Weary Clyburn Didn’t Serve the Confederacy, He Survived It

Haley - Clyburn Proclamation
Governor Nikki Haley Statement about Weary Clyburn

It’s been a week of posts about Weary Clyburn and I suspect many of you would prefer that I move on to something else. Many of the usual suspects in the Southern heritage community believe that I am attacking the memory and good name of Ms. Mattie Rice. One person in particular compared my posts this week to the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, which was initially confusing to me since I thought the individual in question was a member. I’ve always found topics like this, where there is a conflict between history and memory, to be ideal grist for this blog mill.

As I understand it, the problem for my detractors is that I don’t accept the narrative advanced by Ms. Rice, which essentially frames the story of her father as that of a slave who fought as a solider in the Confederate ranks. It’s true. Given my understanding of the history of slavery and the Confederacy and access to the relevant archival documents, it is my contention that this narrative is false. There is no wartime evidence that Weary Clyburn served as a soldier in the 12th South Carolina Infantry and postwar documents related to his pension clearly state that he was not a Confederate soldier. It is irrelevant whether Ms. Rice believed such a story. My responsibility as a historian does not begin and end with what any one individual happens to believe about the past. Continue reading “Weary Clyburn Didn’t Serve the Confederacy, He Survived It”

Video of Mattie Clyburn Rice Memorial Service

Below is video coverage of the memorial service for Ms. Mattie Clyburn Rice and her father, Weary Clyburn, which took place this past weekend. The opening speaker references Clyburn as a soldier in the 12th South Carolina Infantry, which is patently false given the evidence. The next speaker uses Lincoln’s Second Inaugural to suggest that Weary and Frank Clyburn experienced the same war. They “drank from the same streams and felt the same heat and cold and they witnessed the same ugliness that is a part of war.” What is completely overlooked is that one experienced the war as a slave and the other as a free man. Teresea Roane, formerly an archivist with the Museum of the Confederacy and now with the UDC, suggests that thousands of black men served as soldiers in the Confederate army. Continue reading “Video of Mattie Clyburn Rice Memorial Service”

Ben “Cooter” Jones Fires Up The General Lee

Most of the emails that I received over the weekend in response to my interview for a story about Mattie Rice Clyburn were predictable. The responses included references to the fact that I am “from” Boston even though no true Bostonian would agree with such an assessment since I’ve only lived here for three years. And, of course, many of the emails include the tired mantra that I “hate the South.” I filed the emails away with the rest of the hate mail that I’ve received over the years. Continue reading “Ben “Cooter” Jones Fires Up The General Lee”

What Confederate Defeat Ought to Mean to One Family

Mattie Clyburn RiceI 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.

R.I.P. Mattie Clyburn Rice

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.