Only the murmuring of a few voices could be heard as a small crowd formed around the grave of Confederate Sgt. Berry Greenwood Benson in North Augusta on Sunday.
The group was gathered at Sunset Hill Cemetery to celebrate the birthday of the honored Civil War veteran in a program put on by the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Sgt. Berry Benson Camp.
The program, which also featured members of the Brig. Gen. E. Porter Alexander honor guard in traditional attire, began with the dedication of a new flagpole near Benson’s grave.
As members of the Sgt. Berry Benson Camp surrounded the pole, hoisting a small Confederate flag into the cloudless sky, speaker Theresa Pittman gave the audience a brief history on flagpoles and their importance during wartime.
“If it were not for flagpoles, proud flags would be little more than that,” Pittman told the seated audience. “We come today to dedicate this pole, the pole on which will fly the flag of our Confederate heritage and for the Confederate soldiers who fought and died for our cause.”
Wayne Jones, the 5th Brigade Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was the guest speaker.
Jones reflected on the life of Benson as told by late historian Edward J. Cashin.
Benson, born Feb. 9, 1843, in Hamburg, S.C., gained notoriety during the Civil War for his acute ability to scout enemy locations and for escaping Union prisons on two occasions, Jones recalled.
Shortly after South Carolina seceded from the Union, the 16-year-old Benson joined the Hamburg Minutemen, and he went on to witness the Union Army’s surrender of Fort Sumter in April 1861.
Later in life, Benson settled into a home in North Augusta and worked as a cotton broker and accountant.
“(Benson) worked in the mills,” Jones said. “He learned how to buy and sell. He learned all the tools that he needed to be successful in his business.”
Benson’s likeness has been immortalized atop the Confederate Monument in the 700 block of Broad Street, which was dedicated in 1878.
Camp Commander Robert Gordon said Benson was also known to be a tireless community leader in North Augusta.
“He’s the kind of guy that the more you learn about him, the more you admire him,” Gordon said. “He was the opposite of deviousness. I think those are the kind of heroes we need.”