Saturday, July 25, 2009

South Carolina: Jeff King, Day 5

The Confederate Memorial sits in a park near the former State Route intersection. The note on the monument says “moved with permission of the John D. Kennedy Chapter UDC February 25, 1950.” This monument is across the street from the Camden Archives and Museum, 1314 N. Broad, a nice museum with information on General and Mary Chestnut and, most interesting, the Angel of Maryes Heights (Fredericksburg), Richard Kirkland, as this was his hometown. I failed to visit his grave (he was killed at Chickamauga). I did visit the horse trough monument to his memory at Monument Park at the intersection of Laurens and Broad streets. Go to the corner of Chestnut and Lyttleton to visit the gazebo monument in Rectory Park to Camden’s six CSA generals – Kershaw, Chestnut, Deas, Villepique, Sigantey and Kennedy.
The sadness of the Florence National Cemetery is pronounced. It brings back melancholy memories of the unmarked unknown Confederate trenches for the battle dead at Shiloh TN and Iuka MS. Of course, those were battle casualties. These 2,300 Union men passed away in the Florence Prison facility. This National Cemetery is arguably the most active and largest I’ve visited aside from the one on the Oahu Island of Hawaii. Additional land outside the south gate and across the street are being filled quickly with veterans from our recent wars. The location near Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine bases has made Florence an important final resting place.

At least two dozen markers simply show the number of unknown graves in a trench, varying from 11 to 161.

Somewhere in these trenches is Ohioan Alfred Cannon. Cannon’s story is summarized in a plaque at Canal Winchester OH. There was an exchange by lottery and Cannon’s ticket came up. He was a single man and gave his ticket to friend with a family. He died later of typhoid at Florence Prison. Unlike Andersonville GA, Clara Barton and other administrators had no records to use for headstones on these burials.

One must-see grave site is that of Florena Budwin who disguised herself as a man to stay with her husband until he died at Andersonville. She passed away here after her transfer and is the only female Civil War prisoner to be buried at a National Cemetery. This cemetery also has Revolutionary War interments such as Jacob Brawler and his 22 sons.

It may be worth delaying a visit to Florence as there is an effort to do more interpretation at the prison stockade site. When I visited, there were trails, a guard tower, an historical marker and a gazebo just off Stockade Drive at the 16-acre site.

The Florence Museum at the intersection of Graham and Spruce streets has some nice displays including the huge propeller of the CSS Pee Dee, a rare camp commander’s cot, and the 8th SC Battle Flag. Henry Timrod, a Poet Laureate of the Confederacy, is honored with a local park off Cherokee Road near Park Avenue.

My favorite stop on this day was the War Between the States Museum at 107 S. Guerry. Dripping with secessionist attitude with some true gems about local and not-so-local Confederate history. Be sure to check ahead as it is not open every day. I visited on a Wednesday and could have stayed the whole day. A warning for souvenir hunters, they do have abundant unique articles, but they do not accept credit cards nor Yankee Script. I really enjoyed the in-depth displays, portraits such as General Helms during the victory celebration at Chickamauga, CSS Pee Dee information, Hunley information, a unique ambulance cart water keg, and especially the Florence Prison Camp diorama. This is a do-not-miss location! Be sure to pick up some the modern Confederate literature so as to appreciate a perception not often expressed. My copy of “The Uncivil War” has been enlightening.
Few if any Civil War stops are more pleasant than Cheraw. It is a beautiful town and a bit off the beaten path. To show you how friendly they are: If you go to the Chamber of Commerce/Visitor’s Welcome Center, 221 Market St., to see the Lyceum Museum, they hand you the key and ask you to lock up when you are done. We would do that back in Jay County, Indiana, or even in Alta, Iowa, when I lived there, but I’ve seldom seen that sort of hospitality anywhere else. The museum goes into great detail about Sherman’s occupation and the extensive foraging. There are remnants of the fire that Union troops set, which destroyed the business area. There is a pen that signed the SC Ordinance of Secession. There is information on the CSS Pee Dee and its only engagement against Sherman. Be sure to see the first Civil War Monument ever erected (apologies to the church in Liberty, Mississippi) in the St. David’s Episcopal Church yard at First and Church streets. Due to Union occupation at the time it is a very “mellow” monument in comparison to the hundreds that followed.
For music lovers, there is a cool statue of Cheraw’s own Louie Armstrong forever blowing on his horn in front of the Visitor’s Center. Ask for the walking tour brochure of Cheraw at the Visitor’s Center. It is very detailed and full of Civil War information.
Be sure to see the secession rock near the Courthouse on Main Street that commemorates Chesterfield's first official secession meeting on 19 November 1860.

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