What Did They Call Steve Perry (Eberhart)?

Update: It looks like the individual responsible for this Facebook post does not appreciate my corrections nor does it appear she fully grasp how little she knows about the individual. Apparently, she believes that Perry and Eberhart are two different people. You can’t make this stuff up.

I picked up this little screenshot from one of the Facebook pages devoted to spreading the myth of the black Confederate. This is Steve Perry, who actually went by Steve Eberhart when attending Confederate Veterans’ reunions. Eberhart functioned as something akin to a stage name. He is the subject of chapter 3 of my black Confederates book and he is absolutely fascinating.

This screenshot and commentary is just another example of the presentism that advocates fall victim to as well as their basic ignorance surrounding the relevant wartime and postwar history when attempting to interpret the lives of camp slaves. So far I have yet to find a single reference to Perry as a “Confederate” or anything else that suggests that white Southerners viewed him or any other former camp slave as a soldier.

Here are just a few of the references that I have uncovered in various postwar sources:

  • “mascot of Floyd County Camp 368 of Confederate Veterans”
  • “Uncle Steve Eberhart”
  • “Ex-Slave, Loyal to His Old Master”
  • “Steve Eberhart, the ancient Senegambian”
  • “Steve Eberhart, the slavery time darkey”

No number of Facebook “likes”, “shares” or virtual hand slapping in the comments section will change the fact that Perry (Eberhart) was never acknowledged as a Confederate during his life time. Spend enough time in Eberhart’s world and it becomes clear that he understood this. It also becomes clear that he took full advantage of the role that he understood white Southerners wanted him to play.

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“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

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20 comments… add one
  • Andy Hall Dec 15, 2016 @ 12:29

    If you read the comments following the original Facebook post, they want people to “read” what the image is telling them about “Uncle Steve.” That’s probably easier than bothering to read what was written about him during his own lifetime, even by people who supposedly liked him.

    “Just keep re-packaging and re-naming the offense, and pretty soon Master and Slave are now kissing cousins that just melt our little hearts.”

    There was a photograph of him and a white veteran at the reunion that was picked up by the wire services in 1921 and printed around the country, with a caption that the other man was Patrick Eberhart, and that Steve “has remained with his master ever since the war ended.” It’s complete bunkum, a demonstrably false claim, but probably hundreds of thousands of people saw that picture and the caption. Whether Perry himself told that story or it was made up by someone in the newsroom, I don’t know, but it’s helpful to remember that “fake news” has a long, long history in this country.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 15, 2016 @ 12:33

      As far as I can tell Steve Perry remained with the Eberharts for a few short years after the war. Interestingly, Oglethorpe County was under federal occupation during this time and a number of African Americans voted. Would love to know if Perry voted.

      I also find it interesting that his time with Henry Grady is completely ignored. That’s a story in and of itself.

  • Andy Hall Dec 12, 2016 @ 5:46

    From the link:

    I wish to goodness the OUTSIDER would get his filthy keester OUT of MY South. But God is Sovereign. We need a blog called INTERLOPING SNOWLFAKES!. Lol! We could fill it daily with a long list of their racist baloney, dishonoring people and having the unmitigated gall to move to OUR South and start their inane take-over…..AGAIN.

    She mad, bruh.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2016 @ 5:50

      She mad, bruh.


    • Msb Dec 12, 2016 @ 7:20

      What she needs is a spell check, for starters.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2016 @ 12:01

      She posted this little gem yesterday:

      I state, unequivocally, the South had NO “racial problems”, NONE, until AFTER the illegal invasion of Federal troops. They separated us and caused problems; and then, those people stayed and had children here. The children learned hatred from their fathers and it has passed down from generation to generation. Prior to Lincoln’s war there were no problems between the races, and there were PLENTY of free persons of color in the South and everybody got along FINE. Only with the advent of meddling Yankees were there racial issues and problems.

      You can’t make this up.

      • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 12, 2016 @ 13:03

        This is a case in point why she is not harmless. If she pollutes one person’s mind, especially that of a child, with this sort of nonsense then she has done considerable harm.

        • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2016 @ 13:11

          Agree, but let’s at least be thankful that her reach is limited.

      • woodrowfan Dec 12, 2016 @ 15:24

        damn, that is an impressive level of cluelessness. Wow. Are you sure she’s not running a satire site???

    • woodrowfan Dec 12, 2016 @ 17:26

      Her Facebook page is that odd combination you sometimes see where half of the posts are about how much they love God and Jesus, and the other half are how much they hate liberals, Obama, Yankees, Muslims, etc.

      • Andy Hall Dec 12, 2016 @ 18:25

        Important to remember that for many folks, Confederate Heritage is primarily a means of imaging a past that validates their own, present-day beliefs and attitudes.

        • Shoshana Bee Dec 12, 2016 @ 20:44

          So, Andy, this is why I cannot have a Fecebook account: Instead of concentrating on Day One Gettysburg, instead, rather intrusive thoughts keep shattering my concentration. If harmless Lani and her ilk portray slavery in all its coom-by-yah glory, what would they allow, today? What sort of human rights violations would pass muster through their detritus laden filters? Like the title of this blog post suggests: just keep re-packaging and re-naming the offense, and pretty soon Master and Slave are now kissing cousins that just melt our little hearts.

  • Forester Dec 11, 2016 @ 15:32

    How many of these old men do you think just LIED about their combat service?

    In researching my family’s “Uncle Jeff,” I found that my ggg-grandfather was put out of the Army a whole year before the 55th NC fought, meaning that all of Jeff’s tales were probably tall tales.

    The story as I have uncovered so far is that Col. John Connolly was drilling sick men in the rain, which my ancestor, Capt. Samuel Forester, wasn’t cool with. He stopped the marching, which infuriated Connolly, who was an infamous hard-driver. For this and other offenses, he gave Capt. Forester an honorable discharge, but with a note attached condemning him as “utterly incompetent and unfit.” A bunch of other men also deserted when Capt. Forester was kicked out.

    The unit didn’t fight for another year, but old Jeff told people for years how he “grabbed a gun and got in there with ’em.” He was a colorful and popular figure in town, living to 104 and dying sometime in the 1930s. I still haven’t found his photograph, but pension records at William & Mary confirm he existed.

    But I’m 99% sure he never fought, and the pension record still calls him a “servant.”

    • Kevin Levin Dec 11, 2016 @ 18:01

      I would love to see some documents if available.

      I think many of these men exaggerated their stories depending on the audience. No doubt, many shared stories that they believed their audiences wanted to hear. That certainly seems to be the case with Eberhart. He claimed to have been present at the major Eastern Theatre campaigns even though the unit his master fought with was not present. Again, he is not unique.

  • David T. Dixon Dec 9, 2016 @ 10:11

    Battey’s History of Rome makes it very clear that Steve Perry was a charlatan, sponsored by the SCV to be their token black “Confederate” at reunions and other gatherings throughout the South. Worse still, he was portrayed by Battey and others as blissfully ignorant of the way he was being exploited. If he somehow thought his fawning and servile antics made him “better” than his black neighbors, that is sad indeed. Sadder still are modern-day Lost Causers who perpetuate this lie to promote a present-day agenda. Perhaps some are merely repeating what their grand pappy told them.

    In Volume VIII of Floyd County Confederates, a genealogical publication authored by Shirley Foster Kenney and James Paul Kinney, Jr, in 1992, Steve Eberhardt “Uncle Steve” is listed as “Negro slave, Conf. Veteran” b. Oglethorpe Co, d. June 20, 1936, age “around a hundred” – He is listed as #120 on the roster of Camp #368 of the SCV in Rome. son of Artie & Rosanna Perry. Res. 906 S. Broad St., Rome; came to Rome after the war; attended every Confederate reunion.

    Of all the descriptions of Perry, I think “mascot” probably fits best.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 9, 2016 @ 10:35

      Worse still, he was portrayed by Battey and others as blissfully ignorant of the way he was being exploited.

      They may have believe that, but the decision to use a different name at reunions suggests that Eberhart took control of his performances for his own gain.

  • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 9, 2016 @ 7:51

    Kevin, it is obvious you are both filthy and a revisionist. But don’t fret. Lani is quite a character and she hates me, too. She alone holds the truth that folks like you and I only revise.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 9, 2016 @ 7:56

      Lani is harmless. Luckily, this Facebook group is not very large. They spend most of their time whining about politics and, of course, revisionists like us. 🙂

  • Rblee22468 Dec 9, 2016 @ 4:55

    Really excited to buy this book. Can’t wait!

    • Kevin Levin Dec 9, 2016 @ 4:56

      Still a ways away, but thanks for the enthusiastic response.

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