Tag Archives: Sons of Confederate Veterans

Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of St. Paul’s Episcopal

Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis all prayed at the church at one point or another during the war.  It was there in April 1865 that Davis learned that Richmond must be evacuated.  So, why the cold shoulder?  It’s hard to tell at this point, but here is what we know.  Yesterday the Sons of Confederate Veterans held their National Heritage Rally in the city, which was to include a panel discussion titled, “Debunking the Myth of the White Confederate Military” at the church  The panelists were to include Teresa Roane archivist at the Museum of the Confederacy and Eric Richardson, who is currently a graduate student in history at North Carolina Central University.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is doing some very interesting research at the MOC.  It is highly unlikely that the title of the panel or the panelists themselves were responsible for the church’s change of heart.  The panel was to be followed by a revival service at the church.  Apparently, at the last minute some time on Friday church officials canceled the event.

The day began with a small rally of SCV faithful at the Lee monument on Monument Avenue.  At least one unit marched while chanting the following:

What do we do?

Kill Yankees

How Many?

All of them

Would you want these people in your church?

Note: Updates will be posted as more information becomes available.

A Black Confederate Without the Black Ancestor

Willie Levi Casey

I am making my way through a small collection of essays in Thomas Brown’s Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).  Fitz Brundage opens his essay on African American artists, who have interpreted the Civil War in recent years, with a reference to Willie Levi Casey.  You can see Casey in the image to the right and while I’ve seen it on a number of websites, up until now I didn’t know anything about his background.

While Casey is dressed to commemorate those black men who “served” in Confederate ranks and “support preserving Southern history and telling it the way it is,” his connection to the war does not end with a black individual at all.  Here is an excerpt from one news item that I found online:

Casey’s persona as a re-enactor is a free black cabinetmaker from eastern Tennessee, able to read and write, with a wife and a child at home. But he has a real-life link to the Confederacy as well–one he always vaguely knew about but pinned down only in recent years.  Casey grew up in Cross Anchor, S.C., in the 1960s and ’70s. It was an area full of Caseys, black and white.  He and his siblings knew they had a white great-grandfather, a man who had never married their American Indian/African-American great-grandmother even though they had six children together.  A family photo of the couple’s son Barney Casey shows a bulky man in overalls with lank gray hair and white skin. He’s Willie Casey’s grandfather.  Willie Casey was well into adulthood when he decided to research the white side of his family.  In the course of his genealogical effort he came across the Civil War record of one Pvt. Martin Luther Casey, a South Carolina soldier killed in 1862. That man was the older brother of Casey’s great-grandfather.  Being a collateral relative of a Civil War soldier qualified Casey for membership in the SCV.

Interestingly, websites maintained by H.K. Edgerton and J.R. Vogel conveniently overlook the fact that Casey’s ancestor is not black.

OK, so I readily admit that I am confused.  On the one hand Casey was accepted into the SCV based on his connection to the brother of his great-grandfather.  The living interpretation that he adopts for reenactments and other events, however, is based on a fictional character whose connection to history is tenuous at best.

I guess what I am having trouble understanding is that in his effort to ‘tell it the way it is’ he ignores what has to be a fascinating Civil War legacy in the story of his great-grandfather and great-grandmother.  Why doesn’t Casey do the necessary research to interpret the offspring of his great-grandparents?  That would go much further in challenging the public to expand their understanding of slavery and race relations at a critical point in American history. I am sure the SCV would be more than happy to accommodate such a living memory of one’s Civil War ancestors.

Instead, we are presented with nothing more than the same tired commentary that reinforces outdated tropes that paint the Confederacy as some kind of experiment in civil rights.

[Image Source: The Free Lance-Star]

Celebrating a Certain Kind of “Black Confederate”

Impressed Slaves Working on Fortifications

[Cross-Posted at the Atlantic]

One of the things that jumps out at you when you look closely at the profile of the African Americans celebrated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans as “black Confederate soldiers” is that they were all body servants.  The best examples include Aaron Perry, Weary Clyburn, and Silas Chandler.

  • They “followed” their masters to war
  • Identified closely with the Confederate cause
  • Rescued their master on the battlefield (dead or wounded) and brought body home
  • Were awarded pensions for their “service”
  • Remained life long friends with their former owners

I’ve suggested before that this narrative owes its popularity to its close connection to the mythology surrounding the loyal slave that took hold even before the war.  What is interesting, however, is that body servants were not representative of how the Confederacy utilized slave labor during the war.  In fact, we know that the number of slaves brought into the army with their masters as servants dropped by the middle of the war for a number of reasons.

Click to continue

SCV Butchers Another Slave’s History

1911 photo of Aaron Perry

In a recent speech, Ed Ayers suggested that “the enemy of Civil War history is everything people think they know about the conflict.”  We could just as easily point to what people don’t know as that enemy.  I am not going to say anything new about this most recent case of a slave being honored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans for his “service” to the Confederacy.  You may even wonder why I bother to bring it up.  I believe it matters that the descendants of a slave have been duped into believing that their ancestor somehow served as a soldier or was acknowledged in some official capacity within the army.

I have a copy of Aaron Perry’s pension and as it states in the article he was a slave.  The jump from acknowledging Perry’s status as a slave to honoring him for his service in the Confederate army, however, suggests that some people have a very limited grasp of the institution.  Let me break this down for you:

  • Perry was legally tied to his master’s family.  He left home as the legal extension of the man who owned him.  His master likely took Perry to many places in addition to the army during the period of his life in which he was property.
  • Only citizens of the Confederacy were eligible to volunteer or be drafted into the army.
  • At no point did Perry’s status as a slave change while with the army.  He was there to serve his master and not the Confederate cause.
  • The extent of Perry’s movements while with the army were legally dictated by his master and not by military regulations.
  • Perry’s pension was given for his service as a slave and not as a soldier in the 37th NC.  In fact, the unit is irrelevant.

As the military extension of a government that was pledged to protect the institution of slavery it seems to me that a more fitting ceremony for the SCV would include an apology rather than an honor that has absolutely no basis in history.  After all, if the Confederate army had proven to be successful, Perry would still have been a slave.

Why We Need History Education: Black Confederate Edition

It should come as no surprise that Representative Benton is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  This past weekend an SCV camp in South Carolina honored a slave for his “service” to the Confederacy.  Unfortunately, his personal history has no significance or meaning beyond the vague references that support the SCV’s narrow and self-serving slave narrative.  Henry Craig,

  • went to war with his master.
  • rescued his master on the battlefield and brought him home safely.
  • remained on the family’s property until the day he died.

Where have we heard this one before?