Sunday, January 3, 2010

UDC Honors Black Confederates

UDC members hold grave marking ceremony for 18 Confederate soldiers

A most unusual memorial grave marking ceremony was recently held at Maplewood Cemetery in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee. This was the dedication of markers for 18 Tennessee Colored Confederate Pensioners. Pamela Wood of Sparta and Barbara Parsons of Crossville, both members of the Capt. Sally Tompkins 2123 UDC, attended the impressive ceremony.

Cathy Gordon Wood, president of the Giles County 257, United Daughters of the Confederacy, used newspaper accounts and Tennessee Colored Confederate Pension applications to locate these Giles County men, their respective service to the Confederacy, and their family members. One of the Colored Confederates received the Southern Cross of Honor for his service.

The Captain Sally Tompkins 2123 UDC chapter in Cookeville has marked four Colored Confederate graves, and chapter member Pamela Wood (no relation to Cathy Wood) currently serves as chairman of the Tennessee Recognition of Black Confederates committee. When she began planning this memorial service, Cathy Wood of Pulaski contacted the chapter regarding the grave markings they had done, and also Pamela Wood for procedure to apply for the Veterans Administration markers since the chapter had applied for and received four VA markers for Colored Confederates in the past.

To the great shock of everyone involved the VA refused to supply the markers for the 18 Colored Confederates, stating that they were slaves and did not qualify. Several of these Colored Confederate veterans had attended military reunions for many years up until their deaths. They had received pensions from the state of Tennessee for their service. May 23, 1958, Confederate veterans were declared by the U.S. Congress as, “All Confederate veterans are U.S. military veterans, and deserve all the rights and honors pertinent to such service.” Quote from U.S. Statutes at large, Volume 72, Part 1, Pages 133-134.

Though many efforts were made to secure the proper recognition for these Colored Confederate veterans, the VA would not change their position, stating the men served as cooks, teamsters, and body servants, not as soldiers. This argument does not hold up because men who served in these same positions in the Union army have been given VA grave markers. This is a clear case of discrimination by the Veterans Administration.

Rather than allowing 18 Confederate soldiers to go unmarked, the Giles County 257 UDC chapter began a fundraising effort and raised the necessary funds to purchase the markers. The Capt. Sally Tompkins 2123 UDC also sent a donation to aid in the purchase these markers.

Property was purchased in Maplewood Cemetery and a double rainbow of 18 grave markers were placed together. There will also be a fence placed around the markers; however, it had been raining too much to be able to install the fence before the dedication service.

Approximately 300 people attended the ceremony including many descendants of the men being honored, state representatives, the city and county mayors and a letter was read from Governor Bredesen. A sketch of the service of each veteran was given as well as family information and the location of their burial, if known, was included on their memorial marker. Family members gave brief accounts of family history on their ancestors. At the conclusion of the addresses family members removed the covers placed on the markers during the service, and the service was closed with the playing of the “Echo Taps.”