Friday, March 25, 2011

The Allen Central Confederate Boycott Hoax Exposed

In much of life we are content with a false comfort that there is a certain randomness to that which befalls us. We know that difficulties and disasters will come our way. We are prepared to accept a certain amount of such as simply fate or an act of God. The best example of this is that every time an accident or disaster occurs such as a plane crash, our first question is “was it terrorism”, and—for some reason—we feel a palpable sense of relief when confirmation arrives that it was not an intentional act, and though the loss of life remains unchanged by this news, we are more able to accept the event as a necessary trial of this mortal life.
   It is apparently part of our human nature, on the other hand, not to be content to simply accept a bad occurrence if it turns out to be the design and intent of men (or women).
   As Americans with Confederate ancestry, we are discovering more and more the intent of some to rob us of our heritage, and paint us and our ancestors as societal pariahs to be shunned and silenced. Attacks on Confederate symbols and heritage are not, primarily, due to any random shift or drift in society, but are calculated incursions by bigots with hate in their hearts towards us and our heritage. Let us take the Allen Central Confederate Boycott Hoax as our most recent example.
   Allen Central is a public high school in Floyd County, the town of Eastern, Kentucky (which yes, is in eastern Kentucky) with about 400 students. It was formed in 1972 from four small high schools (Garrett Devils, Martin Purple Flashes, Maytown Wildcats, and Wayland Wasps), and the students at the new Allen Central were given the chance to choose a new mascot. They chose the Confederate soldier, and have proudly been the Rebels ever since. While there are a number of high schools in Kentucky that are also Rebels, it is safe to say that none of them embraces Confederate heritage as an integral part of their school’s identity more than Allen Central. You are greeted by a Confederate soldier at the entrance to the school, the centerpiece of the cafeteria is a large Battle Flag, surrounded by pictures from athletic events, usually with Battle Flags prominent, a large Battle Flag is in the gym, and even the courtyard is laid out in a St. Andrew’s Cross. In all likelihood, Allen Central is the most Confederate public high school in the nation.

   Nestled into the mountains of eastern Kentucky, far from the Meccas of political correctness in Lexington, Frankfort and Louisville, Allen Central’s celebration of Confederate heritage has remained unmolested for more than three decades; but, four “missionaries” of political correctness recently have launched a coordinated attack to try to put Confederate heritage to an end at ACHS.
   The affair began in November 27th, 2006, when attorney and outgoing school board member Mickey McGuire made derogatory comments about Allen Central displaying the flag. The Floyd County Times ran an article on the McGuire’s denunciations on November 29th. McGuire, who was not seeking re-election, waited until his last meeting as a board member to say anything like this, and no other board members joined in supporting McGuire. McGuire’s parting shot was soon picked up by AP reporter Samira Jafari. Jafari is a journalist with a history of reporting on stories that appeal to the politically correct, including an editorial which was passed off as legitimate reporting on Alabama’s prison sentences being too harsh, and a story with a mildly positive spin on an utterly bizarre YMCA camp that makes children be “slaves” for a day, including being yelled at by an “overseer” until they cry, and then being forced to try and “escape”.
   On December 9th the Associated Press ran a slanted “expose’ ” by Jafari on Allen Central. This article had prejudicial angles in it such as “The black students who have encountered Allen Central's school spirit don't accept such views, though they do little to fight back,” which makes it sound like all black students who have played against Allen Central feel that way. In fact Jafari had only a quote from one black student, and the Floyd County Times was easily able to find black students who had played against Allen Central who felt quite differently.
   An Allen Central cheerleader who defended the school in Jafari’s article was ridiculed on national TV by MSNBC commentator Keith Olberman.
   Next enter Ned Pillersdorf, another Floyd County attorney and his version of “Glory Road”.

The Glory Road Fantasy
   In the recent movie, “Glory Road”, about the first NCAA basketball team with an all-black starting line-up to win a championship, a scene depicted Kentucky Wildcat fans taunting African-American players with Confederate flags. However, even though the movie was supposed to be based on real events, the flag-waving incident never occurred. When confronted about the deception, the movie producers simply said it made for a better story.
   Ned Pillersdorf was the source for the next Associated Press story by Jafari on December 24th – which was carried nationally and internationally – about a small high school basketball team that was going to boycott a game against Allen Central High (ironically, scheduled on Robert E. Lee’s 200th birthday, January 19th), because of Allen Central’s use of the Confederate Battle Flag, and its fans taunting an African-American player in last year’s game with Confederate flags.
   Was this really life imitating fictionalized art? Pillersdorf, a transplanted New Yorker who has decided to live in Floyd County and who is volunteer basketball coach for the tiny private David school that was supposed to boycott Allen Central for the flag waving, claimed it was. Pillersdorf specifically claimed that Allen Central fans at last year’s game had taunted an African-American player on his team with Confederate flags when he shot free throws, and that his players had voted to boycott this year’s game. For some reason, Pillersdorf hadn’t complained about anything last year, and he had waited until after the Associated Press ran an article about Allen Central’s Confederate mascot to announce a boycott by his school.
   It turns out, though, that Pillersdorf’s flag-taunting incident was just as fictional as the one in “Glory Road”. The problems for Pillersdorf began when David school officials held a press conference to announce that there
was no boycott, and that Pillersdorf hadn’t gone through channels to ask for one. This means that Jafari, the AP reporter who worked with Pillersdorf to create the faux boycott story, didn’t corroborate it with school officials, a basic requirement of journalism, before sending the inflammatory piece over the wires.
Jafari running an uncorroborated story was really the lynchpin, as various versions of the Confederate boycott article reverberated through the media for days and even weeks. The Lost Cause contacted Jafari to ask her why she ran such an inflammatory story without corroboration. Jafari declined to comment.
   It got worse for Pillersdorf, though, when the Allen Central athletics director pulled the records from last year’s game, and the records showed that the player in question hadn’t shot any free throws in that game. That problem for Pillersdorf’s story was nothing, though, compared to when his own players spoke. They revealed to the Floyd County Times that they had not wanted to boycott the game with Allen Central, that they had not taken a “boycott” vote, and even supported Allen Central’s use of Confederate symbols.
Finally, the African-American player in question in the flag-taunting story drove the ultimate stake into the heart of Pillersdorf’s fabrications when he flatly stated that the incident never happened.
   Eventually the two school principals decided to postpone the game, with all the emotions that Pillersdorf and the media had created over the fictional flag taunting, and the Floyd County superintendent wanting there to be no flags at the game if it did happen.

   It’s bad enough that a movie would pass off such a fabricated event as taunting players as real, but Ned Pillersdorf pretending that such a thing happened in real life wasn’t just coming up with a “better story” to make some sort of personal statement of his dislike for Southern heritage; it was very disruptive to the community, and on January 27th, the SCV issued a press release demanding apologies from Pillersdorf and the Associated Press, and demanding that the AP run a story correcting its bogus “boycott” article. With the damage the AP article caused, and its wide distribution, a correction would be a minimal response, but even after the hoax was revealed and reported on by the Floyd County Times, and even obliquely covered in the Lexington Herald-Leader, the AP has declined to run a correction.
   During all this, local reaction against Pillersdorf and McGuire ran strong, with websites and ad hoc committees quickly formed to fight the apparent attempt to change Allen Central’s flag and mascot. One of the most active citizens locally was Ronnie Parsons, who worked with the SCV to coordinate an effective counter-campaign, including a large ad paid for by the SCV featuring Parsons in the Floyd County Times. The SCV also ran a “Thank You” ad in the school paper at Allen Central.

The Circus Comes to Town
   On December 18th, Louis Coleman, a media-hungry “civil rights” nudnick from Louisville suddenly showed up in Floyd County, to hold a “private” meeting and hold hands with superintendent Paul Fanning, urging Fanning to get rid of Allen Centrals’ flag. Interestingly enough, this “private” meeting was attended by Samira Jafari, who promptly ran a sizeable story on it again over the AP wires, complete with hateful quotes from Coleman—”this community is in the past” and “these symbols have been eliminated.” etc. The article did admit that the school had been flooded with messages of support for the flag, but somehow failed to check with the SCV for a counter comment, despite efforts by the SCV to get the media to carry its responses. Telling all about Louis Coleman would be a whole article in itself, but he is a master of quick publicity (he has friends in the media, obviously Jafari among them), and is a master of squeezing money from businesses and local governments, apparently for them to prove their support of his agenda, and perhaps to avoid being on the receiving end of one of his many protests and quick-strike media blitzes (a la’ Jesse Jackson), according to an expose’ on Coleman by Louisville TV station WLKY.
   The real point, though, is that Jafari either invited Coleman to Floyd County, or Coleman set up the media coverage with Jafari. Either way, when combined with the “boycott” story to come a few days later where Jafari worked with Pillersdorf, a pattern begins to emerge. Jafari was “creating” news by working with the likes of Coleman and Pillersdorf, rather than being a journalist, all the while ignoring calls from the SCV to make corrections.

The First Meeting
   Superintendent Fanning’s response to the “controversy” was to say that McGuire’s suggestion would be open for discussion at the next school board meeting. To add to the confusion, though, there were two “next” meetings, one on the 17th of January and one on the 22nd. Apparently the first meeting usually is for the purposes of setting the agenda at the second. Mickey McGuire, no longer a member of the board, wasn’t at either meeting to hear the reactions to his earlier anti-Southern comments.
   The consensus of those working the case for the SCV, which included division staff, members from the two Floyd County SCV camps, SCV Chief of Heritage Defense Darryl Starnes and SCV national heritage defense committee member Billy Bearden along with Ronnie Parsons and the local group of concerned citizens, was that a full turnout for both meetings was essential, prepared to stare down Coleman if necessary.
A rumor began circulating that the school board would turn the matter over to the School Based Decision Making Council at Allen Central (which turned out to be true). In anticipation, the School Council met before the school board meetings, and unanimously voted to keep the flag in anticipation. The SBDMC would not meet again until late February, where this decision could truly be made offical (to the satisfaction of the superintendent).
   At the school board meeting on the 17th, over 100 turned out, all in favor of keeping the flag at Allen Central. The Kentucky Division’s “I Support Confederate History Month” stickers were passed out, with virtually all present wearing one. First to speak on the matter was Sam Hatcher, commander of the Col. Andrew Jackson May camp, who eloquently defended Confederate heritage and Allen Central. Afterwards, Hatcher was interviewed by WYMT television, and the Herald-Leader. Typically, the Herald-Leader didn’t use any of Hatcher’s or the SCV’s statements. Ultimately, the school board declared that any mascot issue belonged to the School Council and referred it to them (fully aware that the SBDMC had already voted to keep the flag and soldier).
   This school board meeting was probably the first news-worthy event in the entire scenario—it showed a community speaking clearly to its elected officials in support of Confederate heritage despite a media barrage against them. McGuire’s unsupported comments, the slanted article on Allen Central, the Coleman PR-seeking private meeting, the Pillersdorf boycott hoax were all “created” news of a sort - much ado about nothing. So, with this strong public reaction certainly the media—and especially the Associated Press and Jafari—had an obligation to report this community outpouring at the board meeting. However, after all the previous anti-Confederate stories on the AP, this apparently wasn’t worthy of mention.
   Instead, the next day—the 18th—the media picked up on a story that the game would happen, but that the Superintendent was going to ban Allen Central—as a school, but not any individuals— from having any Battle Flags at the game, so after ignoring the story of the overwhelming support at the school board meeting, the Associated Press went with the flag ban story instead, and the Herald-Leader expanded it into a full feature. The AP quoted superintendent Fanning as saying school displays of the flag would be banned to defuse the situation (while admitting individuals couldn’t be stopped). If Fanning truly thought this, he needed a quick education, because all he did was give the media more fodder to keep pouring fuel on the fire, and it’s doubtful he had any real authority to make such a proclamation. Besides, the “school displays” of the Flag are permanently attached—as in painted on the walls. Even if the school, say the cheerleaders, weren’t going to wave a particular flag per se, the Flag would still be everywhere.
   Fortunately for all concerned, the two school principals involved had more sense, and rather than play a game with a “ban” (which would have been the beginning of a terrible slippery slope for Allen Central), they agreed to postpone the game. This decision was carried again by the Associated Press, but with the angle that the “flag flap” controversy had caused the game to be postponed, rather than being truthful that biased and inaccurate media reporting—specifically the Associated Press—was responsible for the schools having to delay the game.

The Second Meeting
   The second, “full” meeting of the school board occurred on January 22nd and had many similarities to the first: over a hundred showed up to support the flag in case the issue came up and in case Louis Coleman showed up. Coleman didn’t show (it’s not really his style to face a hostile crowd), but he did leave copies of a letter from his “Justice Resource Center” - filled with factual and grammatical errors, even getting the name of the school district wrong—explaining to the good folks in Floyd County why they were bigots for having a Confederate high school. The superintendent made copies of the Coleman letter available, but the crowd had no interest in it. Sam Hatcher again eloquently spoke on behalf of the SCV, joined by local citizens like Ronnie Parsons. The superintendent addressed the issue by explaining the matter had already beenreferred back to the SBDMC, and was not being considered by the board.
   This second meeting was the media’s chance to atone somewhat for their mishandling of things by at least reporting the final outcome. We are still waiting for that to happen, though. The AP ran a total of 5 biased and inaccurate stories on Allen Central before the second meeting, but couldn’t bother to even report the outcome of the “controversy” they created.

More Coleman
   Louis Coleman’s antics weren’t done just with his little collaboration with the AP. On January 9th he also picketed (probably for just long enough to speak to a reporter he arranged beforehand to be there) in front of the Kentucky Department of Education building in Frankfort, complaining about Allen Central (and all other “Rebel” schools in Kentucky), and demanded to be placed on the agenda of the state school board’s next meeting (February 7th). Coleman had previously spoken to the state school board several years prior and as a response the state board sent letters to all school systems recommending they study the issue of insensitive mascots. The truth is, though, that under KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act) the state school board has no power over local schools’ mascots. In response to Coleman’s request, Kentucky Division Commander Tom Hiter also formally requested to be on the agenda to counter Colemen. The reply from the board was that since the board had no authority to address the question, it would not take sides, and would not allow either Coleman or Hiter to speak. It seems a little late to pretend to be neutral after sending the politically correct “offensive mascots” letter to schools earlier, though.

More Nonsense
   The nonsense wasn’t over yet, though. As a follow-up to all this, the SCV arranged for H. K. Edgerton, a noted black Confederate activist who, among many other things, has marched 1,600 miles across the South carrying a battle flag for Southern heritage, to speak at Allen Central on February 9th. It would be a perfect educational opportunity during Black History Month. However, a few days beforehand, Superintendent Fanning ordered that he not be allowed to speak at the school. Having had enough of the nonsense, Division Cmdr. Hiter called for a press conference/protest to be held across from the Lexington Herald-Leader building in Lexington’s Thoroughbred park on the 9th, and have Edgerton speak there.
   The SCV sent press notices to all area media, especially the Associated Press and A. P. writer Jafari who was behind most of the biased, erroneous and inflammatory reporting. Jafari sent back an apparently automated response saying she would be out of the office until May.
   Thursday night, February 8th, Allen Central and David finally played their basketball game, but Superintendent Fanning prohibited the press and public from attending, an apparently unprecedented event in Kentucky high school athletics (there have been instances where flu outbreaks have caused athletic events to be played behind closed doors, but nothing like this). Fanning claimed he wanted the situation to go away quietly, which brings into question his intelligence, since his over-the-top banning actions again drew the immediate attention of the media and the SCV. The Associated Press ran yet another story on Allen Central, this one taking the angle that the flag “controversy” (not the taunting hoax) caused the superintendent to ban the press and public. The byline on this A. P. story was the same as the others: Samira Jafari, the reporter supposedly “out of the office until May” who was refusing to answer questions about her role.
   The SCV news conference the next day was held under beautiful but cold skies on the high ground of Thoroughbred Park. Three TV stations and the Herald-Leader did send reporters. They got an earful from Cmdr. Hiter and Edgerton, focusing on the flag taunting hoax and denial of Edgerton’s speaking appearance. The TV stations provided brief coverage, but didn’t get beyond the typical “Confederate flag causes controversy” sound bite. One of the stations even managed to cover it without mentioning or showing Edgerton. The Herald-Leader and Associated Press did briefly cover it, but were still more fascinated with the closed-doors basketball game than anything else. They briefly visited the issue of Pillersdorf’s faux flag-taunting, but treated it more like a disagreement than a hoax. Then Channel 36 (ABC affiliate) put together a 4-night hatchet-job on Edgerton and the SCV, ignoring again the real story of the Pillersdorf fabrication and media culpability.

Even More Nonsense
   Finally, on that same Friday, the state school board issued its earlier “offensive mascots” letter to school systems again, telling the media it was in response to the Allen Central “controversy”. This action came after directly telling Cmdr. Hiter that the board was neutral. So now we have even the state school board dealing in actions that fall short of truthful.

The Result
As we were going to press on Monday, February 25th, the School Based Council met again in the afternoon and voted to let the students decide whether to keep the flag. The positive outcome of this student vote is somewhat easy to predict. It’s also predictable that proper media coverage of this decision won’t happen, though.

What Now?
The victory in Floyd County—and it was a victory, no matter the biased media coverage—was coordinated by a winning combination of local citizens, local SCV camps, division and national. All worked together and all contributed. There was a big difference in addition, though; in this case the school—especially the principal “Sis” Hall—was with us, and the school board was with us (even if the superintendent wavered to very bad effect). This was a fight on good ground; but we’ve always known Floyd County was good Confederate territory, from the days of the 5th Kentucky Infantry drilling in the fields by the May house in Prestonsburg.
The antagonists of this hoax will probably take a breather for the moment; Jafari still isn’t responding to questions about her role, Pillersdorf now wishes it would all go away, McGuire hasn’t been involved since his hate-filled comments in November, and Coleman may temporarily run out of ways to get some media face time. However, these four were able to orchestrate a tempest in a tea cup that took a large-scale mobilization of local and SCV resources to counter. Even though they lost, they enjoyed a lot of attention for little effort; they (and more like them) will be tempted to try similar things in the future.
   The SCV’s job is not over. We have several areas to address. First, the controversy has generated interest locally in the SCV despite the fact the media (other than the Floyd County Times) refused to carry SCV press releases and statements, and this is a recruiting opportunity. Second, the SCV needs to insure that those responsible for this hoax are held accountable. The Associated Press perpetrated a lie and refused to speak to it, correct it, and discipline the reporter responsible. Pillersdorf fabricated events. McGuire did harm to the school system he was elected to serve. These parties need to be reminded as much as possible when appropriate of their responsibility for the entire affair, and others tempted to try the same need to see that there will be strong and long-lasting resistance to such perpetrations. Finally, the SCV needs to recognize that we don’t have many public schools where Confederate heritage is celebrated, certainly not to the degree at Allen Central. Even the other schools with “Rebel” mascots in Kentucky are skittish to some degree. Allen Central needs to be adopted, both by our division and the national organization, as a public service project. The staff and students need to know that the SCV will be there to help, not only in a scrap like this, but also when they need some money for academics or sports, or to provide living history demonstrations and other Confederate-related education. The SCV needs to be involved with Allen Central, a public high school that celebrates and fights for Confederate heritage like no other.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Fine Place

Elbridge Gerry Littlejohn was a typical Confederate soldier. He was born near Gaffney, South Carolina, on January 3, 1841. The young Elbridge received the proper education for an antebellum Southern gentleman, attending an academy at Limestone Springs, South Carolina, where he learned to read both Latin and Greek classics “with a considerable degree of accuracy.” The headmaster of his school, J. Banks Lyle, commented that “few young men leave our Academies with morals so correct” and “with minds so well trained” as E.G. Littlejohn. In late November 1860, while all across Dixie stunned Southerners were considering how to respond to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, “with much pleasure” Lyle commended the young man “to the consideration of any Southern community.” Just eight days after South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, several prominent citizens of Spartanburg also recommended Littlejohn as a “young man of good morals and in good standing in our District.”

E. G. Littlejohn was soliciting these recommendations at the end of 1860 for he was about to move to Texas. Apparently, as soon as school let out for the Christmas holiday, Littlejohn jumped on his horse and headed for the Lone Star state. His fiancĂ©e and her family had moved to Texas earlier in the fall, and the attraction of love persuaded the young man to leave home and family behind and seek his fortune out west. By his wedding date, January 19, 1861, Littlejohn was already living in Smith County, Texas. For a little over a year, Littlejohn enjoyed his new married life, but the crisis of the times soon caught up with him, and in March 1862 he enlisted in the Confederate Army. Littlejohn joined Company G of the 10th Texas Cavalry, a regiment that just a month after his enlistment was dismounted and fought the remainder of the war as an infantry unit. From the spring of 1862 until May 1865 Littlejohn faithfully wrote his young wife, Sarah—or, “Sallie,” as he called her—telling her of his life as a Confederate soldier. Among those letters are two written from Kentucky, for the 10th Texas was among those Confederate forces that invaded the Bluegrass State in the fall of 1862.

Before the Kentucky invasion, Littlejohn’s regiment had not seen much action. After spending some time in central Arkansas, Littlejohn had joined thousands of other Confederates from the trans-Mississippi who were transferred across the river to help defend the vital rail junction of Corinth, Mississippi. After the battle of Shiloh, Corinth had become the headquarters for Confederate forces seeking to blunt the Union move through Tennessee and down the Mississippi River. However, General Beauregard soon decided the position was indefensible, and in late May he evacuated the city. While the boastful Confederate commander regarded the retreat as “equivalent to a great victory,” Private Littlejohn had another perspective. He wrote to his wife that while he expected the newspapers to describe the evacuation as “magnificent” and a “Glorious Retreat,” he assured her “it [was] anything else.” The inexperienced soldier confessed that he had never witnessed “any suffering” until his experiences in Corinth. The treatment of the sick and dying caused him special consternation.

Like many soldiers, Littlejohn encountered much sickness in the army camps. On June 3 he wrote that “our regiment has not more than 200 men able for duty,” for “everybody has the Diarrhea.” The young Texan admitted that even he had had “a mild form.” The rigors of camp life, he said, had produced “great dissatisfaction among the Texan boys;” they were sure it was the “water and the climate working upon them” to produce such sickness. Littlejohn advised his wife to tell her brother, Benton, “never to go to the army…as long as he can keep from it.” After what he had seen, the distressed young man assured his wife that her brother had no idea “about the hardships of military service.” Benton Jefferies, however, disregarded his brother-in-law’s words of caution and joined the Confederate Army; in November 1862 he succumbed to the sicknesses that Littlejohn warned of and died in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Invariably, when Littlejohn wrote to his wife he implored her to “earnestly pray” for him. The homesick soldier assured his wife that he kept her in his prayers, and he wanted her to so remember him. Like so many Southerners who served in the defense of their country, Littlejohn realized that both the fate of the nation and its cause as well as his own personal destiny was in the hands of a God who “directs all things for the better.” Thus, he comforted his worried wife with the promise that if they “should not meet [again] on earth,” they should “meet each other in heaven, where we will not have to shake parting hands any more.” On a more practical note, Littlejohn counseled his wife that he was committed to seeing the war through to its conclusion and that in this resolution he was determined “to keep good spirits and then go ahead,” for he said, “what good would it do to become despondent and low spirited?” Later in the War, when many Confederate soldiers were giving up and deserting the ranks, Littlejohn refused the temptation telling his wife that to leave the ranks would dishonor his name forever.

By July 1862, Elbridge Littlejohn was in Chattanooga. For the moment, Confederate forces there were immobilized, as was the Army of Mississippi now commanded by Braxton Bragg, while Union forces slowly worked their way down the Tennessee River and across northern Mississippi towards the strategic city. On the twentieth of the month, Littlejohn exulted to his wife over the “signal victory of Gen. Forrest at Murfreesboro and around Nashville, and those of Morgan in Kentucky.” Indeed, all the Confederacy took hope at the daring cavalry raids of the intrepid Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. These raids not only slowed the Federal advance but they also planted an idea in the strategic thinking of the Confederate high command. General Bragg decided to move the Confederate armies northward into Kentucky, duplicating on a larger scale the cavalry operations, and hoping that this move would not only relieve Tennessee but also gain Kentucky recruits for the Southern cause and perhaps even bring the Bluegrass State into the Confederacy.

Elbridge Littlejohn entered Kentucky as a part of Ector's Brigade, McCown's Division, Confederate Army of Kentucky. While marching from the Cumberland Gap towards Richmond, the Texas soldier reported that the Confederates “did not meet with many friends.” However, he said, as they “advanced farther into the state, the friends of secession became more numerous.” News of a “federal force ahead of us” must have made the young man anxious, for he had never been in battle yet. “Early in the morning” of August 30, 1862, Littlejohn and his messmates caught the sound of “heavy artillery firing;” then, as they hurried forward, “soon we heard the small arms open.” At this point, he confessed “I knew that the long expected moment was near at hand.” Littlejohn’s account of the Battle of Richmond follows closely the later official reports. While the 10th Texas was involved in “trying to flank them on the right,” the men of General Patrick Cleburne’s brigade “were pouring it to them on the left. They could not stand the fire and broke to run. Our brigade outflanked them and commenced firing on them as they run. They could not stand this and soon surrendered. Another part ran on farther and formed a line of battle behind a little hill. Our men advanced on them slowly until we came in sight of them….The Feds fought bravely,” he conceded, “but could not stand the charge of our boys, in which we took one battery. They ran then in every direction.”

Like so many soldiers in the War Between the States, Littlejohn became a casualty in this battle. After the first charge, he could not continue and had to “sit it out.” His inability to continue the fight was not the result of a wound, however, but the result of diarrhea. This scourge of both armies took more lives over the course of the War than did battlefield wounds, and it temporarily incapacitated many more, both during battle and at other times. Littlejohn frequently reported to his wife of his bouts with the illness. He seemed to feel no shame in confessing to his wife that the attack on his bowels was so severe “that I could not keep up. We had to run so much and being unwell I gave out just before the second fight commenced.” However, he was close enough to the fighting that “the balls fell around me where I was sitting as thick as hail.” At some point he was able to regain his feet and catch up with his company. All in all, he admitted that the “day’s labor was the hardest ever I went through with.” Certainly the Texans did their part, for Littlejohn reported that the 10th Texas Dismounted Cavalry suffered fifty-two of the seventy-five killed and wounded in Ector’s Brigade.

After leaving Richmond the Confederates marched northward and “passed through several towns of importance…among which was Lexington.” The young man from Texas was much impressed with the city, declaring it a “fine place” that provided “the grandest display of secession feeling” he had ever seen. “The streets were thronged with men and women.” In addition, he related that the hoped for recruits from the Bluegrass State were “volunteering rapidly.” The 10th Texas ultimately reached the approaches to Covington before having to retreat “owing to the superior numbers of the enemy.” In spite of this setback, Littlejohn was sure the Confederates would once again “attack them in a few days,” and he promised his wife that he would write her all the details, “if I live.”

Like so many soldiers who wore the gray, Littlejohn seemed to take the horrors of war and difficulties of army life in stride. In his letters he commented matter-of-factly on the deaths of his comrades (including one killed at Richmond), and then he would turn his attention to more mundane matters. From Covington he informed her of his diet—“eight days without tasting bread, eating nothing but roasting ears, poor beef, and apples, and not half enough of that;” the condition of his clothing—“tolerable…with the exception of shirts,” but wearing “Yankee socks…which I took out of one of their knapsacks;” his health—“not been sick at all, only with the diarrhea, which is very common in camps;” and, his thoughts of home—“Sallie, I would like to hear from you very much.” Although his enlistment period would soon be completed, he expected he would have to “stay on a while longer.” He reassured his worried wife, however, that he would “come out safe and sound” and that she should not be “uneasy” about him.
Littlejohn’s Division did not participate in the Battle of Perryville, “a fortunate thing for us,” he admitted. Before he departed Kentucky, he had a chance to write one more letter detailing his experiences in our fair state. This letter is dated October 27, 1862, and was written from the Cumberland Gap. Although he said he could not give a “full account of our perambulations through the State of Kentucky,” he did give his wife some more highlights. He was disappointed that he had missed seeing Frankfort, but he went to some lengths to describe the hospitality and enthusiastic support of Kentuckians for the Confederacy. Littlejohn worried about these “zealous lovers of the Southern cause,” for he feared they would “suffer the malice and fiendish propensities of the infuriated clan that will follow us.” He was convinced that the depth of feeling he witnessed among Kentuckians—“I saw some men and women so rejoiced that they even burst into tears and shouts”—was the result of their having been “bowed down by oppression so long.” These people “were the kindest in the world to soldiers,” he said. “No matter what they had was not too good for the poor private.” He related how one Sunday morning he and another soldier had approached a house where they found “a very old woman sitting alone reading her Bible.” To their relief, they found her to be “true secession.” She invited them in, served them a meal, and then filled their canteens with milk and gave them “as much butter as we could carry.” They offered to pay her, but she would not take “one cent.” The homesick young husband told his “dear Sallie” that he had not “met with a better dinner since I left home.” The meal and the “kindnesses” of this unnamed Kentucky grandmother and the many others who made the soldiers feel welcome in the bluegrass made Littlejohn “think more of home than I had done for a long time.”

So, Elbridge Gerry Littlejohn took with him from Kentucky cherished memories of a kind and generous people. The young Texan would be wounded twice at the Battle of Murfreesboro, but would recover from his wounds and return to the ranks to serve to the end of the War. Although his name does not appear in the histories of the Confederate Kentucky campaign, he and many other largely anonymous soldiers in gray did what they could to bring the Bluegrass State into the Confederacy. Although their efforts were not successful, they could take pride in having done their duty and given their best in the cause of liberty.

Glen Spann, associate professor of history at Asbury College, is a descendant of Private E. G. Littlejohn.

Originally published in the Winter, 2007 issue of "The Lost Cause"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Remembering Elizabeth

After weeks of balmy Fall, a deep Winter’s chill set in on the morning of Veterans’ Day, 2006, but it did not stop over a hundred from gathering in a small Trigg County cemetery to pay respects to Elizabeth Savells Wirz, the Kentucky wife of martyr Capt. Henry Wirz. Elizabeth’s final resting place was unmarked and largely unknown for decades, until a research effort led by Nancy Hitt and Betty McCorkle found Elizabeth (see the Winter 2006 Lost Cause for the full story). The time had come to remember Elizabeth, and the suffering she endured as her husband was falsely imprisoned, charged and executed as a scapegoat for the South. Capt Wirz’ only request was that the South take care of his family. In a small way, that is what we did under the cloudy, frigid skies of November.

Folks came from near and far, including groups from Georgia, South Carolina and Switzerland (that’s Col. Heinrich Wirz, great-nephew of Capt. Henry Wirz, in the beret). Nancy Hitt and the ladies of the UDC went to great pains to make the service solemn and special, and then treated all to a wonderful buffet afterwards.
Photos © Don Shelton originally published in the Winter, 2007 issue of The Lost Cause

Friday, March 4, 2011

Confederate Images: Capt. Henry Wirz

A brief biography of Capt. Wirz has appeared in the Lost Cause previously (Winter 2006), but with the pictures from his wife Elizabeth’s marker dedication in this issue (page 4), we thought it appropriate to give here the specifics of Capt. Wirz’ military record:

Capt. Henry Wirz
Born: November 25, 1823 Executed: November 10,1865
Buried: Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D. C.

1840-1849: European military service
1849: Arrives in America: practitioner of homeopathic (treating disease by giving drugs in minute doses which provide symptoms similar to those of the disease) medicine and a bartender in Louisville, KY.
1854: Marries the widow Elizabeth Wolfe in Cadiz, KY.
1860: Census shows Wirz to be a physician and gentlemen farmer Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana.
May 1861: Enlists as a private in Madison Infantry, which departs for Richmond, Virginia.
July 10, 1861: Major Waddill begins organizing the 4th Battalion Infantry Louisiana Volunteers, five companies of 561 men. Madison Infantry becomes company A. Various companies are assigned duty as body guards to President Jefferson Davis and as guards to Libby Prison and other sites. The three volume alphabetical roster of Confederate Soldiers from Louisiana does not include Wirz in the musters. The author’s theory is that Wirz was not on the muster rolls because he had been placed on detached service while still a member of the State Troops, Madison Infantry, thus he was a member of the Provisional Army Confederate States.
August 26,1861: Special Order # 134, Sec. of War: “ Private Henry Wirz, of the Madison Infantry Louisiana Volunteers will report for duty to General J. H. Winder in this city." ( Richmond).
September 19, 1861: Special Order # 157: Company A 4th Battalion Louisiana Infantry is mustered into the Confederate Army. Henry Wirz is not on the rolls as he is on detached duty as a clerk in the Provost Marshal office.
September 25, 1861: Special Order # 162: The 4th Battalion is sent to Lewisburg, VA to report to General Floyd. Takes part in the Kanawha Campaign in western Virginia.
November 1- 10, 1861: skirmishes Cotton Hill.
November 30, 1861: Special Order # 248: The 4th Battalion LA. Infantry is ordered to return to Richmond and report to General Winder.
December 14, 1861: Special Order # 266: The 4th Battalion LA. Infantry is ordered to leave Richmond and report to General Robert E. Lee, @ Coosawatchie, South Carolina. “ The members of this battalion who have been detached as a guard to prisoners at Tuscaloosa Ala. will rejoin their proper companies so soon as they are relieved from that duty.” Henry Wirz still on detached duty has the rank of Sergeant, and is Assistant Commander of the Tuscaloosa Alabama Military Prison until recalled to Richmond in 1862.
May 31, 1862: Sergeant Wirz takes part in the Seven Pines Battle and is severely wounded in the right arm by a rifle ball. (During these battles before Richmond, all available troops were organized in temporary organizations and dispatched to the front lines as re-enforcements).
June 1862: Wirz is promoted to Captain assistant adjutant General to Brigadier General Winder. Also, Provost Marshal, Manchester, VA.
November 26, 1862: Special Order # 225: Wirz is ordered to AL, GA, LA, MS, and TX to gather records on prisoners of war.
December 1862: Captain Wirz is granted a furlough to go to Europe for surgery on his arm. It is also reported that he was on a mission for President Davis to contact Confederate Commissioners James Mason and John Slidell.
February 1864: Captain Wirz returns from Europe and is assigned to duty Augusta, GA.
April 1864: Captain Wirz becomes Commander of the Military Prison, Camp Sumter a. k. a. Andersonville.

originally published in the Winter, 2007 issue of The Lost Cause