Virginia: Federal Judge Sides with Lexington over Confederate Flag Ban

Lexington’s ban on flying the Confederate flag — and other non-governmental colors — from city-owned light poles does not violate a heritage group’s right of free speech, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in upholding a lower court’s 2012 ruling.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Virginia Division, sued the city after its passage of the ordinance in 2011. U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson dismissed the lawsuit in June 2012, calling the city’s ban “eminently reasonable” because it banned all non-government flag displays, not just the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Supporters of a Sons of Confederate Veterans anti-ordinance rally held at Hopkins Green in Lexington wave flags to protest a Lexington City ordinance that would effectively ban flags, such as the Confederate flag, from flying from public lamp posts.

Supporters of a Sons of Confederate Veterans anti-ordinance rally held at Hopkins Green in Lexington wave flags to protest a Lexington City ordinance that would effectively ban flags, such as the Confederate flag, from flying from public lamp posts.

The SCV appealed the ruling to a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that while the light poles were a public forum, it’s within the city’s rights to close that forum, and that’s what the Lexington City Council did with its ordinance.

“Although the First Amendment guarantees free speech in a public forum, it does not guarantee access to property simply because it is owned or controlled by the government,” the court wrote in its opinion, adding later: “It appears that the City experimented with private speakers displaying flags on the City’s standards, and that effort turned out to be troublesome. It was entitled, under the controlling principles, to alter that policy.”

“Obviously we’re pleased,” said Jeremy Carroll, attorney for the city. “Two federal courts have upheld the city’s actions.”

The SCV can appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Thomas Strelka, the attorney representing the group, said he hadn’t talked with his client yet.

“Personally, I’d like to see it go forward,” he said.

Brandon Dorsey, commander of Camp 1296 of the Lexington-based Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his group will take it’s cue from their attorneys.

“If they still feel the case is strong, and they’re still willing to fight on, I’m sure we’ll be willing to do our part to make that happen,” he said.

Lexington City Council unanimously passed the ordinance after years of allowing not only the SCV to hang flags from the poles, but also the Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee University and other groups. The ordinance prohibits flying all but the American, Virginia and Lexington flags from the poles.

The SCV had claimed that Lexington City Council passed the ordinance to censor the particular views of the group, as represented by the flag, and that makes the ordinance unconstitutional.

The court, however, said that argument is without supporting precedent, and cited several Supreme Court cases that found the opposite. “We are governed by laws, not by the intentions of legislators,” reads one.

“The ordinance has the effect of closing a designated public forum – the perpetual availability of which was never guaranteed – to all private speakers,” the court wrote.

“All private groups and individuals remain free to express their flag-bound messages in other ways.”

Dorsey said by that logic, it would be acceptable to close a public school or swimming pool to all people to keep black children out. “We wouldn’t let that stand today against a minority class,” he said.

The SCV also claimed the ordinance violated a “consent decree” that settled a 1993 lawsuit the group brought against the city. That decree barred the city from denying the SCV the right to “wear, carry or display the Confederate flag at any government sponsored or government-controlled place or event which is to any extent given over to private expressive activity.”

The court ruled the ordinance didn’t violate the decree because it eliminated the light poles as a government-controlled place for private expression.

The SCV has two weeks to petition the 4th Circuit for a rehearing by the full court, and 90 days to file a petition to be heard by the Supreme Court.

-Matt Chittum, Roanoke Times


North Carolina: Parade Float Leads to Complaints

A local farmer’s Independence Day parade float in Hope Mills, N.C., led to complaints from several spectators and has caused the town to review its parade application process.

In the parade, Donnie Spell drove a green tractor with the Confederate flag hitched to the back. His makeshift float was pulling a wooden wagon filled with watermelons and had a sign on the side that read “WHITE HISTORY MONTH” and “HUG WTE PPL.”

floatAbout one dozen people complained to town officials via phone calls and emails, and others have expressed concerns on the town’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Facebook page and on social media.

Kenny Bullock, the director of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, said he had asked a member of Spell’s family to take down the signs before the parade started. He reportedly learned the signs were still on the float when he started to receive calls halfway through the parade.

“I believe we’ve got to make sure we’re sensitive to all people’s feelings,” Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner told The Fayetteville Observer.

Warner did not see the float during the July Fourth festivities because she was part of the parade. She later saw a photo of the float.

Spell’s parade permit application indicated that his entry in the parade would be an antique tractor pulling a trailer with signage advertising watermelons for sale in a nearby parking lot,according to local ABC affiliate WTVD.

Local officials are now considering changes to the registration process to try and avoid this type of incident in the future.

“I feel like, in my opinion, I feel like there’s a time and a place for everything,” Bullock said. “Was the parade the place? I don’t think so.”

Bullock noted that Spell has entered tractors in the town’s parades, including the Christmas one, for years.

-Andy Cossack


Tennessee: Moccasin Bend Search Uncovers Key Civil War Trail

In 1803, it was a well-used Cherokee trail. Sixty years later, it was a major supply line for Union forces. Now, it is a road rediscovered. Archaeologist Lawrence Alexander stood knee-deep in a trench, spade in hand, gesturing to a thin layer of dark soil on Moccasin Bend.

“You can’t see the road anymore, but you can hear it,” Alexander said as he lightly scraped his spade over the 2-foot-tall cross-section of soil. There was only a smooth sound of soft clay until he hit the thin layer of 150-year-old gravel.

Lawrence Alexander, principle investigator for Alexander Archeological Consultants, shows a segment of the Old Federal roadbed to board members from the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park Wednesday. Photo by Tim Barber.

Lawrence Alexander, principle investigator for Alexander Archeological Consultants, shows a segment of the Old Federal roadbed to board members from the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park Wednesday.
Photo by Tim Barber.

“That’s it, you hear it?” Alexander asked, scraping his trowel over the coarse rock.

This 40-foot-wide gravel bypass was a key to allowing Union forces to hold the city after being defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga, according to James Ogden, historian at Chicka-mauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

“In the predawn hours of Oct. 27, 1863, about 8,000 union soldiers were lined up standing here waiting to cross the pontoon bridge [at Browns Ferry],” Ogden said.

The dig has uncovered mule shoes, a harness buckle and minie balls left by camping Union soldiers. It has also unearthed an older plank road beneath the gravel. Archaeologists can’t say exactly how old the plank road was, or who built it.

But 25 years before Union engineers improved the road, another group used it — going in the opposite direction. Cherokee and Creek Native Americans used this westward path to leave North Georgia and Chattanooga, the trek that became known as the Trail of Tears.

The Friends of Moccasin Bend had been looking for the road since 2003 after acquiring the land it sits on, a 98-acre piece of the National Park Service’s Moccasin Bend National Archeological District — which was once part of the 640-acre John Brown Cherokee Reservation.

But the real hunt began two years ago, when the group sought to build a preservation trail commemorating the two important events in which the trail played a role — the Civil War and the Trail of Tears.

The trail is scheduled to open Oct. 26 for the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears and the 150th for the Civil War, said Shelley Andrews, executive director of the Friends of Moccasin Bend.

“The purpose of putting in this trail,” said Andrews, “is so people can literally walk in the steps of history.”


The property is now overgrown, and drivers on Pineville Road pass it every day and likely have no idea a road ever existed there.

But the road that connected Browns Ferry to the old Federal Road beyond Lookout Mountain was a big deal in pre-1900 Chattanooga.

The road was on the “cracker line,” an important supply line to Union troops late in 1863. The route supplied about 30,000 Union soldiers in Chattanooga for at least the month of September 1863, running 500 six-mule wagons a day, Ogden said.

Without the road to the ferry, Ogden said Union soldiers — who were already eating shoe leather at the time — would likely have starved or been driven out of the city by Confederates. Instead, they fortified and drove Confederate troops off of Lookout Mountain.

The rest is history, Ogden said.

The main federal road to which the Moccasin Bend road connects starts near the Chattahoochee River, near Athens, Ga., and runs northwest to Ringgold, over the top of Lookout Mountain and on to Nashville.

The land of Moccasin Bend wasn’t ideal for road building, Ogden said. It was mostly swampy lowlands sandwiched between a bend in the Tennessee River that was prone to flooding. But it was important, Ogden said, because it held one of the few clear pathways west of Chattanooga.

Despite being used by many people of the day, the road was abandoned by the 1900s. Railroad technology improved, and the road’s utility was diminished. Ultimately it was covered with run-off dirt, plowed over and obscured by farm land.


Ogden said teams used everything from light detecting and ranging devices, ground penetrating radar and aerial photography to locate the road, but old maps proved most useful.

Maps and historic geographic data are incredibly accurate for their age, he said, because “150 years ago, our country decided to fight itself.”

As a result, Ogden and others were able to locate the old federal bypass road by cross-referencing survey-grade maps from Civil War times with modern technology.

“Because [of wartime mapping] we can geo-reference this road to a high degree of accuracy,” Ogden said.

It also helps that many of the property lines have not changed much in 150 years, he said.

“Despite all of this [development], we are finding 200-plus-year-old fences. We’re finding property lines still in use today,” Ogden said.

It’s been a lot of work, but Ogden said preserving the history of the forgotten road will be worth it for generations to come.

“It’s an important road in Cherokee history, in United States history and Civil War history,” said Ogden.

“By developing this trail, by doing the research, it will allow us to provide the research to educate about the importance of this corridor or passageway.”

-Chattanooga Free Times Press


Virginia: Civil War Transformed American Medicine

RICHMOND, Va., My grandfather told me that when he was a boy, he would steal glances at a Civil War veteran sitting in church every Sunday. The man had a gaping hole in his forehead, a gruesome reminder of the violence of war. But it was also evidence that people could survive horrific wounds before the development of modern medicine. Why was that man alive, yet so many other soldiers were not so fortunate? Was it luck or the result of skilled medical practice?

Makeshift field hospital with wounded soldiers sitting and lying on the ground while some receive care. Includes the straw-hatted Sixteenth New York Infantry who fought at Gaines' Mill on June 27. Most were captured when Confederates overtook the area during the battle of Savage's Station on June 29. / Library of Congress

Makeshift field hospital with wounded soldiers sitting and lying on the ground while some receive care. Includes the straw-hatted Sixteenth New York Infantry who fought at Gaines’ Mill on June 27. Most were captured when Confederates overtook the area during the battle of Savage’s Station on June 29. / Library of Congress

The tendency is to dismiss the latter. Compared to today’s standards, Civil War medicine was primitive. An estimated 620,000 soldiers died during the conflict, two-thirds from disease and huge numbers who succumbed to wounds. With no understanding of germs and little concept of proper sanitation, doctors seemed powerless, incompetent and overwhelmed by the carnage that confronted them.

Despite its brutal reputation, Civil War medical care played a significant role in the advent of modern medicine. As medical historian George Wunderlich contends, the war “was a watershed that changed the practice of medicine to such an extent that it would never be the same. Many aspects of modern patient care that we take for granted today can trace their origins to that war.”

As hostilities began , neither side was prepared for the avalanche of illness, wounds and injuries that eventually were inflicted on the men in uniform. Many leaders thought the war would be short and did not believe it was necessary to establish a costly, specialized military medical component.

Within a year, however, the ghastly casualties coming from the battlefields and mounting deaths from disease forced leaders to take action. Some medical advances were made, but the most significant changes were in the way care was organized and administered.

For the Union, a new Medical Corps under visionary Surgeon General Jonathan Letterman improved the flow of patient treatment from battlefield to hospital. Letterman developed a triage system of managing mass casualties by establishing aid stations, field hospitals and general hospitals.

Eventually, the Federals started the first ambulance corps, which accelerated transporting patients to proper care using improved horse-drawn ambulances and specially equipped rail cars and boats. Soldiers had a greater chance to survive their wounds than they had in previous wars.

Hospitals became cleaner, airier and more efficient. The ward system, which segregated patients by type of injury or illness, was established and resulted in specialized care such as orthopedics and the treatment of head injuries.

Doctors were required to keep records and make detailed reports, providing patients with a medical history, a practice that became standard procedure in civilian medicine after the war.

The Confederacy organized its medical services faster than the Union, but it was plagued by limited resources throughout the war. It also did not establish a system of hospitals like the North. Hundreds of hospitals sprung up throughout the South as needed and were forced to move when Union armies approached.

By mid-1862, Richmond had become a vast medical center because of so many nearby battles. Hospitals dotted the city landscape, but one stood out. No medical facility in the Western Hemisphere equaled the size and reputation of Chimborazo Hospital on the city’s east side. It became the best-organized and most sophisticated Confederate hospital, at times treating 4,000 patients. By war’s end, nearly 75,000 patients had spent time at Chimborazo.

The Civil War’s contributions to medical care have not been fully appreciated. The pavilion-style general hospitals were models for the large civilian hospitals of the next century.

Thousands of doctors were exposed to new ideas and standards of care that proved invaluable for decades to come, including the use of anesthesia, emergency surgery and the treatment of some diseases. For the first time, female nurses were introduced in large numbers to hospital care. The U.S. Sanitary Commission was created, a civilian-controlled soldier’s relief organization that set the pattern for the future Red Cross.

Civil War medicine seems unsophisticated from today’s perspective. Wounded military personnel in Afghanistan have survived at much higher rates than in previous wars – more than 96 percent, compared to less than 80 percent during the Civil War. Yet without the advances in medicine made during the Civil War, the number of deaths from wounds and disease would have been much greater. No doubt the man sitting in church near my grandfather was living proof of that.

Charles F. Bryan Jr. is president and CEO emeritus of the Virginia Historical Society. Contact


Virginia: Civil War Camp Gets Interpretive Sign

RICHMOND, Va. — On June 17, the Garrard County Historical Society unveiled and dedicated a civil war interpretative station at the junction of US 27 and KY 34 to commemorate the commonwealth’s most under-served Civil War site.

On August 6, 1861, Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County became the first Federal base south of the Ohio River.

Richard Robinson, a Union supporter who was involved in the home guard, allowed the federal government to use his farmland as a campground.

The camp covered more than 3,300 acres in northern Garrard County. Its purpose was to recruit Union soldiers, and the property had to have an ample water supply so it could sustain 1,000 mules for four months.

Union officer and Maysville native William “Bull” Nelson, who would be the Union commander in the Battle of Richmond, organized the camp in which many of Kentucky’s first Union regiments were formed.

The camp is known as having been the first rallying-place for the Kentucky Unionists and the refugees from eastern Tennessee. The First Kentucky Calvary was formed there.

When at Camp Dick Robinson was established, Kentucky was attempting to stay neutral in the conflict.

Although Gov. Beriah Magoffin complained to Abraham Lincoln about the site, Lincoln responded that since the camp “consists exclusively of Kentuckians” and that it was not the “popular wish of Kentucky” to close it. He refused to remove the soldiers.

The largest number of troops at the camp at one time was about 10,000. Prior to the Battle of Mills Spring in January of 1862, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman visited the camp and inspected the troops. The site soon became a staging ground for several early military campaigns.

In the summer of 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s entire army of 60,000 men captured the camp and renamed it “Camp Breckinridge” after former U.S. Vice President and Confederate Gen. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. The Confederates used the camp as a supply base.

Then in October 1862, the Confederates fell back to Perryville to stay between Union forces and those supplies, which resulted in the Battle of Perryville.

Gen. Nelson, who was killed at the Galt House in Louisville in the fall of 1862 by U.S. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, was buried at Camp Dick Robinson. On July 4, 1865, an American flag pole was erected over the grave. However, in 1868 the pole was cut down at night by unknown parties. After this incident, Nelson’s body was disinterred and carried to a cemetery at Maysville, his former home.

Camp Nelson, established north of Garrard County near Nicholasville, was named in his honor. It ultimately replaced Camp Dick Robinson.

Today, Camp Dick Robinson is remembered for helping solidify the Union cause in Kentucky.

(Derived from Kentucky Historical Society.)

-Paul Foote, Richmond Register