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Civil War memorial to overlooked legacy
Plaque honors service of blacks to Confederacy
 
Published Thursday, December 6, 2012 8:57 am
by Herbert L. White

 

After two years and countless hours of lobbying and research, African Americans who went to war for the Confederacy will have their service officially recognized.

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PHOTO/KIMBERLY HARRINGTON
Weary Clyburn, who served the Confederate cause when he followed his master Frank Clyburn during the Civil War, is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroe. His name is etched on a plaque with nine other African Americans who saw duty in the Civil War.


A public unveiling of a Civil War marker honoring 10 pensioners will take place on Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. the Old County Courthouse in Monroe. The 4-foot-by-28-inch marble plaque will sit in the brick walkway in front of the existing Confederate monument.


“This will be the first monument in the United States that … names soldiers by name,” said Tony Way, an amateur historian from Indian Trail and Sons of Confederate Veterans member who lobbied Union County commissioners for the marker. “They’re real flesh and blood people and I think they’ve been treated unfairly by history because of political correctness run amok sometimes. They’re not recognized because of their Confederate connection and the word ‘Confederate’ is kind of taboo in our vocabulary.”


Among those expected to attend the ceremony are retired Fulton County (Ga.) sheriff Jackie Washington, a descendant of pensioner Aaron Perry and his great-grandson, also named Aaron Perry, of Charlotte. Mattie Rice, the 90-yar-old daughter of Wary Clyburn will unveil the marker, the junior Aaron Perry will be inducted into the SCV.


“It’s going to be a great honor that day,” the junior Perry said. “It’s very personal for me.”


The Union County Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously in June to approve the privately funded marker to recognize the service of nine slaves and one freedman who earned state pensions. Commissioners earlier rejected the proposal because it named individuals instead of regiments, as earlier markers did.


“When it passed, no one was more surprised than I was,” Way said. “They turned it down the first time, and I had to keep going back to the commissioners and every time I went back I had a different story.”


The exact number of blacks who went to war with their masters is unclear. Historians contend no slaves actually took up arms for the Confederacy, but they provided support to the southern cause as “body servants” who protected their masters in battle, intelligence assets, cooks and laborers. Way contends that they served the losing side, their contributions shouldn’t be diminished.


“My grandfater was a slave,” said Perry, who spoke on behalf of the monument at board meetings over the years. “He had to fight against his freedom in order to be free.”


Said Way: “These guys were swept under the rug and overlooked by history,” Way said. “The only way to keep their story alive is to repeat them to other people and put something out in the public eye that says these people were really here and really did what they did.”

 

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