The forecast from the weathermen for Saturday 29th September, for Brighton, on England’s South Coast, was not encouraging. “Heavy rain overnight on Friday will
slowly clear, followed by brighter intervals, later in the afternoon.” Since we planned an open air cemetery at noon, raincoats and 'brollies sounded like the order of the day.
I had arrived three days earlier from Florida and my time
had been filled with last minute organizing. I am indebted to my British friends, Fred and Beverly Jones, who are not Civil War re-enactors (yet), but who understood the importance
of the matter to me, chauffeuring me back and forth to Brighton every day.
In truth, there was only one slight problem, it was three days to go, and we did not yet have a memorial to
consecrate. The stonemasons only planned to actually install it on Friday, before Saturday’s ceremony. I could not keep the words of Robert Burns out of my mind, “The best laid
schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-glee, an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, for promised joy.”
I did locate the Brighton minister who had promised to
perform the actual re-consecration, and who had been impossible to contact from America. Canon Douglas Mckittrick turned out to be very enthusiastic, although pointing out, “I haven’t a clue what to expect, because
American civil war grave re-consecrations are not a popular thing on the South Coast of England.”
The previous five months had been filled with fundraising in England and America. I had never done anything like it
before and was unsure how to start. I decided that since everyone, re-enactors and spectators alike, always want to
have their photograph taken with me in the magnificent Coldstream dress uniform, I might simply ask them to pay for it. This worked so well, it crossed my mind I might take it up as a profession?
We covered some mileage in our cause. I drove 990 miles each way to Gettysburg for
the re-enactment, then another 950 to the 140th Manassas. I did numerous local events and also traveled to England to help Neville Wantling’s group, Officers of the Blue and
Gray, who were tireless and dedicated on their side of the pond. Between us we raised $3450.00 (£2300.00), to pay for the monument a month before the event.
While waiting anxiously for Friday I solved another problem, where to hold a get-together after the event. The Labour Party were holding their annual conference in
Brighton, beginning Sunday, so all meeting halls were booked, and previous efforts to find a venue had been fruitless. Fred suggested a pub in the marina, where discussions with the
surprised manager began - “Is it ok if we bring about a hundred Civil War soldiers and some Lords and Ladies here on Saturday?” After we convinced him it was not April
Fool’s Day we commandeered the top floor of “Jackson’s Wharf,” which also happened to serve my favorite beer. Things were looking up.
We also met the only American who had made the journey with us from, “The New World.” Maj.Gen. Steve Frazier (Clanton’s Brigade CSA),
had come over from Arkansas especially for the ceremony, and also generously contributed to have his name engraved on the rear of the headstone. We took him to a
pub for lunch, where he did us the honour of drinking the local brew, even though Bud Lite was available. “When in Rome....”
We finally discovered Neville and his entourage at the local campsite, but sans grave.
“You worry too much Colonel,” says Nev’ in his Manchester accent. “They’ll be here in’t morning.”
Thursday night we went to Fred’s local - and I did not sleep well.
Friday morning once more found us at the grave – nothing! When I say nothing, I mean nothing, because the memorial marking Arthur Fremantle’s resting-place had been
removed in 1935, because it was unsafe. Nothing remained on the grassy slope to mark the spot where one of our major Civil War diarists lay.
We went for a cup of tea and then back to the grave, more in hope than certainty, but behold! In a scene
reminiscent of Hamlet, men were toiling to level the slope, and in a truck was the most beautiful headstone I had ever
seen – whew! It was perhaps a good job the pubs were not open, I would have tumbled straight in for a double Scotch!
We had commissioned polished black granite with gold lettering, and GM Memorials had done us proud. By mid-day it
looked magnificent, and for once I actually had nothing to worry about - except conducting the ceremony. Click for a closeup of the inscriptions, front and rear.
All night it rained heavily as predicted, turning in the morning to that incessant English drizzle, (which seems to soak a body more than a good Florida downpour), with a menacing overcast sky
and no sun in sight. “What do you expect for September,” said Fred, “you would have thought he could have died in the summer.”
We collected a beautiful arrangement of red and yellow carnations from a flower shop, and entered the cemetery at 10.02am.
The big day had at last arrived.
Muster was at the gates between noon and one for those who wanted to march to the site, as in the original ceremony one hundred years to the day, 29th September 1901.
We had little idea how many troops would come, but as people began to arrive it was reassuring that Neville and
I would not be marching up the hill on our own. Major Day and his party arrived, who I understood had been practicing their salute for three weeks. We had flags of England and America and even a Union (Northern),
contingent, who were most welcome because Arthur Fremantle also traveled in the North, and was impressed with what he saw there.
Then there were the Fremantles, about twelve in total. Lord and Lady Cottesloe, (Cmdr. John and Lady Ann Fremantle) arrived and I introduced them to Neville, who by now had become Gen. Robert E. Lee. Other members
of the family came from far and wide to honour one of their famous sons. And to my great relief - it stopped raining!
1315 hrs, we began the nearly half mile march to the site, with over fifty troops, along with ladies in period dress. As the column halted outside the
beautiful chapel building, the grave could be seen draped with a large Union Jack and guarded by armed Confederates.
Lord Cottesloe was waiting to make an inspection, which he did with great personal
interest, talking to many and inquiring about their accouterments and regiments.
After stacking arms, everyone filed into the chapel where the original service was also held, and my butterflies
started to gyrate at roller coaster speed. I do not consider myself a good public speaker, but have found practice and preparation to be the key. On this occasion I had none of
either, because there had been no opportunity to rehearse or coordinate with troops or other speakers.
Inside, after introducing honoured guests, I called for one minutes silence, to remember
the dead and suffering from the appalling World Trade Center crime two weeks previously. Arthur Fremantle also witnessed crimes in New York in 1863. The draft riots left 200 dead,
but pale when compared to the death and destruction caused in one hour on 11th September 2001. Everyone spoke to me of this and expressed great sympathy with the American people.
Lord Cottesloe than rose to thank all participants for their sterling work in restoring one of his famous ancestors monuments.
I then briefly outlined Lt.Col. Fremantle’s epic 1863 trudge across America, for those who may not have been
familiar with it, because that was actually why we were there. I also noted regrets from two family members unable to attend.
Thomas Fremantle, Lord and Lady Cottesloe’s son, was somewhere deep in the heart of Texas, walking with a
mule called Brownie towards New York. He is retracing the journey of his ancestor, and hopes to raise in excess of $100,000 for two worthwhile charities. If any re-enactors therefore spot a weather-beaten fellow plodding along
their local byways, towing a mule, I hope you will offer him food or accommodation, in the best tradition of Southern hospitality.
Betsey, The Cottesloe’s daughter, also sent regrets. She was assisting her husband in his new position as Leader
of Her Majesty’s Parliamentary Opposition. Iain Duncan Smith had been elected to the job by a large majority of the Conservative Party membership, only a few days earlier.
Neville then told everyone about their fundraising activities and introduced his comrades, Officers of The Blue and
Gray, who received loud applause for their efforts. Principal amongst them was Gary Larkin and Kathleen Hole, portraying Lt.Gen.J Longstreet and Miss Belle Boyde. They had travelled all over The United Kingdom to gather
funds for the project and now it was their big day as well.
Kathleen then read a letter from Thomas, in Texas, text can be read here.
Cmdr. Charles Fremantle, RN. then gave a very interesting talk about other famous members of the family, including Thomas, one of Lord Nelson’s “band of brothers,” and Arthur’s father, John, who was ADC to
Wellington, at Waterloo in 1815. Full text of this speech can be read here.
It was now time to repair outside, where the weather had turned almost agreeable, (well, for England anyway), for
the formal re-consecration by The Rev.Canon D. Mckittrick of Brighton. As he explained in his opening remarks, he
had absolutely no idea what to expect, but rose to the occasion by leading the congregation in the first hymn, William
Blake’s well known “Jerusalem.” After this a formal blessing was placed on the new and glistening stones. The Lord’s prayer was recited by all, then the very British hymn, “I vow to thee my Country,” to the tune of Holts’
“Jupiter”, was sung with fervor.
Major Day then commanded his saluting party in three, (very precise indeed), volleys from muskets originally designed in England. A Howitzer was also fired, which I hoped would not waken the dead.
It only remained for me to formally close the ceremony, which I had been wondering how to do - apart from shutting up myself of course.
There is a paragraph in, “Three Months in the Southern States,” where Arthur Fremantle mentions something of particularly salient merit to the
Southern troops. I therefore ordered all soldiers to form alongside the grave, in preparation for a final “Southern” salutation.
On a count of three, the whole contingent let out a great Rebel Yell - and I
swear I heard a hearty chuckle from deep below.
A video will shortly be available for a nominal fee. If you would like to reserve one, e-mail here.
Photographs provided by various participants with thanks. More can be seen here. Anyone with other pictures who
would like to see them on this site, e-mail as a jpg attachment not larger than 150kb each picture.