Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

News

September 27, 2011

Civil War service honored

First casualty Navarro County recalled at Pearce ceremony

Corsicana — In commemoration of the event’s 150th anniversary, the death of the first soldier from Navarro County in the American Civil War was remembered Saturday, Sept. 17 at a memorial service for “Navarro Rifles” soldier Charles W. Pennington, held at the world famous Pearce Collection housing a vast collection of Civil War artifacts and documents.  

Organized by the William Henry Parsons Camp #415, a local unit of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), an association composed of men with an ancestor who fought for the Confederacy, Parsons Camp commander Rob Jones noted that Pennington was a native of Virginia who moved to Navarro County before the Civil War.  

“As soon as the war began,” he said, “Pennington joined the army when he had no business doing so because of his health. He would pay for that decision with his life.”  

Participants included members of a number of historical groups from as far away as Lubbock and Austin. Hood’s Texas Brigade Association, Re-Activated, a statewide historical, genealogical, and educational association, served as co-sponsor of the event. Their members were joined by Civil War re-enactors, members of the R. Q. Mills Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and local history buffs.

According to a history prepared by Martha A. Hartzog of Austin, president of Hood’s Texas Brigade Association, Re-Activated, Pennington’s company, the Navarro Rifles, was part of the storied Hood’s Texas Brigade, the only Texans to fight in Robert E. Lee’s army in Virginia. Hartzog noted that not only was Pennington the first man of the Navarro Rifles to die in the line of duty, but one of the first soldiers in the Texas Brigade, as well.  

“As was the case with a majority of deaths in the Civil War,” she said, “Sergeant Pennington succumbed to disease, rather than a bullet.” Quoting from his obituary, Hartzog said that his death even though not in combat, still made him “a martyr to his love of country.”

A highlight of the ceremony was the dramatized speech of “175-year-old Frank Chilton,” a veteran of Hood’s Brigade and President of the Brigade Association. In reality, noted Texas historian Joe Walker of Waco appeared in character as the old soldier dressed in a replica of the uniform worn by the veterans at their reunions.

Walker in his persona as Frank Chilton noted the many deaths suffered by the men of the Navarro Rifles and the other companies of the Brigade.

“While we remember today the death of Charles Pennington on Sept. 15, 1861, each September brought more loss to the ranks of the Texans in Lee’s army,” he noted.

The memorial service also included the laying of a wreath at the Texas Historical Marker for the Navarro Rifles on behalf of the Hood’s Brigade Association. As the ceremony drew to a close, the crack of rifled muskets was heard in salute to the fallen soldier.

“That is an appropriate honor and the best local site for remembering Pennington’s life and death,” said Jones. “He lies buried in a graveyard near the railroad tracks in Decatur, Alabama, where he died on the way to Virginia.”

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