SIDNEY — One of the speakers scheduled to speak at Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend in 2020 was Mississippi native Al Arnold. That event was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
“I am delighted that he has been able to arrange his schedule to speak at our event this year,” Mike Barhorst stated. Barhorst is again serving as chair of the Civil War Living History Planning Committee. “He is one of several published authors we invited two years ago who are able to join us this year.”
A descendant of slaves, Arnold recounts his journey of at first being surprised, later accepting and still later embracing his Confederate heritage. His ancestor, Turner Hall Jr., was a Black Confederate. He served as a body servant for two Confederate officers and was an orderly for General Robert E. Lee.
Following the Civil War, Turner Hall Jr. returned to Okolona, Mississippi. There he worked for a prominent family in that community. His life’s journey eventually led him to Hugo, Oklahoma, where he established himself as one of the town’s most distinguished citizens.
In 1938, Hall’s journey took him to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as the last Civil War veteran from his community to attend the final Civil War veterans’ reunion. Hall also traveled to New York City and was interviewed for the national talk radio show, “We, The People” in 1940.
One hundred and three years after the Civil War, Hall’s great-great grandson, Al Arnold, was born in Okolona, Mississippi. Raised in North Mississippi, Arnold would later discover his ancestor’s storied life and began what turned out to be an eight-year journey of discovery as to what could possibly have motivated his ancestor to serve in the Confederate Army.
To his amazement, Arnold discovered that 72 years after the Civil war, his ancestor was a proud Confederate. He also discovered that Turner held in his possession a cherished gift from the Confederate Civil War General, Nathan Bedford Forrest.
During his research, Arnold discovered that his ancestor enjoyed a warm friendship with Forrest and was proud of his service in the Confederate Army. As he researched his ancestor’s connection to the two famous Confederate generals, it awakened in him a new perception of curiosity about his Confederate heritage, certainly challenging his traditional thoughts.
Over time, Arnold grew to accept and embrace his heritage. He has a strong desire to see African-Americans better understand their Confederate heritage rather than outright rejecting that heritage based on notions of ideology. Arnold’s personal journey of discovery is one of faith, heritage, race and family wrapped around the grace of God.
As Arnold relates the story of Turner Hall Jr., he talks about his personal Confederate journey and how family and faith have brought harmony to his own heritage. Arnold advocates for the revitalization of the lost Black history of the Civil War era. During his talk, he bestows dignity and honor on his Confederate ancestor and challenges the traditional thoughts of modern African Americans. He believes that his faith is the uniting force that reconciles a colorful past to a bright future.
In addition to “Robert E. Lee’s Orderly: A Modern Black Man’s Confederate Journey,” Arnold has written “Robert E. Lee’s Orderly: A Black Youth’s Southern Inheritance and South Toward Home: Abortion and the Negro Dilemma.”
“Arnold will be bringing copies of his book with him and will autograph copies for those who purchase them,” Barhorst stated. “I know that he will add a uniquely different perspective to our event. He will speak at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.”
“I’ve spoken on numerous occasions throughout the south,” Arnold stated. “I’m looking forward to getting to Sidney’s event and sharing my story with northerners.”
The gates of Tawawa Park will open for Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. Although the park will be closed to vehicular traffic (excepting re-enactors), there will be shuttle busses that will help transfer visitors from the parking lots to the park. In addition, golf carts will be utilized to help those less mobile reach the Union and Confederate encampments. The event will conclude Sunday afternoon following a major battle, which will be fought beginning at 2:15 p.m.