State Representatives Bill Chumley and Mike Burns filed bills last year in the South Carolina legislature with the goal of erecting a monument honoring South Carolina’s black Confederate soldiers. However, it turns out that no African-Americans fought for South Carolina during the Civil War.
Speaking to Fox Carolina in October, Mike Burns said, “Explaining the War Between the States and the events leading up to it is much more complex than can be explained by a few paragraphs in a history book.” He added, “This monument can help educate current and future generations of a little-known — but important — part of South Carolina history. These African-Americans, like many of their Caucasian contemporaries, stepped up to defend their home state during a tumultuous time in our country’s history. Their service has largely been overlooked or forgotten.”
Well, of course “explaining the War Between the States… is much more complex than can be explained by a few paragraphs in a history book.” However, the complexity is not the fault of history books nor the fault of the historians who write history books. It’s the fault of people like Mike Burns who obfuscate the issue. I’m happy to take a crack at un-complicating it a bit, though.
The Civil War was fought over states’ rights. Specifically, the right for states to preserve the institution of chattel slavery. So, when asked, “Was the Civil War fought over states’ rights or slavery?” the answer is “yes.”
Don’t believe me? Read the South Carolina Declaration of Secession (the other Confederate states’ Declarations of Secession are basically the same). Don’t have time to read it? Here’s a summation: “The US Constitution codifies and protects slavery. The dastardly Yankees are trampling our right to
kidnap, rape, abuse, and murder enslave those whom we believe are of an inferior race.” Or read Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech.”
But I digress.
Well, it’s not really that much of a digression. After all, considering the reason for the Confederacy’s existence (see above), it makes sense that Bill Chumley and Mike Burns’ desired monument will honor exactly nobody. Frankly, it would be shocking to find out that many African-Americans voluntarily took up arms to defend their tyrants.
Records show [South Carolina] never accepted nor recognized armed African-American soldiers during the Civil War.
‘In all my years of research, I can say I have seen no documentation of black South Carolina soldiers fighting for the Confederacy,’ said Walter Edgar, who for 32 years was director of the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Southern Studies and is author of South Carolina: A History.
‘In fact, when secession came, the state turned down free (blacks) who wanted to volunteer because they didn’t want armed persons of color,’ he said.
Pension records gleaned from the S.C. Department of History and Archives show no black Confederate soldiers received payment for combat service. And of the more than 300 blacks who did receive pensions after they were allowed in 1923, all served as body servants or cooks, the records show.
Part of me hopes that South Carolina goes ahead and builds that statue. For one thing, I’ll enjoy the irony of a supposedly conservative state wasting taxpayer money on a statue, especially considering that the statue will honor a non-existent people group. More importantly, maybe the stupidity of the monument will cause young South Carolinians to research the Civil War for themselves and discover that their grandpappies have been lying to them.
I was born and raised in the Deep South, and almost everyone around me attempted to inculcate me with the belief that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery and that the Confederacy was noble. Friends, relatives, strangers standing in the Ryan’s buffet line would all say, “It’s heritage, not hate!” And then, with nary a whiff of irony, they would follow up their made-up history lesson with racist drivel (I’m sure that there will be examples of that in the comment section below). In other words, their heritage is hate.
South Carolina taxpayers would be better served if Chumley and Burns erected a monument honoring the Yankees who freed the non-existent black Confederate soldiers.