While the hoopla lingers around the stories about Weary Clyburn and discussion begins to grow around Peter Carmichael’s great article on Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory Blog, I figured it a great opportunity to remember the other side of the search for Black Confederates.
John M. “Jack” Dogans was the only free black in Page County to leave a record of his wartime experience as a Unionist through his Southern Loyalist claim. As one who vocalized his interests in the Union and the hope that its success would result in the freedom for all slaves, Dogan’s life was regularly threatened. In one of the documented incidents, Dogans heard from “old Mr. John Smith” that a party of men said that they meant to “kill that damn nigger [Dogans] down at the furnace.” Following the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861, when local merchant David E. Almond assembled several “free negroes” to serve as teamsters with the Confederate army, Dogans was pressed into the service. When Dogans voiced his opinion over the matter, Sheriff Benjamin F. Grayson told him simply that “we’ll shoot you if you don’t go.” After driving a wagon for about sixty days, Dogans returned to Page County and continued to support the Union troops who occupied the county for the balance of the war.
Dogans is listed as Dugans in the 1860 Page County census as a forty-one year old mulatto with $45 in real estate. Dogans’ Southern Loyalist Claim was the only claim filed by a former free black in Page County, and was approved by the claims commission.
So, while the hunt continues for the elusive Black Confederates, let us not overlook both the other side of the story and those who endured the other side of the story. “Lest we forget,” indeed.