Category Archives: Lost Cause

The Social and Cultural Significance of Black Confederate Pensioners

confederate veteran, black confederateAs we all know one of the most misunderstood aspects of the debate surrounding the existence of black Confederate soldiers is the existence of pensions that were given by former Confederate states to qualified black citizens at various points during the postwar period.  For the uninformed or those working primarily from a narrow agenda the existence of these pensions is proof positive of the existence of black soldiers and the fantasy of a multiracial army.  The pensions have been used on numerous occasions by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage types to justify new grave markers and other monuments to these men.  I am not interested in returning to this debate. My position is clear.

What I am interested in doing is posing a few questions about these pensions, which is the subject of chapter 3 in my manuscript on the history of camp servants and the myth of the black Confederate soldier.  My goal is to use the pension records and other sources to explore how white Southerners chose to remember the Civil War and specifically the role of camp servants at the turn of the century.  The questions posed clearly assume that the applicant was present as a non-combatant; in other words they are not classed as soldiers.  Regardless of the state the vast majority of black pensioners were servants and cooks.  What is even more revealing is that pension applications make no inquiry as to whether the individual in question was wounded on the battlefield.  This does not mean that such information never made it onto an application, but that it did not change the status of the applicant.  This is a crucial point given the emphasis that black Confederate advocates place on battlefield prowess.  Again, it apparently made no difference to how white Southerners viewed these men during the postwar period.  Continue reading

 

Brad Paisley Meet Leslie Barris

So, in addition to having trouble accessing my blog yesterday the news feed that I use to track stories related to Civil War memory is clogged with articles about the Brad Paisley – LL Cool J controversy.  I’m not sure which is worse.  I don’t have anything insightful to say about the song other than that the music and lyrics are both the work of amateurs.  To be honest, it seems to be much to do about nothing.

On the other hand, I got nothing but props for Leslie Harris of Orange, Texas who asked the city council to consider resolutions and ordinances that would block a planned Confederate veterans memorial that includes a flag just off the interstate.  Harris argues that, in fact, this is not a veterans memorial, but a Confederate flag memorial.  She also offers some comments about the appropriateness of publicly acknowledging Confederate History Month and in the process reminds the audience that white Southern attitudes about the Confederate past are complex.

 

Stonewall Jackson’s Black Friend

Update: Richard Williams has decided to respond to this post on his blog. What I find interesting is that he has nothing to say about the content of the post. Instead he takes issue with one of my comments about my characterization of his understanding of the influence of Nat Turner’s Rebellion on race/slavery and religion in Virginia.  Williams declares that many academics are “cynical” about attempts on the part of slaveholders to teach the gospel yet he provides not a single reference.  It is unclear as to why this should matter to begin with. Their attitude is irrelevant.  What matters is the interpretation.  A quick perusal of the bibliography points to an over reliance on relatively few secondary sources, which is why I take issue with his analysis of religion in a slaveholding society.  There simply isn’t much to work with.  I will leave it to you to judge.

Jim Lewis and Jackson in "Gods and Generals".

Jim Lewis and Jackson in “Gods and Generals”.

My recent essay on Confederate camp servants in The Civil War Monitor opens with a reference to an account in Edward Porter Alexander’s Fighting for the Confederacy.  In it he discusses the purchase of a camp servant named Charley and a horse.  Interestingly, Alexander refers to both as an “appendage”.  That reference, I believe, tells us a great deal about race relations in the South as well as the value of enslaved blacks to the Confederate war effort and individual officers who utilized personal servants.  Continue reading

 

Restore the Honor, Remove the Flaggers

Yesterday my wife and I stopped briefly at the Pelham Chapel in Richmond, which is the site of the ongoing protest by a group that styles itself, the Virginia Flaggers.  As many of you know their protest is focused on the recent removal of Confederate flags from outside the chapel itself.  I was hoping to see some Flaggers in action, but in the end I am glad that they decided to take the day off.  For the first time in my many visits the chapel was actually open.  We weren’t able to spend too much time, but it is an impressive little building.  Continue reading

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest For Teens

Nathan Bedford ForrestWorried about who your teenager idolizes?  Well, now you can return them to the good old days of the Civil War and Southern chivalry with Lochlainn Seabrook’s book about Nathan Bedford Forrest that is geared specifically for teens.

Ride along with Forrest and get a firsthand look at his childhood in Tennessee, his teens in Mississippi, his first years away from home, his marriage and children, his multimillion dollar businesses, the start of the American “Civil War,” his enrollment in the Confederate army, and his rise to fame as a daring and successful Rebel officer.  Thrill to the dramatic descriptions of General Forrest’s exploits on and off the battlefield as he and his courageous cavalry (which included 64 black Confederate soldiers) fought their way across the South defending hearth, home, honor, and the constitutional right of self-government.

Find out why the General’s men loved and respected him, why the Southern people looked up to him as their “Spiritual Comforter,” and why he freed his slaves years before Lincoln issued his fake and illegal Emancipation Proclamation.  After Lincoln’s War, follow Forrest as he rebuilt his life from scratch, and helped the South regain her political power and dignity during the Yankees’ cruel and revengeful “Reconstruction” period.  See how the great Confederate chieftain lived out his final years campaigning for black civil rights, giving generously to charities, forgiving the North, and working to heal the physical and emotional wounds left by the War for Southern Independence.

Along the way, you will learn the truth about Forrest and Southern slavery and about Lincoln’s War on the Constitution and the American people, truths that have been hidden for a century and a half by uneducated enemies of the South.  Parents, you will enjoy reading this heavily illustrated compact little book as well, for it contains hundreds of important historical facts that neither you or your children were ever taught in school.

This guy’s basement press makes Pelican look mainstream.  I’ve perused these titles in the past, but this one takes the cake.  One wonders if the details behind that multimillion dollar business will be shared, but I won’t hold my breadth.  I have no doubt that this represents a rearguard action in how we remember and teach the Civil War, but it is hard not to be sympathetic with the few who will fall under its spell at no fault of their own.