The one with his hands opposite everyone else and slightly out of line is me. Photo courtesy of Bill Hicks of the Lt. Robert J. Tipton Camp #2083 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
Saturday was the centennial celebration for the Elizabethton Veterans’ Monument and thanks to an invite from Bill Hicks I had the honor to march as a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Color Guard.
I arrived at the parking lot where the parade organized at 10:30 and met Color Guard Commander Bryan R. Green, who was outfitted as a Confederate sailor. He brought out the flags and gave us a quick once over on the commands that we would be receiving during the parade. Afterwards everyone with a camera gathered to take photos while we stood at attention and for once I had no camera, felt strange.
When you look at the photos I’m easy to spot. I was wearing a “Butter Nut” color uniform instead of gray. That’s because I represent the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee in the western theater of the war, like the 19th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry I write about, and butter nut was the common uniform color.
Shortly after eleven the parade started lining up with groups representing the various wars. The folks from Sycamore Shoals provided reenactors for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Behind them was the Civil War group in which the Sons of Confederate Veterans arranged for both Union and Confederate reenactors to represent both side of the war and then provided all the flags, including the United States flag, for the group.
Just as we were about to step off the person lining-up the parade came to us and said that he was told we couldn’t carry all our flags because we had more flags than the Union troops. The color guard commander requested to speak to the person in charge and a couple of minutes later we were told that the person in charge had left for the monument and we could do whatever we wanted to do. Needless to say, the colors all flew.
The complaint was a bit of a surprise when you consider why the monument was built in the first place. Scott Bowers, Carter County historian told Johnson City Press reporter Jennifer Sprouse, “This monument was built for unity. Obviously, there was a healing process ... between the Union and the Confederate families here and this monument was supposed to be a place where they could always gather in unity.”
It was time for the parade to start and at this point I must give a big tip of the hat to all the Jr. ROTC people who bring out the colors before the football games as well as another tip of the hat to all the marching bands. This walking in step thing is not as easy as it looks. Thank goodness I wasn’t trying to chew gum as well.
The color guard commander gave to order “Forward march” and I was quickly in step---with the Watauga Fife and Drum Corps music. We hadn’t gone far when I heard the commander telling me to slow down. I was already a full step in front of everyone else. Then I had my hands in the wrong place but thank goodness all this was caught in the first block of the parade.
Back in line I tried hard to stay even with the rest and keep the flag, which is surprisingly top heavy, straight up. The commander would give us the cadence for a short distance and then go quiet to save his voice for when we reached the monument. Every time he would start up again with a “left” I was on my right foot and would try to do a quick march in place to get back in step.
As we marched over the bridge crossing the Doe River and approached the monument I was beginning to get the hang of it. We passed the reviewing stand and reached to monument where we did a wheel right and then the commander ordered present colors and we had all lowered our flags to a 45 degree angle, all even, then returned them to their original position and exited the circle around the monument and reached the end of the route.
I must admit that in spite of my failings I still had a great time. I would like to thank Bill Hicks of the Lt. Robert J. Tipton Camp #2083 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for inviting me to march and Color Guard Commander Bryan R. Green for allowing me to carry the flag of the Tennessee Division of the Son of Confederate Veterans and loaning me the white gloves for the event. I hope my miss-stepping, cross hand holding and marching too fast and slow didn’t do any permanent damage to the reputation of the color guard.
Photos courtesy of Bill Hicks of the Lt. Robert J. Tipton Camp #2083 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Dave Boyd of the Johnson City Press.