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.
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.
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.
I chose not to comment on this story when it broke the other day in central Texas. Turns out a noose was discovered hanging from a large Sons of Confederate Veterans billboard along Highway 290. This was reported by a member of the local chapter of the SCV, but one Star-Telegram reporter is hinting that something is not quite right with this story. Better to let him tell it:
“It’s racist — a hate crime,” rancher Donnie Roberts said. Washington County Chief Deputy Mike Herzog laughed. “They were the first people who saw those nooses, and then they alerted the media,” he said. I got the feeling he won’t bring in the FBI. “It’s on a busy highway, and nobody else saw it,” he said. It would have taken three people with a bucket truck and extension ladder to hang the nooses, he said. Coincidentally, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans history and heritage group responded quickly with a bucket truck and extension ladder to take them down. The giant double billboard went up last year on the busy highway east of Brenham. Both sides wave battle flags with the message “Southern Born, Texas Proud! Learn About Your Heritage” and the phone number to buy $30-a-year Sons memberships. Chappell Hill physician Robert Stark, also a Sons member, said Roberts saw the nooses first.
So what did they do? Why, they were so insulted and threatened that Stark immediately took a bunch of photos and e-mailed them to a radio station. KWHI/1280 AM’s website headlined “Local Billboard Vandalized.” Roberts declared a “degradation of our historic heritage.” At the sheriff’s office, Herzog called it a “prank.” Deputies will investigate it as criminal mischief, he said. Roberts said he wants the national SCV to investigate a “crime against our people” and will offer a $5,000 reward. He said the suspect might be “white or black.” But he added: “Well, it did happen on Martin Luther King’s birthday.”
Like Andy, I have no idea what happened nor do I really care. That said, there is something fishy here. The “crime” plays right into the SCV’s tendency to see itself as some kind of victim in a society that shows no respect to southern heritage. But the belief that this constitutes a “crime against our people” and the insinuation that the perpetrator was black because it happened on MLK Day undermines their broader claim that southern heritage includes whites and blacks. What happened to all those black Confederates and loyal slaves?
Well, at least they are honest about who constitutes “our people.”