Memorial for Confederate Pensioners of Color, Monroe
The granite marker, measuring 48 inches by 28 inches in size, is set into a brick walkway. Its inscription includes the names of ten African American pensioners who served in the Civil War.
IN MEMORY OF / UNION COUNTY'S CONFEDERATE PENSIONERS OF COLOR / WILSON ASHCRAFT GEORGE CURETON AARON PERRY / NED BYRD HAMP CUTHBERTSON JEFF SANDERS* / WEARY CLYBURN MOSE FRASER / WYATT CUNNINGHAM LEWIS MCGILL / IN HONOR OF COURAGE & SERVICE BY ALL AFRICAN AMERICANS DURING THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES (1861-65) / *FREE PERSON OF COLOR
Old County Courthouse, Union County
December 08, 2012
34.982820 , -80.550120 View in Geobrowse
"Dedication set for monument to black Confederates." charlotteobserver.com, December 5, 2012
Bell, Adam. "In Memory of Black Confederate Vets - Marker Coming to Union County That Honors Local Slaves Who Served in Civil War," Charlotte Observer, (Charlotte, NC), August 4, 2012, 1B
Bell, Adam. "Marker Rejected for Slaves in South's Army - Union County Says Plan Poses an Inconsistency," Charlotte Observer, (Charlotte, NC), February 16, 2011, 1A
Bell, Adam. "Marker for Slaves in Confederate Army? - Union County Moves Forward By Sending the Request to Local Historical Commission," Charlotte Observer, (Charlotte, NC), March 22, 2012, 1B
Bell, Adam. "Slaves' Confederate Army Toil Honored," Charlotte Observer, (Charlotte, NC), December 9, 2012, 1A
Bell, Adam. "Union Board OKs Slave Marker - Stone at County's Confederate Memorial to Note 10 Blacks Who Served the South in Civil War," Charlotte Observer, (Charlotte, NC), Jun 8, 2012, 1A
Bell, Adam. "Union County Panel Holds Hearing About Slave Marker," Charlotte Observer, (Charlotte, NC), May 4, 2012, 4B
Martinez, Jaime Amanda. "Why Exactly Are We Commemorating 'Confederate Pensioners of Color'?," The University of North Carolina Press, (accessed May 21, 2014) Link
Citizens who supported the monument created the Union County Pensioners Monument Fund Committee to oversee the collection of funds from private donors.
The dedication ceremony took place at the Old County Courthouse in Monroe with a diverse crowd of 250 people in attendance. The marker was dedicated by 90-year-old Mattie Rice, the daughter of one of the slaves being honored. Several other descendants also attended the event. Women dressed in funeral attire with veils and black dresses. Men dressed in Confederate uniforms carrying rifles and sabers. "Amazing Grace" was also performed by bagpipe. Confederate flags were flown from the courthouse balcony beside the nation's flag.
Speakers at the ceremony included North Carolina Museum of History curator Earl Ijames and members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Order of the Confederate Rose, Children of the Confederacy, the Order of the Black Rose, and the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. Michael Givens, the commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, inducted the grandson of one of the ten honored men into the organization during the ceremony.
After the unveiling, a green wreath was placed beside the marker and the ten honored names were read to the crowd. A hand bell was rung and the women laid ten black roses on the marker, one for each honored man. A Confederate honor guard fired off a salute, followed by the playing of taps.
The marker honors ten African American men, nine slaves and one free man, who received state pensions for their service in the Civil War. Slave labor remained important for the Confederacy during the war. Slaves performed tasks such as cooking, constructing buildings and ditches, and manufacturing arms and ammunition. Historians posit that virtually no black men fought in combat for the Confederacy and it is difficult to enumerate the slaves that labored for the Confederacy. Because these men received pensions, their service is documented. All ten men were deemed bodyguards or "body servants" in their pension applications, but they also cooked, built forts, and carried supplies.
Controversies surrounding this monument came to the forefront during its long approval process. One of the issues cited by opponents was the inconsistency with existing monuments commemorating Confederate dead which are located on the courthouse grounds. Because the other monuments do not list individual names, some believed that the installation of a marker with names would elevate those ten individuals above the other soldiers who died during the war.
Supporters of the monument claimed that race was a factor in the initial rejection of the marker by the Historical Preservation Commission. They argued that the commission simply did not want a monument to African Americans at the courthouse.
Additionally, the marker brings up issues stemming from the emphasis on black contributions to the Confederacy, which some see as hypocritical and serving to minimize the role of slavery in the war.
The marker is located in front of the Old Union County Courthouse, at 400 North Main Street, Monroe, NC 28112. It is right at the base of the Confederate Soldiers Monument that was dedicated in 1910. Other memorials in front of the historic courthouse include Courthouse Cross and War Dead Plaques, Korean War and World War One memorials. A Revolutionary War memorial is on the west side lawn, Fire Fighters memorial on the south side and Vietnam Memorial on the east side lawn.
The courthouse building is surrounded by mature shady trees, seasonal and evergreen plants, and a well-maintained lawn. The marker is set into a brick walkway leading to the courthouse.
The courthouse lawn serves as a ceremonial center for community activities, such as parades. The United Daughters of the Confederacy used to hold Memorial Day celebrations at the site until some residents protested the ceremonies.
The approval process for the monument lasted more than two years. In May of 2010, Tony Way, member of the Union County Sons of Confederate Veterans and amateur historian, asked county commissioners to approve the proposed marker. The commissioners sent an informal request to the Historic Preservation Commission asking if they believed the courthouse was the appropriate location for the marker. The Commission, which has jurisdiction over the courthouse, did not believe the new monument should be installed on the courthouse grounds because it was inconsistent with existing monuments. The situation was revisited in March of 2012. Support for the marker had grown, even gaining endorsement from descendants of the ten men to be honored. After a vote of three to two, county commissioners asked that the Historic Preservation Commission provide a certificate of appropriateness that would allow the monument to be installed at the courthouse. On May 3, 2012, the Commission held a public hearing to discuss the proposed marker. At the hour-long hearing, ten people spoke in favor of the proposed monument while two spoke against it. On June 7, 2012, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan. Board members ultimately believed the marker would address a forgotten piece of county history. Once the Commission approved the final wording for the inscription and size of the marker in August of 2012, plans for the dedication ceremony and the funding of marker were finalized.