Since its inception in 2006, the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association has made big strides in spreading awareness and restoring and preserving pieces of the Civil War in East Tennessee.
Saturday morning, the organization took another giant leap by holding the first meeting of the Lakeway Civil War Roundtable where members fellowshipped, shared in a Golden Corral breakfast and heard from a special guest, the ghost of General Barnard Bee (portrayed by Gary Prince).
“Unfortunately, I was one of the first generals to be killed in the Civil War, and so I don’t have a whole lot to talk about,” he said. “But I’m going to talk about a little bit today about who General Barnard Bee is.”
With his brother Tommy Prince by his side, Bee (Gary) started at the beginning.
Bee was born in February of 1824 in South Carolina where he began his education and stayed behind with his aunts when his parents moved away to Texas. Many years later, he moved to New York to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.
He graduated in 1845, ranked 33 of 41 students and with many demerits.
“Well, I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed,” he said. “But the guys — you know I like to have a good time — and I enjoyed the academy. You gotta understand, we were all friends. I mean, there were some great guys at the academy…
“See, the warriors, they don’t count your demerits, your grade point, your standing, when you’re attacking,” he continued. “That’s what we did best; we attacked. We were warriors, and we were training warriors.”
After graduation, the Mexican American War (1846-1848) broke out, and Bee was in the ranks with the United States Army. He was twice brevetted during that time and, following the war, settled into military life on the frontier and, after 1855, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota where he met his wife-to-be.
In 1860, his home state succeeded from the Union, and he faced a choice.
“Ladies and gentlemen… as a soldier at West Point, we took an oath to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States,” he explained. “Now, you talk about brother against brother; we were a band of brothers. We had to make a decision, the toughest decision we had ever made in our lives.
“Do we uphold the constitution and keep the Union together, or do we take up arms with our state?” he asked. “I decided I cannot take up arms against my beloved South Carolina.”
Bee resigned his post with the U.S. Army in March of 1861, returned home and was elected lieutenant colonel of the First South Carolina Regulars; later that year, he was appointed brigadier general at Manassas Junction and was placed in command of the third brigade.
In that position, he fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, was credited with the first reference to General Thomas J. Jackson as a “Stonewall” and was mortally wounded.
“Now, why did I die?” he asked. “I wanted to be at the front. I wanted to lead from the front.”
Following his presentation, Prince presented some artifacts from the Civil War including Bee’s gun and memorabilia from the Battle of Campbell Station which were donated to the association and the General Longstreet Museum.
The items donated included Union and Confederate belt buckles, a pair of riding stirrups, cannon balls and grapeshot and bullets.
“We’re honored to honor the honorable, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
State Representative Tilman Goins, member of the association, was also in attendance. He presented the organization’s founding board members — chairman Reece Sexton and members Mike Beck and R. Jack Fishman — with a resolution from the state in honor of their accomplishments over the last 10 years.
The roundtable meetings are slated to continue with four occurring each year.
The next meeting is to be in September though a date has not been set.
Dr. Aaron Astor, author and associate professor of history at Maryville College, will serve as speaker. He will talk about his latest publication, “The Appalachian Civil War.”
For more information about the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association and their General Longstreet Museum, visit LongstreetMuseum.com.
-From Staff Reports
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