CLEMSON — Ken Nabors’ voice echoed off the Old Stone Church walls when he wanted to make a point about the Civil War’s origins. Nabors isn’t a preacher, but he spoke with all the fire of a Southern evangelist about the war and South Carolina’s role in it.
Nabors, president of the Pickens County Historical Society, said the cause of the war is widely misunderstood. “Truth needs no defense, but a lie hides behind a mask so let’s expose some truth today,” Nabors said.
Almost 50 people listened Tuesday as Nabors spoke at the Clemson church on Confederate Memorial Day. They stood inside a white-washed sanctuary and sang a jubilant rendition of “Dixie’s Land” and saluted the Confederate flag. Some wore full beards and suspenders reminiscent of the 1800s. The Reeves family accompanied the congregation on violin.
The John C. Calhoun Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy celebrated the holiday by marking the graves of 45 Confederate soldiers at the church’s cemetery. The recognition ended with a short service, and refreshments under an old oak tree.
The Calhoun chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has been honoring soldiers for more than 50 years, said Marion Whitehurst, chapter president. On Tuesday, the group also marked the graves of 13 Revolutionary War patriots, including two women.
The Old Stone Church was built in 1797, and slaves once worshipped under its wood beams, Whitehurst said.
Nabors said one of the biggest misconceptions about the Confederacy is that hot-headed Southern men craved war.
Many of South Carolina’s soldiers came from prominent backgrounds, Nabors said. Three were future governors, 12 were ministers, two were West Point alumni and 14 were judges.
The average age of men who signed an ordinance for succession was 53, Nabors said.
“This was a solemn act by the state of South Carolina made by solemn men,” he said.
The reason the Civil War started, Nabors said, was that the South was invaded.
“Secession didn’t cause the war; firing on Fort Sumter caused the war,” he said. “We were only protecting our sovereign territory.”
Churches, schools and media teach that slavery was the root of the war, but that isn’t true, Nabors said. Slavery did lead to war, he said, but it was not the biggest reason.
Economics also weighed heavily on the war.
The North wanted high tariffs on Southern cotton exported to Europe, and that dispute, along with a host of political ones, formed an atmosphere ripe for conflict.
“I think everything he said was true,” said Jim Bay of Six Mile. He went to Walhalla’s Confederate Memorial Day observance Tuesday morning and decided to go to the Old Stone Church to support the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Al Robinson of Seneca is a retired Anderson teacher and principal. He taught his students about the Confederacy out of the textbook and also told them the facts absent from its pages, he said.
“If you don’t study it, you believe what you hear,” he said.
The losing end often has little say what goes down in history, said Wayne Kelley, vice president of the Pickens County Historical Society.
“The victors always write the history,” he said. “If you were educated in any public school in the U.S. you were taught their version.”