The decision on the part of Benjamin Butler to declare slaves as contraband of war at Fort Monroe, Virginia in the spring of 1861 received a good deal of attention during the sesquicentennial and is now interpreted by the National Park Service. Historians now refer to the actions of three Virginia slaves, which prompted Butler’s decision, as a key moment in the story of wartime emancipation.
Now Richard Strand has turned this story into what appears to be an entertaining and even educational theatrical play. Check out this preview.
One of the topics that I take up in the final chapter of my book about Confederate camp slaves and the Myth of the Black Confederate Soldier is the presence of a very small number of African Americans in social circles that subscribe to this myth. I have written extensively about H.K. Edgerton as well as Karen Cooper and Anthony Hervey.
The vast majority of people who come into contact with the Myth of the Black Confederate Soldier so do through stories such as this one out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. This one is particularly useful. It’s brief and any discerning reader can easily pick out the contradictions.
Let’s start at the beginning:
Shaderick Searcy was a black Confederate soldier. He was a bonded servant of Dr. John Searcy of Talbotton, Ga. When the Civil War began, Dr. Searcy, knowing that both his sons James and Kitchen would become pawns in this great struggle for states rights, dedicated Shaderick to become body servant to his two boys.
In the first two sentences we learn that Searcy was both a soldier and a servant (slave) to two Confederate soldiers. No reporter is listed, but whoever is responsible for this piece clearly does not understand the difference between the two or how Confederates at the time understood the difference.
He received a pension for his Confederate service and died at the age of 91 in Chattanooga.
Searcy likely received a pension for his time in the army as a slave and not as a solider. The state legislature, like many other former Confederate states, awarded former slaves pensions, who could demonstrate fidelity to their masters.
Finally, there is the headstone itself, which clearly indicates that Searcy “served under masters J.D. and W.K. Searcy.” How much clearer does it have to be that Searcy was not a soldier? I would love to know what year the marker was placed. While the Confederate battle flag etched on the marker might be confusing, the legal status of this individual and his role in the war is crystal clear.
This is certainly one of those moments when I still wish I still lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tonight community leaders in Charlottesville will meet to urge the city council to rename Lee Park and remove the statue which was donated by Paul MacIntire in 1924. The vice mayor has come out publicly in favor of removal. The city recently ended its annual observance of Lee-Jackson Day and the Lee monument has been vandalized more than once in recent years. [click to continue…]