Confederate Drill Team (1961)

It should be abundantly clear after viewing this video why the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission hopes to steer clear of reenactments.  Nothing like going to see a Confederate drill team show their stuff followed by the execution of a “Yankee” spy.  This was filmed at “Six Flags Over Texas” at the beginning of the Civil War Centennial.  Click here for another video of photographs of the various Civil War-related exhibits.  I can’t wait to show this to my Civil War Memory students.

14 comments… add one

  • Judy Gallegos Jan 13, 2009

    I’ve been a lurker here for some time and agree that this is in poor taste. But would we have felt the same if the drill team had been wearing Union uniforms?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 14, 2009

      Hi Judy, — Thanks for joining the conversation. What do you think? I would have the same reaction. Of all the things to demonstrate for scores of families why would they reenact an execution?

  • Greg Rowe Jan 14, 2009

    I agree, the reenactment of an execution is clearly in bad form, especially in a “family entertainment” park.

    However, in looking at your second clip of various scenes from the park, I’m not quite sure what the point would be in showing this clip to your Civil War Memory class in specific reference to the Civil War Centennial. Six Flags Theme Parks, of course, started in Arlington, Texas. While I cannot remember the exact year the park opened up, it originally flew the six flags (Spain, France, Mexico, Texas, Confederate & US) that are a part of Texas history. That display at the park would have gone on with or without any major celebration of the war. In other words, the display of the flag was not centennial-specific in this instance, so much as it was an effort to support a motif that would stick in the minds of the public, particularly Texans. This makes for an interesting study not only of Civil War Memory, but also how we have elected to remember other countries and cultures with which we are legitimately connected. That is not to say that a political statement was not being made with the flying of the ANV banner, nor that people did not attend the park to see “cultural” remembrance events such as the 1961 reenactment during an era in which African-American were not encouraged to attend the park.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 14, 2009

      You make a good point and thanks for reminding me that the exhibit would have been permanent. Still, it does tell us quite a bit about how the past was marketed/packaged to middle-class America at the beginning of the centennial. For that reason I will show it to my class.

      • Greg Rowe Jan 14, 2009

        That’s fair enough.

  • Robert Moore Jan 14, 2009

    Kevin,

    I sincerely hope that the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission didn’t opt to steer clear of reenactments based on the way they did things back in 1961. Reenacting has come a LONG way since then. Granted, there are still a number of problems in the way that reenactments portray events (and perceptions of the soldiers) of the war, but none near as pathetic as the way they were represented in the reenactments of the 1960s, 1970s or even the 1980s.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 14, 2009

      I should have been clearer. The concern was not simply with the reenactors but with the audience and the potential for a repeat of what happened at the reenactment for First Manassas in July 1861. Let me be clear, however, that I have not heard that the commission will not endorse reenactments, just that concern has been expressed from certain quarters.

  • Robert Moore Jan 14, 2009

    O.K., that clears it up a bit. I do agree, however, that there are reasons for concern about getting involved in the reenactments. I think it might diminish, to some degree, the ability of the organization to be seen as one that has the intent of being serious and true to “the history” in reflecting on the war.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 14, 2009

      I should also have said that this problem of official endorsement is also about who gets to use the official label of the sesquicentennial commission. Do we really want just any organization (reenactment, etc.) to have access to it given the goals of the commission?

  • Jonathan Mahaffey Jan 14, 2009

    I thought “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was a rather odd choice of background music for the reenactment video, especially considering “Johnny” gets executed. I wonder if the individual who posted it to YouTube was being intentionally ironic?

  • TF Smith Jan 15, 2009

    Posted this in the wrong place, above, but:

    In reference to the state of art in terms of Civil War remembrance in 1960-61, something that might be worth considering are the names assigned to the USN’s 41 SSBNs equipped with Polaris and/or Posiedon SLBMs.

    These ships were authorized during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and the choices made for nomenclature (“American patriots” as opposed to the then-traditional “marine life” names for subs) are interesting:

    Of the 41 boats, only four (USS Robert E. Lee, SSBN-601; Abraham Lincoln (602), Ulysses S. Grant (631), and Stonewall Jackson (634)) would come to mind as figures from the Civil War period (although there were SLBMs named after Sam Houston and James K. Polk, among others, whose lives were intimately connected with the Civil War.)

    Overall, all 42 individuals (counting USS Lewis and Clark as a two-fer) honored are male, although not all are soldiers/statesmen types – Thomas Edison was honored, for example, as was the humorist Will Rogers. Rogers is fairly quixotic, but there are some others that sort of make you scratch your head in terms of “what were they thinking?”…

    Four foreign nationals (Lafayette, Von Steuben, Pulaski, and Bolivar) were honored, as was one (Mariano Vallejo) who became a US citizen more or less by force; also honored were two “natives” (Kamehameha and Tecumseh); Kamehameha died without any knowledge of the existence of the United States, presumably, and Tecumseh, of course, actually fought against the US as a British ally in the 1812-15 war.

    Exactly one African-American is honored, and he was not, for example, Frederick Douglas; instead, USS George Washington Carver was christened as such.

    The memoranda back-and-forth about the names selected for these ships could offer some real insight, I’d think.

  • Clint Skinner Jun 14, 2009

    As the creator of this video, I would like to set the record straight. SFOT was a theme park designed by Angus Wynne, Jr. as a way to celebrate Texas heritage and to do so while having fun. There were six flags that flew over Texas, so there were six sections. One of the section was the Confederacy section. The purpose of the section was to recreate Texas as it might have been during the Civil War. In addition to the the drill team and execution, there was a recruitment ceremony which started by a speech made by the lieutenant. Afterwards, boys and girls “enlisted”. The boys learned ROTC maneuvers while the girls learned first aid. The drill team performed a routine for the public. At the end, it was interrupted by a guy, who was later executed. From 1961 to 1964, it was a spy who met this fate. From 1965 to 1967, the person was a deserter. The Confederate Drill Team was eliminated in 1968.

    As far my choice of music, I only know of two songs associated with the Civil War. I had already used “His Truth Is Marching On” for a previous video, so I was stuck with “When Johnny Comes Marching On”.

  • Kevin Levin Jun 14, 2009

    Mr. Skinner,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Just to confirm, were you the one who originally took the video in the 1960s or are you simply saying that you uploaded it to YouTube?

  • Clint Skinner Jun 14, 2009

    One of my friends found it at a garage sale.

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