The Long Road Home
Several members of the Joseph Brevard Kershaw Chapter #205 in Laurens attended the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox this past April, 2015. The group of four, Jennifer Sawyer, Registrar; Martha Gilchrest, Historian; Kim Lambert, Recording Secretary; and Elaine Thorp, Newsletter Editor, went to an event which they all said they would never forget as long as they lived. It was truly one of the most moving historical events of their lifetime, perhaps only equaled by the Hunley funeral some years back. They were escorted by Thomas B. Sawyer, 1st Lieutenant Commander of the Brigadier General Samuel McGowan Camp #40.
The group left on Thursday, April 9, missing the actual surrender day in the National Park and were later glad they did as the crowds on that day were said to be overwhelming. They went to Richmond first and had a tour of the UDC Memorial Building led by the new Archives Director Teresa Roane. What a wonderful experience to meet Teresa and tour the fabulous building on such a momentous occasion – the day of surrender.
On Friday, April 10, the group spent most of the day in the National Park, touring the McLean House, seeing a real time meeting of Lee and Grant (which actually occurred on April 10, the day after surrender), and seeing different demonstrations of cannon and artillery. The National Park service at Appomattox is to be commended for handling the large number of people attending these events and also for presenting a non-biased view of the surrender. The group saw a real time event of the stacking of arms by Confederate re-enactors and a real time Cavalry surrender. Both were touching events and there was hardly a dry eye amongst the Confederate re-enactors and the Confederate supporters in the park that day. Later that evening, the group toured the Museum of the Confederacy at Appomattox.
On Saturday, April 11, the group went to the re-enactment of the Battle of Appomattox held at the Appomattox Center for Business and Commerce. Thousands of Confederate and Union re-enactors were encamped in the fields there with many living history demonstrations and sutlers. The re-enactment itself was one of the best any in this group had witnessed, all having been to many re-enactments over the years. They also witnessed a surrender of Lee to Grant with Al Stone portraying Lee. Mr. Stone is a favorite of JB Kershaw members as he presented his monologue of “Lee’s Dilemma” at the Chapter’s Lee-Jackson Luncheon this past January. Mr. Stone, who has been in charge of Lee’s Lieutenant’s and the Army of Northern Virginia re-enactors for 25 years, retired after Appomattox. In the evening, singer-songwriter Stan Clardy presented his moving program “Soldiers in Gray” and the program closed with a ceremony honoring Al Stone in his retirement. Interestingly enough, Stan Clardy will be on the Lee-Jackson program for the Chapter next year for the 2016 Luncheon. It was as if Al was passing the torch to Stan. There was not a dry eye at the end of the program.
On Sunday, Martha Gilchrest stayed behind to take part in the stacking of arms as a re-enactor with the Louisiana 10th. At this event Al Stone gave his farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia. The rest of the group moved on to Lexington to visit the RE Lee Memorial Episcopal Church for the service, the Lee Chapel, the mausoleum which houses the Lee family, and the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery.
And then, a little over 150 years after the surrender, the JB Kershaw President Eloise Verdin was presented the Robert E. Lee Award by the Children of the Confederacy at the SC Division CofC Convention on May 16. What a touching way to end the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States.