Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Private Salazar’s Colors

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 21, 2014

Company G, 1 st N.M. Vols.
Camp near Fort Craig
February 25th 1862

Lieut. Eben Everett  Adjt.
1st N.M. Vols, Fort Craig.


In the Battle of Valverde, a man of my Company “G” 1st N.M. Vols., took from the hand of a Texan, a flag of the Confederate States. Before leaving the Battle Field. this flag was obtained by Captain [James] Graydon from the man who took it, and was by Captain Graydon turned in to the Department Commander as having been captured by him or his Company. I have been to the Head Quarters with the man who took the flag and he has identified it as the one that Capt. Graydon took from him.

As an act of justice to the man who captured the flag (Domingo Salazar), to my Company and my Regiment, I respectfully ask the Colonel Comdg. the Regt. to forward this report to Dept. Head Quarters, so that credit may be given where it is due.

I am Sir Very Respy Yr. Obt. Servt.
Louis Felsenthal
Capt. Ist Rgt. N.M. Vols.
Comdg. Co. (G)

Domingo Salazar was a 35-year-old soldier who had mustered into the First New Mexico Volunteers at the end of July 1861. He is described in official records as being five-feet-seven-inches tall, with a dark complexion, black eyes and hair, and a laborer by occupation. He was a native of the New Mexico Territory. The dispute over his capture of the Texans’ colors may have played into his transfer just days later, on March 4, 1862, from the First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry to Company F of the First New Mexico Cavalry. Captain Graydon commanded a different company in that same cavalry unit. Once joining the cavalry, Salazar appears to have engaged in a lot of active campaigning in the West, as his service record shows numerous periods of detached service away from his regiment. In late 1863, for example, he was listed as being on detached service to Los Pinos, New Mexico, for the purpose of “recorting [recording? recruiting?] Ind. prisoners.” The following spring Salazar was detached again to participate in an expedition against the Apache. Salazar mustered out of the service at the end of his three-year enlistment at Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 31, 1864.

In November 1862, at Fort Stanton, Captain Graydon got in an altercation with a prominent civilian, Dr. John M. Whitlock, in which Graydon was shot in the chest. According to a contemporary press account, Whitlock left the scene but was intercepted by soldiers of Graydon’s company, who were waiting to ambush Whitlock by Graydon’s prior arrangement. The soldiers riddled Dr. Whitlock with 28 rifle bullets and 98 buckshot. Graydon’s commanding officer, Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson, was instructed to allow Graydon, “in consideration of his past services,” to resign his commission provided he turn himself over for trial by a civilian court, but Graydon died of his own injury before that order worked its way through the Army’s scattered chain of command.

WhentheTexansCameI found this letter in a volume I recently acquired, John P. Wilson’s When the Texans Came: Missing Records from the Civil War in the Southwest, 1861-1862 (University of New Mexico, 2001). It was the title that caught my eye initially, but it turns out to have an interesting genesis. Wilson realized that the 128 volumes of the Official Records give very little attention to the Confederate campaigns in the West in the early part of the war, and the Union’s response. (In the latter case, because of the time and distances involved, Federal forces consisted almost entirely of a handful of regulars and locally-raised units from the western states and territories, like Salazar’s First New Mexico Volunteers.) Wilson set out to compile a sort of one-volume Official Records for that much-overlooked part of the war, and I think he did a commendable job. It will made a valuable addition to the library of any Civil War enthusiast interested in the war on the frontier.



“Black Confederates” Jumps the Shark

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 20, 2014


The odious Kirk Lyons is tired of the discussion:


There were more than a million Black Confederates if everyone will stop defining the term as an equivalent for “military” service.


He’s right, of course. Confederate Heritage™ is so much easier and satisfying when it’s completely disengaged from those pesky things like definitions and detailed evidence.




Friday Night Concert: “This Little Light of Mine” and “I Saw the Light”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 19, 2014


Y’all have a great weekend.



Wednesday Night Concert: “Aura Lee” with Joe Henry

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 17, 2014


Another track from Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War. Seemed like a good time to hear it again. Wherever Elvis is, I feel sure he’s walking around with a pebble in his shoe for what he did to this beautiful old song.



“Let them come ashore & we horse marines will show them.”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 13, 2014


A letter was recently sold at auction that gives a wonderful, firsthand account of what it was like here in Galveston just after the city and island were retaken by General Magruder’s forces on New Years Day, 1863. The author is 30-year-old Private William C. Smith of the 26th Texas Cavalry. At the time Smith was on detached service from his regiment for duty as a clerk at headquarters.


Galveston, Jany 10th 1863
Saturday night 9 o’clock

Dear Lizzie:

The old saying that it is hard to say what an hour may bring proved true today. I was sitting at my desk quietly writing as I now am when I hear a gun go bang & directly the same thing again. I instantly dropped my pen & ran up on top of the house to see what was going on. It proved to be the enemy ships shelling our city, which they did pretty well for about two hours. They were too far out to sea for us to reach them at first, nor could they do us any harm. But they venture a little closer, where we opened upon them & they returned [fire]. The shot & shell make a curious noise. I was in a position that I could see every thing that was going on. You look at the ship. They fire, [you] see the smoke, wait about half a minute, then you hear the report of the gun, then the whistling of the shell, loaded with balls, pieces of iron, & c. when they explode in a house they tear it all to pieces. One shell bursted today about 200 yards from me in a house & tore it to pieces. We expect that we will commence fighting again tomorrow, [but] there was no one hurt today. I felt sorry to see the poor women & children running through the streets & getting out of the city as fast as possible, for fear of being hurt. Our troops are ordered to sleep with their guns in their hands tonight for fear of an attack. You can not imagine how our soldiers were laughing & joking during the fight. I did not see a man who looked [in] any way frightened, all of them saying only let them come ashore & we horse marines will show them what Texans can do.

A flag of truce went out to the [Federal] vessels yesterday They report that we killed a great many on the vessels that ran away on New Years Day.


The very next afternoon, on Sunday, January 11, a strange sail would appear on the horizon away to the south. One Federal warship, U.S.S. Hatteras, would be assigned to investigate. The strange sail was C.S.S. Alabama, and just 24 hours after First Sergeant Williams sat down to write his wife, Hatteras would be at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Image: U.S.S. South Carolina shelling Galveston, August 1861.


“The Hashish of the West”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 12, 2014

Maritime Commerce on the Far Western Gulf, 1861 - 1865

John Bull (center) goes shopping for cotton in an 1861 cartoon from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. The proprietor of “Davis & Co.” urges Bull to “break the door open” (i.e., lift the blockade). John Bull declines, saying, “I’ll wait till yer open the door yourself, or that man with the club [the U.S. Navy] opens it for you.” Meanwhile, India (right) is eager to make the sale.


Over at The Atlantic, Sven Beckert has an essay up, based on his book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History. It’s a good read, and well worth your time. Coming as it does on the heels of Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism and Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, 2014 seems to be the year when broader studies of cotton, slavery, and their role in the new global economy rose to the forefront.


Southern planters understood that their cotton kingdom rested not only on plentiful land and labor, but also upon their political ability to preserve the institution of slavery and to project it into the new cotton lands of the American West. Continued territorial expansion of slavery was vital to secure both its economic, and even more so its political viability, threatened as never before by an alarmingly sectional Republican Party. Slave owners understood the challenge to their power over human chattel represented by the new party’s project of strengthening the claims of power between the national state and its citizens—an equally necessary condition for its free labor and free soil ideology.

Yet from a global perspective, the outbreak of war between the Confederacy and the Union in April 1861 was a struggle not only over American territorial integrity and the future of its “peculiar institution,” but also over global capitalism’s dependence on slave labor across the world. The Civil War in the United States was an acid test for the entire industrial order: Could it adapt to the even temporary loss of its providential partner—the expansive, slave-powered antebellum United States—before social chaos and economic collapse brought their empire to ruins?

The day of reckoning arrived on April 12, 1861. On that spring day, Confederate troops fired on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. It was a quintessentially local event, a small crack in the world’s core production and trade system, but the resulting crisis illuminated brilliantly the underlying foundations of the global cotton industry and with it of capitalism.

The outbreak of the Civil War severed in one stroke the global relationships that had underpinned the worldwide web of cotton production and global capitalism since the 1780s. In an effort to force British diplomatic recognition, the Confederate government banned all cotton exports. By the time the Confederacy realized this policy was doomed, a northern blockade effectively kept most cotton from leaving the South. Though smuggling persisted, and most smugglers’ runs succeeded, the blockade’s deterrent effects removed most cotton-carrying ships from the southern trade. Consequently, exports to Europe fell from 3.8 million bales in 1860 to virtually nothing in 1862. The effects of the resulting “cotton famine,” as it came to be known, quickly rippled outward, reshaping industry—and the larger society—in places ranging from Manchester to Alexandria. With only slight hyperbole, the Chamber of Commerce in the Saxon cotton manufacturing city of Chemnitz reported in 1865 that “never in the history of trade have there been such grand and consequential movements as in the past four years.”

A mad scramble to secure cotton for European industry ensued. The effort was all the more desperate as no one could predict when the war would end and when, if ever, cotton production would revive in the American South. “What are we to do,” asked the editors of the Liverpool Mercury in January 1861, if “this most precarious source of supply should suddenly fail us?” Once it did fail, this question was foremost on the minds of policy makers, merchants, manufacturers, workers, and peasants around the globe.


In the end, secession not only didn’t result in the coronation of King Cotton, but in fact spurred Europe to look to other sources of the staple. Go read Beckert’s whole piece.



Prosecute Them

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 10, 2014



If the United States is (1) a nation of laws and not men (as we often say), and (2) we actually give a shit about human rights and due process (as we often say), then our obligation is clear:


The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of [this] Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.

President Ronald Reagan, in a signing statement on the ratification
of the United Nations Convention on Torture, 1984


Part of morality, whether for a person or a state, is not doing bad things. The other part is owning up to them when you do. We blew the first part, and I suspect we’re going to blow the second, as well.


h/t Andrew Sullivan. Image via Architect of the Capitol.


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Gary Leva’s Southern Education

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 8, 2014

The Bitter Southerner is an online magazine focusing on contemporary southern culture. Occasionally it strays off into history, as in a recent article by filmmaker Gary Leva, on his experience traveling and shooting in the South while making a companion documentary to a new release of MGM’s Gone with the Wind. Leva grew up in Dallas and always considered himself a southerner, but was quickly corrected on that point by one of his first interviews with Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling novel, The Help.


“Honey, that ain’t the South.”


So begins Leva’s journey, literal and figurative, into the complex and contentious world of how southerners view — or in some cases, remain willfully blind to — their own history. Go read the whole thing.

Here’s a clip from the documentary:





Half a Million Pageviews

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 7, 2014

Sometime around 7:30 Saturday evening Dead Confederates passed 500,000 pageviews. Thanks, y’all.



Supreme Court to Hear Texas License Plate Case

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 5, 2014


I’m a little surprised they agreed to hear this one:

The Supreme Court agreed this afternoon to rule on a state government’s power to set up a specialty license plate program that controls the messages that may be displayed.  It accepted for review an appeal by the state of Texas, seeking to defend a state agency’s refusal to allow an organization to use a Confederate flag on a specialty plate because it found that display offensive. . . .

The key issue in the license plate case (Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans) is whether the messages that are displayed on specialty tags are a form of government speech, so that officials can decide which to allow or to forbid.  If, however, they represent the views of the car or truck owner, then the government’s power to veto a message is more tightly restricted.

In a 1977 ruling, in Wooley v. Maynard, the Court treated a license plate message as a form of private speech displayed on private property, but it did not rule explicitly whether this was government speech or private speech more generally.  In the 2009 decision in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, the Court decided that a government entity has a right to speak for itself, and thus has the authority to refuse to accept a symbolic monument for display in a public park.

The Court was asked in the Texas case, and in a separate North Carolina case that is now apparently being kept on hold, to clarify a split among federal appeals courts on whether vanity plate messages are to be treated as government or private expressions.  In the Texas case, a group that seeks to preserve the memory and reputation of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy sought state approval for a plate design that included the Confederate battle flag.

Ultimately, after a series of conflicting votes, a state agency turned down that design, saying that many people regard the rebels’ flag as associated with hatred toward groups.   The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued, and ultimately won a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, declaring that specialty plate messages are a form of private speech, and that the state agency had engaged in forbidden viewpoint discrimination.


I’m not a fan of the plates, but for reasons I’ve outlined previously, my own view is that the Fifth Circuit ruled correctly. We’ll see what the Supremes have to say next spring.




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