U.S. Postal Service Spreads Myth of Loyal Slave

Chapter three in my current book project, Searching For Black Confederates, focuses a good deal on the roles that former camp slaves played at veterans reunions and parades. We’ve all seen the photographs of former slaves, who took part in these well-attended events, but this is the first time that I have come across an envelope from the United Confederate Veterans that features the loyal camp slave narrative.

BlkConfedEnvelope

I am going to have to look deeper to see if there are other commemorative items from this period, sponsored by the UCV and UDC, that highlight these stories. Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage organizations rely on the internet to propagate these stories, but this ought to be understood as an early example of that same goal.

41 thoughts on “U.S. Postal Service Spreads Myth of Loyal Slave

  1. bob carey

    I did a quick search of the roster of the 35th Miss. and there is no SA Hughey listed. However there is a Samuel Hughey listed in the 34th Miss. Sam was a private.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Thanks for the additional information. I don’t believe I have seen this particular image before, but there isn’t anything surprising about it or the description of Harrison as a slave.

      Reply
  2. chancery

    Veterans are sometimes referred to by ranks they acquired in the reserves long after their active service was over. Perhaps something like that went on in the Confederate veterans organizations?

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  3. Andy Hall

    He’s Samuel A. Hughey of Co. E, 34th Mississippi Infantry. As Bob suggests, there’s no indication in his file that he was anything other than a private during the war. Like an ancestor of mine from Texas, he was captured in late 1863 during the Chattanooga Campaign and spent the rest of the war at Rock Island.

    Here is his CSR:
    https://deadconfederates.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/s-a-hughey-csr.pdf

    And here is a Boston Herald from 16 June 1929, p. 81, that reproduces the picture and verifies him as the Hughey from the 34th Mississippi:
    https://deadconfederates.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/boston-herald-16-june-1929-p81.pdf

    As for Hughey’s attributed rank of captain, that was extremely common in the decades after the war. The UCV was organized along military lines (as the SCV is today), and officers in the organization often used those military titles in preference to their actual, wartime rank. It was a bit of a joke; a former Confederate sergeant from Texas, Val Giles, observed many years after the war that

    It is over, and we are all officers now!
    It’s General That and Colonel This
    And Captain So and So.
    There’s not a private in the list
    No matter where you go.

    I really would have liked to have known that man.

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    1. Corey Meyer

      What is interesting concerning Andy’s second link about the image is that in the caption is states that the slave is “offered” his freedom after the war and “refused”. More propaganda?

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      1. Andy Hall

        By the end of the war, Hughey was not in a position to “offer” Harrison his freedom; it was an accomplished fact under law. But this is a very common, ubiquitous theme of the Lost Cause, that former slaves remained obsequiously “loyal” to their old masters for decades after the war. There are other cases we’ve seen such stories were told at Confederate reunions, that turned out to be demonstrably untrue, so accepting at face value this (or any other) anecdote about close, lifelong bonds of fraternity between former master and former slave, is an error. Like everything else, it’s open to challenge.

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          By the end of the war, Hughey was not in a position to “offer” Harrison his freedom; it was an accomplished fact under law.

          Exactly. This is a point that is always conveniently overlooked. Remember that Emancipation Proclamation that you always claim freed no one? 🙂

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    2. David Kent

      This fellow went from a corporal, to a colonel! Quite the promotion! I ended up on this page while I was searching information on Corps badges, which I had no idea they used.
      http://www.100thpenn.com/corporalstritmaterartifacts1.htm

      When I saw his post war promotion, I thought of your post…….

      This quote from Hardtack and Coffee, by John D. Billings got me looking at corps badges:
      “One day a veteran of Hooker’s command met an Irishman of Logan’s Corps at the spring where they went to fill their canteens. “What corps do you belong to?” said the Eastern veteran, proud in the possession of the distinguishing badge on his cap, which told his story for him. “What corps, is it?” said the gallant son of Erin, straightening his back; ”the Fifteenth, to be sure.” “Where is your badge?” “My badge, do ye say? There it is!” said Pat, clasping his hand on his cartridge-box, at his side; ”forty rounds. Can you show me a better?” On the 14th of February, 1865, Major-General John A. Logan, the commander of this corps, issued General Orders No. 10, which prescribe that the badge shall be “A miniature cartridge-box, one-eighth of an inch thick, fifteen-sixteenths of an inch wide, set transversely on a field of cloth or metal, one and five-eighths of an inch square. Above the cartridge-box plate will be stamped or worked in a curve ‘Forty Rounds.'”

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      1. David Kent

        I’d love to know the story of how it got from a creek in Va, to the corps General a year and a half or so later!?

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      1. Andy Hall

        Quite possibly. Val Giles wrote essays and verse for the local Austin paper during his latter years, and certainly would be familiar with Kipling. “Tommy” would have undoubtedly struck a chord with him.

        Reply
  4. Eric A. Jacobson

    Yes, it appears Sam promoted himself (or someone else did) after the war. No doubt he served in Co. E, 34th Mississippi, was captured at Chattanooga in late 1863, and was confined at Rock Island until the end of the war when he was released (as a private).

    As for Bill, I can assure you that he was not with Sam at Rock Island. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Joe Overstreet

    I would hope that the loyal Black’s would be more recognized in America. Yankee propaganda has divided this country and we are paying a terrible price as a result. How many times will they Re-Defeat us. PC is a curse. Great article.

    Reply
  6. Patrick Jennings

    Interesting. Samuel A. Hughey joined the Confederate Army at age 16. As others have noted, he was captured and sent to Rock Island – I imagine his loyal slave didn’t make that trip! Equally, Mr. Hughey worked as a columnist for the Desoto “Times-Promoter” newspaper where he often told war stories, was honest enough to mention he capture, but never mentions, that I can find, Bill Harrison.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You often hear claims that camp slaves and their masters remained life long friends and yet this is not the first example where the evidence that you would expect to find is absent. The same can be said of Silas and Andrew Chandler. I can’t find much of any references to Silas after the war and Andrew’s obituary in Confederate Veteran makes no mention of him.

      Reply
  7. Patrick Jennings

    After a little more searching I did find mention of an article from the newspaper noted above titled “Side by Side in Battle [about N.B. Forrest’s slave] it is in Volume XIV, Issue 1. I haven’t found it online yet, but this person apparently has access to all copies: gsdcms@hotmail.com

    Might make for some interesting reading!

    Reply
  8. Patrick Jennings

    OK, I apologize for crowding the page with extra stuff…but this topic is fascinating. “Captain” Hughey and Bill were apparently a newspaper sensation in 1929 when the UCV held their national convention in Charlotte NC. The picture seen on the card appears in at least six newspapers (picked up on the wires, I guess) spread from Appleton WI to St. Louis MO. The image is even copyrighted by Getty with the same caption today.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Here is the Getty caption:

      Pals Throughout the Years. Charlotte, North Carolina: Inseparable through the dark war days of the sixties, Bill Harrison a slave owned by S.A. Hughey, dashing captain of Cd.E. 35th Miss. Infantry, was the devoted valet to his master. After he was given his freedom, the Negro refused to leave Hughey and the two have been together ever since. They were among the early arrivals at the 39th annual reunion of the United Confederate Vets. here recently. Capt. Hughey is now 84 and his servant 90. Harrison is shown carrying his master’s private drinking cup which he carries for sanitation purposes.

      Reply
    2. Andy Hall

      “Captain” Hughey and Bill were apparently a newspaper sensation in 1929 when the UCV held their national convention in Charlotte NC. The picture seen on the card appears in at least six newspapers (picked up on the wires, I guess) spread from Appleton WI to St. Louis MO.

      __

      I did a (not exhaustive) search and found the pair in four newspapers from around the country. But — I searched between 1910 and 1935 (Hughey died in 1933) — and all four I found were from that June 1929 event. That seems odd for a lifelong affiliation. Neither man appears in the index of the Confederate Veteran.

      Reply
      1. bob carey

        Sam goes from a private POW to a “dashing Captain” it seems that truth, in the public forum, was as sparse in 1929 as it is today.

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  9. bob carey

    Kevin,
    How common was it that privates in the Confederate army had servants in camp? I would think that the army, which seemed to low on rations throughout the war, would frown upon such a practice.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Andrew Chandler was a private when he entered the war. I’ve come across a couple of instance of privates bringing camp slaves along, but I don’t know enough to say how common it was. Great question.

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    2. London John

      I believe some sons of planters who were too young to be officers enlisted in the ranks, and it was usual for their fathers to send along a slave to look after them. Naturally the slave would wear about as much of a confederate uniform as actual privates did. He would perform some of the young mater’s military chores, including carrying his musket on the march. So an observer seeing the company on the march would see a Black man in confederate uniform carrying a musket, and if unfamiliar with the South, conclude he must be a Black Confederate soldier.

      Reply
  10. Andy Hall

    How common was it that privates in the Confederate army had servants in camp?

    ___

    Bob, several folks have looked at that on the Civil War Talk forum and made some calculations using reports from different sources. The numbers, mostly from 1862 and 1863 up through the Gettysburg Campaign, are remarkably consistent, coming in at 4% to 7% of the number of white Confederate soldiers. (These would be separate from other organized groups of laborers like teamsters or construction/labor formations.) It’s not a definitive study, but it seems like a good starting-off point.

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      1. bob carey

        Andy you are a wealth of information.
        I think that the numbers would decrease as the war went on because of attrition and the Souths’ ever increasing supply problems.

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          The numbers decrease for a number of reasons, including increased contact with Union army, which led to slaves escaping as well as food shortages. Other factors played a role as well, but these two are clearly reflected in wartime documents.

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  11. Patrick Jennings

    “How common was it that privates in the Confederate army had servants in camp?”

    Last night I went home and announced to my lovely wife that I was now a “Brigadier General,” but allowing for her long and loving dedication to me she could refer to me as “the brigadier.” In my new capacity I will add to the discussion that “Captain” Hughey was a mere lad of 16 when he joined the rebel army and he was not from a family of enough means that he could take a slave along to dress him for battle.

    On other notes: Camp 1452 of the SCV is the Pvt. Samual A. Hughey Camp. A quick photo reconnaissance indicates they are well fed, but a deeper look indicates that they have not been very active since 2014.

    Reply
  12. Andy Hall

    One thing is useful to keep in mind when it comes to old CW soldiers like Hughey, and questions about his service (in this case, his wartime rank). That is that today, 2016, it’s infinitely easier to cross-check and verify these things than it was in 1929. Two or three minutes with Fold3, Ancestry, or other online resources will help bring the details of these stories to light, almost instantly.

    But when Hughey attended the UCV reunion in North Carolina in 1929, his compiled service record was stored away in a cabinet in a basement at the War Department in Washington, and census records were similarly inaccessible. Sixty-four years after the end of the war, Samuel Hughey was very unlikely to encounter anyone at the reunion who would be in a position to challenge any claim he chose to make about his service.

    Reply
  13. hankc9174

    surely there is no implication that the usps was involved other than by delivering the mail.

    pre-paid ‘postal’ cards may be freely purchased, have content added and then mailed.

    Reply

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