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.


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.


New to the Civil War Memory Library, 04/23

Marching HomeBy now many of you have heard that T.J. Stiles’s biography of George A. Custer won this year’s Pulitzer Prize. This was his second. I reviewed the book for The Daily Beast and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is Stiles’s second Pulitzer.

As much of an achievement as that is, I am even more excited for Brian Matthew Jordan, who was named a finalist for his book, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War. It is beautifully written and thought provoking. Last semester I taught it in my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society and students thoroughly enjoyed it. I suspect that this is going to open many doors for Brian and I look forward to congratulating him in person in Gettysburg this summer.

Candice Shy Hooper, Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War for Better and for Worse (Kent State University Press, 2016).

Sean M. Kelley, The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

Austin Reed, The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict (Random House, 2016).

Andres Resendez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America (Houghton Mifflin, 2016).


SPLC Catalogs Confederate Iconography

Update: It’s worth reading Robert Moore’s post on the SPLC report. I agree that a bottom-up approach to Confederate monuments must not be overlooked, but I also believe he too easily dismisses the insights that can be gleaned from looking at this issue top-down. If that is all we do we will miss the opportunity to make broader connections that help us to make sense of things like the distribution of monument erections over time. No doubt, we will find a wide range of stories on the local level that help explain what motivated communities to erect monuments and engage in commemorative activities that celebrate and honor the Confederacy. Those stories are important. None of this, however, negates the fact that the vast majority of Confederate monuments were erected at a time when black Americans were disfranchised. We need both narratives.

Yesterday the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report that catalogs examples of Confederate iconography across the United States. The report is well worth downloading and reading and includes a state-by-state list of monuments and a wide range of public sites named in honor of the Confederacy and its leaders. It is not comprehensive, but it does provide a solid foundation. The report concludes by offering suggestions for people interested in bringing attention to these sites in their own communities. [click to continue…]


When Slaves Adorned American Currency

Confederate Currency

It’s been a few months since I published anything at The Daily Beast, but Wednesday’s announcement that Harriet Tubman will soon adorn the $20 bill prompted me to briefly reflect on African Americans that once adorned Confederate currency. I enjoy writing for TDB. For one it connects me to a much broader audience, but I usually don’t have the opportunity to go into much detail on the topics covered and often the references that I consult are left out for one reason or another.

I just happened to have recently re-read parts of Ian Binnington’s recent book, Confederate Visions: Nationalism, Symbolism, and the Imagined South in the Civil War (University of Virginia Press, 2014), which includes a nice chapter on currency and its connection to nation building. It proved to be very helpful for this particular column and I wanted to make sure that I acknowledged it. Not sure how much attention this book has received, but it is definitely worth your time.


Abbeville Institute on Black Confederate Soldiers

Many of you are familiar with the Abbeville Institute. Among other things they offer an annual conference that brings together a short list of people, who push a decidedly Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War and slavery under the guise of serious scholarship. Last year’s annual conference included a talk by Donald Livingston on the debate within the Confederacy to arm slaves, which was just uploaded to YouTube today.

The part of the talk that focuses specifically on the debate begins at around the 30 minute mark. I am not going to go through the many problems with this presentation. A thorough reading or re-reading of Bruce Levine’s, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War, would be a great place for Livingston to start. [click to continue…]