Groups to mark anniversary of Jefferson Davis inauguration in Montgomery
Today marks the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as the president of the Confederate States of America.
On Saturday, the occasion will be celebrated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans with their Confederate Heritage Rally 2011 at the Alabama State Capitol at noon.
The group will commemorate the founding of the CSA, the inauguration of Davis and the raising of the first Confederate Flag and will involve re-enactments, cannon fire and speeches.
Davis was elected provisional president of the CSA at a congress held in Montgomery on Feb. 9, 1861.
The SCV will re-enact the inauguration with the hope of attracting a large number of visitors to Montgomery, according to Thomas Strain, the SCV Commander of the Army of Tennessee.
The re-enactment will take place at the Capitol starting with a parade at 11 a.m., which will include units from throughout the former Confederate states, as well as other states that were not members of the CSA. This marks the first nationally sponsored event in observance of the five-year sesquicentennial.
“The SCV and re-enactors have been working for months preparing a precise replication of the events of 1861,” Strain said in a press release. “The event is expected to attract history buffs from throughout the world, especially those interested in the War Between the States, mistakenly known as the Civil War.”
SCV Commander-in-Chief Michael Givens said there will be free parking in the vicinity of the event. Confederate infantry and artillery units will participate in the parade and events at the Capitol.
“We have worked diligently with experts to have every detail as historically accurate as possible,” Strain said. “We are heartened by the tremendous response we have had from those who have volunteered to participate. We are overwhelmed by the number of people who have indicated a desire to attend.”
Is it right or wrong to celebrate Davis’ inauguration?
Auburn University at Montgomery associate professor of history Ben Severance says the event will spark passionate debate, which is a good thing because it engages the public in historical matters that are still important, such as race relations, the role of government and the right of revolution among others.
“I have no problem with one group of people commemorating Jefferson Davis, even as I have no problem with another condemning him,” Severance said. “On the one hand, a compelling case can be made that Davis personifies a very real instance of self-determination, whereby white southerners declared their independence from a Union that they felt no longer treated them with the equality they deserved.
“On the other hand, Davis personifies a white supremacist mindset that proclaimed slavery a positive good, one worth fighting to preserve.”
Severance says the problem with today’s “often rancorous” discourse is that this topic and the entire Confederacy has become an “either-or showdown” where it’s either exclusively about the states’ rights and heritage or it is about slavery or heritage. Further, it leads to a dualistic tirade about good versus evil, Severance said.
The Union also had a Jefferson Davis, Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, US Army. The latter was not a shining counterpoint to the Confederate Jeff Davis, however. Among other things, General Davis murdered a superior officer during a quarrel and was severely criticized for his racist attitudes toward freed slaves.