Tag Archives: black Confederates

Henry Louis Gates and Black Confederates (Redux)

Yesterday Henry Louis Gates published an extensive piece on the process that led to the recruitment of African-American soldiers during the Civil War at The Root. It’s well worth reading. As I was perusing the piece I wondered whether Gates would use the occasion to discuss the controversy surrounding black Confederate soldiers. Continue reading

 

Did Impressed Slaves Serve the Confederacy?

jake3

I want to quickly follow up on the last post about the UDC’s recent induction of an African American woman, whose ancestor was brought into the Confederate army as a camp servant. In the post I referenced the UDC’s guidelines for membership and speculated as to whether they might be interested in welcoming the descendants of the thousands of impressed slaves who toiled for the Confederate government throughout the war. Thanks to UDC member, Betty Giragosian, for the following comment.

Kevin, my African American friend joined the UDC on the record of her great grandfather who helped build the earthworks in Gloucester, Virginia. This was giving material aid to the Confederacy. Maybe his service was not on the battlefield, but it was service, nevertheless. She told me that when she saw the earthworks for the first time she burst into tears. She is proud and happy to be a member of the UDC and we are proud to have her. She is an asset to our organization. We have never barred African Americans from membership. Someone wonders why there is a push to gain membership of African Americans. I do not think this is, that there is a push. This is a different time and place. Why not give us credit for changing for the better.

While I appreciate the comment I believe it reflects a flawed understanding of the relationship between slaves and the Confederate government. I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating. White southerners who either volunteered or were drafted into the Confederate army served as citizens of a nation. We understand citizenship as involving a reciprocal obligation between the individual and state. The government protects the rights of the individual and maintains order and in exchange it may be necessary at certain times for citizens to come to the aid of the state in the form of military service.  Continue reading

 

He Survived Slavery

I wasn’t going to say anything when this story first appeared. How many black Confederate induction ceremonies are necessary to share. This is the first one to appear in the news in some time. Last week the United Daughters of the Confederacy welcomed Georgia Benton into the fold based on her great-grandfather’s, presence in the army as the slave/body servant of Lt. Alex McQueen. Continue reading

 

Selling Black Confederates

staunton vindicator, black confederateFirst, I want to thank Robert Moore for passing along this little gem, which he found in the Staunton Vindicator (12/11/1863). After searching for additional information about the source I realized that another reader had passed it along back in 2011.

Fellow blogger and historian Andy Hall followed up with additional information uncovered at Footnote:

There are several pages of compiled records for Dick Slate with the 18th Virginia Infantry at Footnote, designating him simply as “drummer,” no rank given. He’s listed on “Field and Staff” rolls, with no specifics on formal enlistment or discharge. Men like like Dick Slate really seem to be betwixt-and-between in terms of their military status. Bill Yopp, for example, is now remembered (as designated on his headstone) as a drummer, although Bell Irvin Wiley, who actually met him, is very explicit that he was a body servant. Presumably he actually served both roles.

There was special measure during the war where the CS Congress authorized pay for slaves employed as musicians. This was, I suspect, a belated recognition that men were bringing their slaves along with them and employing them as musicians (e.g., Captain Thomas Yopp and Bill Yopp). Not clear to me that this pay went directly to the slave; as in other cases it may have gone to the master, who may or may not have passed it along.

Without clear documentation of formal enlistment or discharge, I wonder what official status Dick Slate actually had within his regiment, or if he was only carried on the rolls as a drummer at his master’s pleasure — which would be an entirely different sort of status than a soldier who was enlisted for a specific term — one year, three years, for the duration, which could not be broken without a formal process and review.

Quite a few of the men now identified as BCS were musicians — Bill Yopp, Henry Brown, Dick Slate — so the actual, official status of these men within the army is relevant to the discussion. Generally speaking, the laws passed by the CS Congress differentiate between non-commissioned officers, privates and musicians — implicitly identifying the latter as distinct and separate from the first two — but (for me at least) it remains a very confusing story that bears further digging.

Andy is likely spot on with his analysis of the available evidence. The Confederate Heritage crowd loves pointing to musicians as examples of loyal service among black Southerners. One wonders, however, how the sale of Dick Slate fits into this comforting picture.

 

The Logic of Servants and Soldiers

F.R. Hoard Pension, black ConfederateEvery so often I like to browse a couple of Facebook pages devoted to the myth of the black Confederate soldier. People post all kinds of interesting things related to history and memory and once in a while an archival source appears.

This one caught my eye, though interestingly enough, it appeared without any commentary. At this point I still do not know the source. In 1920 F.R. Hoard of Churchill, Tennessee applied for a soldiers’ pension. As you can see he was denied. “It seems from your application that you were not a soldier, but the servant of a soldier, and therefore you are not pensionable.” In 1921 Tennessee offered former servants pensions. It is unknown at this point whether Churchill applied.

You may remember a similar document related to a North Carolina servant by the name of Wary Clyburn, which I posted back in 2009.