Slave who served with Confederates honored

Some 100 people gathered earlier this month at a family cemetery in the South Carolina Upstate to honor a black man who served alongside Confederate soldiers from 1861-64.

Henry Craig, a slave, was born in the 1840s and served the Craig family, which lived in Pickens and Oconee counties.

When the Craig sons joined Orr’s First South Carolina Rifles in 1861, Henry went to war with them, according to the publication Easley Patch.

They fought together until Aug. 6, 1864, when John Craig was wounded at Gravely Hill, Va., and ultimately lost his arm, the publication added.

Henry Craig brought John back home to Pickens County and the two remained close friends, so close that Henry named one of his five children John.

On Feb. 5, more than eight dozen people gathered at the Craig Family Cemetery north of Seneca, SC, to honor Henry Craig’s service.

The ceremony was the result of a nationwide effort by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to identify the graves of all known Confederate soldiers, said Ron Sloan, commander of the Joseph Norton Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Men dressed in gray Civil War uniforms fired a series of shots, creating a cloud of smoke above them. A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” and women stood under an oak tree wearing hoop skirts and black, feathered hats, according to the Anderson Independent-Mail.

“Near the service’s close the soldiers engaged in a tradition that recognizes their deceased brothers,” the publication wrote. “They stood in a line and drank from the same canteen. When they finished they simply said, ‘You are not forgotten.’”

“This is a significant day if you like history,” said Al Robinson, a former Norton camp commander. “If you don’t like history, what’s wrong with you?”

 Three other Craig men fought on the Confederate side during the War Between the States and now reside in the family cemetery: William, Arthur and Lawrence, all John’s brothers. It appears Lawrence was also wounded at Gravely Hill.

Henry Craig chose to stay with the Craig family after he was granted freedom, following the war’s end.

When the elder John Craig died, Henry Craig moved away. But he returned to Pickens in his last years, where he died on July 18, 1927. Henry Craig was buried with the family in a spot eventually covered by Lake Keowee in Oconee County.

The family was reinterred in the cemetery within sight of the Oconee Nuclear Station and Old Pickens Presbyterian Church.

Jackson Parris, caretaker of the Craig Family cemetery, is the great-great-grandson of John Craig.

“It was something I grew up listening to, the story of Uncle Henry,” he said. “This is something I was hoping would happen.”

(Above: Confederate re-enactors pour water on the gravesite of Henry Craig at the conclusion of a passing of the canteen ceremony at the Craig Family Cemetery near Seneca, SC. Photo by the Anderson Independent-Mail.)


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