Three history professors from Liberty University in Virginia share their thoughts about the causes and legacies of our civil war. According to the department chair the Civil War is best understood as a “civilizational conflict” or “culture war.” Professor Jones acknowledges the centrality of slavery as a cause of the war and highlights its destruction, but cautions the viewer that Americans are fast becoming “slaves” of the federal government. Finally, Professor Ritchie reduces the war down to sectional differences and the importance of money to social advancement in the North. Yeah, someone should give him a copy of Edward Baptist’s new book. Turns out that plenty of people in the South cared a great deal about money.
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”→
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”→
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.
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. Continue reading “Who Was This “White Man’s Darkey”?”→