A Challenge To Mike Simons

In response to a recent post on the subject of black Confederates regular reader Mike Simons had this to say:

We see blacks mentions in all areas of the war but no defentive evidence has been found. I believe as I have read about the Confederate Marines the evidence was lost in the fog of war. I hope someone some where will find the smoking gun to prove these pictures and letters right.

Mike then went on to add the following after I asked why he had a need to see these stories vindicated:

Because I want all those old colored people who told me about their kin fighting for the South to be vindicated in the academic world that thus far had derailed and denyed the truth of their oral history.

Well, here is your chance Mike.  I would like you to cite at least one historian in the “academic world” who has, in your view, “derailed” and “denied” the truth of the stories that you believe prove the existence of black Confederate soldiers.  In addition to a name, I would also like a reference to the book or article as well as the page numbers.  Finally, I would appreciate an analysis of the text in question that demonstrates an attempt to deny the past.  Take your time and be careful because permission to participate in this community is at stake.  I am tired of these off the cuff comments that engage in sweeping generalizations and condemnations of historians without any attempt to support said charges.

16 comments… add one
  • mariannedavis Jan 29, 2010 @ 15:45

    There will always be people who believe that the absence of evidence is sufficient proof of its suppression. In this case, if there are no records of black Confederate soldiers, it stands to reason that Yankees destroyed them all. Mike Simons and his co-believers have constructed a view of history without factual support, and are leaning instead on the ''fog of war.” If, however, they were able to find stacks of photos of black Confederates, what would they tell us? That slaves were deeply offended with Northern tariff policy?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 29, 2010 @ 15:56

      The problem is that it typically is a non-starter. How do you argue against a negative? In this case it's simply a last ditch effort to safe face.

  • Richard Jan 27, 2010 @ 19:47

    Heard this on the radio today while driving in SC

    SC inducted a “Black Confederate” into the SC hall of fame. (just kidding) Rep. Smalls.

    MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Former Gov. Dick Riley and former slave and U.S. Rep. Robert Smalls have been chosen as the 2010 inductees for the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

    The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reported Riley and Smalls will be inducted Feb. 9 at the hall in Myrtle Beach.

    The hall adds one living and one deceased member each year.

    Riley also served as U.S. Education Secretary under President Clinton. Riley was governor from 1979 to 1987. He says he is honored by his selection.

    Smalls was born in Beaufort in 1839 and led the takeover of a Confederate steamship at the start of the Civil War. He became a captain in the U.S. Navy and later served as a U.S. Representative from South Carolina in the 1870s.

  • EarthTone Jan 26, 2010 @ 22:33

    I am, in a way, somewhat sympathetic to MSimons comments.

    As I understand it, estimates of the count of white CW Confederate soldiers range from a million to two million; apparently, many CSA records were lost in the war, and so there is a lot of in-exactness in the estimates. I would imagine that getting good records on black participation in the CSA is much more difficult to get. I think there's a LOT more about blacks in the CW in general, and in the South in particular, that remains to be unearthed and brought to life.

    I think the best way to put it would be, let's get the best records on the experiences of blacks during the war, and let the chips fall where they may.

    A major problem that I have with some – I'll say – Southern-based sites that talk about black Confederates is this: they are very self-serving. They don't really want to know or understand what it was like for blacks in the CSA; rather, they are solely dedicated to somehow showing that blacks faithfully and patriotically served the Confederate cause. Anything that doesn't fit into that mythos is ignored. And they will gladly acknowledge this: in their minds, they're providing balance to the issue.

    I'm not saying Simons is about this, but many areas of the Internet are. It's a very disturbing trend.

  • Mike Radinsky Jan 26, 2010 @ 13:44

    Selective history- the unfortunate contradiction usually found among neo-confederates (and others) who wish to base apocrypha as fact: “all those old colored people who told me about their kin fighting for the South”; but when presented with the actual oral histories of ex-slaves documenting the horrors of slavery and the mistreatment by southern slave owners claim that it is a gross misrepresentation, a small and unusable sampling, and that most were paternalistic, and protective of their 'livestock”.

  • Dan Wright Jan 26, 2010 @ 13:22

    Myth vs. History.
    The Lost Cause is a slippery slope. Once you start down that slope, where does it end or does it end? If I believe that the CW was not about slavery but some noble cause, it's not too much farther down the slope to believe that slaves were loyal to that cause.
    What's next?

  • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2010 @ 1:34


    I am not about to play along with your little note asking for “assistance” from something called the “Confederate Colonel” forum. Good bye.

  • msimons Jan 26, 2010 @ 1:01

    As far as any Historians how bout yourself Kevin you have repeatley said there no documented Black Civil War Soldiers.
    As for as a more precise identifaction all the stories were told to me as a HS studnet after leading singing at St Joseph Nursing Home in Brinkley Arkansas. Lady Bee and Mr Carl both died before I got out of College and had no kin left. What happened to any letters or other materials they had.
    I am looking for answers from professionals like yourself who have way greater resources to find the Truth. As for the comment that set you off I have been told by several self proclaimed historians long before I meet you or there was an Internet that the stories I shared were nothing more the Delta myth and legend. Unlike many I don't keep a list of times persons and places where someone disagreed with me.

    I am sorry if I have offended you in any way concerning this matter. I am simply searching for the Truth about this issue and other veins of the Civil War.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2010 @ 1:20

      I have yet to see a documented black Confederate soldier. I've never once said that there are none. If they are out there than based on the available wartime evidence (muster rolls, etc.) than they are few in number. I am sorry that this is not the conclusion that you prefer, but I am not in that business.

      It's not that you offended me it's that your claim is baseless. In the future I would ask that you take this kind of nonsense somewhere else.

      • Mike Radinsky Jan 26, 2010 @ 1:34

        I was just wondering, how, if they even have, the history departments or historians of any of the traditionally black colleges of the south treated the myth/mystery of the black confederate soldier?

        • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2010 @ 1:38

          That's a really good question that I can't answer. The fundamental problem with just about every example is the lack of documentation or the limitations of the evidence. I am amazed at how little evidence is enough to draw the wildest conclusions about this subject along with the reckless use of language. Most of these people simply do not understand what is involved in doing historical analysis.

  • David Rhoads Jan 25, 2010 @ 22:47

    A more precise identification of “all those old colored people who told me about their kin fighting for the South” would be in order as well, not to mention some elaboration as to the particulars of their various stories.

    Some accompanying citation of actual documentary evidence wouldn't hurt either, although I suspect it's probably too much to ask for.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2010 @ 22:48

      We shall see.

      • msimons Jan 26, 2010 @ 1:04

        You'll not get much because if I knew the answers I would not be reading and searching the web for answers.

        • Brooks D. Simpson Jan 26, 2010 @ 2:42

          You mean you don't know the names (or anything else) about the people to whom you spoke?

        • margaretdblough Jan 26, 2010 @ 4:39

          But when you say you are looking for historians who will help you find the truth, it appears that you have decided what “the Truth” is and are looking for evidence to support that belief. The problem is that the evidence is overwhelming that the Confederate power structure would not, until the very end, countenance even the discussion much less the actuality of blacks serving in Confederate forces. Even as defeat loomed, many could not accept the idea even as a desperation move because as Howell Cobb stated, if slaves could be soldiers, the whole theory of the pro-slavery forces was wrong.

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