Confederate soldiers lying in state draws criticism from some

Monday, September 29, 2003

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A proposal to have the bodies of eight Confederate sailors lie in state in the Capitol has drawn criticism from some who contend giving them the honor would be unfair and disrespectful.

The sailors' remains were recovered when the submarine H.L. Hunley was brought up in 2000 from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where it sank shortly after downing the Union blockade ship Housatonic in 1864. The Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship during a war.

A Hunley Commission member said no formal request has been made, but a Web site listing details of funeral plans had initially included two days in the Capitol.

Such an honor has been reserved for sitting or long-serving congressmen in recent years.

Some question whether Confederate soldiers should be honored in such a way, including state Sen. Darrell Jackson, who said he would oppose any plan to give high public honors to the dead Confederates.

"Can you imagine how we would be perceived by the rest of the world honoring these men who fought for slavery?" said Jackson, the descendant of slaves.

State Sen. John Courson, also a Hunley Commission member, said the panel has not requested to have the bodies lie in state, but he said it would be appropriate.

"This is a funeral," he said. "It has nothing to do with the Confederate battle flag, and it should be done with dignity and honor."

The governor, speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate, who are all Republicans, have the power to decide who can lie in state. The head of the Senate, Glenn McConnell, is a Confederate re-enactor and is leading the effort to raise funds. $40 million for a Hunley museum.

Other critics question the fairness of honoring Confederate soldiers while not giving U.S. soldiers the same treatment.

"We have had many in South Carolina who have given their lives," said state Rep. Joe Neal. "And we have not had this kind of recognition for them."

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