BRUNSWICK, GA. | Hal Crowe hopes the removal of flags from the graves of Civil War veterans at Brunswick’s historic Oak Grove Cemetery is like the war itself: Over.
Crowe and four other volunteers were at the cemetery at 8 a.m. Wednesday placing small versions of the Third National Flag of the Confederate States of America on graves where 78 flags were taken in August.
Crowe, the commander of the Thomas Marsh Forman Camp 485 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and other camp members have battled since Aug. 15 to get some explanation for why the flags were removed in the first place. Robert M. Gindhart III, president of the Oak Grove Cemetery Society, owned up to taking the flags away and respectfully retiring them.
Gindhart explained in a letter that the little flags “soon after being placed in the ground quickly became a casualty to the elements and vandals.”
“The sun bleaches and the wind tatters,” Gindhart said, adding vandals had pulled up several and stuck them upside down in the dirt.
Gindhart suggested the camp remove tattered flags and replace them on a monthly basis, but Crowe told the Times-Union in August that if the flags had become worn it was the first time in the more than 20 years. The camp places the flags in April on Confederate Memorial Day.
Crowe said he finally grew tired of all the proposed solutions including suggestions that it was a crime to take down the flags without the owners’ permission — the camp in this case — or that the matter be mediated. Any proposed resolutions seemed to fade away, Crowe said.
Crowe said he sent registered letters to the cemetery society asking for reimbursement and never got an answer and that members never responded to another in which he asked for a public apology.
He brushed aside suggestions he go to Glynn County Magistrate Court to file a complaint to get reimbursement.
“I’ve been saying the issue isn’t the cost of the flags. It’s the principle,” he said.
Finally, Crowe said he secured a special annual permit to place the flags. A city ordinance requires a 30-day notice before anyone, including the Cemetery Society, removes anything from a grave.
Camp Adjutant James C. Carter put out a call for volunteers to put out new flags Wednesday morning. He and Crowe were joined by three others to place the flags.
Camp member Ron Clements was among those helping saying it appears some have a “different idea of how to respect flags.”
Clements said his great grandfather joined the Confederate Army in 1861 in Mecklenburg County, N.C.
There was no shortage of funds for new flags.
James MacLean of Jacksonville sent a donation and said his grandfather, William Hurt Harris, is buried in the cemetery.
“He was a doctor from Sparta, Ga.,” Harris said in a letter to Carter.
Also, Tom Warner, a Civil War researcher from Angelica, N.Y., sent a $100 donation from himself and another donor for new flags.
“It is with great sorrow that we read about the loss of your 70 cemetery flags in Oak Grove. Some people just don’t understand that you will never erase the history …” Warner wrote.
And that wasn’t all, Carter said.
“We had a $200 donation the other day for flags from one individual,” he said.
There appears to be enough money to buy all new flags for Confederate Memorial Day in the spring.