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag continues to escalate. Some feel that stashing away the flag is a solution, but I believe the flag should be reinvented as an historic symbol, rather than automatically being associated with racism. The flag has been used by certain hate groups in the past, but these groups have also used the American flag. The Stars and Stripes flew over slave ships, not the Confederate battle flag. If one element of our society is deemed offensive to particular groups, then it will inevitably lead to other banned elements. Removing the Confederate battle flag from government property and national parks is only the beginning. Certain groups are already calling for the removal of all things Confederate, including flags, school names, monuments, movies, books, and television shows. They even want to relocate Civil War soldiers’ bodies. To me, this is offensive, and it is also censorship. Although I understand how the flag might upset some people, to others, it is a sign of Southern pride and heritage. Either way, censoring items doesn’t do away with deeper issues.

Passing laws to remove the Confederate battle flag might seem like a perfect remedy, but in reality, it doesn’t accomplish anything. Racists will still find a symbol to use. People will still lay blame on inanimate objects, instead of blaming the true source of hate. Guns, flags, and photographs don’t commit atrocities. People do. That is why we need to change our attitudes toward these objects, or it will lead to far worse consequences down the road. I’m sure there are people who are offended by the Nazi flag, the Japanese flag, the rainbow flag, or whatever. If one flag is done away with, then all the others should be, too, including the American flag. It flew while thousands of Native American Indians were being slaughtered, after all. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of Stone Mountain, Mount Rushmore, every statue in Washington D.C., and any reminder of Confederate soldiers or slave owners, including our founding fathers. Let’s rename all the streets, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s namesakes, because it’s only fair.

By taking away our symbols, this country is denying our freedom of speech and expression. In a recent Newsmax poll, 88% wanted to keep Confederate flags on government property. And in the small town of Gettysburg, South Dakota, the police chief has fallen under scrutiny for deciding not to change the officers’ uniform patches, which depict the American and Confederate flags crossing over a cannon.

Of course, someone will be offended by something sometime. I’m offended by numerous things, like those mud flaps with nude females on them and sexist lyrics in songs. But to deny their use is going against our Constitutional rights. As U.S. citizens, we need to take a stand against allowing this issue to elevate further, or we will end up having complete government rule, and that is exactly what Southerners fought against during the Civil War.

My upcoming novel, A Rebel Among Us, a novel of the Civil War, discusses this topic in-depth. It delves into the lives of two people – one from the North, and one from the South. Their opinions and differences repeatedly collide, making their relationship all the more compelling and complicated.

As it was in the past, we are facing these same conflicts today. We are one country with many different attitudes and backgrounds, which makes us diverse and unique. To take away just one element of expression opens us up to complete censorship and governmental control in the future.

Fireworks and the Fourth

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I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Fourth of July. This holiday brings many fun-filled memories of family, friends, and special summers. Although everyone has fond memories of July 4, let’s not forget what the holiday truly represents: FREEDOM. We have been a free country for so long that it’s easy to take that for granted, but remember our ancestors, who gave their lives so that we could be free. The Fourth of July  is historically significant, not only for our War of Independence, but also for the War Between the States.

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In 1863, two important events played out: Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The battle of Gettysburg, after three days of heavy fighting, ended on July 4, with both sides thinking they were victorious. It was realized later that the Confederate army had actually suffered a defeat; the first major loss of the war. At Vicksburg, Mississippi, Union General Grant succeeded in taking the town after a month-long siege, thus securing the Mississippi River for Federal use.

Our founding fathers sacrificed home and health to secure our freedom. This 4th of July, let us honor those who so loved, cherished, and believed in our country that they laid down their lives unselfishly. God bless America!

Civil War Monument Rededicated

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Some places still honor their Civil War ancestors, instead of tearing down their statues. Today, a special ceremony took place in Pierre, South Dakota, to dedicate a Civil War monument on the grounds of the state capitol. State officials and civilians reenacted the original dedication, which took place 95 years ago.

The Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission approved various upgrades to the monument site, which included adding sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, benches and a flagpole. Governor Dennis Daugaard read remarks that were made at the June 1, 1920 dedication. Other state officials read remarks originally given by members of the Grand Army of the Republic. A group of Pierre citizens also sang “America” and the “Star Spangled Banner,” just as they had been sung at the original dedication.

This is a very noble and respectful way to treat statues of heroes past. It is truly a shame that certain places in the South can’t show as much gratitude. Instead, they are too concerned with political correctness, and who the monuments might offend. It is a sad day in our country’s consciousness when we try to erase what we consider to be unacceptable today. Public opinion was much different in the 1860’s. The whole country should use Pierre as an example of how we should cherish our ancestors and our past, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line they fought for.

Sioux Falls and the Civil War

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Last week, my husband and I attended a presentation hosted by the Minnehaha County Historical Society in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The program was held at the Old Courthouse Museum, and discussed “Civil War Veterans of Minnehaha County.” All of these veterans fought for the Union, and most were from the Midwest. Twenty veterans were highlighted, and most were founding fathers of Sioux Falls.

Bill Hoskins, director of the Siouxland Heritage Museums and a member of the 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment, Company D, was the speaker. According to Mr. Hoskins, there are 347 documented veterans of the Civil War who are buried in 18 cemeteries in the county. Five percent were held as prisoners of war in Andersonville, Georgia, Camp Floyd, Texas, and Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. There are only 55 Confederate soldiers who are buried in the Dakotas.

Over the course of the war, the Union army grew from 10,000 soldiers to over one million. Some were mustered out in the summer of 1866 in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. After the war, many veterans participated in westward expansion through the Homestead Act. According to Mr. Hoskins, ex-Confederates were not allowed to participate. Many Confederates who were held captive at Rock Island Prison Camp in Illinois stayed in the Dakotas to fight Indians after they took the oath.

Fort Dakota was built on the banks of the Big Sioux River in June, 1865, where Sioux Falls is now. Two hundred and twenty-one men were members of the G.A.R. in Minnehaha County, and seventy percent were farmers. Some had various professions at the same time, such as doctors and fire chiefs. They promoted veterans’ affairs, and many were members of the Mason’s. These men helped shape South Dakota into what it is today.

Festival of Books

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Last weekend, I had the distinct honor of meeting renowned author Kate DiCamillo. Kate has written such best-selling children’s books as “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux,” and most recently, “Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.” She is a Newberry Medal winner, and some of her books have been made into movies.

While she was visiting Sioux Falls for the Festival of Books, I met her at a book signing, and I have yet to meet a nicer person. It was obvious that she loves her craft, as well as the kids she writes for. Kate didn’t hesitate to answer everyone’s questions, including the one my husband posed. “How do you deal with rejection?” Her response was that you never get used to it, but you have to persevere.

The state of South Dakota holds the Festival of Books every year. Next year, it will be held in Deadwood. I’m hoping I can participate then, since I will have a new book out about the Civil War, and the Confederacy in particular. Please stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, support your local authors!

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