Convention Honoring Civil War Veterans Coming to York Tech Campus

ROCK HILL – Hundreds of Civil War Veteran’s descendants will gather to celebrate their families’ legacies at York Technical College early next year – despite local media attempting to demonize them based on their genealogy – as the school’s Baxter Hood Center hosts the annual South Carolina Convention of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is not only the oldest heredity organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers that commemorates and honors family members who fought in the historically significant war, the group also has a network of genealogists that assists members in tracing and preserving their ancestor’s Civil War service.

Enlistment figures from the York District for the duration of the Civil War show that there were more than 3,000 men enlisted in various units. Between 800 and 1,000 local soldiers died, according to various estimates. The York District had the highest per-capita death rate in the state, according to Michael Scoggins, historian at the McClevey Center in York.

Most merchants in the Rock Hill area were returning Confederate soldiers, many of whom were entrepreneurs, and had an integral role in incorporating the town in 1870, helping make Rock Hill what it is today.

Unfortunately, there may have been some miscommunication between top administrators at the school and Baxter Hood Center, as the center failed to notify administration officials of the convention’s booking in March of next year.

Despite unfounded controversy already in motion from local opinion columnist Andrew Dys about the group’s use of the Confederate flag, the non-political organization’s annual convention will feature a Friday night social and ancestor memorials.

It isn’t clear whether York Tech’s administrators are usually made aware of all events, or only prefer to be made aware of ones that may involve historical regalia such as the Confederate flag. However, it is possible that is not something typically brought to their attention, since the venue hosts such wedding receptions and reunions and are not academic in nature nor does the event conflict with anything scheduled at the college, including classes.

Moreover, some area leaders don’t recognize Rock Hill and York County hosting a convention for a group that preserves the legacies of those family members lost in the Civil War will bring folks from all around the state, boosting tourism and the local economy.

The event being held in York County will offer a chance to wed the history buffs among the convention to local historical site, Brattonsville, the plantation home to Dr. John Bratton that, at one point, boasted over 20 slave cabins to house his nearly 150 slaves, 8,000 acres of land, and even a schoolhouse right here in York County. This opportunity would, contrary to what some say, boost the image of the area as historically encompassing and hospitably tolerant to all, honoring Civil Rights protesters and its Civil War soldiers alike.

With the Herald kindly making York Tech administrators aware of the convention scheduled for March, it seems that school officials have looked into, and confirmed, that events with a connection to a history-related Civil War organization does indeed have a first amendment right to rent out the space at Baxter Hood, which has been rented out for other major doings such as political gatherings, despite the campus being apolitical.

Also unclear is whether school officials take such precautionary steps for all events at the Baxter Hood Center to assure first amendment rights, including wedding receptions and reunions.

These precautions have raised questions as to the authority York Tech officials have in investigating and deciphering the Sons of Confederate Veteran’s right to assemble at a venue supported by taxpayer money, despite the group having already made reservations for March and presumably paying a deposit for rental rights of the location.

In the aforementioned Herald article, William Roddey, a York Technical College graduate and York County council member was quoted saying, “we have come a long way in this area, and this re-inflames what we are trying to get past” – referring to the SCV’s use of the Confederate flag in some materials.

The flag, which was not a national flag of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was created as a battle flag by state armies whose function was to mark the position of the regiment on the battlefield, which could often be a very confusing place.

While some fear that members of the SCV, who will enjoy a banquet dinner and an evening of memorials to fallen family members, will come to Rock Hill threatening battle with “a phalanx of Confederate flags”, this is quite unlikely as the group has no known record of protests or civil unrest in the area.

Still, fear persists that students on the York Tech campus may be exposed to the Confederate flag in some form during the convention. But those fears can be put to rest as the SCV have rented the space during weekend days when no classes are in session.

Still, for some, the Confederate flag represents oppression.  For the rest, the flag represents a witness that watched their bloodied ancestors fall to their death on battlefields. Additionally, the Sons of Confederate Veterans explicitly rejects (as explained on their website), “any group whose action tarnish or distort the image of the Confederate soldier or his reasons for fighting.” They are in no way affiliated with, nor does the group recognize or condone the terrible legacy of hate groups such as the KKK.

This information is worth mentioning if only to dispel media-implied rumors that the SCV is an extremist group. When asked about the Charleston shootings, Leland Summers, commander of the organization, told Fox Carolina,

It’s not a flag that makes people hate each other, but how we decide in our hearts how we will treat each other.

Something we should all consider before creating a false sense of fear around a heritage group. Additionally, the Sons of Confederate Veterans has members of all races including African-Americans, notably Nelson W. Winbush a former educator and principal.

Regardless of those who want to stir up trouble for the historical group, those who will be in attendance at this paid and private event shan’t worry as they honor their fallen family members.