Cliff Harrington, a writer for the Charlotte Observer, offers a news story (July 19, 2008) and a commentary (July 21, 2008).
Confederate Hero Was Slave, Cliff Harrington, Charlotte Observer, July 19.
Information about Wary Clyburn had been tucked away for years in old records and the memory of his daughter, Mattie Rice. There were records that showed he had been approved to receive a pension in 1926 after letters confirmed he was a Civil War veteran. And there are the memories Mattie Clyburn Rice has from conversations with her father. Wary Clyburn was a slave. On Friday, he was honored by the city of Monroe and Sons of Confederate Veterans as an African American Confederate hero. A diverse crowd of around 200 attended. Wary was owned by Frank Clyburn, a plantation owner in Lancaster County, S.C. He went on to serve in the Civil War as a bodyguard for Thomas Clyburn, son of Frank, and later was a special aide to Gen. Robert E. Lee, documents show. Wary died when his daughter, Mattie, was 8. She was born in 1922. Her father was born about 1841 and died in 1930, according to records cited by Earl Ijames, a curator of the N.C. Museum of History. Various documents spell Wary's name several ways: Werry, Weary and Wary. Rice says the correct spelling is Wary. She was unable to attend Friday's memorial ceremony, even though she had worked for years to gather details about her father. Rice became sick and was taken to a local hospital early Friday.
The ceremony answered many questions. In a statement Friday, Ijames said Thomas Clyburn joined the Confederate army at age 19. Wary then ran away from the plantation and went to join the Confederate Army with Thomas. Many believed the two had become friends during boyhood. Rice this week recalled conversations with her father. “We talked a lot about the war,” she said. “… He told me he just went to war with this fella he grew up with. He said his family wasn't treated like the other slaves around there.” Ijames told the family that on two occasions Wary Clyburn carried Thomas away from deadly fighting and to safety. “Here's a legacy that has endured more than 140 years, through his youngest child and her increase,” Ijames said. “She never wavered in the stories her father told her.
Among the large group of descendants at Friday's ceremony were four of Wary Clyburn's grandchildren: Mary Elizabeth Clyburn Hooks, Countee Hall, Valerie Frazier and Ruth Young. Young received an honorary flag given by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A new marker now stands at Wary Clyburn's grave in Monroe's Hillcrest Cemetery, with his name and military information for public viewing. As a final part of the ceremony, his descendants filed past his resting place. Each dropped a rose on the grave to honor their patriarch. The youngest was 2-year-old Kai Bryant – Wary's great-great granddaughter.
Confederate Army Veteran –And Slave, Cliff Harrington, July 21, 2008.
Wary Clyburn, the Confederate army veteran, puts a new face on an old standard for which we can measure our character. He was brave and loyal. Clyburn was a slave. He was born about 1841 in Lancaster County, S.C., records show. He died in 1930 in Union County, where he moved after the war. He was honored as a Civil War hero Friday during a ceremony at Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroe. Members of N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans sponsored the event, along with the City of Monroe. Mayor Bobby Kilgore declared it Wary Clyburn Day. It should be noted that official documents spell his first name several ways: Werry, Weary and Wary. His daughter, Mattie Rice, says the correct spelling is Wary. The Lancaster, S.C., plantation where he was born was owned by Thomas Clyburn. Government records from 1850 show that Thomas Clyburn owned more than 17 slaves, infants to age 60. Earl J. Ijames, curator for the N.C. Museum of History, said there's no way to know how many slaves served in the Confederate army. “They weren't counted because they didn't have full rights and were not paid,” he said. Clyburn didn't allow the slaves he owned to be sold or split up, Ijames said. “That shows some conscience on the part of Thomas Clyburn.”
He also pointed out this conscience was within the context of slavery, one of the cruelest practices in American history. Ijames said many believe Wary Clyburn had grown up with Thomas Clyburn's son, Frank Clyburn. Rice, who was born in 1922, confirmed that claim last week. “We talked a lot about the war,” she said. “… He told me he just went to war with this fella he grew up with. He said his family wasn't treated like the other slaves around there.” Ijames said during the slavery era, it was not unusual for slaves and owners' children to grow up together and, in some cases, develop relationships and feel loyalty to one another.
Wary served as bodyguard for Capt. Frank Clyburn in Company E of the 12th regiment from South Carolina. He carried Frank on his shoulders to rescue his boyhood friend from intense fighting. He also served as a special aide to Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to documents that his daughter has. Even today Wary Clyburn gives us a clear role model of honor and bravery under the most trying circumstances. Few things have challenged the human spirit more than enslavement and war. Through Mr. Clyburn we get a snapshot of the complex relations that existed during that time. He was loyal to the men who had shown him kindness and that loyalty carried over even into a war where they could have been cast as enemies. His actions show he had a deep understanding of what it meant to be a man of character. I can't honestly say I understand Mr. Clyburn's depth of loyalty and bravery. I can say it's a shame history hasn't given us a better recording of others like him. Wary Clyburn, the Confederate army veteran, puts a new face on an old standard for which we can measure our character. He was brave and loyal.
Photographs: Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina
Ruth Young, granddaughter of Wary Clyburn, receives the Confederate flag from a Civil War re-enactor at a ceremony Friday honoring Clyburn, who was a slave and a Civil War hero. The ceremony was held at Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroe.
July 19, Charlotte Observer, and July 21, Charlotte Observer.
CWL: The news writer does not state that Wary Clyburn was enlisted in the Confederate army but calls him a Confederate army veteran because he received a pension. Was that a Federal pension or a North Carolina pension? He also calls Wary Clyburn a bodygaurd for Captain Clyburn. I bet Captain Clyburn called Wary Clyburn a servant. Also, I bet General Lee called Wary Clyburn a servant, and not "my special aide."