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Confederate army veteran – and slave

Wary Clyburn, the Confederate army veteran, puts a new face on an old standard for which we can measure our character. He was brave and loyal.

Clyburn was a slave.

He was born about 1841 in Lancaster County, S.C., records show. He died in 1930 in Union County, where he moved after the war.

He was honored as a Civil War hero Friday during a ceremony at Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroe. Members of N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans sponsored the event, along with the City of Monroe. Mayor Bobby Kilgore declared it Wary Clyburn Day.

It should be noted that official documents spell his first name several ways: Werry, Weary and Wary. His daughter, Mattie Rice, says the correct spelling is Wary.

The Lancaster, S.C., plantation where he was born was owned by Thomas Clyburn. Government records from 1850 show that Thomas Clyburn owned more than 17 slaves, infants to age 60.

Earl J. Ijames, curator for the N.C. Museum of History, said there's no way to know how many slaves served in the Confederate army. “They weren't counted because they didn't have full rights and were not paid,” he said.

Clyburn didn't allow the slaves he owned to be sold or split up, Ijames said. “That shows some conscience on the part of Thomas Clyburn.”

He also pointed out this conscience was within the context of slavery, one of the cruelest practices in American history.

Ijames said many believe Wary Clyburn had grown up with Thomas Clyburn's son, Frank Clyburn.

Rice, who was born in 1922, confirmed that claim last week.

“We talked a lot about the war,” she said. “… He told me he just went to war with this fella he grew up with. He said his family wasn't treated like the other slaves around there.”

Ijames said during the slavery era, it was not unusual for slaves and owners' children to grow up together and, in some cases, develop relationships and feel loyalty to one another.

Wary served as bodyguard for Capt. Frank Clyburn in Company E of the 12th regiment from South Carolina. He carried Frank on his shoulders to rescue his boyhood friend from intense fighting. He also served as a special aide to Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to documents that his daughter has.

Even today Wary Clyburn gives us a clear role model of honor and bravery under the most trying circumstances. Few things have challenged the human spirit more than enslavement and war.

Through Mr. Clyburn we get a snapshot of the complex relations that existed during that time. He was loyal to the men who had shown him kindness and that loyalty carried over even into a war where they could have been cast as enemies.

His actions show he had a deep understanding of what it meant to be a man of character.

I can't honestly say I understand Mr. Clyburn's depth of loyalty and bravery. I can say it's a shame history hasn't given us a better recording of others like him.

Wary Clyburn, the Confederate army veteran, puts a new face on an old standard for which we can measure our character. He was brave and loyal.

Clyburn was a slave.

He was born about 1841 in Lancaster County, S.C., records show. He died in 1930 in Union County, where he moved after the war.

He was honored as a Civil War hero Friday during a ceremony at Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroe. Members of N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans sponsored the event, along with the City of Monroe. Mayor Bobby Kilgore declared it Wary Clyburn Day.

It should be noted that official documents spell his first name several ways: Werry, Weary and Wary. His daughter, Mattie Rice, says the correct spelling is Wary.

The Lancaster, S.C., plantation where he was born was owned by Thomas Clyburn. Government records from 1850 show that Thomas Clyburn owned more than 17 slaves, infants to age 60.

Earl J. Ijames, curator for the N.C. Museum of History, said there's no way to know how many slaves served in the Confederate army. “They weren't counted because they didn't have full rights and were not paid,” he said.

Clyburn didn't allow the slaves he owned to be sold or split up, Ijames said. “That shows some conscience on the part of Thomas Clyburn.”

He also pointed out this conscience was within the context of slavery, one of the cruelest practices in American history.

Ijames said many believe Wary Clyburn had grown up with Thomas Clyburn's son, Frank Clyburn.

Rice, who was born in 1922, confirmed that claim last week.

“We talked a lot about the war,” she said. “… He told me he just went to war with this fella he grew up with. He said his family wasn't treated like the other slaves around there.”

Ijames said during the slavery era, it was not unusual for slaves and owners' children to grow up together and, in some cases, develop relationships and feel loyalty to one another.

Wary served as bodyguard for Capt. Frank Clyburn in Company E of the 12th regiment from South Carolina. He carried Frank on his shoulders to rescue his boyhood friend from intense fighting. He also served as a special aide to Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to documents that his daughter has.

Even today Wary Clyburn gives us a clear role model of honor and bravery under the most trying circumstances. Few things have challenged the human spirit more than enslavement and war.

Through Mr. Clyburn we get a snapshot of the complex relations that existed during that time. He was loyal to the men who had shown him kindness and that loyalty carried over even into a war where they could have been cast as enemies.

His actions show he had a deep understanding of what it meant to be a man of character.

I can't honestly say I understand Mr. Clyburn's depth of loyalty and bravery. I can say it's a shame history hasn't given us a better recording of others like him.

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