PBS’s Black Confederate Problem

Andrew and Silas Chandler

Andrew and Silas Chandler

Update: Here is another clip in which Ms. Berry shares that thousands of black men fought as soldiers with the Confederate army. The full segment can now be viewed (begin at 10:30 mark), which does a better job of handling the history of James and Charles Dearman.

We all remember the debacle that took place on The Antiques Roadshow back in 2010 when appraiser Wes Cowan attempted to interpret the famous tintype of Silas and Andrew Chandler. Thankfully, PBS corrected the problem a few years later on an episode of History Detectives.

Unfortunately, it looks like PBS has once again found a way to butcher the history of African Americans and the Confederacy in their new series, Genealogy Roadshow. In this short video Kenyatta D. Berry suggests that “many African Americans were forced into fighting for the Confederate army.” This certainly would have been news to actual Confederate soldiers and civilian leaders. [click to continue…]


Remembering Southern Unionism on Memorial Day

george henry thomasMy latest column at The Daily Beast hopefully sheds a little light on those white and black Southerners, who for one reason or another chose to remain loyal to the United States during the American Civil War. With all the talk about the dangers of erasing history in connection with the public display of Confederate iconography, we have forgotten that the monument building that helped to prop up and perpetuate the Lost Cause also contributed to erasing the lives of a significant number of Americans, whose service and sacrifice helped to preserve this Union and end slavery.

Just a thought on this Memorial Day.


Does *History* Deserve Roots?

RootsLike many of you I am excited about the first episode of the mini-series Roots, which airs on the History channel tomorrow evening. I am also concerned. History does not have the best track record when it comes to programs that are actually about history. Many of their most popular programs have only a loose connection to the serious exploration of the past, such as American Pickers and Pawn Stars. Documentaries such as America: A History of Us and The Men Who Built America offer such a narrow and simplistic view of their subjects that they are almost worthless. Other programs, namely Ancient Aliens, throws the book out completely. [click to continue…]


John Hennessy on the Legacy of the Civil War

There is no one better at engaging an audience on the topic of the legacy of the American Civil War than John Hennessy. That is all. Watch, enjoy, and reflect.

[Uploaded to YouTube on May 28, 2016.]


William Mack Lee Outed in Confederate Veteran

This is a follow up to an earlier post about the dedication of a headstone for William Mack Lee by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

This afternoon a good friend contacted me after having looked into the claim made by William Mack Lee that he served in the 27th Virginia Infantry and as a cook for R.E. Lee. It should come as no surprise that there is no compiled service record for WML in that unit. More interesting, however, is a thorough debunking of WML’s claims of having served as R.E. Lee’s personal body servant in the September 1927 issue (p. 324) of Confederate Veteran by none other than the magazine’s editor, E.D. Pope. I encourage you to read it for yourself.

William Mack LeeThe interesting thing from my vantage point is the emphasis right at the beginning of the article on ‘debunking’ WML’s claim to have been a “real friend” of R.E. Lee. [click to continue…]


The Making of a Black Confederate Soldier

William Mack LeeRecently the Norfolk County Grays Camp No. 1549, Sons of Confederate Veterans installed a military style marker to honor William Mack Lee, who they claim was Robert E. Lee’s “cook and body servant” during the war.” In addition to the headstone, a Cross of Honor reaffirms the belief among the organizers of the event that WML was indeed a soldier.

They are convinced of this fact based largely on a pamphlet published about WML in 1918. But even a quick glance at this pamphlet reveals a number of problems with WML’s claims about his connection to Lee and his role in the war. [click to continue…]