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says "Scalawags" responsible for desecration of "hallowed grounds"
posted October 11, 2007
In the preservation of our history and heritage in Edgefield and South
Carolina, I think Friday’s and Saturday’s “Jubilee” in the guise of
“heritage” was one of the most damaging.
In 1947 the Town of Edgefield, under the leadership of Mayor Reames,
deeded the remaining 7 3/4 acres of the original 40 acre estate of
General Martin W. Gary to the Edgefield Chapter of the United Daughters
of the Confederacy for restoration and preservation. The house, of
course, was part of the 7 3/4 acres but it already belonged to the
chapter. Thurs began a long period of planting and landscaping
the acreage, as well as furnishing and restoring the house itself.
During this period the house was electrified and plumbed with monies
from UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy) chapters around the
United States as well as pieces from the estate of former Gov. John
Gary Evans who was reared at Oakley Park. There were also seven pieces
in the house that once belonged to General Gary.
Many of us consider the house and acreage as “hallowed grounds” due to
the many historical events which transpired here.
It was on the ground of Oakley Park that Generals Martin W. Gary and
Matthew C. Butler planned the strategy to rid the state of the hated
“Scalawags” and “Carpetbaggers” who for 12 long years had brought ruin
and destruction to a once prosperous and respected state. On the porch
of Oakley Park these two men, meeting with other former Confederate
Generals and leaders, plotted the “Red Shirt” campaign.
These men put their lives in jeopardy the second time for their beloved
state. The “Red Shirts” met in the grove of trees (where the Jubilee
was so callously held) and acted as couriers to carry the messages from
Oakley Park to the far corners of the state on horseback. These same
“Red Shirts” accompanied General Wade Hampton as he campaigned across
the state in his bid for Governor. These “Red Shirts” left their farms
and sometimes their families unprotected as they pitched tents on the
hallowed grounds of Oakley Park during the summer and fall of 1876.
Some brought their families with them and they too camped out as they
were afraid to stay at their homes unprotected. Many were the hardships
endured by these brave men and how quickly we forget!
It was from the balcony of Oakley Park that General Gary rallied the
“Red Shirts” just before the election in November. This is the same
area in front of the house where the stage was set up and the band
played throughout the day. From these same hallowed grounds Douschka
Pickens, with a defiant red plume in her hat, led the “Red Shirts”
1,500 to 1,600 strong around the square in Edgefield. With the “Red
Shirts” were many black men. They too, loved their state and were
willing to sacrifice their lives to restore law, order and respect to
this state. At the end of a long and hard fought campaign Wade Hampton
was elected Governor of this great state and the “Red Shirts” prevailed.
To add to the stage and band insult, beer was sold at a family festival
and the Confederate Battle flag, which has flown at Oakley Park for
years was taken down because, “it might offend someone”. The first
National flag was raised because “most people wouldn’t know what it
At the time the UDC voted (back in April) there were only three members
present who could vote. The vote was a 2-1 vote in favor of the
festival being held at Oakley Park. My vote was the lone dissenting
vote. Had other voting members been present, I would like to think the
vote would have been different. I believe our forefathers had a name
for persons such as these who would vote to allow our grounds to be
desecrated as well as our flag lowered…Scalawags.
The grounds of Oakley Park should be as hallowed as the great
battlefield of the “War Between the States; Gettysburg – where my
great-great grandfather as well as W. B. Griffis and John Bridwell of
Edgefield died and Chickamauga where such great men as Edgefield
Colonel Ebert Bland, Mayor John S Hard of Graniteville, Captain William
Clark of Saluda, Captain John W. Kemp of Mountain Springs along with
many others paid the supreme sacrifice. How would you feel if you
visited these areas and found a carnival set up on the battlefields?
You probably would do as I did after I rode around the perimeter of
Oakley Park when the carnival was set up. I came home, went upstairs to
my bedroom, closed the door and cried.
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