Even in Death They Still Can’t Get It Right

Union County Marker

This past week Mattie Rice, who was a descendant of Weary Clyburn passed away. Over the past few year I wrote extensively about the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ and United Daughters of the Confederacy’s efforts to distort the history of Clyburn.

Both organizations did their best to celebrate and remember Clyburn as a soldier rather than what he was: a slave. The dedication of a marker to nine slaves and one free black who performed various roles while with the Confederate army is the best example. Notice that the marker makes no mention that nine of the ten were slaves. It goes out of its way to distort the truth.

While newspaper reporting finally acknowledges that Clyburn as a slave there is a certain level of confusion still present.

A memorial service will be held today for Mattie Rice, a slave’s daughter who urged Union County to erect a marker honoring the Confederate Army service of her father and other slaves.

In December 2012, Rice helped dedicate the marker in Monroe to her father and nine other Union County men. Nine of the men were slaves, and one was a free black man, all of whom served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War then received tiny state pensions for their service late in life.

Once again, it is important to remember that Clyburn and others slaves did not “serve” in the Confederate army. Clyburn did not receive a pension for his service in the Confederate army. He received a pension from a former Confederate state that decades after the war chose to give a small amount of financial support to former slaves who could show they were faithful servants. They served their masters. Speculating, as this article does, as to whether they accompanied their masters voluntarily or not makes little sense. It betrays a complete lack of understanding of the legal import of the master-slave relationship and ultimately insults the memory of Clyburn.

Mattie Rice had a sincere interest in the history of her ancestor. It’s unfortunate that the SCV and UDC could do little more than use the memory of Clyburn for their own self serving purpose. RIP.

15 comments add yours

  1. Kevin,perhaps with the free black being singled out,one will assume the other pensioners were slaves. The United Daugters of the Confederacy recognizes material aid as a means toward membership.It may seen strange to you, but there are women of colour who are beloved members of this organization.

    • Why must we assume anything? Let’s honor their memory by describing these men for what the were. I don’t care what the UDC deems sufficient for membership these days. What I care about is honesty when facing the past.

      • Maybe the ” legal import of the master-slave relationship” wasn’t as important as you think, or want everyone to think. Maybe there were other aspects also important that you ignore Maybe your whole concept, understanding and interpretation of slavery is shaped by bias and is mistaken. Has that ever occurred to you?

  2. Interesting. High Point may actually closer to me but I didn’t know about this ahead of time and probably couldn’t have gone anyway as I’m having a somewhat rocky recovery from emergency surgery a month ago (the gift that keeps on giving) but Monroe is drivable from here and I have been there before so if somebody reminds me, I might give the October memorial a shot. Of course, it still hurts like hell to laugh so that might be a good thing if I do go. Actually, what they’ve done to this poor woman makes a mockery of history, but what can you do when a certain group of individuals are bound and determined to remake history?

  3. Oops, I misread, I see her funeral is tomorrow, but I still could not go. Oh, well…

  4. “Clyburn did not receive a pension for his service in the Confederate army. He received a pension from a former Confederate state that decades after the war chose to give a small amount of financial support to former slaves who could show they were faithful servants.”

    I believe ALL Confederate pensions were paid by the states, for their service.

    This is not news.

    • Often times news articles fail to distinguish between pensions that were given to former Confederate soldiers and servants like Weary Clyburn. They were kept quite distinct in the eyes of the state governments that issued them in the decades following the war. This article also fails to properly distinguish between the two thus leaving the reader with the false belief that what Clyburn received was a soldier’s pension.

      In that sense it is news.

  5. I am not sure if my reaction to the article and the situation it describes is based the article itself or the various reactions to this interesting piece of history. I for one regret that we have not given a lot of attention in the so called mainstream media to the civil war and the actors in it. Of course there was 12 Years A Slave and Lincoln. Each had its moments but did little to engage the nation in a dialogue about about the Civil War. So I guess another 150 years will pass and we will know little about the Battle at the Crater and the fact that Grant likely bears responsibility for the murder of so many of the Black Union forces. And it is likely that because we now give so little attention to the Civil War that few will ever know of New York City draft riots which saw Black citizens murdered by men and women who believed that they should not have to fight in Mr. Lincoln’s war. I guess my real reaction is that so few of us today really understand that “peculiar institution, that institution that eventually had black men serving their white, confederate masters during the war; and that institution that had white Union troops killing black Union troops at the battle of the crater. Go figure.

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