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”→
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.
On Tuesday night the local chapters of Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy of Murray, Kentucky came out to commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. The keynote address was offered by Ron Sydnor, who is the park manager at the Jefferson Davis Historic Site.
He was a man ahead of his time. But because of that one moment in time, his legacy has been tainted. My grandmother used to say, ‘You can have a million ‘atta boys, but just one awe shucks, and that one can ruin them all. None of our history books talk about what he did before the Civil War. What he did helped shape this country. He’s the scapegoat for everything, but he gets no credit for the positive things that he did.
Yes, it is unfortunate that this one moment (which happened to involve leading a rebellion against the United States to ensure the future of slavery and white supremacy) overshadows all of the positive contributions made by Jefferson Davis.
Davis may not be getting the credit he deserves, but I have no doubt that for the amount of time it took Mr. Sydnor to share his views on Tuesday evening all was right with the world for the members of the SCV and UDC.
Update: No surprise that Richard Williams is upset about the removal of the statue. He goes through his standard schtick by blaming the politically correct crowd, but then refers to me as part of the anti-Confederate crowd. No mention at all that it was the United Daughters of the Confederacy that approved the removal of the statue to the cemetery. Seems to me that in this case it’s the UDC that ought to be saddled with this label. Old Virginia is a strange place indeed.
Back in 2011 the Confederate solider monument in Reidsville, North Carolina was hit by a car. A debate ensued about whether it should be repaired and whether it should be relocated. The United Daughters of the Confederacy chose to move it to a local cemetery. City officials have recently decided on a piece of public art to replace the monument. It’s called “The Bud.” You can read about the concept in the article. Continue reading “Confederate Monument Replaced By a Bud”→
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”→