Earl Ijames’s Silence is Deafening

I have to admit that I am just a little surprised and disappointed that we haven’t heard from Earl Ijames in response to my most recent post.  If you remember, Mr. Ijames left a spirited comment in response to my critique of his position on so-called “black Confederates.”  One particular comment included a reference to one John W. Venable, who supposedly served in Co. H., 21st North Carolina.  As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, no additional references were given by Mr. Ijames to support the claim.  I must assume that while Mr. Ijames most likely believes that many cases can be debated that this particular example is an open and shut case.

Well, it looks like this is not the case at all.  My post of May 18 offered a detailed overview of a number of documents related to Venable’s connection to the Confederate army and it even included two updates.  All of this information was provided to me by two excellent archivists at the North Carolina Department of Archives and History.  At this point and taken together, the evidence clearly provides a sufficient reason to doubt that Venable served as a soldier in the 21st North Carolina.  Again, additional evidence may come to light and it may even be possible to interpret the available evidence in a way that connects Venable to this particular regiment, but what I find striking is that Mr. Ijames has not added his own voice to this discussion.  After all, Venable is his guy.  It looks like Mr. Ijames conducted another one of his “workshops” on the subject at the Greensboro Country Club on May 19.  I would love to know what he said about Venable and how he supported his preferred interpretation.  Did he do so having read my most recent post on the subject?  I welcome a comment from Mr. Ijames on this issue and I am even willing to feature it as a guest post.  It would no doubt be instructive for all of us.

Until then I want to leave you with one thought.  If this little discussion about Venable has helped with anything it is in reminding us of just how difficult it is to research and confirm the existence of legitimate black Confederate soldiers, as opposed to those who were present with the armies as slaves.  How many times has someone offered a piece of evidence and suggested that it alone demonstrates the presence of a soldier?  Research takes time; it involves knowing what to look for and, most importantly, how to interpret the documents.  For an example of this, take a look at the short essay in North and South Magazine by Thomas Lowry, which focuses on three case studies that involve claims made for the existence of black Confederate soldiers.  All of them begin with a primary source and all of them collapse with a little persistence and attempt to confirm and/or supplement the data.  I think the problem here is that if you want to find black Confederate soldiers you can.  The challenge is doing so in a way that can be analyzed and discussed in a public setting.  This is one of the reasons why it is so important to publish findings in in places that include a peer-review process.

As for Mr. Ijames, the ball is in your court.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

15 comments… add one
  • toby May 26, 2009 @ 23:58

    I am reading (with great pleasure) Brooks’ “Let us have Peace”, finding myself a bit giddy to be on the same blog as him.

    I noted that, after Vicksburg, he notes that many Confederate officers expected “to take their body servants with them” when they were paroled. Grant very sternly told the officers that as far as he was concerned “these men were now free”.

    All of which suggests that on the Union side at least, “body servants” meant slaves, not soldiers. And it also suggests that the Confederates regarded the “body servants” as somewhat less than soldiers also. The relationship between officer and “servant” was definitely not the normal military one between an officer and his aide.

  • Mike May 26, 2009 @ 10:22

    Well then he should come over for a visit and you could sort it out for him.

  • mike May 25, 2009 @ 14:20

    Well Kevin is Mr. James ever going to produce some evidence ?

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2009 @ 14:21


      I think Mr. Ijames has plenty of evidence. That’s not his problem. His problem is that he doesn’t seem to understand how to interpret what he’s uncovered.

  • Ken Noe May 22, 2009 @ 8:20

    Gee, I tend to drop by this site a lot during the day if I’m working at the computer, but now my secretive Scorpio nature is all paranoid about it 😉

    • Kevin Levin May 22, 2009 @ 8:27


      Don’t worry. I have better things to do with my time than monitor my favorite readers. I tend only to do it when I am trying to track “the crazies.”

  • Kevin Levin May 22, 2009 @ 5:57


    I don’t think you are seeing the goalpost move as much as you are witnessing an overall failure to carefully distinguish between enslaved and free blacks. This is not the only example. You can also see it in the way that some refer to the “service” of specific personnel as well as the all-important distinction between what constitutes a soldier as opposed to some other support role. Welcome to the wonderful world of “black Confederates.”

  • Woodrowfan May 22, 2009 @ 5:42

    Is it me, or do I sometimes see some goalpost moving on this topic? (NOT by you Kevin, and not just here). We start off discussing if black slaves volunteered to serve with the Confederate military and somehow end up with discussing the attempted enlistment by free men of mixed race..

  • Kevin Levin May 22, 2009 @ 2:37


    I do the same on occasion. It keeps me entertained.

  • Brooks Simpson May 21, 2009 @ 21:08

    Oh, there are times I come back multiple times to see what’s going on, although I missed the 100+ post explosion altogether. 🙂 It’s like “breaking news …updates!”

  • Brooks Simpson May 21, 2009 @ 15:52

    Oh, my. Don’t tell me you can figure out who’s been visiting. 🙂

    • Kevin Levin May 21, 2009 @ 16:22


      It’s not difficult at all. Don’t worry your 50 visits a day are safe with me. 🙂 Just kidding. You would be amazed to know how much time people spend on this site.

  • Larry Cebula May 21, 2009 @ 14:05

    It has just been a few days, Kevin. Though you and I live online, I have heard rumors that some people do not.

    • Kevin Levin May 21, 2009 @ 14:18


      Thanks for the reminder. Of course you are right. That said, I have a feeling that he’s been following very closely. 🙂

  • Richard May 21, 2009 @ 9:17

    Seems to me it would not be all that hard to create a database of FPOC in NC, put it in an excel sheet, sort by race and fighting age. Also include Real/Personal wealth and combine this with data showing Union/Confederate Service. Then find a historian with 20+ years of experience researching the Slave system in Eastern NC who can help interpret the results. Data collected 50 years after the Civil War seems useless to me, need data closer to the actual events.

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