Update: I now have the audio of this talk. Unfortunately, the files are very large and as it stands I am unable to upload them for your listening pleasure. I will continue to work on this. The talk is literally just a string of individual stories strung together. There is almost no analysis of the documents or the broader issue of slavery and race in the Confederate South.
A couple of weeks ago one of my regular readers mentioned that he would be in town for Earl Ijames’s recent talk on “Colored Confederates” as part of the 21st Annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival. Well, not only did this reader attend the talk, he took detailed notes as well as an audio recording of the presentation. I have not heard the audio yet, but I am going to share the notes. As you will see, it looks like this presentation rests on a great deal of circumstantial and weak evidence. In fact, there is nothing surprising in terms of the kind of evidence that is typically offered in these cases. The inclusion of so many pension records is quite telling. So now we have a list of so-called black Confederates which can be easily checked and examined. Apparently, during the talk Ijames mentioned that Henry Louis Gates Jr. contacted him during the research for the documentary “Looking for Lincoln.” Gates wanted a firm number of “black confederates” to quote in the film. Ijames responded, “only God in his holy archives really knows.” I don’t really know how to respond to such a statement. I have yet to hear from anyone at the North Carolina Museum of History or North Carolina Office of Archives and History re: Mr. Ijames’s unprofessional response to my request for his presentation. Clearly, most of the documents cited in this talk were pulled from the NCDAH. At this point we must assume that Mr. Ijames speaks for both institutions and that these institutions sanction his public presentations. Here are the notes:
Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, XVI, Part 1, p. 805
“There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day.”
Jeremiah Day Letter (In NC Archives?)
Manuscript letter dated August 22, 1861 written to North Carolina governor Henry Toole Clark. Day, a free black, writes of two sons “in the army,” and wants the governor to return a younger son conscripted into “service” for the army.
Hawkins W. Carter
A black man from Warren County, NC who claimed in his pension application to “fighting seven days with the Confederacy.”
C. M. McKaughan
Pension application filed July 23, 1929 (after mentioning McKaughan, Ijames went into a long diatribe about North Carolina Governor Charles B. Aycock, whose administration “kept blacks” from seeking pensions)
Tarboro Southerner, Saturday April 30, 1864
Notice for free blacks to register for “service.”
North Carolina Troops Service Record, dated May 24, 1864. Private Reed noted as a “free negro.”
A black man interviewed by the High Point Enterprise on June 7, 1942. (Ijames admitted to getting this information from an SCV member). In the interview, Brooks claimed his master “enlisted” him to “build roads” for the Confederate Army. He also worked on constructing defensive works before the Battle of Bentonville (Ijames claimed this as evidence for black “pioneer battalions” in the Confederate Army).
A black man from Bertie County, NC that claimed in a 1928 pension application to serving as an “office boy” for a Confederate surgeon.
A black man from Lincoln County, NC who claimed in a pension application dated February 6, 1931, that “I did my best for the Confederate Army.” Furthermore, Moore mentioned officials “press[ing] me into service” to haul gold bullion for the Confederate Treasury. (After this example, Ijames said he “would rather believe Adam Moore than some college professor.” Greeted with applause from crowd).
Quoted by the Raleigh News & Observer on July 24, 1955 as a member of the “slave army.” Worked as a “body servant” for Dr. Tom Holloway.
In a pension application, High recalled his master “sending” him along with three other black men, Wylie Richardson, Porter Hunter, and Abe Dunn, to build obstructions at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. High also worked on earthworks around Raleigh. High wanted the pension since he “own[ed] a farm of 25 acres that has a mortgage of $700 and I can’t pay the interest.” He claimed that during eighteen months of working for the Confederate Army, he “never received any compensation for the work rendered.”
Archibald McLean Letter (In NC Archives?)
In an August 1861 letter to North Carolina Governor Henry Toole Clark, the mayor of Fayetteville, NC discusses slaves working on arms in the former Federal Arsenal and performing “police duties.”
Confederate Veterans Reunion Photograph
Ijames exhibited a photograph dated 1925 from a reunion of the 45th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Company C in High Point, North Carolina. He pointed to the dark complexions of three men in the picture as photographic evidence of black Confederates. He referred to one as Sergeant H.L. P. Watson.
Note: I want to thank my anonymous reader for taking the time to attend the talk and especially for taking such detailed notes that can be used as the basis for further exploration. I think it’s safe to say that a public debate between myself and Mr. Ijames is unnecessary at this point.