A suggestion of prevailing racial harmony and sympathy in “Cause” in “remembering” “Black Confederates?”

Posted on February 13, 2009 by

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Revisiting one of my earlier posts in which I offered my thoughts on a post made by Kevin Levin in his Civil War Memory blog, and having seen this post in another blog, I’m again drawn to some of the thoughts that I’ve had regarding the way that “Black Confederates” are being “remembered.”

Regretfully, we still know little about the service of the two men recently recognized in the media in N.C. as “Black Confederates,” and, quite honestly, I’m curious. I would just like to know more. As the blog post indicates, a descendant mentions that the “two soldiers were stationed at Ft. Fisher.” I’m not at all doubting this, but I am left quite curious about the nature of that service. Were they actually on the rolls as soldiers or were they at Ft. Fisher in another capacity (slaves, body servants, etc.)? Was this service willfull? What do the family stories reveal?

I have noted that the headstones indicate little about their service other than that each is recognized simply as “Confederate Soldier.” There is no specific unit affiliation… and the headstones leave no record through the ages to simple cemetery walkers that these men were “Black Confederates” (I’m curious as to why). A comment made in Kevin’s blog post shows that Nichols did, in the 1910 census, indicate with “CA” that he had served in the Confederate Army. What about Sandy Oliver? Furthermore, there appear to be no pension records for either man. So, could somebody just give the details behind why (not theoretically, but based on the historical information) we would remember these men as “Confederate Soldiers?”

All this being asked… I’m not quite finished.  

In that same blog post, there is a quote about “solidarity of blacks and whites both during the war.” To me this remark sounds as if it is suggesting a pervasiveness in racial harmony and sympathy to “Cause,” and that is where I detect something other than simple remembrance of the service of these two men. It may be that family stories tell of how these two men felt this way, and it may be that other family stories such as this dot the landscape, but I sense a suggestion being made that is impossible to present as a statement of fact blanketing a larger population, specifically the population of African-Americans in the South during the American Civil War. There is a significant amount of evidence to show that this was not the case. Nonetheless, if a case is to be made that such sentiments did exist even in the presence of something quite to the contrary, the case needs to be presented in a manner other than in statements such as this.

If this is simply a remark taken out of context, then clarification needs to follow. However, if this is a suggestion of pervasiveness, then this is nothing more than a form of “mis-history” that blurs our ability to more effectively grapple with the complexities surrounding the truth about the lives of African-Americans in the Civil War South.

I’m not going to even bother with the “as many as 60,000 Americans of African origin served in the Confederate armed forces during the Uncivil War” remark made at the event.

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