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UDC member says "Scalawags" responsible for desecration of "hallowed grounds"

web posted October 11, 2007

Dear Editor,
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 was.”

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.

Clarice Wise
Trenton, SC

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