Confederate Like Me

black confederate

Earlier this week I received my author copies of the latest issue of The Civil War Monitor, which contains my essay on Confederate camp servants.  As I’ve said before, I am very excited about this particular piece.  It encompasses some of what I am trying to address in the first chapter of my book on the same subject.

I certainly don’t believe that I’ve provided anything approaching the final word on this subject, but I do believe it at least offers a framework with which to think about camp servants. I say this in light of another news story, this one involving Retired Army Lt. Col. Edwin Kennedy, who recently gave a presentation on the subject to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  I’ve had a copy of his PowerPoint presentation for a few years now and it is problematic on a number of levels as you can read for yourself in the article.   It offers little more than the standard accounts and the same uninformative interpretations that litter the Internet.

Terry Johnston has kindly offered to give this site’s readers free temporary access to the article.  Click the link here and enter the following information:

username: cwmemory
password: monitor31

In addition to my essay, this issue contains a forum on Spielberg’s Lincoln that includes short essays by Gerald Prokopowicz, Matt Pinsker, and James Oakes.  You will also find articles by Brooks Simpson, Andy Hall, Ethan Rafuse, and Amy Murrell Taylor.  You can’t do much better than that line-up.  I know I’ve said it before, but I love this magazine.  In addition to the high quality paper that is used the artistic team has thought carefully about font style and size as well as the place of photographs and other images.  The end result is both pleasing to the mind and eyes.  I highly recommend that you subscribe.

13 thoughts on “Confederate Like Me

  1. Bryan Cheeseboro

    Great article, Kevin. But I have to disagree with you on one point. I’m not at all convinced the focus given to Black Confederate soldiers by those in support of the Lost Cause is to “bring balance” to all attention paid to Blacks as Civil War combatants; if anything, it often seems like an attempt by some people to ignore the well-documented story of Black Union soldiers entirely.

    I’ve been on many Civil War message boards and too many times when I’ve started threads asking questions about the USCT, or the thread has been about that subject, and someone inevitably responds, “Well, I know Black Confederate soldiers were…” My point is, many of these people are incapable of having anything to say about Black men in the Union Army.

    Maybe their focus on Black Confederates (“Why do you have to be a Black Confederate? Why can’t you just be a Confederate?”) is about the “balance” you speak of. But I think too often, Black Confederate soldiers is the only multicutural history some people can deal with.

    Reply
      1. Bryan Cheeseboro

        Years ago, I remember seeing a little illustration at the beginning of an article in the “Battles & Leaders of the Civil War” series (reprinted from the Civil War articles featured in The Century magazine from the 1880s). The illustration was of an elderly Black man in a top hat, full-length coat, holding a riding crop and saying, “Gen’l Longstreet’s body servant suh, endu’in de wah!”

        I think all of these Confederate officers came to the war with body-servants in tow. I also know of the story of General Maxcy Gregg, mortally wounded at Fredericksburg, and his servant William Rose, who accompanied Gregg’s body back home.

        Everytime I look at Ron Maxwell’s “Gettysburg” and see that movie’s interpretation of the Confederate army, without any Black presence at all… to me, it looks like the tea party.

        Reply
  2. Paul Taylor

    Excellent piece, Kevin. I enjoyed it immensely and eagerly look forward to your book-length work on this subject. Thanks for sharing it online.

    Reply
  3. Neil Hamilton

    Kevin,

    Great article and very much enjoyed reading it. Thanks for providing it to us.

    Sincerely,
    Neil Hamilton

    Reply
  4. Forester

    Is there a printable version? I’d like to save this, and I don’t want to type the whole thing out. Great article, btw.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the article. Unfortunately, I have no idea how you can save it or if that is possible. Sorry.

      Reply
      1. Forester

        This article is very concise and shows how oral accounts of blacks alongside Confederates harmonize with the official reality about black soldiers. Blacks were there, comma, as servants. It was very complicated, but there’s no evidence of loyal soldiers in the sense that the white people would like to believe.

        I want my family to read this, as it would clear up some historical issues. My grandfather’s grandfather had a “Marse Chan” type slave go to war with him. Granddaddy’s sisters met the former slave in the 1930s, and he told them stories of how he “killed Yankees.” Other old blacks told similar stories to my grandfather as a small boy. My family takes this as confirmed proof of Black Confederates, even though none of us can find the slave’s name (Granddaddy can’t remember, and his sisters died years ago and the photos of this slave are totally lost).

        As you can see, it’s folklore with a heavy dash of wishful thinking (and conveniently, everyone involved is dead). I plan to read this article to my family as I think it will lay to rest some rumors without making our ancestors look like liars.

        In the case of our Marse Chan servant, I think he probably enjoyed the attention he received, and he was well liked by the whites and he told the kind of story they wanted to hear, which was partially true. No one actually SAID he was a Black Confederate …. that’s something we’ve assumed after the 2010 VA textbook scandal. Prior to the 2000s, he was just a really loyal slave. See how the tales get taller?

        Reply

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