The Sons of Confederate Veterans believe someone desecrated the grave of a Confederate soldier as some sort of political statement, and now they’re offing a $1,000 reward to nab the culprit.
Bladen County Sheriff’s Maj. Larry Guyton told the News & Observer a man was cutting the lawn at Mount Horeb Presbyterian Church on Monday when he discovered someone had desecrated the grave of a Confederate Army soldier and contacted police.
Guyton said “someone had dug down into a grave” about two feet deep, where they appeared to have struck the bones of the deceased. The hole was about 3 feet in diameter, he said, and has since been refilled.
Guyton told WECT he’s unsure why someone would dig up the grave or whether they took anything with them.
Kevin Stone, commander of the N.C. Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans, has a theory.
“While the miscreant’s motives are not confirmed at this time, if these actions were perpetrated as part of a protest against Confederate heritage and symbols, we as a society have certainly reached a new low,” Stone wrote in a press release.
Across the country, social justice warriors are calling on officials to remove Confederate monuments and other symbols over the Old South’s ties to slavery, a movement that began with a campaign against the Confederate flag the snowballed into other statues, monuments, and memorials.
The effort to eradicate Confederate symbolism from public life was spawned in part by a racist who shot nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, because the shooter liked to pose with the Confederate flag on Facebook.
The movement gained new momentum in August, when anti-fascist agitators sparked a violent clash with white nationalists at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to several deaths.
According to the News & Observer:
The cemetery at Mount Horeb dates to the early days of the church, which was built in 1845 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A database of Confederate graves in North Carolina lists 13 soldiers buried at Mount Horeb. The one that was disturbed belonged to James Edward Smith, who was a sergeant in Company F of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the State Troops of North Carolina. Records indicate he was born in 1841 and died in 1880 at age 39.
Guyton told the news site the damage at Mount Horeb isn’t the first time local cemeteries have been vandalized, “but it’s usually around Halloween and it’s usually kids.”
Others have dug up graves to recover Civil War memorabilia.
North Carolina law lists desecration of a grave as a misdemeanor unless damage to the grave exceeds $1,000, the News & Observer reports.
And while it’s unclear whether the evidence suggests a political motivation for the Mount Horeb vandalism, it’s certainly a plausible explanation.
Memphis activists threatened to dig up the grave of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest last summer over frustrations with city officials moving too slowly to remove confederate statues.
“We are going to bring the back hoe, the tractors and the men with the equipment to raise Bedford Forrest from the soil of Memphis,” failed congressional candidate turned social justice crusader Isaac Richmond told CBS 3.
Richmond said that digging up Forrest, who died nearly 140 years ago, would heal the city’s race problems.
“If he’s gone, some of this racism and race-hate might be gone,” Richmond said as he shoveled chunks of grass from the grave. “We got a fresh shovel full, and we hope that everybody else will follow suit and dig him up.”