We should remember, not judge, the actions of past Americans

Published 10:18 am Friday, September 30, 2011

by Jon D. Pyle

Mr. Archie Howell found it necessary to critique my article (“Response to rocking and reading,” Sept. 18) about a conversation with my grandfather (“We would rock and he would talk,” Sept. 2).

Yes, my great-grandfather did serve with the Confederate Cavalry from the State of Kentucky, to protect his family, home and state. I repeat, he owned no slaves.

By law Kentucky was a slave state. The governor was a Southern sympathizer, while the legislature supported the Union. When it came time for the legislature to vote whether to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy, or to provide troops for the Federal Army, the representatives voted to remain neutral.

Kentucky provided nine regiments of infantry, 12 regiments of Cavalry, and six batteries of Artillery for the Confederacy. That is more than 20,000 men. Kentucky also provided troops for the Union. So much for neutrality.

Mr. Howell made it a point to refer to the Nat Turner event of 1831, and how brutal the people of Southampton County could be. Mr. Howell either forgot or chose not to mention that Nat with his followers slaughtered with great zeal, using broad swords and axes.

They killed over 58 men, women and children in a 36-hour period. Their first stop, Mr. Joseph Turner’s home. They killed Mr. and Mrs. Turner and three other members of the family.

There was an infant sleeping in a cradle who was not bothered. They left, and riding off when two members returned and, in their own words, “We killed it.”

They stopped by Mr. Waller’s house, where school was held for local children. There were 12 children playing in the school yard because their teacher was late. Nat Turner’s men approached the school and slaughtered all but one young girl who watched hidden behind a chimney of the schoolhouse.

I do not wish to judge Nat Turner or the good citizens of Southampton County for their actions. It’s all American history, and we cannot change history. Our problem is we try to judge early 18th-century law and morality by our 21st-century laws and morals.

Mr. Howell, you might be surprised at the number of blacks and Indians who are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. On Sept. 13 this year at Blandford Church in Petersburg, a memorial service was held for Pvt. Richard Poplar Day, a black Confederate soldier who served with the 13th Virginia Cavalry.

Captured at Gettysburg, Pa., Day was sent to Ft. Delaware prison camp for five months. Then to infamous Point Lookout, Md., for an additional 14 month’s. Mr. Day died in 1889; he was buried with full military honors alongside his fellow comrades at Memorial Hill in Blandford Cemetery. We do honor all of our veterans regardless of color.

Mr. Howell, there are no women in the SCV. That is why it’s called Sons of Confederate Veterans. The women have their own organization; it’s called the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

JON D. PYLE is commander of Urquhart-Gillette Camp 1471 Sons of Confederate Veterans and can be reached at 651-4971.