Black Family Reclaims History From Sons of Confederate Veterans

This is an encouraging story. Over the past twenty years the Sons of Confederate Veterans has distorted the stories of African Americans who worked as impressed slaves for the military and camp servants who served their masters during the war. In 1998 they placed a Cross of Honor on the grave of Silas Chandler in West Point, Mississippi. A couple of years ago the SCV honored Weary Clyburn with full military honors as well as a headstone in North Carolina. These ceremonies typically include SCV members dressed in Confederate uniform and white women in mourning attire. Speeches attest to the bravery of these men and their unflinching service to the Confederacy. At the center of many of these ceremonies are the descendants of the honored.

The descendants play a crucial role in the distortion machine that is the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They lend legitimacy to an organization that hopes to stay relevant even as our collective memory of the war comes to accept the central role that slavery played in the coming- and outcome of the Civil War. Since the late 1970s, the SCV has sought to utilize stories of so-called black Confederate soldiers to advance its preferred narrative of the war. The presence of the descendants of these men adds an additional layer of legitimacy to these stories.

In 2002 the SCV welcomed former slave Creed Holland into its ranks of honored black men. Included in the service were a couple of his descendants, who went on to join the SCV and United Daughters of the Confederacy. The story as reported in 2002 revealed that no one involved had any solid understanding of the relevant history. The report indicated more than once that Holland was a slave, but the SCV insisted that he was a soldier and the critical question of the meaning of his ‘service’ was left open to interpretation. At the time the SCV was up front about the significance of the event:

”Obviously we’d like to have more black or minority members because the fact that we have minorities and welcome them deflects some of the criticism we seem to get, primarily because of the battle flag,” said Ben C. Sewell III, who heads the 30,000-member organization.

What we know is that Holland was one of thousands of impressed slaves. He did not serve the Confederacy as a soldier.

Thirteen years later it is being reported that Holland’s descendants have removed the SCV’s memorial marker from the grave site.

William Holland doesn’t feel that the Sons of Confederate Veterans are willing to acknowledge the role that slavery played in the Civil War, or give black members of the group an opportunity to share their heritage. He wants the Sons of Confederate Veterans to “tell people the truth.” Holland said he’s frustrated when SCV members say that the Civil War was about states’ rights. States’ rights and slavery went hand in hand, Holland said. He wishes they’d tell the truth, acknowledge what happened and apologize.

Looking back, William Holland thinks the 2002 ceremony was a public relations opportunity for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy. “They were happy to get African-American members in their group,” he said. “They were just using it as a publicity stunt.”

Mr. Holland is absolutely right. This has never been anything more than a publicity relations campaign wrapped around bad history. Let’s hope this continues. As I have suggested in reference to other former slaves, Creed Holland didn’t serve the Confederacy, he survived it.

15 thoughts on “Black Family Reclaims History From Sons of Confederate Veterans

  1. Pat Young

    I found this quote from Robert Barbour, commander of the local SCV, particularly disturbing:

    “Barbour said he isn’t aware of any other instances in which someone has removed a family member’s memorial marker.

    “Most people are proud of their ancestry, most people are proud of their heritage, apparently this man is not,” Barbour said.”

    Because a descendant of an enslaved man is not willing to go along with the Black Confederate charade, he is not “proud of his heritage?” I find it unbelievable that this was said or that the newspaper would print it.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Members of the Chandler family have since removed the Cross of Honor at Silas Chandler’s grave site.

      It is a disturbing quote, but one to be expected given the SCV’s agenda and record of distorting the past.

      Reply
    2. Andy Hall

      Because a descendant of an enslaved man is not willing to go along with the Black Confederate charade, he is not “proud of his heritage?” I find it unbelievable that this was said or that the newspaper would print it.

      That sort of patronizing, supercilious insult is routinely directed at southerners who don’t embrace this sort of foolishness the way the heritage crowd thinks they should.

      Reply
    1. Andy Hall

      Glenn, if you look at Holland’s pension application (linked below), you’ll note that the state auditor’s office initially doubted that he served the Confederacy in any capacity, even as a civilian.

      Reply
  2. Sandi Saunders

    Thank you for these stories that tell the truth even in the face of the SCV scorn. They made their bed, let them lie in it! They COULD have honored their ancestors and all soldiers and told the truth of the Confederacy, the war and the South, they chose not to and it will mean their end as any kind of presence.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      The SCV has been engaged in a rear guard action for some time now. With each year their numbers grow smaller and with nonsense like this they relegate themselves to the sidelines.

      Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Thanks for attaching Holland’s pension. It’s important to acknowledge that state employees responsible for issuing these pensions took the question of whether the individual was a soldier seriously. To “serve the Confederacy” meant something very specific.

      Reply
  3. Ken Noe

    “The family doesn’t have the right to remove the marker, which was ordered through the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Barbour said….Barbour said he plans to alert the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. ‘If you remove a marker from that grave, that’s desecration of that grave,’ he said.”

    So the Confederacy still has more of a claim on a former slave’s body than his family does? Gee, how nineteenth century.

    Reply
    1. Jim

      Now if only the SCV will start a lawsuit over that it will be real interesting in several ways, not the least a white organization telling blacks how to honor their dead.

      Reply
  4. Forester

    What’s next, putting a cross of honor on the graves of any Northern POW who was forced to work against his will? By their logic, he “served the Confederacy” also. >_<

    Stupidity like this is why the SVC and other organizations are dying off and losing relevancy. Young 20 and 30-somethings like me balk at this kind of nonsense, and don't want our names and reputations attached to their antics. I'd wager the SCV won't even exist 50 years from now.

    Reply

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