The N.C. Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has suggested the recent desecration of a grave in Bladen County might have been a protest against Confederate heritage, and is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the vandalism.
Maj. Larry Guyton of the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office said that a man cutting the grass at Mount Horeb Presbyterian Church, near Elizabethtown in Bladen County, discovered the damage to the grave of a Confederate Army soldier on Monday and called police.
“Someone had dug down into a grave,” Guyton said, creating a hole 2 to 3 feet in diameter and about 2 feet deep. Guyton said officers saw what appeared to be a human bone exposed by the digging, and authorized the custodian to refill the hole.
In a news release issued Thursday, R. Kevin Stone, commander of the N.C. Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, suggested the damage could have been an attempt to make a statement.
“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 said in a press release.
Stone could not be reached immediately, and the release did not say whether there was evidence of a protest.
Symbols of the Confederacy displayed on public property – the Confederate flag and statues of generals – have prompted sometimes violent protests, including the incident in Charlottesville, Va., in August where a woman was killed.
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 (http://www.ncgenweb-data.com) 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 said that graves have been disturbed in local cemeteries before, “But it’s usually around Halloween and it’s usually kids.” In this case, he said, “If you’re asking what the motive was, we have no idea.”
In the past, thieves have been known to pillage the graves of Civil War soldiers – regardless of which side they fought on – in search of relics. Desecration of a grave is a felony under North Carolina law if the damage exceeds $1,000.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office at 910-862-6960.