Friday, February 17, 2012

Lt. Simeon Cummings, CSN

 One of my favorite stories from Civil War Memory is that of Lt. Simeon Cummings of the Confederate States Navy.  He holds the unique distinction of being the only Confederate serviceman to be buried abroad during the war - others may have been buried at sea.  Cummings, born in Connecticut, raised in New York and lived in Louisiana when the war began, died as a result of an accidental gunshot wound while hunting.  His ship, the raider CSS Alabama, was in South Africa at the time.  (See my previous blog "Daar Kom die Alibama" for more on that.)  His remains were buried him in a local family plot near Saldanha, north of Cape Town.

And there he lay for the next 130 years, until some American neo-Confederates discovered this 'forgotten' kin of theirs.  In 1992, they arranged with the then-Apartheid government of South Africa to disinter Cummings' remains and 'repatriate' them back to his country.  With an honor guard provided by the South African Navy, these people extracted him from his grave, transported him first to Cape Town Airport, then to Columbia, Tennessee.  Why there?  He wasn't from there.

According to a debate held earlier this year on Kevin Levin's blog, the Sons of Confederate Veterans did so because they found no survivors of Lt. Cummings.  This may be true, but it hardly justifies their actions.  I say that the whole exercise was simply to expand the neo-Confederate agenda.  They dishonored this poor man's remains in order to show how 'honorable' they were toward those who served the rebel cause.  Truly shameless.  They're intent on their narrow perspective on the war, and dismiss any other as "liberal" or "leftist" or "revisionist."  While they're not as strong as in years past, the neo-Confederate program is eroding under the weight of its massive contradictions.

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