COLUMBIA, Mo. — A Republican lawmaker’s connection to a ceremony honoring fallen Confederate soldiers over the weekend is drawing ire from Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus.
Rep. Chuck Basye, a Republican, attended a re-enactment event and gravestone unveiling at which some participants saluted the Confederate Flag honoring a band of Confederate soldiers killed on May 24, 1865, after the war had ended, but before all sides had gotten word.
Civil War re-enactors on the Confederate side gathered on Sunday to dedicate a gravestone to the 5 Confederate guerilla soldiers killed by a militia group led by Sgt. Robert Digges of the Howard County Volunteer Missouri Militia.
The gravestone was placed on the Basye family cemetery in Rocheport, where the five soldiers have long remained buried when Michael Mauzy Basye allowed them to be laid to rest there. Randy Basye, the current landowner, is the brother of state representative Chuck Basye, who attended the ceremony and re-enactment.
But when the ceremony included a salute to the Confederate Flag by some of the re-enactment participants, some of Missouri’s black lawmakers took issue. Rep. Brandon Ellington, the Chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, called the event “misguided.”
“As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, it’s incredibly disheartening to read that a fellow member of the General Assembly, Rep. Chuck Basye, took part in a misguided ceremony to lift up treasonous Confederate guerrillas and even saluted the Confederate flag,” Ellington wrote. “Rep. Basye’s participation in this celebration of the Confederacy was hurtful and wrong.”
Basye told The Missouri Times that his involvement included watching the re-enactment on his family’s long-held farm before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Flag.
“I wouldn’t know a Confederate salute if you did it in front of me,” Basye said. “The person that owned this farm at the time was my great-great grandfather, and at the time the war was over, but word hadn’t reached out this far yet. My great-great grandfather was a Union soldier, but when he heard these Confederates had been killed he had the decency to bury them right next to his father, who was a Revolutionary War soldier. When our country was at its lowest point, he chose to forgive by uniting rather than dividing and burying these men with honor rather than letting them just lay out to rot, as is sometimes common.”
Basye went on to say that any characterization that he was saluting the Confederate Flag was “ridiculous” and “offensive.” Basye went on to discuss his family’s long history of service in the military and said he didn’t think it was wrong for men and women to honor fallen soldiers on either side of the Civil War.
Debate on how Americans should treat the Confederate Flag and other symbols of the South during the Civil War have gotten new attention in the wake of the shocking, racially-motivated killing in Charleston, South Carolina. Last week, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white male, killed 9 men and women in an historic black church in Charleston, citing his racist feelings as his motivation. Many have pointed out that the Confederate Flag still hangs at several state capitols in the South and a debate has begun in some circles over whether to permanently retire the symbol.
“The massacre of nine innocent Americans during a bible study last Wednesday should remind us all that the Confederate flag remains a symbol of hate, and racism is real,” Ellington said. “That is why wise leaders from across the political spectrum are calling for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from its place of dishonor. I encourage Rep. Basye to think about what his celebration of the Confederacy and salute to the Confederate flag says to his constituents, and invite him to join with us in confronting the racism and mistreatment of our fellow Americans.”
“It’s history,” Bayse said. “We can’t change it. We shouldn’t change it. We need to move on. We need to learn from it.”
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman