By Apryl Blakeney
Sunday, February 11, 2007
MORGANTON – Normally black history month conflicts with the idea of confederate re-enactors dressed in civil war garb.
Saturday was an exception. Sons of the Confederate Veterans spent the afternoon honoring an unknown black solder with a memorial service.
SCV camp 836 laid flowers by the soldier’s placard near Walker’s Top Baptist Church.
The man isn’t buried there, but it is the only place he is honored.
“We remember him up here,” says Commander Bruce Fleming as he stood near the marker overlooking Burkemont Mountain. “Even if no one else does.”
In 1999, SCV members found the unknown soldier buried near a Morganton church.
He laid nameless between a yankee fighter and Col. Thomas Walton with the 8th Burke County Home Guard, Fleming says.
The black confederate was Walton’s body servant and a cook in the army, he adds. But to Fleming, the man was even more important.
“We remember him not as a black soldier but as a brother. His skin was a different color but his blood was red and his heritage was Southern.”
Fleming says that’s enough to bond the two.
So when the Morganton church marked the yankee’s grave but refused to acknowledge the confederate’s burial, Fleming did so himself.
In 2000, Fleming placed a plaque on the best property he could think of: in the cemetery of his great grandpa’s mountain church, Walker’s Top Baptist.
The marker is engraved with only one detail: December 16, 1864.
“That’s the day he died,” says Fleming.
The plaque doesn’t say much else. It doesn’t contain the man’s name or his birthday.
But Jim Pierce knows the warrior well.
“He must have been a good soldier for the Army to claim him,” says the NC Division historian.
“He must have been a Christian to be buried in the church and he must have been loyal because someone brought him there.”
The marker on Burkemont Mountain is just one of 30,000 honoring black confederates in North Carolina, says Gene Atkins with the SCV Graves Committee, NC Division.