Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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Friends and family of ten black military men finally got to see them honored 150 years later.
The men, known as the "Confederate Pensioners of Color," were described as "bodyguards" during battle.
The group received small state pensions for their Civil War service about a half century after their white counterparts.
A marker was unveiled on the old courthouse lawn in Union County Saturday listing the names of Wilson Ashcroft, George Cureton, Aaron Perry, Ned Byrd, Hamp Cuthbertson, Jeff Sanders, Wary Clyburn, Mose Fraser, Wyatt Cunningham and Lewis McGill.
"I played around this courthouse many, many a day and I never thought his name would be on anything," Mattie Rice said. Rice's father was Wary Clyburn. Rice was not yet 9 when her father died but she says she remembers his war time stories. "He was very proud about his service ...He told me about going on battlefields..and about his friend getting wounded and how pulled him back to safety and got him back to his family," Rice said. Rice says the man her father saved went on to become a South Carolina senator.
"These people were omitted from the official record and the only way to keep their stories alive is to do a project like this where their names are out in the public," President of the Pensioners Monument Fund Tony Way said.
Way fought for several years to put the plaque on the courthouse grounds. Some objected to the memorial saying it didn't fit with other monuments in the area. But earlier this year, Union County officials signed off on the project.
"You can't help but feel a little bit proud and excited for the families involved," Way said.
Hettie Wright's great great grandfather died before she was born. Her family never talked about him. "We had to learn on our own about it," Wright said. "King Byrd was [Ned's] master and he had a son and they made a deal if he would go [to war]..if anything would happen to his master son's he would bring him back to be buried and that's what happened ," Wright said.
"A lot of this history has just been lost or swept under the rug. It's just not talked about today or teach it in school," Way said.
Marilyn Perry, the great great granddaughter of Aaron Perry, also knew little about her ancestor until recently. She hopes the history lesson continues to be passed down with other family members including her granddaughters. "It was stated that you have to go into the past to move into the future," Perry said.
The men went on to continue service in the community at churches, schools and businesses.
For more information about these men, visit the Dickerson Room of the Union County Public Library in Monroe or contact Patricia Poland at (704) 283-8184 ext. 224.