Local members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a historic, heritage and honor society of male descendants of soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War, will observe April as Confederate Heritage and History Month. Plans are set for several public events during the month.
According to Michael Sorrell, commander of Ogeechee Rifles Camp #941, the SCV will begin the month's observance Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Confederate Monument on the square of the Bulloch County courthouse and place wreaths of remembrance at the monument. It will be followed by a brief memorial service. Sorrell said the public is invited.
"All month long, the Statesboro Regional Library will feature an exhibit on Confederate history," he said. "Since the (Civil War) artifact find at Camp Lawton at Magnolia Springs was the hot topic back in the summer, the pictorial display concentrates on Camp Lawton," Sorrell said.
Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans want to involve the public as much as possible in the month-long series of activities, he said.
"Many times the word ‘Confederate' conjures images of night-riding, hooded and robed outlaws or skinheads in battle fatigues with symbols of hate tattooed on their bodies," Sorrell said. "We are not like that. Our members are people you meet everyday at the grocery store, in church, at the courthouse or who you go fishing or swing a golf club with."
Sorrell described the SCV is a diversified organization and is becoming even more so as the citizenry becomes more aware that the membership is actually a demographic of what the Confederate armies were.
"There were African-American Confederates - more than the history revisionists would like to admit - Jewish Confederates, Hispanic Confederates, Native American Confederates and volunteers from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Poland, the Orient and other places around the world that cast their lot with the South."
The observation also is part of the Sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of the costliest war in terms of American lives. More than 620,000 Americans died from battlefield wounds or disease.
"Practically everyone who died, whether they wore the gray or the blue, was an American and that number does not include civilians or those whose lives were shortened or ended after the bullets stopped flying from wounds they received or recurring health problems," Sorrell said.
Also, the local SCV will replace the large flags flying alongside I-16 west of the Ash Branch Church Road, on US 80 at Stilson and another one at the Bryan-Bulloch county line.
"Past-commander "Deke" Cox and the current 1st Lt. Commander Michael Turnage, along with Commander Ralph Randall and the Ebenezer Rifles Camp #1901 in Rincon have stepped up and have gotten our ‘Flags Across Bulloch,' as Cox likes to call it, really moving," Sorrell said.
One of the highlights of the month of events will be the "Civil War Heritage Day" April 16 at Georgia Southern University. All of the activities will take place in Sweetheart Circle beginning at 10 a.m. and last until 4 p.m.
A "living history" will be set up to show what it was like to be in a soldiers' camp in 1861-1865. There will be blacksmithing, soap-making and other similar demonstrations to depict life in the mid-19th Century.
Civil War re-enactors in reproduction uniforms and ladies dresses will be present and answer questions about "how it was." Periodically during the day, the soldiers will gather their weapons and offer musket firing demonstrations. Re-enactors also will man a full scale reproduction artillery piece and the cannon will resonate through the oaks and pines of Sweetheart Circle.
According to Sorrell, "Neil Dickey (Commander of the Buckhead-Fort Lawton Camp in Millen) got to know the folks at Georgia Southern pretty well during the dig at the prison camp back during the summer and they started kicking this idea around and Neil graciously invited us (the Statesboro camp) to get involved with them and Georgia Southern. We just want a lot of folks to come out, meet us, talk with us and ask as many questions as they would like."