Last Shot

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It took nearly 25 years for my greatgrandfather Emory Lively to achieve a war-born dream. During the 1863 buildup to the battle for Chattanooga, Emory was camped with the 3rd Alabama Cavalry in a grove of oaks near the top of Lookout Mountain. He was so taken with the magnificence of the area that he vowed to his brother: “When this war is over, I’m gonna build me a house here.” In 1887 Emory finally returned to those oaks with his wife and four children, and eventually he put up a house large enough for the extended family. When Emory died in 1936, his spinster daughter and his two sons and their wives continued to live there. In 1941 my parents and I joined the family in the house.

The next year, in June of 1942, the United Confederate Veterans held a reunion in Chattanooga, their fifty-second get-together. The Chattanooga Free Press accounts of this event left me with a profound sense of one great strength of our country: reconciliation. While we now deplore much Reconstruction savagery, including the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws, and while the South maintains its regional culture, the Civil War did not result in thousand-year hatreds or ethnic cleansing. Seventy-seven years after Appomattox the defeated enemy could hold a reunion opened by the U.S. Marine Band playing “Dixie.” Only America has achieved postwar reconciliation.

At the close of the official reunion, some of Emory’s comrades came to visit the former battlefield, now known as Point Park and part of the National Park Service. They also stopped to pay their respects to Emory’s family. A newspaper photographer arrived in our front yard and began arranging the visitors for his camera. As an only child used to being the center of any photograph, I took my place at the forefront. My only memory of this event is that a mean lady grabbed my arm to pull me out of the picture. The stalwart soldiers appear to have ignored the angry child and the disconcerted matron, though the fellow holding the flag looks as if he might be hiding a smile under his mustache.

Although the final United Confederate Veterans’ reunion was held in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1951, this was the last reunion in Chattanooga. And there I am in ruffled pinafore, with an honor guard of nonagenarian soldiers, a momentary part of the last Rebel force in Chattanooga.