Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Searching for Black Confederates

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 14, 2016

kevin-levin-2Congratulations to my friend and colleague Kevin Levin, who has inked a deal for his upcoming book, Searching for Black Confederates, with the University of North Carolina Press. As most all of you know, this has been an ongoing focus of Kevin’s research for years, and it’s good to see it now coming to fruition. The manuscript is scheduled for completion in August 2017, so I think we should see the finished product late next year or early in 2018.

Until now the discussion of black Confederate soldiers, such as it is, has existed almost entirely in the popular media and on the Internet. Academic historians have mostly ignored the topic, in part because they don’t perceive it as a significant question (the historical record is clear enough, for those who care to examine it), and probably because they don’t especially want to get subjected to the sort of vitriolic bile that gets directed at folks who call BS on what has becme a central, foundational belief of the True Southron™ folks. Kevin’s UNC Press book may encourage academic historians to wade into the fray, and in my view, it’s about damned time. While academic historians don’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, distracted by every flitty whim of popular culture that comes along, the black Confederate narrative has gotten enough traction over the last two decades that it warrants attention by the discipline.

It will be interesting to see what happens once Kevin’s book hits the stands. Will some proud Southron — Gary Adams, maybe, or H. K. Edgerton — respond as an actual historian would, and publish a similarly deeply-researched, analytical, peer-reviewed work through a competing university press? Or will they continue whingeing and fluffing each other on Facebook about how mean the politically-correct Yankees are being to them?

I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

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5 Responses

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  1. Jason Perez said, on October 14, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    I can’t wait either. Since the black Confederates topic seems to be a lost cause favorite as of late…this will be a good one to reference since it’s so painfully viral and the claim is getting more absurd Everytime I hear about it. Looking forward.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 15, 2016 at 12:31 am

      It’s viral because it makes people feel good; it helps absolve the Confederacy of the sin of slavery. It’s essentially nonsense, but it’s very appealing.

  2. Msb said, on October 18, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I enjoyed Bruce Levine’s book, Confederate Emancipation, very much, as it explodes the black Confederate myth by describing the Confederacy’s feeble efforts to recruit slaves as soldiers and explaining its motivation and aims. But I also look forward to Kevin Levin’s book tackling the myths head on.

  3. Albert said, on October 27, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    The Stonewall SCV Camp now claims that “The Confederate army was not segregated and included many free and slave Blacks upon which the army would not have been able to survive otherwise” and that “In Lexington you will find the grave of a free black Confederate soldier, Levi Miller, who prominently had the large letters C.S.A. placed on his grave marker.” (http://www.thenews-gazette.com/content/scv-camp-issues-statement-care-parade-decision-wants-meet-organizers)

    That is from a statement put out after an anti-racism group snatched up the date of the annual Lee-Jackson Day parade in Lexington, Va. before the SCV camp could claim it.

    The SCV parade is led lately by bagpiper David Hinton (sometimes styled “Lord David Hinton”), a flagger whose pipe band, the Virginia Scots Guards, displays the battle flag at all kinds of events, “heritage” and otherwise, including the Ashland Old Time Holiday Parade and the Richmond Celtic Festival and Highland Games.

    Here they are at a Confederate Memorial Day event. On the pole is a 1950-design Virginia flag combined with the Confederate battle flag. Back before Hinton started wearing three chevrons on his uniform, I suppose:
    http://www.richmond.com/image_8bc6a620-0997-11e5-89ee-97536ee8bad7.html.

    I don’t think they are claiming to be a reenactment, I think they just find this a palatable way to celebrate their Confederate heritage in public. (Hinton also fronts a “Scottish” rock band called the X Band, a saltire reference, that always manages to insert a snippet of “Dixie” into its rendition of “Scotland the Brave.”)

    • Andy Hall said, on October 27, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      The Stonewall SCV Camp now claims that “The Confederate army was not segregated and included many free and slave Blacks upon which the army would not have been able to survive otherwise”

      It’s certainly true that the Confederate army would not have been able to function without African American labor, both enslaved and free, because that was the backbone of its logistical and engineering support. Both the historical record and the Confederates themselves were perfectly clear about that.

      But the idea that the Confederate army “was not segregated” is silly. It’s an assertion made to explain the almost complete lack of contemporary records that explicitly identify African Americans serving in the Confederate ranks as soldiers, formally recognized as such. It’s an attempt to claim that southerners who bought and sold African Americans like so much livestock were somehow “better” on issues of race than northerners who organized dozens of (segregated) regiments of Black troops.

      I didn’t know anything about Levi Miller, so I looked up his Virginia pension – he was a native Virginian but during the war was a “slave & servant of Capt J. J. McBride” of Co. C of the Fifth Texas Infantry in Hood’s Texas Brigade. An ancestor of mine was in the Fourth Texas.

      That is from a statement put out after an anti-racism group snatched up the date of the annual Lee-Jackson Day parade in Lexington, Va. before the SCV camp could claim it.

      Yes, I understand the heritage folks are plenty steamed about this. I suppose it is a shock to the system, to discover that they don’t actually own a specific date on the calendar, and CARE Rockbridge has as much claim to it as any other group does.

      The SCV parade is led lately by bagpiper David Hinton (sometimes styled “Lord David Hinton”), a flagger whose pipe band, the Virginia Scots Guards, displays the battle flag at all kinds of events, “heritage” and otherwise, including the Ashland Old Time Holiday Parade and the Richmond Celtic Festival and Highland Games.

      The Scots heritage thing is waaaay overdone. Lots of southerners have Scots roots, including me, but you can have too much of the good thing.

      On the pole is a 1950-design Virginia flag combined with the Confederate battle flag. Back before Hinton started wearing three chevrons on his uniform.

      The flag thing is interesting. It reminded me of something I read in a comment from way back, that referred to the present design as the “Reconstruction” pattern. But now I learn that it actually dates from the 20th century. I learn from this blog’s readers, too.


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