Buy Your Very Own Black Confederate on Ebay

Levimiller [Hat Tip to my friends at the National Park Service]

These items come up for bid every so often.  For around $10 you can purchase this postcard which depicts Levi Miller.  Here is the seller's description:

Up for auction is a postcard featuring Levi Miller, an African American / Black Confederate soldier, 1910s era. This is an unusual card, as the caption reads: "Levi Miller, Only Colored Confederate", but there numerous other African Americans who battled for the Confederacy. The card was mailed in Sadler NC by V. McGhinnis (sp?) to Minnie Oxford in Taylorsville NC in 1910. One of the messages notes "cousin Levi age 62 (or 67)" (see 3rd photo). In good condition, a few minor corner creases, light little spots and rubs / scrapes on some edges, but the image of Levi is clear…obviously a photo taken in the 1900s when Levi was older. I believe Levi was a nurse/caretaker for a Confederate officer, officially inducted into his Regiment in the field for some heroics during battle. Buyer pays $1.05 shipping and handling in the US.

But don't let the author's description keep you from engaging in wild speculation.  I am told that Miller was present with the Texas brigade at both the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and received a pension from Virginia.  This should be sufficient evidence for most people to weave together a narrative that satisfies their deepest needs in Confederate lore.

5 comments… add one
  • Sara B. Bearss Aug 21, 2008

    Levi Miller, born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, about 1836 and living in Frederick County, Virginia, in 1907, applied for a Virginia Confederate pension under the 1902 act that permitted pensions for servants. A digital copy of his application may be viewed online at the Library of Virginia (www.lva.virginia.gov) in the collections of Confederate pension rolls and of disability applications and receipts. In describing his service, Miller stated that he had been “detailed to nurse Capt McBride May 6th 1864.” Although the pension applications are valuable sources for a number of kinds of research, in using them one should always bear in mind the circumstances under which they were completed. Many applicants told the reviewers what they wanted to hear, and I’m sure that a few of them probably inflated their service (surely not everyone rode at Stonewall’s right hand or carried messages for R. E. Lee).

  • Richard Williamsr Aug 21, 2008

    Miller is mentioned in Professor Jordan’s book. He received a Confederate pension and is buried in Lexington in Evergreen Cemetery.

    I’m placing my bid.

  • Kevin Levin Aug 21, 2008

    Richard, — Good luck. I will keep my fingers crossed. 🙂

    Sara, — Thanks so much for the information surrounding his pension application. You are absolutely right in pointing out the pitfalls of using pensions as evidence of “service” “loyalty” or anything else we choose to impose on the past.

  • Richard Williams Aug 21, 2008

    According to Miller’s commander, J.E. Anderson:

    “About 4 p.m., the enemy made a rushing charge… Levi Miller stood by my side and man never fought harder and better than he did and when the enemy tried to cross our little breastworks and we clubbed and bayonetted them off, no one used his bayonet with more skill and effect than Levi Miller. During the fight the shout of my men was ‘Give ’em hell, Lee!'”

    Writing in his pension recommendation, Anderson noted the following:

    “He was in the Pennsylvania campaign and at New Castle and Chambersburg he met several negroes whom he knew (I think some of them were related to him) and who had run away from Virginia. They tried to get Levi to desert but he would not.”

    Yes, some of these men no doubt exaggerated their service but I don’t assume everyone writing these accounts and applying for pensions were liars. I’m somewhat familiar with Miller (there’s more about him available) and I believe he is certainly a legitimate “black Confederate” based on the evidence.

    No, I’m not getting into another debate. I’ve already expressed my view on that and I have nothing more to say about the evidence or my position. I may post something about Miller specifically on my blog at some point.

    Best,
    RGW

  • Kevin Levin Aug 21, 2008

    I also agree that we should not necessarily discard the information provided in pension applications or that we make sweeping generalizations. As historians our job is to do our best to verify the content and to understand the historical context of the document itself. In other words, we need to understand why blacks would apply for pensions, what the application process involved, and how a black Virginian might proceed during the Jim Crow Era.

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