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100 Chapter Four Camp Slaves and Pensions In 1926, at the age of eight-­ five, Weary Clyburn completed a “Soldier’s Application for Pension” in Monroe County, North Carolina.1 The elderly man filled out the same form that Confederate veterans in the state had used going back to 1889, but Clyburn’s application process was anything but routine . The designation “colored” followed the applicant’s name, and rather than indicate the unit in which he served during thewar,Clyburn referenced that of his master: Captain Frank Clyburn, Company E., 12th South Carolina Volunteers. The section identifying the applicant as having served “in the armies of the late Confederate States” was crossed out, and in the space available it was stated that Clyburn’s “services were meritorious and faithful toward his master, and the causeof the Confederacy.” The application makes it clear that Clyburn’s pension application was intended for a former camp slave and not a Confederate veteran.2 A statement from the local pension board to the state auditor, which accompanied Clyburn’s application, corroborated the information provided and alsowent on to highlight his “meritorious”service. “While underenemy fire” at Hilton Head, South Carolina, Clyburn “carried his master out of the field of fireon his shoulder.” He also, according to the statement, “performed personal services for Robert E. Lee,” though the natureof those services was not specified. Finally, Clyburn’s application stressed his desperate financial situation by indicating that he “has a wife and foolish boy to support; is too old to work and too proud to beg or steal.” These brief statements greatly strengthened Clyburn’s application by emphasizing that he had been a loyal slave during the war who was now greatly in need of financial assistance. Weary Clyburn was one of roughly 2,800 former slaves who received Camp Slaves and Pensions 101 pensions from former Confederate states. Although the total number was relatively small, these men remained a potent symbol within the Lost Cause narrative, shaping Southern memories of the war well into the twentieth century. Accounts of camp slaves in veterans’ memoirs, popular literature, and visual culture were central to the argument that the Confederate cause united whites and blacks against an evil “Yankee” invasion that destroyed a peaceful world that the two races had built together. After the war, the presence of former slaves at Confederate veterans’ reunions and other public events comforted white Southerners, who generally believed that slave loyalty to their former masters and fidelity to the memory of the Confederacy survived defeat and temporaryoccupation by the federal government during Reconstruction.White Southerners welcomed and celebrated former camp slaves, especially those who attended reunions, as evidence that peaceful race relations could be maintained and that theold order, built on blackdeference towhite authority, could be maintained in the New South and during a period of continued racial tension. Calls to pension former camp slaves were considered as early as the 1880s, but they received their most sustained support from Confederateveteransbeginninginthefirstdecadeof thetwentiethcenturyasaresultof their interaction during reunions and other public events. Veterans framed their support around a familiar narrativeof slave loyalty to their formerowners as well as the Confederate cause, but they also acknowledged a more personal shared experience: master and slave endured many of the hardships of war that included extended time away from family; periods of malnourishment; long, dusty marches; and even the dangers of the battlefield itself. Former camp slaves in their twilight years exhibited some of the same physical disabilities as the veterans and constituted a powerful argument to extend the pension program. ThepensionprogramthatemergedinthepostwarSouthwasestablished first to address the poverty and economic struggles of Confederate veterans with disabilities and onlygraduallyevolved to include formercamp servants. Poverty was common in the postwar years for both whites and blacks, but for any number of reasons it was a bigger and more commonplace problem within the African American community.That theveteran communitycame to champion expanding the program to include formercamp servants attests to their memoryofa shared experienceduring thewarand even an acknowledgment of someof the same postwar struggles, but it must be remembered that the number of black men awarded pensions was exceedingly small, and the pensions were never equal to those provided to white veterans.3 102 Camp Slaves and Pensions State legislatures that extended their pension programs to include camp slaves in the 1920s reinforced the tenets of the Lost Cause narrative of the war for a new generation of white Southerners and sent a powerful political message to the black community that...


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