SCV raises flag downtown
By Michael Butler
A flag is up in downtown Tallassee. The Tallassee Armory Gurards, Camp 1921 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans raised the SCV logo flag on Monday, March 7 at its Fort Talisi headquarters, the site formerly occupied by the Tallassee Welcome Center.
The flag pole was put into place last week and stands 28 feet tall. Although the flag is not one of the flags of the Confederacy, it features the Confederate "Battle Flag" in the center.
The intention to erect a flag in Tallassee's downtown landscape has been the subject of much debate over the past few months. The Tallassee City Council passed a resolution making public its disapproval of the display of the Confederate battle flag.
"The Tallassee Armory Guards agrees that the Tallassee City Council has the right to pass resolutions which commend (or) condemn certain members of the community; however, a resolution is not enforceable," said Tallassee Armory Guards Commander Fred Randall Hughey. "Our organization’s legal counsel reviewed the current City of Tallassee ordinances, which pertain to flag poles, and determined there was no law restricting us from installing our flag pole. (The legal council's) recommendation was to erect the flag pole and fly our flag as soon as possible before the council could attempt to change the ordinance."
The city cited in its resolution at a special called meeting in February that the display of a Confederate battle flag in Tallassee will "foster resentment, upset and ill-will among its residents and harm the City of Tallassee in its efforts to recruit businesses and industry as well as provide others an opportunity to ridicule our community."
Hughey noted that the flag pole is only one phase of the group's plans for the downtown property in explaining the role of the Tallassee Armory during the Civil War.
"There will also be a flag display encircling a Confederate Soldier’s Monument and the primary flag pole will be dedicated to the memory of our local Confederates who repelled the union raiders at the Battles of Chehaw and Franklin which prevented destruction of Tallassee’s Confederate Armory," Hughey added.
The Heritage Bill has passed in the state senate with support from Sen. Tom Whatley, who is a member of SCV Camp 1921. Rep. Mark Tuggle is house chairman of the bill and also member of SCV Camp 1921. Hughey said Rep. Mike Holmes also supports the bill.
"This bill will protect our Confederate Veterans Memorial from the City of Tallassee government or any other group’s attempts to remove, revise or destroy this veteran’s memorial. Under laws passed by the U.S. Congress, Confederate Veterans have the same status as any U.S. military veteran," Hughey said.
Hughey said there are misconceptions about the "true reasons" for the Civil War.
"Many groups have been misinformed by public educators and the media into believing the lie that the Confederate flag stands for slavery when it actually stands for Southern independence from an oppressive central government," he said. "It honors the Confederate soldier who fought valiantly for the cause of self-government against overwhelming odds."
Hughey went on to note that President Abraham Lincoln agreed that the war was not about slavery using a quote from the Lincoln's preliminary proclamation to the Emancipation Proclamation.
"He said, quote, 'If I could preserve the union and not free a single slave, I would do it. And if I could preserve the union by freeing some and leaving some in bondage, I would do it,'" Hughey pointed out.
In Lincoln's letter to New York Tribune newspaper editor Horace Greeley, he also wrote, "If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . . I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free."
Hughey added that the Confederate flag controversy is "misguided."
"No slave ship ever flew the Confederate flag and the Confederate constitution prohibited the slave trade," he said. "There was even a plan for Confederate emancipation of all slaves if the South had won the war. Only 5% of Confederate soldiers families owned slaves and the other 95% where fighting for freedom, just like in the American Revolutionary War, not to keep men in bondage."
There are more than 180 members in Tallassee's SCV Chapter. Hughey said their role is "purely historical."
"The Sons of Confederate Veterans is non-political and rejects any individual who displays the Confederate flag with the intent of intimidating any citizen. The Tallassee Armory Guards are made up of most of the leadership of Tallassee including doctors, lawyers, state lawmakers and numerous businessmen.
"We have the full support of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and the Alabama Archives and History who view us as a legitimate organization worthy of many financial grants from the State Tourism Department and the Alabama Historical Commission. These groups are prohibited from granting state funds to hate groups."
Hughey concluded by stating that the effect of the Fort Talisi Complex will be positive, "rather than the negative one being portrayed by those misguided, uneducated individuals who want to blame all the country’s ills on the Confederate flag."
"Our Confederate Memorial will celebrate and focus on Tallassee’s rich Confederate history with plaques and story boards installed at the site overlooking the Tallassee Armory. SCV Camp 1921 also gives honor to our nation’s founding fathers who gave us a wonderful Constitution which gives protection to express our love for our Southern heritage without fear of molestation. When finished, we welcome all of (Tallassee) to enjoy our park and tour Fort Talisi to learn more about the 'War Between the States' and the history of Tallassee."