A Black Confederate Bonanza

It looks like the local chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy in Pulaski, Tennessee have struck a gold mine of black Confederates.  How many, you ask?  Well, would you believe that 18 were discovered in one cemetery.  This weekend they are planning a fundraising event in preparation for a marker dedication on November 8 at Maplewood Cemetery.  As for the research that determined the status of these men we must turn to the educational forums at Dixie Outfitters.  Scroll down for the letter by UDC Chapter President, Cathy Wood (though she claims not to be working on this project as a member of the UDC) for the following:

I found where there were 11 Black Confederate soldiers from Giles County that applied for a pension. I also found 5 that died before the pension was in place or just didn’t apply. Since then I have found 2 more that didn’t apply, making a total so far 18. I went to the archives and got the application for pension for the 11. Then I filled out the form for the markers and faxed them in. I faxed these late one afternoon and by 8:30 the next morning a lady from Nashville VA called and said that these men were NOT soldiers they were slaves. Well tell me how could they receive a pension? Now are you going to stand there and let someone shoot at you and not defend yourself or someome near you? I don’t think so. These men were defending their country and other soldiers. [my emphasis]

Don’t you just love Ms. Wood’s rhetorical questions?  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that successful pension applications did not imply status as a soldier in the ranks.

Ms. Wood concludes her letter with the following: “In my opinion VA is discriminating against the Black Confederate soldier. I know that there are Black Union markers in Maplewood Cemetery here in Pulaski.”  The reason that Ms. Wood can know that there are black Union soldiers buried in the cemetery is because black Americans did serve as soldiers in the United States Army.

Stay tuned for updates.  Perhaps Earl Ijames will give the keynote address and the women will show up in traditional mourning dress.

23 comments… add one

  • Marc Ferguson Sep 19, 2009

    I suppose it’s somehow appropriate that they are auctioning an underground railroad quilt as a part of their fundraiser. May as well exploit the one myth to provide monetary support for peddling the other one.

    ;^]

    • Kevin Levin Sep 19, 2009

      Marc,

      It also seems strange that they would choose that particular myth since it tends to conflict with the myth of black Confederates. How could anyone desire to escape slavery when so many fought for it. :)

  • Greg Rowe Sep 19, 2009

    While Ms. Wood emphatically declares throughout her letter that she is doing this as a “concerned citizen,” she doesn’t seem to mind invoking her favorite charities’ interest in purchasing markers so these “soldiers…WILL NOT be forgotten” because “the VA is discriminating against Black Confederates.” (Her emphasis, not mine.)

    I wonder what Max Trotter, who, according to Wood, is the president of the local NAACP, is going to do to combat this injustice? I’m sure this is at the top of his to-do list! (Yes, the sarcasm is intended.)

  • Karen Cox Sep 19, 2009

    These folks seem desperate to identify black Confederates. Why? I ask myself. To assuage their own guilt that their ancestors either held slaves or fought to protect this heinous institution? To prove that the institution was “not so bad” if there were blacks willing to fight? To prove that these keepers of the Lost Cause are not racist themselves? The irony of using the word “discrimination” seems lost on them. And the defensive tone taken here is reminiscent of someone saying “I have black friends, too.” They just keep painting themselves into a corner. Finally, even when confronted with the evidence that these were slaves and not soldiers, they still resist the truth. They are looking for confirmation of their beliefs and facts be damned.

  • Kevin Levin Sep 19, 2009

    Karen,

    As much as I agree with your overall interpretation of what motivates these people, I tend to think that stupidity is a much simpler explanation. These people are ignorant about both the facts and, even worse, critical historical thinking. Ms. Wood no doubt believes what she says when countering the claim from the VA that the men in question were slaves.

  • Andy Slap Sep 19, 2009

    Kevin,

    Stupidity is certainly a major part of the insistence that there were thousands of African American Confederate soldiers, but there is also an intransigence toward any explanation or evidence that undermines that their position that goes past simple ignorance and stupidity. It reminds me of when I taught an extension course for seniors and one older lady form the area insisted that her ancestors had not fought for slavery because neither they nor their neighbors had owned any slaves. In between classes I found the census records that demonstrated a significant slave population in her ancestors’ county. When I explained the census information to the class her response was, “Well, I did not know that my kin folk were so wealthy. They still did not fight to protect slavery.” I asked her if there was any evidence I could ever produce that would change her mind, and she simply said, “No.”

  • matt mckeon Sep 19, 2009

    Black slaves, worked like animals and sold like property, are being dragged from their graves to provide one more service for the descendents of their masters: refute that the Confedracy’s reason of being was for the protection and expansion of slavery.

    Confederates of the right color “blackwash” the Confederacy. If the Confederacy was all about slavery, why would these 60, 000 0r whatever number of black men have “served” in the Confederate armies?

    If the scholarship of the last forty years has determined that slavery was the primary reason for the Confederacy, and the revered ancestors and heroic generals in gray were performing awesome feats of valor in the defense of slavery, then what is the point of groups like the SCV?

    Why do some people believe that there were tens of thousands of black men fighting for the Confederacy? Because they want to. Because its easier then reassessing their beliefs. Because they don’t hear many countervailing views, or those views are expressed in such a mocking or hostile way that they don’t want to listen

  • Brooks Simpson Sep 19, 2009

    I recall that Pulaski’s the rumored birthplace of the KKK. So am I to understand the Klansmen attacked their fellow Confederate veterans?

  • Kevin Levin Sep 19, 2009

    Andy,

    As you might imagine I deal with the same kind of intransigence on this site. At that point there isn’t much to debate as the subject has become a matter of faith.

    Matt,

    You said: “Because its easier then reassessing their beliefs. Because they don’t hear many countervailing views, or those views are expressed in such a mocking or hostile way that they don’t want to listen.”

    I think you are right. In the end, I suspect that most of these people don’t read much.

    Brooks,

    I think you’ve touched on the absurdity of all of this.

  • Corey Meyer Sep 19, 2009

    Kevin,

    Here is a link to another story about the same thing…back in May, 2009.

    http://www.marshalltribune.com/story/1539498.html

    Corey

  • Kevin Levin Sep 20, 2009

    Corey,

    Thanks for the link. It’s actually a nice synopsis of the standard argument:

    1. It’s a cover up.
    2. Certain people don’t want you to know about this.
    3. Modern politics
    4. blah, blah, blah, blah, blah….

    Notice not one shred of evidence or even a coherent explanation as to what we are even talking about.

  • Craig Sep 20, 2009

    I would be interested to know what units these men in question served with. I’ve done considerable research on the Cavalry units raised in central and west Tennessee. Sure enough the unit rosters will mention blacks who served with their masters, with the unit, through the war. But none that indicate a black who volunteered outright to serve. These are likely stories that I can reduced down fairly quickly.

    I wonder if these folks would take the time to look at the opposite side of the field, per say. I wonder if they know of the whole regiments of Union cavalry raised in central Tennessee to fight against the Confederacy? Wonder if they’d be interested in tracing down some Federal veterans gravesites? From a raw statistical point of view, it would be far easier to locate the grave of a Tennessee unionist than that of an alleged black Confederate.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 20, 2009

      Craig,

      The information for Ms. Wood is provided in one of the links so you are free to contact her to see if she might be interested. That said, from what I’ve read she doesn’t seem to be the type who is going to deviate from her position one bit. Best of luck.

  • Dan Wright Sep 21, 2009

    Ya gotta love Brooks Simpson. He says more in two lines than a lot of us do in two pages.

  • Corey Meyer Sep 21, 2009

    I thought the same thing…

    http://kindredblood.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/where-was-the-scv-for-these-descendents-of-black-confederates/

    The actions of southerners during Reconstructions and the Civil Rights Movement seems to dismantle the idea of black confederates.

    I also see that dixie outfitters has taken Kevin to “task” several times on their site…must be doing something right…

  • Mike Sep 21, 2009

    I am with Kevin on this one while there might have been 1000′s of Blacks who served , Why they served and the Offical disapproval of the CSA government makes it hard to believe than most were more than personal salves who were following their masters orders. I truely believe there were some. Not a few a Kevin thinks or as many as the SCV thinks but somewhere in the middle. One day we will undercover the evidence to prove this. I would like to see some more work done on the “Black Confederates” that showed up a the Gettysburg Reunions in the early 1900′s.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 21, 2009

      Mike,

      Until we finally get some solid/reputable research on this subject we are in no position to say much of anything in terms of how many served as soldiers. Actually, much of the evidence points in the direction of a very small number who represent the exception rather than the rule. The burden is on those who make the claims and not on those who are skeptical.

      There are plenty of books and articles that cover the Gettysburg Reunions, but I don’t remember seeing anything about “black Confederates” who attended. Keep in mind that Black Union soldiers were not invited.

  • Mike Sep 22, 2009

    The Reason I asked is that I read one night about one of the Reunions at Gettysburg and it was said that several hundred black confederates attended. There were pictures of them and I wanted to know if someone here with greater axcess to that information had seen any of that information.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 22, 2009

      Mike,

      What exactly did you read? There are plenty of post-war photographs that show Confederate Veterans with black men, some of whom are dressed in uniform. These images are not of black soldiers, but of former personal body servants. We know that servants sometimes saved money to purchase a uniform and I have the letters of a South Carolina captain who outfitted his servant with a uniform.

  • keith bohannon Sep 24, 2009

    Is it that difficult to believe that struggling or impoverished African-American sharecroppers or tenants in late 19th century Pulaski County would take advantage of their “service” as body servants in the Confederate Army to obtain a pension/additional income from the state of Tennessee? Perhaps they even saw it as payment for several years of service (i.e. foraging and cooking, caring for the master’s horse, carrying an extra backpack, cooking utensils, and innumerable other duties) rendered decades earlier? Couldn’t recognition of Confederate service from the state or attendance at a Confederate reunion have conveyed to a small number of older African-American men a level of approval or security from local whites who owned most of the land, controlled credit and local government, imposed lynch law, etc? Lastly, it would be wrong to completely ignore the possibility that these African-American men retained a degree of loyalty, friendship, or fictive/real kinship with a former white master, even though such a relationship is very difficult for many 21st century Americans to understand or recognize. It is DREADFULLY simplistic to say only that these African-Americans were Confederate SOLDIERS who were proud of their contributions to a failed attempt to create an independent slaveholding republic.
    This is an extremely complex topic that really needs more objective scholarly attention.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 24, 2009

      Hi Keith,

      Thanks for weighing in on this. The tendency of so many to interpret the available sources as evidence of a black Confederate reflects both the continued influence of the Lost Cause as well as an inability to think about the proper questions to ask. You are absolutely right that we need some serious scholarly research on this issue. I hope Pete Carmichael eventually takes it on. See you in November. :)

  • My Great-Great-Great Grandfather was a African-American Confederate Soldier from Louisiana.

    Louisiana, unlike other southern states, primarily maintained separated white and black military organizations. A few Louisiana “free blacks”, however, served in white Confederated units and received Confederate pensions. Among them were Charles Lutz, Jean Baptiste Pierre-Auguste, and Leufroy Pierre-Auguste of St. Landry Parish, who fought with the Confederate army troops at Shiloh, Fredericksburg, and Vicksburg.

    Confederate Research Sources
    Civil War Service:

    Auguste, Lufoy Pierre. Pvt. Co. K. 16th La. Infty. En. Sept. 29th, 1861, Camp Moore, La. Present on All Rolls from Sept., 1861, to Oct., 1862. Roll for Nov. and Dec., 1862, ?Colored Man. Dropped from Roll by Order of Col.
    Gober, Dec. 8th, 1862.?

    CIVIL WAR HISTORY, Volume XXXII, No. 3, September, 1986

    FREE MEN OF COLOR IN GREY
    Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr.

    Lufroy Pierre-Auguste was born in St. Landry Parish about 1830. He was the son of Pierre Pierre-Auguste and Gabriele Tessier, free persons of color. The 1860 census shows that Lufroy worked as a stockherder for Francois P. Pitre, Jr. Lufroy left his farm and joined Captain Daniel Gober’s Big Cane rifles, which became Company K, Sixteenth Louisiana Infantry Regiment. The first two muster rolls of this company list him as a free man of color-the only such instance found in researching these men. None of the men discussed in this manuscript, except for Lutz and possibly Gabriel Grappe, pretended they were white. The other men in their units undoubtedly knew them as free blacks. The Sixteenth Louisiana fought in the battles of Shiloh, Farmington, and Perrysville. On December 8, 1862, while in camp at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Lufroy received a discharge from Confederate service. The reason given for his dicharge was that he was a “colored man.” Apparently superior authorities had finally discovered that he was black and ordered his separation from the army. Lufroy went home, but he did become involved in one other incident before war’s end. On May 13, 1865, he surprised two Jayhawkers near Opelousas. These men made up part of a band of outlaws, deserters, and draft dodgers who resisted Confederate authority. The two Jayhawkers fired at him, and he returned fire, hitting one of the men. Lufroy married in 1869, but no further information on his life after the war has come to light so far.

    ****************************************

    1860 United States Federal Census

    Name: Lufroid p Auguste
    Age in 1860: 30
    Birth Year: abt 1830
    Birthplace: Saint Landry
    Home in 1860: Opelousas, St Landry, Louisiana
    Race: Mulatto
    Gender: Male
    Post Office: Grand Coteau
    Value of real estate: View image
    Household Members: Name Age
    Francois P Pitre 33
    Azeline C Pitre 28
    Francois Pitre 10
    Estelle Pitre 9
    Arthure Pitre 7
    Azeline Pitre 5
    Armant Pitre 3
    Octave Pitre 9.12
    Diomel s Durio 16
    Lufroid p Auguste 30

    ****************************************

    1870 St. Landry Parish, LA Census Record

    Leufroi Pierre-Auguste 40 M Mulatto LA Farmer $300 $225
    Caroline Pierre-Auguste 37 F Mulatto LA
    Celestine Pierre-Auguste 21 F Mulatto LA
    Narcisse Pierre-Auguste 17 M Mulatto LA
    Azelie Pierre-Auguste 14 F Mulatto LA
    Valmont Pierre-Auguste 13 M Mulatto LA
    Pierre Pierre-Auguste 11 M Mulatto LA
    Eugenie Pierre-Auguste 8 F Mulatto LA *Wife of Valmont LeBlanc brother
    to William, Elizabeth, Zeolide, Etienne
    Meranthe Pierre-Auguste 6 F Mulatto LA *Wife of William LeBlanc

    ****************************************
    William Leblanc m. November 26, 1879 Merante Pierre August (Opelousas Courthouse marriage #11100). Married December 18, 1879, St. Landry Catholic Church, Vol. 2, page 521
    ****************************************

    1880 United States Federal Census

    Home in 1880: 1st Ward, Saint Landry, Louisiana
    Auguste Lufroid Pierre 50 M Mulatto LA Farm Laborer
    Caroline Pierre 50 F Mulatto LA
    Eustine Pierre 30 F Mulatto LA Daughter
    Ophelia Pierre 9 F Mulatto LA Granddaughter

    ****************************************

    1900 United States Federal Census

    Name: Marrent Lablanc
    Home in 1900: Police Jury Ward 1, Saint Landry, Louisiana
    Age: 38
    Estimated birth year: abt 1862
    Birthplace: Louisiana
    Relationship to head-of-house: Wife
    Spouse’s name: William
    Race: Black
    Occupation: View image
    Neighbors: View others on page
    Household Members: Name Age
    William Lablanc 41
    Marrent Lablanc 38
    Uless Lablanc 19
    William Lablanc 19
    Albert Lablanc 12
    Marrie Lablanc 9
    Robert Lablanc 7
    Joseph Lablanc 5
    Josephine Lablanc 5
    Henry Lablanc 4
    Adam Lablanc 3
    Ella Lablanc 2

    ****************************************

    1910 United States Federal Census

    Name: Eulis Leblance
    [Eulis Leblanc]
    Age in 1910: 29
    Estimated birth year: abt 1881
    Birthplace: Louisiana
    Relation to Head of House: Head
    Father’s Birth Place: Louisiana
    Mother’s Birth Place: Louisiana
    Spouse’s name: Madlene
    Home in 1910: Police Jury Ward 1, St Landry, Louisiana
    Marital Status: Married
    Race: Mulatto
    Gender: Male
    Eulis Leblance 29
    Madlene Leblance 21
    Octavie Leblance 4
    Ledia Leblance 2/12

    • Kevin Levin Sep 26, 2009

      Thanks for the comment. Louisiana is an interesting place to look at it in exploring the Confederate military and race. The difficulty here may be in lumping some of these men under the category African American. As you know the racial distinctions were much more complex in this part of the South given its complex history. The evidence suggests that once identified blacks were discharged from service as Bergeron notes. Also keep in mind that receiving a pension is not necessarily an acknowledgment of service as a soldier, though in this case it looks like the individual did serve for a short period of time. You may want to search through the category “Confederate slaves” for much more commentary on this. Thanks for the comment.

Leave a Comment