Remembering USCTs in Nashville

This is a very interesting video about a recent monument that was erected in Nashville’s National Cemetery to honor the 2,000 USCTs who are buried there.  The video includes reflections from black reenactors (including the individual who posed for the sculpture) who reflect on the importance of acknowledging the service of these men along with an interview with the sculptor.  I wonder whether the push to honor legitimate black soldiers in the United States army explains the recent ceremony in nearby Giles County, Tennessee honoring 18 “black Confederates.” You will remember that the VA denied these men markers after determining that they were slaves.

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!

7 comments… add one
  • davidwoodbury Jan 17, 2010 @ 0:31

    I did a blog entry on that monument after the Civil War Forum visited Nashville. It's a small thing, but it bothers me that the plaque at the base reads, “In memory of the 20,133 who served as United States Colored Troops in the Union Army.” After doing a little digging, it's clear that they meant the 20,133 who hailed from Tennessee (not the number of USCT buried in the Nashville cemetery, as the video erroneously states). The way it's worded, the plaque sells USCT participation in the war short by about 160,000.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2010 @ 1:06

      Hi David. Nice to hear from you. I thought the same thing when I saw that. You would think that they would take the time to get the details right.

  • Robert Moore Jan 16, 2010 @ 16:40

    It may be that the honoring of the USCT explains the motivations of some to honor “Black Confederates,” but I can't say that it alone explains the effort of everyone involved in honoring “Black Confederates.” The hard part to ignore in those who honor “Black Confederates” (especially on a broad sweeping scale) is that is seems rather convenient, on the part of some of those who honor “Black Confederates”, to use it as a means of dismissing the thought that the institution of slavery (masked under the definition of “States' Rights”) was at the heart of the Confederate cause.

    I think both, the USCT and – in lieu of the overused phrase “Black Confederates” – those blacks who were in service roles with the Confederate military, have been absent from the traditional history of the Civil War. Where and how often do we see them books, films, and art prior to the 1980s? Obviously, there is a need to fill this void, but we need to spend more time filling it with a greater understanding of who these people were and the different reasons why they were there. It's no different than doing the same for whites who wore blue or gray, except that the history of blacks in the war has been sorely absent from our collective historical memory for a significant number of years.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 16, 2010 @ 16:48

      I only meant to suggest that given the publicity that this story apparently received that it may have motivated the Giles County SCV to push for the recognition of slaves as soldiers.

      We are pretty much in agreement. I've stopped referring to black Confederates and instead have adopted Carmichael's phrase, Confederate slaves. I even changed my category link to the latter. It's much more accurate and forces us to address the more important question of how the Confederate war effort utilized Southern blacks. Well, based on the limited research that has been done on the subject and with few exceptions, it looks like they were used as slave labor. I do hope Carmichael is able to complete a major project on the subject because I believe he is at least asking relevant questions.

      • Robert Moore Jan 16, 2010 @ 16:54

        Certainly. I understand what you were suggesting, and it looks like I just fell back into the old loop on discussing this again. It's pretty much the place where we will continue to be (in a looped discussion) in trying to understand just how difficult it is to get our heads around the history of blacks in the Civil War. There is so much memory from years after the war that impacts how we look back, and I think this is one of the most difficult challenges we face.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 16, 2010 @ 17:30

          I agree that this has become a loop. You made some very interesting things to say in a recent post that used this issue to make some points about the nature of our Online discussions and how we can better integrate a wide range of external conversations. Part of the problem is that search engine functions are still limited and prevent users from filtering for quality, whatever that even means in this context.

          My goal has been to create a substantial body of thoughtful commentary to counter the prevailing Online dialog which is bogged down in a lot of misunderstanding. I've tried to build a reputation, in part, on the number of external links which is currently used by Google and other search engines to determine page rank. I agree with you that we have a long way to go, but I am comforted by the fact that this particular category of posts is by far the most popular in bringing people to this site.

  • jfe Jan 16, 2010 @ 15:33

    I'd say there is a good chance the SCV wanted to mark all those graves as “veterans” precisely because of this monument.

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