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History comes back to life at Camp Davis

POSTED: April 30, 2012 8:22 p.m.
Photo by Pat Donahue/

Angela Canty, Helen Stokes, Becky Morgan, Barbara Scott, Patsy Zeigler, Veronica Howard, dressed in period costume, and Danny Harden, Jimmy Rahn, Jimmy Thompson and Gill Zeigler, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp Davis, grace the steps of Woodlawn Plantation.

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Effingham County will step back in time next weekend, thanks to the Effingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of Confederacy.

The CVB, along with other organizations, will mark the 150th anniversary of Camp Davis, a Confederate States Army training camp that was established just north of Guyton. It is the present-day site of Woodlawn Plantation. The commemoration of Camp Davis will be held May 12,with gates opening at 9 a.m. and the first cannon firing to be held at 9:30 a.m.

"I think it’s going to be a wonderful event," said Guyton city alderman Dr. Brenda Lovett.

"When you think of the Civil War, you think of those turbulent times. But it will bring people together."

Camp Davis was organized in February 1862 and was operational until May 1862. During that time, more than 4,000 soldiers from 54 south Georgia counties trained. The territoryincluded 13 counties that were constituted until after the war.

"Some may ask why are we commemorating the Civil War, and rightly so," said Ruth Lee of the Effingham CVB. "But it has been said that those who fail to remember their history will relive it."

Five infantry regiments were mustered at Camp Davis, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp Davis chapter will conduct re-enactments of life at the camp for Confederate soldiers, including medical exams, the issuing of uniforms and infantry drills.

"The men who trained here at Camp Davis, and those who trained in many other places, including those training for the Union Army, were training to fight for what they believed in," Lee said. "It’s easy to say that it was all about slavery, but there are other issues just as important to each side. These men who trained to be soldiers were for the most part honorable men who believed their cause was right."

As part of the day’s activities, the Camp Davis chapter will unveil a historical marker for the site of the former training camp.

The number of American soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who died in the Civil War, which lasted from 1861-65, stands at more than 625,000.

"We paid for it with the lives of our young men and some not so young," Lee said. "This war is the most costly war in human life that our country has ever endured. We cannot afford to forget that while the battle was tough and there were wins and losses for each side, that we came out of this horrendous battle as a nation united, showing the basic strength of their character of those who fought and died also of those who found a way to unite us again as one nation under God."

The Camp Davis settlement will be made to look as close to the original encampment as possible, Lee added, with sutler-type outfits offering their wares and fresh vegetables for sale that were part of that era’s food supply.

The Camp Davis commemoration is the first in a series of events noting Effingham’s role in the Civil War. An event scheduled for 2013 will be centered around the Confederate hospital that was based in Guyton, and in 2014, the Effingham CVB will mark the incident at Ebenezer Creek and the effect of Sherman’s march to the sea on Effingham families of the time.

The events are part of the Georgia Civil War Commission’s 150th commemoration of the Civil War in the state.

Lee also expressed the CVB’s gratitude for the Historic Effingham Society, local historian Norman Turner, Woodlawn owner Warren Ratchford and the local governments.

"We especially express our appreciation to the board of commissioners for their foresight in bringing a team of 10 experts from various state agencies to do a full assessment of our historic venues and events for Effingham County," Lee said. "Without this support of county and city governments who joined in on this effort, we could not be on the eve of producing the first of many events of historic significance to follow in the near future."

Lovett also is anxious to help show off the county’s history and Guyton to the visitors expected at Camp Davis.

"Bringing in tourists to Guyton is going to be wonderful," she said. "We’re real excited. We’ve got to learn from our history."

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