January 21, 2006

Pickett Society Chairman Dwight R. Wood, Jr., introduced Mrs. Anne Minor Baker before she offered the invocation
General George E. Pickett's 181st birthday commemoration took place January 21st. The occasion brought together Virginians, North Carolinians, Georgians, New Yorkers and many people we never got a chance to meet.

Gettysburg Hill in Hollywood Cemetery was filled with people. Vehicles were lined up and parked all around the circular drive as well as south, east and west of the pyramid. The greater than usual number attending was more than likely due to Ray McAllister's column in the Richmond Times Dispatch that morning. Ray wrote about Hugo Duarte, a singer/composer/musician, who had composed a song entitled "Hollywood" when he was accidentally locked inside the cemetery in front of General Pickett's monument during a trip to Richmond. Hugo accepted our invitation to join us and sing his song at General Pickett's birthday event. In addition, General Pickett's great great great nephew, Eddie Pickett, who is also a singer and musician, agreed to travel to Richmond and sing the song with Hugo. And if that wasn't enough talent for one event, our keynote speaker, Larry Chowning, is a published author and an award-winning journalist. Our three celebrities combined with Ed Craun's artillery crew brought all of those folks to General Pickett's monument.

Eddie Pickett (left) and Hugo Duarte stepped into the gazebo on Gettysburg Hill to sing Hugo's song, "Hollywood."
  When Hugo and Eddie picked up their guitars, camcorders appeared and the crowd grew quiet. They sang of seeing campfires on Gettysburg Hill and of hearing a fiddle playing "Bonaparte's Retreat" and of the thousands of boys buried there, many far from home.
"When General Pickett strode right up to me
In a troubled voice he said,
'Y'aint learned a damn thing from history.
Tell people 'bout Hollywood,
How it ain't home but it's home for good,
That we'd walked away from here if we just could.
We would never come back again.
Tell 'em what you saw when the sun went down.
Tell 'em for my boys restin' in the ground
That you heard in the silence how sorrow sounds
In the hills of Hollywood.'"
Fortunately, the song is part of Hugo's latest CD, "Don't Be Fooled by the Hat." People were asking if they could buy the CD before we left the cemetery. After we arrived at Capital Ale House for the sold out luncheon, it seemed like Hugo sold and signed about 50 more of them.

At Capital Ale House, Frank Earnest pulled the winning raffle ticket for the Ron Lesser print, "Into the Jaws of Hell," which depicts General Pickett and his staff during the charge in Gettysburg July 3, 1863. We congratulate the winner, Mrs. Pam Traynham of Norfolk.

Ed Craun commanding Knibb's Battery offered a salute to General Pickett's memory before he gave the order to fire. At the conclusion of the Hollywood Cemetery portion of our program, some Pickett family members gathered at the Pickett monument for our traditional photo. The Pickett Society's wreath can be seen on the left. L-R Pete Pickett, Eddie Pickett, Clay Pickett, Stephen Pugh, Kailyn Pickett, Leigh Ann Sullivan, and Anne Edwards.

Larry Chowning spoke to the group about one of his books, "Soldiers at the Doorstep; Civil War Lore." Civilian life in occupied Virginia during the War hasn't been widely documented. Larry's book tells of families whose attempts to survive and protect their property sometimes affected the military aspects either directly or indirectly. The subject matter was well appreciated by the audience and, fortunately, Larry had some copies of the book with him because they were in great demand by the group after his presentation.

Dwight Wood presented Frank Earnest with the Ace Award for his fund raising efforts during 2005 for The Pickett Society. Kailyn Pickett and Stephen Pugh are our newest members. Both are great great great grandchildren of Major Charles Pickett. Kailyn is a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and Stephen attends high school in northern Virginia.

Pete Pickett applauds as Dwight Wood presents the Pickett Society's Simon Baruch Award for Community Service to Mrs. Betty Hart. Hugo Duarte presented the Pickett Society with an exquisite cross stitch version of the lyrics to "Hollywood." A gifted friend of his created it. Standing: Pat Wood, Hugo Duarte. Seated: Benjamin Chance, Frances Fitzgerald, Terry Fitzgerald. Larry Chowning usually speaks to larger groups (Smithsonian Institution), but none have been more interested in his topic than those gathered for the commemoration of General Pickett's 181st birthday.

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