Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Fisking Fremantle

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on October 27, 2010

Recently I uploaded a post in which I characterized Dr. Steiner’s famous account of Confederate troops entering Frederick, Maryland in 1862 as being unreliable, because (among other things) it was uncorroborated by other witnesses to the same event. The credibility of Steiner’s account is important, as it’s one of the references often cited as evidence of large formations of black soldiers serving in the Confederate Army. Steiner estimates their number as “over 3,000 Negroes” — an enormous number, something approaching the size of a full-strength brigade.

One of my commenters took me to task, saying that Steiner’s account is corroborated by the Fremantle Diary, an account of a British 0fficer’s travels across the Confederacy in the spring and early summer of 1863, and culminating with his witnessing the Battle of Gettysburg. I pointed out that Fremantle didn’t witness the Confederates’ entry into Frederick the previous fall, but my commenter assured me, “it’s the same army.”

This struck me as odd. Fremantle and I are old friends, as it were, since I first read his account years back while working on an archaeology project. I thought I was familiar with Fremantle’s account, but I sure couldn’t recall any references to Black Confederates in it. Furthermore, any reference to Black Confederates in “the same army” would be restricted to a relatively small part of the book, that covered Fremantle’s time with the Army of Northern Virginia — Chapters 10 through 13. I skimmed those chapters, and then the entire text, and came up empty.

So I did some Googling and came up with two brief passages that are cited over and over again on Black Confederate sites, such as this one. Fremantle’s texts are rarely quoted in full, but are most often summarized, which is the crux of the problem. More about that in a moment.

The first passage in Fremantle comes in a description of McLaws’ Division, marching north toward Pennsylvania, on June 25, 1863:

The weather was cool and showery, and all went swimmingly for the first fourteen miles, when we caught up M’Laws’s division, which belongs to Longstreet’s corps. As my horse about this time began to show signs of fatigue, and as Lawley’s pickaxed most alarmingly, we turned them in to some clover to graze, whilst we watched two brigades pass along the road. They were commanded, I think, by Semmes and Barksdale, and were composed of Georgians, Mississippians, and South Carolinians. They marched very well, and there was no attempt at straggling; quite a different state of things from Johnston’s men in Mississippi. All were well shod and efficiently clothed.

In the rear of each regiment were from twenty to thirty Negro slaves, and a certain number of unarmed men carrying stretchers and wearing in their hats the red badges of the’ ambulance corps; this is an excellent institution, for it prevents unwounded men falling out on pretense of taking wounded to the rear. The knapsacks of the men still bear the names of the Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, or other regiments to which they originally be tonged. There were about twenty wagons to each brigade, most of which were marked U. S., and each of these brigades was about 2,800 strong. There are four brigades in M’Laws’s division. All the men seem in the highest spirits, and were cheering and yelling most vociferously·

Fremantle explicitly identifies the African American men as slaves. He makes no mention of arms or weapons, but does describe them as being “in the rear” of each regiment — i.e., not actually part of the formation of companies, along with the stretcher-bearers. There’s no suggestion that Fremantle viewed these men as soldiers. Nonetheless, some authors have written secondary accounts describing Fremantle’s observations, with some careful rephrasing that changes the the meaning entirely. An example of this is a post by James Durney over at the TOCWOC Blog:

[Fremantle] states that every regiment and battery has from 20 to 40 [sic.] black men traveling with it. His description of their dress and arms is similar to the description of Jackson’s command in 1862. This indicates that Lee’s army had not changed any policies and still contained a substantial number of black men. Longstreet had 72 regiments and batteries with just under 21,000 men carried on the rolls. If we use 20 black men with each battery and 30 with each regiment Longstreet’s Corps in July 1863 had just under 2,000 black men embedded in the units, an additional 9.4% above the official muster rolls.

Fremantle does not, in fact, make a blanket statement that “every regiment and battery” has a similar number of men traveling with it; he only describes the regiments he saw, those of Semmes’ and Barksdale’s Brigades, eight infantry regiments in all. Fremantle makes no mention of batteries in this context. He gives no description of these black mens’ dress. And significantly, Mr. Durney never uses the term Fremantle openly did — slaves — to describe the men traveling with each regiment, which further clouds their actual status and makes it possible for the reader to come away thinking they are soldiers. This summary is misleading and attributes to Fremantle claims that, in fact, the Englishman never made.

The second passage from Fremantle dates from July 6, the third day after the battle, during the Confederate retreat along the Hagerstown Pike, somewhere northeast of that town:

At 12 o’clock we halted again, and all set to work to eat cherries, which was the only food we got between 5 A. M. and 11 P. M.

I saw a most laughable spectacle this afternoon – a Negro dressed in full Yankee uniform, with a rifle at full cock, leading long a barefooted white man, with whom he had evidently changed clothes. General Longstreet stopped the pair, and asked the black man what it meant. He replied, “The two soldiers in charge of this here Yank have got drunk, so for fear he should escape I have took care of him, and brought him through that little town.” The consequential manner of the Negro, and the supreme contempt with which he spoke to his prisoner, were most amusing.

This little episode of a Southern slave leading a white Yankee soldier through a Northern village, alone and of his own accord, would not have been gratifying to an abolitionist. Nor would the sympathizers both in England and in the North feel encouraged if they could hear the language of detestation and contempt with which the numerous Negroes with the Southern armies speak of their liberators.

The man is explicitly identified as being a slave; there’s nothing to indicate he’s a soldier, no reference to his own uniform, or even specifically that the weapon he carried was his own.  There’s simply the explanation that the two Confederate soldiers who were supposed to guard the prisoner were drunk, so this man took over their job that they were incapable of, rather than let the Union man escape.

Further, Fremantle’s observation that “the consequential manner of the Negro, and the supreme contempt with which he spoke to his prisoner, were most amusing” is a dead giveaway that the black man’s ordinary status is far lower than his prisoner’s; that’s what makes it funny. A Confederate soldier heaping verbal abuse on a Federal isn’t noteworthy; in the context of the time and place, a slave holding a Yankee at gunpoint and giving him what for most certainly would have been seen as comical. It’s a joke not unlike the famous incident where a former slave, now in the USCT, chided a group of sulking Southern civilians standing by the roadside: “bottom rail on top, now.”

This passage of Fremantle’s has also been misrepresented. Again, Durney:

Fremantle recounts an incident where an armed black man, dressed in Confederate and Union uniform items, escorts Union prisoners of war to the rear.

In fact Fremantle makes no mention whatever of Confederate “uniform items,” and the black man is escorting a solitary prisoner. Again Mr. Durney omits Fremantle’s explicit identification of the black man as a slave. He  omits too the black man’s explanation of taking charge of the prisoner on his own initiative, leaving the reader with the impression that prisoner escort was his assigned duty.

But wait, there’s more. As a footnote to that last paragraph, Fremantle adds this:

From what I have seen of the Southern Negroes, I am of opinion that the Confederates could, if they chose, convert a great number into soldiers; and from the affection which undoubtedly exists as a general rule between the Slaves and their masters, I think that they would prove more efficient than black troops under any other circumstances. But I do not imagine that such an experiment will be tried, except as a very last resort. . . .

So Fremantle takes the example of the slave taking charge of the Union prisoner and uses it as an opportunity to give his thoughts on the viability of enlisting blacks as soldiers, “if they chose.” He’s not discussing the success or advantages of a system that he’s seen, but describing what he thinks the prospects for it are if they chose. But Fremantle is resigned that “such an experiment will [not] be tried, except as a very last resort.” Far from documenting an example of African Americans serving as Confederate soldiers, Fremantle uses the case of the man in the blue uniform to argue that they would make acceptable soldiers if the Confederacy would allow it. Fremantle’s footnote, in particular, completely undermines the notion that his anecdote describes an actual Confederate soldier.

The title of this post is “Fisking Fremantle” because I like alliteration. But in truth, Fremantle’s not the problem. He reported what he saw and, despite his obvious sympathies with the Confederates he met, is generally considered a fair and reliable observer. The problem lies with the folks who (1) have read Fremantle’s observations and, through carelessness or intent, misrepresent them, and (2) those who repeat those same misrepresentations over and over again without checking them. It’s a shame, because what Fremantle actually wrote is fascinating on its own, and his speculation that “such an experiment will [not] be tried, except as a very last resort” is prescient. The folks who pull this example out of the Englishman’s book and cite it as evidence of Black Confederates are putting forward an account that doesn’t provide evidence of Black Confederates.  Do these folks ever read the texts they’re so good at citing as proof of their case?

Yeah, don’t answer that.


Image: James Lancaster as Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle in Gettysburg (1993).


26 Responses

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  1. TheRaven said, on October 28, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Do these folks ever read the texts they’re so good at citing as proof of their case?

    The pathology over at TOCWOC is detail fetishism. Half the contributors are miniature wargamers. Most are amateur “historians”, if alleged expertise in “black powder history” counts as a relevant body of knowledge. Half of TOCWOC’s 10-ten ACW blog list covers obscure, narrow aspects of the war, such as an entire blog devoted to Gettysburg monuments. Obsession with minutiae is the first sign of Lost Causeism.

    The TOCWOC Black Confederate essay is an admirable example of misdirection. I normally dismiss people like Durney out of hand but his essay is, from the standpoint of inventive construction and obfuscation, nicely done. He makes plenty of seductive references to historic truths, authors and books that will resonate with educated people. Blacks in the military were ignored by history (check), the negro leagues were also ignored (check) Glaathaar wrote a great book on the USCT (check), etc. Durney uses plenty of numbers to build the illusion of a case. The seams show when broad leaps in logic are jammed inside all that detail.

    Durney plies the credulity market. People who lack critical thinking skills can be duped while those that seek support for their personal prejudices will see what suits them. Durney is an example of someone who most certainly reads his cited sources, it’s just that he reads them in order to misstate what they say. In fact, cited sources are a key part of his charade. For Lost Causers, the mere existence of a citation is enough. For the rest of us, his density-of-detail strategy is designed to make refutation more difficult.

    So, great post and thanks for the alert to another black hole in the Internet. Your blog and Levin’s, which I perused the other night, are big antidotes for credulity memes.

    • Marc Ferguson said, on October 30, 2010 at 3:06 am

      James Durney has long contended that slaves who accompanied Confederate armies should be considered soldiers, i.e. “black Confederates.” He crusades against “P.C. historians,” and Internet CW discussion groups are littered with his misrepresentations of both evidence and historians’ arguments. He has offered Bruce Levine’s book as support for his claims about “black Confederates” and that the Confederacy freed slaves in return for military service!

      • Andy Hall said, on October 30, 2010 at 4:08 am

        James Durney has long contended that slaves who accompanied Confederate armies. . . .

        It’s a damned shame that he (and others) don’t find that subject in itself interesting enough for study, and instead feel compelled to make those men into something else altogether — and to hell with evidence that stands in the way. Fremantle’s two brief mentions provide good grist on their own, without having to resort to misrepresenting them to “prove” something else entirely.

    • Brett Schulte said, on February 9, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      I was busy getting married late last year and missed this blog entry by Andy mentioning TOCWOC, a blog I founded and participate in. With that said, there are three main contributors: me, James Durney, and Fred Ray. We are VERY different people with different thoughts, beliefs, etc.

      My own personal belief is that while thousands of slaves probably accompanied Confederate armies, almost all did so against their will and did not actively participate in the fighting. Fred Ray is a published author, an expert in “black powder history”, as The Raven (who I’ll get to in a moment) so sneeringly and condescendingly calls him.

      Jim has done quite a few book reviews at TOCWOC, and I appreciate his enthusiasm if I don’t always agree with his beliefs.

      I allow both men to post whatever they want as long as it pertains to the Civil War in some way. Personally, I think it adds to the diversity of the blog voice and attracts more readers.

      Therefore, I take GREAT exception to The Raven’s sneering, condescending dismissal of all who disagree with him/her. The Black Confederate deal almost always involves a heavy tinge of modern day politics, a major reason I steer clear of it. It’s nonsense anyway, and most people familiar with the primary source documents realize this. Therefore, I’ll leave this to the rest of you with the parting though that Andy, like Kevin Levin, who is also mentioned, does a good job of discrediting this stuff.

      Raven apparently can’t count either, since I’m the only (semi) wargamer of the group and I’m one of three. “Detail fetishism” huh? I am willing to bet a heck of a lot more people find that top-10 Civil War blogs list I did a better overall representation of the Civil War blogosphere I did at the time than the other one put out on the same day. Believe it or not guys, a lot of people enjoy studying military history for the sake of military history. I went back and forth with Kevin Levin on this for years before we just decided to ignore each other, leaving each of us free to pursue what we each enjoy studying and both being better off for it, IMHO. The “Gettysburg Monument” blog is Draw the Sword by Jenny Goellnitz, who also runs a great web site on A.P. Hill. I know Jenny through some brief correspondence only, but I can safely say she would greatly object to being called a “Lost Causer”.

      I’ve written hundreds of blog posts on the Civil War at American Civil War Gaming and Reading and then TOCWOC, including many book reviews, Top-10 lists of books for several battles, numerous posts pointing to interesting and thought provoking blog entries on other Civil War blogs, Civil War magazine summaries, and posts on various other Civil War related topics. I like to believe I’ve added in my own admittedly amateur historian way to my readers’ knowledge of the Civil War, albeit admittedly very little in the overall scheme of things.

      On to the Raven. Let’s play his/her game by looking at its blog for two seconds: The Raven Spoke is clearly a far left blog hell bent on telling everyone else how stupid they are and what they should do with their lives. I’m slightly left of center on the political spectrum, but this guy’s views would be laughed at as radical by the vast majority of the American voting public. Is that condescending and generalizing enough for you Raven? No need to thank me for returning the favor.

      In conclusion for those of you who think TOCWOC is some kind of Black Confederate web site:

      1) TOCWOC is and freely admits to being a GROUP of amateur historians, not just one person. People like The Raven who want to look down on us are free to do so. I have little time for people who think they’re better than everyone else and only respond when attacked with ridiculous falsehoods. I take my history seriously, and though I have no advanced history degree, I am very interested in getting things right and citing my sources. See my Siege of Petersburg site Beyond the Crater for instance.

      2) James Durney made ONE post on this, and Andy rightly had some serious questions about this. I agree with Andy on this topic rather than Jim. Note that out of thousands of blog posts at TOCWOC, one touches on this topic. While I disagree with Jim on this topic, it does not mean I do not value many of his other opinions. Jim has done a TON of good book reviews here, and for that I sincerely thank him. He is welcome to continue to post his views here at TOCWOC, and people are welcome to challenge him in the comments section.

      3) I am an Illinoisan by birth and I fully believe that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, that the tariff reason cited by so many Lost Causers does not hold up under scrutiny, and that any Blacks accompanying Confederate armies were slaves, designed to free up white men for armed fighting roles.

      4) I again take GREAT exception to being called a “Lost Causer”, and if the genius who made that comment had spent more than two minutes at TOCWOC, they would have figured this out.

      5) I encourage anyone reading this to look over the archives of TOCWOC in the last 6 years and come to their own conclusions rather than assuming TOCWOC is a Black Confederate site. Nothing could be further from the truth. My “black hole on the internet” does quite nicely for the niche topic it covers, which is NOT Black Confederates.

      PS I encourage The Raven (you anonymous coward!) to email me so I can tell you offline what I really think of you and what you can do with your sweeping generalization of me and the blog I founded.

      • Andy Hall said, on February 9, 2011 at 9:59 pm


        The mischaracterization of TOCWOC here originated with me, and for that I apologize. I should not have assessed the entire site based on that single post.

        Thanks for taking time to comment on this, and making your point clear.

        Andy Hall

        • Brett Schulte said, on February 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm


          Thank you for that, though there is no need for you to apologize. As I stated above, I don’t disagree with the main thrust of your blog entry. And I don’t think you necessarily created the impression that TOCWOC is a Black Confederate site. You linked to one blog entry and commented solely on that entry. Frankly, I’m shocked that TOCWOC appears at all in any Google search for Black Confederates given the one post on the topic which appeared there.

          I do, however, make sure to respond and try to set the record straight when either I or a site I’ve put a lot of effort into is attacked by an ignorant person with an incredibly slanted take on reality.

  2. BorderRuffian said, on October 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    “Fremantle explicitly identifies the African American men as slaves. He makes no mention of arms or weapons, but does describe them as being “in the rear” of each regiment — i.e., not actually part of the formation of companies, along with the stretcher-bearers. There’s no suggestion that Fremantle viewed these men as soldiers.”

    I did not say they were soldiers…nor did I say Fremantle said they were soldiers.

    My point was- Steiner’s and Fremantle’s estimates of blacks attached to Confederate armies are consistent. Do the math and quit assigning to me statements I never made.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm

      Readers are invited assess for themselves whether you were claiming Fremantle supported Steiner’s claim about soldiers.

      I’ve never heard anyone dispute the notion that substantial numbers of African Americans accompanied the Confederate Army on the march and in the field. That is not the issue, and never has been.

      • BorderRuffian said, on October 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

        “Readers are invited assess for themselves”

        No, I believe you go by what I actually said.

        So far the “assessments” have been false.

        Stop misquoting me.

        “Steiner’s claim about soldiers”

        Steiner said the blacks were an integral part of the Confederate army and many were armed. He didn’t say they were soldiers.

  3. BorderRuffian said, on October 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    “He makes no mention of arms or weapons”

    He makes no mention of arms or weapons for the white troops either. The only comment about having or not having weapons is for the ambulance corps-

    “In the rear of each regiment were from twenty to thirty Negro slaves, and a certain number of unarmed men carrying stretchers and wearing in their hats the red badges of the’ ambulance corps”

    Fremantle does mention a servant armed with a sword and an armed black guarding a Federal prisoner at Gettysburg. And describes the whites in the area as not making much note of it…as if it were commonplace.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

      “Fremantle does mention a servant armed with a sword and an armed black guarding a Federal prisoner at Gettysburg. And describes the whites in the area as not making much note of it…as if it were commonplace.”

      Fremantle’s passage regarding the slave escorting the Union prisoner is quoted in full, above. By his own account, it was unusual enough that Old Pete himself “stopped the pair, and asked the black man what it meant.” Pretty clearly not a commonplace event.

  4. Andy Hall said, on October 28, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    BR, I don’t believe I’ve misquoted you at all, either in your actual words or in your meaning. But if you genuinely believe I have, then you have the options of (1) being much more precise in your comments, to avoid future misunderstandings, or (2) not commenting here at all. I make every effort to respond in good faith, and will continue to. While I may be mistaken from time to time, it does me no credit in the long run to run a dishonest blog.

    That is why, among other things, I make it a point to post the original text I discuss — whether from a primary source or some secondary analysis — as well as link to it, when I can. As Mr. Durney’s summaries of Fremantle’s observations attest, it’s very easy to completely change the meaning of someone else’s writing when you describe it; far better, I think, to quote the actual work and let the reader see the original author’s meaning and nuance for himself.

    Having read your comments here and elsewhere, though, I have the distinct impression that they are often more reflexive than reasoned. They come across to me, in some cases, as arguing for the sake of arguing, parsing an ambiguous phrase here or there (either in the original source or my own discussion) to make your point, while ignoring the overall text and its message. This results in a back-and-forth that really leads nowhere; it’s distracting and counterproductive if one’s goal is to address in a meaningful way a particular question — whether or not, for example, Fremantle’s (or Steiner’s) account really does offer evidence of black soldiers enlisted in the Confederate Army, as many seem to claim.

    I don’t really expect you to agree with any of this, but that’s how I see things from where I sit.

  5. Dave Tatum said, on November 2, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Andy is this a better spot to post?

    Jumpin Jackrabbits
    There are Pension Records! Reports from Military commanders,( North and South ) Newspaper Reports,
    Eyewitness accounts, letters from soldiers on both sides, that verify Blacks supporting the confederacy!

    Yes thousands of blacks fled north for freedom, some returned to the south rather than face the new found freedom. What about the millions who stayed on the farms? What about the millions who refused freedom when the Union took over their areas?
    Why would Blacks not want to go North?

    Perhaps it was the Black exclusionary laws in; Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Missouri and Ohio!
    Blacks were locked into the South by the North!
    Blacks could be whipped, imprisoned, or fined for trying to live in the North! Whites who allowed Blacks to work for them could be fined!
    So please spare me the moral HI-Ground argument! It don’t float! That’s why the Underground Railroad went to Canada!
    Southern Blacks were accepted by their Owners, Slavery was wrong I’m not defending it!
    But when the North was shelling civilians, raping Black and White Women, as well as kidnapping them and sending them north to work in factories. Perhaps the Blacks who’s home was being put to the torch
    Decided that maybe Mr Lincoln was not the great emancipator!
    So the Slavery argument don’t cut it! If your home is invaded by aggressors who are raping your people, killing your people, and who do not wish to live with your people, just maybe you will support the lesser of two evils.


  6. Dave Tatum said, on November 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Walter Williams Writes on Black Confederates

    Virginia’s Black Confederates

    by Walter E. Williams

    One tragedy of war is that its victors write its history and often do so with bias and dishonesty. That’s true about our War of 1861, erroneously called a civil war. Civil wars, by the way, are when two or more parties attempt to take over the central government. Jefferson Davis no more wanted to take over Washington, D.C., than George Washington, in 1776, wanted to take over London. Both wars were wars of independence.

    Kevin Sieff, staff writer for The Washington Post, penned an article “Virginia 4th-grade textbook criticized over claims on black Confederate soldiers,” (Oct. 20, 2010). The textbook says that blacks fought on the side of the Confederacy. Sieff claims that “Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history.” William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff said, “It is disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship.” Let’s examine that accepted scholarship.

    In April 1861, a Petersburg, Va., newspaper proposed “three cheers for the patriotic free Negroes of Lynchburg” after 70 blacks offered “to act in whatever capacity may be assigned to them” in defense of Virginia. Ex-slave Frederick Douglass observed, “There are at the present moment, many colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down … and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government.”

    Charles H. Wesley, a distinguished black historian who lived from 1891 to 1987, wrote “The Employment of Negroes as Soldiers in the Confederate Army,” in the Journal of Negro History (1919). He says, “Seventy free blacks enlisted in the Confederate Army in Lynchburg, Virginia. Sixteen companies (1,600) of free men of color marched through Augusta, Georgia on their way to fight in Virginia.”
    Wesley cites Horace Greeley’s American Conflict (1866) saying, “For more than two years, Negroes had been extensively employed in belligerent operations by the Confederacy. They had been embodied and drilled as rebel soldiers and had paraded with white troops at a time when this would not have been tolerated in the armies of the Union.”

    Wesley goes on to say, “An observer in Charleston at the outbreak of the war noted the preparation for war, and called particular attention to the thousand Negroes who, so far from inclining to insurrections, were grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of shooting the Yankees.”

    One would have to be stupid to think that blacks were fighting in order to preserve slavery. What’s untaught in most history classes is that it is relatively recent that we Americans think of ourselves as citizens of United States. For most of our history, we thought of ourselves as citizens of Virginia, citizens of New York and citizens of whatever state in which we resided. Wesley says, “To the majority of the Negroes, as to all the South, the invading armies of the Union seemed to be ruthlessly attacking independent States, invading the beloved homeland and trampling upon all that these men held dear.” Blacks have fought in all of our wars both before and after slavery, in hopes of better treatment afterwards.

    Denying the role, and thereby cheapening the memory, of the Confederacy’s slaves and freemen who fought in a failed war of independence is part of the agenda to cover up Abraham Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts to prevent Southern secession. Did states have a right to secede? At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, James Madison rejected a proposal that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. He said, “A Union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

    Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.

  7. Miriam Houk-Cunningham said, on February 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Blacks living in the South as slaves were in very close “family” situations separate from their southern owner. The love and loyalty to those family members is well researched and documented by present-day historians and sociologists. If a black, male slave was ordered to join a Confederate army to assist in its operations against Federal forces, would not that assistance be based on fear and coercion? Do you really think the black slave left the only family and home he knew to follow “the cause.”? The white population of the South before, during, and after the Civil War never put a black person in a position to negotiate anything much less give him a loaded gun! You have to be kidding me in this discussion to think otherwise! Please research the law as well as the history of this period in America.

    • Andy Hall said, on February 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      Ms. Houk-Cunningham, thanks for your comment. But are you responding to the main post, or one of the commenters? I suspect the latter.

      One of the most troublesome things about the “black Confederate soldier” meme, as typically argued by Southern heritage groups, is that it is presented entirely without reference to the larger context of the time and place, and displays a deep ignorance of the realities of daily life of both free and enslaved African Americans in the South. There’s no reference at all to the economic/social/racial reality in which these actions supposedly took place, let alone any serious attempt to incorporate BCS within that larger, well-known context.

      • henry lee king said, on February 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm

        Andy—your point is so well taken—thanks for helping put things in the perspectives of the times. HLK

  8. henry lee king said, on February 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    to Brett—-in your #3 itemization you show a bias by saying you are an Illinoisian by birth. Otherwise, what is the point of even the mention? What does birth place have to do with honest analytical inspection and opinion.
    However, your #3 opens the gate for such probable “bias” expressions and your other points on the cause of the “War Between the States” I do not mean this as a criticism—just a fact. We all come from some positional history. I am sure you must have read the book (written by the great grand-daughter of a slave) : “COMPLICITY—HOW THE NORTH PROMOTED, PROLONGED, AND PROFITED FROM SLAVERY”. iF NOT, I believe you and your readers could come closer to the truth as related to the “War between the States.” by reading this book. “Startling—the scope of the North’s involvement with slavery is staghgering—history at it’s best.”_The Boston Globe. –“an eye opener for finger pointing Northerners—-” The entire matter must be put into the perspective of the time just as many biblical matters must be—May I have a response to my e-mail. HLK

    • Andy Hall said, on February 11, 2011 at 6:26 pm

      Henry, thanks for taking time to comment. But be aware your e-mail address is not visible to other readers — just to me as blog moderator. But Brett has a related post at his own (shared) blog, and you can contact him there.

      Best, AH

      • henry lee king said, on February 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

        Thanks for the info, Andy. It is best that way. Does that mean that no one but you sees my e-mail as posted on this.? Since I have a “full plate” I will confine my communications to this site. HLK

        • Andy Hall said, on February 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

          That’s correct. I can see e-mail addresses and other tracking info that other readers cannot. There’s always the option, when you post, of filling in the URL field, which will highlight your name at the top of the comment as a link. I believe if you fill that in with something like this:

          it will function as an e-mail link. You may or may not want to go that route, though, because then you e-mail address will be accessible to all.

  9. henry lee king said, on February 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    E-mail for this follow up, only. Thanks. hlk

  10. Brett Schulte said, on February 11, 2011 at 6:46 pm


    I should have said instead that I have no Confederate ancestors I feel especially compelled to defend, and I have no Union ancestors that I know of either. So I found the characterization of myself as a Lost Causer especially ridiculous and without any basis in fact.

    I honestly do not care at all who started the Civil War or what started the Civil War, and I especially do not care to waste my time arguing about it with people whose minds are set in stone and won’t change no matter what anyone says. My interest lies elsewhere. You guys are free to continue arguing over it here and wherever else your heart desires.

  11. henry lee king said, on February 12, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Brett–I am surprised that you are not interested and don’t care about the “roots” of the war. I don’t appreciate the concept of “minds set in stone” as I reject that —-I have an inquiring mind. Have you red the book I suggested? Please do,
    NO one in his right mind would try to defend slavery; Incidentally My name is King, same as in Martin Luther King, a person I greatly admired.But accurate History beats political correctness, anyday. You may guess, my ancestors were from southern states including Georgia, Alabama, N.c., Va.—-and even some from Mass. I suppose if I tell you my great grandfather was a slave owner and that my mother was president of the UDC m;y views could never pass a jaundiced eye—you think you know where I am coming from. Right?
    Wrong—I live in the most republican county in Florida, actively worked for the election of Barrack Obama the only democrat to win my county.When I lived in Baltimore Maryland for Many years I was informed that we southerners loved blacks as individuals but hated them them as a group, while they loved them as a group and hated them individually—I don’t know of the truth of that. Marylanders did not seem to know where it stood on anything=====yet, I loved Marylanders with the variety of ethinicities. —–I do not want to defend our heritage—I just would like it to be understood in the context of the times and that it was not solely a southern problem. Cotton was King (even grand-dad was called the Cotton King of Chattahoochie), the Northern mills needed cotton, the Brits, Africans and others were supplying the cheapest form of labor—Slavery—to feed the northern mills, and at the times, there was such a thing as state’s rights (which, so it seems the Tea Party would like to bring back)—Ultimately, we have made incredible progress and have a black man as president. I support and am very proud of that progress—still, history is history and should be truthfully unmasked. Thanks so much for sharing.My regards to james Durney of our local Civil War Forum. HLK

    • henry lee king said, on February 12, 2011 at 11:28 am

      P>S> to the above—–My great grandfathers brother (W.R> King)was elected Vice-president of the United states after he served as a senator from both N>C and Ala and as Ambassador to Russia and I think France. He did not serve as he died In Cuba on the way home, but was sworn into office.—just a ft. note of possible interest to some. His bust is on the ledge along with all the other vps. in the Senate Chamber.

  12. Tim from Alabama said, on July 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

    My question would be were the weapons depicted in old photos ones of mass or minor destruction? I guess that would depend on the opinion of the one they were using it on.

    (Southern planters were forced to adopt a hypocritical approach to the management of the “peculiar institution” to maintain order and a facade of sanity and integrity on the surface. To maintain the possibility of prosperity, in the future, based on minimal labor cost it was necessary to rationalize the unfair and grossly dishonest practice of slavery. Basing a culture on chivalry, honor, duty, integrity and loyalty to family, friends and country required a certain common sense approach that could not be rationalized unless slavery was dealt with in some fashion consistant with those lofty ideals. In my opinion, this is how most deep south leaders rationalized the belief Africans were of some different type of human origin that would allow them to maintain a false claim of honesty when actively dealing with the institution of slavery in real terms. By basing it all on ignorance and misinformation. Lincoln and Lee reenforced this belief in their writings on the subject. Deep south politicians were not as subtle as border state and northern tier southern leaders of that day.

    That is my impression of the confederate black soldier suggestion. There is a gray area here between non combatants and combatants. There are photos of blacks in group shots of white confederates for different reasons. Blacks definitely existed as we can all agree. However, calling a member of a military group a combatant when they were present in a support role only is another case of misinformation based on the need to rationalize behavior that was irrationale in origin. Spinning a falsehood makes it more believable when you change the subject regularly. The question of equality and justice was avoided by basing an original premise on misinformation in both cases.)

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