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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Female Black Confederate Pensioner of Color and Descendants Honored By SC Legislature

From left to right: SC Representative Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta; SC Senator Tom Young, Jr., R-Aiken; Toretha Corley-Wright, great-granddaughter; Linda Seawright, Robert L. Seawright, great-great-grandson; Dr. Walter B. Curry, Jr., great-great-great-grandson; Pastor Virgin Bynem of Harvest of Love Ministries in Salley, SC; SC Senator Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington; Authur Seawright, great-great-grandson; Brandon Seawright, great-great-great-grandson; and Alphonso Thompson, great-grandnephew.
(Photo courtesy of the Aiken Standard.)

Black Confederate Veterans themselves -- as previously mentioned on this blog -- are rare. Female veterans of the War Between The States on either side are even more so. An African-American female who served in a Confederate unit and was recognized as a veteran for the Southern armies, well folks, that is about as rare as it gets. 

On Tuesday, February 21st, the South Carolina Senate and members of the SC Division Sons of Confederate Veterans (SC SCV) and SC United Daughters of the Confederacy (SC UDC) presented a resolution to the family of Lavinia Corley Thompson, of Salley, SC. 

The South Carolina Divisions of The Sons and Daughters of Confederate Veterans supported the resolution along with the S.C. African-American Chamber of Commerce, he added. The Chamber's President Stephen Gilchrist also supported the resolution. 

According to research conducted by the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, Corley Thompson is currently the only known female Black Confederate Veteran and "Pensioner of Color" in the State of South Carolina. 

The resolution recognizing Thompson's service was presented to SC State Senator Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington by Dr. Walkter Curry of Columbia, Thompson's great-great-great-grandson who was conducting research on the woman he called "Grandma Viney." He said after learning more about her life, he and other family members found her story to be remarkable and also believed that Thompson's service deserved recognition. 

He is correct on both counts. 

Lavinia Thompson was born on June 3, 1844 to Robert Staley and Phillis Corley, according to information provided by the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society. 

Thompson served as a cook attached to one Sam Webb who was attached to Company A, 1st Regiment SC Reserves. Thompson served as the cook and possibly a forager for a unit of Co. A from September 1, 1863 till the end of the war in April 1865. 

Even if her service was in camp, it could have been treacherous because of possible cannon fire coming from the other side. Such positions were sometimes just as much in the line of fire as if they were on the battlefield itself. She is believed to have possibly helped tend to wounded members of Company A and served as a nurse in the field hospital. Such duties were usual for those Black Confederates who were an integral part of many Confederate units throughout the War Between the States. Many of these even joined into battle along with their Confederate unit on occasions after picking up a fallen rifle. Some cooks and foragers were usually armed with pistols for hunting game for the stew pot. 

There is no indication that Miss Thompson actually took up a fallen weapon against the Union, though the rest of her service as a cook and nurse would have qualified her for a Confederate pension after the war. 

"We're actively collecting information about all of the African-Americans we can find that served in the war in any capacity, because we consider them to be Confederate veterans," said Tonya Guy of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society. "We have all these fabulous stories that come out of the war. It is an unsung part of our heritage that we would really like to explore and make known that these people are heroes in our eyes."

Although South Carolina provided a short-lived disability compensation in 1866 and pension relief for formally enlisted Confederate soldiers in 1887, the State did not recognize the service of African-American Confederate Veterans for a long time.

The legislation known as "An Act to Provide for the Pensions for certain faithful Negroes who were engaged in the service of the State in the War between the States" (Act 63)[1] was finally approved on March 16, 1923, nearly 58 years after the end of the war. By this time many many of these Black Confederates were long dead. 

A year later in 1924, the act was amended to include only those South Carolina residents who served at least six months in a Confederate unit as "cooks, servants, or attendants" excluding laborers, teamsters, and those who served from other Southern States, and laborers impressed or hired for work on the fortifications. This disqualified a large number of applicants.

Remember that during the War, black laborers (both slaves and free men of color) were hired or impressed to build the fortifications around Charleston, South Carolina, and other strategically important places. Their service was just as dangerous as any done by Confederate soldiers (whites or otherwise) who stood in a line of battle as they were under constant bombardment from Union cannon fire at time. Many died preforming these services. Excluding them from being able to apply for pensions -- especially those wounded in action for this service -- was a disgrace, as well as an ugly sign of the times for African-Americans during that time period in South Carolina and American history. 

Other former Confederate States, particularly the State of Tennessee, recognized the services of these Black Confederate Veterans and laborers and provided them compensation and pensions along with other Confederate Veterans after Reconstruction ended in 1876.  

Still, several hundred of these former Black Confederate Veterans from South Carolina began to receive pensions and recognition for their services, including Miss Thompson -- a sharecropper at the time with ten children -- who applied for her pension in 1923 and was approved. 

Confederate pension of Miss Lavinia Thompson.
(Photo courtesy of the
SC Dept. of Archives.)

Thompson died at the age of 84 on June 4, 1928 in Aiken County, Tabernacle Township and was buried at an unmarked grave at Smyrna Baptist Church in the same community. There are currently efforts underway by the SC SCV and others to locate her burial site and to get a Confederate tombstone for her grave.

The grave of Rev. L.L. Thompson (1832-1901) husband of Confederate Veterans Livinia Corley Thompson. She is buried next to him her grave unmarked....for now.
The SC Division SCV and the Thompson family are working at present to get her a proper veteran's marker and Southern Cross of Honor.
(Photo courtesy of Miss Arlene Barnum)

Pictured back row, from left, are Pastor Virgil Bynem of Harvest of Love Ministries, Sailey, SC; Robert L. Seawright, great-grandson; Arthur L. Seawright, great-grandson; Reginal Miller, SC Division Sons of Confederate Veterans; and Brandon Seawright, great-great-great-grandson.
Pictured front row, from left, are SC Representative Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta; Toretha Corley-Wright, great-granddaughter; Ann Shugart, State President SC United Daughters of the Confederacy; Linda Seawright; Dr. Walter B. Curry Jr. great-great-great-grandson; Judy McCardle, 3rd VP SC Division UDC; Mary M. Bailey, registrar of the SC Division UDC; and Alphonso Thompson, great-grandnephew.
(Photo courtesy of the Aiken Standard.)

The services of Southern veterans like Lavinia Thompson and the thousands of other African-Americans who served in the Confederate military in service capacities -- and sometimes unofficially as soldiers -- deserve to be remembered honorably. The families of these men and women also deserve recognition as descendants of Confederate Veterans no different than any other. 

Until recently the stories of African-Americans and their important contributions to American society as a whole had been largely overlooked. Since the late 1970s, the stories of these Black Confederate Veterans have slowly been coming to public and national light, where before they were known only to close-knit communities and on a local level. 

This is why I am proud to call myself a member of the SC Sons of Confederate Veterans and a proud Confederate descendant. I am proud to be among those who understand today the old military motto: "No man get left behind." Nor should the memory of anyone who served honorably in defense of home and family ever be forgotten. To overlook one is to diminish the services of every one of these men and boys....and yes, women too. 

[1] South Carolina's African American Confederate Pensioners 1923-1925 by Alexia Jones Helsley, South Carolina Dept. of Archives and History. Pg. 7. ISBN#1-880067-46-1 

POST UPDATE!!! 03-24-2017

The following is the resolution passed by the SC General Assembly formally recognizing the service of Miss Lavinia Thompson as a Confederate Veteran: 

South Carolina General Assembly
122nd Session 2017-18
Senate Resolution S.329
Adopted January 31, 2017 


Whereas, the finding of Lavinia Thompson, an African-American female Confederate Veteran, was a remarkable discovery, and Betsy R. Bloomer was extremely generous to share her research and bringing the story to light; and 

Whereas, Lavinia Thompson was born June 3, 1844 in Aiken County, South Carolina, daughter to Robert Staley and Phyllis Corley. In the census data, her name was spelled a variety of different ways and, at times, was also shortened to a nickname, such as Viney or Elviny; and

Whereas, census date generally concludes that Lavinia married Logan, a farmer, and kept a household with him of ten children to include daughter, Dora; daughter, Della; daughter, Carey; son, Willie; son, Robert "Free"; and Oscar; son, Governor; and daughter, Queen; and 

Whereas, after her husband died, Lavinia took on the role of farmer. Although she lived alone at this time, her sons, Governor, Robert "Free", and Oscar lived nearby with their families; and 

Whereas, Lavinia Thompson served the State of South Carolina as a cook in the Civil War, under Sam Webb, who was in Co. A, 1st Regiment, South Carolina Reserves. She served continuously from September 1, 1863 to the end of the War in 1865; and 

Whereas, Lavinia died at the venerable age of eighty-four on June 8, 1928 in Aiken County, Tabernacle Township and was buried in an unmarked grave at Smyrna Church. It is hoped that her final resting place will be found and a Confederate marker placed on it to mark where this remarkable and unique woman lies; and 

Whereas, although Lavinia Thompson may not have taken up arms, her life was placed in jeopardy, and she suffered the same hardships as all of the soldiers. Her story and her life deserve commemoration. Now, therefore, 

Be it resolved by the Senate this 31st Day of January, 2017. 


  1. So, where are the muster rolls showing her enlistment?

  2. I would suggest contacting the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society for that particular information. That would be the logical place to start.

  3. Oh so you haven't researched it that far? I would thank someone who makes this type of claim would have all their ducks in a row.

  4. (Sarcastic clapping)

    Folks, this is largely why I allow Deniers and social Regressives a platform to post here whenever one of them is brave enough to show up -- for that Mr. Meyer, I give you props. It is more than I can say for most of your clique in what Miss Connie Chastain would call "the Floggersphere" and what I common call the Hate Blogs.

    Corey, I think you may have overlooked one important detail in the blog post. I make no claim to be a researcher, or an academic. Though I possess an uncommon amount of knowledge on local history based on decades of practically living in my hometown library I do not consider myself anything more than a simply country writer from upstate South Carolina who relays stories of interest about my little corner of Dixie (aka Heaven).

    Furthermore, I make no demand now, nor have I ever demanded in past blog posts, that I do more than relay information from available sources at times. Nor do I make demands on my readers that anyone take my blog as a sole source of information. I encourage people to do their own research, make up their own free minds. All I do is offer a starting point and tell a good story in the process...and according to many I happen to be pretty darned good at creative writing.

    In this case the pension records concerning Miss Thompson and her service as a cook in the 1st SC Reserves is a matter of public record though. Both the SC Dept. of Archives and the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society -- two very credible sources I might add -- verified the story of that service. The SC Legislature in a unanimous decision (including both parties and the Legislative Black Caucus I might add) accept the facts presented as true, and made the appropriate decision on honoring this brave woman for who she was: a recognized Confederate Veteran.

    I am pretty certain that they had all THEIR ducks in a row when they passed that resolution. The same could also be said of the living descendants of that same Confederate Veteran who helped bring this story to light.

    Thanks again for the review, and for a chance to clarify a few things to you and to my other readers.

  5. So you are just spreading misrepresented history?

  6. As I stated I am a simple country writer telling stories. I claim to be nothing more than that, nor have I ever claimed to be the only credible source for information, or demanded anyone reading take me as the only source. I encourage people to do their own research and think for themselves.
    Now I will say and give my word as a Southerner and a gentlemen that everything that I post on this blog is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as far as I am aware. I encourage anyone doing research to provide additional information that I might have overlooked and will give full blog-post credit to any individual who adds something meaningful to the overall discussion.

    As far as this story goes, every fact I have offered is the truth. I have nothing to gain from lying about it. Also, if you are implying some hidden agenda, I would point out that I am relaying a story based on the actions to the family of this Confederate veteran and pensioner by the South Carolina Legislature -- an group that I think you and I can agree after the unfortunate event of July 10, 2015 is far FAR from a so-called "neo-Confederate" assembly.