Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 28, 2019

For a while now I’ve been posting this well-known Thomas Nast cartoon from 1868, “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner.” This year, though, I’d like to direct my readers to Pat Young’s detailed discussion of the work and the symbolism in it — there’s a lot there you may not have noticed.


Two Monument Stories

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 28, 2019

There were two news stories this week on the future of Confederate monuments in North Carolina and Alabama.

First, the University of North Carolina ceded the “Silent Sam” monument that had stood on the campus at UNC Chapel Hill to the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Under the terms of the agreement, the SCV will relocate the monument but not place it in any of the fourteen counties where UNC maintains a campus. In addition, UNC will establish a $2.5M trust fund, the proceeds of which can be used for limited purposes in maintaining the monument at its new location. The trust fund does not use public monies, and I suspect this part of the agreement was influenced by the Vanderbilt case from a few years ago, where that university paid the United Daughters the Confederacy a sum in exchange for removing the Confederate name or one of the buildings on campus.

In Birmingham, city officials had set up a wooden box obscuring a Confederate monument in 2017. After a drawn-out legal battle, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that that violated the terms of a state law that prohibits removal or alteration of monuments and memorials that had been in place for 40 years or more. The state law is one of several passed in recent years that prohibits alterations to monuments, even those (like Birmingham’s) that are on city, not state, property.



Confederate Heritage “Boycott” of Lexington Quietly Abandoned

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 17, 2019

The Confederate Heritage™ folks’ “boycott” of Lexington, Virginia, was always mostly smoke-and-mirrors; it was a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do sort of thing.

Still, it’s pretty funny to see that they’ve finally dropped even the pretense of observing a boycott, and are hosting their two-day Lee-Jackson Day 2020 symposium, memorial service, and luncheon right smack in the middle of Lexington’s historic district and, yes, within the City of Lexington proper. In fact, attendees are encouraged to make their room reservations there, too, that will maximize the amount of tax revenue flowing into the city’s coffers. Not so long ago, the Virginia Flaggers went so far as to publish a map of Lexington’s city boundaries so folks would know areas to avoid, so as not to contribute to the city’s economy, but that was then, and this is now.

Even better — the notice of the meeting appears on the “SAVE OUR FLAGS – BOYCOTT Lexington, Virginia!” Facebook page. Do’oh!

Have fun in Lexington, y’all — I heard the food at the Red Hen over on East Washington Street is great, and it’s within easy walking distance from the Hampton Inn.



That Didn’t Take Long. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 30, 2019

Pleased to learn today that my friend and colleague Kevin Levin’s book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, has gone into a second printing just seven weeks after its original release by the University of North Carolina Press.


Canister! — Monumental Edition

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 3, 2019

The big equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee (above) that was taken down in Dallas a couple of years ago has a new home at a private golf resort at Lajitas, Texas, near Big Bend National Park. Fans of the Marble Man can pay homage after paying a $50 golf cart rental (off-peak greens hours only). Beer and sodas are sold in the pro shop.

Kehinde Wiley’s new sculpture, “Rumors of War,” was unveiled in Times Square in New York recently, and will move to its permanent home at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond later this year. The equestrian statue is a riff on a statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart in Richmond. You can probably guess who’s unhappy about that.

In Shreveport, a planning committee of the Caddo Parish Commission approved an expenditure to relocate the Confederate monument located on the grounds of the parish courthouse. The Caddo Parish Commission had voted to relocate the monument almost two years ago, but were challenged by the local UDC chapter that claimed they not only owned the monument, but also had a “private property interest” in the land on which the monument stood. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their claim of owning the property, and in August 2019 Caddo Parish gave them 90 days’ notice to have the monument relocated. If the monument isn’t moved, the Caddo Parish Commission is expected to formally approve moving the monument itself.

Earlier this year, two members of the “Heirs to the Confederacy” group, Ryan Barnett and Nancy Rushton McCorkle, were charged with vandalizing the Unsung Founders Memorial on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both had been heavily involved in protests against the proposed removal of the “Silent Sam” monument on campus there. Despite McCorkle’s insistence that the charges against them would be dismissed, and declining a plea offered them, they were both found guilty last month of injury to real property and larceny, I believe the latter because they stole a UNC flag that they paraded the next day at another rally (above). Barnett was also convicted of indecent exposure and for urinating on the Unsung Founders Memorial. Interestingly, the court found them not guilty of ethnic intimidation under North Carolina statute, because the law focuses on targeting individuals. “My belief is they are not guilty of ethnic intimidation [as defined by the statute],” Orange County District Court Judge Lunsford Long said. “I think they intended to intimidate a whole race of people, not a person.”

Finally, we shouldn’t leave Nancy McCorkle and thre “Heirs to the Confederacy” folks without a mention of Daniel McMahon (right), a man from Florida who went out of his way to taunt UNC students online, and aligned himself with McCorkle, praising her on the far-right chat site Gab, saying “Nancy Rushton makes a damn good admin too!” McMahon, posting under the alias “Jack Corbin,” corresponded with the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter on Gab, and reportedly praised him after the mass shooting. McMahon was indicted by the Justice Department in September for making threats and intimidation against a candidate for City Council in Charlottesville, and against UNC students.

These people are exactly who you thought they were.


Better Late Than Never, Dead Klansman Edition

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 15, 2019

It seems that klansman, League of the South stalwart, and Confederate Heritage™ figure Steven Monk has gone to his reward. Now that he’s departed, the “heritage” folks are denouncing Monk as having been “eat up with hatred and racism.” While there’s a better-late-than-never angle to this, it’s also worth remembering that these same people weren’t nearly so fastidious about Monk’s views and affiliations while he was alive and useful to their purposes.



A New Steve Perry Image

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 4, 2019

While looking for something else this evening, I happened on this recent addition to the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs at the Library of Congress of an image of Steve Perry of Rome, Georgia. Perry, who spent the last couple of decades of his life using the persona of “Uncle Steve Eberhart,” was a regular fixture at Confederate Veteran reunions, playing to crowd by carrying around live chickens and expressing his appreciation to “the southern white man” for having been a slave. The photo also shows one of the military-style coats he routinely wore, both at home and at reunions.

My friend and colleague Kevin Levin discusses Steve Perry in his new book, Searching for Black Confederates. Have you got your copy yet?


Will Colonel Ellsworth Please Raise His Hand?

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 15, 2019

One of the earliest heroes in the North during the Civil War was Elmer Ellsworth, a Zouave officer from Illinois. Before the war he had led traveling drill team, the “Zouave Cadets of Chicago,” and was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Ellsworth was killed in May 1861 seizing a Confederate flag flying from an inn in Alexandria, Virginia. Ellsworth’s death, coming before most combat and bloodshed had started in earnest, shocked many in the North. Lincoln had his friend’s remains brought to the White House, where they lay in state in the East Room. Ellsworth was later buried in Mechanicsville, New York. “Remember Ellsworth!” became a rallying cry, and one regiment, the 44th New York Infantry, styled itself as “Ellsworth’s Avengers.”

Recently Civil War Talk user Chubachus posted an image from the J. Paul Getty Museum, a stereoview showing a group of soldiers aboard the famous British steamer Great Eastern, that first visited New York in 1860. Another user commented that the uniforms looked similar to Ellsworth’s old unit, the Zouave Cadets of Chicago. Well, sure enough, we know through newspaper accounts that the Zouave Cadets (and Ellsworth) were in New York at the time of Great Eastern’s visit, and at least some of them visited the ship in July 1860 (New York Commercial Advertiser, 16 July 1860, p. 1).

We also know that some of the Zouave Cadets were on board Great Eastern several day later when she made an excursion trip from Manhattan to Cape May, because (New York Evening Post, 1 August 1860, p.3)

So back to Chubachus’s photo – are any of these men on Great Eastern’s deck the famous Elmer Ellsworth?


Celebrating Independence Day in Vicksburg, 1877

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 3, 2019

[This post originally appeared in 2011]


It’s a common trope that the citizenry of Vicksburg, Mississippi, did not celebrate the Fourth of July until well into the 20th century. While it’s certainly true that the anniversary of the fall of that city to Grant in 1863 continued to resonate with Vicksburg residents down through the years, in fact the date was observed by plenty of local residents, white and black, even if the celebration was unofficial and somewhat more muted there than elsewhere. And they were celebrating it even when the war itself was a recent memory. From the Vicksburg Daily Commercial, July 3, 1877:

To-morrow being the anniversary of our Nations independence, all patriotic citizens of this great Republic are expected to observe it as a holiday. We desire to be reckoned among this class of patriotic citizens, consequently no paper will be issued from this office to-morrow. The glorious Fourth happens to come in hot weather this year, and we are glad to be able to observe it ‘neath the shade of country forests.

And a follow-up, on July 5:

The people of Vicksburg came nearer celebrating the glorious Fourth yesterday than they have done for several years. True, there was no general suspension of business, as indicated by closed doors, but so far as the profits of trade were concerned doors might as well have been closed, for the salesrooms were deserted almost entirely. Everybody was out of town, apparently, enjoying the holiday in some way. Several hundred people attended the Hibernian picnic at Newman’s Grove, and not withstanding the extreme heat, all seemed to enjoy the festivities of the day. The colored population turned out in large force, fully one thousand men of them going down the river on excursion bvoats to picnic-grounds, yet there were enough of them left in the city to form a very respectable procession of colored Masons, and a very large audience to listen to the oration of Judge J. S. Morris, and to assist in laying the corner-stone of King Solomon’s Church. There was no prolific display of fire-works on the streets, but occasional reports from fire-crackers and large torpedoes could be heard, accompanied now and then by a patriotic cry, “rah for the Fourth of July!” We do not wonder at the lack of patriotic enthusiasm displayed on our streets. No amount of patriotism could have induced any sane man to exert himself very considerably on such a day when the thermometer registered very nearly 100° Farenheit [sic.] in the shade. However, the observance of Independence Day yesterday, slight as some may have thought it, was yet sufficient to indicate the prevalence of a broader National sentiment and a determination to at least partially forget the past which renders the Fourth of July especially distasteful to Vicksburgers, and make it in future “The Day We Celebrate” as much as any other National holiday.

To be sure, the Fourth of July remained a bitter date for many Vicksburg citizens, for a long time. Undoubtedly there are some who still reject the date as one for celebration. But in this, as in so much else about the legacy of the war, the reality is more complex than the mythmakers would have one believe.


Juneteenth, History and Tradition

Posted in African Americans, Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on June 19, 2019

[This post originally appeared here on June 19, 2010.]

“Emancipation” by Thomas Nast. Ohio State University.

Juneteenth has come again, and (quite rightly) the Galveston County Daily News, the paper that first published General Granger’s order that forms the basis for the holiday, has again called for the day to be recognized as a national holiday:

Those who are lobbying for a national holiday are not asking for a paid day off. They are asking for a commemorative day, like Flag Day on June 14 or Patriot Day on Sept. 11. All that would take is a presidential proclamation. Both the U.S. House and Senate have endorsed the idea.
Why is a national celebration for an event that occurred in Galveston and originally affected only those in a single state such a good idea?
Because Juneteenth has become a symbol of the end of slavery. No matter how much we may regret the tragedy of slavery and wish it weren’t a part of this nation’s story, it is. Denying the truth about the past is always unwise.
For those who don’t know, Juneteenth started in Galveston. On Jan. 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. But the order was meaningless until it could be enforced. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — after the Confederacy had been defeated and Union troops landed in Galveston — that the slaves in Texas were told they were free.
People all across the country get this story. That’s why Juneteenth celebrations have been growing all across the country. The celebration started in Galveston. But its significance has come to be understood far, far beyond the island, and far beyond Texas.

This is exactly right. Juneteenth is not just of relevance to African Americans or Texans, but for all who ascribe to the values of liberty and civic participation in this country. A victory for civil rights for any group is a victory for us all, and there is none bigger in this nation’s history than that transformation represented by Juneteenth.

But as widespread as Juneteenth celebrations have become — I was pleased and surprised, some years ago, to see Juneteenth celebration flyers pasted up in Minnesota — there’s an awful lot of confusion and misinformation about the specific events here, in Galveston, in June 1865 that gave birth to the holiday. The best published account of the period appears in Edward T. Cotham’s Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston, from which much of what follows is abstracted.

The United States Customs House, Galveston.

On June 5, Captain B. F. Sands entered Galveston harbor with the Union naval vessels Cornubia and Preston. Sands went ashore with a detachment and raised the United States flag over the federal customs house for about half an hour. Sands made a few comments to the largely silent crowd, saying that he saw this event as the closing chapter of the rebellion, and assuring the local citizens that he had only worn a sidearm that day as a gesture of respect for the mayor of the city.

The 1857 Ostermann Building, site of General Granger’s headquarters, at the southwest corner of 22nd Street and Strand. Image via Galveston Historical Foundation.

A large number of Federal troops came ashore over the next two weeks, including detachments of the 76th Illinois Infantry. Union General Gordon Granger, newly-appointed as military governor for Texas, arrived on June 18, and established his headquarters in Ostermann Building (now gone) on the southwest corner of 22nd and Strand. The provost marshal, which acted largely as a military police force, set up in the Customs House. The next day, June 19, a Monday, Granger issued five general orders, establishing his authority over the rest of Texas and laying out the initial priorities of his administration. General Orders Nos. 1 and 2 asserted Granger’s authority over all Federal forces in Texas, and named the key department heads in his administration of the state for various responsibilities. General Order No. 4 voided all actions of the Texas government during the rebellion, and asserted Federal control over all public assets within the state. General Order No. 5 established the Army’s Quartermaster Department as sole authorized buyer for cotton, until such time as Treasury agents could arrive and take over those responsibilities.

It is General Order No. 3, however, that is remembered today. It was short and direct:

Headquarters, District of Texas
Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865
General Orders, No. 3
The people are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
By order of
Major-General Granger
F. W. Emery, Maj. & A.A.G.

What’s less clear is how this order was disseminated. It’s likely that printed copies were put up in public places. It was published on June 21 in the Galveston Daily News, but otherwise it is not known if it was ever given a formal, public and ceremonial reading. Although the symbolic significance of General Order No. 3 cannot be overstated, its main legal purpose was to reaffirm what was well-established and widely known throughout the South, that with the occupation of Federal forces came the emancipation of all slaves within the region now coming under Union control.

The James Moreau Brown residence, now known as Ashton Villa, at 24th & Broadway in Galveston. This site is well-established in recent local tradition as the site of the original Juneteenth proclamation, although direct evidence is lacking.

Local tradition has long held that General Granger took over James Moreau Brown’s home on Broadway, Ashton Villa, as a residence for himself and his staff. To my knowledge, there is no direct evidence for this. Along with this comes the tradition that the Ashton Villa was also the site where the Emancipation Proclamation was formally read out to the citizenry of Galveston. This belief has prevailed for many years, and is annually reinforced with events commemorating Juneteenth both at the site, and also citing the site. In years past, community groups have even staged “reenactments” of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from the second-floor balcony, something which must surely strain the limits of reasonable historical conjecture. As far as I know, the property’s operators, the Galveston Historical Foundation, have never taken an official stand on the interpretation that Juneteenth had its actual origins on the site. Although I myself have serious doubts about Ashton Villa having having any direct role in the original Juneteenth, I also appreciate that, as with the band playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as Titanic sank beneath the waves, arguing against this particular cherished belief is undoubtedly a losing battle.

Assuming that either the Emancipation Proclamation (or alternately, Granger’s brief General Order No. 3) was formally, ceremonially read out to the populace, where did it happen? Charles Waldo Hayes, writing several years after the war, says General Order No. 3 was “issued from [Granger’s] headquarters,” but that sounds like a figurative description rather than a literal one. My bet would not be Ashton Villa, but one of two other sites downtown already mentioned: the Ostermann Building, where Granger’s headquarters was located and where the official business of the Federal occupation was done initially, or at the United States Customs House, which was the symbol of Federal property both in Galveston and the state as a whole, and (more important still) was the headquarters of Granger’s provost marshal, Lieutenant Colonel Rankin G. Laughlin (right, 1827-78) of the 94th Illinois Infantry. It’s easy to imagine Lt. Col. Laughlin dragging a crate out onto the sidewalk in front of the Customs House and barking out a brief, and somewhat perfunctory, read-through of all five of the general’s orders in quick succession. No flags, no bands, and probably not much of a crowd to witness the event. My personal suspicion is that, were we to travel back to June 1865 and witness the origin of this most remarkable and uniquely-American holiday, we’d find ourselves very disappointed in how the actual events played out at the time.

Maybe the Ashton Villa tradition is preferable, after all.

Update, June 19: Over at Our Special Artist, Michele Walfred takes a closer look at Nast’s illustration of emancipation.

Update 2, June 19: Via Keith Harris, it looks like retiring U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison supports a national Juneteenth holiday, too. Good for her.

Update 3, June 19, 2013: Freedmen’s Patrol nails the general public’s ambivalence about Juneteenth:

I suppose it gets ignored for the same reason we ignore Emancipation Day. To make a national fuss over it would require us to grapple with slavery and own up to freedom as a kind of national project, not a crystallized perfection handed down from men in powdered wigs.

Exactly right.