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Black Confederates: The Standard Formula

Here is a wonderful example of the rhetoric surrounding the myth of black Confederate soldiers.  You can find this story in the pages of The Murfreesboro Post by Shirley F. Jones:

1. Find a historical adviser from the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a “doctor George Smith” but fail to mention that he is a medical doctor.

2. Provide the standard quotes from Ed Bearss and Ervin Jordan even though Bearss never did serious research on the subject and Jordan’s study does not draw broad conclusions about the loyalty and service of black southerners across the Confederacy.

3. Include incoherent/meaningless thoughts by black “historian”:

“Roland Young says that “he is not surprised that blacks fought … some, if not most, would support their country, and that by doing so they were demonstrating that it was possible to hate the system of slavery and love one’s country.””

By the way, who the hell is Roland Young?  Unfortunately, the author of the article can’t tell us because she found and quoted it from a website.  Thanks for the responsible reporting Ms. Jones.

4.Remind readers that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in areas that were not under direct military control as of January 1, 1863, as if this has anything to do with the question at hand.

5. Reach for moral parity by suggesting that Ulysses S. Grant owned slaves.  Oh..and throw in that wonderful quote from Frederick to Douglas to Lincoln suggesting that unless he freed the slaves they will fight for the Confederacy.

6. Drive your point home by including names of black men who received a pension from the state of Tennessee.

7. Top it off with a conclusion that implies that the author has done something to bring us closer to uncovering a long lost story:

Blacks fought for the very same reason as whites – to defend their homes and their families. Historical data can sometimes be a matter of
interpretation and the facts can sometimes contradict themselves. But, one must remember that day and time and judge it accordingly, for a man of the 19th century should not be compared to a man of today’s world and evaluated by current standards. Regardless of how black Southerners participated, whether voluntary or involuntary, one thing is certain: the thousands of slaves and free persons of color in the South are the most forgotten group of the Civil War. They, too, should be remembered for the suffering, sacrifices and contributions they made.

Actually, we have a great deal of information about tens of thousands of black southerners who fought with the army – the Union army that is.

Note: Joseph Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse is scheduled for release in March and supposedly analyzes the role of blacks in Lee’s army.  I should be receiving a review copy in about a week or two.

Thinking of James I. Robertson During This Difficult Time

I just learned via the Free State of Patrick Blog that James I. Robertson lost his wife Libba this past week.  My thoughts go out to Professor Robertson and his family.  Here is the obituary:

(Libba) Green Robertson, 77, of Blacksburg, died Wednesday, February 6,
2008, at Kroontje Health Care Center. She was born in Danville, Va., on
April 30, 1930, to the late Howard P. and Alma Wells Green. She is
survived by her husband, James I. (Bud) Robertson Jr., of Blacksburg;
daughter, Beth Brown, of Blacksburg; sons and daughters-in-law, James
I. III and Tricia Robertson, of Tega Cay, S.C., and Howard W. and Beth
Robertson, Oakton, Va.; seven grandchildren, David and Heather Brown,
Courtney and Christopher Robertson, Payton, Ethan and Ansley Robertson;
sisters and brothers-in-law, Ann and Jack Walton, of Danville, Bobbie
and Courtenay Harrison, Virginia Beach, and Gayle and Joe Miller, of
Danville. Also grieving is her loyal companion, Bubba. Special thanks
go to loving care-givers, Lorraine Elliott and Lois Hubbard, to the
helpful providers of Good Samaritan Hospice, and to the staff of
Kroontje Health Care Center. Libba never met a stranger or made an
enemy. Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Sunday, February
10, 2008, in the Blacksburg United Methodist Church with the Rev.
Reggie Tuck officiating. Interment will follow in the Westview
Cemetery, Blacksburg. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to any
children’s charity.
The family will receive friends from 1 to 3 p.m.
and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday evening, February 9, 2008, at the McCoy
Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive, S.W., Blacksburg, Virginia.

Program for the First Annual Meeting of the Society Of Civil War Historians

Check out the program for the upcoming meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It promises to be a great time for Civil War enthusiasts.  My session on teaching is scheduled for Tuesday. Looks like a last-minute change was made by the conference organizers, which means our panel will be chaired by Andrew Slap rather than Joan Waugh.