It should be no surprised that Dwyer would emphasize the loyal service of tens of thousands of “black Confederates” – or what he describes as “Forgotten Blacks in Gray” - given his analysis of slavery. The author emphasizes this long-standing myth throughout the text and offers his usual service of vague generalizations, meaningless definitions, and a complete lack of any primary and secondary source references. I will not bore you with the kind of nonsense that I’ve pointed out over and over, but instead will point out a few of the more ridiculous claims made by Dwyer. First, I should note that Dwyer does note that the Confederate government did not authorize the use of black men as soldiers until the final months of the war, but that does not prevent him from suggesting that 40,000 blacks served in combat roles at some point during the war. No attempt is made to demonstrate how he arrived at this number. Even better is Dwyer’s estimation that somewhere between 50-100,000 blacks “served in the Southern military” as body servants, teamsters, and cooks for quartermasters and engineers, in commissaries, and as constructions workers. Of course, no mention of the fact that many of these men would have “served” as slaves in these and other capacities. Dwyer includes a number of accounts from various sources purporting to reinforce these figures, though as I pointed out there are no references as to where these sources can be found. He even quotes Frederick Douglass’s 1861 observation of blacks with “muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets”. There is an air of legitimacy through the use of brief quotes by supposed experts on the subject such as Walter Williams, who teaches economics at George Mason University and to my knowledge has never done serious research on the subject.
Why, according to Dwyer, was there “such widespread support…among black southerners for the Confederacy”?
- “Some slaves supported the Confederate cause from a sense of adventure, much more exciting than their usual activities.”
- “…like their white counterparts, to preserve their homes and family, and the way of life they had always known.”
- “Story after story from every corner of the South recalls the wartime love of blacks and whites, who had grown up together, for one another.”
My personal favorites
- “They felt threatened by the Northern invasion and the aims of the abolitionists, whom they saw as a threat to their wealth and social advancement. Large numbers of these blacks enlisted in the Confederate armies. Sometimes they raised their own units, one of which required each man to own at least $25,000 in assets to join. They knew a Northern victory would bring economic and social ruin to them–and it did.”
- “They loved the South and were delighted to be identified with its cause, which they understood to be freedom. They viewed the North as a bully seeking to force its will on others who wished to live as they pleased.”
Dwyer includes story after story of slaves refusing their freedom and rarely maintains any kind of consistency in maintaining a distinction between free and enslaved blacks. The sections include a number of photographs of so-called soldiers, a list of individual black Confederates, and passage after passage without any historical context. No doubt, it’s probably enough to embarrass even Earl Ijames.
It’s hard to know what to say beyond the obvious. The most disturbing aspect of all of this is that Dwyer’s narrative “is His Story, God Almighty’s work…” That means that the student/reader cannot must not question any piece of information presented in this book. To question it would be to question God’s divine plan and vision for his children. The entire book is set up to discourage further inquiry, which is why there is no indication whatsoever that many of the isues related to the war have been and continue to be debated among serious scholars. The few historians that are presented end up being used in a morality play by Dwyer. Either they have signed on to the correct interpretation or they must be understood as a threat. As a history teacher who emphasizes the importance of learning to think historically, it pains me to imagine children being taught history as some kind of sacred text that must be accepted on faith.