A Black Confederate For the Intellectually Challenged

This is the first black Confederate headstone dedication that I’ve come across in quite some time. There is nothing particularly unusual about this story except for the fact that there is no attempt to hide the fact that the individual in question is clearly not a soldier.

It couldn’t be any clearer.

Stover was the slave of Samuel Murray Stover whose brother, Daniel, was the son-in-law of President Andrew Johnson. Robert Stover was born January 12, 1846 in Carter County, Tennessee.

Robert Stover accompanied his master when he went off to fight for southern independence. Bob served as a teamster. As Robert and Samuel were returning from Virginia, they were captured by the Union army at Fall Branch in March of 1865. They were released at the conclusion of the war a month later. Robert later received a pension from the state of Tennessee for his service to the Confederate Army.

There you have it. He was not a soldier, but a slave. The pension that Stover received from the state of Tennessee was for his presence in the army as a slave. No one denies that Stover was a slave and yet he is being honored as a soldier. The stupidity on display by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the writer of this article is really quite remarkable.

Look for H.K. Edgerton to do his little song and dance routine for the white crowd.

56 comments… add one
  • Julian May 30, 2014 @ 9:03

    Sick From Freedom has already generated much lively debate elsewhere in your pages

    This article was by

    Tera W. Hunter, a professor of history and African-American Studies at Princeton and her title comes from a source

    Armstead L. Robinson, “‘Worser dan Jeff Davis’: The Coming of Free Labor during the Civil War, 1861-1865,” in Thavolia Glymph and John James Kushma, eds., “Essays On The Postbellum Southern Economy.”

  • Julian May 30, 2014 @ 8:25

    an ironic addendum to all this may be found in a recent Disunion post – the lives of the liberated slaves who served the Union army in similar roles as did the slaves to the CSA armies was not much better, despite them being nominally freed.

    Life must have been hard and dangerous with little let up and none of the glory accorded to the fighters


    “As plantations were seized and run by government agents, erstwhile Confederates’ slaves were sent back to work as agricultural laborers.

    “This time they were supposed to be paid. Yet many fugitives never received a dime. Others were promised rations in exchange for their labor, of which they too were deprived. The earnings of all black workers, regardless of whether they were slave or free before the war, were diminished even further by a tax deducted and deposited into a contraband fund. The tax was established so that the families of military laborers would not become burdens on the government. Most of the money never reached its intended beneficiaries. In Tidewater Virginia the fund had accumulated $7,000 by January 1862, but ration distributions were actually reduced; the money went instead to the United States Treasury.” and etc

  • Jerry McKenzie May 30, 2014 @ 7:08

    Here is a fine example of not getting it. There is probably no cure for you.

    • Julian May 30, 2014 @ 8:31

      but existentially speaking is there a “cure” for any of us …

      sorry that is a 3 am comment and makes little sense- but we all have our blind spots and limitations

      • Jerry McKenzie May 30, 2014 @ 10:15

        This blog has its “curative” properties (kudos to KL)!

  • Hubert W. Cash May 29, 2014 @ 18:40

    The comments herein are a fine example of whats known as collective white guilt. If any of you feel the need simply write a check and give it to the first Afro-American you come upon. Feel better at least about yourself.

    • Christopher Shelley May 30, 2014 @ 21:13

      Guilt? Hardly. I didn’t enslave anyone (nor did I oppress any American Indians). This is about understanding our country’s past. And some of it, a lot of it, is ugly. Examining that ugliness and confronting it has nothing to do with guilt.

      You seem a little sensitive there, Hubert.

    • The other Susan May 31, 2014 @ 15:44

      Or you could try a little empathy. Love is more important than money. I certainly hope you have figured that out in your own relationships.

  • Forester May 28, 2014 @ 23:09

    I watched a “Black Confederate” story evolve in my own family, and Kevin’s blogs helped me make sense of it. My grandfather (aged 93) tells of his grandfather Samuel taking a slave named Jeff with him to war. “Uncle” Jeff was something of a family legend in the 1920s/ early ’30s (he lived to 104, his master died at 55). He claimed that when fighting broke out, he grabbed a gun and “got in there with ’em.” My granddaddy told this story several times in my childhood, and never ONCE called “Uncle Jeff” a Confederate soldier.

    But when the textbook controversy broke out in 2010, I heard my Baby-Boomer Mom repeat the Uncle Jeff story and she used it as the proof of Black Confederates existing, telling folks, “There were Black Confederates, and my father met one.” It’s half true, my Granddaddy DID meet Uncle Jeff in 1929, but Jeff was a slave. Jeff received no pension that we’re aware of. Jeff was Samuel Forrester’s property; he served Samuel ONLY and not the CSA. No one called him a Confederate Soldier before 2010.

    • BorderRuffian May 29, 2014 @ 4:18

      “The 10th Alabama Regiment was the best in the army. This thought with all the regiments made the Southern army the best the world ever saw. In our regiment we had judges from the bench, lawyers of high rank from their offices, merchants of wealth from stores, farmers of large plantations, and numerous negroes who served through the war as privates.”

      -William W. Draper (served as Captain and Adjutant of the 10th Alabama Infantry)
      Confederate Veteran, Volume 15 (1907), p.487

      There were no blacks enlisted in the 10th Alabama. So what does Mr. Draper mean?
      Perhaps Andy Hall can explain it for us…

      • Kevin Levin May 29, 2014 @ 4:31

        This is a wonderful source. Now follow up and find the military records to corroborate the claim.

      • Andy May 29, 2014 @ 5:57

        That’s a really intriguing quote, BR/Battalion. I’m curious to know more about the men he’s talking about, too. You’ll let us know what you find, won’t you?

      • Forester May 29, 2014 @ 8:02

        Without additional context, that quote is too vague to mean anything. In the 1800s, the word “as” was commonly used for comparisons. “Served as Privates” could be a lazy, pseudo-poetic way of saying “served LIKE privates.” It would be consistent with how he describes “judges from the bench” and “merchants of wealth,” instead of simply saying judges and merchants. Without any other quotes or evidence to provide context, he just may be invoking hyperbolic language to emphasize how useful their slaves were.

      • Al Mackey Aug 14, 2019 @ 10:48

        He means farmers who owned large plantations and owned numerous negroes were the ones who served as privates. He obviously isn’t telling us “numerous negroes” served as privates, since as you say there were no blacks enlisted in the 10th Alabama. This means folks at the time weren’t as concerned about proper placement of commas as we are today.

  • Buck Buchanan May 28, 2014 @ 11:53

    “He was a slave, not a soldier” you all insist. So? I don’t care what he was called.

    I as a retired Army officer I DAMN well care!

    There is a huge difference in teh service of a soldier versus a slave.

    It appears you cannot see the difference…and more’s the pity.

    • Kevin Levin May 28, 2014 @ 12:06

      And Confederate soldiers and civilians also cared deeply about this distinction regardless of what their descendants would like to believe.

  • Charles wright May 28, 2014 @ 9:42

    Many free blacks volunteered, there certainly are many accounts of black people that were armed and fought for the South. A higher percentage of free blacks owned slaves than free whites did. The CSA paid the same pay, fed the same food, and fought side by side in the same units with all. Chinese, Latinos, Indians, blacks, whites, etc… This did not happen until Korea in the US military. The US used blacks as cannon fodder, overworked, and starved blacks they forced to join them, while the blacks in the South were treated well, fed the same as everyone else, they wanted to defend their homes and families. While the north was busy passing Jim Crow laws and constitutional amendments keeping free blacks from their borders, the South treated blacks mostly like family. They worked side by side, many grew up with black mammies, they played with the black children growing up. They were treated with honor and respect while they received none in the godless north.

    • Kevin Levin May 28, 2014 @ 10:08

      I have no doubt that you believe this.

      • Charles wright May 28, 2014 @ 10:14

        Matter of record, and yes I do believe this don’t you?

        • Kevin Levin May 28, 2014 @ 10:18

          No, I don’t and no one that I know who has studied this topic seriously believes it either. Thanks for the comment. The Confederate government did not authorize the enlistment of blacks into the army until the final weeks of the war. That is basic historical knowledge.

    • Jerry McKenzie May 28, 2014 @ 13:26

      Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans also fought for the Union as did nearly a 250,000 black men. Only the black soldiers served in segregated units. The others were in units recruited heavily among their neighbors so were nearly homogenous (as it was for Native Americans in the Confederacy — and really, we’re only talkin’ Oklahoma here). Otherwise they were integrated into the predominately white units. There weren’t enough Chinese to fill even a company in either army (and I’d like to hear about these Chinese Confederates!).

      Native Americans, Latinos, Asians all served in integrated commands in the Indian Wars, Spanish War, World Wars I and II (save for the Nisei outfit, but Japanese-Americans served in integrated units in the Pacific Theater). Last time I checked, this timeline is before Korea.

    • London John May 28, 2014 @ 16:31

      Charles, you forgot to mention the Egyptian Arabs who served in the Confederate Camel Corps.

      • Woodrowfan May 29, 2014 @ 5:58

        Just wait, in a few years they’ll be talking about a Zulu division serving under Lee. Not to mention a Mongolian tank corps. (eyeroll)

    • James Harrigan May 29, 2014 @ 5:04

      the South treated blacks mostly like family. […] They were treated with honor and respect
      It is striking that in 2014, there are still people who claim to believe this sort of nonsense.
      Just a few questions for you, Charles Wright:
      1. Before the United States Army forcibly ended slavery, slave families were routinely broken up by sale. Is this what you mean by “the South treated blacks mostly like family”? If you were short on money, would you sell some of your family members if you were legally allowed to?
      2. After southern whites defeated reconstruction in the 1870s, and the occupying United States Army withdrew from enforcing limited civil rights for blacks in the South, blacks had essentially no political or civil rights for more than 80 years. Is this what you mean by “They were treated with honor and respect”?
      Please don’t respond with tales about how badly balcks were treated in the North, which any intelligent person knows is true. I’m interested in how you defend your delusions that things were better in the South.

      • Kevin Levin May 29, 2014 @ 5:21

        I’m interested in how you defend your delusions that things were better in the South.

        I would rather he not. We’ve been through this time and time again on this blog. No reason to rehash the same tired Lost Cause arguments.

      • Scott May 29, 2014 @ 8:41

        Actually Mr. Harrigan past historians and press reporters in my county recorded to paper interviews with still living former slaves. The story of being treated as family and being cared for as the same is a matter of fact not “nonsense”. Obviously there were families who did not feel that way and did mistreat them. But you cannot turn a blind eye to the families who did see them as family just because you disagree. That is not presenting facts.
        Blaming the southerners for civil rights oppression is pretty narrow sighted. It was a mostly northern United States Supreme court that made issues like segregation legal. The only one to vote against it was a southern man. But I guess that doesn’t fit ones one sided agenda that supposes the north just loooooved the African Americans as a race or even as equals. It’s truly laughable that there are people out there that think they can point at a map and say “that state was and is racist”. That was not directed at the original poster or anyone in particular.
        Unfortunately those who have made the war “it was about freeing the African American from slavery” are some of the most lazy researchers I have ever met. It had its complexities. (That was not directed at anyone particular)
        But for some presentations it’s just easier to yell racist than do the work lol.
        Now it’s easy to misinterpret writings on the net, so: I am not attacking, just discussing lol.

        • Kevin Levin May 29, 2014 @ 9:14

          Unfortunately those who have made the war “it was about freeing the African American from slavery” are some of the most lazy researchers I have ever met.

          I don’t know a single professional historian who would make such a simplistic claim.

          • Scott May 29, 2014 @ 9:28

            “I don’t know a single professional historian who would make such a simplistic claim.”

            Yes sir, I agree wholeheartedly. That statement in question has caught fire so to speak on smaller local levels. I was voicing a frustration of how simplistic it has become with some people. (Yourself and others were excluded from that statement)

        • Forester May 29, 2014 @ 14:53

          Some people keep chickens as pets and treat them like family. Most people eat them. A handful of chicken-loving hipsters doesn’t change the fate of the millions of other chickens out there. It’s the same with slaves. Maybe some people treated them like family (my ancestors claim they did), but that doesn’t change the overall nature of the institution where slaves were hardly above livestock. Besides, if a plantation had 200 slaves, the Masters could hardly even remember all of them let alone honor the as family. Does your immediate family have 200 members?

        • James Harrigan May 30, 2014 @ 7:02

          Scott, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. You seem to be trying to knock down two strawmen:
          1. No slaveowners ever treated their slaves humanely.
          2. Blacks in the North did not suffer racist mistreatment.
          No intelligent person holds these views, so why bother arguing against them?
          Here are two things which seem obviously true to me:
          1. Slaveowners were not required to treat their slaves humanely, and regularly did not. In particular, slave familes were often broken up by sale.
          2. Circa 1960, black people had fewer civil rights in the states of the Old Confederacy than they did elsewhere in the country.
          Do you disagree with these points? Or is it somehow “anti-Southern” to speak of such things?

          • Scott May 30, 2014 @ 12:23

            Concerning the strawmen: You are correct however it is a regressive thinking that is becoming a popular trend. I see it quite often.
            Now to the latter
            1. The first point is quite broad and would go to represent slavery in the United Sates as a whole. Notice I do not focus on the southern states as slaveholders since it was not an area exclusive institution. It must be understood and agreed upon that different areas, different households slaves were treated as family and that statement does not refer to them. I mean how many good stories are out there? Pick up a newspaper, bad news, horror stories, pictures, that is what sells.
            What publication has a headline Taylor family treated slaves well, did not beat them, no pictures on page four lol.
            Plenty of Union loyals and members of the 13th Tn Cav were slave owning families. They fought to preserve the Union and slavery was not their reasons for fighting lol. I’m straying.
            Am I defending slavery? Lol No. I am defending my area. I see mentions (in this thread) of hundreds of slaves in a household and I am like wow…most here had two and the owners worked beside them. There just simply wasn’t that plantation type capable of being here. Based on research by me and previous historians here
            “Slaveowners were not required to treat their slaves humanely, and regularly did not.” I have to disagree. Just too broad and general of a statement.
            2. On the books, yes sir I agree. Off the books, I speculate they had the same fate on a larger geographical area, enforced by small businesses etc. Who are they going to tell? The sheriff who might not see them as equal? That is speculation, but one worthy of consideration.
            “Or is it somehow “anti-Southern” to speak of such things?”
            It’s anti-southern to assume we are incapable of unbiased research and presentations lol.
            Jerry: No, that is not what I am referring to. These are on local level done by previous historians who conducted interviews for their own personal research. I apologize,I am unaware if they are in that collection. My area of expertise is focused on my particular county’s history in general and not centered on any particular time era.

            • Jimmy Dick May 30, 2014 @ 13:17

              Studying things in the local area is a good idea. I work with our local country historical society a great deal. Unfortunately, many of the folks in it seem to take what they were told by their parents and grandparents as the gospel truth. This includes the Four County History which was written some time around 1887. This book has some pretty big holes in it, but they don’t notice it. When it comes to slaves the few mentions place slavery in a positive light. The section which is about a page in length ends with the statement that slaves here in Northeast Missouri were treated very well.
              What that history omits is any part of actual slave life, any negative aspects of slavery, or any mention of why practically every single black man in this county joined the USCT when a unit was being made in Keokuk, Iowa. In fact, there is no reference to the USCT at all in the History. That’s when I explain historical research to them and the 5 C’s of history. They enjoy a history that isn’t cluttered with things that interfere with the nostalgia they prefer.
              They prefer the comforting thought that their ancestors (nice thing about census record isn’t it?) may have owned slaves, but that they were benevolent masters. They may have been, but the fact remains they still owned human beings and refused to free them. The fact also remains that these extremely well treated slaves vanished overnight to enlist in the first USCT unit that formed anywhere near them. When I ask about them about these facts they don’t have an answer.

              • Kevin Levin May 30, 2014 @ 13:28

                The section which is about a page in length ends with the statement that slaves here in Northeast Missouri were treated very well.

                It would be nice if we could just dispense with this language of slaves being treated well regardless of the experience. As Ta-Nehisis Coates often points out, the holding of one individual by another is itself a form of violence.

              • Scott May 30, 2014 @ 14:58

                Good post! Damn fine post lol! It appears you enjoy looking for the truth behind the legends and exploring the hidden, untaught history as well.

        • Jerry McKenzie May 30, 2014 @ 10:22

          As in all human experience, the stories are infinite. There are good ones and bad ones, but overall slavery bad (even if freedom is not a bed of roses). Are these the interviews you are referring to?:


  • London John May 28, 2014 @ 1:26

    “He was not a soldier, but a slave”. Maybe it needs to be spelt out once again that in the Confederacy a person couldn’t be both. This was not the case in all slave societies. At the same time as the ACW, a large proportion of the Brazilian army consisted of slaves sent as substitutes when their owners were conscripted. This was not allowed in the Confederacy.
    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for those who believe in the Confederate cause to commemorate the service of slaves to that cause, so long as they don’t pretend it was voluntary. But I wonder if they’re equally keen on commemorating the contribution of slaves in building their states before the Civil War? I don’t think “Slaves built Mississippi” (or whatever state) is heard very often from that quarter?

  • Jerry McKenzie May 27, 2014 @ 7:17

    I have a question about his imprisonment — Why? What was the policy on captured teamsters/servants/laborers who happened to be slaves?

    • Andy Hall May 27, 2014 @ 9:41

      There was no coherent policy. There are several examples of African American men who were sent to Union PoW camps, some who successfully applied for release, and others who chose to stay in the pen with their owners/employers. Since Stover was swept up in the last, confused weeks of the war, I doubt much thought was given to his situation one way or another.

      • Jerry McKenzie May 27, 2014 @ 14:44


  • Lisa Germaine May 26, 2014 @ 19:21

    Samuel Murray ( SM) Stover (Robert Stover’s OWNER) wasn’t a soldier either~ he was a “Confederate Citizen” selling his goods to the confederates. Samuel was never in the army and never received a pension.

  • Connie Chastain May 26, 2014 @ 18:34

    It’s mystifying to me why you folks get so bent out of shape over such as this. “He was a slave, not a soldier” you all insist. So? I don’t care what he was called. It seems clear to me that what’s being honored is his service to the Confederate Army, regardless of what status he held while said service was rendered.

    Confederates — and you Confederacy bashers — understood/understand the differences between a slave and a soldier? I can, too. But what I can also do, that you folks seem unwilling or incapable of doing, is to discern service to the Army, and to the Confederacy, regardless of whether it was done by a soldier or a slave.

    • Kevin Levin May 27, 2014 @ 0:55

      I don’t care what he was called.

      Yes, we know you don’t care about getting the history right.

      But what I can also do, that you folks seem unwilling or incapable of doing, is to discern service to the Army, and to the Confederacy, regardless of whether it was done by a soldier or a slave.

      Stover didn’t serve the Confederacy, he served his master. This is what happens when you don’t care about getting the history right. My advice is to stick with making book trailers.

      • James F. Epperson May 27, 2014 @ 2:55

        So, Ms. Chastain would have no problem if the Japanese erected a monument to honor the British and Australian POWs who “served” the Empire by building the Rangoon railway? The point that she appears to miss is that Robert Stover was *compelled* to work for the Confederate Army by virtue of his being a slave.

        • Kevin Levin May 27, 2014 @ 3:07

          This is a distinction that Connie will never acknowledge, though I find it hard to believe that she doesn’t understand it. The problem is that she views everything through the lens of an assault on Confederate heritage/history. It’s a Holy War. 🙂

          • Woodrowfan May 28, 2014 @ 6:07

            a Holy War? So she’s engaged in Jihad??

            • Kevin Levin May 28, 2014 @ 6:13

              I am thinking more of a generic definition: a single-minded or obsessive campaign. 🙂

              • Forester May 28, 2014 @ 22:54

                A Holy War in which she makes one attack and runs away. Not a good strategy for victory.

                Expect a scathing response of one of her several blogs with no comments.

                • Kevin Levin May 29, 2014 @ 0:53

                  Connie responded, but I only allow her one comment each week. You can find her rantings on her own site if interested.

        • Brendan Bossard May 27, 2014 @ 8:51

          But, James, “Bob” was paid a pension in return for his labor! 😉

  • The Other Susan May 26, 2014 @ 16:58

    Unfortunately loyal slave monuments are not a new fad.

    “During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, white Southerners engaged in a frenzy of commemoration and monument building. In addition to honoring Confederate soldiers and the Lost Cause, they also sought to commemorate African American “mammies” and “faithful slaves.” Anxious to refute any suggestion that slavery had required the dehumanization of African Americans, white Southerners recalled their enslaved caretakers as willing “servants” who had been content, even grateful, for their lot in life. These commemorative gestures, which only hinted at the complex relationship that existed between slaveholders and slaves, served to legitimize white privilege and inform blacks of their “proper” place during the Jim Crow era.”

    • Kevin Levin May 26, 2014 @ 17:05

      Yes, but the individuals in question were not misidentified as soldiers. That’s the difference between ceremonies at the turn of the twentieth century and today. Real Confederates understood clearly the difference between a slave and soldier.

  • TFSmith May 26, 2014 @ 16:48

    But where is the recognition for those selfless servants of the south, the agency less equine confederates?

    Justice for Traveller!


  • Dag May 26, 2014 @ 16:35

    Some people will never let the truth get in the way of their agenda.

    • Kevin Levin May 26, 2014 @ 17:15

      It’s a bit of that, but as I’ve said all along it is more a function of a lack of basic historical knowledge.

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