Tag Archives: Weary Clyburn

Henry Louis Gates on Free Blacks and the Confederacy

I am going to feature this video with just a little commentary. Some of what Gates says here is just bizarre. Free blacks were “unmolested” by the Confederacy. Tell that to historian Clarence Mohr. In addition, according to Gates, the “dirtiest little secret in African-American history is that a surprisingly high percentage of the free Negros in the South owned slaves themselves.” Perhaps one of you can tell me what “high percentage” means in this context. Continue reading

 

Silas Chandler Redux

Silas Chandler

Descendants of Silas Chandler Reading About Their Famous Ancestor

You didn’t really think that I would allow the publication of a column on Silas Chandler in The New York Times to pass without comment, did ya? Thanks to Ronald Coddington for bringing the story of Silas (r) and Andrew (l) to the Disunion blog. [Ron and I shared a stage last year at the Virginia Festival of the Book to discuss our research.] As many of you know it is the story of Silas and Andrew that launched me down the road of taking the myth of the black Confederate soldier seriously. My relationship with Myra Chandler Sampson and our subsequent essay published in Civil War Times about her famous ancestor reinforced for me on so many levels why it is important that we correct these stories of loyal and obedient slaves that continue serve the interests of a select few. Continue reading

 

Weary Clyburn Redux

clyburn2_edited-1Dear Mr. Vanderburg,

Thanks for taking the time to read yesterday’s post and for your comments. As I stated in my response this is a subject that I’ve written and lectured on extensively over the past five years.  The popularity of the black Confederate narrative highlights both the extent to which history has become democratized and the increased use of the Internet as a research tool.  Many people first learn about this subject through the print and/or online newspaper, which offers a non-critical and often flawed account of the complex history involved.

This article out of North Carolina that appeared today offers another textbook example of what is wrong with the way this subject is often analyzed and presented to the public.  The story of Weary Clyburn is one I’ve been following for a couple of years.  He is arguably one of the most popular examples of a black Confederate soldier that never existed.  Maddie Rice is sincerely interested in the story of her father, but over the years she has been aided by heritage organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who have publicly distorted the history of Clyburn to serve their own needs.  Continue reading

 

Confederate Pensioners of Color Day

That’s a euphemism for slaves who were forced to work for the Confederate government during the war or who accompanied a master into the army.  Of the ten men who will be recognized today in Union County North Carolina, nine were slaves.  All received pensions after the war, but not for their service as soldiers.  The marker reads: “In Memory of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners of Color,” and lists their names: Wilson Ashcraft, Ned Byrd, Wary Clyburn, Wyatt Cunningham, George Cureton, Hamp Cuthbertson, Mose Fraser, Lewis McGill, Aaron Perry and Jeff Sanders.  I have the pensions for most of these men, including Clyburn’s whose file includes a letter confirming that his pension was not a recognition of service as a soldier – just in case there was any confusion.

It will be interesting to see whether event organizers, including speaker Earl Ijames, will mention that these men were indeed slaves.  It is nice to see that at least one newspaper includes a reference to these men as slaves.  That inconvenient fact is almost always ignored, but without it the history of these men makes absolutely no sense.

As I’ve said before, there is nothing wrong with remembering these men, but Confederate slaves ought to be recognized for surviving the Confederacy.

 

Confederate Pensioners of Color Day

Aaron Perry Did Not Serve in the 37th NC

The date has been set.  On December 8, Union County, North Carolina will dedicate a privately-funded marker on the Old County Courthouse honoring area slaves who performed various functions for the Confederate army.  This has been a long time coming and many of you have followed this story here at Civil War Memory.  Despite the reference to slaves in this article, the reference to these men as “Confederate Pensioners” does not bode well for an event that supposedly intends to recognize the role and place of slaves in the Confederate war effort.  Both Wary (Weary) Clyburn and Aaron Perry are included in the list of men to be honored and have been discussed on this site at length.

As for the article itself, I would love for someone to explain this sentence to me.

While it’s impossible to know how many of the men willingly followed their masters into war and how many were forced, supporters of the plan called it an appropriate, if overdue, recognition of their service.

What does it mean to willingly follow your master to do anything?

Costumed Civil War re-enactors, national and state leaders of the SCV, and a color guard also will be on hand.

Will that include reenactors, who will play the role of camp servants?  Will the audience get a glimpse into the world of slaves, who accompanied their masters to war or are we going to get the black reenactor in Confederate uniform routine?  Will those attending and the many more who will read the marker later understand that we are talking about slaves?
As I’ve said all along, these men deserve to be recognized, but we should do so with a critical eye toward getting the history right rather than distorting it for our own self-serving reasons.  I look forward to having my fears proven wrong.  Oh, and Earl Ijames will deliver the keynote address.