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. Continue reading “Black Family Reclaims History From Sons of Confederate Veterans”

Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of Lee Chapel

This week the Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans learned that they will not be allowed to use the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington & Lee University for their annual celebration of Lee-Jackson Day. A spokesman for the school made it very clear as to why:

Hosting the program is no longer an appropriate use of Lee Chapel, W&L spokesmen Brian Eckert said, in light of the “distortion, misstatements and inflammatory language” the school has endured from members of the organization upset with its decision last year to remove Confederate flags from part of the chapel.

“The persistent name-calling, vilification and uncivil attacks in messages to the university, letters to the editors of local newspapers and social media postings have persuaded us that our original intent to make the chapel available would not be appropriate,” Eckert said. “We simply are not going to allow our own facilities to be used as a place from which those attacks can be made.”

Continue reading “Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of Lee Chapel”

On the Death of Anthony Hervey and the Myth of Black Confederates

I am very pleased to to share my debut article for The Daily Beast, which went live earlier this morning. For most of you the topic offers very little that is new. It touches on the subject of my current book project on the history of camp servants and the myth of the black Confederate soldier, but it does so by examining why the Sons of Confederate Veterans went into mourning over the death of Anthony Hervey.

The original title for the article was, “The Black Man Who Died To Keep the Confederate Flag Flying,” but the editors decided to go with what I suspect is a less controversial title. Thanks to historian Marc Wortman for making the introductions as well as to Malcolm Jones at The Daily Beast for his timely response and enthusiasm.

[photograph of funeral procession for Anthony Hervey taken by Jonathan Lee Krohn]

Witness the End of Sons of Confederate Veterans

Consider the following evidence.

Evidence A

Gary Feis, a contractor from North Carolina on a week-long tour of Virginia battlefields, wore a camouflage cap embroidered with the flag and the words “100% Genuine Rebel.” The flag, he said, was nothing more than “a symbol of a rallying point during the battles, so they could know where their people were.” “People are very ignorant of history in this country,” he said as he perused books, bumper stickers and prints venerating the Civil War.

Evidence B

“There’s obviously a visceral reaction to this wave of cultural cleansing, there’s nothing else to call it,” said Ben Jones, the former Georgia congressman best known as the actor who played Cooter on the ’80s series about good ol’ boys in the rural South. “A lot of people have said to me, ‘This reminds me of Nazi Germany in 1933, when they started burning books.’ When you take ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ off the air, this internationally beloved show, and hint that it is because it is racist . . . it’s a bridge too far.” Continue reading “Witness the End of Sons of Confederate Veterans”

The United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Curious Silence on the Confederate Flag Debate

We have heard quite a bit from Sons of Confederate Veterans over the past week in response to the debate over the Confederate flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina and beyond. Members claim a direct ancestral connection to Confederate soldiers, which they believe translates into some kind of privileged status regarding all things heritage.

Silent on these issues has been that other venerable Confederate heritage organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded two years before the SCV in 1894. [The best history of the organization is Karen Cox’s Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture.] Their silence surrounding the Confederate flag debate is curious given their consistent position limiting the display of the battle flag. The UDC’s position was born out of a concern that any use strictly apart from carefully orchestrated ceremonial events in honor of the soldier would distort its meaning. Continue reading “The United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Curious Silence on the Confederate Flag Debate”