“We want to, as accurately as possible, portray what really happened.”

So, then why is Robert E. Lee in attendance at the reenactment of the 1865 skirmish in Aiken, South Carolina between Brig. Gen. Hugh Kilpatrick and Maj. Gen. Joe Wheeler?  Of course, I don’t want to make too big a deal given that Lee is what sells tickets. However, can someone tell me why Lee, portrayed by David Chaltas, is walking around with a cross in his hand?   Is there any evidence that he did this in the heat of battle?  On the other hand, Jerry Redmon is quite convincing – perhaps too much so.

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22 comments… add one
  • Sherree Tannen Feb 24, 2009 @ 2:46

    Gary, I hope we all keep our teeth well into old age.

    Larry, you are right. Bringing in the ninjas is a step too far.

    Robert, yes the Klingons can be critical to battle strategy.

    Woodrow, you still reserve the right to fly in low and hit me over the head with an Elvis painting. I do respect your decision not to, however. It speaks well for the vampire regiment you command.

    Gentleman, until next time, I remain ever ready for the tasks that may lie ahead.

  • Gary Dombrowski Feb 23, 2009 @ 17:58

    I like the second photograph.~G

    “Look ma no teeth”.

  • Robert Moore Feb 23, 2009 @ 15:10

    Larry, I think this is also a perfect opportunity to reveal to everyone, here and now, the side that gains the support of the Klingons!

  • Woodrowfan Feb 23, 2009 @ 12:19

    Union Vampires? No less based in reality than some of the stuff I’ve heard from the more, um, enthused members of the SCV…

  • Larry Cebula Feb 23, 2009 @ 8:27

    Sherree, I think that ninjas is a step too far. We would not want the project to lose credibility.

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 23, 2009 @ 4:10

    Oh, lol….Good morning everyone. Sorry Woodrow. You are indeed a brilliant leader of the Ninja Vampires. My apologies.

  • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2009 @ 2:05


    How about you direct it and I’ll produce it?

  • Larry Cebula Feb 22, 2009 @ 22:20

    Woodrowfan: Yankee Vampires! Quit your day job and start writing.

    I am seeing an alternate reality series that one-ups Harry Turtledove. The Union is secretly controlled by vampires, led by the head vampire, “Honest” Abe. Many of the leading northern figures are vampires. Grant is not but Julia is. Lee and the other Confederate generals are an anti-vampire Christian brotherhood. They know the truth but can’t spread it publicly for fear of panic. In a key scene, swarms of Yankee vampires fly by night to Gettysburg to drink the fresh blood off the battlefield…

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 22, 2009 @ 14:18

    Ok, Kevin, Ok. Ok. Have a good evening. And truly, I thank you for the work you do. Thanks for hearing me out. Sherree

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 22, 2009 @ 13:42

    “‘Chaltas has self-published book, ‘The Legend and Legacy of Lee.'”

    Truly terrible. Not worthy of notice of either of you, both of whom are brilliant.

    Woodrow, did your grandmother beat you over the head with that Elvis painting mounted on velvet? Can we advance the argument, please, and move beyond this? (If not, Kevin, I will voluntarily disinvite myself from your blog, out of respect for you. I turned the corner when I found out about the Ebenezer Creek tragedy. You have been truly gracious and wonderful, and I have learned an enormous amount from you. I do consider you a friend, and admire and respect you. I , also, am deeply committed to eradicating racial inequality, and have been all of my life. I do not accept that in order to achieve that goal that others must be denigrated and dehumanized, however. Please take a good look at the picture of the man you chose to feature in this post. (the man with the uneven teeth) I work, every day, with men like this man–men who are Vietnam vets–men who are damaged and broken, and who will never be whole. Again, I do not know this man’s story, but to display him in this manner, no matter what foolish war game he likes to play concerning the Civil War, is beneath you. Look at this man. look at him. look at him look at him He is a man, not a toy.)

    • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2009 @ 13:49


      I don’t really understand what the problem is. I’m not denigrating anyone on this blog. The individual in question chose to be photographed for a local news story. If you have a problem with the image perhaps you should contact the news agency or the individual in question. He chose to “display himself in this manner.”

  • Woodrowfan Feb 22, 2009 @ 12:54

    why Lee, portrayed by David Chaltas, is walking around with a cross in his hand?

    Yankee Vampires? Maybe there was a unit from Salem’s Lot, Maine in that battle…

  • Larry Cebula Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:46

    Chaltas has self-published book, “The Legend and Legacy of Lee.” See http://www.lulu.com/content/656978 . The cover image of a praying Lee makes me think the photo here is no fluke. Then there is the book description:

    “Due to popular request, the author has consented to offer The Legend and Legacy of Lee in a 8.5×11 inch format. And as an added BONUS, he has included his speech on General Lee’s 200th birthday, given at the Lee Chapel on January 13, 2007. If you are interested in reading about Lee’s Christian character and learning about a true American tragedy equal to the great tragic epics, this book should be considered a must. It chronicles the life and times of Lee and his loved ones, seen through others’ eyes, and shows how his undaunting faith sustained him. Filled with quotes, accounts and poems, you will find yourself laughing and crying but most of all you will be filled with pride in America’s heritage.”

    • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2009 @ 11:18


      Yes, I have no doubt that I would find myself laughing. Thanks.

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:41

    Thanks, Kevin. Yes, there are different types of emotional attachment, and you obviously do care very deeply about what you do. The issues are sensitive, as you know. That is the point. Also, you are right about Jerry Redmond. Neither you, I, nor your readers know what he thinks and feels. I enjoy your blog very much, as I have told you many times before, and I sincerely thank you for continuing to invite me into your community, and for involving me in the conversation that ensues.

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:02

    That is the beauty of what you do, Kevin. You have no emotional attachment to the subject you are studying. That is good. That way you are able to facilitate discussion. Many in your audience do have emotional attachments to the subject, however, on either side of the issue, and that is why you probably get reactions that cause you to scratch your head in wonder. One of your fellow bloggers said that we need to conduct “courageous history”. (I am sorry. I want to give credit to the blogger, but I cannot remember which blog contained that insight) A truer statement could not have been made, since now–more than any time in our history–is the time to face and portray the past truthfully, and in all of its many aspects.

    I don’t know who the man in the picture who is portraying the regular soldier is, but he contains all of the stereotypes. He may be from Connecticut, for all I know. But in this context, he is the good old Southern redneck. Without going into all of that again, this is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. I am involved in this discussion for two reasons: the white children of my relatives who are growing up with their culture gutted; and the black children of my extended community who are doing the same. That is not OK. Also, even though I enjoyed the music videos very much, if I were a Northerner, I would not appreciate the reference to my ancestors as “blue bellied devils”, as I am sure you know, and as I am sure you brought attention to those words for that reason. In fact, I believe that one of your readers said that his ancestor died in Andersonville. I would like to extend to him respect for his ancestor, and ask his forgiveness. In return, I ask that respect be shown for my ancestors as well. How’s that for a start in the dialogue.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:08

      I think it is important to distinguish between different types of emotional attachment. Clearly, I am not invested in the way that some of my readers are. I have no interest in vindicating one side or the other nor do I identify with any one narrative of the war. That said, I care a great deal about how we remember the past since it often has political implications and beyond. As for Jerry Redmond, the news item noted that he lives in South Carolina. I guess this is how he remembers Confederate soldiers, but as for his motivation or what this says about his more general view of white Southerners is something that none of us can speculate about.

      I fixed the link for Redmond.

  • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2009 @ 8:20

    In the end, I just think these are two dynamite images.

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 22, 2009 @ 6:35

    Ok. Thanks for clarifying. I appreciate it. No offense intended. Have a good one, Kevin.

  • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2009 @ 6:10


    It was really just an excuse to post the picture. I’ve seen Chaltas do his chaplain interpretation, which is indeed quite interesting.


    Please don’t make too much of my comment. I can imagine Confederate soldiers looking pretty ragged by 1865. I did not mean it as a generalization.

  • Sherree Tannen Feb 22, 2009 @ 6:05

    Hi Kevin,

    The image portrayed by the reenactor for Robert E. Lee is obviously false. Why is the image portrayed by Jerry Redmond convincing, though? I would be interested in the reasons enumerated by your readers, in an effort to begin dialogue and bridge divisions. Thanks, as always. I am truly attempting to understand this.

  • Michael Lynch Feb 22, 2009 @ 5:50

    That’s pretty much standard operating procedure. A lot of public history events will include portrayals of well-known figures, even when those figures weren’t involved in the actual event being depicted, or will feature other little bonus attractions. These little sideshow-type deals are usually distinct from the main “battle.” A few years ago, I went to a skirmish at Morristown, TN where one of the attractions was a traveling Hunley exhibit, which was kinda nifty.

    In addition to his Lee portrayal, David Chaltas works with a group that portrays Confederate chaplains, which might have something to do with the cross. I think the guy who did the photo caption might be mistaken in saying that he’s “in character” as Lee at that moment. He did Lee at a number of events at the museum where I used to work, and I’ve never seen him carry a cross around during his portrayal. He’s a heck of a nice guy, and his presentation is pretty good.


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