I have always felt a bit like an outsider compared to those of you who can trace your family’s history back to the Civil War. Thanks to John Stones, who is the “chaplain” for one of the Southern Heritage Facebook groups, today I learned that I have an ancestor who served in the United States army with General William Tecumseh Sherman. I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear that one of my ancestors helped to save this Union, especially given that there is no evidence that my family set foot in this country before 1900.
I wonder if I also have a black Confederate ancestor.
Last week the History News Network published a little featurette about Derek Boyd Hankerson, who bills himself as a university lecturer, filmmaker, author, and political operative. He also worked as Donald Trump’s Northeast Florida Field Director. The focus of the piece, however, was on his work as a historian of American slavery and his belief that thousands of black men fought as soldiers in the Confederate army.
Hankerson recently co-authored a book on the subject with Judith Shearer, titled, Belonging: The Civil War’s South We Never Knew. Hankerson likes to point out that the book was published by a division of Simon & Schuster, but fails to note that it just happens to be its self-publishing branch. I briefly engaged the author on Twitter, but failed to get beyond his insistence that I visit St. Augustine, Florida for its rich history. Clearly, living there hasn’t helped Hankerson better understand the past. [click to continue…]
One of the larger points that I am trying to make in the first chapter of my black Confederates book is that the war presented a number of challenges to the maintenance of the master-slave relationship. While the expectations and authority of slaveowners may have been well established back home, slaves took full advantage of the opportunities afforded by life in camp, on the march, and even on the battlefield. This new landscape stretched the master-slave dynamic. In some cases it was stretched to the breaking point as slaves chose to run away, but it mostly resulted in masters conceding a certain amount of ground to their camp slaves.
I am trying to provide as rich a description of camp life as possible to help frame this analysis. I have a few descriptions of what a Confederate camp looked like, including its layout, but I was hoping that some of you might be willing to share additional references. The account can be from any point during the war. In fact, it would help immensely if I had a sense of how, if at all, the layout of Confederate camps changed over time. Thanks for your help.
Arden Wells is running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. In this short video he addresses the Confederate monument debate in New Orleans. Wells supports maintaining the monuments in their current locations owing to their status as landmarks and as popular tourist destinations. He appears to understand that many African Americans find them offensive, but Wells believes that whites have the right to celebrate their heritage. [click to continue…]