I see three generations of the Clyburn-Rice family in attendance for yesterday’s service in honor of the family matriarch, Mattie Clyburn Rice. It looks like a strong and loving family. Regardless of the nature of the relationship that the family has forged with descendants of Confederate soldiers, we should never forget that it was the defeat of the Confederacy that made Weary Clyburn free. It allowed him to build a family that no longer ran the risk of being forcibly separated.
In short, it was the defeat of the Confederacy that helped to make possible the family you see here.
That is all.
It’s not difficult to understand why Mattie Clyburn Rice believed that her father’s story was intertwined with Confederate soldiers. It was. Growing up Ms. Rice listened to her father’s stories about Confederate soldiers and the war. It goes without saying that it must have been an exciting time in his life and it should come as no surprise that he wanted to pass on those experiences to his family. One thing that has been lost in all the controversy surrounding Weary Clyburn’s official status in the Confederate army is that the core of his story is true. Weary’s wartime experiences helped to forge a close relationship with veterans in Monroe, NC. What else can explain the fact that his passing was covered in the local paper? This, however, does not change the fact that the available records demonstrate that he was a slave and not a soldier.
We can’t know much about Weary’s wartime experience, but his obituary does shed some light on how race shaped and defined the limits of his wartime experience and his postwar interaction with Confederate veterans and the surrounding community. [click to continue…]
For those of you who linked to this site from the AP story about Mattie Clyburn Rice and are visiting for the first time, welcome. For those of you interested in reading further about the subject of black Confederate soldiers I put together this page, which includes some of the many posts on this blog as well as external resources. One of the most popular examples of so-called black Confederates is that of Silas Chandler. In 2012 I co-authored an essay about Silas and the famous photograph of him with his owner, Andrew Chandler, for Civil War Times magazine.
Here is what we know about Weary Clyburn:
- Weary was owned by Frank Clyburn and brought into the war.
- Weary applied for a soldiers pension after the war.
- Nowhere in his obituary was he recognized as a Confederate soldier.
- Weary’s pension application was denied after his death. In other words, the state of North Carolina recognized him as a slave in the 1860s.
Again, those are the fact as I understand them. Thanks for stopping by.
Update: “You Sir are No Gentlemen; as a matter of fact you are the definition of a Northern Yankee Son of a Bitch! The South will Rise Again!” Definitely not happy.
Tomorrow Mattie Clyburn Rice’s ashes will be laid to rest in her father’s grave. A color guard from the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be there because they believe (as did Ms. Rice until the end of her life) that her father was a Confederate soldier. He wasn’t and even a cursory glance at the relevant documents confirms it. Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes chatting with AP Reporter, Martha Waggoner, about the myth of the black Confederate soldier and Weary Clyburn specifically. [click to continue…]
Stephen Berry is one of my favorite Civil War historians writing today. He has tackled a wide range of subjects from Civil War soldiers to the Lincolns. Regardless of the topic, I am always challenged by his thorough analysis and creativity of thought. This year’s Bottimore Lecture was delivered by Steve and is focused on the very simple question of what it was like to be shot in the Civil War. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it, but it is his closing remarks that I want to highlight. It’s an incredibly eloquent conclusion that offers a persuasive case for why it is important to remember the men who died in our Civil War.
It is not pleasant, I know, looking real war in its real face. But if we are to make war, we had better know what we are making. For myself, I grant that the Civil War was worth it. it answered forever whether we were a Union of states or one nation indivisible. It answered forever whether a Republican form of government could endure. It answered forever whether a nation dedicated to freedom would be built on the backs of slaves.
But today when I hear folks in the South talking half seriously about secession or hear folks in the North talk seriously about letting the South go or hear folks all over this country forget what Lincoln perfectly understood that the leading object of government is to elevate the condition of men. To lift artificial weights from all shoulders. To clear paths of laudable pursuits for all. To afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. When I hear such ludicrous things said and such important things forgotten I always have a desperate urge to show them the Civil War as it really was.
In this sesquicentennial season of that conflict let us try to remember all that we paid and all that we paid for. And let us take better care of this country and each other.
The remarks above begin at the 45:45 mark in the video. Thanks, Steve.