Is Civil War News Reporting the News?

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Update: Eric Jacabson reports that no service records can be found for the Tennessee men listed below.  Can’t say that I am surprised.

Well, I guess if that simply means running stories from across the country without any concern as to whether the details of the stories are correct.  Yes, Cathy Gordon Wood, president of Giles County Chapter #257, United Daughters of the Confederacy, plans on honoring eighteen so-called black Confederates, but does anyone associated with this publication have any interest in whether the details of the story have any merit?  Just about every one of these stories that I’ve come across turns out to be bogus.  I wrote about this particular black Confederate bonanza a few weeks ago.

On Nov. 8 service the UDC plans on holding a traditional military funeral for the following men?  Ruffin Abernathy, 3rd Clark’s Tenn. Inf.; Maurice Adams Cleveland, Gen. John Adams’ staff; Tom Brown, Gen. John C. Brown’s staff; Fed Clack, Col. Calvin J. Clack’s staff; Daniel B. Coleman, Co. A, 6th Alabama Inf.; Jacob Coleman, Co. A, 11th Alabama Cav.; Mack Dabney, 3rd Clack’s; Whitlock Field, Col. Hume R. Field; Nathan Gordon, Co. E, 11th Tenn. Cav. and Co. A, 3rd Clack’s; Wash Harris, Cheatham’s Division; Southern Cross of Honor recipient Steve Jones, 1st Tenn., Wheeler’s Cav.; Richard Lester, Co. G, 3rd Clack’s; Robert Lester, Co. K, 8th Tenn. Inf.; And, Sam Maxwell and Neal Mitchell, units unknown; Giles Moore, 9th Alabama, Malone’s Cav.; Joseph Reynolds, unknown; and Matt Rivers, 11th Tenn. Inf.

I would love to know how many military service records we can find for these guys.  Ms. Wood has apparently found pension records for some of these men, but as we all know such records fail to tell us much of anything as to their wartime status.

15 responses... add one

The story does acknowledge that “Not everyone believes black men willingly served the Confederacy,” and also points out that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs refused to supply markers when originally requested last year because the men were slaves, and not soldiers. What I find interesting is this passage: “Thirty-six black U.S. Civil War veterans are also buried at Maplewood. They have VA markers, but no one knows how and when they were ordered.” Why does it matter that how and when their markers were ordered is not known? There is no controversy about whether blacks fought as soldiers for the U.S. army, but this almost implies some sort of equivalency between blacks enlisted in the Union army, brought about by official government policy, and slaves impressed into working for the Confederate war effort.

You are right, Marc. I should have pointed out that nothing in this story goes beyond an earlier article that was published by one of the area newspapers.

Kevin=Unfortunately, the Civil War News has long had the reputation of pretty much printing whatever was sent it. The only person I saw doing real, substantive reporting was the late, much missed Deborah Fitts.

Big surprise – I check the service records for each of the alleged Tennessee soldiers (available on Footnote.com) and not a single one of the names listed shows up. Not one. I even checked the Alabama fellow and nothing there either.

Eric A. Jacobson

Thanks so much for taking the time to look them up. I can’t say that I am surprised.

What has always intrigued me is the ability of the “black Confederate” advocates to either rationalize or completely ignore the formidable wartime evidence against their beliefs. If they are right, the existence of these troops appear to have been unknown to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate Congress, the entire command structure of the Confederate armies, Confederate troops, etc. The “Black Conferates” blithely ignore little things like the reacton to Patrick Cleburne's proposal, the debate in the final months of the Confederacy on black troops including Howell Cobbs' protest, the entire POW exchange issue, the treatment of Robert Gould Shaw's body, etc. Cobb, of course, is the one who wrote to Secretary of Ware Seddon in February of 1865, '”You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.”

Absolutely right. Furthermore, what does it say about the introduction of Jim Crow laws, and the foundations of the Ku Klux Klan? If blacks played such a large role in Confederate armies, then how treacherous and brutal to repay them by ostracization from the political rights, and from educational opportunity!

Actually, not a lot one way or the other, since that's pretty much what the US government which was controlled by their fellow Union soldierswho were white did after Reconstruction ended which I have long believed was more morally despicable than what white southerners did to blacks after the war ended. I doubt there were very many blacks living in former Confederate areas who expected any better from those who, but for the war, would still have been their masters. They had a right to expect better of former comradeds in arms.

It saddens me to see such misuse of the facts by the UDC. Until we can get better evidence of Blacks service in the CSA they need to stop this propaganda. Glad I did not spend the money to get this newspaper last year when they had a booth at an Renactment down here in TX.

This is nothing new, the myth of the “Black Confederate” as an effort to paint the CS in a better light has been around for at least as long as this Blog. It is only really through the efforts of Kevin, others on the net and real historians that the modern Lost Cause movement hasn't been able to push their “Black Confederate” agenda into their own creative rewrite of history.

It is the novice or poorly read who are targeted by this agenda. Noone who has studied the Civil War in any capacity can credit the ridiculous claims of 65,000, 100,000 and even 200,000 black men fighting in the ranks of the CS as anything but poor fiction. More shame on Civil War News for allowing the fabrication to reach their pages.

Thanks for the kind words, but unfortunately, the SCV and others have been quite successful in pushing their preferred interpretation of the past on what is a gullible public. The myth of black Confederates has a very long and rich history. As always I highly recommend Bruce Levine's _Confederate Emancipation_ for those of you with a serious interest in this subject.

The black confederate thing really is very old; it's closely intertwined with the faithful slave myth. It's been updated for modern consumption, though , with the service of the alleged black confederates increasingly being portrayed as the equivalent of Union combat veterans who were black. As David Blight's “Race and Reunion” analyzes the subject in detail, in its early days, the black confederate myth was much more blunt about the nature of the the services that they were allowed to provide (I suspect because there were too many people still living who knew the truth.). On page 289-290, he also discusses the legendary UDC historian general Mildred Lewis Rutherford of Athens, GA who kept a massive scrapbook collection that included the results of essay contests on faithful slaves and the glories of the KKK. Rutherford, who held the post from 1911-1916, also had a large collection of photographs and postcards. The difficulty is that the photos and postcard featured Klan members, what Blight describes as “especially 'loyal' ex-slaves, and lynchings. She had an extensive career as a lecturer-her two favorite subjects being the Confederacy and white supremacy. Blight includes a picture of Rutherford in the book-a very grandmotherly looking woman in her version of period dress.

Since Craig Swain's comparison of Black Confederates to UFOs some months back, I can't get that image out of my mind. And I get a good laugh every time I read another post about Black Confederates.

The black confederate thing really is very old; it's closely intertwined with the faithful slave myth. It's been updated for modern consumption, though , with the service of the alleged black confederates increasingly being portrayed as the equivalent of Union combat veterans who were black. As David Blight's “Race and Reunion” analyzes the subject in detail, in its early days, the black confederate myth was much more blunt about the nature of the the services that they were allowed to provide (I suspect because there were too many people still living who knew the truth.). On page 289-290, he also discusses the legendary UDC historian general Mildred Lewis Rutherford of Athens, GA who kept a massive scrapbook collection that included the results of essay contests on faithful slaves and the glories of the KKK. Rutherford, who held the post from 1911-1916, also had a large collection of photographs and postcards. The difficulty is that the photos and postcard featured Klan members, what Blight describes as “especially 'loyal' ex-slaves, and lynchings. She had an extensive career as a lecturer-her two favorite subjects being the Confederacy and white supremacy. Blight includes a picture of Rutherford in the book-a very grandmotherly looking woman in her version of period dress.

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