“Negro Pensioners are Not Classed as Confederate Soldiers”

clyburn2_edited-1That’s according to a document in the pension bureau correspondence files under Union County and in the year 1930 – when Wary Clyburn died.  A friend of mine in the North Carolina Department of Archives and History checked the yearly statement of pensioners produced by the Clerk of Court for the Auditor’s Office.  The following information was conveyed.  Clyburn appears in 1926 and is alphabetical in order with other pensioners – however under the remarks column (which is mostly empty) it clearly indicates he is “colored body servant, Capt. Frank Clyburn;” other remarks indicate a pensioner’s transfer between pension levels or between counties (and one hand written remark noting pensioner is deceased).  In 1927, after the addition of former slaves to the pension series, Clyburn is listed with one other man in a separate section titled “Negro Pensioners.”

There can be no denying that the pension bureau saw him as anything but an eligible body servant – it is how they consistently describe him.  In addition, the Attorney General’s ruling that they could not be soldiers suggests that a case for anything other than body servant cannot be made.  Wary Clyburn was a slave in the 1860s and as late as 1930 the state of North Carolina recognized him as a slave during the Civil War.

So, where does that leave the Sons of Confederate Veteran’s ceremony that honored Clyburn as a Confederate soldier this past summer?  More importantly, what does it say about Earl Ijames’s participation in that ceremony?  Why did he not correct the SCV and Kevin Adkins as they acknowledged Clyburn as a Confederate soldier.  Why did he not state specifically in the face of the camera that Clyburn was a slave whose presence in the army and on the battlefield had nothing to do with choice.  Finally, what is so disturbing is that Clyburn’s descendants were included in this charade.  You decide.  Here is a short clip from the Clyburn celebration.  Now you understand why I do not consider the SCV to be an organization that is serious about the history of the Civil War.

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Ulysses S. Grant Takes Job in Local Bar

Check out Part 2

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A Statement

It’s been quite exciting around here over the past few days and as you might imagine I’ve found it hard to keep up with all the comments.  The subject of “black Confederates” never fails to excite my readers, but the latest post, which has now topped 100 comments, seems to have taken the discourse to a whole new level.  Because of this I want to take a few minutes to make a few points.

First and foremost, I value your comments.  If I wanted this site to simply function as a forum for my own views than I would have turned off the comments option.  That, however, has always seemed to me to run counter to the very idea of blogging.  Over the past few years I’ve learned quite a bit from my readers and have been forced to reconsider positions on more than a couple of occasions.  While I value your thoughts this does not give you the right to insult me or turn this site into your own forum, even if you believe that I am guilty of the same.  Simply put, the First Amendment does not apply here.  A few of you out there will have noticed by now that your comments are not going through.  Please consider yourself temporarily banned from commenting on this site and please do not email me as they will go unanswered.  Let me say again that this will no longer be tolerated at Civil War Memory.  I retain the right to edit, delete, or ban IP Addresses.  You are free to hurl insults about me on other blogs (assuming you are allowed to do so) or you can start your very own blog.  Remember, blogging is free.  There are also countless Message Boards and Listservs that you can join in on and add to the growing chorus against me.  That’s fine and I accept that this is the price for jumping into the blogosphere.  Ultimately, my goal is to further discussion about those aspects of the Civil War that I find interesting and worthy of analysis.  The level of emotion and invective as of late has made that much more difficult to achieve and it has to stop.

Those of you who have been with me for some time now know that I am passionate about certain issues.  I make no apologies for that.  It can be seen in the frequency of certain subjects and especially in my tone.  Through it all, and with a few exceptions, I’ve always tried to provide reasons for my positions.  I claim no authority on any historical subject beyond what I’ve read and what I’ve researched/published.  Most of my posts include references to books, which reflects a strongly-held belief that I have no access to the historical past beyond what I’ve read.  [Click here to tour my library.]  We have a responsibility to question those who engage the public and who have assumed a position of authority within public circles.  They, in turn have the responsibility to respond if they expect to be treated as authority figures.  I expect the same from the students that I teach, from the readers of my blog, as well as those who have read my published work.  In turn, it is my responsibility to defend and explain myself in light of the positions that I hold.

I have written countless posts on the issue of “black Confederates” and have asked very hard and direct questions about those who make extravagant claims about their numbers as well as their role in the Confederacy.  In addition, I’ve read most of the scholarly literature that bears on this subject.  On a number of occasions I’ve questioned the public statements of Earl Ijames.  As an archivist employed by the state of North Carolina and as someone who has given press interviews and conducted countless workshops Ijames has a responsibility to respond to questions and criticisms.  He may not want to and he may question the motivation and the character of the individual issuing the challenge, but that does not relieve him of his responsibility.  You will notice that at no time did I insult him within the content of the post and I even offered him an opportunity to share his research and clarify his position.  Unfortunately, Mr. Ijames chose to respond by insulting me [see here and here] and calling me an “idiot.”  He even went so far as to threaten to include a photograph of me at his next workshop.  Of course, Ijames is free to insult me until the cows come home, but it doesn’t help his standing as an authority on this subject one bit; in fact, it probably does significant damage to it.  Even better, when I requested a list of his publications on the subject he shot back by suggesting that he would reveal his research at some future date and when he is good and “ready to release it”, though he did invite me to one of his “workshops” on the subject.  This is not the response of someone who wishes to be taken seriously.

So where do we stand?  As far as I am concerned Earl Ijames is not an authority on this subject given his inability and/or unwillingness to engage those who are sincerely interested in this subject and who tend not to sit by passively when it comes to consuming historical studies.  Perhaps one day soon we will be lucky enough to learn more about Mr. Ijames’s work that by all indications has not progressed much beyond the collection of various primary sources.  But don’t take my word for it, even one of his former colleagues has questioned his overall view.

You can rest assured that I will continue to question others and work to bring about cordial and enlightening dialog on this blog.  I do so not as an absolute authority on any subject, but as someone who has the ability to think critically and question.  I expect each and every one of you to do the same.  Thanks.

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What Do Black Confederates and UFOs Have in Common?

Craig Swain offers his own take on this debate about Confederate slaves/black Confederates over at Cenantua’s Blog.  It’s an incredibly thoughtful post in which he compares advocates of black Confederates with UFO Hunters.  Rather than summarize his argument here I urge you to read his post and offer your feedback.

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Not Everyone Is Upset With Me

Wow…these posts on Confederate slaves really do excite the masses. I really do love the excitement and outrage that it causes within certain groups since it tends to highlight the anti-intellectual streak that runs through our Civil War community.  You would think that with all the time that a few readers are spending on this site that they could have uncovered an entire regiment of black Confederate soldiers.  Anyway, I received this very short, but encouraging email from one of my readers this morning.

Your Thinking About the Civil War Sesquicentennial postings have been one of the better overviews of the causes of the war that I have read anywhere.  Maybe you can get it put in print as a sort of Causes of the Civil War for Dummies.  Also thanks for indulging me; I grew up in a Rural Ole South County seat Town and many of the things on your Blog have enlightened me and some have enraged me.  I recognize we are working from different world views and philosophies yet we are share a common goal of Historical Truth.   Thanks for the Blog and have a great weekend.

[You are very welcome.  It's always nice to be reminded that the overwhelming majority of my readers are considerate, open-minded, and appreciative of what I do.  As always, thanks.]

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