SCV Butchers Another Slave’s History

1911 photo of Aaron Perry

In a recent speech, Ed Ayers suggested that “the enemy of Civil War history is everything people think they know about the conflict.”  We could just as easily point to what people don’t know as that enemy.  I am not going to say anything new about this most recent case of a slave being honored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans for his “service” to the Confederacy.  You may even wonder why I bother to bring it up.  I believe it matters that the descendants of a slave have been duped into believing that their ancestor somehow served as a soldier or was acknowledged in some official capacity within the army.

I have a copy of Aaron Perry’s pension and as it states in the article he was a slave.  The jump from acknowledging Perry’s status as a slave to honoring him for his service in the Confederate army, however, suggests that some people have a very limited grasp of the institution.  Let me break this down for you:

  • Perry was legally tied to his master’s family.  He left home as the legal extension of the man who owned him.  His master likely took Perry to many places in addition to the army during the period of his life in which he was property.
  • Only citizens of the Confederacy were eligible to volunteer or be drafted into the army.
  • At no point did Perry’s status as a slave change while with the army.  He was there to serve his master and not the Confederate cause.
  • The extent of Perry’s movements while with the army were legally dictated by his master and not by military regulations.
  • Perry’s pension was given for his service as a slave and not as a soldier in the 37th NC.  In fact, the unit is irrelevant.

As the military extension of a government that was pledged to protect the institution of slavery it seems to me that a more fitting ceremony for the SCV would include an apology rather than an honor that has absolutely no basis in history.  After all, if the Confederate army had proven to be successful, Perry would still have been a slave.

73 responses... add one

The idea that blacks enjoyed being slaves and loved their masters is pretty deeply rooted in the Confederate mythos. Along with the completely opposite idea that slaves would rise up and kill all the whites at the slightest provocation if not held in check. Funny how the slave owners could, and did, fully believe these two things *at the same time*.

Neo-Confederates have thrown out the latter but cling to the former – in attempting to identify with their slaveholding ancestors, they must also cling to the idea that slavery was a positive good, or else finally and completely admit that their ancestors did terrible evil.

We really do need True American History taught in our schools. Some people need attention even if it is negative. Some member of the Perry family needs to step up to the plate and educate the entire family. I promise they will all feel better after. Would they be just as proud if their ancestor had been forced to ride with the KKK? Both of their main purpose was to keep our ancestors oppressed. They need to stop this cherade and we need to honor our ancestor for surviving the horrors of slavery, and that was no small feat. The SCV does need to apologize but they will not. Even after the mess they made of the lies about Silas Chandler, they will not correct their website and the family will not correct the lies that they have on Ancestry.com. We need Kevin back in the classroom. Good Luck on your interview.

Thanks for the encouragement, Myra. It promises to be a long day.

Let’s hope there is at least one person in the Perry family that has some grasp of the relevant history and has the courage to speak out.

Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Again? The article specifically says Mr. Perry was a slave, does not claim he was a soldier, and doesn’t even mention the SCV except in reference to an individual member who gave the family an iron cross and solicited funds from other members for the granite marker. The members of the Perry family who spoke to the reporter appear to be good with it all. Your vitriol is undeserved.

Did you bother to read my post? I acknowledged that he was a slave in it, but that stands in sharp contrast with the SCV’s goal of presenting Perry as a soldier. The claim that Perry “served” in a North Carolina regiment is a gross distortion of the past. He did not “serve” in any Confederate unit. If the SCV really wanted to be honest they would note that Perry was owned by Ashcraft on the marker itself. We’ve seen this time and time again with the SCV in their attempt to blur the distinction between a soldier and a slave. Unfortunately, once again it looks like innocent people are caught in the middle.

We saw the same thing in the case of Silas Chandler. Fortunately, one member of the family was willing to stand up and look deeper into the story of her ancestor.

Sure, I read your post. Why else would I bother to respond to it? The article in no way attempts to present Mr. Perry as a soldier. In fact, it very specifically says he was a body servant. It doesn’t say the SCV did or does claim him to be a soldier, regularly enrolled and subject to military discipline. You cannot determine from the content of the article that the SCV has that agenda with regard to Mr. Perry. So what is your problem, Kevin? The word “serve”? The use of “in” instead of “with”? The iron cross marker? Do you know the text of the marker to be placed? It’s not revealed in the article. Based strictly on the content of the article, you are jumping to far too many conclusions.

Finally, I find your remark that “Unfortunately, once again it looks like innocent people are caught in the middle” to be condescending toward the Perry family.

Allen, I believe your form of argumentation was dealt with by Aristophanes in “The Clouds” two-and-a-half millennia ago.

There’s a name for it, but I fear that I’m not sophisticated enough to remember it.

And to Kevin, Bravo, sir. The endless manipulations of the “lost cause” lies continue to reverberate a century-and-a-half later. With any luck at all, they will finally be put to bed, once and for all, in the next four years.

And then they can go back to “Swift-boating” Grant.

Hart, I believe the term to which you refer may be sophistry. An argument meant to deceive. Logic based on a false premise. If I am correct in that assumption, then it does not apply. What I am actually trying to do here, based on formal legal training, is to point out that Kevin’s position is unfounded. A presumption based on facts not in evidence. The article as written does not support any of his assertions, and further, the fact that such as he presumes is happening in the Perry situation has happened before does not give him license to impute that it is happening again.

Say what you want. The SCV is not honoring/commemorating Perry as a slave. The ceremony fits a pattern of behavior that I’ve tracked on this blog over the past few years.

Your “pattern of behavior” is insufficient evidence to convict the SCV at this point in time. You have no idea what sort of ceremony it will be, who will speak, or the message which will be conveyed. Until those facts become available, you are simply filling in the gaps with what you presume will happen, which is little different from what the SCV does from time to time with “black Confederates” — ascribing motive, intent, and actions with nothing more than wishful thinking as evidence.

That seems rather extreme. Well, it looks like my reputation is on the line. Sorry, but I am not too concerned. Anything else?

Considering that the plaque has now been revealed and it is quite obvious that the SCV are making no effort to explain that these 10 men were enslaved and forced to serve both their masters and the Confederate war effort through coercion, it would seem that Kevin’s concerns were justified and Allen’s tantrum was unfounded.

I missed this whole article at the time it ran. But one thing I want to address, albeit late: Would the descendants of black “Confederates” even WANT their ancestor honored?

If some German group honored a “service” that my grandfather’s brother was forced to perform as a POW, I would be livid. I would not care whether the memorial said he was a POW or not …. just the idea of honoring a member of my family for serving Hitler is disgusting and disrespectful to my family.

I cannot imagine blacks feeling differentely towards the CSA. If I were black, I would not want the SCV trying to “honor” my ancestors. An apology or some marker mourning his slave status might be better, but I don’t even know if that would cut it.

@Forester:

You write:

“Would the descendants of black “Confederates” even WANT their ancestor honored?”

Historians and history buffs alike often complain that the general public really doesn’t have much understanding of American history at all, beyond the simplest of concepts, and that a great many people are badly misinformed about lots of things. I don’t know why it would be so different for African American families than it would for any of the rest of us.

So I can easily see where the descendants of “black Confederates” could be taken in by the vague-but-heroic narrative that always seems to be part of these stories, one that tosses around a lot of unspecific terms like “served” and “with the army.” Who doesn’t want to think that their ancestor — whom they may not have known about until that phone call from the nice folks at the local SCV camp — was a bona fide hero, even if it is in a way and under a flag that one might have never considered. Too, there’s a certain conspiratorial appeal to this whole business — this is the history the professors won’t teach in college! — that can easily suck people in. So it really shouldn’t be surprising; African Americans are, as a group, probably just as vulnerable to be sucked into a story like this as anyone else.

Keep in mind, too, that as with Silas Chandler’s descendants, there is probably often some dispute within families about whether or not to go along with these “honors”: the newspapers interview and take pictures of the folks who but into this stuff, not those who decline to be part of it.

Allen,

Let me know if the marker includes a reference to Perry’s status as a slave.

I normally find these sort of “black confederate” things silly, but Allen makes a valid point here. The original article linked to is very reasonable and makes absolutely no effort to conceal that he was a slave.

You’re using past experiences with other “black confederate” ceremonies to read other mistaken and factually suspect histories into this particular individual’s case, when the article shows no real evidence of that happening here.

If the SCV claimed him as a soldier and tried to obscure that he was a slave that would be one thing, but I can see absolutely no evidence of that going on. And I find it strange to take issue with them for cleaning up a long-neglected grave with the support of the family, no matter what you may think of their motives elsewhere.

Like I said, my guess is that his status as a slave is not included on the marker. What the newspaper reports is largely irrelevant to what the ceremony itself is meant to convey.

Kevin sez: “Let me know if the marker includes a reference to Perry’s status as a slave.”

Since Charlotte, NC is about an eight hour drive from me I doubt I will make the pilgrimage.

Kevin also sez: “What the newspaper reports is largely irrelevant to what the ceremony itself is meant to convey.”

What the newspaper reports is all there is to go on. What the ceremony will convey, or intends to convey, is a matter of speculation at present, and a matter for subjective interpretation later.

My conclusions are based on how the SCV has handled these cases in the past. I acknowledge the inherent problem of induction, but feel pretty comfortable with my post. I will be happy to amend this post in light of additional information.

Just curious, but what would be an “appropriate” way for the SCV/UDC (or any other group/person) to honor a someone like Perry? Would simply including that he was a slave on the plaque be enough? It is my suspicion that it wouldn’t…but of course that is only a suspicion.

Taking away the issue of how they got there, men like Perry DID serve the Confederate Army in some capacity and recognition from a group like the SCV doesn’t seem off-base to me. And if Perry’s family is supportive of it then the rest of our opinions are just that.

Why are we assuming that the Perry family is “uneducated” about the history of their ancestor? If we know that to be a fact then fine, but if not, it seems rude and condescending to say that.

All good questions, but let me throw one back at you. Why do you think the SCV/UDC are interested in commemorating these men now as opposed to any point in their organization’s histories. The SCV’s mission is to promote the history and heritage of Confederate soldiers. Slaves/servants/body servants did not serve in that capacity yet the SCV has managed to distort the history of these men in case after case. I encourage you to explore this blog as I have written extensively about it.

Perry DID NOT serve in the Confederate army as I pointed out in the post. He SERVED his master and that is why he found himself with the Confederate army and in harm’s way. If anything should be celebrated/commemorated it is that Perry somehow managed to survive his time with the Confederate army, that if successful would have left him enslaved.

Yes, I am assuming that Perry’s family is not sufficiently versed in the relevant history given their willingness to allow the SCV to mark his grave with their dangerous narrative of the past. I just finished working with the descendant of another former slave, who went through the very same experience with the SCV. And yes, members of her family fell for this nonsense.

Thanks for the comment.

I guess where I become confused is with the usage of the word “serve.” Yes, Perry did not enlist or serve IN the Confederate Army as a soldier…he served his master who was IN the Confederate Army. But isn’t he still serving the Confederate Army by extension – either way you roll the dice aren’t his actions benefiting the Confederacy? Again, taking out the bit about how he got there (which I am not negating), he is still serving their cause. However it came to be his service was to that Army so does it come down to “served” or “served in?”

Of course it would be fascinating to know what choice he would have made had he been given the option – we can all guess but no one knows for sure.

Back to the other point, if the SCV/UDC are striving to honor their history and heritage then men like Perry are most certainly a part of that heritage whether or not it was their choice. If the commemoration/honoring is done appropriately (and a nod is given to the fact that he was a slave) then I see this as a bridging of two groups – maybe, just maybe there are other ways of looking at this?

I certainly agree that Perry’s presence benefited the Confederate cause as did the tens of thousands of slaves who were impressed by the Confederate government to perform various roles. The problem with referring to slaves as “serving” the Confederacy is that it distorts what it meant for soldiers to serve. In the latter case their service was based on their status as citizens of the Confederacy, which slaves certainly were not. I am just trying to maintain the kind of clarity and consistency that the history demands and not what sounds honorable or more palatable. Getting back to impressed slaves, notice that the SCV does not honor or commemorate them. They focus on those stories that harken back to the faithful slave narrative, which is why the SCV prefers body servants.

In my view the SCV is not interested in bridging the racial divide. Rather, they are looking for stories that serve their own interests in distancing the subject of slavery and race from their preferred memory of the Confederacy. I say this as someone who has spent a considerable amount of time reading and debunking SCV claims about the men they “honor.” There is a reason why the black Confederate narrative first appeared in the late 1970s and blossomed in the years following movies like Glory. You will not find these claims at any other point.

I just realized that I didn’t answer your initial question, sorry! And I am not sure if I even have a good answer for that…could it be for their benefit and for the wrong reasons, sure…could it be that because there is more and more information becoming available and the SCV/UDC are trying to acknowledge others who served the Confederacy outside of their own ancestors, sure.

In my opinion if you are honoring a Confederate ancestor’s bravery and valor and if part of that was the bravery and valor of their slave then that service should be honored as well. ANY service to the Confederacy should be included.

Again, as long as the plaque says slave does that make it an acceptable situation?

could it be that because there is more and more information becoming available and the SCV/UDC are trying to acknowledge others who served the Confederacy outside of their own ancestors, sure.

I don’t think so. In fact, if you spend enough time reading these various stories what stands out is their uniformity. They all follow the same pattern. What is missing is any voice of the slave in question, which leads to your final point.

In my opinion if you are honoring a Confederate ancestor’s bravery and valor and if part of that was the bravery and valor of their slave then that service should be honored as well. ANY service to the Confederacy should be included.

You noted in your last comment that we lack any evidence of their experience while with the army. On what grounds are we claiming they were brave, courageous or anything for that matter? We know so very little about what they experienced so perhaps claiming to speak for them and characterizing their experiences at all is the problem. Finally, my point about the marker was simply to suggest that the SCV is not interested in the most important fact about the individual’s they claim to honor.

I see what you’re saying and I agree that it isn’t correct to try to speak for those who we have no idea of their experiences. I guess it just seems right in my mind to describe them as brave because they had to endure conditions of wartime, lived within an army that no doubt saw fighting (which may or may not have included them) and in comparison to my pretty comfortable life, it seems extremely brave. Maybe that is too simplistic of a way of looking at it but I am a pretty simplistic person as you may have already gathered.

I guess to me, it just seems that if the SCV/UDC don’t acknowledge slavery and the slaves that were indeed a part of the Confederacy then they are wrong…if they do acknowledge their “service” (whether enlisted or not, which of course is part of the discussion) then they are doing it for the wrong reasons. No matter what they do it’s always going to be wrong…and maybe that is because they have made some seriously wrong decisions throughout their history – but geez, haven’t we all?

In the end, these two organizations are doing little more than using the stories of these people to meet their own ends. Their value is purely instrumental.

“In the end, these two organizations are doing little more than using the stories of these people to meet their own ends.”

And you’re not doing essentially the same thing? Really? It wouldn’t be a stretch for the occasional reader of this blog to conclude that your purpose (or at least one of your purposes) is to bash the SCV. Bash ‘em when they definitely get something wrong, bash ‘em when you think they’ve gotten something wrong, or, in this case, bash ‘em when you merely presume they are about to get something wrong. And you’ve collected a pretty nice Hallelujah Chorus to back you up. Good job!

You may or may not find this relevant, but I happened across a rerun of Robert Wuhl’s “Assume the Position” this morning on HBO. Perhaps you’re familiar with it? If not, watch it some time.

You are free to judge the content of the posts that I have written on this subject over the past few years.

Just curious, but what would be an “appropriate” way for the SCV/UDC (or any other group/person) to honor a someone like Perry?

I’m not sure there is a way that fits with the preferred narrative of heritage groups, because it requires a frank discussion about slavery and aspects of it that simply don’t fit with the story they want to tell, which is all bound up in superficial patriotic tropes and bromides.

Why are we assuming that the Perry family is “uneducated” about the history of their ancestor?

Present-day Aaron Perry’s statements suggest that he is unclear about his great-grandfather’s actual status, to whit:

“I think it’s a great thing,” said the younger Perry, 72. “It’s been a long time ago, so I’m not going to overlook that. What’s so bad about it? They’re honoring these 10 North Carolina soldiers for being helpful to their country, even if it was under slavery.

“They lost that war, but my great grandfather helped rebuild the camp at Fort Fisher,” Perry said. “He played his part, even though he was under slavery and somebody else’s command. When you enlist in the service, you’re taking orders from somebody.”

The elder Perry was not understood to be a soldier at the time, his pension application makes no such claim, and he was not enlisted in the Confederate army. What’s saying here is simply incorrect.

Thanks Andy, interesting commentary from the family. Do you think if the younger Perry was corrected on the information about his ancestor not being a soldier it would change his position? I have no idea…

@Lindsay:

I don’t want to be hard on the Perry family specifically, but I think any number of families in their situation have been sold a bill of goods by heritage groups when it comes to their ancestors. Most Americans have only a vague idea about their family from that period, or maybe nothing at all, and so are very susceptible to someone from a heritage group contacting them and saying, “we’ve found that your great-great grandfather was a war hero and served his nation in the Confederate army and we want to honor him, etc., etc.” That’s got to be a very tempting thing, to choose to embrace that story line regardless of how it fits with the broader narrative of the race, slavery and the Confederacy. That’s one reason why the black Confederate meme has such appeal — it lets its advocates put aside the more contentious aspects of the period and instead celebrate a warm-and-fuzzy, brothers-in-arms, defending-hearth-and-home narrative.

If the SCV/UDC were serious about honoring Slaves they could offer an apology to the descendants of slaves for the atrocities of slavery. Imagine the average slave, born on a plantation, relying on his master for food, clothing, and shelter all of his life. His life made less grueling only by his obedience to his master. This had been instilled in his mind all of his life. He was brainwashed with this. What do you think he would have done when the master told him to come along with him to the war? It was a matter of survival. You do not know what motivated the slave stay with his master, such as Silas Chandler who had a family of his own to return to on the plantation. He would obey his master for his survival as well as the safety of his family. I have found through the research that I am doing that Silas did indeed have siblings and some of them were mulatto as was his wife. What do you think would have happened to his wife had he escaped to the North or the Union Army? It all seems so simple to me. We can never get beyound the evils of slavery-confederacy until an apology is issued. But in order for that to happen, they must first admit that slavery was wrong.

Okay, so slavery was wrong, there. As the descendent of slave-owners I admitted it.

I WILL NOT apologize for my ancestor’s actions as I did not commit those wrongdoings. I will condemn them right along with you but I cannot apologize for something that I did not do. And as much as I would love to, I cannot bring my ancestors back from their graves so that they can apologize. So what to do…

And let’s be real, would an apology today ever right that wrong of yesterday? No. And would it ever appease everyone? No. And exactly who should apologize? Everyone who “looks” white? What about my black ancestor who was a slave, does that negate me from having to apologize? Or maybe you would live an apology from the government, would that suffice? Since they are SO VERY representative of everyone.

I really am sick of this old argument back and forth…it seems like those who demand an apology from those who had nothing to do with slavery are living in the past worse than the rest of us.

Myra is not asking you to apologize for anything. I believe she is referring to the SCV/UDC, which to me makes much more sense than their usual tactic of appropriating the memory of slaves for their own self-serving purposes.

Myra, I have a few problems with some things you said:

“However if you benefited at all from slavery you should apologize.”

If that is the rationale we are using then I have nothing to apologize for as I have benefited in no way from slavery personally (neither did my parents, grand-parents, or great-grandparents.) The fact that my ggg-grandfather (and preceding generations) did has absolutely nothing to do with me other than they are in my bloodline.

Additionally, if that is your rationale then I would suggest that there are large groups of people in Africa today that owe an apology as well since their ancestors were willing to kidnap and sell their fellow Africans into the system – they clearly benefited from it. I don’t see anyone demanding that they apologize.

“I am also sick of people who blame everything on their ancestor. You do not still suffer and you benefited from what your ancestors did. Your ancestors became wealthy from the brutality that they gave my ancestors.”

How have I benefited? We don’t know one another so you can’t say that – I will offer that EVERYTHING I have today is because of solid hard work from myself and my husband, no one handed me a penny…there is no “family money” and we are by no means wealthy. Frankly and to be brutally honest, I am worse off in many situations today because I am middle-America white. There are plenty of scholarships that my sons will never be considered for because of the color of their skin…plenty of jobs that won’t even consider me because of my ethnicity. I am not comparing today’s society to that when slavery existed but I certainly feel constraints.

“After slavery, we had our freedom.period and we didn’t have complete freedom if you consider that my Mother was born on a plantation 46 years after slavery in 1911 to a sharecropper. Who benefited from that? Our ancestors had to start from scratch.”

For all you know SO DID MINE after the war. As I stated before, there is no family money – no huge tract of land, nothing handed down from generation-to-generation. Aside from the one family branch I come from generation and generation of poor farmers on every other side. Being born on large farms to sharecroppers crossed over racial lines and many people fell into that category. And regardless of what my ancestors did or did not do I had to start from scratch.

This is what I am talking about – this is my “problem”…the mentality that somehow white Americans today should be held responsible for the actions of those 3-4 generations back (and beyond). It’s ludicrous and gets us nowhere. But as long as we keep pointing fingers then our society will never move forward.

I realize that we have veered off of the original post, sorry Kevin but the discussion just started flowing…

Lindsay: This is what I am talking about – this is my “problem”…the mentality that somehow white Americans today should be held responsible for the actions of those 3-4 generations back (and beyond). It’s ludicrous and gets us nowhere. But as long as we keep pointing fingers then our society will never move forward.”

And there’s the rub. This is *my* “problem.” The standard argument that the African Americans of today blame all the white people of today’s America for slavery. What an utter load of you-know-what. You have never, EVER met a sincere and serious black American who believes or has said that. It’s not about YOU. I know that you’re responding to Myra’s comments to you, but I get so sick of hearing this same rhetoric whenever the subject of American slavery arises. I could cut and paste the same parroted words and concepts from any number of sites and forums I’ve seen over the years, up to and including the blame-it-on-your-own-people-too meme. The argument is a straw man, and its purpose is to quash any serious and truthful discussion of American slavery and its aftermath. Which is exactly what the UDC, SCV and Confederate apologists want.

You believe that the UDC and SCV are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Within the context of the current discussion there’s a very simple way that this argument could be laid to rest and that no one could reasonably gainsay those organizations for “honoring” the alleged service of these individuals. But they will never do it. And if they did you can bet your bottom dollar that the militant apologists would hang them out to dry for it.

Exactly Michael, and it is because of this that we will never move past this issue – someone else, 50 years from not will be having the very same discussion about all of this and it gets us nowhere.

Offer an apology? For something which they had no part in? Should they also apologize to the Cherokee for the Trail of Tears? To the Jews and Gypsies and all the others who were victims of the Holocaust? I know that sort of thing happens, but it’s not logical, and changes nothing. One can regret something which happened, but to apologize implies some level of responsibility. I trust you understand that, Ms. Sampson.

Both the SCV and UDC have, on many levels, expressed that they consider slavery in America to have been a moral evil. You are mistaken if you think otherwise.

Lindsay
I stated that the SCV/UDC should apologize. Are you a member of one of these organizations? If no, what is your problem? However if you benefited at all from slavery you should apologize. I am also sick of people who blame everything on their ancestor. You do not still suffer and you benefited from what your ancestors did. Your ancestors became wealthy from the brutality that they gave my ancestors. After slavery, you had good schools, possible to take advantage of all that this country had to offer. After slavery, we had our freedom.period and we didn’t have complete freedom if you consider that my Mother was born on a plantation 46 years after slavery in 1911 to a sharecropper. Who benefited from that? Our ancestors had to start from scratch.
p s We don’t need an apology with an attitude .

Allen
The US Government has already apologized to the Native Americans.

I know the photo caption is from the original article, and presumably from the family itself, but the man in the image doesn’t look to me to be anywhere near 71 years old, about the age Perry would have been in 1911. I’d guess it’s either a much old image, or perhaps is of another, younger family member with the same name.

The article seems to indicate that, although the family knew of the grave and Aaron Perry’s life story generally, the “black Confederate” aspect is something raised by the SCV, which provided the impetus to mark the grave. I imagine that’s often the case with these events, that African American families who know little (or maybe nothing) about their ancestors’ wartime experience get drawn into these events by some gauzey, cliched rhetoric about service or patriotism and so on. It must be very tempting. Typically, there’s nothing in the news story in Aaron Perry’s own voice, to get an impression of his own views about his involvement in the war, or to indicate whether he himself would have wanted such a marker.

The “black Confederate” business aside, the other thing that’s problematic for me applies to men like Perry and white veterans alike. As indicated by the story, Perry lived a very long life, as an active and respected member and leader in his community. But I doubt that this new marker says much about that, instead focusing solely on his role as a personal servant, reducing 90 years of a long life, well lived, to what he did between 1861 and 1865. Does the SCV, or Perry’s own descendants, really think that’s the most important, central part of his life and memory?

“Does the SCV, or Perry’s own descendants, really think that’s the most important, central part of his life and memory?”

Is this what the SCV or the family is actually saying? Is this the point of the marker, or is the marker simply a recognition of a slave who went to war with his master? In general, is there something wrong with recognizing that someone was a slave and participated in the Civil War?

… and I have the same thoughts of the photograph. The man in photo looks way too young, if it was in fact taken in 1911.

In general, is there something wrong with recognizing that someone was a slave and participated in the Civil War?

No, of course not, if they’re candid about it. All the better, in that case.

But if you look back at other many other cases, there’s a lot of self-serving (from the perspective of heritage groups determined to show that African American slaves were true-and-loyal Confederates) obfuscation that goes on. There’s a lot of the use of the word “served,” without really discussing what that meant in each individual case. There’s usually little or no acknowledgement that the African American men being honored were not considered soldiers by the actual, Confederate soldiers themselves, right up through the chain of command to a fellow named Lee. There is rarely any discussion (or evidence) of how the men themselves viewed their service in the war, or what they would have thought about a Confederate Cross of Honor being placed about their graves. And all of it — and this applies to the way white veterans are spoken of, too — gets wrapped up in warm-and-fuzzy cliches that are so often repeated, you could probably use the same script over and over, just changing the names and dates.

You ask,

Is this what the SCV or the family is actually saying?

If the only thing on the stone references is his involvement in the war, in whatever capacity, I think it does. If given the choice, can we assume that after a long life of 90 years, Aaron Perry would have wanted an explicitly Confederate grave marker? That seems like a real stretch to me.

This can be equally a problem with white veterans, too.

To the larger point, it’s increasingly clear to me that ceremonies like this often have little connection to the man who lies a moulderin’ in the grave, than to the present-day organizers who want to make a particular point for reasons of their own. I’m finding myself to be very ambivalent about such things, entirely apart from the bad history that’s often perpetuated.

Finally, I’d love to see a transcript of the remarks made by the various speakers at the Perry event.

There’s a lot of the use of the word “served,” without really discussing what that meant in each individual case.

This word gets thrown around in all of these articles, but I’ve never come across a reference that acknowledged that an individual black man “served” in the Confederate ranks. Not one.

To the larger point, it’s increasingly clear to me that ceremonies like this often have little connection to the man who lies a moulderin’ in the grave, than to the present-day organizers who want to make a particular point for reasons of their own. I’m finding myself to be very ambivalent about such things, entirely apart from the bad history that’s often perpetuated.

The SCV is engaged in a practice that has no basis in history. In fact, their ancestors would likely be horrified by it all.

I’m proud of Aaron Perry my 4x grandfather…He was a strong black man that survive through slavery so that his family will live on…A man of Respect

Tony Way was responsible for the research that went into a small group of slaves. Last year I had an interesting discussion with an archivist/historian who tried to help Way with his understanding of the relevant primary sources. She was not impressed.

I had a similar experience when I contacted the (non-SCV genealogist) who initially assisted on the Richard Quarls thing in Florida. She said that they took her research and then used it as a jumping-off point for claims about Quarls the historical record didn’t substantiate.

Here’s another bit of unfocused verbiage on Perry, from a 2010 SCV newsletter, apparently reprinting a local news story. Cue Earl Ijames:

Aaron Perry of Charlotte is the great-grandson of one of the pensioners, also named Aaron Perry, a Union County slave who fought with the North Carolina 37th Company D. Although the Confederate States lost, their story should be remembered.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said the younger Perry, 72. “It’s been a long time ago, so I’m not going to overlook that. What’s so bad about it? They’re honoring these 10 North Carolina soldiers for being helpful to their country, even if it was under slavery.

“They lost that war, but my great grandfather helped rebuild the camp at Fort Fisher,” Perry said. “He played his part, even though he was under slavery and somebody else’s command. When you enlist in the service, you’re taking orders from somebody.”

Blacks – slave and free – fought with Confederate forces long before the Union recruited African Americans. According to the 1860 census, North Carolina’s population of 992,000 included 334,000 slaves.

“Before there were U.S. Colored Troops, there were Colored Confederates,” said Earl Ijames, curator of the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.

With Colored Confederates serving in roles ranging from intelligence to infantry, the Union took notice and formed all-black units. Black warriors on both sides fought for the same goal: the emancipation promised them with victory.

“They weren’t pro-Confederate or pro-Union,” he said. “They were pro-freedom.”

There’s so much muzziness here, it’s painful. There’s obfuscation of the vastly differential status (legal and otherwise) between free, white soldiers and enslaved African Americans (“When you enlist in the service, you’re taking orders from somebody.”). There’s blurring of military status, too, suggesting that Perry was formally enlisted. There’s the explicit claim that Perry and men like him were soldiers (“They’re honoring these 10 North Carolina soldiers. . . .”), when they would not have been recognized as such at the time. Ijames makes the assertion that the formation of USCT units was explicitly a response to what he calls “Colored Confederates.” He goes on to claim that Perry and men like him were motivated by “the emancipation promised them with victory.” Huh? Where did that come from? “They weren’t pro-Confederate,” Ijames says, but “they were pro-freedom,” but we’re gonna call them “Colored Confederates” anyway and mark their graves with a Southern Cross of Honor, mmm-kay?

Let’s see, where have we heard this before? Silas Chandler, Weary Clyburn, John Venable, etc. etc. etc.

After all, if the Confederate army had proven to be successful, Perry would still have been a slave.

Oh!! How true and unfortunate.

Wouldnt our friends in the SCV have something like this to point too.

Six Brothers Give Ultimate Sacrifice in Civil War ( sorry… just cut and paste into Google.)

This confirma my research into NYS Units

Bob Farrell

The problem is the SCV really isn’t interested in the individuals who receive these official recognitions. They simply cut and paste the same self-serving narrative that reinforces their broader view of what the war was about. None of these individuals left a written record that would allow us to understand how they viewed the Civil War or their experiences while attached to their masters at war.

These men are a means to an end.

Kevin, you’re right – how much better all of this discussion would be if we did have some sort of record from these men. It is a shame that history does not afford us that. I would be fascinated to know their stories, from THEIR viewpoints.

Keep in mind that the reason we don’t have their written accounts has everything to do with the fact that they were owned by the very people who utilized them during the war.

As usual the Northern army was full of angels, while the Southern army was full of traitors and devils. I am so tired of your rhetorick, blah, blah, blah. You do not understand what the South is about because you are too busy bashing it. I don’t even know why I came on this website, I was doing research on Aaron Perry. I guess because I want to hear all “so called” sides of a story.

I certainly don’t believe that “the Northern army was full of angels.”

I don’t even know why I came on this website, I was doing research on Aaron Perry.

Good luck with your research on Aaron Perry. Since you live in the area perhaps you can tell us whether Perry’s status as a slave is indicated on the marker placed by the SCV. Thanks.

Why do you lot persist in this fiction that people who believe that the Confederacy was in the wrong also believe that the “northern army was full of angels,” or that Lincoln was a saint. or that the north had no complicity in the slave trade or slavery? Is it projection? I have yet to see any serious student of Civil War history make such claims. I have, however, seen tons of rhetoric from Confedearate apologists that would damned near have one believe the R.E. Lee walked on water and that the Confederacy was a an innocent utopia, merely intent on enjoying its happy darkies in peace, before being set upon (without cause) by the Great Satan of the North.

You’re not interested in hearing all sides of the story. You’re interested in maintaining the victim fiction that is bread and butter for people who cannot get over the fact that the Confederacy lost. You say that Kevin doesn’t understand what the south is about. The south is not the Confederacy. The south is alive and well. The Confederacy is a dead horse and y’all persist in beating it.

It seems to me all you want to do is cause a ruckus by talking about your “opinions”. This history was put together with the family and newspaper articles from the time period and so much more. I personally know the libarian that helps them do the research. You are constatly trying to stir the race pot and be a sensation. Go to an archives with an open mind, don’t look for what you want it to say, or what will fit in with you ideas about what it should say. Go with the attitude I am here to learn.

Kevin made some very specific points about Perry’s case. What did he get wrong?

You can huff and puff and beat your chest about being a Southerner and “defending their honor,” and so on, but unless you’re prepared to challenge his position on specific points, you’re making a lot of random noise. It’s very hard to take that seriously, friend.

Maybe I do know why I came on this website, because I am researching. I always try to look at things from all possible sides or views. One thing for sure, I am Southern and will defend their honor till the day I die.

All the same, thanks for stopping by. Again, please let us know if the SCV marker indicates that Perry was a slave.

Well what about all those pesky decendents of Confederates that aren’t in the SCV/UDC? And what about members who are also descendents of slaves? Seems a little unfair if you ask me – if anyone thinks an apology from a group will be sufficient they are living in a dream world…I think maturity, human compassion and humility are a better starting point.

Andy:
Many of our family were duped into believing that our ancestor was being honored and some of them even attended the ceremony to place the same cross on Silas’ grave that has been placed on Perry’s grave. After my family members were given the truth and showed that it was impossible for our ancestor to be free or to be a soldier and shown all of the things that he did to deserve being honored for ( these things had nothing to do with slavery or the confederacy but had to do with what he accomplished once he was free) they signed the petition to remove the cross from his grave. ( I was amazed how many family members were as outraged as I was about the whole situation. It was the overwhelming majority but most didn’t want to “rock the boat.” I have no doubt that the Perry family has the same situation. It is so amazing the similarity between Silas and Aaron Perry. They both seemed to have become pillars and leaders of the community and accomplished so much in their years of freedom,

Ms. Sampson: “Allen, The US Government has already apologized to the Native Americans.”

Fat lot of good that did for them, huh? What happened still happened. Nothing appears to have changed with regard to their present circumstances, at least as far as I know. But I will acknowledge one truth: if any institution or organization owed an apology to those folks it was the U. S. government.

Mr. Levin,
I attended the Aaron Perry ceremony and there was a gathering of roughly 75 to 85 people.
Around 40 were African-Americans so roughly half. I stopped counting at 12 the number of references
Made that Mr. Perry was a slave. If I recall correctly only once was it mentioned he was in the
Confederate Army and that was by one of the civilian speakers. Mr. Perry was honored for his
contributions to the Confederate cause, to his family, and to his community. He was honored as a
human, a slave, a family man, and as a free man.

Many of his family were in attendance and his Great, Great, Great, Grandson spoke. You mention that Perry was there to serve his master and not the Confederate cause. What is your source, or is this just another of your opinions? How much actual research have you conducted on Mr. Perry? Outside of logging in on the computer? How many of his family members have you spoken with ? Have you been to the archives of the Union County Library in Monroe, NC ?

It is clear Mr. Levin that your only agenda is to discredit the SCV. You even started bashing them
before they held the ceremony. At today’s ceremony for Mr. Perry, Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream
lived. He said “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood”

“The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.”

You, Mr. Levin are no historian.

Thank You,
William Richardson

Mr. Richardson,

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I am pleased to hear that the SCV made it a point to reference Perry’s status as a slave. This is the first time that I have heard of such a reference being made for a body servant. I look forward to reading the addresses themselves. Given the number of times his status as a slave was referenced I assume that the marker also indicates this. Thanks.

As a non-member of the SCV, I have no access to the text’s of their speeches. I was there as a member of the public. The tombstone reads as:

Aaron Perry
1840 – Mar. 14, 1930
Served In The Confederate Army
37TH NC Regt.
1861 – 1865

Join the Conversation