Saturday, July 30, 2011

Black Confederate Redux

The black Confederates issue pops up again like breakfast toast out of a three-slice Cuisinart.

To recap the argument as I understand it -- the yes-they-did folks believe that evidence supports blacks -- slave and free -- serving the Confederacy in a military capacity, whether cooks, teamsters, foragers, or infantrymen, snipers, whatever -- regardless of the Confederate government's official stand on the issue.

The no-they-didn't folks cite the Confederate government's refusal to allow blacks to serve in the army as proof that they didn't serve.

As I may have noted before, I'm not deeply invested in this issue. Still, I've developed a mild interest, not in the issue itself, but in the mentality of those taking sides on it.

Personally, I don't think the Confederacy "needs" blacks among its military to justify its struggle for independence. I think it was justified first in seceding and second in protecting its people and territory from a particularly brutal military invasion. On the other hand, I think all who served, in whatever capacity, but especially those who served on the battlefield risking life and limb, should be acknowledged, and I believe this notion motivates many yes-they-did folks.

What I find most interesting is the no-they-didn't camp's almost mad scramble to neutralize any documentation discovered and presented by the yes-they-did people. If it says "servant" or "slave" anywhere on it, that is proof enough to these folks that the servant or slave was not a soldier -- or, did not engage in soldierly conduct (i.e., shooting at the enemy). As if the two statuses are mutually exclusive. They aren't. Slaves have served in armies throughout history and around the world.

One thing I find interesting about the debunkers is their virtually total reliance on what they accept as official documentation. If the Confederate government prohibited it -- or at least didn't authorize it -- it couldn't have happened. Of course, we know all sorts of unauthorized and even prohibited activity takes place all the time -- but they can't allow themselves to accept it in this case.

I went to school with a guy who became an officer of the U.S. Navy and commanded a boat that patrolled rivers during the Vietnam war. He flew a Confederate flag from his boat. Presumably, this was/is officially prohibited somewhere, because his superior officers repeatedly ordered him to remove it. He didn't.

To believe something didn't happen -- couldn't have happened -- because it was forbidden by law is to believe there were no abortions in the USA before 1973, or that nobody drank alcohol during Prohibition.

I believe the reason there is such resistance to the notion of black Confederates has nothing to do with documentation or historical accuracy or any of that. It is the belief, shaped by modern, politically correct (i.e., socialistic) indoctrination, that blacks simply would not, could not, have fought to keep themselves enslaved.

Of course, this thought process is totally dependent on believing that Confederates fought the war solely for the purpose of keeping black folks in chains. What that means is, South=fought to keep slavery=evil, North=fought to free slaves=saintly, the war was all, all, all about this and nothing, nothing, nothing else.

Anyone who scratches off the layer of victor-pablum coating the "history" of the war is likely to see in short order that it simply wasn't that cut and dried -- indeed, slavery itself wasn't that simplistic -- but people are loathe to go against what they've been spoonfed their entire lives. They simply cannot violate their programming, regardless of the enormous amounts of truth it leaves out.

But there's an even greater/deeper reason for this belief, I suspect. What the north did to the South in the Civil War was not justifiable by any standard of decency known to civilized man. There was no justification for responding to the peaceful and democratic act of secession with war -- particularly war on civilians and particularly not with such savagery and barbarism. And so, to justify the unjustifiable, the victors had to fabricate a people so evil and a culture so malevolent that destroying both justified the union's bloody brutality.

That was accomplished by focusing solely on slavery, and not the whole of it, but the small, worst component of it -- and then smearing all Southerners with it. This process actually started before the war, and helped to build up the bloodlust of the north that resulted in the horrors perpetrated upon the South during the war. To acknowledge that blacks could have fought for the Confederacy is to acknowledge that the evilization of white Southerners, to justify their destruction in war, was wrong.

But once it was done, there was no turning back possible. The victimization of the South, justified by it's "evil," had to continue, and the result was four or five generations of deliberately created regional poverty that did not begin to ease until World War II. The demonization of Southerners continues to this day in books, fiction and nonfiction, scholarship, movies, comics, video games -- the whole of the popular culture.

There are likely diehards, like the pro-yankee bloggers who can't seem to get through a week without "monitoring" Southern heritage advocates online, who will never change. But it is past time for the self-deluded north to come to terms with what it did -- to realize that the evilization of Southerners was and is a fabrication (we're no worse than anyone else), and admit that, slavery notwithstanding, the union's savage war on the South was wrong. Just plain wrong -- whether a single black fought for the Confederacy or not.

(Photo: Matthew Bowden, Stock.Xchng)


  1. Daddy told me one time that the reason negro's weren't slaves up north was because they died from the cold. That was the original negro's from Africa, not the acclimatized negro's that were born in America. If the African negro's had been able to survive the cold the north would have had just as many slaves as the south did. That makes sense to me so northerner's needen be so sanctimonious.

  2. Pam, another factor was that they didn't grow labor-intensive cash crops up there, so supporting a slave from cradle to grave, for the relatively small amount of work they produced in that natural climate and economic system (industrialization) was not cost effective and cut into their profit margins. There were many slaves in the north before industrialization made slavery unprofitable.

    It was much more profitable to pay very low slave wages to "free" people who, somehow, had to live off them.

    Interesting, when slavery was abolished by some of the northern states, few slaves were freed by it. Most of them were sold off....

  3. Excellent article, as always, Connie! Your insightful, levelheadedness cannot be argued with - even by the most ardent historical revisionists and Lincoln deifiers.

  4. Connie: I distrust historians, North or South, I like to go to the source, the man who was in the field!

    Private, First Company Richmond Howitzers

    In 1861
    a ringing call came to the manhood of the South. The world knows how the men of the South answered that call. Dropping everything, they came from mountains, valleys and plains— from Maryland to Texas, they eagerly crowded to the front, and stood to arms. What for? What moved them? What was in their minds?

    Shallow-minded writers have tried hard to make it appear that slavery was the cause of that war; that the Southern men fought to keep their slaves. They utterly miss the point, or purposely pervert the truth. In days gone by, the theological schoolmen held hot contention over the question as to the kind of wood the Cross of Calvary was made from. In their zeal over this trivial matter, they lost sight of the great thing that did matter; the mighty transaction, and purpose displayed upon that Cross.

    In the causes of that war, slavery was only a detail and an occasion. Back of that lay an immensely greater thing; the defense of their rights—the most sacred cause given men on earth, to maintain at every cost. It is the cause of humanity. Through ages it has been, pre-eminently, the cause of the Anglo-Saxon race, for which countless heroes have died. With those men it was to defend the rights of their States to control their own affairs, without dictation from anybody outside; a right not given, but guaranteed by the Constitution, which those States accepted, most distinctly, under that condition.

    It was for that these men came. This was just what they had in their minds; to uphold that Solemnly guaranteed constitutional right, distinctly binding all the parties to that compact. The South pleaded with the other parties to the Constitution to observe their guarantee; when they refused, and talked of force, then the men of the South got their guns and came to see about it. They were Anglo-Saxons. What could you expect? Their fathers had fought and died on exactly this issue—they could do no less. As their noble fathers, so their noble sons pledged their lives, and their sacred honor to uphold the same great cause—peaceably if they could; forcibly if they must.

    No historians opinion, just the words from the man who fought the fight.
    No politicans from the time telling you why the war was fought.
    The man who loaded the cannon, and stood his ground!

  5. "The religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their Government because as they think, that Government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread in the sweat of other men's faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven" -- Abraham Lincoln

    "Pro-Yankee" means "pro-United States" because all Americans are Yankees.

    In the American Civil War, Californians, Kentuckians and Missourians were "Yankees." Anyone who fought under the American flag was a "Yankee" in "confederate" eyes.

  6. Mr. Clark, Aby-baby was an atheist who used religion to advances his political aims. He'd fit right in with D.C. today.

    Incidently, the South did not rebel. It left, departed, exited. When invaded and attacked, it defended itself.

    As for the meaning of "yankee" -- it depends on the usage. There are three meanings at

    Yan·kee [yang-kee] –noun

    1. a native or inhabitant of the United States.
    2. a native or inhabitant of New England.
    3. a native or inhabitant of a northern U.S. state, especially of one of the northeastern states that sided with the Union in the American civil war.

    Now, see if you can guess which meaning I'm using.


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