Madison County Opinion...

 August 9, 2000

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
August 9, 2000

Frankly Speaking

Sunken Confederate battleships reveal innovations
Two historic ships are being rescued from watery graves. Both reveal a long-neglected truth about the Confederate States of America. The two ships, the CS Hunley and the CS Denbigh, each contained major innovations. The Hunley was the first submarine actually used in combat. The Denbigh, a blockade runner, contained design features in both its hull and its steam engine that made it one of the fastest ships of its time.
Innovation was a hallmark of the Confederate war effort. But many of the artifacts of that innovation have been lost or forgotten. For example, the Augusta Powder Works used innovative production techniques that produced the best gunpowder in the world. Not only did they make the best gunpowder, they produced it in high volumes. The Confederate army never lost a battle due to lack of gunpowder. It is noteworthy that the entire workforce for that factory was black!
Irregular forces supporting the Confederacy pioneered guerrilla warfare in Missouri and other western areas. Small bands of fighters, often consisting of fewer than 10 men, fought to disrupt Yankee troops. A recent movie, "To Ride With the Devil," is a good representation of these fighters.
Both sides made use of modern transportation in maneuvering on the battlefield. Railroads and riverboats were regularly used to move troops into unexpected positions. Many of Robert E. Lee's victories were due to such rapid shifting of forces.
Now that the Hunley and the first artifacts from the Denbigh have been recovered, we have an opportunity to learn more about the innovations of that war. The discovery of these ships will create more interest in the War Between the States and prompt new studies about the history of the period.
Reports from the Hunley indicate that it is in excellent condition. Searchers expect to find documents, artifacts, and even the bodies of the nine men who died when it sank. The information to be gleaned from the ship is dramatic and extensive.
Recovery and restoration of the two ships will be expensive. Special holding tanks have been built to house the Hunley until it can be preserved. Several years of effort will be required before it is ready to be put on display.
To me, that is as important as the actual recovery of the ships. We as a nation have neglected our history in recent years. Our students have little knowledge of events that produced our modern nation. If the work to recover these vessels can excite more interest in history, the effort to recover them is well worth the cost.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
August 9, 2000

From the Editor's Desk

Lottery advertising should be stopped
Clearly, some advertisers employ questionable tactics in pushing their products on people.
Unfortunately, those who use suspect methods aren't limited to cigarette and beer companies. The state of Georgia is guilty too.
Lottery advertising is unnecessary, irresponsible and costly. The Georgia Lottery spends one percent of its sales revenue on advertising annually. That translated into $18.6 million for lottery promotion in 1999.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Lottery allots just $200,000 yearly from the unclaimed lottery winnings to the Department of Human Resources for gambling counseling. These numbers should be reversed, with substantially more money going into programs for educating people about the real risks of gambling.
While purists in some states maintain that the lottery is essentially bad, a tax on the poor, we've warmed to the idea in Georgia, because there are clear benefits. The lottery has raised $3.87 billion for state education programs and 499,000 HOPE Scholarships have been awarded, giving many kids who may not have had the opportunity otherwise a chance for a college education.
This is great, but the downside of the lottery should not be ignored.
The lottery is a financial drain on thousands of families in this state. Of course, it's their choice. And those who blow their money on the lottery are responsible for their own difficulties. Unfortunately, those who toss their money away are often responsible for the hardships of those dependent on them, too. Many prefer the thrill of scratching off a ticket to providing a hot meal for their kids.
But through its advertising, the state perpetuates the dream that the lottery is a viable ticket to riches. This is reprehensible. Neither kids nor adults should be encouraged by the state to squander their money on false hopes.
No parent wants their child to view the lottery as a long-term investment opportunity. And no Dad will tell his son, "Forget your piggy bank, put $20 per week into lottery tickets and you'll be just fine."
We'd call this parent a nut for such advice.
However, we accept the state's promotion of the lottery in the name of education. It's a strange paradox, because in raising money for education, the state appeals to the uneducated with a misinformed notion that astronomical odds are conquerable.
The fact is: the lottery would do just fine without the advertising. Plenty of people are already hooked on the tickets. It seems the real target of the lottery advertisers, then, is the youth of Georgia and getting a new generation into the gambling mode.
While Georgia leaders can feel good that many kids are benefiting from the lottery, they should not ignore the fact that millions of dollars a year are spent promoting an elusive dream that degrades the quality of life for thousands.
Surely we can do without the misleading commercials in favor of more socially responsible projects.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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