Weary Clyburn Redux

clyburn2_edited-1Dear Mr. Vanderburg,

Thanks for taking the time to read yesterday’s post and for your comments. As I stated in my response this is a subject that I’ve written and lectured on extensively over the past five years.  The popularity of the black Confederate narrative highlights both the extent to which history has become democratized and the increased use of the Internet as a research tool.  Many people first learn about this subject through the print and/or online newspaper, which offers a non-critical and often flawed account of the complex history involved.

This article out of North Carolina that appeared today offers another textbook example of what is wrong with the way this subject is often analyzed and presented to the public.  The story of Weary Clyburn is one I’ve been following for a couple of years.  He is arguably one of the most popular examples of a black Confederate soldier that never existed.  Maddie Rice is sincerely interested in the story of her father, but over the years she has been aided by heritage organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who have publicly distorted the history of Clyburn to serve their own needs.  [click to continue…]

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What Happens When Your USCT Unit Disbands

Black Civil War re-enactors join the ConfederacyToday Cleveland.com [associated with the Cleveland Plain Dealer] is running a textbook example of how the myth of the Black Confederate soldier is spread.  Start off with what appears to be an unusual story of two black individuals who play Confederate soldiers.  Treat them as authorities in the relevant history and fail to do any preparation as a reporter that might allow you to ask a few penetrating questions about historical literacy and you’ve got yourself a nice little human interest story.

From the article:

Estimates of their number, varying from several hundred to more than 10,000, are debated among Civil War historians.

Jones, 51, of Youngstown, noted, “If we can honor the black Union soldiers who fought, we can honor the black Confederate soldiers who fought.”

Jones said that famed black abolitionist Frederick Douglass noted in 1861: “There are at present moment many Colored Men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal [Union] troops.”

Jones utilizes the biographies of past black Confederate soldiers Holt Collier and John Wilson Buckner for first-person portrayals.  Collier was in the Battle of Shiloh, then served in a Texas cavalry unit. Buckner served with a South Carolina artillery unit and was wounded in the battle for Fort Wagner in 1863.

Given these few passages we can safely assume that their research involved little more than a scan of websites.

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The National Rifle Association’s Civil War Memory

I give you the new president of the National Rifle Association.  Let’s just put aside for a second that from all appearances this guy is just bat shit crazy.  [Sorry, but that really does seem appropriate given the level of paranoia expressed in this video.]  Jim Porter doesn’t need a weapon. He needs a diagnosis.

What I find interesting is Porter’s level of comfort in expressing his preferred interpretation of the Civil War in New York state.  I suspect that very few people in this audience had any issue with his reference to a War of Northern Aggression and the close connection drawn between why the Confederacy fought the war and the reasons why it is necessary to arm and train the American populace in the use of firearms.  In other words, this is a perfect example of politics trumping the extent to which regional identification still shapes Civil War memory.

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Let’s Recross that River and Return to Chancellorsville

antietam

Today is the anniversary of one of the bloodiest days of fighting of the entire Civil War.  Those of you who visit Chancellorsville today will enjoy an insightful tour and interpretation of the final day’s fighting at Chancellorsville that took place in the area around the clearing between Hazel Grove, Fairview, and the Chancellor House.  The overwhelming majority of the roughly 30,000 casualties suffered that day between the two armies took place in this area on May 3, 1863.  While Stonewall Jackson’s daring flanking maneuver and its successful assault, which resulted in the collapse of the Eleventh Corps, damaged the Army of the Potomac the day ended with the two wings of Lee’s army split off from one another and facing much larger enemy forces in their respective fronts.  A Federal counterattack was still possible and Lee knew it.  Throughout the morning of May 3, Lee’s army fought to reunite its two dangerously divided wings.

Interestingly, many visitors to Chancellorsville never walk the May 3 ground or if they do they fail to appreciate its significance.  For many, a visit to Chancellorsville begins and ends at the visitors center, whose location reinforces a Jackson-centered narrative that highlights his flanking maneuver, assault, and accidental wounding on the very same ground.  You can replay the series of events that led to Jackson’s wounding at the hands of his own men and imagine to your hearts content those counterfactual scenarios that keep the general alive at least through the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg.  [click to continue…]

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The True Face of the Southern Heritage Crowd

southern heritageThis story out of Hot Springs, South Dakota is truly bizarre and sad.  Recently a couple of African Americans veterans, who were being treated for PTSD at a VA Hospital, complained about a display that included Confederate flags.  Yeah, this is in South Dakota of all places.  At the time the flags were removed and then later placed back in the display.  Today the hospital decided to remove the flags once again.

To ensure the Hot Springs VA Medical Center is a place of healing for all Veterans, the Confederate flags will be removed from the Freedom Shrine display, located in the rotunda of the main building.  This action is consistent with continued accomplishment of the medical center’s core mission, which is to provide quality health care services to Veterans.  We thank everyone for their interest and concern for our Veterans and apologize to anyone offended by the display.

Again, why there are Confederate flags in a VA Hospital in South Dakota is anyone’s guess.  First, shame on the VA staff for returning the flags once these men complained.  As might be expected the Confederate heritage whackos are out in full force complaining about another heritage violation.  These people have absolutely no class, patriotism, and they lack sympathy.  These are men who served their country and are currently being treated for wounds sustained in the line of duty.  If removing those flags from a display helps to ease their pain, than so be it.  Is that really too much to ask given their service and sacrifice for this nation?  [click to continue…]

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