‘The Best Servant By Far’

My latest column at The New York Times’s Disunion page is now available.  The essay briefly explores the relationship between John Christopher Winsmith and his body servant, Spencer.  The Winsmith letters are housed at the Museum of the Confederacy and offer an incredibly rich account of the war from a Confederate officer in the slaveholding class.  I still plan at some point to publish the letters and/or write a biography of Winsmith.

This is my third column for the Disunion page.  The first explored the challenges of using the Internet to do history and the second examined how I use battlefields to teach Civil War history.  Hope you enjoy it.

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4 comments… add one
  • Bummer Nov 11, 2012 @ 9:46

    Bummer has read many accounts of the close relationships between Masters and Body Servants during the Civil War. At first glance it is an almost a familial bond, however when the Servant/Slave experiences opportunities that have never been realized before, a change of spirit and hope occurs.

    Kevin relates how Spencer gains an ever-increasing level of trust and responsibilities from Winsmith. Spencer exploits this trust and flees at the earliest and safest opportunity.

    Bummer believes that Spencer made a successful escape and achieved all the benefits that freedom and his new country offered.


  • Pat Young Nov 11, 2012 @ 6:54

    Very nicely written piece.

  • Ken Noe Nov 11, 2012 @ 5:36

    I see that the ubiquitous Ross Williams of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has already attacked you as a Confederate sympathizer. Welcome to the ironic club 😉

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