Another Black Confederate Bites the Dust

The outrageous claims made by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others about so-called “black Confederates” would hold up just fine if it weren’t for that little thing called evidence.  Thanks to David Woodbury for bringing this story to my attention.  He suggests that once we have finished counting we may find 7 or 8 black Confederate soldiers.  I think that is much too generous. :D My guess is that at the end of the day we may find 4 or 5 legitimate black Confederate soldiers and their stories will tell us much more about how they managed to evade identification rather than as examples of some ludicrous notion of Confederate civil rights.  In this case a little bit of digging into the available primary sources revealed that Scott Brown was, in fact, a soldier in 137th Colored Infantry and not, as previously indicated on his head stone, in the “Confederate States Army.”

[See Dead Confederates for a follow-up post.]

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15 comments… add one

  • John R Maass Jul 25, 2010

    Great detective work!

    • Kevin Levin Jul 25, 2010

      I agree, John. However, the problem is that this detective work does not involve much effort at all. Just about every story that I’ve come across hangs by a thread. Nice to hear from you.

  • Andy Hall Jul 25, 2010

    I suppose the good news here is that Googling around, Pvt. Brown doesn’t seem to show up cited as a black Confederate, so maybe he flew under the radar, so to speak. Perhaps the folks today who’d make a cause celebre of him didn’t realize it was an African American man buried beneath that stone. So while the previous stone was disconcerting for the family, its impact didn’t go much beyond that. A black Confederate is a terrible thing to waste.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 25, 2010

      And if I remember correctly there is no clear indication of who was responsible for the placement of the original headstone.

  • Larry Cebula Jul 25, 2010

    Was Scott Brown on the standard lists of supposed “black confederates?”

    • Kevin Levin Jul 25, 2010

      I will have to go back through the standard sources, but I don’t believe he is, which leads me to believe that this actually may have been an honest mistake.

  • Jimmy Price Jul 25, 2010

    So, I guess there WERE around 179,000 “Black Confederates” after all!

    Who knew?!

  • Marianne Davis Jul 26, 2010

    Gentlemen,
    Remember that for many adherents of the black confederate stories, the lack of evidence merely proves a conspiracy to suppress it. I have heard it said that the Feds were so embarrassed by enslaved black men loyal to the South, that they burned all record of their enlistment. The proof of this? Again, the fact that there are no such records. With scholarship standards like this, what can historians do?

    • Andy Hall Jul 26, 2010

      Marianne, I believe you meant to put “scholarship” in quotes in that last sentence.

      Yes, you’ve described the irresistible appeal of all conspiracy theories, from Black Confederates to 9/11 Truthers to the moon-landings-were-shot-on-a-sound-stage crowd: the lack of evidence is, in and of itself, evidence of just how deep and dangerous the conspiracy is.

      Private Brown doesn’t appear to have been thought of as a “Black Confederate” up to now, but I’m almost certain that, going forward, he may gradually eclipse all the others, because he has now been made the victim of political correctness and revisionist historians seeking to deny him his due credit as a loyal Southron by desecrating his honored grave, etc., etc. You know the script.

      • Kevin Levin Jul 26, 2010

        Andy,

        I will be very interested to see if the black Confederate advocates follow up this story in the way you suggest.

        • Andy Hall Jul 26, 2010

          I think it’s virtually certain they’ll take up his cause. The story is irresistible, not least because it makes him (and them) a victim of the Yankee/librul/academic left. It’s always about them being the real victims. Has been, ever since Uncle Billy.

  • David Woodbury Jul 27, 2010

    In a comment on my blog, someone mentioned that we were making too much of this, that it wasn’t part of a conspiracy. I hastened to agree that it was no doubt an honest mistake somewhere along the line, and that it hardly benefitted the black Confederate crowd if they were not even aware of it.

    But the larger point is this: virtually all of the anecdotal claims about black Confederates come up short when examined closely. But here was a black Confederate with the evidence literally carved in stone. And if even THOSE examples come up short upon close examination, it doesn’t bode well for the overall numbers.

    David

    • Kevin Levin Jul 27, 2010

      You are absolutely right.

  • John Stoudt Jul 27, 2010

    Kevin:

    This comment has nothing to do with the thread, but I thought you or your readers might appreciate a “head’s up” notice.

    The University of Tennessee Press will publish, in October, _Lee and Jackson’s Bloody Twelfth: The Letters of Irby Goodwin Scott, First Lieutenant, Company G, Putnam Light Infantry, Twelfth Georgia Volunteer Infantry_. This volume is part of the “Voices of the Civil Series,” edited by Peter Carmichael. The website is linked here: http://utpress.org/bookdetail-2/?jobno=T01413&authorsm=Pearson,%20Johnnie%20Perry

    In the UT Press catalogue this sentence caught my attention: “Particularly revelatory are the details the letters provide about the relationship between Scott and his two African American body servants, whom he wrote about with great affection.”

    I don’t have a dog in this fight. What I find intriguing is that a 1st LT would have, not one but, two African American body servants — was LT Scott an example of a rich man fighting the rich man’s fight? Interesting possibility.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 27, 2010

      Thanks John. I am definitely going to check this one out. I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my projects is the editing of a large collection of letters from a South Carolina captain. He only brought one slave, but he also wrote affectionately about this individual. In fact, after his slave escaped he continued to wonder how this slave could betray his friendship. It’s fascinating stuff. Thanks so much for the info.

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