Published: May 08, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: May 08, 2012 07:10 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Jim Neville ... Lemuel Holder ... Thomas Barbee.
A century and a half after these men fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, another group of men remembered them Saturday when the Sons of Confederate Veterans held a memorial on the UNC campus.
The short service, with three uniformed soldiers and a lone trumpeter, drew 10 people to the Confederate War Monument, better known as Silent Sam, on Polk Place off Franklin Street. As soon as it ended, a group of children clambered about the base of the statue for family pictures.
“Every now and then someone will make a statement that the statue should be taken down, but it hasn’t been a controversy for .. several months,” said James Ward, 78, with a chuckle.
There was no controversy Saturday as the small group remembered great, great, great relatives by name, and a cause they said popular culture has reduced to a single issue.
The real story, they said, is far more complex.
“A lot of people, they make the war all about slavery,” said Garland Neville, 80, of Chatham County. “Slavery was only a little part of it.”
Slavery was more the tipping point in the confict beween North and South, which erupted after unfair taxation and invasion after the Southern states seceded, participants said.
And when it came to slavery, there was blood and profits from it on both sides.
“Slavery was an issue, but like any conflict there were lots of reasons for (the war),” said Chris McQueen, 40, of Carrboro.
History books don’t always tell that many slaves came here through New England ports, that some Southerners would have given up slavery for compensation, or that Northern insurance companies underwrote the slave trade, he said.
“That’s the aspect the North wants to forget,” said McQueen, a former history major. “I lived in Boston. That city was built on the slave trade.”
But for the long-distant descendants, Saturday’s simple ceremony was personal, not political.
“My people have been in Orange County since 1750; it’s a piece of me,” said William O’Quinn, the Durham post commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
O’Quinn, in period uniform, belongs to Company I of Regiment 6, the same unit his great, great, great, great grandfather Thomas Barbee served in during the war.
“What do they say? If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going,” he said. “I don’t understand people today. Most people don’t know their grandparents.”
Virginia Neville, 73, watched the ceremony from a folding chair on the red-brick path between the trees.
She’s from Philadelphia but considers herself a Southerner now.
“I’ll just do whatever I can to preserve my husband’s heritage,” she said. “Because I think everybody on earth needs to have their heritage.”