AIKEN - Just blocks from where the bloody Battle of Aiken took place in 1865, wreaths were placed Monday at the foot of the obelisk that honors the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
"We want our children to know who they are and where they came from," said Commander Danny Francis of the Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
"It's also very important that people see that our ancestors were not evil people but were simply defending their homes," he said.
Local Sons of Confederate Veterans groups commemorated the men who fought in the brutal war at the annual Aiken Confederate Memorial Day ceremony Monday evening.
Four years ago, the battle flag that flew over the thousands of South Carolinians who fought in the war was removed from atop the Statehouse dome.
The battle flag now flies above a Civil War monument on the Statehouse grounds.
"Because Southern people are proud of who we are, when you tell us we're wrong we get offended," Mr. Francis said. "The battle flag has never been a racial symbol but has always been a symbol of defiance."
But the flag symbolizes days of terrorism, hatred and slavery for the Rev. David Walker, the president of the Aiken branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"I've seen men carrying that flag in Alabama where I am from. That flag still represents days that are past and gone," the Rev. Walker said. "It's a mentality for those who are still carrying it."
The Rev. Walker, who was involved in the NAACP's push to boycott South Carolina tourism in 2000 because of the flying of the battle flag over the state Capitol, said he has no problem with people wanting to honor fallen Confederate soldiers or wanting to fly the flag on their own property.
The removal of the battle flag from atop the Capitol might be a defeat to some, but the controversy has whet the appetite of those hungry to find their link to the past, said Lt. Cmdr. Billy Crouch of the Gen. Joseph Wheeler Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
"It's made people more aware of their ancestral history."
Confederate memorial day
The day set aside to honor Confederate soldiers is held on different dates in different states.
Georgia: April 24 - the date in 1865 when Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union Gen. William T. Sherman in North Carolina.
South Carolina and North Carolina: May 10 - the date in 1865 when Union troops captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Sources: Wheeler Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, University of Georgia
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