Battle of Selma draws near

Published 8:11 pm Monday, March 23, 2009

People may buy their limited edition 2009 Battle of Selma t-shirt now at three locations in Selma and at the battlefield April 17-19.

The shirt is available for $20 now at Swift Drug Co., Truax & Co. and Carter Drub Co.

James Hammond, organizer of this year’s Battle of Selma event, said it was a tradition for the Battle of Selma official t-shirt to help promote the save the flags project at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The Alabama Civil War flag collection at the archives is the third largest in the nation. It is supervised by Bob Bradley.

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During the mid-1980s when the restoration of the flags began, many were in very poor condition. Since that time, the Battle of Selma has raised awareness for the flags by putting them on the official t-shirts and raising thousands of dollars for their restoration.

This year, the flag, the Magnolia Cadets Flag,” has special ties to the Selma community. This flag was sewn by the half sisters of Mary Todd Lincoln, Elodie Todd and Martha Todd White of White-Force Cottage in Selma. The flag was presented to Selma’s Magnolia Cadets in April 1861. Elodie Todd later married the captain of the cadets, N.H. R. Dawson. The Magnolia Cadets eventually became Company C of the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Their first engagement was as a part of Bernard Bee’s Brigade at the first Battle of Manassas.

Capt. Dawson and his wife were active members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where he served as warden, vestryman and convention delegate before and after the war. St. Paul’s Church was burned as Union forces under Gen. James H. Wilson destroyed anything of military value to the Confederate government.

Capt. Dawson served as a member of the building committee that saw construction of the present building designed by Richard Upjohn. The communion ewer presented to the congregation in 1869 by Abraham Lincoln’s sister-in-law is still in use today.

After Elodie Todd Dawson’s death in 1877, Nathaniel Henry Rhodes Dawson became speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and in 1886 became the U.S. commissioner of education. Both are buried in Old Live Oak Cemetery.

The flags that these men, whether North or South, fought under were special to them. In a time when tactics demanded that the infantry ranks form straight lines and deliver devastating rifle volleys into the opposing ranks, the flag in the center of the line was the only constant. The color bearer was the most honored post.

The “Magnolia Cadets Flag” was donated to the Department of Archives and History in 1903 by Dawson’s son, Henry, of Minter.