Lt. Simeon W. Cummings of the CSS Alabama accidentally shot and killed himself while grabbing his gun during a hunting trip in South Africa August 3, 1863. The CSS Alabama was a ship of the Confederate navy capturing or destroying American merchant ships around the world. The ship needed repairs and was docked in South Africa. http://clevelandcivilwarroundtable.com/articles/naval/simeon_cummings.htm
He was buried in the Pienaar Family Cemetery in Saldanah Bay, South Africa. The world was quite content to let him remain buried there until sometime in 1993.
SCV and the Apartheid Government
However, starting in 1989 the system of apartheid in South Africa, started to crumble leading to general elections based on universal suffrage being planned in May 1994 in which power would pass to a multiracial democracy in which whites would be a small minority.
SCV Commander-in-Chief Robert L. Hawkins reports in the May-June Confederate Veteran when announcing that Lt. Cummings body had been disinterred and brought to the SCV;s Elm Springs, Tennessee headquarters the following:
Negotiations had been ongoing with the South African government for many months seeking permission to return Lt. Cummings to the South. Special efforts were made by Street Brewer, an SCV member with business interests in South Africa, which led to a belated agreement that the remains could be disinterred, shipped to Tennessee, and buried on the grounds at Elm Springs.[Hawkins, Robert L., III, "Letter from the Commander-in-Chief," Confederate Veteran, May-June 1994, pp. 2. The Confederate Veteran is the official publication of the SCV.]Robert W. Betterton, Jr., Executive Director for the SCV and Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB) headquarters mentioned negotiations "several months." [Betteron, Robert W. Jr., "General Headquarters: Office of the Executive Director," Confederate Veteran, May-June 1994, pp. 45]
The grave of Lt. Cummings served as a monument to the Confederacy in South Africa. As Hawkins reports:
On Monday, May 9, 1994, Lt. Cummings' remains were placed on board a returning aircraft accompanied by military honors rendered by the South African Navy, The CSS Alabama, its exploits and crew, are still of considerable interest to South Africans today due to museum exhibits and a popular folk song, sung in Afrikanns, entitled "Here Comes the Alabama." [Hawkins, Robert L., III, "Letter from the Commander-in-Chief," Confederate Veteran, May-June 1994, pp. 2]Though more accurately it might be said to be of interest to white South Africans. Hawkins doesn't mention what interest the CSS Alabama had to those who didn't sing songs in Afrikanns. Which leads to the reason a grave, which was part of this pro-Confederate historical memory in South Africa had to be moved after 130 years undisturbed in the ground.
The South African apartheid government treated Lt. Cummings like a hero. In an article in the Confederate Veteran, the reader is told:
On May 9th, with a South African Naval Honor Guard and pallbearers, Lt. Cummings was afforded full military honors in a ceremony held at the international airport in Capetown. After the ceremony the Honor Guard carried Lt. Cummings' casket to the aircraft that would, after 131 years, bring him home to Dixie. [Outlaw, Perry J., Betterton, Robert W.Jr, "Home is the Sailor," Confederate Veteran, July-August 1994, pp. 12-13, quote on pp. 12.]What did Black South Africans think of the CSS Alabama? I am guessing they didn't think very well of it at all. Suddenly, with the general elections of May 1994 effectively ending apartheid in South Africa, the body of Lt. Cummings would be located under a government selected by voters to which a very great extent were not white.
The SCV talked about the disinterment and reburial as being Lt. Cummings being brought home, [Hawkins, Robert L., III, "Brief Sketch of the Life and Death of Lt. Simeon W. Cummings: Given by CIC Robert Hawkins, III on May 30, 1994 at Reinterrment Service on the Grounds at Historic Elm Springs," Confederate Veteran, July-August 1994, pp. 3.]
Review of the timing is of interest as to what was happening.
Robert W. Betterton, Jr., Executive Director for the SCV and Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB) headquarters mentioned negotiations "several months." [Betteron, Robert W. Jr., "General Headquarters: Office of the Executive Director," Confederate Veteran, May-June 1994, pp. 45]
Hawkins as mentioned before said "many months."
It really seems that the effort was a last minute rush to get Lt. Cummings body out of South Africa before the final end of apartheid with the general elections in May 1994 where all South Africans could vote regardless of race.
The SCV might say that this act of disinterment is just heritage and such. However, in the very same issue in which the disinterment and reburial is reported, is another section, "Forward the Colors."
In it is an attack on those who would strive to fight inequality in the United States, a denunciation of civil rights leaders, and an explanation that the Confederate flag is a symbol against these efforts. Efforts for "civil rights are denounced."
Randy Hill in this section complains about efforts to achieve civil rights and sees the Confederate flag as a symbol in opposition to these efforts. Hill argues that efforts for civil rights are just pretexts for power grabs writing:
But in the final analysis, whether "economic justice" or "eliminating past symbols of hate" be the message, the goal for the messengers are the same -- empowering themselves.
Who are those who use the unconstrained vision as the stalking horse to gain power in government? In the United States you see many of them as the same groups of politically-correct academicians, politicians, bureaucrats, moral anarchists and militant "civil-rights" leaders who denounce or favor banning the Confederate flag. [Note,: earlier in the article Hill explains that those with "unconstrained vision" are liberals.]
But a people who are proud of their Southern heritage and are proud of that Flag are, almost without exception, a people who cherish their individual liberties too much to trade them in for promises of utopia. A people who will insist they know more about what's best for themselves and their children than some distant bureaucrat. They will see the United States Constitution as their American and Southern Founding Fathers intended it. Not a piece of judicial taffy to be stretched and pulled on by activist federal judges in order to accommodate their own ideology or latest social theory. It will be people who reject quotas and moral anarchy in the name of "civil rights" and who will challenge revisionist history with truth, and not roll over and play dead when their past is slandered.
And then at the conclusion of the essay Hill writes:
That is what the politically correct bunch really hates about the Confederate Flag. No other symbol in history mocks them so and so unabashedly flings a gauntlet in the face of their true agenda.
And no other symbol so represents an idea and a people who hold government tyranny in such undisguised contempt. [Hill, Randy, "Taking My Stand, "Confederate Veteran, July-August 1994, pp. 8, boldface in the original.]
This is the type of anti-civil rights rhetoric the Sons of Confederate Veterans was publishing when they went to get Lt. Cummings. It goes a long way to show what motivated them to suddenly need to bring Lt. Cummings "home."
Finally, it should give the reader pause to consider why America would be considered "home" for Lt. Cummings when South Africa gave up apartheid.