Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Louis Napoleon Nelson in The Confederate Veteran

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 27, 2015

A colleague doing genealogical research passed along this item regarding Louis Napoleon Nelson from the March 1932 issue of The Confederate Veteran magazine (p. 110). As was the case with his pension record, this is an item that seems to be consistently overlooked or ignored on the numerous websites — 3,000-plus hits on the Google machine — that discuss his activities in 1861-65. Which is odd, considering that the source, Confederate Veteran, was (and is) the official publication of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that has gone to great lengths in recent years to promote Nelson’s story, or at least a particular version of it.

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On the 6th of February, after an illness of several weeks, Gen. E. R. Oldham, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, Tennessee Division, U.C.V., died at his home in Henning, at the age of eighty-seven years. Burial was at Maplewood Cemetery in Ripley, with Confederate veterans of the county as pallbearers.

At the grave, four comrades, one of them being GEN. C. A. DeSaussure, Commander in Chief, U.C.V., in Confederate uniforms, held the four corners of the Confederate flag, forming a canopy over the casket as it was lowered.

At the close of the funeral services, Lewis Nelson, an old negro of ante-bellum days, who served his master throughout the war, gave in his own words his estimates of “Mars Ed.”

As the funeral cortege left the home, the old plantation bell, which had been rung for over a hundred years, decorated with a Confederate flag, was tolled eighty-seven times.

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So consider this another addition to the public record.

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Pension Records for Louis Napoleon Nelson

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on December 16, 2012

NelsonOne of the best-known “black Confederate soldiers” is Louis Napoleon Nelson (right, c. 1846 – 1934), due in large part to the advocacy of his grandson, Nelson Winbush. There are any number of claims made for the nature of Nelson’s service, such as these:

[Winbush’s] grandfather, Louis Napolean Nelson, was a private in Co. M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Private Nelson was a slave at the start of the war. He began his military service as a cook, then a rifleman, and finally a chaplain.
 

Virtually nothing, however, has been offered in the way of documentation of such claims. So in the interest of injecting something tangible into future discussions of Nelson’s activities during the war, here is his 1921 Tennessee Confederate pension file (PDF).

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