(This has been exactly transcribed as written in 1944 in The Alabama Historical Quarterly)
LAST CONFEDERATE REUNION
What will probably prove to be the last General Confederate Reunion was held in Montgomery through the two days of September 27th and 28th. The attendance was small owing to the great age of the Veterans and the long distance some of them had to travel to reach Montgomery. In fact, there were only eight men present. Those who were determined to hold one more reunion insisted upon the meeting being held in Montgomery where they were given a warm welcome by the patriotic people of the Cradle of the Confederacy.
General reunion of Confederate Veterans held in Montgomery, Alan September 27-28, 1944. Picture taken on the portico of the Capitol near the star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as President of the Confederate Government. Left to right, standing: Gen. William Banks, Houston, Tex.; Gen. W. W. Alexander, Rockhill, S. C.; Gen. J. D. Ford, Marshall, Tex.; Gen. T. H. Dowling, Atlanta; Gen. J. W. Moore, Selma; Col. W. H. Culpepper, Atlanta; Gen. W. M. Buck, Muskogee, Okla., and seated, the lone Negro veteran attending the Reunion, Dr. R. A. Gwynne, Birmingham
Meeting with the Confederate Veterans were the National organizations of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Order of the Stars and Bars and the Confederated Southern Memorial Association. Mrs. Lennard Thomas, of Montgomery, was in charge of the general program, assisted by local representatives of the other organizations.
Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Veterans, Homer L. Atkinson, of Petersburg, Va., was unable to attend on account of illness. The first Veteran to arrive was Brigadier-General W. M. Buck, of Muscogee, Oklahoma, who has already reached the age of 93 but is remarkably active and came from Muscogee to Montgomery unescorted. The Georgia delegation was sent through the courtesy of Governor Ellis Arnall in a beautiful car escorted by the Georgia State Highway Patrol in charge of Corp. Paul Smith. In the delegation were Col. W. H. Culpepper, 96 years of age and Gen. W. L. Bowling, 97. Other Veterans present were: Gen. J. W. Moore, of Selma, 93 years of age, who was elected at the close of the Reunion to be Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans; J. D. Ford, Marshall, Texas, 95 years of age; W. W. Alexander, Rock Hill, S. C., 98; Gen. William Banks, Houston, Texas, 98; J. A. Davidson, Troy, 100 years of age. All Veterans except Gen. Buch were accompanied by attendants.
Sons of Confederate Veterans Participate
The Sons of Confederate Veterans had a good representation, including their Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Marshall Wingfield, of Memphis, Tenn.; Hon. Walter L. Hopkins, Adjutant-in-Chief, Richmond, Va.; Hon. W. Scott Hancock, Adjutant General and Chief of Staff, St. Louis, Mo.; Hon. John R. T. Rives, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, formerly of Birmingham, Inspector-in-Chief, and numerous local representatives of the organization. The Daughters of the Confederacy and members of the Confederated Southern Memorial Association were active in their efforts to make the convention a great success from every point of view.
Old Exchange Hotel ca. 1900
The Exchange Hotel, the successor of the historic old hotel of that name, was headquarters for the Veterans and Sons. At the opening of the Veteran’s meeting, a prayer was offered by Dr. Wingfield. The old Veterans and the Sons and Daughters sang “Rock of Ages”, which was Jefferson Davis’ favorite hymn. Other music was rendered and appropriate addresses were made. Following the preliminary exercises a memorial service for Veterans who had died since the last reunion was held, conducted by Mrs. Belle Allen Ross, of Montgomery, a Vice-President General of the Confederated Southern Memorial Association.
Dr. Marshall Winfield, a Congregational minister of Memphis, Tenn., a native of Virginia, was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. James W. Moore, Selma, Ala., 92 years of age, was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Veterans at the General Convention held in Montgomery, September 27-28. He served as a Private in Co. I, 51st Ala. Mounted Infantry. He attended the Virginia Military Institute after the war and graduated in 1873.
Mrs. Lennard Thomas, vocalist and Mrs. John Todd, piano accompanist, rendered the music for this as for other parts of the program, during the reunion. Mrs. Russell Hippe, of Montgomery, carrying in her arms a large bouquet of red roses, read the lines of Maud Lindsay’s poem “My Land is a Red Land and the Red Land Breeds the Rose”, accompanied by the piano. At the afternoon session Judge Leon McCord of the Federal Circuit Court, made a very appealing address and Mrs. Hippe presented the roses to the oldest Veteran, the centenarian J. A. Davidson, of Troy. The social feature of the first day’s program included a reception at the home of Judge Walter B. Jones of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court, of Montgomery. The Jones home occupied for so many years by the late Governor Thomas G. Jones and family, is now owned by Judge Walter B. Jones and is the center of much hospitality.
Veterans Stand on Gold Star
The second day of the Reunion was filled with events planned to gratify the old men who had worn the gray and had journeyed back to Montgomery for what was referred to as their last Reunion. The morning of the 28th was bright and warm and the Veterans were carried from their hotel in a city bus on a tour of inspection of both Gunter and Maxwell airfields where they saw young soldiers in khaki being trained as fliers. At each one of these military establishments, the Commander greeted the Veterans with warm hand clasps. At Maxwell Field, General W. S. Gravely showed the Veterans all the wonders of preparation for modern warfare. At Gunter Field Colonel Raymon L. Winn also gave a warm welcome to the old men in their gray uniforms.
The tour ended at the Capitol where the Veterans were received on the Capitol grounds by a detachment of officers of the Woman’s Army Corps. The Maxwell Field band seated on the Capitol grounds near the imposing statue of Jefferson Davis erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, played Southern airs, beginning with “Dixie”, much to the delight of the old men. The front of the Capitol was decorated with a large Confederate flag suspended from the balcony above the portico, flanked on either side by a United States flag and the flag of Alabama, the latter a red St. Andrew’s cross on a white field, reminiscent of the battle flag of the Confederacy.
Seats were provided on the portico of the Capitol for the Veterans and chairs facing the Capitol were occupied by the audience. Hon. T. B. Hill, of Montgomery, made the introductory remarks and presented the speaker of the occasion, Judge Walter B. Jones, who delivered an address that touched all hearts and will be preserved in many libraries as it is reproduced in this issue of the Quarterly for that purpose. Each Veteran in turn, stood upon the spot where Jefferson Davis stood when he took his oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America. The spot long ago was marked by the Ladies Southern Memorial Association, of Montgomery.
Judge Walter B. Jones
The Bible on which Jefferson Davis took his oath of office and upon which all Governors of Alabama since 1853 have been sworn into office, kept securely in its glass cabinet in the World War Memorial Building, was placed near the star for the occasion. The Great Seal of the Confederate States of America was also in the case. In the group of seven Veterans that posed for a photograph was one Negro man slave 90 years of age who served in the war as a bodyguard to his master. This man, Dr. R. A. Gwynne, lives in Birmingham where he is a well-known character.
A Banquet is Held
In the evening a banquet for the Veterans., Sons of Veterans and representatives of the other patriotic organizations of the Confederacy, was given at the Whitley Hotel with an audience of four score men and women. The decorations were unique and appropriately centered with a large stagecoach around which were placed small Confederate soldiers bidding their sweethearts’ goodbye. Vases of flowers were decorated with figures of old fashioned girls wearing antebellum hoop skirts, as were the decorations of the place cards. The toastmaster of the banquet was John R. T. Rives. The principal speaker was Hon. Chauncey Sparks, Governor of Alabama.
Others included Mrs. Adelaide Van Diver, Prattville, Division President of the U.D.C.; Mrs. Bibb Graves, former U. S. Senator; Mrs. L. M. Bashinsky, former President General of U.D.C., Dr. Wingfield, Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others. During the evening the Confederate Veterans were introduced and several of them made appropriate talks. Mrs. Thomas wore a Scarlett O’Hara dress and received vociferous applause when she sang “Shortenin’ Bread”.
Governor Chauncey Sparks
Golden Anniversary Luncheon
Following the exercises at the Capitol the whole company repaired to the Civic Room of the Jefferson Davis Hotel where the three Montgomery Chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy gave a luncheon. Mrs. Albert Pickett, of Montgomery, was in charge. Mrs. Jesse Roberts, of Montgomery, Past Division President of the U.D.C. was Toastmistress. The long tables were soon occupied and additional tables were hastily set up to take care of the many guests who arrived belatedly. The particular occasion was not only to honor the Veterans and Sons of Veterans but to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A large birthday cake commemorating that momentous event was decorated with fifty golden candles. The cake was cut by Mrs. Roberts and served to the entire company. Group singing included “Dixie”, “Bonnie Blue Flag”, and “Auld Lang Syne.” The Veterans left Montgomery feeling very happy and grateful for the hospitalities shown to them and for the love expressed for them by everyone.
- The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 06, No. 01, Spring Issue 1944
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