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"Hardtack and Hard Times": Confederate Decoration Day at Green Hill Cemetery

June 2nd, 2013 3:53 am by Ned Jilton

"Hardtack and Hard Times": Confederate Decoration Day at Green Hill Cemetery

Mike Rigsby and John "Pappy" Hawthorne fire a volley over the grave of 1st Lt. Robert J. Tipton, Company B, 19th Tennessee during Confederate Decoration Day at Green Hill Cemetery in Elizabethton. Photo by Ned Jilton II

Hundreds of flags decorated Green Hill Cemetery in
Elizabethton Saturday as members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
Confederate Order of the Rose, Civil War reenactors and area residents gathered
for Confederate Decoration Day, also known as Confederate Memorial Day.

“The special ceremony we’re having today is to honor those
men who fought in what is called that thin gray line” said Bill Hicks,
Commander of the Lt. Robert J. Tipton chapter of the Sons of Confederate
Veterans. “Just who were those men and why did they fight so hard against an
army three times their size, better equipped, better fed and better armed?”

“Most men came from the humbler ranks of manual labor. More
than half were farmers. But, most were landless tenants” Hicks said. “Close to 90 percent of those who served were under age thirty. Although perhaps one-million southern men wore a gray uniform some time between 1861 and 1865, some estimates have that at only 600,000.”

“The reasons for their risking life and limb varied but it
usually came down to four fundamentals. 
To uphold state sovereignty, regional duty, protection of the home and
protection of the family. The notion that the average Confederate waged war to preserve slavery is tenuous one at best. Only six percent of Southerners owned slaves and three percent of those owned the majority. Just as most northerners did not fight to end slavery, most southerners did not fight to preserve it” said Hicks.

Hicks then pointed to the flag flying from the cemetery pole
and said, “Today our honor flag is a version of the Confederate POW-MIA flag
and is called the ‘Ladder to Heaven Farewell Flag‘. This flag features a yellow
star which represents all those who died in the conflict, combatants and
Southern civilians. The gray field represents the Confederate gray. The Seal of the Confederacy with George Washington pointing the way is surrounded by the crops grown in the South which would include; corn, tobacco, cotton, beans, etc. The circle of stars represents each of the Confederate states. The navy blue St.Andrews Cross is one of the colors of mourning and it also represents a part of the battle flag. Above the seal is the motto: “You Shall Not Be Forgotten.”
Beneath the seal are the words “Deo Vindice” within the seal, basically means “God

Bill Dennison with the Sons of Confederate Veterans spoke
of  his great-great uncle who was a prisoner
of war having been captured on the third day of fighting on Culp’s Hill at

He enlisted at the age of 17 on April 18th in 1861, after
Virginia  secession, as a private in Co D
4th Va inf. Reg. , The Smith Blues, which became part of the immortal
Stonewall Brigade according to Dennison. After his capture he was sent to
several prison camps until Point Lookout he was admitted to the hospital
suffering from acute dysentery.

“He died there Dec 4, 1863. Less than two weeks after his 19th
birthday” said Dennison. “ He was buried in a mass grave of Confederate
prisoners along with 3,381 of his comrades. His name, along with theirs, etched
on bronze tablets that surround that lonely earthen mound. Far from the green
hills and lofty mountains of his native Southwest Virginia.”

Additional Photos

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