Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

In Search of the Black Confederate Unicorn

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 2, 2018

Many of you will have heard of the proposal by two State Representatives in South Carolina to put up a monument at the State House in Columbia honoring African-American Confederate war veterans. They have apparently been surprised to discover that serious historians who’ve actually examined the primary source records are telling them that there essentially were none, at least the way the bill’s sponsors seem to think there were. I suppose that’s what happens when you get your understanding of history from Facebook.

I don’t have much else to say about this, except to point to this short comment by Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo, wherein one finds this gem of a line:

The specifics of this story challenge my ability to pry apart pure bad faith… from its second cousin, willful self-delusion.

I think I’m going to have a lot of opportunity to quote that line in the future.

Y’all have a great 2018, now!

______

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17 Responses

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  1. Danial F. Lisarelli said, on January 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    There were black Confederates—unpaid and involuntary body servants, cooks, teamsters, ditch diggers, and construction workers.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 2, 2018 at 6:57 pm

      I know — and hundreds of laborers conscripted to construct the fortifications right here on the island. But that’s not what these goofs in SC are promoting.

      • Danial F. Lisarelli said, on January 2, 2018 at 8:01 pm

        There were 501 slaves working on the fortifications on the island in 1863. There was C.S. Negro Labor Bureau Hospital on the island were sick slaves were cared for by Dr. Greenville Dowell who later served in the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery. The hospital was located in no other than the Tremont House Hotel.

      • Jimmy Dick said, on January 3, 2018 at 9:26 am

        Of course not. If they promoted the factual version of history they would be admitting that slavery was the cause of the Civil War, that next to no black men fought for the Confederacy, and that anyone who fought for the Confederacy committed treason and therefore was a traitor. Instead, they promote fiction meant to make their base feel warm and fuzzy inside.

        The sad thing is they don’t realize that most people are laughing at them.

        • Andy Hall said, on January 3, 2018 at 11:25 am

          They want a happy, uplifting, patriotic story to tell. That’s why it’s appealing.

  2. Mark Stevens said, on January 2, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Facts. Math. History. Truth. Can they co-exist? At some point, they must! We must remember, IF there were no Black Confederate soldiers…. why…. that just leaves slavery as the cause of the war! The “Lost Cause” will be… lost….

  3. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on January 2, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Andy, I’m never going to buy the argument that there were thousands of black men who took up arms in defense of the Confederacy. However, there do appear to be isolated incidents of where blacks enlisted and served, apparently of their own volition.

    While doing research on the 3rd South Carolina Cavalry Regiment last year I came across two men who were listed as “free person of color.” One served as a teamster and another a bugler. The latter, John B. Bascombe of Co. E, 3rd S.C. Cavalry, enlisted in March 1862 and served through at least August 1864. He had previously served for a short time previously in the 1st S.C. Mounted Militia before it was folded into state and later national service.

    A couple of years earlier I researched the 4th S.C. Cavalry Regiment and units connected with it. Paul Poincett, a free person of color, according to the 1861 Charleston Census, served as a musician for the Rutledge’s Cavalry Co., S.C. Militia, which later became the Charleston Light Dragoons.

    I don’t think any of this merits a monument on the State House grounds in Columbia, but I have seen several media reports which insist that no African-Americans served in the Confederacy except as enslaved laborers. The number of men who served in the capacity as the three listed above is almost certainly very, very small in the overall scheme of the South’s military, but it would seem they did exist.

    Unfortunately, I lack the ability and/or savvy to cut and paste a copy of any of the three men’s service record into this post.

  4. httplendonmurrell said, on January 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I am a Wisconsin resident. My husband and I are also discouraged by single persons or groups that are removing and changing history. I have traveled south and appreciated all the monuments that helped me experience the struggle of the south. Please know we are grateful for persons such as yourself who fight to keep truth alive. We are in such a battle today as it seems a single article title can start riots when no one who participates in the riot and tell anything about what their issue is and certainly cannot offer solutions. God bless your efforts. Enjoy following your blog.

  5. Tom Crane said, on January 4, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    I am not sure what to think when I see that video of the Confederate-Union reunions – when the “body guards” African-Americans attend. 40 years after the CW, they were not compelled to attend the reunions. Yet, there they were, apparently still certain they were body guards. Who can say they were not with any degree of certainty? And, perhaps it was on that thin foundation that other African-Americans were able to build a better semblance of military service.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 5, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      First, no one here is suggesting that they were “compelled” to attend reunions.

      Second, “body guard” is a term that comes up to describe these men’s roles only decades after the war; it was not a term that was used at the time. I suspect it was adopted because it sounds more martial than “body servant,” which was the contemporary term, and the one that described the role most of these men held at the time.

      I’ve written fairly extensively on African American men at Confederate reunions, and it’s an interesting subject. But when you look beyond the simple images to what was written about these events, it becomes very clear that these men were performing (I use that term intentionally) a very specific role at such reunions, and were often described in derogatory or mocking terms. I’ve noted at least two men, Crockett Davis and Steve Perry, who went so far as to adopt what might be thought of as stage names that they did not use otherwise, to emphasize their bonds with their former masters. It’s a much more complicated situation than is reflected in the still photos and newsreel clips.

  6. Tom Crane said, on January 5, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    So, these two African-American elderly gentlemen describe themselves as “body guards.” You see their claims as something less than genuine? See at about 27 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg85tI0gxmQ
    Two of the elderly African-Americans speak, but there seem to be about a dozen others.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 5, 2018 at 9:54 pm

      I’m familiar with those clips. I believe they were simply re-framing what they did in a different way. As I say, I have not encountered the “body guard” term used contemporary with the war, only many years later.

  7. Tom Crane said, on January 5, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Well, ok, Andy. I found your posts and comments from readers back in 2010 and 2011. I seem to have stepped into the middle of an ongoing debate. It does seem doubtful they actually filled the role of “body guard.” Yet, there they are on film claiming to have done so. I am a veteran and have known a few soldiers to exagrerrate and claim achievement they did not earn. As I said before, I do not know.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 5, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      I don’t think they were exaggerating in the “stolen valor” sense. But I do believe the term “body guard” here smooths over a much more mundane role.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 5, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      Yuh, it’s easy to step into something ’round here. 😉

  8. Tom Crane said, on January 5, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Yea, combat veterans do not tolerate fakery very well. Cannot say I would not react simiarly. You can just google stolen valor on youtube and there are a ton of videos of vets calling out fakers. Those Confederate veterans would not have allowed something false. But, there is some complicated social dymnamic going on with those body guards.


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