Terry Dickson, Florida Times-Union, August 24, 2016
A city police report describes the theft of 70 flags from the graves of Confederate veterans at Oak Grove Cemetery as theft of property.
Two officers of a Sons of Confederate Veterans camp say it was a desecration considering Congress long ago conferred the same status on the Confederate dead as other U.S. veterans.
The report of the missing flags was made August 18 by Hal Crowe, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Thomas Marsh Forman Camp #485.
“We can’t judge them,’’ Crowe said. “We cannot view what these men did through our eyes of the 21st Century. We have to view them through the eyes of the 19th Century.”
Many Sons of Confederate Veterans organizations still put the more familiar battle emblems on graves. Starting three years ago, the Thomas Marsh Forman Camp switched to the national flag when it placed flags at historic Oak Grove in April for Confederate Memorial Day, Carter said.
“We put this one out to not be offensive,’’ Carter said of the flag.
Crowe said the flags are not meant to take a stand on any current issue.
“We don’t get in anybody’s face. We’re not a political organization. We’re a historical organization,’’ and membership comes from ancestry, he said.
Those soldiers had originally been buried somewhere to the west near an old soldiers home for Confederate veterans, Carter said. The graves were moved inside Oak Grove to make way for a railroad that once ran along what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, he said.
Carter said the organization does more than just put out flags. It has sponsored an essay contest in the public schools, donated to the Veterans Lounge at College of Coastal Georgia and donated money to preserve Capt. George Dent’s kepi, a hat he wore during he war when he left Hofwyl Plantation north of Brunswick to lead the Glynn Rifles. The kepi was found just a few years ago in a trunk at what is now Hofwyl-Broadfiled State Historic Site.
Asked what they would do next, Carter said, “We’ll probably be redoing this and see what happens.”