Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Famous “Negro Cooks Regiment” Found — In My Own Backyard!

Posted in African Americans by Andy Hall on August 8, 2011

More crackerjack analysis from the leading online researcher of “black Confederates”:

Captain P.P. Brotherson’s Confederate Officers record states eleven (11) blacks served with the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery in the “Negro Cooks Regiment.” This annotation can be viewed on footnote.com. See the third line on the left. Also, the record is cataloged in the National Archives Catalog ID 586957 and microfilm number M331 under “Confederate General and Staff Officers, and Nonregimental Enlisted Men.”

Could this be one of the types of regiments many Confederate historians have documented as part of Confederate History?

Here’s the document in question:

Note that the critical phrase “Negro Cooks Regiment,” as quoted by the researcher, does not appear in the document, which is a routine statement of rations drawn for conscripted laborers. The actual text reads, “Provision for Eleven Negroes Employed in the Quarter Masters department Cooks Regt Heavy Artillery at Galveston Texas for ten days commencing on the 11th day of May 1864 & Ending on the 20th of May 1864.” There’s a similar document in the same collection, covering the period May 21 to 31, as well.

“Cook’s Regiment” is an alternate name for the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery. Like many Civil War regiments, it was widely known and referred to by the name of its commanding officer, Colonel Joseph Jarvis Cook (right). The regiment, formed from a pre-war militia unit, served at Galveston through most of the war, manning the artillery batteries around the island. The African Americans referred to in the document, attached to the regiment’s quartermaster, were likely used in maintaining the trenchwork and fortifications occupied by the regiment, or moving supplies and munitions between them. After the war, the former members of the regiment reorganized themselves as a sort of unofficial militia unit again, which eventually morphed into a social club. The Galveston Artillery Club exists right down to the present day. (Highly recommended for lunch, if you can score an invite.)

I wouldn’t expect most people, even Civil War buffs, to know what “Cook’s Regiment” was off the top of their heads, but it’s quite clear from the original document that it’s an artillery unit, as opposed to a regiment of cooks. The key phrasing quoted, “Negro Cooks Regiment,” is an outright fabrication. And 30 seconds with a search engine would’ve clarified the situation immediately.

Or maybe doing minimal due diligence like that is just a trick used by politically-correct, revisionist “pundits” like myself.

Forget interpretation. Forget analysis. Forget trying to understand the document within the context of the time and place it was written; these people don’t even seem capable of reading the documents they cite. This particular researcher has a track record of misreading documents, and drawing conclusions based on that misreading. A few weeks ago she claimed that the record of one African American, attached to a cavalry regiment, carried the notation, “has no home,” and went on to argue this showed special commitment to the Confederate cause: “with no home, [he] was not phycially [sic.] bound to the south. However, he stayed and served the Confederate States Army.” The actual notation, repeated again and again on cards throughout his CSR, was “has no horse.”

On another occasion, she quoted from a book on Camp Douglas, supposedly to show that a black servant held there had not been released as a former slave, but was held as a prisoner because the Federal authorities had determined that he was a bona fide soldier. This, she argued, was evidence that enslaved personal servants were deemed Confederate soldiers by the Union military. Unfortunately, the very next lines of the book she was quoting from verify that the prison camp did, after months of dragging their heels, determine the man was a slave, and released him on exactly those grounds by order of the Secretary of War.

And now, an entire regiment of “Negro cooks,” right here in my own home town. How did I miss that one? ;-)
__________
Image: Order for the evacuation of Galveston, October 1862, signed by Col. Joseph Jarvis Cook, commanding Confederate troops on the island. Rosenberg Library, Galveston.

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  1. corkingiron said, on August 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    A question for you, O p/c pundit. Were there ever – in any unit of either Army, Cooks -white or black – specifically designated as belonging to their own regiment? If so, I’m betting none of them were Scottish :)

    • Andy Hall said, on August 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      Pretty sure, no. But there were H.M. Queen’s Own Kamikaze Highlanders:

    • Will Hickox said, on August 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      The 14th New York Heavy Artillery recruited several black men as “colored under-cooks.” Each company (12 in an artillery regiment) was authorized two. They seem to have been soldiers but not considered USCTs. You can find them listed as such in the New York State Adjutant General’s roster: http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/rostersartillery.htm. Some of them were picked up by the 14th from the draftee rendezvous at Elmira. It would be interesting to see if many other regiments recruited them.

      • Andy Hall said, on August 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm

        Will, thanks.

        There are a number of cases of African American men being formally enrolled as cooks in the Confederate army and, so far as CSRs seem to indicate, formally enlisted as such. The researcher has been highlighting a number of these individual cases lately, always leaping straight from them to a universal assertion, this proves all Confederate cooks were considered soldiers.

        But as I outlined here, these cases — and she’s mentioned perhaps ten so far — are by far the exception to the rule. I took 20 Confederate regiments more or less at random, and went through their rosters as listed in the CWSSS, and in those 20 regiments — over 40,000 names, though a good number of them were alternate spellings — found a total of FIVE men with records of formal enlistment as cooks. All five were from the same regiment, the 5th North Carolina Cavalry, and of those five, four were signed into the same company, by the same officer. I don’t know what the story is behind that circumstance, but clearly the takeaway is that formal enlistment of cooks in the Confederate army was not only not common, it was exceedingly rare. The are what a stats parson would call outliers — real examples, but ones that are also entirely unrepresentative of the whole.

        This is what I mean when I say this particular researcher is working with no reference or (it seems) understanding of the bigger picture, or how her research fits into it. She finds something that, at cursory glance, says to her “black Confederate,” and immediately announces that as a finding that supports her predetermined position. To return to the present example, instead of announcing the possible discovery of a regiment of cooks, she ought to be using her efforts to try and figure out exactly what these mens’ role was in their employment with the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery, and how that fits with the larger narrative of the conflict, both locally and regionally.

  2. Jeffry Burden said, on August 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    /facepalm

  3. Kevin said, on August 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    “Cook’s Regiment” is an alternative name for the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery. Like many Civil War regiments, it was widely known and referred to by the name of its commanding officer, Colonel Joseph Jarvis Cook.”

    That is absolutely hilarious. But you know it’s just another example of revisionist research. LOL

  4. Matt McKeon said, on August 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Its just stupid too. A regiment of cooks? A thousand cooks all together, cooking for each other I guess. Has such an organization ever existed?

    • Andy Hall said, on August 8, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      You don’t hear much about them because they had to be stationed way, way in the rear. It’s just not possible to do a decent souffle with the concussion of artillery nearby.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      I should also add that, however she came to a commitment to tell the story of “black Confederates,” she seems to be entirely tabula raza on the war, or military history, or 19th century American history generally. Which is to say, I’m not entirely certain that she understands the word “regiment” to signify a strength of a thousand men (at least on paper), or that the notion of one regiment as the subset of another regiment is contradictory on its face.

      • Margaret D. Blough said, on August 10, 2011 at 8:44 am

        My understanding is that the Confederate practice was to refer to the unit by the name of the commander, at least from the brigade level on up.

        • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:18 am

          You see it less with regiments than brigades and division, but in this case “Cook’s Regiment” was common usage for this unit, as a quick websearch will show. Presumably the personal name stuck because it had a single commander for most of its service, and was stationed locally throughout the war.

          • Margaret D. Blough said, on August 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

            Thanks. I’m beginning to have doubts that the researcher acted out of ignorance. Not only is the word Negro added to the quote but the phrase Heavy Artillery coming immediately after Regt. is omitted from what she posted.

            • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm

              I’m still going to presume a deep, abiding lack of any background in the subject period at all, as opposed to Machiavellian performance art. She’s periodically posted queries that suggest that, such as not long ago when she asked for a source for the text of the March 1865 legislation that authorized the enlistment of slaves — a pretty revealing request, coming from someone who holds herself out as a leading researcher, a resource for K-12 educators, and published author on the subject. I do get the impression that, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, she “doesn’t know what she doesn’t know.”

              It’s impossible to know, though, because (AFAIK) she’s revealed exactly nothing about her own background or education, preferring instead to be listed simply as, “United States Citizen.” Given the disdain with which anything that smacks of the academy is held by the crowd she chooses to run with, maybe that’s not a great surprise.

              For those with Footnote access, the document in question is here:

  5. Mike Radinsky said, on August 9, 2011 at 8:24 am

    My preference would have been to be attached to the 71st Pennsylvania, or 1st California, regiment, just for the cupcakes alone. If memory serves, weren’t they Baker’s ?

    • Andy Hall said, on August 9, 2011 at 8:27 am

      Cupcakes were a critical resource, but in the South it was very difficult getting sprinkles in through the blockade. Bragg was reportedly grumpy all the time about that.

    • Margaret D. Blough said, on August 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

      I would think that the 1st California’s problem would be finding the ingredients for gluten-free, organic, vegan cupcakes in the East.

      • TF Smith said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm

        Hell no! Real Californians eat tri trip rare, drink Anchor Steam, and frost their cup cakes with Crystal triple vanilla, whipped heavy cream, and Ghiradelli chocolate!

        And our cows are happy, damn it!

        All that vegan stuff comes from refugee New Yorkers and effete easterners…

  6. Kevin said, on August 9, 2011 at 8:45 am

    This is just brutal. LOL

  7. TF Smith said, on August 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Not to discourage the cooks and bakers meme, but even a casual reader should probably wonder what sort of “regiment”, Confederate or otherwise, is organized for 10 days, as in “Employed in the Quarter Masters department Cooks Regt Heavy Artillery at Galveston Texas for ten days commencing on the 11th day of May 1864 & Ending on the 20th of May 1864″?

    100-dayzers are one thing, but 10-dayzers?

    These men were forced labor for one unit for less than two weeks, and the advocates of the Negro Cooks Regiment type think this is some sort of a compelling “counter” to ~200,000 USCTs and USN personnel on the firing line? …

    • Andy Hall said, on August 9, 2011 at 10:39 am

      These men were forced labor for one unit for less than two weeks, and the advocates of the Negro Cooks Regiment type think this is some sort of a compelling “counter” to ~200,000 USCTs and USN personnel on the firing line? …

      I don’t believe this particular researcher thinks much about it at all. She’s continually putting names and references like this on her website, and posting them to “prove” that there were “black Confederate soldiers,” but that’s really all most of these folks do. There’s almost never any attempt to integrate these claims with larger narratives of the war.

      Going back to some earlier postings of mine as an example, you can find lots of folks who will cite this or that source to claim there was a Confederate regiment of African Americans at First Manassas, but they don’t ever seem so committed to that assertion that they actually try to show where they fit in the Confederate OOB, or plot their movements across the field on a map, or present casualty figures for them, or identify their officers, or. . . .

      I should also add that different people pushing the BSC meme do so for entirely different motivations. The researcher I’m talking about here is, for all her faults and shoddy work, sincere in her efforts. She’s an entirely different sort than the fraudster who perpetuated this.

      • TF Smith said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm

        I admire you for your patience. Thankfully, the undergrads and grads we deal with here at directionally challenged state understand the concept of weighing sources…

        Best,

        • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm

          I can’t even imagine how one deals with the challenges represented by the Internet, and how to guide students when it comes to sorting out sources.

          • TF Smith said, on August 11, 2011 at 9:50 am

            Occam’s Razor actually works pretty well.

  8. Woodrowfan said, on August 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    One of the lesser known incidents in the siege of Petersburg in the autumn of 1864 was the full-scale firefight between the Third Illinois Cook’s Regiment (Hell’s Bakers) and the 52d and ½ New York (The Iron Whisks). It seems that during a poker game someone decided to call out for pizza and the 3d Illinois was from Chicago and the 52 ½ New York was made up of Brooklyn boys. Well, the argument started over deep-dish vs. New York style and then some damn fool mentioned putting catsup on hotdogs. Well, the fighting lasted 12 hours until Grant sent in his personal chef’s unit (known for their all black outfits and their unit insignia with the crossed steak-knifes over a cow skull, not to mention their fantastic whiskey-based steak marinade) to break it up.

    Things were quiet after that other than the occasional bagel tossed between the trenches. Grant made sure to separate the two units by placing the 23d Pennsylvania Cook’s Brigade (Fury’s Fondues) between them. Of course that led to the infamous ”Christmas Cheese-Steak Incident” of 1864, which, as we all know, almost led to Lincoln relieving Grant of his command, but that’s another story.

  9. Will Hickox said, on August 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    As a nerdish “Did you know?” item, the Ottoman Empire’s infamous Janissarie Corps were kept under brutal discipline, but received the best food in the Ottoman Army. The Janissaries were proud of this and used cauldrons for unit standards and kitchen utensils for rank insignia. Totally true.

  10. Connie Chastain said, on August 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Honest mistakes can be fixed. Purposeful arrogance, bullying and ridicule, even in their written form, are signs of a character flaw that is frequently permanent.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Connie, perhaps if you, as someone who claims as much authority and credibility in the practice of history as I, Kevin or Brooks Simpson, spent as much time mentoring your colleague as you do whining about others’ alleged motives and supposed character flaws, maybe she would make fewer mistakes.

      I have always been careful to criticize Ms. DeWitt’s work, not to impugn her character. Indeed, I continue to believe that she is honest and sincere in her efforts, even if her assumptions and lack of context lead her to conclusions that the evidence doesn’t support. My criticisms of her work have always been focused — I don’t just say, “she’s wrong,” but go into considerable detail to show why and how. I will also add one additional attribute about Ms. DeWitt that argues strongly in her favor: she tries, as opposed to some others who claim to be historians who’ve brought nothing of their own, original work to the discussion, at all.

      Certainly people make mistakes. I do, too, as I did here, overlooking an important primary source document. But Ms. DeWitt seems to make a great many mistakes, including exceptionally careless ones, as I’ve outlined in the post. And this pattern of careless errors matters a great deal in her case, because she presents herself as an authority on the subject, both within the online community and to the K-12 educators community as well. With her book, which is written for young people and actively marketed to educators, and her website, which she also promotes as a reliable educational resource, she is taking on the role of educator, regardless of whether she’s actually in a classroom.

      And that’s why, frankly, her work warrants scrutiny. She cannot have it both ways, being on the one hand a recognized historical authority on the role of African Americans in the Confederacy, while at the same time making a long string of genuinely amateurish mistakes that are so very basic, they cause one to question whether she’s actually read the documents she cites.

  11. Connie Chastain said, on August 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Andy says, “My criticisms of her work have always been focused — I don’t just say, ‘she’s wrong,’ but go into considerable detail to show why and how.”

    Why, sure you have, to wit:

    “You don’t hear much about them because they had to be stationed way, way in the rear. It’s just not possible to do a decent souffle with the concussion of artillery nearby.”

    and

    “Cupcakes were a critical resource, but in the South it was very difficult getting sprinkles in through the blockade. Bragg was reportedly grumpy all the time about that.”

    Oh, that’s focus, all right. Real focus.

    I don’t scrutinize her claims because I don’t CARE whether there were blacks in the Confederate army or not. Capice?

    http://one80dts.blogspot.com/2011/06/black-confederates-controversy.html

    http://one80dts.blogspot.com/2011/07/black-confederate-redux.html

    I simply think if there WERE, they and their contributions need to be acknowledged. You, Levin, Meyer, etc., seem to think if they were slaves, their service to the war effort doesn’t need to be acknowledged — in fact, it should be denigrated.

    The most impeccable historian credentials in the world can be totally nullified by rigid adherence to a hostile and/or self-aggrandizing agenda.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • EarthTone said, on August 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      I simply think if there WERE, they and their contributions need to be acknowledged. You, Levin, Meyer, etc., seem to think if they were slaves, their service to the war effort doesn’t need to be acknowledged — in fact, it should be denigrated.

      I have seen this rhetorical device before – the claim that people who push back against mythical black Confederates are refusing to acknowledge the “service” or bravery of certain slaves.

      This is an except from the on-line discussion between “HE” and “ME” concerning a so-called black Confederate named Richard Quarles, a manservant who was honored for saving his master’s life on the battlefield ( http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/local/pinellas/from-slavery-to-the-confederate-army-02012011 ):
      ****

      HE: I would like to point out the slaves who were “forced” to serve with their white masters during the American Revolutionary War on both sides, some of whom also picked up a weapon and defended their respective causes and masters when the time came.

      To say these men do not deserve to be remembered as soldiers disgraces not only their humanity and sacrifices, but does a grave disservice to black history as a whole.
      ****

      ME: You keep saying that I don’t want to honor Quarles’ courage and sacrifice. Please stop doing that; it’s not true, as I have clearly indicated otherwise.

      It seems to me that you have this pre-programmed response that anyone who challenges a “black Confederate soldier” is therefore challenging the honor of men like Quarles. But that response is irrelevant here.

      I will say it again. Quarles’ bravery and heroism should be honored. But we must make it clear: he did NOT join the Confederate armed forces via enlistment, conscription, whatever, to become a Confederate soldier, and fight the enemy, as the story implies. That is FALSE.

      As a matter of fact, he was a slave who, out of submission to his master, had joined that master to provide those menial – but nonetheless important – tasks that man servants perform.

      His acts of heroism are extraordinary precisely because, although a slave, he risked his life for his master, picking up a weapon in the process.

      If THAT story is told, which as far as I can see is the truth, I have no problem. Anything beside the denial of this truth is deception and the furtherance of a political agenda. IMO.
      ****

      HE: I see, now you go back to the same strawman arguments that every Denier uses to discount the bravery and the honor of a black man who saw the South as his home, and even throw in a conspiracy theory about the so-called “political agenda” of the SCV (which is a non-political organization made up of a bi-partisan group of individual members).
      ****

      ME: Sir, I must ask: why do you continue to li… mischaracterize my comments concerning the honoring of Richard Quarles? In yet another post, you say that I am “discount(ing) the bravery and the honor of a black man.” That is absolutely false. Just the OPPOSITE is true: I have insisted in all of my posts that the only way to fully appreciate this man’s bravery is to acknowledge that he wasn’t a “black Confederate soldier,” but rather, was a slave who went beyond his duty as a bondsman to save his master’s life…
      ****

      And so it went. Beware of this “you’re not honoring them” narrative. It seems like it’s used regardless of whether it’s factual or righteous, to disarm anyone who goes against the BCS figment.

      • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm

        Thanks for this, Alan. I’ve missed your blogging at Jubilo.

  12. Corey Meyer said, on August 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Connie says….”I simply think if there WERE, they and their contributions need to be acknowledged. You, Levin, Meyer, etc., seem to think if they were slaves, their service to the war effort doesn’t need to be acknowledged — in fact, it should be denigrated.”

    I know I am asking a great deal here, but could you please show me where Andy, Kevin or I have said they should be denigrated?

    Thanks.

  13. Connie Chastain said, on August 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Corey, I didn’t say anybody said THEY should be denigrated. “It” is a pronoun that refers to something that appears earlier in the sentence. See if you can figure out what.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 7:15 am

      Corey’s meaning was clear. You can respond or not as you choose, but don’t hide behind word games.

      • Connie Chastain said, on August 10, 2011 at 7:54 am

        If anyone is playing word games, it’s him. Yes, his meaning was clear, but it put words in my mouth that I did not say. It gives meaning to my comment that I obviously did not intend. I can’t believe you can’t see this.

        There is a conspicuous different between denigrating THEM (people) and denigrating IT. In this case, IT clearly refers to “their service to the war effort,” which is certainly denigrated by you three and perhaps others, who imply IT was rendered meaningless by their status as slaves (because it was forced and they had no choice about it, etc.)

        • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:26 am

          Last time: provide specific examples of how we three have denigrated the actual service of African American men affiliated with the Confederate army. (As opposed to cracking bad jokes, as above, about mythical units that never existed.)

          • Kevin said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:40 am

            I find it hilarious that the person responsible for pointing out a pattern of the most basic kinds of interpretive mistakes is somehow the one who is out to “denigrate” the past. The world of Civil War memory is indeed an interesting place. It seems to me that it is Ms. DeWitt, who has done more damage to this past than anything contained in a few jokes.

            Hey Andy, thanks again for the work you do on this site.

            • Connie Chastain said, on August 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm

              I can’t believe how my words get changed these threads. I didn’t say denigrate the PAST.

              My statement was very clear and specific. Do you also, like Corey and Andy, think that it’s some kind of word game to expect people to know what a pronoun in a sentence is referring to?

        • Corey Meyer said, on August 10, 2011 at 11:00 am

          Fine Connie, play the word games or whatever you like. Regardless I nor anyone else is denigrating the service of those you refer to as “Black Confederates”…just the opposite. Each time that a certain researcher puts forth a new claim of a “Black Confederate” there are problems with the interpretation. This time, with “Negro Cooks Regiment” it was an extreme mistake.

          I think what is really getting under your skin is the fact that what is produced by Andy and others is actual research and goes beyond what said “Black Confederate” researcher is capable of producing with access to the same material.

          If anything, what Andy and others have done with their research is brought more light on the lives of those “Black Confederates” than anything the “southern heritage” cronies have for those they pretend to defend.

          • Connie Chastain said, on August 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

            No, Corey, as I have stated repeatedly, I don’t CARE whether there were black Confederate *soldiers* or not so I have not given more than a cursory look at the research on this — either pro or con. I don’t believe the Confederacy “needs” blacks in its army to “legitimize” its cause. What I believe is that their service to the Confederacy, whatever it was, in whatever capacity it was done, should be acknowledged. What you all seem to think is, if they were slaves (and the majority were), their service was forced, and if it was forced, it was not legitimate service, so acknowledging it gives people the wrong idea and shouldn’t be done….

            • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm

              What you all seem to think is, if they were slaves (and the majority were), their service was forced, and if it was forced, it was not legitimate service.

              That’s a gross oversimplification of my position, and I believe of Corey’s and Kevin’s as well. What we have strenuously objected to is a portrayal of the service of these men using the simplistic, patriotic tropes employed by various “heritage” groups, including SHPG. It’s complicated stuff, full of nuance and qualified answers that undermine the two-dimensional cartoons that make up their chosen narrative of the war. (That’s because the world is a complicated place, both in 2011 and in 1865.) The BCS meme, as put forward by Ms, DeWitt, the SHPG, George Purvis and many others shows little enough regard for these men or their actual stories; it’s all about adding another name to the list.

              I have not given more than a cursory look at the research on this.

              That, I do believe.

              I’m not interested in what you’ve decided I (or the others) “seem to think.” I expect you to show us. You’ve now been asked three times to provide specific examples where we have denigrated the service of African Americans with the Confederate military. You have declined to do so. , and as a result, you’re done commenting here. Have a Dixie Day.

              Edit: Changed my mind — not going to block you just yet, because I suspect you’d see that as some some sort of vindication of your bold truth-telling. In fact, you’re just someone who, by her own admission, doesn’t know the research and doesn’t care much about the actual, historical reality of the subject. Keep diggin’ that hole.

              • Kevin said, on August 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm

                I’ve not once seen her attempt to do historical interpretation.

              • Connie Chastain said, on August 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm

                I’ve explained it, and you’ve deemed my explanation a “gross oversimplification.” However, it is a logical assumption for me to arrive at when most of what I’ve encountered of y’all’s position (on the recognition of their service) is attacks on *others* for *their* position on it. I invite you to find where *I* have portrayed the service of these men in simplistic, patriotic tropes, either at SHPG or on my blog.

                It’s not that I don’t care about the actual, historical reality of the subject. It’s just that my primary interest lies somewhere else — i.e., in how history, particularly history about the South, and most especially about the war (but other history, as well) is manipulated and used in the promotion of certain cultural and socio-political ideas. You know what Orwell said — “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” The idea that the only people who know history are the ones like yourselves, who got it the way you did and emerged with identical views on it — is about control.

                In a country where one of the bedrock founding principles is *supposed* to be freedom of speech and expression, telling someone to take down their website because YOU disagree with it, for whatever reason, is a crystal clear portrait of a blatant attempt at control. Do you agree with Mr. Levin, that Ann ought to take down her website?

                There’s lots of contradictory information out there about nearly any subject you can name. It used to be that people were taught to think for themselves and use common sense when considering the alternatives and make up their own minds. I guess in the halls of academia, a conclusion has been reached that people have grown too dumb to do that — therefore, people must be told what to believe, and alternate/contradictory viewpoints suppressed.

              • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm

                @Connie:

                I’ve explained it

                You were asked to give specific examples.

                I invite you to find where *I* have portrayed the service of these men in simplistic, patriotic tropes, either at SHPG or on my blog.

                No, you’ve been quite careful not to formally commit yourself on the subject, while at the same time (1) cheering on anything and everything that supports the meme, while (2) openly mocking those of us who challenge it, both online and on your blog. The notion that you’re a disinterested observer in this discussion, as it plays out on FB, on your blog and others’, is ludicrous.

                It’s just that my primary interest lies somewhere else — i.e., in how history, particularly history about the South, and most especially about the war (but other history, as well) is manipulated and used in the promotion of certain cultural and socio-political ideas.

                You make yourself sound almost academic, like a dispassionate, clinical observer. You are very much a partisan player in that debate, more-so (I dare say) than any of the three of us. Your focus on ideas and interpretations and the uses of history also seems to be (conveniently) free-floating, based not on our analysis or interpretation of specific evidence, but on your assumptions about our motivations, or agenda, or hatred of the South, or political correctness, or whatever.

                In a country where one of the bedrock founding principles is *supposed* to be freedom of speech and expression, telling someone to take down their website because YOU disagree with it, for whatever reason, is a crystal clear portrait of a blatant attempt at control.

                Gimme a break. Freedom of expression does not include freedom from criticism. Kevin’s call for Ms. DeWitt to take down her website voluntarily is no more “a blatant attempt at control” than me announcing that I think you should be blogging about next, or signing a public petition to change an ordinance I don’t like.

                Seriously, you’ve inflated Kevin’s supposed influence to such a degree that he’s now the thought police? Really? I’m sure he has no idea how much power he wields.

                Do you agree with Mr. Levin, that Ann ought to take down her website?

                My view is that she needs to review what she’s posted very, very carefully, and stop making broad, grandiose claims based on her somewhat superficial reading of the evidence. I have said repeatedly that I believe her to be sincere and well-intentioned, but sincerity doesn’t make one better at understanding a CSR, nor do good intentions help much in understanding the limitations of Confederate pension records. It does not seem to me that she has a very good grasp of mid-19th century America, North or South, but I have no way of knowing. Unlike most people who put themselves forward as an authority on some historical subject, she’s made public (as far as I know) nothing about her background, education or experience that prepares her to do this work.

                And at the end of the day, it’s the work — not academic degrees or university affiliations — that define one’s value as a researcher. You’ve characterized this case as an “honest mistake” on her part. I think it’s better characterized as a very careless mistake, one that suggests a very superficial approach to the documentation. (Nowhere does the document say “Negro Cooks Regiment.”) I’ve given two additional recent examples in the post of above of similar nature, which are (similarly) fundamental errors in quoting the sources she cites. When the source says X, and you post that it says Y, and then posit a larger historical claim based on the source saying Y, then it goes beyond being an innocuous, one-off error; it calls into question most everything you do, or have done.

                Should she take down her website? That’s her call, not mine or Kevin’s or anyone else’s. (Though anyone is welcome to call upon her to do so, and I can think of at least one Facebook group that would pop out the champagne if I decided to take down my blog.)

                But I will tell you that, several months ago, I posted some original research on a “black Confederate,” and one of my readers pointed out that I’d missed a critical source document. In response, I took the entire post down, and rewrote almost the whole thing, being careful to check and double check my sources, and also to tie in that man’s story with what was known of the time and place from other sources. That was not especially fun, but it’s what I needed to do, both to do his story justice and to maintain my own credibility as a researcher. It made for a better read, too.

                There’s lots of contradictory information out there about nearly any subject you can name. It used to be that people were taught to think for themselves and use common sense when considering the alternatives and make up their own minds.

                I agree entirely. But for people to make up their own minds, they need to have reliable information to work with. You — you personally, and the SHPG as a whole — are not doing Ms. DeWitt or her readers any favors by cheering her on for sticking it to “the deniers,” and not even bothering to point out that the very documents she posts to FB don’t say what she claims they do. You’re not helping her as a researcher by continually telling her what an awesome job she’s doing, even when even a casual glance at the material shows it’s being misread.

                and alternate/contradictory viewpoints suppressed

                Criticism is not suppression. You claim to want an environment where people can make up their own minds? Withstanding criticism is part of that. Ms. DeWitt has positioned herself as an educator — not a classroom teacher, but an educator nonetheless — who’s doing groundbreaking work on revealing the extent and depth of African Americans’ involvement in Confederate war effort. (Which, for the record, has been the subject of academic studies for almost a century.) She markets her book and her website to the public and to K-12 educators as a reliable source on the subject; that makes her work every bit as subject to scrutiny as mine or Kevin’s or anyone else’s.

              • Will Stoutamire said, on August 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm

                @ Connie

                You wrote: “There’s lots of contradictory information out there about nearly any subject you can name. It used to be that people were taught to think for themselves and use common sense when considering the alternatives and make up their own minds. I guess in the halls of academia, a conclusion has been reached that people have grown too dumb to do that — therefore, people must be told what to believe, and alternate/contradictory viewpoints suppressed.”

                I’m sorry, but twice this week you have proven that you have no understanding of what actually goes on in academia. Earlier you claimed, based on your “feeling”, that academics were bent on a simplistic dualism of North = good, South = bad. When I countered with references to my actual experience on committees planning Sesquicentennial events, wherein a significant portion of the discussion was dedicated to making sure we do just the opposite, you went silent.

                Now you claim that academia suppresses alternative perspectives when, in reality, the wealth of historical literature today reflects a far greater range of perspectives on the past and narratives thereof than ever before. I know they’re academics, but you might try holding off a couple months for David Blight’s new book on the Centennial (or checking out Robert Cook’s Troubled Commemoration – also on the Centennial, just older). Both show how the narrative that you and the members of the SHPG support all but dominated official commemorative events 50 years ago – alternatives were quite literally suppressed throughout much of the South. Where any of these Southron Heritage defenders forbidden from attending and participating in events at Manassas a few weeks ago? I think not.

                Furthermore, this is not a matter of telling anyone what he or she may or may not believe. You, Mrs. DeWitt, and anyone else are more than welcome to put forth an argument backed by the interpretation of the evidence that is available to you. But there is a basic standard here – you have to actually have evidence, and your interpretation of that evidence is open to criticism by others. That’s how the process works. In this example, not only does Mrs. DeWitt falsify a quote (“Negro Cooks Regiment”) but she then makes a claim for the document based on that quote which is undeniably false as well. That’s not an ‘alternative viewpoint’ that we are attempting to ‘suppress’ – that’s a reading of the document that is not supported by the document itself relying, in large part, on a phrase that does not even exist. Honest mistake or not, the only ‘evidence’ in that document that could support her viewpoint involves her rearranging the original wording out of context to create a wholly different meaning – a violation of one of the core ethics of any study of the past. Regardless of whether you’re an academic or a member of the general public, that’s simply poor scholarship.

              • Connie Chastain said, on August 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm

                Mr. Hall, you’ve made a similar claim to one Mr. Levin has made but won’t let me respond to.

                Your claim:

                “No, you’ve been quite careful not to formally commit yourself on the subject, while at the same time cheering on anything and everything that supports the meme, while openly mocking those of us who challenge it, both online and on your blog…..You — you personally, and the SHPG as a whole — are not doing Ms. DeWitt or her readers any favors by cheering her on for sticking it to “the deniers,” …You’re not helping her as a researcher by continually telling her what an awesome job she’s doing, even when even a casual glance at the material shows it’s being misread.”

                Mr. Levin’s claim:

                “You did nothing more than act as a cheerleader in response to her individual postings. Never once did you ask a critical question; more importantly, on more than one occasion you used her postings as an excuse to take jabs at Andy, me and others. And like I said in the post, if Andy had not caught the mistake you would have lapped it up as you do with everything else she has written.”

                Before I deal with the things these two comments have in common, let me address your standalone comment.

                Click here to continue: http://members.cox.net/180dts/Bloggers.html

              • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2011 at 7:21 am

                That’s quite an impressive list. When do you plan to start applying that same sort of scrutiny and fact-checking to the posts made by your colleagues over at SHPG?

                Please also include a link back to this blog post, and any other of mine or Kevin’s that you cite from or refer to. Your readers should have the opportunity to read our own words, in the context of the full discussion, not just your excerpts or summaries of them.

              • Connie Chastain said, on August 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

                Andy asks, “When do you plan to start applying that same sort of scrutiny and fact-checking to the posts made by your colleagues over at SHPG?”

                Not planning to do that. I’m not the thought police.

                Andy says, “Please also include a link back to this blog post, and any other of mine or Kevin’s that you cite from or refer to. Your readers should have the opportunity to read our own words, in the context of the full discussion, not just your excerpts or summaries of them.”

                People have that opportunity regardless of what I do.

        • BorderRuffian said, on August 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

          Many of these servants had ample opportunity to desert but never did. They trudged along with the armies for two, three, or four years to the end of the war. The constant drone that it was all forced does ring a bit hollow.

          • Kevin said, on August 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

            In the case of Silas Chandler he had a wife and children back home in Mississippi.

          • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

            Many did not, certainly. But many did, and there’s ample contemporary evidence of both (1) white officers who were loathe to let African American servants and work gangs too close to the lines for fear they would desert, as well as Confederate soldiers who repeatedly mentioned their servants’ loyalty to them, right up the point they ran off. I think Kevin recently mentioned a case where an officer was certain his servant who’d disappeared while on some errand near the lines, must surely have gotten “lost” because (naturally) he wouldn’t have run on his own accord.

            Just as there were many and complex reasons why a soldier would volunteer for military service, so too there were undoubtedly many factors that would have weighed on an individual servant’s decision whether to attempt an escape. Lots of people generally, will remain in a situation where they are unhappy, do not want to be, but nonetheless relatively secure, rather than go all in for a gamble (i.e., escape) that may result in something much better, but also possibly in something much worse. The bottom line for all these servants, cooks, teamsters, etc. who weighed attempting to escape must have been judging whether they could be certain of success, because the price of failure, if caught, could be very high. (Same goes for white deserters, too.) It would be a mistake to assume that those servants or laborers who did not run for Union lines did so because of some special loyalty either to the Confederacy or to their masters. People and their decisions are complex things.

            Zeroing in from the generic discussion to the local, desertion was a terrible problem here during the latter part of the war, including the period of this document. The newspapers regularly ran descriptions of Confederate soldiers and offered rewards for their return. There were no Union “lines” anywhere nearby, but the records of the WGBS mention pretty regularly little groups of two, three or four men who managed to steal a boat and make it out to the Union ships offshore.

  14. TF Smith said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:44 am

    They were the cream of the army, I’d expect.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:49 am

      That’s awful.

      • TF Smith said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:35 pm

        I can see why some people get frosted over this issue…

        • Woodrowfan said, on August 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm

          It’s kind of cheesy, but in the big picture it’s small potatoes. (I’d better stop before I get on a roll)

          • TF Smith said, on August 11, 2011 at 8:31 pm

            I think that would be a croissant…

  15. Kevin said, on August 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Andy,

    According to Connie we are all having difficulty properly understanding her comments, but somehow she has managed to construct full psychological profiles of us based on our posts and comments. :-)

    • Andy Hall said, on August 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

      If you weren’t so blinded by your seething hatred of all things Southern, you’d know that she’s also a psychologist. ;-)

      • Kevin said, on August 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

        The problem now is that this thread has become so far removed from anything we intend for our blogs. It’s simply a matter of accepting that we are wrong – always have been and always will be. :-)

        • Brooks D. Simpson said, on August 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm

          At least Ms. Chastain has read your blogs. She’s admitted that she hasn’t spent much time around mine, but that doesn’t matter … she can pass judgment any way. Interesting decision to broadcast her own ignorance.

  16. Connie Chastain said, on August 10, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Mr. Hall says, “You make yourself sound almost academic, like a dispassionate, clinical observer. You are very much a partisan player in that debate, more-so (I dare say) than any of the three of us. Your focus on ideas and interpretations and the uses of history also seems to be (conveniently) free-floating, based not on our analysis or interpretation of specific evidence, but on your assumptions about our motivations, or agenda, or hatred of the South, or political correctness, or whatever.”

    No, I don’t make myself sound that way. Must’ve been the “cultural and socio-political idea” terminology, huh. Absolutely I’m a partisan player; I think that’s pretty obvious and I’ve never hidden my partisanship behind a cool, lofty (and phony) objectivity. My ideas and interpretation of the uses of history are based on observation of how it’s used. I don’t make assumptions as much as I draw conclusions about what I observe.

    • Brooks D. Simpson said, on August 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      “I don’t make assumptions as much as I draw conclusions about what I observe.”

      And yet, Ms. Chastain, you also admitted on August 10 the following: “I dunno why, but I’ve never visited Mr. Simpson’s blog much, just a time or too. Did do anything for me, I guess.”

      In other words, you admit that you also draw conclusions about things you haven’t observed. I’ll keep that in mind.

  17. Connie Chastain said, on August 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Mr. Simpson, I didn’t say I’ve never visited your blog. I added a qualifier, “I’ve never visited it *much*.” That means I *have* visited it … *a little*. That’s when the observations were made that I’ve drawn conclusions about. One of the conclusions I drew, btw, was that there was little there to entice me to change visiting “a little” to visiting “much.”


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