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The Commission
Jul 06, '21

Memory Survives Mortality

I remembered that long ago I had, for some strange reason, when I was 15, I re-enacted the commissioning of my friend Gordon Whyte, whose father had been Deputy Commander of the Canadian Air Force Detachment at Manston Airport, Ramsgate. Gordon had been one of my best friends at school and also another Civil War enthusiast. We often used to stalk each other with our air rifles, a bit like playing paint ball. The only rules were that you didn’t aim at the face because it was dangerous, so you aimed at the foot, especially the leather boot. If you got hit on the ankle or the leather boot then you were deemed dead.

I remember one day stalking in an orchard near his house on the airfield, were I made a particularly fine shot, hitting Gordon with a lead pellet at a good 100 yards. Unfortunately it missed his boot and hit him immediately above the ankle, causing him to jump several feet into the air. He had a lovely little pink pellet mark on his ankle, which we judged a fine trophy of war! I was particularly proud of that shot, because he hadn’t seen it coming and it was extremely accurate, although just a few inches above the boot unfortunately. For a 100 yards that was a pretty good shot.

Gordon of all my friends had been one of my best Confederateers. So I planned his commission in order to honour him as he was leaving for a place at boarding school in Hastings, East Sussex. Being now a veteran re-enactor of some 4 years and seeing that I had raised a Company of troops - Baillie's Rangers from among my school chums. I had already promoted myself to the rank of Captain in my own mind. Although for the film project I held the rank of Sergeant, as can be seen in the actual movie and on the still photographs taken at the time. This was a deliberate act, as I had not wished to distance myself too much from my men. It just happened that way. I can not honestly recollect making a conscious decision to do this - it just fell into place. All I knew was that this was all just a hobby!

Saturday evenings after work were spent sewing whilst watching a Cowboy Western series on TV called The Cimmaron Strip. I had made the Cavalry Officers uniform over several weeks as a project, it was entirely hand sewn, with the three gold bars on the collar, the rank of Captain in the Confederate Army and with gold braid chicken guts on the sleeve. I had converted an old grey cotton overall from my first Saturday job at Boots the Chemist and the most difficult alteration was the sewing of the braid on the sleeve, a very tricky procedure indeed.

I think you will agree that this was extremely strange behaviour for a 15-year-old adolescent boy! Well nobody else wanted to promote me, so like every thing else in my life this time around; I did it myself! Now I needed a trusty Lieutenant, I felt deeply that he had earned the privilege and that I would honour him be fore his departure.

. Fortunately the whole ceremony was captures in photographs for posterity, thank goodness. Finally in the Easter holidays, 1970, I acting as Brevet Regimental Colonel commissioned my compatriot in the field, 2nd Lieutenant Gordon Whyte, an Officer in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. I wrote out his commission, signed it, sealed it and then presented it to him in front of the all-important witness, my bemused sister.

This whole event is worth reiterating in detail, because I not only re-enacted what should have happened to Baillie in the field with the 5th Georgia Cavalry. But I even used the exact same language, as phrased in the historical letter of the proposed commission signed by the Colonel Robert H Anderson, ol' Marse Bob himself. This one piece of evidence is in itself conclusive proof, beyond question and reasonable doubt that subconscious memory survives mortality!

Baillie had always wanted to be an officer. He wanted desperately to get that commission. In doing so he would surely have won his bride, Sarah Elizabeth "Sallie" Spalding. I had re-enacted this completely when I was 15, without knowing it. Now I had won my bride, my blonde-haired lady, but there was still the niggling possibility that I hadn’t quite fulfilled all my subconscious ambitions on the Officer front. I therefore began a relentless quest to fulfil this emotional drive, this burning need to put right the wrongs of the past.

After working and changing schools to Hartsdown Secondary School in Margate, and having a wild time there. I decided, because of the Teachers’ strike in 1984 that I would enquire as to the possibility of joining the army to gain a commission, I was now coming up to 30 years of age and time was running out. I had also investigated joining the Territorial's and gaining a commission through part time soldiering, but as luck would have it they are historically the 3rd Foot Regiment the Buffs - those damned Infantry again and my subliminal phobia kicked in! Yet I was determined not to give up.


Original b/w photographs stained with photograph inks.

Proving Memory Survives Mortality

The hand-written letter requesting that Private Alexander Baillie Kell be promoted to second Lieutenant in the 5th Georgia volunteer cavalry, CSA. Signed by Marse Bob, Colonel Robert H Anderson Colonel Commanding. Baillie‟s fate hinged on the two words “Drill Master”, had the words been more forceful or relevant he may well have received his promotion and history would have been changed.

The letter was counter signed by none other than General P G T Beauregard, Officer Commanding the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. As can be seen Richmond took a pretty dim view of the idea that a regiment needed a Drill Master at this late stage of the war.

The Rest is History

Whilst on duty near Savannah at camp Davant in August 1863, Baillie was finally recommended for promotion to 2nd Lieutenant by Colonel Robert H Anderson, affectionately known to the men as Marse Bob. His qualities as a gentleman and potential officer had finally been recognised, surely with the counter signature of General P.G.T. Beauregard, he would get the long awaited promotion that he desperately required too win Sallie's hand in marriage? However, due to the exceptional calibre of soldier drawn to the cavalry and low mortality rate of the Officer class, Baillie's plans went awry. The war had developed to a stage when fancy notions of promotion became meaningless among the massed carnage and destruction being wrought across the land. It would, despite the recommendations of his senior Officers never happen. Two small words in the Colonel's letter stood in the way, drill master (sic), the last thing wanted after the combined loss of Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863, was a drill master! Anything but those two fateful words, may have secured Baillie his promotion and with it, his blonde princess Sarah Elizabeth Sallie Spalding.

Richmond's refusal dashed all hope for the present time. This for Baillie was the crucial turning point in his fortunes, which mirrored that of the Confederacy itself. For at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and Vicksburg on the Mississippi the tide of the war had turned and the sun had begun to set on the fledgling Confederacy.

Everything had all been decided in the events of that fateful summer and Baillie's fate would be a fractal image of the Confederacy.

- And to think that I had the memories of the Cavalry General in Napoleon’s Armies but a short linear time before!


Pvt. Alexander Baillie Kell (1828-1912)

Born: February 23, 1828

Place of Birth: Laurel Grove, Darien, Georgia, United States of America.

Died: September 30,1912.

Place of Death: Rocky Knoll, Sunnyside, Griffin, Georgia, United States of America.

General Samuel François L'Héritier (1772-1829)

Born: August 6, 1772

Place of Birth: Angles, Vienne, France.

Died: August 23, 1829

Place of Death: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France.


Jul 06, '21
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