Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Confederate Cemetery Tour at Mt. Olivet

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Adelicia Acklen and her second husband emerge from the grave.
  • Adelicia Acklen and her second husband emerge from the grave.
On Saturday, I went over to Mt. Olivet for the Confederate Cemetery Tour. I've been on the tour of the city cemetery a couple of times, so I was excited to see something similar at a cemetery I've been spending a lot of time in lately.

So, the caveats up front. It is indeed a Confederate Cemetery Tour, so they are focusing on some of the more interesting Confederates in the cemetery. There are obviously a lot of interesting people (cough*Ben Allen*cough) who were not old enough to be Confederates, and I'm sure there are some interesting Northern sympathizers in the cemetery. You are not going to see them.

This picture isnt very good, but I so enjoyed the Hudsons that Im including it anyway.
  • This picture isn't very good, but I so enjoyed the Hudsons that I'm including it anyway.
Also, all of the re-enactors frame the Civil War as a kind of war for Southern independence, a freedom fight, if you will. There was no mention of the fact that this freedom fight specifically and deliberately did not apply to almost half the populations of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, and over half of the populations of Mississippi and South Carolina. Just over one in four Tennesseans (going by the 1860 census) would not have benefited from this freedom. The existence of the people for whom independence and freedom was not forthcoming was just avoided altogether, as if the past were the well-waxed hood of the Gen. Lee, slavery were the unseen engine under that hood that drove that past, and those of us standing in the cemetery were the Duke boys.

That was the most glaring omission, but I trust most people who took the tour would have noticed that was missing, if they reflected upon it. It was also interesting that Gen. Hood was barely mentioned — just twice by my count. You'd have thought that Nathan Bedford Forrest single-handedly lead every Tennessean into battle (and of course, no mention of the Tennesseans Forrest and his men killed at Fort Pillow) and earned their undying loyalty with his amazing awesomeness and ability to win.

I thought that was an interesting recasting of history, just ignoring Hood like that. And yes, the Tennessee campaign went ... not well ... to put it mildly. But I don't know if people who died before that campaign or, hell, before Hood started talking smack about who was really to blame for his military disasters in his autobiography, would have necessarily harbored such negative feelings toward him that they'd downplay his leadership. That made me raise an eyebrow, wondering if the re-enactors' feelings were leaking over into their portrayals of the people in the cemetery.

But, other than those things, if you can just meet the event on its own terms, it's really cool. I was among the first groups that went through, so I didn't get to see the cemetery all lit up, but I bet it was really amazing in the dark. The re-enactors were all really great and did a fantastic job of portraying the people they were re-enacting. Take, for instance, David Ford as John Bell. As he was talking about Bell's presidential political platform, people in our group were all "That's right!" "You tell 'em." Even I was thinking "John Bell, you are wrong!" For a second I forgot it wasn't really Bell.

My favorites were Brian Allison and Tonya Staggs as Dr. John and Araminta Hudson. They had excellent chemistry and managed to make the Hudsons' story of prisoner, gun and anti-malaria medicine smuggling seem both harrowing and funny, as if you were really hearing two people who adored each other talking about exciting adventures they'd gotten up to when they were younger. "And that is how we found our career as spies starting," Dr. Hudson explained and we all laughed with delight.

confederates_3.jpg
But everyone was really great. And they had some of the tombs open! Both Adelicia Acklen's and the Carter crypt (which is that big white tent-looking thing when you get up into the old part of the cemetery) were open and the characters came out of them to talk. That was really cool.

And it was nice to see so many people taking an interest in history and a great cemetery.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 28 is having another walking tour in the spring to raise money for the conservation of the flag of Bate's 2nd Tennessee. They featured Bates on this tour, which is really smart — introduce people to the man and then make them care about conserving his flag. That tour would definitely be worth checking out.

I would like to mention one slightly off-topic thing. On the handout they gave us, it says that the 2nd Tennessee flag is "in the collection of the State Museum, but no funds are allocated to conserve it, as well as other Confederate flags." If this is true, along the way, there has been a pretty massive betrayal of the purpose of a state museum — which should be to preserve our state heritage, even the parts of it that seem unfortunate now. Now, you and I both know that the people who work at the state museum do a great job.

So, if there's a problem, it's happening at a funding level. Just something to consider, my conservative readers — when you're arguing for massive cuts to government things you find frivolous, it means that the battle flags of your ancestors are rotting away in a drawer somewhere because the state doesn't have the money to make sure they're properly cared for.

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